Now just one day until I go, and it feels like a long time since I had a walk. I’ve not been out on “terrain” for just over a month, and despite best intentions, haven’t done the amount of flat walking I’d hoped to do in preparation for this trip. But I’ve done a couple of longish walks, and even with a break of a few weeks I normally can knock out 10 miles or so without too much trouble. And it seems to make little difference whether I’m on form or not when it comes to ascent – i.e. slow and ploddy.
The coming trip, assuming the weather is on side, is going to involve an average of 12 miles and 1,111m of ascent each day, which are at the upper end of what I consider to be comfortable. Luckily most of my walks have escape options, but these are limited in cases where I have fixed start and end points dictated by different nights accommodation.
With this in mind, I’ve drawn up a packing list which is slimmed down from my usual, in the hope that even if I don’t stick to it, I will at least pack with a more lightweight mentality than usual. Having done this year’s SWCP section with what I thought was close to the bare minimum, and then finding that my dad and brother both had smaller pack sizes than me, this has motivated me to make more effort to lighten my load, and to take bolder decisions when selecting what gear to take. Of course on that last trip, I did carry more clothes than I would normally, principally because of the amount of stick they give me for washing things out mid trip and the social need to at least have the appearance of more than one set of “off-duty” clothes.
I’m not packed yet, but have my Berghaus 35+8 and my Lowe Alpine 65+20 sitting ready, vying with each other to be chosen. The Berghaus will clearly be lighter and mean I take less stuff, but for a long trip isn’t as versatile. The Lowe Alpine, on the other hand, is big and a kilo heavier, but can be compressed down – on my two days of day walks during the Cumbria Way earlier this year, I managed to crush it down enough that it didn’t seem ridiculous. And the Lowe Alpine has loads of pockets etc compared with the Berghaus. But it does weigh more, although is arguably more comfortable with a heavy load (as you’d expect). The danger is though, that if I take the bigger rucksack, I’ll be tempted to take loads of stuff that I don’t really need. So I don’t yet know which I’m taking, but it’s quite likely that I’ll take the bigger one and a smaller lightweight bag that I can use on a couple of odd days for superlight walks, although that’s just adding extra weight. A look at the weather forecast to get an idea of what sort of conditions I’m likely to have may well play a part too.
Having for the last few years only really used trekking poles for steep descents or when the going is slippery, on the Cumbria Way I re-discovered their value as a propulsion device. And bearing in mind I have some big (for me) walks day after day after day, I felt the time was right to invest in some Pacerpoles and see if all the glowing reviews are correct. They’ve been sitting on my wishlist for a while, but having only decided to get some a week ago, I then had an anxious wait hoping they would arrive in time for me to test them out and take them, which I did yesterday. Hopefully, they will help me cope with the distance, up my pace and reduce the feel of the ascent. And the acid test, I think, will be about a week into the trip when I have a big walk from Wasdale to Borrowdale and options to extend and make it even bigger. If the poles enable me to extend the walk to take in some additional tops then they will have passed the test with flying colours.
So the Pacerpoles are on test during this trip, but there are also some other items of gear that are still on probation.
First my TNF Vindicator Mid GTXs which I used on the SWCP and which do seem better for long distance than my Meindls. But I’ve not really got them properly wet yet so I don’t really have a full picture. I’m sure I will come back from this trip having tested this.
Secondly, as my Vindicators are a tad roomy in some socks, I’ve got some new insoles to test – cheap ones from Decathlon.
And finally, I’ve not subjected my Haglofs Viper softshell to persistent rain yet. My heavier softshells cope fine – generally although softshells are always labelled as not suitably for prolonged rain, I’ve always found them to cope well enough, and indeed my softshell trousers are all I ever wear on my lower half (unless it’s shorts weather). I’ll be taking a waterproof jacket too, but am hoping that I won’t need it, as the Viper is comfortable and gives me a real feel of freedom of movement.
Routes are all planned, maps are all printed from Anquet, so now I just need to gather everything together, charge my devices, and then test pack both rucksacks, adjust the gear list and do a final pack.