Sue and Martin in Mallorca 2019

Sue and Martin in Mallorca 2019
On the Archduke's Path in Mallorca

Saturday 29 May 2010

Raining in Timperley

But it's 25C at dusk after a sunny day here.

The wine is cooling.

Even the red wine.

The cheese is on its way.

Life is good. Let the R + R commence.

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TGO Challenge 2010 – Index and Links

Glencoe from Beinn na Caillich on 18 May 2010
I’m inserting this entry now, to be completed when I return from the next trip.  It will index all this year’s Challenge postings to make them more readable, and will include links to other blogs, slideshows, web pages, etc.

In the meantime, if you wish to view the entries chronologically you can click here, go to the oldest posting, and rather tediously scroll upwards for newer postings.

I’d like to thank those who have made kind comments on the rather hurried postings made as I tried to maximise my enjoyment of long days in the hills over the past couple of weeks.  They really are appreciated.  You are not the only readers – in addition to the thirty or so ‘followers’ the readership doubled from its normal 100 page loads a day over the duration of the Challenge. 

The photo was a self-timed effort taken from the summit of Beinn na Caillich, just after 7 am on Tuesday 18 May, featuring the Pap of Glencoe.

Friday 28 May 2010

A Tale of the Unexpected

Route of the Year Award - 2010! Chuffed?

Yes, just a bit.  But congratulations to all those short-listed for this unheralded new award.  I’m sure their routes were every bit as well planned as mine in their varying ways.


TGO Challenge 2010 - Day 14 - A Wet Day around Montrose

Having walked Day 14's route on Day 13, an enjoyable and relaxing time was had around Montrose with Graham B, chatting to both old friends and complete strangers as they drifted in to the Park Hotel from their various finishing points.

We popped out to St Cyrus, in the hope of a stroll along the beach. But the heavens opened. The café by the bus stop had been expecting its annual surge in business a week earlier, so they were relieved to get it today. My 'ploughmans' was excellent. A stream of Challengers passed through before heading to the bus stop. A lucky trio - Andrew, John and Norma - all part of this year's 'Lochailort Tribe' enjoyed being delivered to the door of the Park in Graham's charabanc.

More of the same - rain, chats, to and fro from the camp site, refreshments, etc, until the bar gradually filled prior to the traditional Thursday evening dinner attended by over 200 Challengers and the great and good from TGO magazine.

MC Roger Smith conducted proceedings impeccably as always, with all Challengers in the room being called upon to take a bow according to the number of Challenges they have completed, plus a special mention of certain individuals, absent friends and overseas participants.

Then special awards to those who had just completed their 10 crossings - including Mike Knipe, the infamous Pie Man of Crook Town, followed by just two awards for those who completed their 20th crossings this year - to a very Proud Scotsman and an equally proud (not to say eloquent) Englishman from Settle.

After that, before more time in the bar and a very late stagger back to the camp site - a surprise - a new award.

More of that later.

So, that's almost it. The 31st TGO Challenge is nearly over. Stragglers will arrive on Friday and proceedings will draw to a close. Then preparations for next year's event will swing into process. It's a year round job for Roger Smiith, the stalwart organiser of the event.

I should also mention Cameron McNeish's announcement that Emily Rodway will shortly be taking over from him as editor of TGO magazine. Cameron will become 'Editor at Large', whatever that is.

There will be a short further posting and the insertion of an index and a few more images and tidying up of information, with links to a web page and a slide show. It'll be a couple of weeks before that happens. In the meantime I plan to rest and recuperate in sunnier climes far away from the Montrose Rain, which seems strangely absent from today's snap of a small section of the final camp - it's an illusion!

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Thursday 27 May 2010

TGO Challenge 2010 - Day 13 - Tarfside to Montrose - Dash to the Bash

Distance walked: 43 km (Cumulative: approx 340 km, 212 miles)
Metres ascent: 400 (Cumulative approx 15,600 metres
Time taken: 11.1 hours including 2.7 hours stops
No of TGO Challenges now completed: 4

A leisurely start saw me strolling down to The Retreat (aka Glenesk Folk Museum) for breakfast with Tim and Kate.

Then it was on down the picturesque Esk valley, along pleasant paths in good company (Tim, Kate, Bernie, Martin, Jeremy and others) to Edzell. The last section, on my own through beech glades beside a river gorge, was particularly scenic.

A field ginnel led to the main street, where rucksacks outside the Tuck Inn revealed one of the Challenge's favourite pots of gold. Lunch, with Steve Gough and later joined by many others, including Alan Kay, who was the first person I encountered on my first Challenge three years ago, was sumptuous, delicious and lengthy. The chocolate nut sundae was wonderful.

It's not far to North Water Bridge from here, and despite the leisurely day so far it was only 2pm. Phone messages indicated there may be a small 'Bash' tonight with Heather T-S and others, with Heather having to leave for home early on Thursday.

It would be rude not to make the effort to say hello to an old friend...

So, a quick change of gear, on a full tank of fuel, saw me zooming on, past North Water Bridge, along the planned route, almost exactly as shown on the previous posting, to the dunes at Montrose.

Of all my approaches to the coast, this was the most direct and had the least road walking. Very satisfactory, with nice woodland interludes between quiet lanes, though there was a narrow passage of prickly gorse towards the end.

It also provided a last taste of solitude before the Fleshpots of Montrose and next week's partying with the Pixies of Hale.

A storm that hit me for an hour or two after passing North Water Bridge eased sufficiently for me to take a self-timed picture at my finishing point.

The firm sand steadily became softer as I approached the camp site via an increasingly laborious 3 km plod down the deserted beach, its pristine sands glistening in the low sun. Then it started to rain again. Quite hard. So when the camp site was finally reached at around 6.45pm it was good to see the familiar faces of David Albon and Heather T-S and accept their offer of porch space for the rucksack whilst I whipped up the Phreerunner.

Graham Brookes also arrived after a 'bagging' trip in the Arrochar area, so after saying hello to him, experiencing a warm dribble in the 'shower', and gathering my few valuables, I set off to The George for a beer with a select band of Heather, David, Skippy and Julie. Numerous other Challengers were enjoying the George's good food, but we were to move on.

It was a short stroll to the excellent 'Indian Cottage' restaurant, where we saw the day out in style. This included an 'awards ceremony' during which David Albon conducted a 'toast' for all Challengers present, depending on the number of times they have finished. Cameron McNeish's table yielded the largest number of 'first timers' (including Cameron), with today's toasts culminating in one for Skippy and Humphrey, who had just completed their ninth crossings.

The picture is of Julie, David and Heather, who all finished today (Wednesday), at Montrose camp site in Thursday morning's sunshine.

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Thursday 27 May 2010 - TGO Challenge Day 14 - Plan – North Water Bridge to Montrose

Martin’s planned route and statistics for today are shown below:

1 North Water Bridge
2 South of Marymill
3 Hillside
4 Dunes at Montrose (THE END)
5 Montrose Campsite

16 km
119 metres ascent
5.0 hours

TGO Challenge 2010 - Day 14 - Plan

Wednesday 26 May 2010

We Tucked Inn

In more ways than one!

How Sue and I managed to miss this place two years ago remains a mystery.

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Wednesday 26 May 2010 - TGO Challenge Day 13 - Plan - Tarfside to North Water Bridge

Our planned route and statistics for today are shown below:

1 Tarfside
2 Bridge at Millden Lodge
3 Dalbog
4 Path junction
5 Bridge at Gannochy
6 Bridge at Edzell
7 Track junction
8 North Water Bridge Campsite – 30 metres (NO 649 662)

26 km
273 metres ascent
8.6 hours

TGO Challenge 2010 - Day 13 - Plan

TGO Challenge 2010 - Day 12 - Glen Clova Hotel to Tarfside - An 'Alpine Pass' Day

Distance walked: 21.5 km
Metres ascent: 930
Time taken: 8.5 hours including 1.5 hours stops
No of Challengers' tents at Tarfside: 50

Tea in bed, provided by Brian. What a star!

Then a full Scottish and a wander up to Loch Brandy as one of a long line of ants heading for Tarfside.

Today's light was lovely. Bright from the start, with long views through the clear atmosphere. The Montrose Basin beckoned enticingly, with the sea looking very close now. In the other direction, Lochnagar stood out almost as much as Meikle Pap, which looked extremely papy from Green Hill.

Whilst the majority headed by the Alpine Pass technique (up and down by the fastest possible route), I managed a further 90 metre climb up to The Goet. Marian and Mike kept me company, then after I'd enjoyed a final high level brew on the 16th and final Corbett of my trip, Jeff and Joke turned up. All four of them were heading on along the ridge, on a walk marred by new 'deer management' electric fences.

Meanwhile I returned to the Muckle Cairn path, where I found Jeremy, Peter, Jayme and Natasha enjoying a nap. I'd thought I would have a lone journey at 'the back of the field' but this little group provided excellent company for the whole afternoon.

"We are going high" they announced. A yomp over Burnt Hill commenced, leaving a much shorter road section than on my plan. All very convenient and sociable.

Not so good for the red grouse I accidentally trod on; didn't damage her but a couple of eggs were broken. I've never done this before, and hope it never happens again.

We arrived at St Drostans in time to get tea, but too late to order a meal - the potatoes had run out. So the tents went up in the village field and food was ordered from The Retreat's excellent delivery service.

A night in the Masons followed, no doubt giving rise to as much dehydration for some as their walking activities had done earlier.

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Tuesday 25 May 2010

Loch Brandy, from the ascent of Green Hill

...On a beautiful Highland morning...

...After a long lie in and a full (just one sausage) Scottish.

Just to confirm there are others walking today, it's Will Hinkamp, all the way from Los Angeles, who has just managed to enter the frame.

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Tuesday 25 May 2010 - TGO Challenge Day 12 - Plan – Glen Clova Hotel to Tarfside

Martin’s planned route and statistics for today are shown below:

1 Glen Clova Hotel
2 Green Hill
3 The Goet (Ben Tirran) (Corbett)
4 Muckle Cairn
5 Glenlee
6 Tarfside – 200 metres (NO 491 797)

23 km
953 metres ascent
9.4 hours
(1 Corbett)

TGO Challenge 2010 - Day 12 - Plan

TGO Challenge 2010 - Day 11 - The Old Boathouse at Loch Beanie to Glen Clova Hotel - The Last Long Day

Distance walked: 31.5 km
Metres ascent: 1500
Time taken: 11.6 hours including 2.5 hours stops
No of Challengers seen: 4, plus lots at Clova

An early start paid dividends today. The birds were singing as I strolled beside Loch Beanie in the early light, leaving 30 kg man snoozing contentedly.

Lumpy tussocks gave way to easy paths and a short section of road before the gentle climb up Badandum Hill. The views from the summit were extensive, but the experience of being at the edge of a storm is my overriding memory of this summit. Whilst others were receiving a dousing in the middle of the storm, my waterproofs were on and off like yo-yos and at one point I had one wet and one dry side. I was truly at the edge of the bad weather.

The route down to the ruin at Kilbo was rough and slow. Time there for brunch. I could swear I saw the ghost of the Pie Man appear through The Glack of Balquhadar and pick his way down towards me. The gait was his, the deathly black tights as well, but does he have a blood red jacket? He was 200 metres away. I regretted not having brought my binoculars.

My brunch hollow by the stream was actually off the main Kilbo path, which I rejoined at the top of a plantation after taking a shortcut up wheel tracks that I'd misconstrued as the path.

Three likely lads appeared, coming down the hill into Glen Prosen. The third, fourth and fifth Challengers I'd seen. Bill, Alex and John, first timers from Dollar and Comrie, all in their sixties. Well done lads!

Another figure lumbered up from behind me. Steve Gough, who had only seen three other Challengers before today. He was heading towards Clova, but not by my Munro infested route. We chatted for a while before I left him to nip packless up my first Munro of the trip, Mayar. I've been up it a few times before, but after the stormy weather the day had turned out nice, so I just couldn't bring myself to walk past this nearby summit. It turned out that it was Steve who had been impersonating the ghost of the Pie Man.

"This is my 143rd Munro", enthused the young lady on the summit, "I hope to do them all within another five years." I looked at her more closely. 'Is Kylie really a Munro bagger, or are my eyes deceiving me?' I thought. Looking nervously behind me, I saw the deathly shadow of the ghost of the Pie Man...

"Keep off, she's mine" whispered the wind...

My planned route would have left me dumping the rucksack to visit Driesh, my second Munro of the day, then heading down through The Shank of Drumfollow to Glen Doll, followed by a long road walk down Glen Clova. This foolish plan was discarded. The rucksack, pretty light now, with just a few remnants of provisions, could come with me to the 947 metre summit of Driesh, high point of the whole trip, then over the Hill of Strone and down the broad ridge to Clova.

It was an excellent choice, avoiding the foot pounding road walk, despite some rather lumpy tussocks on the final descent to Clova, where the bunkhouse and hotel are fairly brimming with Challengers.

I'm sharing a room with Susan and Brian from Liverpool, and have enjoyed helping in drinking Big Lusty May's naughty bits dry with John and Norma, from Great Eccleston, who I last saw at Lochailort.

Life is good, as on the entire trip. It's sociable now, as well.

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Monday 24 May 2010

A View from Hill of Strone (850 metres) towards Driesh

Mayar and Driesh have now been climbed, and I decided to take Graham B's advice and take a short cut over this hill (nearly said 'little' but they all seem big just now). It cuts out the road walk and maintains the 'off-piste' theme of this trip.

Have already met someone who is staying at Clova. Tonight's posting could be a short one.

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Rain Wind and Sun

All at once on Badandun Hill (740 metres).

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Monday 24 May 2010 - TGO Challenge Day 11 - Plan – Loch Beanie to Glen Clova Hotel

Martin’s planned route and statistics for today are shown below:

1 Loch Beanie
2 Col beyond Loch Beanie
3 Possible camping spot by wood
4 Road junction - Dalvanie
5 Fergus
6 End of path
7 Minor col
8 Badandun Hill (Graham)
7 Minor col
9 Path
10 Kilbo
11 Path to Mayar
12 Mayar (Munro)
11 Path to Mayar
13 Shank of Drumfollow
14 Dreish (Munro)
13 Shank of Drumfollow
15 Glendoll Lodge
16 Campsite (closed)
17 Glen Clova Hotel – 240 metres (NO 326 731)

36 km
1514 metres ascent
15.0 hours
(2 Munros, 1 Graham)

TGO Challenge 2010 - Day 11 - Plan

Last Wild Camp of the Trip

By Loch Beanie (just out of shot to the left).

Photo courtesy of Brian.

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TGO Challenge 2010 - Day 10 - Wild Camp by Allt na Leacainn Moine to the Old Boathouse at Loch Beanie - Rain and Shine

Distance walked: 27 km
Metres ascent: 1209
Time taken: 12.2 hours including 2.8 hours stops
No of Challengers seen: 0 (this is getting boring!)
No of NZ fishermen camping next to me: 1 (Brian)

It's a beautiful evening here at Loch Beanie. I'd worried about this camp site as Colin (vetter) seemed a little unsure, but there's plenty of flat space where he surmised, by the Old Boathouse, to make this last wild camp a memorable one. I'm watching Brian try to catch his supper whilst two love birds look on with amusement without pausing in their amorous intentions. It's very frustrating for Brian as all he can catch is weed and all we can hear on this perfectly still evening is jumping fish.

The morning started fine. I opened the tent to see orange early light diffusing through a veneer of mist.

However, as I shouldered the pack the mist thickened, and, to cut a long story short, it rained for three hours. It rained properly, not just short showers as on earlier days. This made my yomp up Creag nan Gobhar, then Ben Vuirich (at 903 metres nearly a Munro) a little taxing. Occasional sightings of blue sky held good omens but didn't affect the ferocity of the rain. As I left Vuirich's summit the nearby Corbett Top appeared, so I went up there in the hope of getting a view. The mist beat me, so I headed down to Daldhu for a second breakfast (of lunch provisions).

Some miserable looking DOE kids hobbled past. Their supervisor followed. We chatted. The children had not appreciated the unexpected rain.

A rickety bridge at Creag Loisk led to more rough ground before the Upper Lunch Hut was reached. Here I joined the Cateran Trail, remaining on it for most of the rest of the day.

Lunch comprised a breakfast, lunch actually having been eaten for breakfast.

By now my sunburnt arms from yesterday were stinging in today's bright sunshine, the clouds having finally evaporated. Rather than use valuable sun tan cream (perhaps a re-supply visit yesterday to Blair Atholl would have been wise) I chose to call in at the Spittal of Glenshee Hotel. It has changed hands since last year and has become 'walker friendly', with a 20% discount for Challengers. Some have actually been seen go through here! I bought a meal. It was 3 pm. Cyclists on a 200 km endurance ride were passing through, getting their cards signed in the hotel and testing its soft drink resources.

The change of hands is good news.

Then, on along the Cateran Trail and up to this delightful spot by Loch Beanie, where Brian, originally from Christchurch, arrived shortly after my tent was set up. He's walking the Cateran Trail and is using New Zealand survival techniques. That means he has a surfeit of clothes, food and sundry survival equipment. But he has no fish. There is too much weed in the loch despite the love-bird swans doing their best to eat it. Brian admits he has a thing or two to learn about lightweight backpacking. But "I can carry it, so what's the problem, I have everything I need" he observes "anyway it only weighs 30 kg". I look at him in amazement. He's a strapping lad, yes, but 30 kg...?

I try to lift Brian's rucksack, already lightened by removal of his tent. I fail! It really is extremely heavy, and he's doing up to 20 miles a day.

Good to meet you Brian; have fun with your UK backpacking exploits.

The evening passed quickly. My worry about upsetting Gayle with frivolous comments on these pages has been eased by a series of text messages - she knows a wind-up when she sees one; I shouldn't have worried...

Today's yomping has been closely attended by trilling curlew and anxious lapwings. I've been careful to avoid standing on any nests. And this morning, whilst in the cloud, I noticed lots of 'cloudberry' - abundant but not yet in flower in these parts.

We are camped a few metres from another sad reminder of our own mortality. A large cairn with a plaque:

Heather (Hepburn) Halhead
1956 - 2001
Beloved Wife and Mum

Tomorrow I join a 'trade route' ('trade = easy) where there's an outside chance I may meet some other Challengers. You see, it's not all hard stuff for me - I think I'll wind down with some easy days. Have to get there first, of course.

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The Spittal of Glenshee

For the first time in four TGO Challenges, my route is going to intersect with a previous one. A couple of miles will be duplicated.

A shame really.

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Sunday 23 May 2010

Sunday 23 May 2010 - TGO Challenge Day 10 - Plan – Watershed at NN 974 656 to Loch Beanie

Martin’s planned route and statistics for today are shown below:

1 Watershed at NN 974 656
2 Creag nan Gobhar
3 Ben Vuirich (Corbett)
4 Daldhu
5 Bridge at Creag Loisk
6 Track junction by lunch hut
7 Spittal of Glenshee
8 Westerton of Runavey
9 Boathouse at Loch Beanie – 410 metres (NO 156 685)

27 km
1179 metres ascent
11.4 hours
(1 Corbett)

TGO Challenge 2010 - Day 10 - Plan

TGO Challenge 2010 - Day 9 - Loch Tummel Inn to Wild Camp by Allt na Leacainn Moine (NN 979 659) - Cool Mountain Air

Distance walked: 24.5 km
Metres ascent: 1119
Time taken: 9.25 hours including 1.75 hours stops
No of Challengers seen: 0
No of Day Walkers coming down Ben Vrackie: approx 50 - the first walkers seen since Tuesday am in the Mamores (excluding Arbroath Spacemen)
No of Cool Mountain Summits: 1

"That's a long way down the road" Amanda observed, looking at the 11 km thin blue line on my map to Garry Bridge, "why don't you use the footpath to Blair Atholl? It starts next door."

I looked up the road to 'next door'. Sure enough, "Blair Atholl" announced the green footpath sign.

The map confirmed that by taking this route to Killicrankie rather than my planned route I would be walking just 3 km along a minor road rather than 11 km along a main road, the overall distance remaining similar and the height gain being slightly less by the Blair Atholl route, with the promise of better views.

A 'no-brainer'. Thank you Amanda. She and Tom run the establishment that is the 200 year old Loch Tummel Inn. They were very disappointed in having been forced to close the previous day because of Scottish Power having turned off their supply for most of the day. They apologise to any disappointed Challengers.

Those people rightly deserve to be disappointed. I sampled as much of the menu as I could and found myself asking about the recipes.

"Chefs' own" Tom explained, "one them is from Gleneagles and the other trained as a pastry chef under Gary Rhodes."

So, after the best part of a day spent luxuriating in the lovely surroundings of Loch Tummel and Schiehallion, and waiting patiently for my 8.30 breakfast (I suppose it's only reasonable to start late if you work late into the evening running a busy restaurant) I set off along the footpath to Blair Atholl, fortified by the bacon, egg, haggis, black pudding, mushrooms, tomato, potato scone and (just one) sausage that constituted their excellent Full Scottish Breakfast.

As yesterday, when it actually rained as I took the tent down, low cloud dominated the early morning, slowly raising its cloak to produce another warm sunny day.


The footpath was well marked with Scottish Rights of Way Society signs and finger posts. The reflections in Loch Tummel were replaced by views in mature woodland, the paths lined with wood anemones, wood sorrel, speedwell, etc. Only one short section was akin to a forest 'ride' in Snowdonia.

Shorts were deployed.

The woodland route reached pretty Loch Bhac, from where a footpath across open moorland provided an easy heathery stroll down to Blair Atholl, the ugly scar of the Munro baggers' route up Carn Liath (Beinn a' Ghlo) drawing ever closer.

Butterwort, tormentil, vetches, milkwort and speedwells were all in flower. Perhaps I know why...

It was Hot.

Cool Mountain Air was required.

My route provided the solution. After a quiet lane lined by a plethora of brightly coloured flowers, and lunch at the Killiecrankie Visitor Centre (it's a shame I didn't get to walk up the riverside path from Garry Bridge, but I've done that a few times, and the route via Blair Atholl was in all other respects superior) I set off up a well marked path up Ben Vrackie. As the traffic noise from the A9 slowly subsided, so did the air temperature, making it feel like a high Alpine day. Delightful.

Suddenly I started meeting people, for the first time on the hill in four days. One of them explained why:

"It's the only decent hill that you can walk up from the door of any B&B in Pitlochry. And it's a well constructed path."

Anyway, it was very pleasant on top, where I lingered for a while before donning trouser legs and gaiters for the 5 km yomp past herds of deer to this delightful 8th wild camp of the trip (pictured).

The deer are very noisy, I hope I'm not in their way.

Talking of yomping, I've worked out that out of 9 days so far I've walked the equivalent of 5 days on pathless terrain. Perhaps it is a truly exclusive route...

There's more yomping tomorrow. And a Fleshpot. Will I see my third Challenger?

Now for a few messages and a gear supplement:

Gayle, are you inferring that my friends, my fellow bloggers, are taking 'girlie' routes. Tut tut! The hit squad will be after you! I have however noted that one of my fellow bloggers has wimped out of crossing the Fords of Avon. Maybe he's lost his crutches? Yes, I'm sure. That Must be the reason.

Geoffrey, I'm not really against trial (or is it 'trail' bikes), other than the numpties who bring them into disrepute in the Peaks and Dales. But I've seen ancient, fragile paths ripped to shreds by them during the course of this trip.
As for the crutches - see below.

Nick, you can't tell me in one breath that you are going to live in Zug, and in the next breath you won't be fit enough for TGOC 2011! The two don't compute.


I'm not a gear freak, and I don't think going light is necessarily the most comfortable way to travel. But I'm lucky, I seem to be happy to carry more to stay comfy. I've not bought anything significant specifically for this year's backpacking trips, but I'll comment on the following fairly recent acquisitions:

Thermarest NeoAir (short) - I didn't get on well with this at first and nearly re-sold it. But I have to say that on this dry trip, with seven successive wild camps, it has been brilliant. So in dry weather, on flat pitches, it's great.

Pacerpole Crutches - I find these much easier on my wrists than the Lekis that I lost in Italy. Crutches are of course a Necessity of Life, Geoffrey, when your knees have had as many bits taken out or exchanged as mine have done.

Scarpa Infinity boots. Like last year's equally comfy Asolo Fugitives, these have now spent many days sloshing through boggy, pathless terrain. Unlike the Fugitives they are still keeping my feet dry.

John West seared tuna fillets - an excellent addition to flavoured 'pasta n sauce'.

Aquagear Water Filter (now 'Travel Tap') - a provider of much peace of mind, even if it does encourage laziness regarding the sourcing of spring water.

Golite Quest rucksack - ok in good weather, really annoying in bad weather, for which I find the slightly heavier Karrimor Jaguar better because it has a tent compartment. Is there anything like the Quest on the market that has a tent compartment, which is really useful on wet days?

Alpkit titanium tent pegs - as recommended by Gayle and Mick - for complete peace of mind in a storm.

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