Sunday, May 11, 2014

Thanks to all that donated!

I'd like to extend my thanks again to those that donated something!  A total of CHF 261.57 have come together and will be sent to Kinder Spitex in the next few days!  Thanks again!

And with that, there's nothing more left to say for me on this blog.  Thanks for watching and Goodbye! :-)

Sunday, April 27, 2014

A few trip photos (2/2)

Second set of photos ... This is near the top of Lairig Ghru, around 835m.  I also saw 3 Ptarmigans up there, in the process of changing plumage from white to brown.

Lairig Ghru

A tired walker, further down Lairig Ghru

Continuing further down Lairig Ghru on the south side.  Easy route finding:  After that big hill on the left, turn left :-) ... near the Corrour Bothy (Scottish mountain shelter/hut).

Last decent descent, from Cappel Road into Glen Clova.  Unfortunately, after that it was all ...

... road walking, Glen Clova. Not very interesting anymore. After Kirriemuir it was just boring road walking.  That part is not worth the time it takes, IMHO.

Final Destination reached:  The beach in Montrose!

After Montrose, I spent a couple of days in Edinburgh with blue skies and no rain, really nice.  This here is the Scottish parliament building, an interesting building.

Victoria Terrace in Edinburgh.

That's all!! :-)

A few trip photos (1/2)

Back in Switzerland and the trip already seems well in the past after a first week at work. Here are a few photos, finally.

Starting on the West Coast of Scotland, in Poolewe.  In the first half an hour of walking had already sunshine and rain :-)

Typical West Coast forest - very wet with plenty of moss.

Walking along Loch Maree, behind the mountain range directly along the lake though. All heather, all wet.

Crossing a little saddle to get back to Loch Maree, and view to the NW.

In the Balnafoich Forest.

Along the River Findhorn. While it looks rather pleasant, that day it was very windy.  On the hills I had just crossed, the wind was reported to be 50 mph with gusts of up to 80mph.

In the forests to the East of Aviemore

Coffee break just short of Aviemore

Entering the Lairig Ghru from Aviemore through the Cairngorms to Braemar.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Arrived in Montrose!

I arrived in Montrose today, again lucky with the weather, but suffering a bit from a cold. Update and route report to follow. I'll stay in Montrose for 2 nights and in the meantime will figure out what to do with the remaining time and hopefully get rid of that cold.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Continuing from Aviemore tomorrow

The walk from Inverness to Aviemore went fine. Although it was mostly dry, it was extremely windy and I was glad to have my hiking poles when on the hills. Saturday and Sunday, the forecast wind was about 50mph with gusts up to 80... Leaving Inverness was a couple of hours of road walking, followed by a bit of logged forest (sad sight), followed by exposed hills before descending into Strathdearn, the valley of the River Findhorn. As it was so very windy, I decided to push on eastwards in the hope of finding some accommodation. A nice lady walking her dog knew the local bunkhouse and even called ahead to ensure there was room. Very nice of her and so I slept at the Slochd Mhor Lodge, Southwest of Tomatin. From there it was almost all through Forest Estates next morning to Aviemore, a fairly short walk compared to most days so far. Much more pleasant than the previous day though.  Again, quite a number of fences and always the same puzzle as to whether the fence is to keep you in, or out, and whether you're actually in something or outside of something, and if the direction is along the fence, on which side of the fence should I follow the fence.... In short to many fences, luckily a fair number of gates too.
I arrived in Aviemore yesterday early morning. I went first to the local information center to get information on snow in the Cairngorms, as the next part takes me through some of Scotland's highest mountains. Unfortunately, they weren't able to provide much information, but suggested that I'd talk to the rangers at the base station of the funicular to Cairngorm mountain.  That's what I did this morning, and also took the funicular to see for myself. Well, at the top it was -2 with a stiff breeze and still some snow. Lower down it was very patchy though. After also talking to the ranger, I will try to cross via the Lairig Ghru pass tomorrow. Which I was told is mostly snow free and less boggy than Strath Nethy.  Just a pity that I won't get to see Loch Avon that way. Anyway, this will take me past some serious mountains like Ben Macdui which towers over the valley at 1309m. The forecast is for fairly low winds from the south and dry weather tomorrow, so good conditions. 2-3 days to Braemar, leaving tomorrow.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Today leaving Inverness... Again

My blister is on the mend and it's time to continue. I'll walk towards Aviemore, hope to be there after about 2 days walk. The weather isn't grand but not terrible either. You can follow progress on my older entry ("I'm off... ") which will again be updated about twice a day.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Temporary Hickup - break again in Inverness

Back in Inverness to mend my foot (huge popped blister, one nail almost off)! First day was rather nice, all kinds of weather, as you might expect. Wet paths, where paths were even visible. Routing was behind the mountains along Loch Maree, then crossing a pass to a place (beautiful!)  called Letterewe. From there along the lake, camping in the woods to the north of the southern end of Lach Maree. Tired but a good day, fortunately with dry spells. Saw lots of wildlife, plenty of deer, wild goats, the odd rabbit. Wednesday, it rained from the start, never let up. The path to Leckie went ok, but it became increasingly clear that absent a bridge, there would be no way to cross the river, so I started to mentally prepare to walk back. But, there was a small unmarked bridge, unmarked on the road! Hallelujah, or so I thought... From there it was through no man's land heading southwest to Achnasheen, passing through the valley SW of Fionn Bhein. Turned out to be a really stupid choice of route: this was massive bog/moor! Not a flat square meter, everything wet, creeks across ground so soft it was impossible to cross in many places. Once I stepped in down to my knees. The whole acvompanied with driving rain, not letting up a minute. While beautiful, I really couldn't enjoy it, I was just really glad to know that at Achnasheen there would be a rail station and thus likely people. After 5 hours, I was in Achnasheen, soaked through. Worse, a massive blister had developed and popped, a nail had almost come off, and my backpack was ripped in one place, probably from a fall. Anyway, I could stay in a bunk room at a hotel in Achnasheen and decided to head to Inverness for "repairs:"  neither pharmacy nor seamstress in Achnasheen. So, I'm back in Inverness, looking after my foot and getting my backpack repaired. Then I'll continue, but I'm unsure from where, as I need to reroute a bit. I'm going to stick to marked footpaths for now unless I'm positive it's not bog!

Monday, April 7, 2014

Saturday April 5 to Monday - Edinburgh to Inverness

I made it to Inverness. Uneventful flight, but a beautiful drive up from Edinburgh to Inverness. I'm really excited to hike the area from tomorrow! Tonight, I'm off to Poolewe by bus, starting tomorrow.
Unfortunately, it seems that the blogger mobile app can't upload pictures...

Friday, April 4, 2014

I'm off! Here you can follow the trip!

So, I'm just about off to Scotland. After a lot more to do than I thought today, I'm finally off. Packed loads of food for the first week and get everything else ready. There will still be some time to tie up lose ends in Inverness before transferring to Poolewe on Monday! Here, or on this link, you will find position updates once or twice a day. The actual walk will start on Tuesday April 8 in Poolewe, on the west coast, but I'm flying today, April 5, to Edinburgh.

A more complete Interface can be found here to play with. If I can, I'll be updating this blog when I have electricity and a mobile data connection. That'll likely be once I get to Aviemore. Now I get some 3 hours of sleep before I have to make my way to the airport!

Please consider donating something to Kinder Spitex!

Firstly, thanks to those that have donated something -Thanks a lot!

For all the others, I would like to appeal again to you and hope that you'd consider donating just a few francs, dollars, or euros to Kinder Spitex, a great charity that really helps out Families a lot if you like the blog or just the idea of the walk.  Thanks, Chris

Monday, March 31, 2014

Looking wintery in the Cairngorms ... but melting

If conditions stay the way they are, it'll be more valley hiking than peak bagging in the Cairngorms. Check out the beautiful pics on Chris Townsend's blog. I hope I get some of that weather too!

Friday, March 28, 2014

Update on route and timing

Ben Nevis and Fort William Webcam
Ben Nevis, seen from this webcam this morning.

Here's the approximate route I'm planning. More detail becomes cumbersome to redraw in Google maps, so this will have to do.

I'm a bit behind with planning and still have to plan the last 2 days, approximately. It won't take long and frankly, the last day or so will be pretty unspectacular compared to the rest as it will be mostly road walking to make it into Montrose. Nevertheless, most of the route is planned now and more details will follow.

The big picture is: flight to Edinburgh and drive to Inverness on Saturday 5. April.  Sunday and Monday getting everything ready, last shopping in a bigger town and taking the bus to Poolewe on Lake Maree in the evening. Tuesday morning I'll start to walk, expecting to be in Drumnadrochit 5 or 6 days later to cross Loch Ness by boat.  From there, onwards to Aviemore, then across the Cairngorms to Braemer and onwards to Montrose.  In Aviemore, I'm planning to spend a couple of nights as I will have to resupply food and clean up.  

The whole trip will take about 16 days from Poolewe to Montrose, including the 2 days of rest in Aviemore.  Of course, depending on the weather and other unforeseen issues, this is just an estimate but since I'm hoping for fairly conservative daily mileage, I think it'll all be doable in the 16 days.

I'll be carrying a SPOT satellite messenger and transmit a position once or twice every day, so you should be able to see "live" progress here.

Now fingers crossed that the weather is good ... It's been brilliant this spring in Switzerland, so just some of that up there too, please!

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Food strategy

I guess that I'll be using something like 3500 - 4000 calories per day,  of which 2000 are base caloric needs and about another 2000 from a day's hiking. Because there's only so much volume and weight I want to carry, one kilogram a day is the maximum I'll carry.  That works out at about 400 calories/100g and thus I will be getting the majority of my calories  from fat (which is probably always true...).  Fresh produce and the like are definitely not possible, canned stuff or anything else with a lot of liquid is impossible too. Leaves really dense and dehydrated foods. I pass on ready-made hiking meals: they cost a lot and don't taste great, besides, it'll be somewhat hard to resupply.  So, here's my planned daily ration:

Total per day:

Trail Mix 100g

Bars 3-4 (150g)

Cheese 200g

Meat 200g

Crackers 100g

Rice/Potato Mash 100g

chocolate 100g

Inst soup 2, 50g

Inst. Coffee (2 spoons)/infusion

Coconut Oil 50g

Total:  1050gr

I'll prepare one warm meal a day in the evening based on the rice and instant mashed potatoes. The other stuff will be eaten as snacks throughout the day. I will make instant coffee or tea for breakfast but not prepare any cereals etc -  I just don't like that stuff much, although it would be easy to bring some instant milk. Maybe I'll bring some vitamins for nutrients, but since it's after all just a couple of weeks, it's probably not a big problem.

The menu makes me long for a decent meal and a beer before I've even started ;-)

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Almost time to go!

The departure date is coming closer: 5. April! Check out some recent pictures from Chris Townsend, hiking guru, based out of Aviemore in the Cairngorms! There's still snow in the mountains.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Sleeping setup

I've tested my sleeping setup the other night when temperatures here went down to -2 C and it rained a bit: Suitably cold and humid to test the sleeping setup I'm planning to use in April in Scotland. I'm not expecting that temperatures will generally be much below freezing for my hike and, as it turns out, there are ample temperature reserves in the setup as is. So, here's what I'm using. I don't have a tent, I use a Gossamer Gear SpinnTwinn Tarp (see pic) because it is a lot lighter. My hiking poles are double duty as the Tarp poles. I then use a Titanium Goat bivy bag with a waterproof bottom on a polycro groundsheet. Inside the bivy bag is a full-size Gossamer gear nightlight pad that I have cut to shape to fit the bivy bag. Then there's a GoLite Quilt and a silk sleeping bag liner. Turns out, all of this is pretty warm and I wasn't wearing everything I could have worn. I am considering to leave the silk liner behind, but it is an easy way to keep the bag cleaner, so I guess I'll bring it anyway. Humidity was not an issue, neither inside the bivy bag, not is there much of a condensation build-up in the tarp. Mind you, there was some, so in a tent I think it would have been quite a bit that night. Either way, it all worked fine and I'm confident this will work just fine in Scotland too.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Still planning .... !

I'm still not quite finished with the detailed planning of the second half of my route.  A matter of days only, I hope ... well, I need to book my flight, hotels etc. rather sooner than later, so I should get on with it.  Anyhow, in the mean time, some nice music with some possibly hiking related titles :-)

Happy week to everyone!

Friday, January 24, 2014

Footwear shootout - Salamon S-Lab Sense Ultra vs. Saucony Peregrine 3

I spend a fair amount of my preparation time testing, trying and reviewing every bit of kit for the hike.  I won't have many redundancies in my gear for weight reasons, so what I bring better works.  For many items, I have a couple of similar ones at home.  As a rule of thumb, I take the one that weighs less, all else equal...

For footwear, I'll bring a pair of light trail running shoes. I don't expect to have a seriously heavy pack (by mountaineering standards) and have never felt much need for beefy ankle support.  Besides, trail running shoes have the major advantage of drying fast once they are wet, and wet they will be.  Membrane-lined shoes like Gore-Tex dry very poorly once water is in there. Also, leather dries much slower than synthetics.  For snow or really prolonged rain, I will bring a pair of waterproof SealSkinz socks. Maybe the subject of another post.

I bought the Saucony Peregrine 3 for hiking last year (yellow one in the pic).  It's very comfy, and has a 4 mm toe-to-heel drop only. I've used it in all kinds of conditions and it has been absolutely brilliant.  Enter the Salomon: It is very light, has a slightly less aggressive sole, and the Salomon-typical lacing system.  Also a very comfortable shoe.  I bought this one when in Zermatt when a change of program required me to change my Glacier mountaineering boots for a lightweight hiking shoe.  This one was fairly expensive, but so incredibly light that I just couldn't resist.  I first wore it on a hike to the Hörnlihütte in summer.  A couple of weeks later, I happened to be back in Zermatt and found myself again ascending to the Hörnlihütte in nearly identical conditions - but with the Saucony.  Well, to cut a long story short, the Saucony is better.  While the Salomon is an even more outrageously bright color, the lugs are not as aggressive and grippy.  THE real flaw of the Salomon, however, is that they are EXTREMELY slippery on wet stone and concrete.  No comparison there with the Saucony.  They are so slippery, that any rock in rain is totally off limits.  Some weeks later, I wore the Salomon in Barcelona in what must have been rainiest weekend in the city's history (...).  I was hardly able to walk around in the Salomon, it was so slippery, I had to walk like on egg shells and several times almost fell.  That's when I decided that it was certainly not the right shoe for hiking in Scotland ... I mean, there's a chance it might rain at some point in Scotland ;-)

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

First Post! - Hiking across Scotland this April!

Ok, so I have decided to hike across Scotland in April 2014!  The plan is to walk from Poolewe on the west coast to Montrose on the east coast, a point-to-point distance of about 220 km (135 miles). The whole trip should take me about 2 weeks. I'm planning to take a few resupply and rest stops, most importantly Aviemore at the edge of the Cairngorms National Park, but otherwise I'll be carrying food and sleep under a tarp.

The reason for this blog is that I'm hoping to raise some money for a Swiss charity that supports families with severly ill and disabled kids. Consider to donate, the PayPal button is on the right!  I'm, of course, donating 100% of what you friends and family will donate ... I am not in need of a sponsor for the trip!

I'll write down some of my thoughts on routing, gear etc. on this blog during the preparation phase, hopefully of interest to some.  And, maybe I can even figure out how to update my progress here during the walk.  Otherwise, the actual trip report will follow soon after the walk.