Author Archive

A Pan-American Adventure; Part 2.2 – The Trek

For many reasons it’s been some time since I posted on this blog, though it’s predominantly because I’ve been concentrating on both my PhD and on film photography, the latter of which I’ve been posting about here. Nevertheless, once I get a new flash I do intend to start posting some reviews on here as I’ve still been getting out and have been using plenty of new kit. Anyhow, in the mean time, here’s a cross-posted entry from over on my other blog, which outlines our trek in the Peruvian Andes from our holiday last summer. Enjoy, if you haven’t already done so of course!

As alluded to in the previous instal ments of this series, the primary objective of this trip was to embark upon a high-altitude, multi-day trek in the Peruvian Andes. We had organised this a few months in advance through KE Adventure; a Lake District-based adventure holiday company who come with a great track record of fairness towards their employees/affiliates, along with being known for providing varied and quality adventure holiday products.

From our starting point at Tinqui, our route was to circumnavigate the 6372 m Ausangate mountain of the Peruvian Cordillera Vilcanota mountain range. Along the route we would come to traverse high mountain passes, visit small, remote settlements and finally diverge from the typical Ausangate Circuit trail to take in some remote lagoons. Resulting from the latter extension, the trek was to last for nine days as opposed to the traditional five.

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Basic route map annotated with camp altitudes.

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Castleton to Edale; via The Roych, South Head, Mount Famine & Edale Cross.

On my last trip I came across a potential route extension to the west of Edale, that would include an elevated ridge-type walk, ultimately dropping down towards Hayfield. This week I thought I might take this route, heading out to Castleton to give myself a different starting point.

I just about caught the 09:00 bus, (272), from Ecclesall Road/Hunters Bar, after leaving 45 minutes to get down there from home. Definitely going to make it an hour next time. The sun was out, though when shaded or in the wind, the temperature dropped considerably. The forecast was given as being changeable, a statement whose manifestation was one of the defining features of the day.

Castleton-to-Edale;-via-The

Route map courtesy of Viewranger.

After alighting from the bus, and taking a few minutes to sort myself out, I set off down the main road out of Castleton proper, heading towards Treak Cliff. I took the path up and contoured around to the shop at the Blue John Cavern where the south-west face of Mam Tor shined in the sunlight. A couple of groups of guided climbers were aligned along the bottom of the scree-strewn face, oblivious to the weather system that was quite obviously coming in from the north-west, (the first picture doesn’t quite do it justice).

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Gear Review: Buffalo Systems Special 6 Smock

Buffalo Systems Special 6 Shirt/Smock:

The Buffalo concept diverges from the traditional ‘layering’ clothing system that stipulates the requirement for a three-pronged attack, geared towards tackling sweating, insulation and waterproofing. The Buffalo Pile & Pertex system, (Double P/DP), is NOT waterproof, but is highly water resistant, wicking and breathable. It is designed to fit snugly and be worn next to the skin, i.e. with nothing underneath! Whilst this might sound a little crazy to some of you traditionalists, there is a well-backed up body of evidence that supports the use of this kind of attire in certain inclement conditions, and this concept has been copied and allegedly refined by some well-known brands.

New Buffalo logo on chest/map pocket.

New Buffalo logo on chest/map pocket.

I’ve recently purchased a brand new Special 6 after owning a second hand version that was around 20 years old, (estimated from pictures of the logo, the old style without the red/any text). Despite this apparent age, the smock looked brand new, with literally no flaws in the Pertex 6/Classic material whatsoever. The heavy-weight fleece/pile had suffered some age-related flattening of the pile but wasn’t too far off as lofty as it was when new, (compared against a brand new pair of the Special 6 trousers).

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To Edale and Back; via Chapel Gate, The Roych, South Head & Edale Cross.

Clear but cold the forecast promised, a good day to test out my new Buffalo perhaps? What with this potentially being the last of our winter weather I gave it a go anyway.

I arrived just in time at the station and took the usual train out from Sheffield to Edale, (09:14). It wasn’t as busy as I’d have thought it would be, what with the forecast being what it was.

Route map courtesy of Viewranger.

Route map courtesy of Viewranger.

I’d made rudimentary plans to do this route a few weeks ago, but work and other engagements had me put it off. However now there’s an extended version of this route here. From Edale station I would take a path heading to Barber Booth, from out of the back of platform 1. The path crosses the railway line twice, once heading north’ish when reaching Shaw Wood Farm, and once heading south just as you reach Barber Booth. The connecting path and stile/gate between the bridge and the path at Shaw Wood Farm is annoyingly concealed. It exists in a little driveway that otherwise says ‘No Entry’ on a gate at it’s end and should you not notice it, you will have to walk the long way round as I did.

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Winter Wild Camping; Thrust from Threlkeld to Thirlspot, (via several revisions).

At last, our weekend away finally arrived! One that was originally meant for Scotland, and for 6 of us, but none of that was to be. Instead, Sarah and I headed for the Lake District to take on the Helvellyn range from north to south via two wild camps, Scales Tarn and Grizedale Tarn.

Not much of what was originally planned actually panned out; one-by-one our compatriots dropped out for various reasons, complacency had us alter our first wild camp spot, and that damned south-westerly wind that has plagued our winter, tried to blow us off the ridge. Plus my Buffalo still hadn’t arrived so to remedy this, I popped into The Climbers Shop in Ambleside where, after weighing up it’s benefits over the Arc’Teryx Atom SV, I purchased a Mountain Equipment Fitzroy as a replacement insulating overlayer, but more on that later.

We made a super-early start on the Friday, (05:11 train from Sheffield), so as to make it to Ambleside in time for it’s awakening. We changed only once, in Manchester, and had reached Windermere just before 08:00. After purchasing a 3-day bus pass we set off for Ambleside, where we arrived after around 15-20 mins. We arrived well before anywhere was open and all this early morning travel had left me gasping for a coffee, so we replenished our spirits at Esquires, (some decent coffee there methinks), opposite the cinema.

We had ordered some New-Matic Grivel G12’s from Adventure Peaks, but upon arrival they had not them in stock, so G10 New-Matics had to suffice. We weren’t planning on doing anything so technical anyway. By the time we were sorted it was pushing 10:00, so being on ‘holiday’ we decided that another refreshment stop was in order, cue the pints of Hoegaarden! The lateral thinking afforded by such nutritious beverages had us check Sarah’s crampons, which turned out to have an extender bar fitted thus didn’t fit Sarah’s boots at all! We finished our sustenance and made haste, back in the direction of the Adventure Peaks store. Conveniently, it was shut for 5 mins, at least 10 in actuality but we were eventually sorted out. Anyhow, this kerfuffle was followed by a humid bus ride to Keswick, some sandwiches and another beer, before grabbing the bus out to the White Horse Inn at Scales.

We had intended to have a decent meal here before heading out early to our intended camp site at Scales Tarn. It turns out they stop serving food at 14:00! We’d arrived at ca. 14:15. Foiled, so another beer it was then, and not a very good one either. Balls!!!

The next day's initial waypoint; Clough Head.

The next day’s initial waypoint; Clough Head.

Now for our next change of plan, for the sake of time and effort, we decided it would be best to camp on the other side of the main road. Leaving the pub, we walked back along the A66 until we could pick up the relevant path on the opposite side of the road.

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Gear Review: La Sportiva Nepal Extreme

La Sportiva Nepal Extreme:

A very popular, full on mountain boot. They are rated B3, thus are fully-automatic crampon compatible, (they fit Grivel’s semi-auto G12 New-Matic very well), with an insulating footbed and Thinsulate lining. These boots are warm, very stiff, grippy and durable. They use a 3mm-thick, one-piece, good quality leather upper and a great heavy duty Vibram outsole. 

The Nepal Extreme. Note full rubber rand, lace-locker and mid-ankle flex point.

The Nepal Extreme, (slightly ‘browned’ from the Nikwax treatment). Note full rubber rand, lace-locker, front and rear crampon lugs and mid-ankle flex point.

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Gear Review: Primus Gravity II EF & Primus LiTech Trek Kettle

Primus Gravity II EF:

The Gravity II EF is a remote canister gas-powered stove, it has a built-in piezo ignition, is pretty light at ca. 270g, and packs relatively small in it’s own waterproof case. As it sits quite low to the ground and is remote from the canister, it is therefore both stable and easy to shield from the wind. It also comes with fold-away heat and wind shields. The Gravity is quite powerful and efficient too, with an alleged boil time of around 2min 15s for 1L of water. I found that it was capable of properly heating a Wayfayrer ready meal in ca. 5 minutes at around 3/4 power, as opposed to the 8 minutes suggested by Wayfayrer.

Stove and 230g canister for scale. Note the melted ignition.
Stove and 230g canister for scale. Note the melted ignition.
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