Outa here…

Fenêtre d’Arpette - TMB 2005  

Only a couple of days before we leave for our walk along the Haute Route.

Last weekend we tried out the jumbo Sealskinz sock and sure enough it keeps LB’s cast nice and dry. She reckons it was the easiest wild camp she’s ever done; a three kilo total pack, someone to lay out her sleeping things, collect the water, cook the food and wash up. Luxury!

Other people might say that wild camping with a recently broken arm would not be their idea of luxury. To each their own.

The arm is calming down nicely. The follow up X-ray showed it was still very nicely in place. So we’re still pushing on with the Haute Route.

There are a couple of last minute bits of kit I’ve decided are worth the weight and a couple I’ve decided against.

Some huts, but not all, provide sandals and none allow outdoor footwear to be worn inside. Usually I just use my walking socks and wash them out that evening. But this time I’m taking some thick black hair bands to use as sandals.

What?

Well, take the insoles out of your shoes, plant your foot on them, stick two hair bands around them and bingo – lighter than a gram weenie sandal. Only 14 grams for six (two for each foot + a couple of spares).

I think the bands will stand up to it. I’ll let you know.

A spare phone battery only weighs 22 grams and could mean the difference between utter boredom and being able to listen to an audio-book for both of us. Replacement ones for Nokia phone, and most others I imagine, can be had very cheaply on ebay.

I’ve decided to drop the third pair of boxer shorts. Wash one, wear one I reckon.

Also I forgot a couple of things on the final kit list; Liner Socks and water proof pack liners to stop rain soaking into your spare clothes. Waterproof pack liners are something I’m still wrestling with. A reliably waterproof and light pack liner is an elusive item.

And the final pack weights… Using a spring balance to get the base pack weight (no water or food) and pretending for a moment that LB hadn’t got a broken arm, the weights are a shade over 5 kilos + 2.6 camera kit for me and 5.5 for her (some of the weight in LB’s pack is an old, heavy top with the sleeve cut open to go over the arm, the monster-size Sealskinz sock, and a larger LifeVenture Soft Fibre Trek Towel since drying one handed is hard enough!)

In reality of course she’ll be taking some of the bulk and I’ll be taking most of the weight.

Not as light as I’d like. Some more thinking to be done for next year I think…

 

HR: Kev Reynolds 2001 Guide Book Corrections

Val d’ Aosta TMB Sep 05  

I’ve just noticed that the corrections given for the guide book have changed – because a new edition came out in February! Looks like I had it wrong that Kev was researching a new one this year – it must have been during 2006.

But luckily I took a copy before they removed them. So in case it helps anyone, these are for the third edition, 2001, “Chamonix-Zermatt, The Walker’s Haute Route” by Kev Reynolds.

  • p51: HOTEL DU COL DE LA FORCLAZ: please change telephone number to: 027 722 2688
  • p56 & 60: CHAMPEX: please note there is no longer a bank in Champex, but the tourist information office has foreign exchange facilities.
  • p64: LE CHÂBLE: please delete reference to Pension Les Alpes Garni (now closed)
  • p86: the ‘lone farm’ referred to in the 2nd paragraph, is now the REFUGE DES ECOULAIES (2575m) owned by the Ski Club les Pyramides. 22 places, self-catering only, manned at weekends. For reservations tel: 027 281 21 54 (see also www.lespyramides.ch)
  • p100: LA GOUILLE: please add: rooms & dortoir at Pension du Lac Bleu Tel 027 283 11 65
  • p116: SOREBOIS cableway station: please add: dortoir accommodation at Cabane de Sorebois Tel 027 475 13 78 – open mid-June to late Sept
  • p147: GASENRIED please note that Hotel Alpenrösli now has 10 dormitory places
  • p152: The path from BREITMATTEN TO RANDA has been reinstated at last. It is no longer necessary to walk up the road for about 30mins as per the guide. Instead, immediately after crossing the footbridge onto the main valley road on the edge of Breitmatten, turn right on a good track signed to Randa. When this brings you onto a road by the railway, walk ahead up the road for a few hundred metres, then take an obvious track on the right which follows the river all the way, bypassing Randa.
  • p157: Changes have occurred to a section of route described in the final paragraph on this page. Where the road forks by a small chapel, you should now take the lower road which crosses a bridge just round the corner and is signed to the Europa Hut.
  • p165: ZERMATT: please delete reference to Hotel de la Poste (now 3-star), and add Hotel Testa Grigia Tel 027 966 79 00

 

HR Kit: The Kit List

Sweden - Bright red plants in the scree - Kungsleden 2006

Although I try to go as light as possible I still carry more than an “Ultralight Hiker“. Partly this is due to enjoying my creature comforts. Partly perhaps due to having spent time in mountains often as a slightly more experienced, and therefore more responsible, member of a group rather than solo hiking.

But it’s amazing how by concentrating some thought on each bit of kit, or rather on each function that a bit of kit provides, you can shave off a really significant amount of weight.

A couple of summers ago I started carrying a DSLR camera and the extra weight tipped the balance from awkward to painful. But with a little thought and not too much spending I managed to shave off the weight of the camera and more besides.

With a lot of thought and rather a lot of spending, last winter, I dropped something like five kilos off my previous overnight winter kit. Going from around 18 to around 13 kilos. A hugely noticeable amount!

Another good reason for trying to reduce your pack weight that I can’t recall being mentioned, is in case you have to carry someone else’s gear as well. I’ve had to do so on two occasions where a minor injury left someone able to walk but not bear much weight. Once it’s been the other way around and LB took most of my pack weight whilst she helped someone with a sprained ankle and I sped off to a road to hitch a lift back to our car.

This kit list assumes that I’m carrying just my own kit but of course I’ll be taking a fair proportion of LB’s too for obvious reasons.

The weights are from my digital scales. I’ve been very forgetful about adding weights into the Blog so far. I also plan a final weighing next week…

HR Kit List

Passport
Flight documents
BMC Insurance card
European Health Insurance card
Driving license
BMC Card
Credit card
6″X9″ Aloksak for documents 18gms
Local Currency
6″X9″ Aloksak for currency 18gms

Nokia 6233 Phone 112gms
Earphones for phone 22gms
A5 Ortleib bag as wallet and phone case 20gms
Silva Expedition 4 compass 44gms
Silva Field 7 compass 24gms
Swiss Topo maps 84gms
Guide book 252gms
GPS 87gms

Head torch 68gms (inc. Lithium batteries)
Spare torch 60gms
Emergency shelter 428gms
Spare bits bag (SilFix, needles and thread etc) 60gms
Whistle (six blasts in the Alps and the UK) 6gms
First Aid kit (including blister kit) 308gms

Care Plus alcohol based sunblock 80gms (might also take an extra tube between two of us)
Care Plus lip sunblock 14gms
Tilley Hat 108gms
Sunglasses+ case 94gms (possibly SportEYZ but I’ve not tried them yet: 9gms plus an Integral Designs 4gms silnylon stuffsac)

Granite Gear Vapor Trail rucksack 1056gms
Silnylon rucksack rain cover 75gms

Rab Drilium waterproof jacket large 353gms
Montane Atomic Pants (waterproof trousers) large 178gms
Jack Wolfskin Gecko micro fleece large 244gms
Montane Lite Speed wind proof large 186gms
Icebreaker 140 weight Tech T Lite merino wool t-shirts X2 XL 180gms each
Silk gloves 30gms
PHD Minimus down jacket 570gms

Silk boxer shorts X3 large 82gms each
Rohan double-convertible synthetic trousers medium 342gms
Integral Designs Shortie eVENT gaiters large 70gms
Smartwool socks size 11 UK medium weight 86gms
Sealskinz socks size 11 UK 106gms
Montrail Hurricane Ridge approach shoes size 11.5 UK 1124gms (inc. Superfeet insoles)

Silk sleeping bag liner 108gms
Ear Plugs 4gms

Wash kit 253gms
Towel 30gms
3 packs travel tissues (in 6″X9″ Aloksak) 88gms
Multi vitamins
Swiss Army knife 128gms
Tea bags
12″X12″Aloksak for food 32gms
Freezer bags for food X3 44gms total
Re-used Indian Tonic Water bottles X3 42gms each (for water)

Canon EOS 400D DSLR camera + 10-22 lens 1070gms
Canon 17-85 lens 496
Foam camping mat cut and gaffer taped to form a cover for the above 40gms
22Gb (yes gigabytes) of memory 98gms (7XCF cards at 14gms inc. case each)
Lens cloth 1gm
Camera batteries X7 (not 5 – I bought 2 more!) 44gms each total 308gms
Camera battery charger with shortened lead 142gms (saved 44gms by shortening the lead)
Ortleib Aquazoom waterproof camera case 224gms

Kestrel 3500 (measures wind, temperature etc) 65gms +37 for the case (which I may change)
Binoculars 288gms

Update 8 Jan 2012: I’ve just posted a set of updates to this list.

HR Kit: Entertainment

Highland Cow - Isle Of Mull - Easter 07  

What entertainment can you want on a walk across the Swiss Alps? Well, very little to be honest. But for the journey in and out I’d go mad without a book. Also under this heading I’m including a couple of other items that are to be used along the way that aren’t strictly necessary and so seem to fit here best.

Phone

I’m not planning to take a real, paper book this year. I’ve bought some audio books on CD and have created MP3s from them to listen to on the phone’s MP3 player.

That way I save the weight of the book and replace it with just headphones. It also means I can potentially take more than one book.

We dug up some audio books that both of us would like to listen to so LB is going to have one earphone and I the other. We’ve got to get seats on the plane together!

Apart from playing things, my phone records better video than the little camera that LB carries. The occasional video can convey quite a different flavour of a place to a static photo, I’ve found. They help give someone who’s not been there a sense of the place as well.

Also it can record voice, so instead of a written log, which I must admit to being too lazy to fill in most of the time, I’ll be using it to record some notes as I go. Nothing likely to make it on to here, just for my own memories.

Binoculars

The Alps are big. I know it sounds obvious but if you’re used to wandering about in the UK mountains then the scale of them is something that takes a bit of adjusting to. Because they’re so big, things that are just across the valley from you can remain as puzzling dots even if you have good eyesight. A pair of good binoculars can be really useful for letting you experience that bit more of the Alps than you would do without them. And for deciding if that thing that’s moving across the way is a person, or a Land Rover.

I would reconsider taking them if I was camping but since we’re going hut to hut the weight seems justified – just.

An alternative is to take a monocular, mine weighs only 62gms. But I have a choice between a very cheap and not very good monocular and a very good pair of binoculars. Even at 288gms I think the binoculars might have the edge.

Kestrel 3500

The Kestrel 3500 is an anemometer, thermometer and barometer. But it also works out things like wind chill and heat stress to tell you what the weather feels like as opposed to what the thermometer is saying.

This really isn’t necessary and I can see why a lot of people wouldn’t consider carrying one for a moment. But I really enjoy knowing what the temperature and the wind speed is.

The 3500 is a pretty accurate bit of kit. It comes with all kinds of certification about the accuracy of the sensors and you can send it back to be re-calibrated if you like

I like the way the thermometer is exposed through a hole punched through the case meaning that it responds very quickly indeed to changes in temperature. It’s also waterproof so it doesn’t need to be wrapped up in a bag.

There are one or two suppliers in the UK but I found Red Oaks Trading in the US to be cheap enough that it was worth paying the import duty on since it still worked out about £35 cheaper (50€/70$).

 

HR Kit: Camera

Me and the 350D on the TMB 2005  

For me, creating pictures of what we see when we wander about in the mountains is a large part of the enjoyment. Obviously you can take very nice pictures using amazingly small digital cameras, I used to. But to get the control over the image that I want I need a DSLR camera.

Power

Spare batteries are going to be more reliable than carrying a charger and hoping to find somewhere to plug it in. I’ve found that five batteries will last me more than ten days in an EOS 350D with the camera being on all day. However it was set to enter standby within thirty seconds and consumes little power that way. Other cameras may be more power hungry.

This year I’m carrying a 400D (the 350D was written off by salt damage) and one of the lenses is an IS (image stabiliser) which also takes some battery power. I’m planning to stick with the five batteries on the assumption that they might last but I should be able to find a couple of places to charge them along the way. So obviously I’ll be carrying a charger, with a continental plug and the flex cut down and joined with a special joint intended for the purpose.

Original Canon batteries are extremely expensive. Around £40 (60€/$80). Copies that appear to work perfectly well can be had on ebay for around £5 to £7 (7€/$10 to 10€/$14).

Memory

I shoot in RAW because it gives me the most latitude to “develop” the image on the computer at home. So each image is over 10Mbs. I also only keep around ten percent of what I take meaning I can happily bash through 1600 frames in a week of walking. So I’m carrying a total of 22Gbs of memory cards with me.

Some people like to use some kind of large capacity mini hard drive, like an Archos for example, to backup photos onto. But I’m very wary of relying on a hard drive since hard drives will fail. It’s not that they might fail, it’s that they will fail eventually, rather like light bulbs. I’m sure many people don’t realise that by keeping pictures on one hard drive at home they are not exactly risking that they might lose them but are really risking when that will happen.

Of course flash memory will fail as well, but it’s solid state, no moving parts, and so is far less prone to feeling unwell after being shaken about in a pack for a fortnight.

Beware when buying memory cards that there are many, many fakes out there and they can be very hard to spot until you receive them. I now only buy from large, respected, on-line retailers like Amazon or Pixmania whose prices are quite comparable to the fakes that often appear on ebay.

Waterproofing

I’d probably use an Exped for a smaller camera but for a DSLR I’ve found the Ortleib Aquazoom is perfect.

Without the shoulder strap it weighs 224gms making it around 20gms lighter than the much smaller Lowe Pro case combined with an Exped bag that I used with the 350D and the standard 18-55 lens.

It’s completely waterproof. I recently tested it out (deliberately!) in a Swedish lake and found that it floated and was 100% watertight.

It comes with a wide shoulder strap that has a good shoulder pad with a scoop to go around your neck. I don’t usually use the shoulder strap though, but instead thread the load stabiliser strap on the hip belt of the rucksack through the belt loops on the back and have it at my side. It means I can put away the camera quickly when it rains and get it out speedily once it stops. However it can take some getting used to since it prevents you swinging an arm while you walk as it gets in the way.

I got mine from Needle Sports (shown wrongly as “Aquacam” at the moment) who have to order it from Germany but it took less than two weeks to get to me. (I had the Aquazoom Plus at first but the lid would allow wind to blow rain up under it so it went back).

Lenses

I started out using the standard 18-55 Canon lens but although it’s a really nice lens, when taking landscapes it conveys so much more to be able to use a wider angle. Hence I recently bought a Canon 10-22 EF USM. I’m very pleased with what I can now show of the mountains but the real surprise was how well it works when taking pictures of groups of people. Because you’re often quite close to your subjects you can’t always fit everyone in with a normal lens, but with the 10-22 you can almost see both the people sitting either side of you at once. Almost.

The other lens is a Canon EF-S 10-22mm USM. This moves the actual lens about, as fast as your hand shakes, to keep an image stable. Which nearly removes the most common cause of blurry images; camera shake.

I find it very useful in low light because it allows you to use a longer exposure time that would normally require a tripod, without having to carry a tripod.

It’s zoom is also coming in handy for picking out things like wild horses in the Welsh hills without getting close enough to scare them.

Lens Cloth

Microfibre lens cloths work extraordinarily well. I cut out about a 6X6cm square and keep it in the bottom of the Aquazoom bag. It only weighs about a gram. I’ve been thinking recently that I ought to keep it in an Integral Designs silnylon stuffsac (4gms) to stop it picking up grit with which to scratch the lens but dislike the extra messing about.

 

HR Kit: Wash kit

Stor Sjon (Big Lake) From LB’s parent’s Summer Cottage - where we wash in the Summer  

Towel

We’re trying out the amazingly small MSR Paktowel Medium that weighs an amazing 30 grams. The small size just looked a bit too small and would have only saved 9 grams. It won’t dry you as fast as a full size terry-loop cotton towel but who can argue with that weight?

Toothbrush

I do cut down the handle of my toothbrush. But it’s to make it fit into a small Aloksak. Well, OK it’s the weight too! It weighs approximately 4 grams less – 12 instead of 16.

Just run a sharp knife around the handle, grip with a pair of pliers and snap off. Then hold some sandpaper flat on the table and remove the burrs.

Toothpaste

I don’t carry toothpaste since I don’t think it actually helps very much with the cleaning of the teeth, that’s more down to the brushing. Any other benefits I might be missing I’ll live without for the duration of a trip.

Floss

A lot of the weight of floss is in the case. So I take out the reel of floss, cut the corner from a thin sandwich bag, put the reel of floss inside with the end of the floss poking out, tie off with a spare bit of floss. Weighs only 4 grams instead of 18.

Bio-degradable shampoo

We use a biodegradable shampoo made by Urtekram at home anyway. With a bit of care a 60ml Nalgene bottle should last the whole trip. In fact we’ve made them last over twenty days at home.

Body wash

I’ve tried experimenting with Care Plus Soap Leaves (sorry that link’s only in Dutch at the moment!) 40gms from Blacks but find that they stick together rather easily and I need to remember to get three out before I get wet. They’ll also need to be kept dry to prevent them turning to mush. So for convenience at the moment I’m using the same approach as for the shampoo above. But since they’re 76 grams each, I’ve not finished experimenting yet.

Deodorant

I use one of those semi-solid, waxy stick type deodorants that look like a giant, oval lipstick. I plan to use it down to about 1.5CM (3/8″) or less and then screw the waxy stick right out, still attached to the plastic base, and wrap it up in a thin plastic bag. The one I have saved weighs 26 grams.

Shaving

It’s not often that you end up using something in every day life that you only started doing because of the pack weight saving. But shaving oil is one of those things. It gives me a really good shave and even with my very sensitive skin it seems nearly impossible to get cut or “burned” when using it. I got it after reading about it on Lighthiker’s Blog and like him have decanted some oil into a Microdrop Dropper Bottle which weighs only 4 grams when full of oil.

I’ve also just discovered a really lightweight razor that’s intended for travelling. The Avid4 is a neat design that has two handles, holding a total of four blades which seem to give a good shave. It weighs 14grams on my scales but I only need one handle and two blades meaning a total weight of only 7 grams for two razors and an overall weight of 11 grams for the shaving kit.

The Rest

Also I’ll be taking a small plastic comb, 10gms, and a small pair of nail clippers (at 20gms I’m still thinking about these). All carried in a 6″X9″ Aloksak

Also four packs of those mini travel tissues. They can be handy if the hut is short of toilet paper!

All the weights given below are from my digital scales except the Avid4
Cut down toothbrush 12gms
Floss in a small bag 4gms
Nalgene bottle of shampoo 76gms
Nalgene bottle of body wash 76gms
Inside of a deodorant 26 gms
Shaving oil decanted into a small bottle 4 gms
Avid4 razor 7gms
Plastic comb 10gms
Nail clippers 20gms
6″X9″ Aloksak 18gms

Total for above 253gms

MSR Packtowel 26gms + 4gms for the bag

3 packs of travel tissues in a medium Aloksak 6″X9″ 88gms (inc. 18 for the Aloksak)

Grand total of 371 grams

 

HR Kit: Rucksack

Sweden 07 - Helicopter Ride Nikkaluokta  

This is effectively a series of day walks so a small rucksack is all that’s needed.

However I don’t think that having a 20 litre pack hanging on my shoulders for a fortnight would be comfortable, even if I could get everything in to it. So I’m using the excellent Granite Gear Vapor Trail. LB has the women’s version the Vapor Ki that has very handy zip closure side pockets at the top of it (1075 grams).

My medium pack weighs only 1056 grams and although I’ve only carried a maximum of around 14 kilos in it it’s been very comfy every time. It also expands vertically to take extra loads like food. I’d strongly recommend it.

It’s definitely worth measuring your back length and getting the correct pack. Despite being 6’2″ (1.88m) tall I actually have a medium back length. From advice I found nosing around the Internet it seems best to go for the larger size if you’re right on the border between two sizes.

Ruck Sack Covers

I always used to think of rucksack covers as being a bit, well, something that people use when they first start out and haven’t really got to grips with the gear. How wrong can you be!

What really brought it home to me was an extremely wet weekend’s wild camping, out in the Northern Welsh mountains.

My friend had a rucksack cover that was built in to her sack. Fair enough, thought I, but I wouldn’t want the weight when it wasn’t raining.

But, by the end of the weekend everything in my bag that wasn’t wrapped inside thick polythene bag liners was soaked. I put it down in a gear shop, at their insistence, and picked it up ten minutes later to discover a huge puddle that must have been well over half a litre (in other words half a kilo) spreading from it.

Whereas my friend had a sack that was wet where it touched her back but was bone dry inside. I wouldn’t ever go without some kind of cover now.

Some covers are downright heavy. But Outdoor Designs produce light ones (90 for the medium, 110 for the large) and Integral Designs do the lightest I’ve found at 95 grams for the large and only 75 grams for the medium. It’s also got a nice design that allows the waist belt to come through it which keeps it on well.

Stuff Sacks

Because the Vapor Trail has no lid (though one is available) I keep things that I want to hand in a couple of small stuff sacks in one of the water bottle pockets of the pack. Things like sunblock, GPS, torch.

I’ve found that Granite Gear Air Bags are very light, tough and quite water resistant. They’re also translucent which helps in finding which bag something is in.

I keep the draw cords clipped to the side compression strap of the sack using miniature karabiners (3 grams each).

 

HR Kit: Sleeping

TMB - Sep05 - Mt Blanc to the right from Rifugio Bertone  

Beds and Bedclothes

Beds are provided since we’re staying in huts but we’ll need sheets to sleep in. A sleeping bag liner is fine. Silk liners are the lightest although they can be expensive. Personally I find sleeping in a mummy type liner just fine, so I use the one I’d normally have inside my sleeping bag, but some people prefer the roominess of a square ended liner.

I’ve not used them yet but JagBags is a New Zealand based firm that has a good reputation and their prices are very reasonable. If you’re in a hurry, TerreVista-Trails on ebay supplies them from the UK for a very reasonable sum.

At night we just wear our normal underwear and a merino t-shirt. Another t-shirt, turned inside out, can double up as a pillow case.

Earplugs

Sometimes you’re unlucky enough to sleep in a dorm with someone who could wake the dead with their snoring. If you’re really unlucky they may even have obstructive sleep apnoea so you’ll be worrying that they might not even make it through the night (though they probably will!) because they’ll repeatedly stop breathing.

But even people talking or rustling plastic bags can be very disturbing so a pair of ear plugs seem to be worth the tiny amount of weight.

We got ours from all earplugs and without the case they weigh less than four grams. Instead of using the case we’ll keep them in the cut-off corner of a plastic bag, twisted up like a sweet wrapper .

 

HR Kit: Food

TMB Sep 2005 - Refuge Albert 1er  

Since we’re going “hut to hut” the huts (refuges) and hotels provide dinner and breakfast so this is pretty simple overall.

Breakfast

The breakfasts in French and Italian huts are usually little more than yoghurt with French bread and butter plus gallons of coffee and hot chocolate. We’re hoping that the German influence in Switzerland might mean some things like cured meat being available but we’re not banking on it. We find the bread and yoghurt only lasts us for a couple of hours before we’re ravening for some “proper” food. Which is usually where the first mini-lunch stop occurs.

Lunch

For lunches we generally intend to buy some dried sausage, cheese, nuts and of course Swiss chocolate. For some of the sections we’ll have to carry enough for a couple of days or three.

Some huts will happily make up a packed-lunch but I’ve not found them to be very substantial so I’d always plan to have some extra food to hand.

It’s definitely worth bringing a recently sharpened knife for cutting up cheese and dried sausages (and pack it in the luggage in the hold of course!).

The bags that the cheese and sausage come in usually get destroyed after a couple of days or three of shaking around in the pack so a couple of good freezer bags and an Aloksak or two is a good idea.

You can of course bring a stove and heat up something for lunch. Although LB and I aren’t doing that one of the people we’re with will be and will be home-dehydrating some things to heat up.

Dinner

Provided by the huts of course but if you have a special requirement it can often be accommodated with as much notice as possible. I’ve even found that hut guardians welcome cooking something different to the usual fare but I may just have been lucky there of course.

Hot Drinks

Neither of us are big fans of “normal” black, English tea but we both like green, red, peppermint etc so we’ll be bringing a few bags of those. There’s never usually a shortage of hot chocolate and coffee in France and Italy so I’d assume something similar in Switzerland.

So that’s:

  • Sharp Knife
  • Couple of freezer bags and a Aloksak or two
  • Tea
  • Optionally lunch food and stove

 

HR Kit: Hazards and Emergencies

08sverigefjall-bossosglacier-100.JPG

It seems only appropriate that the next post be about emergency kit eh?

Survival Bag

If you’re not carrying a tent in the mountains then some kind of water proof bag to crawl in to is essential in my opinion.

Surival shelter, bothy bag, mountain shelter, group shelter, Kisu… can someone please come up with a good name? Whatever you call them, LB and I have snoozed comfortably in one for an hour and a half on a snow covered mountain top in the Cairngorms with the wind blowing at around 60 mph (100kph).

If someone trips and turns an ankle or breaks an arm or if the weather goes bonkers and you have to bivy overnight these things can literally save your life. They’re not called “survival” shelters for nothing.

Plus they’re great for a lunch stop if the conditions are terrible. It’s much nicer eating in a snug, warm and dry tent-like thing if you’re stuck on a mountain in a howling gale and no visibility.

I’ve carried a Bothy 4 by Terra Nova for years (mine’s 428 grams but they state 560 on the site) but if I was going to buy a new one then the Integral Designs Ski Guide’s Tarp would probably be my first choice (stated weight of 375g). I’ve not used one yet but I’m tempted to get one to shave some weight!

Phone

I’ll be carrying my mobile but it will be switched off of course. It’s mainly for use as an alarm clock, video recorder and MP3 player (not music – but more on that later).

Journeys to and from the airport and meeting up with the rest of the party can often be very much easier with a mobile so it’s worth considering taking one for that.

Since my phone is tri-band and even without a roaming agreement a network will accept 112 calls it looks from the coverage maps like we might be able to get a signal over a great deal of the route. Of course you might not have coverage where you really need it so it’s not to be relied upon.

Waterproofing

Ortleib make amazingly good “document cases” that are lighter, cheaper and less prone to tear than many dedicated mobile phone cases I’ve seen. Phones react very badly to getting wet – so do the people that insure them.


Spare batteries

For the GPS and torch. I also carry a spare torch, an old version of the Petzl Tikka. I’ve considered carrying a lighter model but since it takes the same batteries as the Petzl Tikka Plus, my main torch, and the Garmin Geko 301 GPS I consider them to be my spare set. So it’s only the weight of the torch itself that counts. At 38 grams even an e-lite would be very little saving. But perhaps a Photon Microlight Freedom might be worth a try.

Repair kit

We carry a couple of really stout needles with about four meters of very tough synthetic thread wound around some card. It only weighs six grams and could prove vital to repair a shoe or a rucksack so it’s a no-brainer.

I also carry a McNett SilFix Fabric Repair Kit since, less the patches and with the end of the tube removed and a piece of magic tape over it instead it only weighs 16 grams. It’s mainly for when I carry a tent but sometimes urethane glue is the only thing that will make a repair. Even Mr Ultralight himself Ryan Jordan carries something similar so I don’t feel I’m overdoing it!

Lightning

Lightning can be a particular hazard in the mountains since storms tend to form around them and if you’re on an exposed top you can easily become the highest point. So if you see a great fat cumulonimbus cloud coming, choose a lower route or descend as quickly as practical.

If you get caught in an electrical storm, never shelter in a cave or under a boulder. Lightning often follows water seeping down through fissures which broaden to form caves. You may become the thing that the lightning uses to jump the gap created by the cave. Two friends of someone I knew in the USMC were killed doing just that in the Polish Tatra a few years ago.

There are some things you can do if you are caught that will lessen the risk of being hit. The book Mountaincraft & Leadership has some good advice which I’ll précis here (I’m sure that old-fashioned and rather stuffy title dissuades many readers but it’s a goldmine of information).

Features above seven meters tall tend to attract lighting. There’s a sort of ring-doughnut shaped safe(er) zone around such peaks of roughly the same radius as the height. But sit too close to the peak and you risk becoming part of the track of the lightning. So stay at least three meters away from the rock face. Then there’s “safe” zone outside that of approximately the height of the peak, making the doughnut shape.

Lightning strikes are, in a sense, initiated from the ground as well as the air. The ideal spot is on some broken scree sat on a rucksack, which provides some relatively dry insulation. By doing that you reduce the risk of a positive streamer forming through you. Don’t prop yourself up on your hands as they provide extra wet points of contact with the ground that could allow a streamer to form.

Finally don’t believe any tales about metal implements attracting strikes. Throwing away axes and poles could have serious consequences later on. Just lay them down next to you whilst you wait out the storm.

Bears

There are no bears on the HR at the moment so I’ll leave the advice that LB accumulated from several Swedish web sites for another day.