Hiking the Speyside Way 

I have just returned from the 65 mile Speyside Way walk from Aviemore in the Scottish Cairngorms to Buckie on the Moray coast, accompanied by my new tent. My write up can be found in the trails section.

Tent Talk

As regular visitors will know, I am not in the habit of posting tent pictures for the sake of it, but I couldn’t resist a couple here. For people who like this sort of thing I have started a Camping Gallery as a memento of my trips.

As the sun is shining and I am stuck at home, I have been practising pitching my preloved Mountain Laurel Designs Duomid, in a non stealth shade of yellow sinylon, and sealing my old Force Ten tent. For the Duomid, after advice from several people, I used Colin’s method of attaching my two z poles together with cord, and Emma’s suggestion of using velcro to hold them together to form a support pole. The result works really well, and encourages me to use my poles more often.

Duomid 3
Mountain Laurel Designs Sinylon Duomid and 3F UL inner first pitch
Duomid II
Getting to grips with pitching and ground sheet

I have worked out how to attach the inner to the tent using the back three pegs and the result feels really palatial after my snug Force Ten (below). It takes up a lot of space once all the guy ropes are staked out, but I guess they add to the stability of the shelter. On advice from Daron, I made a Polycro (Double glazing film) ground sheet to go under the inner and into the porch. (See above).

I welcome any advice from other Duomid users, as I hope to continue using it over the coming months. For anyone who is interested, there is a good pitching video for the Duomid on Stick’s Blog YouTube channel.

Force Ten
Force Ten Helium Carbon 100 seam sealed
Duomid Pole
Creating a support for the Duomid from two Z poles.

With thanks to Colin, Emma, Daron, Stick and Matt.

My first wild camped trail

I realise that circumstances have meant that it has taken me a while to get round to wild camping my first trail. As I have explained in my camping section, it has been a gradual journey from bed and breakfasts on Hadrian’s Wall to tea in a tent on the Berwickshire Coastal Path.

I don’t often hear this dramatic trail come up in conversation on social media or blogs, perhaps because people who backpack in Scotland are understandably drawn to the magnetic Munros, the famous national parks or the beautiful highlands and islands, ignoring the beauty of parts of the east coast.

Berwickshire Coastal Path
Berwickshire Coastal Path; My first wild camping trail

When I moved to the borders, I was struck by the beauty of the east coast between Bamburgh in Northumberland and St Abb’s Head in Berwickshire, so I am often tempted to return there to walk.

On a recent trip to Edinburgh, I was gazing out of the window, as the train runs so close to the coast between Berwick and Burnmouth that it almost knocks walkers into the sea. I noticed a couple of backpackers across the field walking along the coast path, who stopped and waved at us on the train. I got an overwhelming urge to be there waving, instead of on the train on my business errand, and so a week later I was.

Berwickshire has some of the longest and most dramatic cliffs on the British coast, which make walking this path a challenging and attractive experience which is ideal for wild camping. I’m sure I made some rookie wild camping errors, but I really enjoyed the challenge. I hope you will take a look at my trip report – Berwickshire Coastal Path

Walks around Britain podcast

Earlier in the year I was approached by Andrew White of Walks around Britain along with Damian Hall (writer and ultra runner who achieved a podium position in the tough Spine Race in 2015) to discuss our very different experiences of completing the Pennine Way, a national trail which celebrates it’s 50th birthday in 2015.

I backpacked the famous national trail over 20 days during the hottest part of the year, while Damian ran the route during the coldest part of the year in only 5 days. Talking about it was a great reminder of my hike along this brilliant trail and listening to Damian about his experience was fascinating. In the second part of the podcast we hear from organisations and people involved in repairing the erosion of the moorlands in the Peak District and the South Pennines.

High Cup Nick
High Cup Nick

Best long distance trail results

Well, hikers have spoken. Following a brainstorming session on social media, I created a poll of polls (below) in which people were invited to nominate and vote for their top 3 international long distance trails.

As you can see from my previous post, the shortlist included trails from all over the world, including the USA, New Zealand, Scotland, France and Turkey. The picture below shows the results on the closing date, but please feel free to continue voting.

The top five long distance trails as voted for by readers
The top five long distance trails as voted for by readers

Unfortunately some of the less well known trails like the GR5 (Netherlands to the Mediterranean) and the Lycian Way in Turkey didn’t fare so well in the poll, but perhaps that was to be expected.

In the end the poll was just for fun and I hope you enjoyed taking part.

Which long distance trail?

After a brainstorm on social media which involved some great hikers and runners, I thought I would collate the answers I received into a blog post so that you can vote for your top three trails. The closing date for votes is 1st March 2014.

Sorry if your favourite trail isn’t included in the poll but I had to close the nominations at some point. The list is entirely made up of trails suggested by people on social media. It can only ever be a selection as there are so many great trails out there. Please feel free to vote and add your own comments or additions to the list as a comment. Thanks for taking part.

Wall
Wall along the Whin Sill

From Slackpacker to Backpacker

Because of a fall at the end of 2012, this year got off to a slow start. My convalescent winter was spent reading about other people’s adventures, which inspired me to plan some of my own. The injury knocked my confidence, and dented confidence sometimes takes longer to recover from than broken bones.

I first ventured out into the country again on a group trip to Kirkby Stephen in February. I discovered how out of condition I was when I couldn’t complete the first 15 mile walk. I did manage a shorter walk the following day.

First trip out of 2013 to Kirkby Stephen
First trip out of 2013 to Kirkby Stephen

A few weeks later in March of 2013, I planned a week of some of my favourite Northumberland walks from a base in Rothbury in order to boost my fitness and my morale. Kirkby Stephen had taught me that I needed to take things at a more comfortable pace at first. Although it was still quite wintery on the hilltops, it was really good to get out again and revisit north Northumberland.

College Burn
College Burn near Westnewton

As some of you will know, my big plan for 2013 was to walk the Pennine Way to raise funds for Crisis UK, so I knew I had to get back into condition. With advice from some people about my camping kit, I began my attempt to transform myself from a slackpacker to a self supporting backpacker.

PW Kit
Backpacking kit for the Pennine Way

I made plans to do two hikes in the spring; the 65 mile St Cuthbert’s Way during the wintery April, followed by the 75 mile Cumbria Way during May. I never stop learning when I hike, and these hikes were no exception. I was able to experiment with new kit, footwear, and different kinds of accommodation. The strange weather of the 2013 spring presented challenges on both walks, with 25cm of snow in places across the Scottish borders, and hail showers on the Cumbria Way.

Eildons
Snow on the Eildons

When the time came for me to set off on the Pennine Way in June, I was apprehensive about my achy tendons, and about camping in my new tent. I had consulted a podiatrist who gave me some exercises designed to prevent tendon injury, and sought some advice about camping, but I was still nervous when I arrived at Edale in June.

image
Pennine Way practice in the garden

With hindsight, I can honestly say that all the kit and exercise preparation and all the advice I sought turned out to be valuable. I saw quite a few people on the Pennine Way during the summer heatwave with problems such as sunburn, heat exhaustion, heavy packs and injury, which luckily didn’t affect me during my hike.

Pennine Way route map
Pennine Way route map

I completed the hike in 20 days (with rest days) but allowed a few negative comments at the end to get under my skin, which wasn’t helpful. My advice is to avoid negative people as they will drag you down.¬†Some of the “areas for improvement” which emerged on the Pennine Way were my wild-camping and my mountain skills so the remainder of 2013 has been spent trying to address these issues.

I was lucky enough to team up with 4 other wild-campers on social media for my first wild camp in the Peak District. After the Pennine Way, it was relaxing not to have a schedule to adhere to, and to have the logistics planned by somebody else. Many people have made the point that we are generally much safer in the hills than we are in most cities, so I have no excuses left to stop me getting out there to wild camp in 2014.

I had planned to try and fit two more short trails in to the end of the year, but responsibilities at home have put these on hold. I did manage half of the Northumberland coast path which I hope to finish at some stage.

Alnmouth
Alnmouth

I can’t write about this year without mentioning some of the people in it, as well as the hikes. As my ambitions to do longer trails have grown, I have realised that the best people to turn to for advice are people who have done them. It was therefore a huge pleasure to meet trail walkers Sarah, Alasdair, Colin and Chris and to chat about many aspects of their experience on some of the worlds great trails. In October I was invited to the Lake District by the National Trust to meet Tanya Oliver of Fix the Fells to see some of the vital path maintenance they do to tackle problems caused by erosion and poor drainage on the upland fell paths. 

In November I took myself to the Kendal Mountain Festival to meet some more mountaineers. Over the weekend I met some friendly people, enjoyed some good craic, and saw some great talks and films, so I look forward to returning in the future. Watching films about mountains in the snow finally persuaded me that I need to improve my winter skills if I am going to complete any longer trails. Thus the year ended with me playing with my first ice axe and crampons at a Winter Skills lecture and booking myself onto a course.

At the end of 2013, many of the assumptions I had about hiking have disappeared, and I find myself planning to improve my mountain skills in the coming year. Thanks for reading and I hope all your plans for next year come to fruition. All I can say about 2013 really is who knew!

Cross Fell
Summit of Cross Fell

The End of a Vintage Year

2013 has been an vintage adventure year with three solo trails and a return to the Lakeland fells. Although my hiking has been confined to this country, I have experienced everything from deep snow in April to intense heat three months later, which has presented some challenges. I have also met and listened to some inspiring people, with fascinating tales to tell, so lots to learn and write up in my review of the year, coming soon.

image
Milecastle, Hadrian’s Wall

Pennine Way walk for Crisis UK

The hashtag for my Pennine Way for Crisis UK updates and photos is #RosePW

Setting off on the Pennine Way is now imminent. I have completed my training walks and devised my schedule, which involves staying in a mixture of campsites, hostels & B&Bs, and includes a couple of rest days. I have been trying to rest and promote the walk for the last week or so and will be using social media to post updates during the walk.

This is my kit list and I would like to thank Cotswold Outdoor and Gossamer Gear for supporting the walk.

Backpacking kit for the Pennine Way

Pennine Way planning

My thoughts are turning to my (completed in July 2013) Pennine Way walk for Crisis UK. Behind the scenes, I have been preparing for this walk. This has included assembling a kit which will hopefully meet the needs of the walk.

The main aim of my kit is to ensure that I can reach my destination in comfort. I have learned to focus on comfort and weight as the key factors for success on my walks so far. Some companies have been generous enough to offer discounts on some of the items I needed most. In particular Gossamer Gear in the U.S. offered me a discount on their 65L Mariposa rucksack which is one of the few of that size weighing in at less than 1kg. This is less than half the weight of my previous rucksack.

Gossamer Gear Mariposa rucksack
Gossamer Gear Mariposa rucksack

I have also been finalising my walking schedule in order to be able to book my accommodation for the journey. I am hoping to do about 18 days walking plus 2/3 rest days spread out along the way. As usual the accommodation has ended up being a mixture of hostels, bunkhouses, B&Bs and campsites. As I am not yet up to speed as a wild camper I have opted for campsites which give me the option of support, provisions, basic facilities & being a bit more sociable if I have the energy!

My training for the walk is going to plan. I have a range of warm up exercises to do which hopefully will keep me injury free. I also did 5 days of walking¬†in north Northumberland in March 2013, the 70 mile¬†St Cuthbert’s Way¬†¬†walk in April 2013, and I am planning the Cumbria Way¬†for May 2013.

One highlight of the St. Cuthbert’s Way was stopping for the night in Kirk Yetholm which is the official northern end of the Pennine Way. This boot garden was a sobering reminder of all the previous people to have attempted the walk and of how tough the walk will be. I hope that I make it back here in a better state than some of these boots.

Boot Garden
Boot garden at Kirk Yetholm

If any of you can afford to donate to CrisisUK to speed me on my way I would be very grateful.

Kirk Yetholm
Kirk Yetholm