Sunday, 30 October 2011

Just how waterproof are waterproofs?

An interesting question, and one that causes some grief in some areas- especially with people who are about to part with a significant wodge of cash for a state-of-the-art, high tech bit of gear that promises to be "100%" waterproof on the hill.

So, it will keep them dry, right?
The answer given in a lot of shops is "oh yes indeedy, totally dry. Thats what it does, can I have your money now please"
Wheras the correct answer is more like "well, it will keep the rain off you for most of the time, but the jacket doesn't have any intrinsic magic powers that will repel rain away from you and keep you bone dry all day every day forever."

A pub, the driest way to stay dry
The only true way to keep dry in the mountains is to either a) stay in a pub or b) only walk/climb/run on dry days. As neither of these is a perfect option (sometimes the pub is too crowded), you have to face up to the reality that at sometimes you're going to just have to get wet, or, buy a waterproof jacket.

Buying a "waterproof" has rarely been so confusing, especially with all the types of material out on the market today. Most people will have heard of Goretex, which is the most well publicised of the material (massive marketing budget), eVent is less well known, and then you have the various membranes that are made "in-house" by clothing manufacturers to keep costs down on their jackets, like Hyvent by TNF and Conduit DT by Mountain Hardwear.

Why are there so many names? I hear you cry. Well, the grand-daddy of them all, Gore-tex started by making a breathable membrane through which watervapour could pass, but not water liquid- excellent. They charged people to put it in their jackets- as you would expect. The issue with the original Membrane was that it wasn't entirely sweat proof, and once you sweated in it, the membrane started to corrode, and it didn't stay very waterproof for very long.
This problem was overcome with a PU coating, which gives Gore-tex membranes their longeveity. There are now a number of different types of Gore-tex on the market, Pro-shell, Performance shell and Paclite. (there is also Windstopper, but that is not supposed to be waterPROOF) so we aren't counting it for the moment.
The membranes on each of these are much the same, but it is the FACE fabric and scrim that change, and that is where the cost comes in.
There are different grades of facefabric (the outside fabric) and scrim (the inside fabric) that Goretex produces. Each company gets a swatch and decides which fabrics they want to make their jackets out of. Some of them can cost upwards of £40 a yard, hence why some jackets are more expensive than others.
The more expensive fabrics, if put under a microscope can be seen to have 1 over 1 layers, all over the jacket. This is where each piece of fabric goes over-under-over-under all the way through the garment, with no fraying or imperfection in the fabric. That is what you are paying for with Arcteryx and Mountain Hardwear stuff. Even small imperfections in the fabric can cause waterdroplets on the coat to "burst" and begin to wet out the fabric.

However, no matter how expensive or how cheap the Goretex, they all have the membrane in, so what you are in effect paying for is the fabric on the outside and inside of the garment.
(as a side note, you may wonder why so many jackets with Goretex look the same, or at least have the same design cues- its partially to do with the shape of the body, but also partially to do with Gore- they have specifications for each of the types of membrane with what clothing manufacturers can and can't do. As an example, Gore did not allow people to tape the seams of Windstopper because it isn't "waterproof", and "hybrid jackets" (part hardshell, part softshell) were not allowed to be made with Gore either. They are just beginning to be made by Arc'teryx, but they should have been made a long time ago...)

eVent is much like original Goretex- it is the membrane without the PU coating, and hence is a little more susceptible to sweat. If you have an eVent jacket, you will notice that there is a label inside it saying something like "please keep me clean". This is important. The membrane will be more breathable and just as waterproof as Goretex, but only if you keep it clean. The Pores can get gummed up with sweat and detritus quite fast, so make sure you keep it clean. There is only one type of eVent that I know of (anything else that is eVent, has been re-branded to make it seem like a "new" fabric, when it is actually pretty much the same as the old stuff- helllloooo MHW DryQ) but it works really well. (since writing this I have found out that its actually the film which MHW bought from GE, and used it to make their own membrane- so its akin to eVent, in that it comes from the same background, but its not actually just eVent rebranded.
eVent don't appear to be quite so stuck up about trying things out with their fabrics, and there are a few hybrids out there on the market- waterproof where you need it, less waterproof and more breathable in other places- I haven't tried one yet, so I don't know if its any good.

Other things like HyVent, Omni-tech, H2No etc all seem to be pretty good- generally developed in-house by manufacturers for their products, they don't tend to be as far ahead, technologically as Gore etc. but have some waterproof-ability. All things considered, a plastic bag is waterproof, it just isn't breathable, and that is where a lot of the waterproof fabrics begin to let the user down.

Think about it. If you want a true, totally waterproof garment, a plastic bag is pretty much the best thing you can have. Water doesn't get through plastic. It can't permeate it, and so it must be good.
Yes, to a point. The problem at this point isn't the water on the outside, but the water on the inside, the body is constantly breathing and sweating, and if you stand inside a plastic bag for a while, you will notice condensation building up. This is where the problem comes with less expensive waterproof fabrics. They don't breath enough.
This can also be the problem with expensive fabrics in the wrong climate. Membrane technology pretty much relies upon temperature differential to work. The temperature inside the jacket (you) has to be a certain level above the temperature outside the jacket for the vapour transition to take place. On top of a snowy mountain, where its -25 outside and you are about +37 inside, thats a massive differential, and your jacket will be working optimally.
In a rain forest where its +35 outside and +37 inside, you'll be sweating like a pig and be just as wet from sweat as you will be from the rain. Membrane technology just doesn't work in those conditions.

Finally, just to throw "wetting out" into the mix. Once you have been in the rain for a while, or if you have a particularly old jacket, you will notice that the fabric begins to "wet out". Water no longer "beads" on the surface and it seeps into the facefabric. (this is where some more expensive jackets have a longer resiliance to wetting out than cheaper ones), but they all do it. When the fabric has become wetted out the garment has an extra barrier of water in the fabric which prevents optimal breathability.
So, just how good are the top end bits of gear?

Waterproof testing in Wales
I had the great opportunity to go on an Arc'teryx test event a couple of years ago (another person cancelled, and I was apparently next on the list). There was a minor issue in that all the gear that was available to be tested was XL. I barely fill out an Arc'teryx S  on the best of days, so the XL was totally out of the question. A few other guys were in the same position, and so there was a variety of makes of waterproof out on the hill on the specific day in question.
We were in Wales, scrambling near Devils Kitchen, it was wet. Actually, it was monsoon type wet, a really really nasty day, retrospectively, it was an excellent day for testing waterproofs.
We spent about 8 hours on the hill in driving rain, and the long and short of it was, of about 10 people on the hillin various jackets ranging from £250 to £400, each and every one of us ended the day wet. Some more than others (the less expensive jacket wearers were wet through, but the slightly more expensive jacket wearers were generally damp all over), but none of us stayed dry.

The overall point of this long and somewhat overinflated blog.
If you buy an expensive jacket, its not made with pixie dust. You will get wet.
All jackets have holes in. They have arm holes, they have zips, they have seams. These are weak points where water WILL come in, eventually.
If you buy a cheaper jacket that says "waterproof", remember, so is a plastic bag.
If you buy an eVent jacket, keep it clean.
By the time you are spending £250 or more on a jacket, it doesn't actually matter who makes it, just make sure it fits you and does what you need it to.
If you are balking at the idea of spending more than £250 on a jacket, be prepared to be wet and uncomfortable in really nasty weather. I've been there, and its worth the money, especially in the long term.

Friday, 28 October 2011

Time out of the Peak

Well, I've been in London for the past week, working Skishow, looking at a fair few bits of kit. Mostly Skiing kit, not running or climbing bits, which was a shame, but it gave me an opportunity to say hi to a few friends, and recognise that we have definitely done the right thing by moving out of London.

Ski Show was all very amusing, though it was a tad on the quiet front this year. It seemed like people were paying £18 for the privilege of walking around a souless building, buying ski holidays and looking at this years ski clothing- which was on the shelves in the shops about 2 weeks ago- all being sold at full price. Not the most enticing thing in the world, and I suspect that next year it will be even smaller.

One great thing about being in London was the fact that I was able to commute on a bike for 8 days straight, 10 miles or so each way, mostly sober, but occassionally not so. Since being in the Peak District, I haven't actually been out on my bike much- running is a lot more simple- just putting on a pair of shoes tends to be less complicated than sorting out all the biking gear etc. However, it was good to be back on a bike and chasing traffic around the streets of London. I was a bit concerned that I might have forgotten about commuting, but it wasn't an issue in the slightest.

A minor piece of news is that I seem to have picked up some minor achilles tendinitis on the right heel, which will perhaps be featured in a later Blog on Global Therapies. At this time I'm not entirely sure whether it was because I was on my feet, on concrete, in trainers for a ridiculous amount of hours per day for 8 days straight, or whether there is an issue with my cycling shoes/ height of saddle. Whatever it was, when I straighten my leg and dorsiflex my foot, it feels like the back of my heel is ripping to pieces, which isn't an entirely nice sensation, it has to be said.
So it looks like I'm going to have a couple of weeks off running, probably a good thing, really, de-loading a bit and encouraging healing with Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevation. A bit annoying, but I'd rather have it totally clear up in the next few weeks rather than keep trying and testing it and having a consistently long term annoying injury.

Rest and rehab. Thats the way forward.
Oh, and I tried on a Montane Spektr Smock when I was in London. A good bit of kit, despite my size, I'm actually a Medium, which is a bit of a surprise. I may have to get my hands on one at some point soon- but not too soon- it will be a bit too much of an incentive to get out on the hill.

acupuncture. mmmm.

needles being placed
As you may or may not know I've had a couple of issues with my right shoulder for a while. Basically some kind of impingement, but with the added bonus of a hyperactive scalene that won't stop firing. It's all fairly amusing except that it seems to stop me pressing, and can do some interestingly asymmetrical things to my posture.

I've had it massaged, I've had osteos look at it, but I haven't yet had it acupunctured.

I have had Acupuncture before, when I lived in Japan. I had Shiatsu- (one of the foundation reasons for eventually pursuing massage as a career) during which treatments I also recieved acupuncture. It was all fairly straight forward then. I got a massage and then had a load of needles stuck into me, and I went away feeling fantastic. My Japanese wasn't good enough that I got a decent explaination of what was going on, but that didn't actually matter at the time.

needles in my back and shoulder
I found a practitioner near here, and had a short pre-meeting with him, giving details of the shoulder issue I had, and also asked a good number of questions about his qualifications, insurance, background etc. (He did his degree in biological sciences, so it was reassuring that he had a western base of knowledge to fall back on as well as eastern).
The talk about the shoulder started normally enough, with pain, location, what makes it worse/better etc being discussed. Everything about the shoulder and surrounding tissues was taken into account. Then came the "eastern" questions.
I know a couple of other people who have had acupuncture and have been somewhay put off by these. "I want my *random body part* fixed, why does he need to look at my toungue?!" is a common thing to hear. To be honest, I really don't mind what they ask me, and it all has some kind of bearing as to how to fix me, whether it be from an Eastern medicine, or Western Medicine view point, so what the hey.

As mentioned, my toungue colour was checked, my pulse on both arms, whether I liked hot or cold drinks what I like to eat, that kind of thing. All good fun.

The therapist then decided where I needed needles putting in, most of them were in pretty "sensible" seeming places- around the shoulder etc. I can see why they need to go in those places, then one in the right elbow and 2 in my legs.

needle stimulation
It wasn't all that painful when they were placed, but at various times when the needles were "stimulated" ie. twiddled around, it was a tad on the uncomfortable side.
I lay there, and Lynne took photos, and then after a seemingly very quick 45 mins, they were all out and he was on his way.

The up shot of it all is that my shoulder felt a lot better, and continues to do so- (except today when I have just had a particularly vicious session at the gym- the pain I feel now is down to that, rather than an insidious chronic issue, I think) although the crazy hyperactive spasming scalene is still there.

Would I have it done again?
the one in my elbow

If you're wondering about it, get to see the therapists credentials, insurance etc before going ahead. If they get shirty about it, leave.
Oh, and expect to answer some questions which may not necessarily have anything to do with your ailment at first glance. Go with it, and stop being so hung up about differences between medical practices.

Tuesday, 11 October 2011

"Trigger Point Therapy" Massage Ball- review

(For a summary review, look at the bottom of the page)

TP- or Trigger Point Therapy have been around for a couple of years, and specialise in the production of self massage products- The Massage Ball, The Grid, The Quadballer etc. They are made in bright exciting colours, come with instruction manuals, have a snazzy logo on them and promise to "achieve goals you never thought possible".
They are typically quite expensive when you look at alternatives, and so far I have only been able to free up cash to buy the Trigger Point Ball- the least expensive of the range. So, what is it meant to do, what are the alternatives, is it any better than them and, most importantly, does it work?

To give an accurate idea, first I'd better explain the principle. When you use muscles to exercise, or even just sitting there looking at your computer, they are slowly breaking down. They then build up again when you rest. (this is why rest is SO important when you are planning training schedules- but I won't rant on about that now).
However, when the collagen comes along to help build up the muscles again, it is a very sticky substance and can "stick" muscles together, making them inefficent. Also, when muscles repair, they can repair in a sub-optimal way, causing scar-tissue to develop within them. This isn't necessarily a good thing insofar as muscle efficiency is concerned and anything you can do to get rid of the scar tissue is a good thing.

In order to do this you have a number of options. Stretch more- which is an oft laughed at method of getting better at something, (I have no idea why- maybe its all the conflicting advice out there), Sports massage has a number of interesting and occassionally quite theraputically discomforting techniques, such as Soft Tissue Release and Friction, which break down scar tissue, and then there is the foam roller, or roller ball kind of techniques of myofascial release which is what I'm going on to talk about.

In the most basic of terms, rolling a muscle over a hard roller or a ball distorts the muscle and the scar tissue that may have built up inside the muscle, and using tensile force, encourages the scar tissue to reform along lines of stress. It also has a pumping effect which can help get rid of metabolic waste from the muscle, while drawing fresh oxygen laden blood in- which is a good thing, it helps muscles seperate from each other if they have become adhered to one another with the sticky collagen used to repair them. They also help seek out and reduce trigger points, which are points of exquisite pain located within muscles. These points can be released with pressure, but need to be stretched afterward as well in order to ensure they do ont come back.

The idea of the Trigger Point tools is that they mimic the pressure and accuracy of the human hand better than any other artificial device, like a tennis ball, foam roller or whatever.
Now, it is no secret that rolling over a foam roller on your quads is a great way to find out where all the painful bits are. Try using one of those on the rather more intricate areas around your shoulders, the fascia across the sole of your foot, or even into the deep 6 within the bum, and you will have a bit more trouble getting good results. The Foam roller (or lemonade bottle, or beer bottle depending on how sadistic you are feeling), just doesn't have the right shape to get the results.
sqidgeyness of the TP ball

The general answer to this always used to be get a tennis ball, put it under whatever is causing you gyp and roll around on it until you feel release, or at the least, feel like you have battered the area into submission. Once the tennis ball gets too easy, find a cricket or hockey ball and do much the same thing. Hard rubber balls are actually pretty good as well. However, as you may notice, all these balls are pretty hard and have no "give" in them whatsoever. Start treating yourself with it and you're going to bring yourself to the limit of "theraputic discomfort" fairly rapidly.

squidgeyness of a tennis ball
The idea of the Triggerpoint ball is that it is a hard ball with a soft exterior- giving the same kind of "hard give" that comes from skin over bone. The centre of the ball is hard, and the skin seems to have some kind of deforming properties. You put the ball in position, and hold for about 5-7 seconds while the slightly softer exterior "gives" and then start the self-treatment. The material is designed to do this at approximately bodyweight in order to apply pressure to the muscles- thus you don't need to use your hands for massage, giving a "hands free" experience.
(Which you get with any other ball/roller type thing, but there you go).

So, thats the idea, but is it worth £22 for the ball? (I'd love to go into whether the roller is worth £45, but I haven't got one yet- the hard polystyrene roller that I already have is certainly holding up very well indeed though)

After using a number of different types of ball, from tennis to lacrosse to cricket etc, it is quite nice to have a snazzy and well made alternative which is made specifically for massage. It does seem to slightly deform as I use it, but no more than a tennis ball, or- a better alternative, a hard rubber ball with a bit of "give" in it, which costs all of a couple of quid, if that.

The TP ball is softer than a cricket ball, softer than a hockey ball, a little harder than a lacrosse ball, and harder than a tennis ball. Its ever so slightly softer than a hard rubber ball, but not by much. As you push into it, the top fabric portion of the ball squashes in by a small amount before meeting firm resistance, much like the feeling and hardness of a rubber ball. As for it deforming after 5-7 seconds, it may do slightly, but nothing so much as to think "wow this is magic, and REALLY feels like a massage therapists hands".

If I didn't have it, would I be any less able to prepare myself or athletes for their sport? Would I feel that I was using a substandard piece of equipment by relying on a tennis ball?
The honest answer. Not really. Ok, yes its a pretty thing to have and yes it appears to do what it says on the tin in terms of deforms slightly, but do you really need to spend more than £20 on a ball?

I'd still advisepeople to use a tennis ball, but if they have the money and inclination, get a Trigger Point ball. However, it is by no means an essential item. As far as I can see and have felt, it works, but so do the alternatives.
There are courses you can go on to learn about the balls and the various types of tools that TP makes, and I'm sure that I've missed out some of their marketing gab as well. There are a number of people who swear by the TP stuff and have no truck with any other alternative- nothing but the best- being their mantra. Indeed, but as far as I can see, the more correct mantra would appear to be "nothing but the most expensive".

I have no idea what is inside it and what makes it like it is, and I'm not going to cut mine open to find out what is in there- which perhaps points to the fact I am more attached to it than I'm prepared to admit. But then, maybe I just don't want to destroy something that cost £20.

One other thing, if you own a dog and are considering getting one- either make sure its well away from said animal, or be prepared to find out what its made of. I doubt very much they are Mutt-compatible.

Summary review- if you have the money and inclination, get one, if not, use a tennis ball. 

Monday, 10 October 2011

Thoughts on running jacket drying times

So I was out in the mist and rain for the past 2 days. Not much to choose between them for nastiness, one outing was over to Hope and the other was a 14km round trip on Bleaklow.

The first one I wore the MHW Dragon Jacket, and on the second I wore my Montane H2O Jacket.
To be honest, I was as comfortable in one as the other. As long as the pace was kept up and warmth was maintained, they were fine. The Dragon jacket was warmer- as it needed more venting, neither of them kept me dry in any way shape or form, but that was to be expected. If it was any nastier, yes, I probably would have worn a full on Proshell Goretex jacket, however, I'm about to get to the point.

The Dragon jacket was worn on Saturday, during the run, the H2O jacket was in my bag as an "emergency, emergency" top, and it got soaked. They both got hung up on Saturday night when I went to bed, and in the afternoon on the Sunday when I was invited to go out "for a quick trot around the hills", the Dragon Jacket was still sopping wet, but the H2O was pretty dry.
Came back, soaked to the skin, hung up the H2O. Its now Monday afternoon, and its dry again. The Dragon Jacket, by contrast still feels like I've just been standing outside in the (now pretty constant) rain.
Yes, the Dragon Jacket is made with Windstopper and the face fabric isn't as water repellant as Proshells, and yes it has an internal scrim, and yes, it may be fabulous for "dry, cold days", but it takes a hellishly long time to dry out, and when you're heading out on a day to day or at least every other day basis- and you KNOW that no matter what you're going to wear, you're going to get wet- it seems that the H2O is a pretty decent choice.

(having said that, I did get a mail from someone saying they had a thoroughly miserable experience on the hill on Sat in an H2O- maybe he wasn't going fast enough?)

Sunday, 9 October 2011

Bog bashing to Hope

The morning saw Lynne and I over at Chew Valley hiding in holes in bivvy bags waiting for SARDA (search and rescue dog association) dogs to find us. All part of a training session for handlers and their dogs from various Mountain Rescue Teams from around the country. I sat there in my Lamina 35 and a Rab Storm Bivvy Bag and stayed dry and warm for a good few hours with 3 lots of dogs finding me.
The Storm bivvy beaded well- as you would expect for something just out of the bag on its first use, though the top of the Lamina got a bit damp around the top- mostly from moisture from my respiration in the Bivi bag.
Glad I had a synthetic bag not a down one that would have lost a lot of insulation almost immediately.

So we stayed there for a few hours, helping them out by lying in holes and, in my case, having a bit of a kip.

The afternoon needed a bit more of an active tilt, and as we were due over in Hope for the evening, and I have kind of volunteered my services for a High Peak Marathon bid, I thought it might be nice to have a look at a bit of the route I don't know- which goes from the trig at Brown Knoll in a South Easterly direction to Rushup edge and along to Hollins Cross. I decided to head up over from Hayfield rather than from Glossop, as I really didn't fancy the trog along the side of Kinder which I know pretty well anyway, and the clag was really down, so there was little chance of seeing anything up there apart from cloud.

Cloudbase was somewhere around 430m or so- the vast majority of the hill was totally obscured, and it was heavy fog (known by less optimistic people by drizzle), as I don't yet own any of the lightweight waterproof jackets which are on my list, I put on my Dragon Jacket- with windstopper membrane- not waterproof, but very windproof and certainly enough for the weather.
The first part of the run just went up into the cloud base, but its a route that I've done before, so all I needed to really worry about was temperature regulation. Feet were wet within seconds, but were kept warm with the somewhat thick Teko Wool socks that I had on.
I had a bit of a dilemma with the shoe choice, yes, it was going to be muddy and slippy, but there were also parts of the run that went along bridle ways as well. Baregrips would have been an ideal choice, but I'm just not comfortable enough running along hard ground in them, so Roclites it was instead. Grippy to a point, but more comfortable along harder ground.

I was certainly happy I had the Roclites on as I toiled my way up the bridleway to Edale Cross, rocky and gnarly, basically looking like the bottom of a river bed. At times I was ankle deep in water, but thats all part of the fun.
Passing Edale Cross, I hit the path crossing the bridleway and went south, with the wind hitting me from the west. Underfoot changed to flat paving slabs across the moor, just like the rest of the bridleway over across Bleaklow. I followed this for a while again being glad of the Roclites, and then I had to turn off the slabs and onto bog proper in order to get to the Trig point. I took a bearing and followed that, though to be honest, all I really needed to do was follow the muddy boggy trail of footprints in the vaguely correct direction. There was a little bit of confusion as I got to a place that was basically a massive grough, but thankfully, I had gone this way before, on the 15 trigs, and was able to pick my way directly to the Trig point.

The Trig point was ankle deep in water, so I stood there, took another bearing, sighted through the mist and cloud, and worked out what kind of direction I was going in. Also- time for a quick snack. I bought some Torq bars the other day, there are 4 flavours, apparently divided into 1, 2, 3 and 4. I broke out the 1- which is Tangy Apricot. The website says that its a "moist and chewy energy bar // with TORQ ribose. Made with Fairly Traded fruit. Very low in fat. Easy to eat."

Well, I broke it in half and stored some for later, and yes, its moist and chewy, but I would certainly not call it easy to eat, especially on the move- but a little more on that later as I have more problems with it later in the run as I was trying to eat it while running. 

Off I trotted, away from the trig point into the cloud, following a very well defined path along the moor. This was perfect territory for Baregrips, but unfortunately, as previously mentioned, I wasn't wearing them. So I pounded through some rather bog-tastic terrain, mostly with decent grip, but also slipping and sliding a fair amount. The worst bit was keeping running momentum going as I disappeared shin deep into sucking mud. It was like trying to run with my legs half bent instead of straight, which was fairly amusing, and quite tiring. I only nearly twisted my ankle once, and got out of it by going with the fall and rolling into a pile of muddy peat. Up again, and on and on. With the cloud down as it was, it was almost like running forever in a landscape where time had no meaning, but eventually, my bearing following got me to exactly where I wanted to be. Hang a right and a left, and I was on the bridleway over Rushup edge.
Once more, now off the bog, I was happy with the shoe choice, and that pretty much continued all the way to the end. Up over Lords seat I picked up the pace a bit and had a glorious run through the rain with an ocean of cloud around me. I thrashed over to the road into Edale, crossed it, seeing a party of somewhat bedraggled and not entirely happy "youths" being led by an equally bedraggled leader up to the top of Mam tor. 
I thought about going that way as well but being on a recce, I figure that following the plan was the best idea, so off contouring around the hill on the Bridleway and down the hill to Hollins cross. All good fun, but again, partially on flagstones, not my favourite thing to have underfoot. 

From Hollins Cross I went along the ridge, and on my way up to Lose hill I thought I'd have the rest of the Torq bar. Used to being able to eat and run at the same time I started to tuck in. And succeeded in nearly choking myself to death. The amount of chewing you need to do to make the food into manageable pieces to swallow, even from a bite sized piece is unbelievable. By the time I finally managed to finish it I was so out of breath from trying to eat the damn thing I was nearly stopped. Not the greatest advert for an energy food. I wonder what numbers 2,3 and 4 are going to be like? Probably the same. It was just too chewy for its own good, and I certainly didn't feel any better than had I had a Geobar.

Up and over Lose hill, had a couple of route finding issues coming off the hill as I wanted to end up in Hope. Having gone up the hill a number of times, I can do that, but coming down in the mist was a little more amusing. I think I shall do a few more runs around there to make sure I know quite what I'm doing. 

I ended up in Hope pretty much bang on 2 hours after I left Hayfield. A tad muddy, a little tired, but with my need for exercise a bit sated. 

Today is a rest, recuperation and washing day. 

Sorry about the lack of pictures, I didn't have a camera, and to be honest, it was a bit nasty up there and I didn't have time to take any. As a consolation, I do have a garmin track for it. I've taken to putting it in the back of the rucksac and hoping it does its thing, as wearing it on the wrist is a complete waste of time. (see my recent garmin blog). Here is the track

Friday, 7 October 2011

October Dark Peak Calendar box

Had rather a delightful run up to find the calendar box a couple of days ago. We looked at the clues and had a think about them. One of them, I really didn't understand (if anyone knows why the random letters were capitalised, it would be very interesting to know)!
We went with common sense and local knowledge, and went to find it.
As the riddle said, it was only the first part and we found another clue which pointed us in a different direction.
At this point, the weather had come in rather fantastically and we couldn't spare the time it was going to take us to get to the actual calendar box, so we took a picture of the "clue" and went back home, ready to go off on another day.

Unfortunately we were in Stockport and Manchester all day yesterday and couldn't get out onto the hills at all, (which was something of a blessing in disguise as it was blowing a hoolie with wind, rain, hail, thunder, lightening, and if some people are to be believed, sleet and a bit of snow as well)!
So this morning was a slightly better day to be out, we got togged up and wandered our way onto the hill. Apologies for being a little vague about this one, but its a great puzzle to work out, and I don't want to give anything about the location away.

The main thing about the trip to the box was that when we started doing these in April/May time, we were walking to them and gently ambling around. Lynnes leg wasn't having any of the "running" lark, so it was all about gently strengthening it up and making sure that we didn't overdo anything.
Gradually, we started running out to the boxes a bit more, and this time there was vastly more running than walking, up hills, down hills, across bogs, everywhere, it was fantastic, and I was very proud!

Exercise, tempered with rest, recovery and the right attitude is an absolute recipe for success.

A lovely morning out in the hills. Thanks Dark Peak Calendar Box people. 

Tuesday, 4 October 2011

Scrambling in Snowdonia- the summer is back!

Walk in
Another weekend, another weekend away. Back with Will4adventure over in Snowdonia for a Scrambles 1 weekend. The weather was promising to be good, with rather a lovely high pressure system sitting above the country for the past few days. The promised autumnal weather was being held off for a short while and provided the group of 11 with a delightful couple of days Scrambling from the base in Llanberis.

I went over on Friday night with Will, and unlike last time, was able to get a decent nights sleep in a tent (as opposed to the car). The pint of Golden Dragon at the Vaynol Arms was very welcome as well.

Although there was a little rain over night, the morning dawned relatively clear, not much wind at the lower levels, and there was promise of an excellent day on the hills. By 9, the team had assembled and we convoyed out to Bethseda where we ditched the cars, and started out on the long walk in up to the northern side of Carnedd Dafydd. Navigation wasn't too difficult- except for one minor part where the map didn't actually show what was going on- however, the issue was overcome quite happily. (Discussions and arguments about the relative benefits of 1:25k, 1:50k and the somewhat esoteric 1:40k were bandied around for the entire weekend). The walk in was somewhat uneventful, though we did see at least 2 other groups heading up the same way, in opposition to Will's claim that he had never seen anyone else on the scramble in his years of leading it.
(it later became apparent that the scramble has been published in one of this months walking magazines).

As an aside to gear- one of the other leaders was wearing a Rab Vaporize Stretch top- which, in hindsight may have been a little warm for the days exertions.
We did a little bouldering practice on the rocks at the base of the hill, looking at body positioning, movement across rock, balance points and just how much you can trust the rubber on the bottom of your boots, and after a short interlude, we headed on up the valley to the beginning of the scramble.
Will had singled out the Llech Ddu ridge as the menu for the day. A delightful little ridge leading up the north face of Carnedd dafydd. Not too exposed, and not too technical, but just right for getting your head around what needs to be done on a slightly more adventurous day than a normal walk up a hill.

The Ridge was relatively straightforward and no-one really had any problems with it, even the rather flat, sloping tabletop that is very walkable- but not really if its very wet indeed. As it was a delightfully dry day, we all enjoyed the walk down the slope.
We ate lunch in the sheltered lee of the hill at the top of the scramble, before making our way to the top. It was a tad blowy up there, with the Southerly wind scouring the top. We tapped the cairn at the top of Carnedd Dafydd and turned to go over to Carnedd Llewelyn and back down over Yr Elen, back down the valley. As time was getting on a little, it was decided that we would miss out the slog up to Carnedd Llewelyn, and instead, traverse across the side to the ridge between it and Yr Elen, and back down the hills to the boggy bit at the bottom and back to the cars from there.
I was elected to route find, and there were no mishaps on the way back (of course), and my well honed bog instincts, honed on the moors of Bleaklow, got us back across the bog with no boots lost in the mire.

After 8 hours of fantastic weather and walking we were back at the car, ready to head back to our respective camps/B&Bs and rest out ready for the morrow.
Petes Eats and the Vaynol provided a number of us with much needed sustainance, and I for one, slept very well that night.

Sunday dawned a little darker than Saturday- autumn seemed to be coming again, with a little moisture in the air, threatening to rain at almost any moment, but not actually. Will and I shared a coffee pot and soon we had all our kit struck and stashed, the party gathered and we were ready to go.
Sustaining interest
Sunday was overcast, and when the wind wasn't blowing, not a little muggy. Luckily, the wind was a pretty constant feature of the day, and the threatened rain came along before long- but not too severely. The carpark at Pen y pas was rammed, as you would expect, but with Wills cunning, we were soon off up the Miners track, watching crowds of people trogging their way along the Pyg and up over the Knife edge. Not for us- we were not going on the more regularly trodden paths, and once we hung a left above the waterfalls, the only people we saw were silohettes across the hill from us, gradually being hazed out as the cloud came in.
The rain held off as we scrambled up the rather wonderful Y Gribin. I was the route finder for the day, and following Richards advice, I tried to "sustain interest" for as long as possible, which can sometimes be a bit of a challenge.
The Scrambling was excellent and the rain, which had fallen during the walk in, held off as we ascended the rock- the wind drying it off as we went, making it easier as we carried on up. Will was testing out his new Paramo jacket, singing its praises all the way up, and making various remarks about membraned jackets and how rubbish they are... my choices for a winter running jacket have just been opened up even more, with Paramo taking up a position alongside the other eVent jackets which I am already looking at. Which isn't helpful.

Stopping for a snack at the top of the scramble, we saw that the clouds were coming in across Snowden, the hordes being blotted out by mist and fog, so we walked on up the hill and over Lliwedd, continuing the "sustaining interest" idea as far as we could until it was inevitable that we joined the path. After a pleasant lunch stop we carried on down, and once at the bottom, heading back along the Miners track, the peaks we had been sat on a short time before were obscured by cloud. We certainly had the best of the day.

A great weekend with a great team of people, learning and scrambling together.