Sue and Martin in Mallorca 2019

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

Friday 6 May 2011

TGO Challenge - 2011

Our TGOC 2011 route - 365km (227 miles) with 16,300 metres ascent

This year’s TGO Challenge starts next Friday – for me in Oban.  But the journey actually starts in a few minutes time when I set off with Sue for a weekend at Bridge of Orchy.  I’ll be staying up north after that weekend, doing the TGO Challenge, the planned route of which is shown above, then returning south for a few days on the Devon coastal path.

So the rest of this month’s entries will be via ‘mobile blogging’ – a telephone.

I’ll be doing the Challenge with a carefully selected victim, ‘Poor Michael’, who should know better really as he’s known me for nearly 50 years!  It’s his picture, taken during a practice on Catbells, that you can see on this month’s background image to the blog (I hope readers can see the text more easily than last month, when Lud’s Church was the chosen background).

Our route is described in vivid Technicolor here.  This year I’ve decided not to set up ‘Planned Route’ postings on a day to day basis as they often tend to get out of order due to phone signal problems, etc.  Readers should be able to follow our progress quite easily using the web page, to which I’ll try to provide a link on the daily postings, which may not be daily due to phone signal issues. 

I’ll do my best, though!

Comments will be directed to my phone, so please do keep in touch – I’ll reply by way of observations in the text of the postings, as Gayle does.

The route is a challenging one.  I think that’s the general idea of the TGO Challenge, but it has many options for short cuts and omissions, which I expect to be taken from time to time due to weather and tiredness.

‘Poor Michael’ is very competent in the hills, so we may not stay together all the time if one of us feels better than the other about going high; we are independently self-sufficient.

I’ll finish with the last ‘decent’ image you’ll see for some time over here, the phone images being necessarily of rather low resolution.  It’s a self-timed image taken on last year’s Challenge on the summit of Ben Vrackie.  At least this year I’ll have Mike to take some pictures and avoid the 10 second sprints needed for ones like this!

On the summit of Ben Vrackie - May 2010

Thursday 5 May 2011

Wednesday 4 May 2011 – Three Shire Heads

Sue, Paul and Graham near Knotbury

Last night’s evening walk from Flash Bar was an excellent little outing on which Sue and I were joined by Paul, just back from The Tropics (aka Kintail), and Graham on a day out from The Tropics (his garden).

Pleasant lanes took us past rusting farm machinery to the place where Staffordshire, Derbyshire and Cheshire meet.  Three Shire Heads, often thronging with folk, was pleasantly deserted tonight.

Three Shire Heads

After Graham had expounded to Sue on the technicalities of growing tomatoes, we turned to the west, where the setting sun left a pleasantly silhouetted view.

Sunset at Three Shire Heads

Looking in the other direction, up the path towards Hawk’s Nest, it looks as if there’s plenty of daylight left.

The path to Hawk's Nest

Just enough to get us back to the pub at Flash Bar for refreshments before it went completely dark.  We saw no hawks but the unmistakable call of a Tawny Owl greeted us on the path up to Flash.

What a pleasant stroll.  7 km, 373 metres ascent, in about an hour and three quarters.  Aren’t these light summer evenings wonderful…

Here’s the route, equally (or even better) do-able from the New Inn at Flash.

The evening route - 7km, 273 metres ascent, in under 2 hours 

Thanks for the tomato plants, Graham – your parcels will be wending their way north tomorrow.  And thanks for the link to your photos, Paul – they are superb.

Wednesday 4 May 2011

Xsocks Trekking Expedition Short Socks – A Review

Xsocks Trekking Expedition Short Socks

[Note that on 5 September 2012, Webtogs Limited went into liquidation, but its business has legitimately been continued in the name of Dorset Mountain Sports Limited, t/a Webtogs, with whom I have had no contact whatsoever, nor did the liquidator of Webtogs Ltd respond to my enquiry as to whether any members of the public had lost money as a result of the liquidation.]

Webtogs sell a range of quality socks.  Recently they were kind enough to send me a pair of Xsocks Trekking Expedition Short Socks for review.

I’ve been wearing these socks for the last couple of weeks.  (Yes, they do get a bit smelly after about three days!)  I’ve also been using a pair of a sister product, Xsocks Trekking Light Short Socks, for the last three years.

Made in Italy, the socks come with a two year guarantee.  They are certainly hard wearing.  The socks I’ve been using for three years – just the one pair, all year round, are only just starting to show signs of wear.  The new socks, at 54 gm just 5 gm lighter than the Trekking Light socks, are just as comfortable and look to be equally hard wearing.

The socks come with anatomically shaped footbeds for the right and left feet.  They feel odd if you put them on the wrong feet!  There are numerous other features that I’ll reiterate below in the product specification, and the composition is a mix of nylon, merino wool and other materials.
My favourite ‘feature’ is the capacity of these socks to dry quickly.  Even on a wet day, they can be washed by a backpacker in a pot of warm water and a few soap flakes (or shampoo, etc), wrung out, rolled a few times in a hand towel to remove most of the water, and hung in the tent to dry overnight.  Obviously they may dry more quickly outside in fair weather, but even inside the tent, if the wearer puts them back on in the morning they should be perfectly dry by the time he or she needs to start walking.  Using this method, I walked the entire two week TGO Challenge last year using just the one pair of Xsocks and some thin liner socks for the evenings.  Some Goretex socks I’d taken in case my boots leaked were not used at all.

The Xsocks are not uncomfortable in the wet, but personally I prefer to avoid fungal infections by keeping my feet dry by way of a Goretex liner either in my footwear or my socks.

I appreciate there are other issues relating to the wearing of socks.  As a youth I always wore two pairs, or even three in the winter, but many years ago I discovered that life became much easier with just one good pair of socks, and even in cold conditions I find that adequate so long as I remain active.  I’m not sure how people who wear multiple pairs of socks would find this fairly snug product – perhaps they would use a liner sock underneath, or a larger pair over the top.  Either way, in my opinion all you actually need is just the one pair of socks, and these Xsocks are perfect for that purpose.

So, to summarise:

Fit and Finish:
  • the EU size 42-44 socks fit my size 43 feet perfectly, and pleasantly snugly with no uncomfortable tightness or loose ‘wrinkles’
  • the Italian construction is excellent.  I can verify that the Trekking Light socks are extremely durable (the most durable hiking socks I’ve ever possessed) and I would expect the Expedition socks to be the same
  • the socks come in a choice of two dark colours and could be worn with any sort of footwear.  Mine will be worn with anything from 4-season boots to casual shoes
  • Xsocks stated features are reiterated below
  • I like the anatomically shaped footbeds
  • these socks are much quicker drying than other hiking socks I’ve owned – a great advantage on a long trek
  • at 54gm (59gm for the Trekking Light version), they are not going to be the straw that breaks the camel’s back.  They are the lightest hiking socks that I have ever owned
Practical Use:
  • these socks are ideal for… well, hiking and trekking!
  • their quick drying and hard wearing qualities make them an excellent choice for long trips
  • the two year warranty is testament to the manufacturer’s confidence in their durability  
  • the Trekking Expedition socks are available from Webtogs for £15.49, whereas the slightly heavier Trekking Light socks are just £12.49
  • there are lots of alternatives to these socks, a good selection being available as part of Webtog’s product range.  As in the case of all footwear, different products suit different feet.  But I haven’t found anything better than the Xsocks products I’ve been using for three years
  • these socks are excellent.  They are my personal first choice for hiking, backpacking and trekking
Note: Whilst the gear was provided by Webtogs, this review, over which I have total editorial control, is totally independent of that on-line retailer.

FEATURES of the Xsocks Trekking Expedition Short Socks
  • Self-adjusting Cuff – adapts to any size leg without slipping or constricting.
  • AirConditioning Channel – ventilates and dries
  • Toe Protector – protects against blisters and chafing
  • Instep Protector – distributes pressure
  • Stretching Rib – for an optimised fit
  • Anatomically shaped footbed – for a precise fit
  • Achilles Tendon Protector – reduces the incidence of pressure points and the risk of scraping and bruising
  • X-Cross Bandage – cushions and stabilises the sensitive ankle area without restricting freedom of movement
  • Heel Protector – reduces friction and the risk of blistering
  • Traverse AirFlow Channel System – lateral ventilation under the sole

Technical details

33 % Nylon
28 % Merino wool
14 % Robur
12 % Mythlan
9 % Silk
4 % Elastane
45 % Nylon
28 % Merino wool
14 % Polypropylene
9 % Silk
4 % Elastane

Monday 2 May 2011

Grandad (2)

With Jacob - 1 May 2011
Back from our holiday in Mallorca, the first thing Sue and I did was visit Jacob, now eight days old (although not technically due to be born until 17 May) and quite sleepy.