The Haute Route in August – ah… warm and sunny. Dust-dry trails, roiling heat haze rising from glaring rocks… Here’s hoping!
Sunblock is a no-brainer. The excellent and amazingly comprehensive web site over at Needle Sports (no I’m not sponsored by them – exactly the reverse in fact) has some nice smallish tubes of sun cream that should last for the whole route for one person. I’ve been looking for an alcohol based gel block for the last ten years (since I used some in Australia) but I’ve only just managed to find one in the UK. Garnier have brought out Ambre Solaire Clear Protect Gel that dries almost immediately with hardly any residue. Pretty strong on the perfume though! Not tried it properly yet but next year I might try Lighthiker’s trick of squeezing some into a plastic soft drink bag.
I’d count sunglasses as essential in the Alps in summer (and winter of course!). Although I’m happiest without them, even I can’t put up with the glare coming off the rock for hours on end. And there’s good evidence that exposing your eyes to that much UV will damage them in the long run. A wrap around pair is preferable of course just to keep the light to a minimum. Also, it’s possible for cheaper specs to be worse than no glasses at all since they may not block the UV properly. Because they’re dark, your pupils enlarge but since the they’re not blocking the UV your eye is getting even more UV exposure than it would have done if you just squinted. So, probably not worth skimping on the price too much.
I’ve just come across the Adidas Evil Eye sun glasses. The interesting thing for me is the versions that come with the ability to convert into ski goggles. The arms click out and are replaced with a head band and there’s a thin foam insert that clips to the back of the frames to form a seal. They also have a clip-in prescription lens available that you can take to an optician and have ground for your eyes. I’m not sure how well they’d work with regard to condensation since they’re only single skinned but the potential weight and bulk savings make them look very interesting…
I’ve always hated hats but something has just converted me: An LTM6 Airflo Tilley Hat
These things are beautifully put together and thought out. They deliberatly don’t fit closely to your head but instead sit on top of it loosely with a comfortable chin strap to stop it blowing off. The strap works well and has kept it on my head whilst walking over the windy tops of South Wales recently. I read recently that Ryan Jordan reckons his Tilley is his favourite bit of kit (notice he’s almost always wearing one in pictures) and Chris Townsend gave the Tilley T3 a “Best Buy” in a recent TGO review
Extra Water Container
Typically I only carry two litres of water but I’m going to bring an extra bottle in case it’s very warm. For once I’m not about to recommend some cutting-edge, shiny bit of gear for this: an old tonic water bottle is perfect!
Any plastic bottle that’s been used for storing fizzy drink works. They’re made of much tougher stuff than the ones for still water. Wash it out, fill it with hot water and bicarbonate of soda for a couple of days, wipe off the sticky label residue with meths or white gas and your done. Tonic water bottles seem to have the least residual taste/smell from whatever they held before.
- Extra water container