Sunday, 29 July 2012

The long way home!

We completed our West Highland Charity lats week - what an incredible experience!

All in all, 8 people took part, 3 of us doing the full 6 days, and only one day of seriously bad weather.

A lot of the photos we took can currently be seen on facebook, but I will be putting up our "hike diary" with accompanying photos on the blog very soon.

The hike is over, but there is still a lot of fundraising to do! Please remember to tell your friends!

Special thanks to Roy and Claire at the ABF's Scotland Office for all their support!

The other two full 6 day hikers! Couldn't have asked for better team-mates!

Loch Lomond, end of day 1!

The view from Chateau ABF!
Nice waterfall... shame about the Bermuda shorts!

Wouldn't be an army charity hike without a nice pint at the end!

ABF: The Soldiers' Charity

Thanks for your continued support and patience, dear readers! Watch this space for more photos and please do get in touch with any questions about the ABF or the West Highland Way!



Friday, 20 July 2012

Ready to Go!

Final confirmation of accommodation at all points along the walk! Bags are packed! Tom is on the way up the road!
Thomas and Yavuz: Ready to go tomorrow morning!
Paul, Steve, Stephen: see you Monday evening at Crianlarich Youth Hostel!
Delman and Marianna: see you Tuesday evening at Bridge of Orchy Hotel!

When you are all sitting comfortably at home on Sunday during the torrential rain and gale force winds please think of us!

And donate!

Thanks guys!

Tuesday, 19 June 2012

Accommodation and the Kindness of Strangers

Hi all!

Accommodation is booked:

Night 1, Millarochy Bay Campsite: 3 people - David, Tom and Yavuz (campsite, 8pounds each on entry)

Night 2, Wild Camping: 3 people -as night 1 (free and free tea from Andrew @ Invsnd Hotel!)

Night 3, Crianlarich Youth Hostel: 4 people - Me, Tom, Yavuz, Paul (18quid each)

Night 4, Bridge of Orchy Bunkhouse: 6 people - Me, Tom, Yavuz, Paul, Delman, Marianna (18quid each)

Night 5, Blackwater Bunkhouse, Kinlochleven: 6 people - as night 4 (15quid each)

There are another 6 spare rooms booked on Night 2 for any day-hike volunteers (I'm looking at you, Mike!), so please let me know as soon as you can so I can cancel the rooms not needed.

A few other hikers will be joining, but they have decided to make their own accommodation arrangements.

Anyway, I called up the Inversnaid Hotel to get their advice and local knowledge as regards the wild camping near their hotel on NIGHT 2... really helpful guy called Andrew, who it turns out used to be in the British Army himself. He said he will see what he can do about getting a few free cups of tea thrown our direction! Perfect!

Cheers all!


Thursday, 7 June 2012

A Tale of Two Hikes

Evening dear readers!

Jamie and I had a great time on the West Highland Way on Wednesday, you'll be glad to hear. Not only did we have nice calm, if somewhat overcast, weather, but we learned a lot about the realities of the upcoming 6 day hike. I'll write a wee section on learning outcomes after the photos (which I am sure you are dying to see!), but the most important changes involve a slight alteration of one over-night location (lengthening one day to shorten another), a change of accommodation method, and some useful insights into realistic training.

One of the volunteer hikers, Paul, a great friend and an ex-colleague of mine from my Japan days, has been doing his own training in Hertfordshire, and has allowed me to stick up some of his photos too! That's right! Double Photos! :)

Jamie and David tackle DAY 4 "Crianlarich to Bridge of Orchy"

Sorry, it's the best I could do from a moving vehicle... pretty though!

Jamie, raring to go!

Just crossing the River Fillan, by St. Fillan's Priory. Why didn't
 I plan a fly-fishing based fundraiser for ABF: Soldiers' Charity!?!

Great Camouflage... shame about the pasty white shins!

Which way?

I wondered why my bergen was so heavy... I may have
over-packed in the lunch department!

Hot tea!

We had just caught up with two groups, so just out of shot were
about 10 people! The WHW can get a bit crowded!

Looming in from the right is Beinn Dorain, one singularly
spectacular mountain!


I don't know why, but I have a sudden craving for
McGowan's Highland Toffee...

SO CUTE! I bet these would catch on as pets in Japan.

Nearly home!

I think we had just smashed some haribo into our faces at this point...

Destination, Ho!

Yeah, we pushed past the train station...


Back in Crianlarich, spotted this charming little church.

Lovely views on the road home again!
Learning Outcomes

Change of location: Chatting to a couple of veteran WHWers in the Bridge of Orchy Hotel Bar we got a lot of good first hand advice. DAY 5 will be extended to reduce the length of DAY 6, moving the accommodation to Kinlochleven from Kingshouse.

Accommodation Issues: Distance hiking really is a different kettle of fish to day-hiking/summit-hiking... going to try and arrange some very cheap accommodation in the bunkhouse at Bridge of Orchy, and also at Kinlochleven... if successful, that means hot meals, beds and showers for nights 4 and 5. This should mean volunteers don't have to carry as much weight with them on the hike. I will keep the blog updated as to the progress of this change in accommodation - it also means an increase in costs to the volunteers, so we will have to work harder to hit the "break even" donation point with our sponsors.

Walk Difficulty: I now have a much better idea of the difficulty of the 6 day hike... just coming out of Crianlarich, the WHW has lots of up-and-down-and-up-again sections that are really quite tough... talking to the experienced guys on the route and in the pub we learned, as I've heard elsewhere, that the really tough sections are from halfway up Loch Lomond to Crianlarich. Good knowledge!

Paul in Hertfordshire!

Paul kindly agreed to take a few snaps while out on his 10 mile practice hike this afternoon... unfortunately there aren't any of him - he was solo walking! It made all the difference having Jamie with me on the 13miles on Wednesday, but Paul was able to keep his spirits up with the help of his ipod... these really are a great bit of kit!

Ready to go!
If you go down to the woods today...
Lions, tigers and bears! Oh my!
A busy bee!

There was no way round, Paul had to wade through.. what a trooper!
This green and pleasant land. :)
Mint Sauce!

Hmmmmmmm. :/
I wonder what the story behind this lovely old ruin is...
The road home!
Thanks for sharing Paul!

Please send me your own hiking-training photos and stories! Cheers!

Tuesday, 5 June 2012

Preparation for a day-hike

Hi all,

I've been doing quite a bit of walking around Lothian and Ayrshire, but tomorrow will be my first practice of a section of the West Highland Way itself!

It seems most of my student friends are frantically moving from university to private accommodation for the summer this week, so it seems it will be just two of us tomorrow, myself and an old pal from my University of St. Andrews Judo Club days, Jamie.

The original plan was to head up from Edinburgh by train, but seeing as it's only us two, we are going to drive up through some fantastic countryside on the A85 to Crianlarich.

We plan to leave the car parked in Crianlarich around 9.30-10am, and walk up to Bridge of Orchy, some 13miles away. This is "Day 4" of the Charity Challenge, and is probably one of the easiest and most beautiful sections of the WHW.

We will have plenty of time to cover the distance in a safe and enjoyable manner, as Tom says "The West Highland Way is a marathon, not a sprint". Our last train back from Bridge of Orchy to the car at Crianlarich is at 18.57, which is ample time for the distance, even at a leisurely pace.

Another reason I chose this leg to practice on is that I want to check the exact location and state of the Crianlarich Youth Hostel and the permitted no-facilities campsite at Bridge of Orchy for Days 3 and 4. As the old saying goes "Proper Planning and Preparation Prevents Piss-Poor Performance!"

Ok, so, on to risk and contingencies/responses:

Risk Event
1. Severe weather: Likelihood (L - 1); Impact (I - 5); Detection Diff. (DD - 0)
2. Transport problems: L - 1; I - 4; DD - 3.
3. pre-hike injury: L - 1; I - 5; DD - 0.
4. during-hike injury: L - 3; I - 5; DD - 0.
5. fatigue: L - 3; I - 5; DD - 0
6. route closure: L - 1; I - 5; DD - 0.

Risk Response Matrix
1. Severe Weather: Response (R - not possible); Contingency (C - cancel hike); Trigger (T - weather on site)
2. Transport problems: R - reduce; C - cancel hike; T - check state of car and road reports
3. pre-hike Injury: R - reduce; C - reduce hike length; T - check health during morning stretches and prep
4. during-hike Injury: R - reduce; C - summon emergency driver, set up bivvy, inform mountain rescue (if appropriate); T - Injury Incident
5. Fatigue: R - reduce; C - rest, bivvy, head to closest train station, inform emergency driver and/or mountain rescue as appropriate; T - Fatigue Incident
6. Route closure: R - not possible; C - find alternative activity, inform emergency driver; T - on site.

I will make sure Jamie also has the contact details of my dad, the emergency driver.

I checked the weather here:

In terms of kit for the day-hike:

backpack containing
warm kit: fleece, hat, spare socks
waterproof kit: jacket
foot admin: ZX tape, food powder, spare shoes and socks
technical: map, compass, whistle, torch, pencils, notepad, camera, insect repellant, sun-cream
food and drink: cold food, hot water flask
emergency kit: energy sweets, 2 man shelter, charged waterproofed mobile phone, cash, debit card
entertainment: ipod

Okay guys, if there is anything I've overlooked, or anything you like to mention, please send me a message!


Monday, 4 June 2012

Tom's Top Training Tips!

Tom Pountney, an old pal of mine from my days at RMA Sandhurst, is the real hiking guru on this fundraiser.

He is a bit camera shy, but he has kindly agreed for me to post some of his hiking snaps from Nepal, Morocco and the Cotswolds.

Tom's Top Training Tips

1. Practice in the kit you're going to walk in - you'll spot the problems earlier and it will fit better by the time you come to use it for real.

2. Eat, drink and rest properly otherwise your training is less effective.

3. The West Highland Way is a marathon, not a sprint. Slow and steady will get you to the end, too fast and you'll burn out halfway through.

4. The right mind set is more than half the battle. If you want to finish - you will. Be prepared for the long distance and succession of days in the hills and you'll enjoy the experience.

5. Think carefully about what you carry, it's all extra weight but don't be needlessly uncomfortable.

Saturday, 2 June 2012


Trying a few new font colours to make the blog more readable at the behest of my wee brother's friend and colleague, Omar Akhtar!

I'm not really a yellow kind of person... but its easier on the eye, right? Thanks for the advice, Omar!