This post follows on from others about Stu’s BG round. Previous posts can be found here.
This Sunday (08/11/09) I did my first double leg recce of the winter. Starting at the Moot Hall in Keswick, finishing at Dunmail Raise on the road from Ambleside to Keswick. I was accompanied by 3 other Ilkley harriers (Paul Sowden, Neil Smith & Roy Ruddle plus Rin Colombi from Lyon Equipment). These legs total 29 miles, 15 tops and around 3800m of climbing.
The weather was pretty good, some of the tops were in cloud but there was only light winds and no rain, so a good day for November. We started at 8.15 am and hoped to be down before dark but torches were taken just in case. I won’t go into too much route detail here but the salient points are
1. It’s a boggy and strength sapping mess on the Great Calva diversion and I really hope for firmer ground there in May. It’s important to drift off runners left on the decent from Great Calva to minimise the pushing through deep heather.
2. You spend more time on the left of Halls Fell ridge that the right as you decend but you do change a couple of times.
3. GPS waypoint markers for the summits are quite useful in low visibility on leg 2 as some of the tops are quite indistinct.
4. Having done Fairfield via Cofa pike and going the Seat Sandal side of Grisedale Tarn and then up and down the same track, I now think it’s quicker and less sapping to go up and back the same way. Especially when you take the more runnable decent from Dollywaggon into consideration
5. It’s not as far back up to Seat Sandal as it looks!
Don’t worry if the route description sounds a bit complicated and you don’t get it or feel you can remember it, I felt the same when I began reading about the BG, but as you do a few recces it all begins to make sense.
My general kit observations are
1. Carry a map, compass, gps, and altimeter. I use the altimeter most, it helps me know when to drop left or right off a ridge line when decending and how much vertical left to the next summit, marking your own spot heights on the map also helps this. I find the GPS great to locate actual summits in low vis and help in moments of low concentration.
2. Use walking sticks! I tried them for the first time this recce and despite my initial reservations about not having my map and compass in hand the whole time I thought they were really worth it. The only time they are not useful is on gentle decents but on ups and steep downs they are great plus a bit of nordic walking on the flats really keeps your average speed up. A system to quickly put them on your back rather than tucking them under you arm when you need your hands for other things would be a good improvement.
3. One bacon or sauasge roll with plenty of mayo and ketchup for each 3 hours plus jelly babies and peanuts semed to be a reasonable claorie intake. Napoleon was right, an army really does march on it’s stomach. Some water to cover the dry bits but not too much, it’s too heavy. Protein and fat are needed just as much as carbs on big days out.
Below is the kit I wore/took and what I thought. Bear in mind it’s was a winter day, dry but cold. There was snow/compacted hail sort of stuff covering the top of skiddaw and just visible around Helvellyn.
1. Windstopper hat and windstopper gloves plus buff. The buff I use over my ears if I am too warm for a hat. Had my gloves on the whole day. I find windstopper blocks windchill without retaining too much heat.
2. Ortovox Merino Wool Thermal. Merino is great for varying temperatures and doesn’t get too clammy on short stops.
3. Decathlon long running tights. Quite compressive but just slightly thicker lycra tights for a bit of warmth.
4. Smartwool Merino Wool Socks. Wool socks are great when you know your feet will be wet all day. They get cold on immersion but warm up very quickly as soon as you are out of the water.
5. Helly Hansen Boxer Shorts. Don’t over look your pants when layering your clothing.
6. Mountain Equipment Astron hooded Jacket. Quite a premium bit of kit but really excellent. Really wind blocking, breathable and comfortable but not really that warm which is great for running and biking. As ths Astron uses a tight weave rather than a membrane to block wind you can wash it as much as you like without degrading the performance which is an important consideration. It has good chest pockets for maps etc similar layout to a waterproof plus a hood with good volume adjustment for extra protection. I find I rarely need to take it off in winter, just use the full zip for temp regulation nor add anything over the top except in heavy rain.
7. Marmot Mica Jacket. 185 g MEMBRANE waterproof jacket with taped hood and seams. Hood volume adjustment could be better but otherwise great.
8. Inov8 Mistlite 130 Pants. 130g waterproof legwear. Simple but better for it.
9. Silva Jet 5 Compass. Chunky easy to use dial and fast settling needle. Also spare compass in pack
10. Harveys 1:40 Lakes Map – Covers the whole BG with one map! also spare pre marked map in pack
11. Route card with timings, summit heights and inital bearing from summit. Thanks to the excellent Bob Wightman site
12. Garmin etrex GPS. The most basic GPS, no colour, no scrolling map. Does everything I need plus batteries (use lithium disposibles) last much longer without all the extras
13. Suunto Altimeter Watch. I use the T6 as it has an altimeter and HR.
14. Platypus Big Zip SL 2 litre Bladder. I used a carbohydrate drink mixed at half strength to what it says on the packet, that way you get extra calories but it’s more like water on your stomach.
15. Black diamond Expedition Walking Poles. As discussed above.
16. Petzl RXP headtorch. Only really needed for winter recces but invaluable coming off Seat Sandal in the dark last week! Takes the stress out of being behind schedule.
17. Camp Evo 290 Pack. 20 litre lightweight pack weighing 290g. The Camp Evo 290 is actually a ski mountaineering race sack but worked really well and was very comfortable. The straps slipped a bit and needed tighening to stop pack bounce but that’s a common feature on light pack straps. Am going to try a few packs, others I am considering are the GoLite Ion, Deuter Speedlite 15 and Inov8 Race Elite 15. This is more for the recces than the actual round but good research all the same.
Kit is very personal but this is what works for me. If you are not happy with what you are using or need a new bit of kit, it might help you get some ideas. As well as route finding, recces are also important for testing food, clothing and pacing before big events and races.
The next recce (legs 2 & 3, Threkeld to Wasdale) will be mid december.
As always comments and suggestions welcome.