Wednesday, 21 May 2014

Book Review The Last Englishman: A 2,650 mile hiking adventure on the Pacific Crest Trail [Kindle Edition] - Completed 13 May 14

The Last Englishman: A 2,650 mile hiking adventure on the Pacific Crest Trail [Kindle Edition] - Completed 13 May 14

I selected this book as my primary reading material on my recent abortive (another story to be told later) attempt to cross Scotland on the 2014 TGO challenge. I knew that the book had been shortlisted for the ‘Outdoor Book of the year 2012’ by TGO magazine and I follow Fozzie’s highly entertaining blog ( though I had not read his earlier book of hos walk of the Camino de Santiago (though I have since commenced it). I must say that this book was extremely enjoyable and I must have completed it in record time.

The book tells the Story of Foskett’s completion of the 2650 mile long Pacific Crest Trail from the Mexican to the Canadian Border through California, Oregon and Washington States. Although over 300 hikers start this walk every year the dropout rate is very high - according to the book’s blurb more people have stood on the top of Everest than have completed the Trail. When one reads the book it is easy to see why as through hikers have to cover a high average daily mileage in order to hit the Canadian border before the onset of Winter – Foskett himself only just makes it and that with a re-jig of his planned route in order to cover the harsher hills and conditions of Washington State early – though I shan’t spoil the story. For a reader in the UK the scale of the walk only comes across when Foskett points out that the length of the Californian section of the trail alone is 500 mils longer than a walk from Land’s End to John ‘o’ Groats!

Foskett tells an excellent story with humour throughout; he tells of meetings with other hikers – both those with whom he becomes friendly and also those he dislikes. Tales of encounters with Snakes – which he both fears but finds rather tasty – and Bears as well as the at times fearsome weather are recounted. Foskett’s love of the outdoors comes across splendidly and a touch I really liked was the list at the end of the book that provides reason WHY one would do a walk like this.

I can heartily recommend this book to anyone who enjoys being out of doors – whether you plan to walk something like the PCT or not.

Wednesday, 7 May 2014

Taking Mum Flying (or how to torture your parents) – Flight 4 May 2014

Route Aberdeen – Insch – Cullen - Fraserburgh – Peterhead – Aberdeen; time taken 1:05 mins

Mum and Dad do not like flying and have flown on commercial airliners only on rare occasions. My interest in aviation was piqued as a child living in Lincolnshire – Bomber County – where we were surrounded by both disused Second World War bomber stations as well as active airfields and with the RAF College at Cranwell only 5 miles from home and a former 617 squadron Lancaster crew member as a next door neighbour. What 11 year old would not have been interested in aviation. So in spite of my parent’s dislike of flying I joined the local Air training Corps Squadron, built model aeroplanes and went to every possible airshow before getting a Private Pilot’s Licence at 17 (via and RAF Scholarship). I joined the RAF at 19 but unfortunately was unable to progress in a flying career and converted to become what was then known as a Fighter Controller.

A couple of years ago I renewed by PPL and promised to take Mum and Dad up. Dad flatly refused but Mum agreed to come (more trough a desire to be seen to be supporting her son than from any desire to fly). I had planned to take her up a year ago but she was saved by thick fog at Aberdeen airport but last Sunday she was unable to get away when the day dawned brightly and the wind was still. So it was off to Aberdeen and after a quick pre-flight I helped mum strap into the passenger seat on ZV. As we lined up on the runway for take off I could see that mum was gripping the seat sides with white knuckled fingers and was extremely quiet. As ATC gave take off clearance the throttle was applied and we trundled along the runway at 500 ft we turned towards Inverurie with Mum still looking uncomfortable.

As cloud was now coming in from the West I stopped our climb at 1500 ft and flew over my house pointing out various features on the ground to Mum – who had relaxed a little as I had given her something to hold other than the seat. Heavy rain was evident along my planned route to Ben Rinnes so we turned north for the coast and flew along to Cullen Bay then to Fraserburgh. By now Mum was saying she was enjoying herself though did keep asking ‘when are we going back to Aberdeen?’ Well eventually we re-joined the Aberdeen Zone via the Peterhead lane though with more and more cloud building up (we would get a very active downpour only 30 minutes after landing) we had to get lower and lower to stay below cloud eventually getting down to 1000ft to re-join the Aberdeen circuit. With a clearance to land swiftly coming we were down on the tarmac with a soft landing only 1 hour and 5 minutes after take-off. Mum said she had enjoyed the flight, though I suspect she was enjoying being back on the ground more. Dad has banned her from coming again but at least she has been up now so can cross it off any bucket list she might have.

Tuesday, 6 May 2014

TGO 2014 D- day minus 2

Rucksack packed ; all items ticked off; still to decide between Innov8s and Altberg but 70% certain it’ll be the innov8s. I have adjusted the short gaiters in line with Andy Howell’s advice ( ) and expect to test them in the wild. Knowing I shall get wet feet with the innov8s I am still dubious to Andy’s claims that this doesn’t matter your feet will dry out. All my previous experience was in making sure you kept your feet dry. I’ll be able to make an informed decision in a couple of weeks.

Now that the kit is packed I have realised that I shall probably need my Kindle on the train and bus journeys to Shiel Bridge so I shall have to dig it out again! Other than that I think I am ready. Route to Shiel Bridge is sorted – I’ll be taking the 14:12 Insch to Inverness service on Thursday and from Inverness I’ll be getting the Bus (ticket pre-paid) after stacking up on pork pies and pasties. Should get to Shiel bridge by 20:00 in time to put up the tent and get set for the Forcan Ridge if do-able on Friday.

Thursday, 1 May 2014

TGO 2014 Final Preparations

Last week before this year’s TGO and as ever I am desperately short of training; never mind I have a solution on Monday I suddenly realised that I had made a cock up on the only accommodation booking I had made – this for a B&B just outside Ft Augustus. According to my route plan I am due to arrive here on the evening of 12 May; According to my booking I am due to book in on 13 May – whoops!
Last night I printed off all my maps for the route and had a look at how to Re-jig the plan to plan to spend a day longer in West and if necessary miss out the Monadhliath Munros during the next few days in order to meet the accommodation date – I don’t like leaving small business I the lurch in the Highlands as its hard to make a living – and besides I’ll need a shower after 4-5 days. One of the great things about the Challenge is that it is flexible and as long as you let Challenge control know what you’re doing then you can linger or charge on depending on how you feel.
Route this year is from Shiel Bridge – Forcan Ridge – South Glenshiel Ridge – then a couple of days low level stravaiging to Ft Augustus – Corrieyairack Pass – Laggan – Newtonmore – Mondhliath Munros (time-permitting) – Kingussie – Glen Feshie – Braemar – Jock’s Road – Geln Clova – Glen Lee – Tarfside – Mount Battock – Feterresso (watch out for a whole lot of windfarms added last year) – Dunottar.
With luck the weather will be better than on my 1st 2 crossings