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FRIDAY, JUNE 15, 2018

Ring of Bright Water

It wasn’t a good start to the trip. I was standing in the middle of a service station car park locked out of my car. The keys were in the ignition, the radio was on, my phone and wallet were on the passenger seat and worse, my coffee that I’d just bought was going cold.

I recruited the help of two good humoured traffic police, but they had no ‘trick’ suggestions, just a hammer to break the smallest side window! I was soon back on the road and met Martin at his mum’s in Barnoldswick.

I’ve known Martin for 37 years; we both worked at an outdoor centre in South Wales and in those early years we did a lot of climbing and caving together. Nowadays sea kayaking tends to be our activity of choice even though I couldn’t live much further from the sea. In recent years we have made an annual pilgrimage to the north west coast of Scotland in search of wild places along its coastal margins.

With the vagaries of the weather plan A became plan B, so we headed for Mallaig intending to journey north towards the Kyle of Lochalsh and beyond. This itinerary promised much new territory, continuous mountain scenery, open water crossings, plenty of wildlife, multiple possibilities for wild camping, and a variety of coastal features (skerries, islands, cliffs and sandy beaches).

Although we didn’t arrive at Mallaig until 7pm we decided to pack the kayaks and launch immediately. Soon after we left the harbour the sun set gloriously over the Cuillin of Skye and it wasn’t long before we found a suitable pebble beach to land on and just enough flat(ish) ground to pitch our two small tents.

Sunset over Skye

I woke early next morning and soon established a fire on the beach from scattered driftwood. Beach fires have become a tradition on our trips and this year was no different. We’ve always found just enough wood to pass the time in idyllic settings whilst savouring a whisky (or two).

Bonfire on island campsite

Wind and tide generally assisted our 2-day journey between the Knoydart peninsular and the Isle of Skye, through the straits of Kyle Rhea, and eventually to the Kyle of Lochalsh. Here we replenished our stock of food and drink before paddling under the iconic Skye Bridge and heading towards Plockton. The campsite that we eventually found was stunning - a small hidden bay with a sandy beach and a perfectly flat grassy terrace covered with primroses.

Our return journey south was marginally delayed by strong headwinds – hard work with little or no progress made but it was compensated by the curiosity of hundreds of common seals that watched and splashed close by. Another highlight was camping at the beautiful and atmospheric Sandaig Bay, immortalised as Camusfearna in ‘Ring of Bright Water’ by Gavin Maxwell where he lived with his pet otters.

Pink skies over Sandaig Bay

By now the wind had died to create a tranquil oily sea that was perfect for paddling at a leisurely pace and watching the wildlife. We were delighted to have our own brief encounter with an otter in calm, crystal-clear water and later two golden eagles soared effortlessly overhead. I was less delighted to remove three ticks off my leg!

This 60-mile round trip with five nights of camping had all the ingredients of a really enjoyable holiday in the great outdoors. Self-sufficiency, just enough challenge, unbeatable scenery (usually with the backdrop of the magnificent Skye Ridge), remote beachside campsites, an abundance of provisions, no midges, only a few hours of rain… it just doesn’t get much better.

Happy kayaker

FRIDAY, JUNE 15, 2018
By Chris Harle
The 'Book Man'

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Chris Harle
Team Photo

MONDAY, MAY 21, 2018

Aircraft wrecks on Kinder and Bleaklow

Over 150 aircraft have crashed in the Peak District, mostly on the bleak moorland which the area is renowned for. Due to the remote nature of these places, most of the wreckage remains where it fell, waiting to be discovered by adventurous hill walkers with the navigational skill or good luck to find them.

Andrew McCloy has written an excellent blog over on the Mammut website, with photography by Mike Smith, which he's been kind enough to share with us.

Andrew and Don set out along the Pennine Way from the lay-by at Snake summit

What’s left of the wreck of the B-29 Superfortress on Bleaklow

What’s left of the wreck of the B-29 Superfortress on Bleaklow

Andrew looks out past the wreckage of the two F86 Sabres over

Kinder Scout, one of the many Peak District aircraft wrecks

Andrew looks over the wing of the B-24 Liberator, surprisingly still largely intact

The trail of wreckage left by the two F86 Sabres on Kinder Scout

B29 Super F Fortress (point B on map)

B24 liberator (point D on map)

Sabres (point C on map)

Full blog on the Mammut UK website

Buy Mammut clothing

Guides to all the air crash sites in the Dark Peak

MONDAY, MAY 21, 2018
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FRIDAY, MAY 18, 2018

Wrong way down the Pennine Way

The original intention had been to walk the Pennine Way over 2 or 3 weeks with my twin brother, but he was lured back into full time employment by the City of London Police and time off work became an issue. So, in stepped friend Steve Davis who I had previously done a coast to coast sea kayak journey with in 2016. It now morphed into a more ambitious plan to complete the 260-mile walk in 10 days, wild camping on the way and with no support.

We had several months to prepare, agree on equipment, discuss strategy and get fitter. My training plan had two parts –  a weekly walk between 20 and 30 miles and a visit to my chiropractor every month to keep my back aligned. I maintained the first part with a training finale of walking to work and back (a 30-mile round trip) when snow prevented my using the car, and thanks to Matt Pigden of Element Chiropractic in Belper my back was in great shape to take on the challenge.

A misty, wet Cheviot

With appalling weather prevailing and dire walking conditions we considered delaying our departure but enthusiasm to get going regardless dictated otherwise. My wife Jane took us to our starting point at Kirk Yetholm near Kelso in Scotland. This is the finish for the vast majority of walkers (because all guidebooks describe it from south to north!) but I had an overwhelming urge to walk homeward to the Peak District and finish at Edale.

Snow along the borderline

Sunshine at Hadrian's Wall

The weather was typically British – walk through snow one day and get sunburnt the next. One constant was a persistent cold wind and for most days five top layers was hardly enough.

It did not take long to be reminded by people we met that we were going the ‘wrong’ way and this remained a constant theme throughout. The only minor disadvantage was that many of the PW signposts only pointed in a northerly direction and not the way we were going.

A typical campsite

The main risk was finding a suitable place to camp at the right time. This is more difficult than perhaps you would imagine because much of the Pennine Way is wild exposed boggy moorland. However, providence was with us and just when it was most needed a walled enclosure or sheltered hollow would materialise.

Approaching Malham

Research had revealed that shops were no more than two days apart, thus we were able to limit the amount of food and liquid that we needed to carry. Pot noodles and snack bars were supplemented by meals at four cafés and one pub – the remote and famed Tan Hill Inn (Great Britain’s highest pub at 1,732ft). It was a surreal experience, having just waded through the mire of Sleightholme Moor, to step into the warm bustle of a pub serving traditional Sunday roast and offering entertainment from a comic Lancastrian duo.

Breakfast at the Beck Hall Hotel, Malham

The Pennine Way is undoubtedly a magnificent excursion along the spine of England but perhaps the most lasting memory will be the people we met along the way. Without exception they were friendly, interested and encouraging. Particularly worthy of mention for their fantastic hospitality and service were Fountain Cottage Café in Bellingham, the Crossing Café at Alston station, Beck Hall Hotel in Malham and May’s Aladdin’s Cave Shop near Heptonstall.

Some of the landscape highlights were the wilderness of the Cheviot, Hadrian’s Wall, Dufton’s High Cup Nick, Teesdale’s High Force waterfalls, Swaledale’s limestone scenery and of course the homecoming on Kinder Scout and its Downfall overlooking the Cheshire Plain and Manchester.

Kinder Downfall - rain on the way

Although motivation was not an issue, for Steve and me it proved to be a real physical challenge. The crux was the descent into the village of Thwaite, when Steve was reduced to a snail’s pace with blisters on blisters, swollen tendons and painful soles. We were behind schedule and ahead loomed Great Shunner Fell. The possibility of not finishing went unsaid but Steve stoically continued and thankfully found going uphill better than going down. We stormed to the top, got back on schedule and plodded on…

A couple of wet nights convinced us that we did not want another so we put in a big effort to finish with the final long stretch across Kinder from Crowden. True to form as we approached Edale the rains came again but in the gathering gloom Jane was there to meet us and celebrate with a pint at The Old Nag’s Head. We now looked forward to getting back home for a lovely cup of tea and sleep.

The finish

It took us 9 days 9 hrs and 30mins, averaging 28 miles a day, with packs of 12-14kgs (depending on how much food and water we had), starting at about 0530 every morning and finishing around 2030 (roughly coinciding with daylight hours).

It proved a very enjoyable adventure and although it was a tough journey, remember that runners have done it in less than 3 days and that people of all ages do this long walk. All deserve credit for enduring the conditions and distance, however long it takes them.

Equipment Appendix

For those that are interested there follows a full kit list of what I carried and wore.

I’m not in the least bit embarrassed that some of the kit is quite old and dare I say it, not bought at Outside. However, my choice of equipment is tried, tested and trusted. I was keen to go as lightweight as possible but as you all know, everything is about compromise and of course, cost.

 Clothing worn (most of the time):

  • Gore-Tex® boots: The North Face
  • Gore-Tex® gaiters: Outdoor Designs
  • Socks: Darn Tough
  • Pants: Rohan
  • Trousers: Troll
  • Merino wool T-shirt: Icebreaker
  • Micro fleece top: Rohan
  • Jacket: Buffalo teclite
  • Tubular neckscarf: Buff
  • Peaked hat: Patagonia

 Spare clothing:

  • Socks: Rohan
  • Micro fleece bottoms: Patagonia
  • Pants: Rohan
  • Lightweight balaclava
  • Gloves: Damart
  • Down jacket: Rab
  • Flip flops: Teva

 At most I carried the following food:

  • 2 x Pot Noodle (king size beef & tomato!)
  • 6 x Tunnock’s Caramel bars
  • 6 x cereal bars
  • 2 x cuppa soup

FRIDAY, MAY 18, 2018
By Chris Harle
The 'Book Man'

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Chris Harle
Team Photo

TUESDAY, APRIL 24, 2018

Ups and Downs Around the Annapurna

A few months short of 20 years ago, Janet and I walked the famous Annapurna Circuit Trek in Nepal as part of a slow journey home from living and working in Bangladesh for 3 years. It was brilliant and we have great memories of it, so we thought it was a good opportunity to return to it, walk it again and assess how much it and we had changed over the intervening decades.

As before on trips to Nepal together we did it hut to hut, and employed the services of our friend Kami Sherpa to help with some of the luggage. However, I did carry a full load in my new Mountain Equipment Tupilak pack, including Janet’s home-made, heavy but delicious Easter Cake!

Janet and Kasmi in the Rhodendron forest in bloom at Ghorepani

We had heard that the big change to the Annapurna Area has been the construction of many kilometres of dirt roads right into the heart of the mountains. To us privileged westerners, including me, these roads have undoubtedly damaged the environment and local culture. To local people they have greatly improved the quality of their lives, by giving them access to better education and health care and by giving both tourists and pilgrims easier access to the area.

Another big change we encountered on the very first day was a large Chinese built hydroelectric dam on the Marsyandi River. Controversial certainly, but it is hard to argue the case when the capital city Kathmandu doesn’t have enough power to provide street lighting, the flow of water from the Himalaya is perhaps the greatest in the world and hydro is certainly less polluting than our old coal power stations were.

The good thing about the installation and the roads is that nearly everywhere the road avoids the original trekking trail. Tourists have the choice to trudge or even drive along a dusty rocky road with trucks and other vehicles squeezing past, or take the quiet, interesting and sometimes dramatic trail that was walked by Tibetan Traders and their yaks for centuries before the Chinese Revolution.

Thorung-La Pass 5400m

You would think the choice is obvious but (grump grump) in these times of instant gratification, some trekkers choose to drive to the highest point that altitude sickness will permit, trek for a few headachy days over the Thorung La Pass (5400m) and fly back to Kathmandu from Jomsom. This is not trekking the Annapurna Circuit. The Circuit currently takes about 14 days of walking, although when it was originally created it took nearer 21 days and was camping all the way.

However, it’s not only the tourists who take short cuts. The village of Muktinath is the first settlement that trekkers reach having crossed the Pass, and an important point of pilgrimage for both Buddhist and Hindu people. It is certainly worth visiting, and in the past it required many days of trekking to reach it. Pilgrims now fly to Jomsom, take a bumpy bus ride to the lowest part of the village and then pay some of the local lads large amounts of money to escort them on their mules for a further kilometre up to the holy sites.

I must admit though that they do create a colourful spectacle. Caravans of elderly Indian ladies clad in sarees, woolly knitted socks and balaclavas and gentlemen with similar accessories and sun glasses, slowly toil up the main street to visit the temples, statues and fountains and see an amazing temple in which there is a natural flame burning out of the ground.

Nilgiri Peak: Awesome.

Of course, the mountains change very little, at least when viewed from a distance. They are still as spectacular as ever. Beginning on the second day of walking we passed below or near the elusive Annapurna 2 and then later Gangapurna, the Chulu Range, Tilicho Peak, nearly the entire Dhaulagiri Range, Nilgiri, Annapurna 1 and Machapuchare to name but a few. To use the word unusually correctly, they are “awesome”.

Tibetan style villages of Upper Pisang

How did we get on amid all of this? We loved it all and had a great time. Highlights for us were the Tibetan style villages of Upper Pisang, rare Blue Sheep grazing at Shree Karkha (they are neither blue nor sheep but never mind), the perfect snow conditions and wonderful views on the day we crossed the pass and the forest of rhododendrons in flower at Ghorapani (called Laliguras in Nepali).

The magnificent Chulu Range from high on the Thorung La

Blue Sheep

The other question is - will we be going back again in another 20 years? Well, we’ll be in our mid 80s by then so will probably be looking to do something a bit more challenging before we get too old!!

TUESDAY, APRIL 24, 2018
By Tom Richardson
Footwear and expedition specialist

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Tom Richardson
Team Photo

MONDAY, MARCH 19, 2018

Nine Edges Outside Winter Run

It's an Outside tradition now; each year during the winter months we run the Nine Edges route after work.  The 21-mile route – which has over 600 metres of ascent – can be considered hard enough during the day, but to do it in the dark, after a day at work in winter must mean we all have a bit of a screw loose.

We all mustered at the Fairholmes car park at Ladybower reservoir. This year we had two teams taking on the challenge; the running team and the bike team were made up of Outside staff past and present, the guys from Alpkit up the road and representatives from our suppliers Lyon, Leki, UD and Silva. 

The Nine Edges: always cold, frequently snowing and

we can't see a thing beyond our headtorch beams. But fun!

Altogether there were 16 runners and 6 cyclists at the start, with arrangements made for friends to meet us along the way for a shorter challenge. Although the start and end points were the same, the planned routes were slightly different due to rules about bikes on footpaths and bridleways, plus the bike team rode from Hathersage to the start add to their mileage (all along the flat though!).

At 6pm we set off in the dark, heading up to the first of the edges, Derwent Edge.  The weather was cold, snowy and windy, but the sky did start to clear as the evening went on and thanks to the large moon reflecting off the snow it was fairly bright.  As we dropped down toward Moscar we could see the lights of the bike team approaching the ford at Cutthroat bridge, and we shouted encouragement (or was it abuse?!) Sadly, it was wasted as they couldn’t hear us! 

At the first checkpoint we met up with our trusty support man David Wing (a.k.a. Wingy) who greeted us with snacks and water.  After some banter we were back on our way up the muddy path along to Stanage.  We rock hopped our way along the snowy edge and eventually reached Burbage North. From there we blasted down the green drive to Burbage South which is just over half way.  Wingy popped up again here for a second re-supply, and a couple of the team peeled off for an early night. 

Bit fuzzy at the edges by now

The rest of us now tackled the next section through Longshaw to the Grouse Pub and on towards Froggatt Edge.  We met up with our friend Paul at the Grouse who was joining us for the last 5 miles, and we followed the bike tracks in the snow along Froggatt Edge (now a concessionary bridleway). 

There is always a bit more uphill than I remember on the Froggatt section and my pace certainly started to slow down. After a final meet up with Wingy at Curbar Gap we went on to Baslow Edge. For me this is the crux, as by now you are very close to the finish line but it seems to go on forever! 

The bike team sped along Baslow Edge and down to the crossroads which ended their off-road section, and were now blasting along the back roads that eventually took them to the finish at the Robin Hood pub.  Once we had run down past Willington’s monument we fought through one last uphill boggy section which took us past Gardoms and Birchen Edge and then down to the very welcome finish, where the bike team was waiting for us. 

The pub was closed even though it wasn't yet 10.30, but as always, our Wingman had come prepared and we pulled a celebratory beer out of his boot.  We didn’t stay for long though as we all chilled very quickly in the sub-zero temperatures.

As always, it is great to have such a good turn out and committed support.  Big thanks to John and Jon from Lyon/Petzl, Lee from Ultimate Direction, Gus from Silva and Simon from Leki for running with us and providing test gear and to our buddies up the road from Alpkit who didn’t hesitate to get stuck in. And a special thanks to our support man Wingy, for his continued enthusiasm for our silly challenge.

 

 

MONDAY, MARCH 19, 2018
By Rob Turnbull
Managing Director

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Rob Turnbull
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