Friday, June 17, 2016

TGOC Planning.. The curious case of not knowing

Now that the TGOC has been conquered, as if one could ever conquer the beautiful hills in Scotland it is time to think of many things.  The germ of doing the TGOC came from my friend Alex is who is always sending me beautiful and terrifying adventures to consider.  That's for me I thought.  Seeing great reports, pictures, videos and more just made me more than ever determined to give it a go.  Start where I wondered.. well Torridon is the most remote so that was chosen with little thought to the idea of going easier on a first try.
Tools.  The planning sheets were a big help to keep focused and not forget safety, stops, pacing, ascents, and more.  The vetting help was superb and the final approved well in time.  I got a subscription to OS MAPS , OSLOCATE and started off doing the routes on the OS planning tool.  I tried the walk highlands one as well but the OS tool was superb.  Being able to relatively easily download the routes and get them into my Android helped and paid off during the challenge crossing.  The OS tools have come a long way and hopefully they will work with maps outside the center of the universe (U.K.) at some point.  A couple of comments in the crossing report will support my initial findings.
OS MAPS. Seven maps bought and the downloads included put onto our phones.  OS allows multiple devices which was essential as all four of us needed to have them.  OS should continue this as it would be prohibitively expensive if I had had to buy four sets of everything. 
FOOD PLANNING.  Given the several stops in civilization - Aviemore and Braemar we loosened up our food planning a bit.  This was a mistake as we ended up unsure about what to eat when sometimes.  Food that worked included oatmeal packets, ProBars, hot chocolate packs, cheese, hard bread, pita, peanut butter, dehydrated chili con carne, Idahowan powdered potatoes (80 cents in US), dried vegs, TVP, fruit bars, chocolate, pasta noodles.  The powdered potatoes were great combined with dried veg and the TVP.  TVP alone is not tasty.  A few hard boiled eggs were a big help after aviemore and braemar.  Food that did not work included extra freeze dried meals not needed, dehydrated soy based chili con carne.  Food is such a huge part of weight that most people would do well to focus more on that than on the weight of the cut down tootbrush!  OK .. guilty am I for SUL obsessions.
GEAR PLANNING AND RESULTS.  I planned on keeping things to five Kgs but was up as high as 8Kgs at the start with food and such.  My use of cuben gear from Zpacks made a big difference.
-  big three.  Tent was Zpacks Duo modified for stand alone.  I love the low weight and there is no problem with condensation or rain.  There are a couple of fundamental things I found thought that I will follow up on with Joe at Zpacks.  The doors flap in the wind regardless of tensioning or the extra toggles.  Given light weight zips these days I think the best practice these days is the use of zips for doors so I would be OK with the extra weight.   The ability to get the edges down to the ground snugly for wind situation needs more work from me I think.  The update with Easton poles did not work out so well with the floppies of the poles a problem.  When I looked around the tent cities I would say I had a great tent weight wise but not the best in terms of technical performance.  One pays a price for weight of course.  I will continue to experiment.
PACK.. MY ZPACKS ARC BLAST has been through various trips now and is still my favourite.  Very light with added side pockets, and options it is reliable, sturdy, and very comfy.  I used a liner bag for boule protection since it ocasional rains in Scotland.  I saw a few others with Zpacks packs and all loved them.  The only issue is that the stays do not stay bent despite the latest linelocks but I am not sure I care very much about that.  One challenger going SUL had no external add ons which gave the pack clean lines and of course got everything inside.  I like having quick access to some things so will play around a bit more.  Overall great pack from Zpacks and I will buy another when I wear the current one out.
SLEEPING KIT.  There were four of us so my gear was mixed a bit in the group.  I used my Montbell 5 degree bag and an X-lite pad.  The bag left me a little chilly on a couple of frosty nights but I layered up to compensate.  I would opt for something a bit warmer for the challenge.  I met a,couple using a Zpacks double quilt.  The feel is amazing and they were raving about how happy they were with it.  Although one of us bought an MLD quilt recently I think I will buy a Zpacks quilt for myself given the satisfaction they showed.
The neo-air is too long!  When will they get that into their minds and sell a shorter one.  I could not get the listed short one anywhere in canada (grrr to MEC).  I tossed in the MSR battery pump for a try.. works nicely but is a weight luxury and not needed if you are serious about weight.
BAG.  MONTBELL.  *****
NEO AIR.  ****
SHOES - Altra Lone Peak 2.5.  Superb and wore them now over 500kms. They are light, comfy and no problem drying fairly quickly.  Perhaps a little light on thread for TGOC.  ONE MAJOR PROBLEM IS THAT THE INSOLES ONLY LAST ABOUT 250 KMS.  I will be all over Altra about that.  To spend good money on good trail runners is fine but if they only last a few hundred kms before the insole wears out it is poor value.  Either supply extra insoles or deliver some that last.  W would buy altra for my next pair but only if I can get extra insoles or ones that are not done so quickly. 
SOCKS.  INJIJI, DARN TOUGH, .. All worked fine.  I would bring a third pair on TGOC to use as night dry socks.  I brought a pair of neoprene socs as well but only used them once.
PANTS.. PRANA quick drying and rugged.  No need to bring any others in general.  They last forever so far. I have various long hikes and canoe trips on my Prana and highly recommend them.
BASE LAYERS.  Icebreaker merino shorts.  Comfy but do not last well at all.  Given they charge $50 for a pair of knickers I will look for alternatives.  BUT.. Icebreaker 260 tops are fantastic.  I brought one short sleeve, two long 260 and was nice and warm always.  I would bring just one 260 to save weight.
MIDLAYER.  MEC T3 HOODIE.  used a lot and solid.  Great value.
PUFFY. MONTBELL 800 DOWN.  Superb if just a little short and needs a waistband.  May look at Ghost Whisperer instead.
WIND JACKET.  Montbell Tachyon.  I never go without it and use it a lot.
RAIN JACKET.  Zpacks of course.  Very light, reliable and with pit zips no problems.  In hailstones and 500kms wind I was nice and dry and warm.  I will buy the latest version from Joe and the Zpacks team.  There are those who would argue for a heavier waterproof jacket on a wet trip.  I had no problem.  My Liam had his new Arcteryx jacket which he found superb.  The Zpacks does the job at a third of the weight so unless in serious foul weather it is my choice.
HAT.  BLACKROCK DOWN.  I just love this head cozy.  If you are in any chilly place it is the best thing to have.  I never go hiking without it.  I need a light had for sun protection.  I almost brought my pointy hat but it is a bulky option.  Perhaps a Tilly is in order?
MEDICAL.  minimal with blister pads, couple bandaids, second skin.  I bring ibuprofen, robax gold, antihistamine, zovirax, and antifungal cream.  As little as possible of everything but first aid skills should be a priority.
TOILETRIES.  I limit them to 300 grams.  Small sponge, floss, etc. 
EMERGENCY KIT.  A small pill prescription bottle with a pin, safety pin, guerilla tape, nail clippers, class Swiss army knife, two blister pads, two robax, tick remover.
More later and pics as well.

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