Martin in Gatineau Park

Martin in Gatineau Park

Saturday, 15 December 2007

Friday 14 December 2007 - Showell Styles (Part 2)

I referred to Showell Styles in my brief entry on 4 October when I was (like today but worse) playing catch-up with the blog. This is the man whose book ‘Backpacking in the Alps and Pyrenees’ inspired our trips to the Alps in the early 1980s before the days of step by step guides of the ‘Cicerone genre’. When we followed in Showell’s steps (his precise route was a bit vague) we enjoyed a daily reading from his book covering the area we had walked. It was great entertainment. Showell Styles died at the age of 96 in 2005. He was a prolific author and amongst his writings is this enduring ballad:

THE BALLAD OF IDWAL SLABS

by Showell Styles

I'll tell you the tale of a climber; a drama of love on the crags;
A story to pluck at your heartstrings. And tear your emotions to rags.
He was tall, he was fair, he was handsome;
John Christopher Brown was his name;
The Very Severes nearly bored him to tears ------
and he felt about girls much the same.

Till one day, while climbing at Ogwen, he fell (just a figure of speech)
For the president's beautiful daughter, named Mary Jane Smith---What a peach!
Her figure was slim as Napes Needle;
Her lips were as red as Red Wall;
A regular tiger, she'd been up the Eiger...
North Wall, with no pitons at all!

Now Mary had several suitors, but never a one would she take,
Though it seemed that she favoured one fellow, a villain named Reginald Hake;
This Hake was a cad who used pitons,
And wore a long silken moustarsh,
Which he used, so they say, as an extra belay----
But perhaps we're being too harsh.

John took Mary climbing on Lliwedd, and proposed while on Mallory's Slab;
It took him three pitches to do it, for he hadn't much gift of the gab.
He said: "Just belay for a moment---
There's a little spike by your knee-
And tell me, fair maid, when you're properly belayed,
Would you care to hitch up with me?"

Said Mary, "It's only a toss-up between you and Reginald Hake,
And the man I am going to marry must perform some great deed for my sake.
I will marry whichever bold climber shall excel at the following feat
Climb headfirst down Hope, with no rubbers or rope,
At our very next climbing club meet!"

Now when Mary told the committee, she had little occasion to plead,
For she was fair as a jug-handle hold at the top of a hundred foot lead.
The club ratified her proposal,
And the President had to agree;
He was fond of his daughter, but felt that she oughter
Get married, between you and me.

There was quite a big crowd for the contest, lined up at the foot of the slabs;
The Mobs came from Bangor in Buses, and the Nobs came from Capel in Cabs.
There were Fell and rock, climbers', and rucksack,
And the pinnacle club (in new hats)
And a sight to remember!... an Alpine club member,
in very large crampons and spats.

The weather was fine for a wonder; the rocks were as dry as a bone.
Hake arrived with a crowd of his backers, but John Brown strode up quite alone;
A rousing cheer greeted the rivals;
A coin was produced, and they tossed.
"Have I won?" cried John Brown as the penny came down.
"No you fool!" hissed his rival, "You've lost!"

So Hake had first go at the contest; he went up by the Ordinary Route.
And only the closest observer would have noticed a bulge in each boot.
Head first he came down the top pitches,
Applying his moustache as a brake;
He didn't relax till he'd passed the twin cracks,
And the crowd shouted "Attaboy Hake!"

At the foot of the Slabs Hake stood sneering, and draining a bottle of Scotch;
" Your time was ten seconds," the President said, consulting the Treasurer's watch.
Now Brown. if you'd win, you have to beat that.
" Our Hero's Sang Froid was sublime;
He took one look at Mary, and light as a fairy,
Ran up to the top of the climb.

Now though Hake had made such good going, John wasn't discouraged a bit,
For he was the speedier climber Even Hake would have had to admit.
So smiling as if for a snapshot,
Not a hair of his head out of place,
Our Hero John Brown started wriggling down...
But Look! What a change on his face!

Prepare for a shock, gentle ladies; gentlemen, check the blasphemous word;
For the villainy I am to speak of is such as you never have heard!
Reg Hake had cut holes in the toes of his boots,
And filled up each boot with soft soap!
As he slid down the climb, he had covered
With slime every handhold and foothold on Hope!

Conceive (if you can) the terror that gripped the vast concourse below,
When they saw Mary's lover slip downwards, like an arrow that's shot from a bow!
" He's done for!" gasped twenty score voices.
"Stand from under!" Roared John from above.
As he shot down the slope, he was steering down Hope...
Still fighting for life and for love!

Like lightning he flew past the traverse... in a flash he had reached the Twin Cracks
The friction was something terrific---there was smoke coming out of his slacks
He bounced off the shelf at the top of pitch two,
And bounded clean over it's edge!
A shout of "He's gone!" came from all... except one;
And that one of course, was our Reg.

But it's not the expected that happens, in this sort of story at least;
And just as John thought he was finished, he found that his motion had ceased!
His braces (Pre-War and elastic)
Had caught on a small rocky knob,
And so... safe and sound, he came gently to ground,
'Mid the deafening cheers of the Mob!

"Your time was five seconds!" the President cried. "She's yours, my boy...
take her, You win!"
" My hero!" breathed Mary, and kissed him; while Hake gulped a bottle of Gin,
And tugged at his moustache and whispered,
"Aha! My advances you spurn!"
Curse a chap that wins races by using his braces!"
And he slunk away ne'er to return.

They were wed at the Church of St. Gabbro; And the Vicar, quite carried away,
Did a hand-traverse into his pulpit, and shouted out "let us belay"
John put the ring on Mary's finger
A snap-link it was, made of steel,
And they walked to the taxis
'Neath an arch of ice axes,
While all the bells started to peal.

The morals we draw from this story, are several, I'm happy to say:
It's virtue that wins in the long run; long silken moustaches don't pay;
Keep the head uppermost when you're climbing;
If you must slither, be on a rope;
Steer clear of the places that sell you cheap braces---
And the fellow that uses soft soap!

Thursday 13 December 2007 - Bird Life by The Bridgewater Canal

A stroll down the canal today attracted the usual flotilla of Mallard, anxious to find small children with large crusts. The Mallard have been joined for the winter by the noisier Black-headed Gulls. Other water loving permanent residents are the pair of Mute Swans whose young have now dispersed, Canada Geese, Moorhens, Grey Wagtails and occasional Coots and Kingfishers. They will soon get their first taste of ice on the canal – it’s always amusing to watch the puzzled birds landing on the ice! The hedgerows harbour lots of Dunnock, Robins, Blue Tits, Great Tits, Goldfinches, Chaffinches and Wrens, whilst higher in the tree canopy are found Woodpigeons, Feral Pigeons, Collared Doves, Blackbirds, Kestrels, Magpies, Jays and Carrion Crows, and if you are lucky you may catch the undulating flight of a Great Spotted Woodpecker.
To name but a few. I must try find an expert / walk more slowly sometimes!

Wednesday 12 December 2007 - Highlights of the Year – Part 3 – Berliner Hohenweg - 27 July 2007

The Berliner Hohenweg, or the ‘Zillertal Rucksack Route’ as Allan Hartley describes it in his Cicerone guide published in 2003, was my choice for a hutting route with just The Dishy Pharmacist, to follow our week with other friends in the Dolomites in July.
I still plan to do a report on this trip as the guide book appears to have been completed in a hurry and contains numerous minor ‘debatable’ issues. In fact the route is simple enough to do without a guidebook, though I hope to produce an A3 pamphlet (or equivalent, ie 4 pages of A4) that people could print off. For us, the guide book provided evening entertainment with a red pen, but it also contains a lot of information about excursions from the basic route. Allan Hartley is a mountaineer of the climber genus and clearly enjoyed the diversions more than the basic route that we undertook, so people like Ali and Lay would probably benefit from the book, and reach a number of Alpine summits. For the more pedestrian amongst us, the route is clear, well marked and well used, and Kompass 1:50000 map No 37 – ‘Zillertaler Alpen Tuxer Voralpen’ is all you really need.
The whole trip was a ‘Highlight of the Year’ but I’ll focus on just one day, the last day’s walk from Friesenberg Haus to Gams Hut:
We rose at 6.45, as usual, in our small dormitory where the other beds remained unoccupied. But the dining room was full of breakfasting Alpinistes from 7 o clock. It was hazy, with cloud already obscuring the peaks, but warm enough for shorts as we left on the 14 km trek to Gams Huts before 8 am. The first section was bouldery and passed a small lake, Wesendkarsee, at 2375 metres, where last year I camped in beautiful weather with Mark and Juliana, and I also camped there back in 1993. It’s a great spot facing south east with fabulous views.
The cloud engulfed us here, but it was still bright and it soon cleared again, but felt very humid. We passed Kevin and Alison, the only other Brits seen all week. They planned to descend from Kesselalm as Kevin has a cold. Soon afterwards we passed Manfred, a 67 year old from Cologne who is the only person to have been on the trail with us all week. They all started early as the guidebook suggests 10 to 12 hours will be needed, though the signs say it is a 9 hour day. Manfred has seen gamsbok (antelope) but so far we have only seen a large cobweb and have heard marmots whistling. There’s a sharp descent to Kesselalm (no axes needed this year – we had used one to negotiate a frozen gully last year) where two curious grey calves were frolicking in the meadow. An attractive waterfall oversaw an excellent half hour brew stop. Sue ate several handfuls of bilberries – ripe and warm from the sun.
A hot climb followed, through green meadows with loads of flowers. There were fine views from here, and throughout the day, across the main valley to the route we had enjoyed during the first three days from Edel Hutte.
Pitzen-Alm provided a welcome stop, with a small café perched on the edge of the slope dispensing welcome Schiewasser and Apfelsaft on its balcony. They were surprised we had arrived so early; we must have been going well! We were now well ahead of the others on today’s route. We met Alphonse coming the other way, and he promised to say ‘Hello Manfred’ when passing the gentleman from Cologne. We had done this earlier in the week, and Manfred, walking alone, was always chuffed to be greeted like a long lost friend by complete strangers!
Next, we climbed from the Alm, passing through areas of pasture and boulders, not far above the firs. The gradually increasing cloud at least provided shelter from the burning sunshine, and a few drops of rain were felt as we crossed another boulder field.
The final couple of miles were on a precipitous narrow path, high above the valley, with stream crossings requiring care. Here, at last, we spotted a gamsbok browsing in the steep grass just below us. There were masses of colourful wild flowers, from Houseleeks to Harebells, around here.
Only when we rounded the easternmost point of the main ridge below which we had been walking, did we get a view of our destination, the well appointed Gams Hut, at 1916 metres the lowest we had stayed in all week. The path weaved down through more bilberry bushes, with fine views down the ever widening Ziller valley. We arrived at the Hut at 2 pm, after a 6 hour walk including an hour of stops. Interesting in the context of the 9 to 12 hour timings suggested by guide book and signs, especially as we were not rushing.
We enjoyed a cooked lunch in the Hut, as always, and basked in the satisfaction of successfully completing this high level traverse, before providing a welcoming party for Manfred, who arrived tired but happy and much in need of the beer we had set up for him.
This was the only hut we had felt a need to book in advance (Friday night, close to a holiday town) but only a handful of others arrived. It seems that many folk are put off by the prospect of a long day with steep slopes and boulder fields, and they descend to Ginzling from Kesselalm or Pitzen-Alm. The hut log reveals just 5 visiting Brits in the 8 weeks since the hut opened for the summer. The cloud sat at about 400 metres above us but the expected storm didn’t materialise and the three of us enjoyed our final meal together – schnitzel and salad, with Manfred providing Schnapps, which appeared to be the hut warden’s ‘home brew’. We couldn’t resist topping the meal off with apfelkuchen, which left the two of us with just 6 euros to buy coffees on the way into Mayrhofen the following morning.
There is a slide show of this trip (100 images) - please let me know if you wish to view it.

Thursday, 13 December 2007

Tuesday 11 December 2007 - Sunrise over Timperley

On a crisp morning we enjoyed this beautiful introduction to a wonderfully sunny day during which the temperature hardly troubled the mercury. Sadly, various chores obstructed the best use of the day, but I’m sure there will be many more days like this to put to good use.

Wednesday, 12 December 2007

Monday 10 December 2007 - UK Outdoor Bloggers Christmas Pantomime


If you go down to the woods today you’re bound to be in for a surprise.


This may well be a first for the UK outdoor on-line community.
So please be generous with your applause (and boos) as we welcome you to enjoy a walk with the 2007 UK Outdoor Bloggers Christmas Pantomine.
Or is it all enjoyment?
Follow a multiple track route to try to get to the bloggers party on time…..or will all the refreshments have gone by the time you arrive?



Congratulations to London Backpacker, Aktoman, Ali and Lay, John Hee, Weird Darren and The Bearded Git, (and anyone else whose input to the adventure I have yet to discover) who appear to have managed to put this together and upload the intricately linked adventure so that it all works smoothly. Great fun!

Meanwhile, the Cheshire countryside was a bit damp today, as portrayed by the postcard.

Tuesday, 11 December 2007

Sunday 9 December 2007 - A Sunday Stroll in the Best of Company

Twelve people turned up for the pre Christmas Walk, as planned, though for some reason most of them parked some way down the road. Andrew was blamed for leading them astray.
Waterproofs were donned as there was a fine mist on the Roaches, but once past Roach End we were below the cloud and getting hot, so a pause for tea was welcome. Despite being absent, due to a ‘better offer’ – a day in Lapland – The Dishy Pharmacist had left me with an ample supply of Caramel Shortbread in my bum bag. Tradition dictates that this goes down well.
So we strolled merrily on along the prescribed route to the dark damp declivity that is Lud’s Church.
This natural cleft is over 100 metres in length and over 20 metres high in places. The light of day rarely reaches and damp mosses curl down from the walls. Even on the sunniest of days, it is possible to hear the drip, drip of water from the ferns which cling to the sides of the cleft, which has been identified as The Green Chapel – the very place where Sir Gawain met and battled with the Green Knight one New Year’s Day long ago.
Graham seemed convinced that half the party was likely to be sucked into the glutinous pond near the entrance, and some guidance was given to enable the less agile amongst us to plot a delicate route across the half submerged rocks and log in order to effect our escape.
My photos on this dark day just didn’t turn out, so those fearing exposure to these pages by way of a group photo need not have worried, they were always to fast for the shutter!
A pleasant hour by the banks of the River Dane brought us to the sanctuary of The Ship Inn. Although the ‘Golden Jackal’ had now been drunk, the Landlord’s Bitter was excellent and we arrived to find the Hikers Bar full of people apart from our reserved table for 12, in front of a roaring fire. This proved to be a fine venue for lunch. My ‘hot beef sandwich on freshly cut granary bloomer bread with prime sautéed beef, caramelised onions, salad garnish and handcut chunky chips’ was tender and succulent, and the rectangular orientation of the table meant that everyone was within earshot of each other, so it was a most convivial hour and a half, discussing the triumphs of 2007 and our plans for 2008.
We were sorry to have to down that last chocolatey mouthful of fudge cake and discard the blue hospital bootees, before continuing our tramp. But the weather was warm and dry, if a little dull, and the planned route was followed up to Hanging Stone (see last Wednesday’s blog), where Keith kindly posed for today’s ‘Postcard’.
Then everyone headed on along the concessionary path to Roach End, ignoring my feeble murmurings that this was not actually the intended route. Never mind, it’s a nice path that I’d somehow never been on before, and certainly much drier than the lower route through fields, and 2 km shorter (just 16 km for the day). I gave in gracefully to Graham Illing’s ‘Don’t do Boggy Fields’ dictum on this occasion. By the time we got back to Roach End, everyone was more than happy to stroll down the quiet lane back to the cars, idly chatting in the gathering gloom of the December afternoon.
A lovely day out, in excellent company; thank you everyone for turning up on a day when the dire weather forecast turned out to be a tad misleading but would have discouraged less committed souls!

I wonder whether any other ‘Outdoors Bloggers’ will turn up on next year’s pre Christmas stroll...

Saturday 8 December 2007 - The Battle of Culloden - April 16, 1746

Is this suitable subject matter for an Outdoors Blog? I don’t know. But it did happen in the outdoors, so here goes.
Whilst in Madeira in November Alan pulled out some of his old maps etc of the island. He collects documents relating to the history of the island. On the back of one of these documents, a copy of the London Illustrated News from April 1844, was a report on the 98th anniversary of the Battle of Culloden. These days I would head to Wikipedia to find out about such events. Here’s a link to the relevant entry (and it has many further links, you could spend hours on this one topic!), from which I’ve borrowed the reproduced painting by David Morier. Wikipedia says that some 50 ‘Hanoverians (English) died in the Battle, with 1250 Jacobites (Highlanders) being killed. It’s odd how over the years the stories of such events can be differently reported. I reproduce below the 1844 version of events, from which you will note that 600 deaths on each side were reported. Though the Wikipedia entry is much more comprehensive, I wonder which version is more accurate.
But after reading this I can only marvel at our modern day ‘free passage’ to Scotland and am saddened by the ongoing conflicts in such potentially wonderful parts of the world as Afghanistan.

THE BATTLE OF CULLODEN
“Drummossie Muir, Drummossie day,
A waeful day it was to me!
For there I lost my father dear,
My father dear and brethren three.”

Tuesday last was the 98th anniversary of the celebrated battle fought on the estate of Culloden, about three miles north-east of Inverness, on April 16, 1746, and which is memorable as having put an end to the Rebellion. On the night preceding the Highlanders had intended to surprise the Duke of Cumberland, in his camp, at Nairn; but this scheme having failed, they took up a position on the Moor of Drummossie, their left wing towards the house of Culloden, where the declivity of the hill was soft and marshy, their right slightly protected by a stone wall. The ground was unfavourable, and the Highlanders were weakened by hunger and fatigue, so that it had been judged expedient to withdraw to the hills; but the difficulty of finding subsistence for the men, and the importance of protecting Inverness, determined the Prince Charles Edward, and his councillors, to venture a battle. Drawn up in a line in the position above mentioned, while waiting for the signal to charge, the Highlanders suffered greatly from the English artillery. Exasperated, at last, beyond endurance, the centre rushed forward; and the last charge of the Highlanders, under their patriarchal discipline, and with their peculiar arms, is thus vividly described in Chambers’s “History of the Rebellion” :-


“A lowland gentleman, who was in the line, and who survived till a late period, used always, in relating the events of Culloden, to comment with a feeling of something like awe upon the terrific and more than natural expression of rage which glowed in every face and gleaned in every eye, as he surveyed the extended line at this moment. Notwithstanding that the three files of the front line of English poured forth their incessant fire of musketry; notwithstanding that the cannon, now loaded with grape-shot, swept the field as with a hail-storm; notwithstanding the flank fire of Wolfe’s regiment, onward went the headlong Highlanders, flinging themselves into, rather than rushing upon, the lines of the enemy, which indeed, they did not see for the smoke till involved among their weapons. It was a moment of dreadful, agonising suspense, but only a moment, for the whirlwind does not sweep the forest with greater rapidity than the Highlanders cleared the line. They swept through and over that frail barrier almost as easily and instantaneously as the bounding cavalcade brushes through the morning labours of the gossamer which stretch across its path; not, however, with the same unconsciousness of the events! Almost every man in their front rank, chief and gentleman, fell before the deadly weapons which they had braved; and although the enemy gave way, it was not till every bayonet was bent and bloody with the strife.
“When the first line had been completely swept aside, the assailants continued their impetuous advance till they came near the second, when, being almost annihilated by a profuse and well directed fire, the shattered remnants of what had been, but an hour before, a numerous and confident force, at last submitted to destiny by giving way and flying. Still, a few rushed on, resolved rather to die than thus forfeit their well-acquired and dearly-estimated honour. They rushed on, but not a man ever came in contact with the enemy. The last survivor perished as he reached the points of the bayonets.”

It is said, that in one place, where a very vigorous attack had been made, their bodies were afterwards found in layers three or four deep.
The right wing of the Highlanders, advancing at the same time, was attacked in flank by the English cavalry and broken; the left withdrew almost without sharing in the fight. About 600 men were killed on each side. The battle, however, was decisive; the Prince fled to the mountains, and some days after, gave notice to his partisans to provide for their own safety, declining to continue the contest with 8000 men, who were ready to meet him in Badenoch. This memorable event has given rise to many plaintive popular songs; a verse from one of which, pathetically lamenting the horrors of war, has been quoted above.

Monday, 10 December 2007

Friday 7 December 2007 - The Munro Society

A surprise item in today’s post was The Munro Society Journal – No. 1, 2007.
I’m not an active member, having joined following my ‘compleation’ of the ascent of the designated 284 of Scotland's hills over 3000 feet in height in 2004 – I think I just filled in a form sent by the Scottish Mountaineering Club – and the effect of a standing order and inertia is that I remain a member. So it’s nice to receive something other than a routine newsletter. This ‘Journal’ is a nice little 50 page booklet in A5 format – a mixture of articles and poetry together with some striking photos.
The Presidential Remarks refer to accusations of the Society being ‘elitist’. I do recall Roger Smith, former editor of TGO, and the main man behind the TGO Challenge, bemoaning in his TGO column the fact that he had been declined membership, and suggesting that given his wide experience and other ‘qualifications’ this rejection was perhaps unfair. Whilst I have great admiration for Roger I do feel that the President may be correct in his assertion that the Society is in fact the reverse of elitist, requiring but one condition of membership (a round of the Munros) and being open to all beyond that single stipulation.
The Journal does in fact embrace contributions from non-members. In particular I was entertained by an article from Dave Hewitt, whose ‘Baggerwatch’ column (axed by TGO a few years ago) is missed by many and who edits Scotland’s Hillwalking Fanzine, The Angry Corrie (TAC). Dave writes about ‘When is a round not a round?’ and likens a round of Munros to a round of golf. The latter does not really cater for repeating holes during the course of a round, so arguably a round of Munros should only start when the previous round has been compleated. This leaves those who have repeated numerous ascents during our first round in a bit of a quandary! Dave refers to one chap who has climbed 6000 Munros in total, but has completed only one full round. So should he complete a second round, the ‘Golfer’s Method’ would require him to make a further ascent of Ben Lomond in order to qualify for a third round, despite the fact that he has already climbed that hill 1300 (yes, one thousand three hundred!) times.
It’s an interesting debate, but I have to say I checked this out with the Clerk of the List in 2004 and was told unambiguously that repeat ascents made during earlier rounds could be included in the tally for future rounds, so there is no need to start again unless you wish to utilise the artificially purist Golfer’s Method.
My reason for referring to Dave’s article is that he clearly doen’t share Roger’s view. He is happy to contribute to the Journal despite being a non-member; his own obtruse, individualistic, way of becoming a Munroist is to complete his round on his 1000th Munro, and he has just a few to go, so 2008 could be a good year for Dave.
Having referred to TAC, I would normally provide a link to TAC’s home page, but the first thing I came across on TAC’s website was this, Graham Stephens’ long awaited report on Graham Illing’s final Munro epic in July 1994. This event was before I had met either of these Grahams and is the stuff of legends, so it’s great to see a report on the actual legendary day, which more modern tales of distress (even Weird Darren’s) struggle to match (certainly in terms of alcohol consumption).

Well done, Munro Society, I shall enjoy reading the rest of this Journal.

Thursday 6 December 2007 - TGOC Issues and ‘Digital Challengers'

Alan Sloman’s blog on 3 December – please do read it – most eloquently describes a process of preparing for a particular outdoors challenge, in this case the annual two week TGO Challenge walk across Scotland.
Through the ‘noise’ of the Message Board, The Digital Challenger “…wonders, if after all their detailed inquiries as to how boggy a path will be, or how rough a certain bealach may be or how heavy their pack should be or how much water they should carry, what sort of socks they should wear and the length of their shoe laces (round or flat?) if they will ever manage to drag their corpses from one side of Scotland to the other if it rains and their plimsolls get soggy...”
Next year will be my second year of doing the Challenge. This year I asked a few questions about food parcels and the ferry across Loch Ness, camp sites, etc, and received some very sympathetic and helpful responses to my naïve queries.
I have not yet planned next year’s route in detail. I want to do that together with Sue, when she has time, so that we can take joint responsibility should it ‘all go wrong’! However, after last year’s experience as a solo walker (the report is here) I have a clear idea of sensible daily mileage and ascent targets, and as it’s only my second challenge we can choose an excellent ‘new’ route without any duplication of last year’s ‘thin blue line’ (that’s reference to the line plotted on the digital map on the computer). We’ve had the first two days planned for ages, as Sue wants to bag the seven Munros of the South Cluanie Ridge.
This brings me to another issue concerning Digital Challengers, especially those from overseas. Mark Alvarez from the USA has actively joined the TGOC ‘fraternity’ and the message board is potentially of particular help to people like Mark who may not have first hand experience of Scottish hillwalking. It quickly became evident to Mark that questions of gear – waterproofs, footwear, tents, etc – are very much open to personal opinions, a wide range of which can be seen in response to a simple question such as “what type of waterproof?” So the ‘Digital Noise’ is fine, but it does sometimes have to be taken with a pinch of salt, especially where the writer is of the ‘Digital Macho’ type with a name like ‘LeonardoX’ or 'Boom Boom’ with no email address and sometimes extreme or controversial ‘angles’ on topics on which their writings show little evidence of expertise.
Here’s a message I sent to Mark concerning one of these peculiar little jokey messages:

One correspondent on the Message Board states:
"Mark, whatever figure you arrive at as elevation gain for your chosen route, the amount of climbing will still be the same.
And when walking, if you encounter a feature known as a Munro, then walk around it, rather than over it. That's what the old drovers did and they were clever fellows."
He or she is joking, obviously, but this could be misleading and whilst I don't pretend to understand the first sentence, I would point out that the 'drovers' had a completely different agenda to that of the modern-day Challenger. If the weather is good, and it often is in May, the high level ridges can be absolutely magnificent. It's pretty easy to work out from the map where high level camps may be feasible (the Message Board can be a help) and personally I would always give myself the option of a high level route, reserving the lower level, and often much boggier, midgier and perhaps tick ridden route for poor weather - the ‘Foul Weather Alternative.”

My advice is that anyone seeking genuine helpful assistance could do worse than contact stalwarts such as ‘Mr Grumpy’, Alan Sloman, Ian C, Derek Emsley, Ian Shiel and Phil Lambert (and there are many more) and treat some of the jolly jesters with the suspicion they deserve!
As regards gear, you could do worse than contact Bob and Rose (pictured above with Loch Ness on this year’s Challenge) of backpackinglight.co.uk for guidance. They are well informed as to what might currently be the best gear for the intended purpose and they can usually supply it at a competitive price. They are always happy to discuss the pros and cons of any particular item.

That’s all the Digital Noise you’ll get from me today!