Saturday 21 April 2012

MLD Trailstar - Stake it down!!

A fellow Trailstar fan, a bit of a newkidontheTrailstarblock, Andrew, asked me last week my expert opinion on Stakes for a Trailstar.

Expert, moi?

If you read back through my occasional blogs you will see that I did once wake up looking at the sky. At the time I used 6" titanium pins all round on soft soil. No good.

I found some 6" aluminium Phillips head type stakes and used 6 of these with some titanium pins. Last year on the TGO I was in fear of the Trailstar blowing down in a storm. I was triple staked on three of the main pressure points.

So, no chances.

I now use 6 x MSR Groundhogs for the main pressure points, so to speak and 4 x 6" aluminium shepherds crook pins for the intermediate points.

Update: Since posting this I came across Clamcleat Spears - a full 20 cm + titanium stake - so definately no chances - Spears and Groundhogs! The Spears will be the main anchors in hard ground and the Groudhogs the main anchors in soft ground. Weight is not an issue: keeping the Trailstar on Terra firma is the issue. Another night of fear - waiting for the flimsy triple staked anchors to pull out is not something I want to repeat!

MSR Blizzard Tent Stake
Top is the Blizzard stake - centre is the Groundhog stake and the bottom is another stake which IMHO will not do on Trailstar pressure points.

High up in the Grey Corries, recently,  with strong gusting winds, they held with no problem in fairly soft ground. I would trust them in any storm now.

I also use an MSR Blizzard stake as a toilet trowel (See Colin Ibbotson's excellent instructions on how to make one with a handle).

And,'s the poop scoop of the year - I can use it on the mostintothewindpoint on the Trailstar as a firm anchor in soft or waterlogged conditions ie Scotland.

So, if you use stakes on a Trailstar - there is a good reason why Ron offers 9 inch Easton Stakes and 5.5" skewer stakes with the Trailstar.

The Trailstar is extreamely stormworthy but does need to be well anchored to weather any such stormy conditions!

Clamcleat Spears - 200mm + of solid titanium

CL623/R. Clamcleat® Spear Titanium Tent Peg.

PHD Alpamayo Smock - Even better!

Alpamayo Waterproof Smock

This is the latest version of the PHD Alpamayo Smock and they have improved the zips to be fully waterproof - YKK Aquaseal zips. The material remains the same and they have reduced the weight by 10 grams (my original weighed in at 435 grams). The price has increased, but I would still rate the Alpamayo over the competition, as I said in my testimonial write up for PHD.

"The material has a soft feel and even on the really wet days kept me perfectly dry. Breathability is good as I never once noticed any wetting up inside; even when working hard going uphill in the wind and rain. I especially like the length of the Alpamayo, and although it only weighs 425 grams, it is a full four season jacket. I considered many lightweight jackets/smocks but am pleased that I chose the Alpamayo. Other jackets may be lighter, but, in my view, they don't match up to the Alpamayo for specifications and performance." Gordon Green.

I love it. It is by far the best waterproof I've ever owned. It is lightweight without the fault of other lightweight jackets - being too short, or, too tightly sized. Mine is long and fits well with a down jacket underneath, if necessary. A merino l/s base, Dri-clime vest, Litespeed windproof and PHD Alpamayo have been my all conditions/total comfort gear when moving.

And if anyone is quick there's an original PHD Alpamayo on the PHD website - Bargain Box - for £150, if you are XL.

PHD make superb down gear too and the PHD Minim 300 has been my all temperatures/total comfort sleeping bag for the past few years. I layer it up with a Black Rock down hat, lightweight down pullover/vest, down trousers, and down socks in a mix/match combination for all the temperatures that may be met. I've been well below minus 5 C with the extra down layers. And, nearly all the down gear I have is PHD. The exception is my Rab Summit which is still giving great service after years and years of use.

I don't do reviews, as such, but I am so passionate about PHD gear - can't you tell !! 

Tuesday 10 April 2012

Trailstar Door

Just ordered, today, a Trailstar Door from Oookworks.

35 grm Cuben Fibre, for £35.

I've followed the comments on the various innovative custom inners that Sean has produced for the MLD Duomid, Trailstar and Golite. He has a very good reputation for producing well made first class gear with excellent workmanship.

I think the idea of a light easily fixed door for The trailstar is so simple and yet I never thought to even try to rig up a door/vestible - (like I did a few years ago when I was playing around with my two tarp set up - above).

I know I could have done with one, for sure, on last year's TGO. I had pitched over a clump of heather and had limited room for laying out under the Trailstar. The winds were swirling round. Consequently, I put my waterproof over the end of my bivy bag. It worked, but, a door would have been a much better option.

I'm looking forward to using it.

And it will be available in time for the TGOC.

Great to have a UK Cottage manufacturer producing imaginative and innovative designs with top class workmanship.

Thursday 5 April 2012

Grey Corries and more...........before the snow - March/April 2012

Imagine, if you will, 7 days in which you only put your waterproofs on for 10 minutes.

In Scotland?

Before the World turned white.

Read on ..........

Corrour to Fort William 28 March - 3 April - NOT directly

This week was to be a good week, getting some serious hill walking in before the TGOC.
It turned out to be a fantastic week.

Day 1: Wednesday 28 March.

The train left me at Corrour station, in the middle of nowhere, at 1520. Time to do my first Munro of the day. Round on the track to Allt Luib Ruairdh, then on a faint Land rover track up to Garbh - bheinn. It was chilly but dry and the views were very good. There followed a superb high level stroll over Garbh - bheinn, Meall Garbh and on to Chno Dearg, my first Munro of the day.

The winds were pretty strong and gusty. It was getting late - I arrived at Chno Dearg at 1900.

To get shelter from the winds and to get a good source of water I headed down to Lochan Coire an Lochain, tucked below my next Munro, Stob Coire Sgriodain. The Coire was a good - ish shelter and I found a reasonable pitch for the night. It was 750m high.

That night was cold and the wind was gusting from time to time, but I was happy in the knowledge that my Trailstar could take it. I prepared a concoction of mash and sardines in a freeezer bag and washed this down with soup. Nice.

Day 2: Thursday 29 March

Next morning, after a warm and comfortable night's sleep, I woke up to a very misty morning.
It was a simple stroll up to the bealach and on to Stob Coire Sgriodain. It remained misty.

The route off and down to Fersit was notable in that there was very little in the way of a path for much of the way. The mist lifted as I got down lower. At Fersit I got wind of the weather forecast from a fellow backpacker who was resting there. Tomorrow was going to be good.
Ok, Grey Corries day!

Train to Fort William and Bank Street Hostel. Grog and Gruel.

Day 3 : Friday 30 March

Taxi to the end of Glen Nevis - £11.90.

Off at 0900 towards the Grey Corries. Cloud was around but lifting. The day was set fair and the Grey Corries were a wonder to wander over.

Stob Ban involved a rough stoney scramble over slidey stones. Then a gentle stroll down to the Leacach bothy for the night. Here, I shared the tiny bothy with four others, but there was room on the two platform bunks to sleep us all. Another freezer bag meal of pasta and tuna washed down with soup and followed by the water of life - whisky.

Day 4: Saturday 31 March

My plan was to pop over to Laggan hostel and come back over the two Munros over striding Loch Lochy.

So, back first to Glen Nevis campsite for the night.

Down towards Meannanach bothy in literaly 10 mins of rain. This started as I left the bothy and didn't look like going away, but, it did. This was my first and last time I had my waterproof on!

The ground underfoot was dry and the burns were pretty low, but there were still some very wet bits going through Glen Nevis and I still needed to do a Crocs crossing near Tom an Eite.

There's now a restaurant by Glen Nevis campsite and this saved a walk in to Fort William.

It was a still, cold night.

Day 5: Sunday 1 April

I took my time packing up and left the campsite at 1015.

The Great Glen Way is pretty boring until you get past Clunes, but it was easy going. I arrived at the Great Glen Hostel in Laggan at 1845, having booked a meal later on the Eagle barge.

I can heartily recommend the Eagle - the folk who run it, Janet and Paul are really good people. The restaurant bit seats around 15 - 20 I think, but I was the only diner that night.

Today was the first day of their season. Yesterday, they were closed.

Paul did me a Seafood fayre. Lobster, crab, mussels, razor clams, clams, whitebait, squid, langoustines and some I forget: all on a bed of rice and served with loads of veg. You are supposed to book a meal in advance - by 1600 - but Janet and Paul fitted me in for 2000.

Beer was good too. Sleep was easy.

I've booked my next meal there on Monday 14 May on the TGO. Seafood fayre! ............I like seafood.

Day 6 Monday 2 April

I looked out of the window to see rain.

By the time I left the hostel the rain had stopped.

The hills were shouded in mist and cloud.

By the time I got to Cam Bealach the cloud was starting to lift a little, but it clung like a limpet to Sron a Choire Gharbh and was icy cold. The grass was encased in ice.

Over the bealach the mist had lifted.

Up and over to Meall na Teanga. Here, the mist set in ..... and lifted from Sron a Choire Gharbh.

My original intention was to continue round the tops and come off Meall Odhar, reversing my intended route on the TGOC in May, but the mist and my uncertainty about coming down the steep looking side in in to Gleann Cia - aig decided my action.

Back down to the bealach and then down by the Allt  Cam Bhealaich and over to Fedden - an old ruin. From here a faint watery path, in places, led down to a bridge and eventually to the forested side of Gleann Cia - aig.

The side off Meall Odhar looked steep, but, do-able. Better going up than coming down, so my route in May will be ok.


"Do not proceed past this point - find an alternative route"

If you know Gleann Cia - aig, there is no alternative route down to Loch Arkaig.

I scrambled across thick layers of pine branches for about 400m until a machine operative informed me that the path was closed. Like I didn't know!

He was good, though. He explained that there was major forestry work taking place and mentioned some hydro work too. He didn't know when it would finish (14 May is not far away and this is my TGO route, coming up from Loch Arkaig!)

He directed me up through the forest for about 60 metres, where, thankfully, I hit the very end of the forest road. I had to walk down past 3 or 4 machines - the men saw me and stopped to let me by. It was well after 1700 and they were still working hard.

After what seemed like ages I reached the road. Over by the end of Loch Arkaig and on to Inver Mallie bothy. By the time i got there it had started to rain a bit. Not enough to draw out my waterproof. A cyclist had passed me earlier and Steve and I were the only ones at the bothy. What a big place. Three upstairs rooms and plenty of room downstairs. Steve told me that only in January he had been blown over while out with a climbing club group. He had badly damaged his back and collar bone - falling over 100m. The doctors had given him the ok to get out again, but he was feeling discomfort with his collar bone. Enough to warrant his decision to call in to the Belford the next day.

That night the wind blew and the rain/sleet/snow fell and then .........

Day 7: Tuesday 3 April

It snowed heavily overnight: almost down to loch level. It was bitter cold, but, remained dry for the walk back to Fort William. I was back at 1400 and had a MacDonalds (I was hungry!)

Bank Street Hostel and Grog and Gruel and curry. A good way to end an extraordinary week. Dry all week and 8 Munros.

The early morning news was of blizzards and mountain rescues and Aboyne - record highs to well below freezing in one week. Still I got to do the Grey Corries - before the snow. Nice.