GR 20 Reboot

So, we’re going to Corsica after all.

Amazingly we may even meet up with one of the Big Walk crew to hit the highest peak, since he’s spending some more time on the island after he completes the GR20.

Packing has been interesting since we were mostly packed, but we can’t really be sure just how close we were to finishing since rather a lot has happened since then… And things like batteries need to be charged again, the fridge cleared out and the half packed bags emptied to see how much kit made it inside before we got the phone call.

We hope the weather will hold, the huts will still have some food left and the public transport will still be running!

And whilst we’re walking, we’ll be lugging the old Spot tracker with us (I may be tempted to the new, lighter one next year).

This page should contain the track logs and stats:

Red Yeti’s GR20

Edit: Updated to correct link

Edit: Removed flash version, as it didn’t work, and second link, as that’s now above.

Edit: Oh and I may be trying the Twitter whatsit as well – just have a look here and I may have sent a text on what we’re up to:

Doreen Wood 20 Aug 1931 to 26 Aug 2010

My mum had been a little bit unwell for a few days recently. But to my surprise, a few hours before we were due to board the plane to Corsica and the GR 20, I got a phone call from my dad telling me that she had died, very suddenly indeed.

The doctor was equally surprised, since she only arrived a few minutes after my dad had found my mum lying peacefully in the hall.

It was very hard for my dad to find her that way, but we all know that it was the way she much preferred to go. She absolutely hated hospitals and doctors and the idea of ending her days in a hospital bed filled her with horror.

Everyone thinks they have a great mum I’m sure. My brother and I are no different. But the fact is, she was a great mum.

She was endlessly kind and self sacrificing. Despite being very grumpy about anything in the world that wasn’t done the way she thought it should be, she let us do exactly as we liked, whenever we liked. Never judging us harshly, no matter what daftness we got up to. For that, I have often been very grateful. There is no substitute whatsoever for being allowed to make your own mistakes, and your own successes.

And she always cooked proper, nourishing, traditional British food. Every day no matter how she felt.

I remember when her mum died, she still couldn’t be persuaded from putting a good plate of food on the table. I know now not only how hard that is to do every day without fail, but just how important it is for health and happiness to eat real food, not some rubbish from a packet.

And it wasn’t just us. She was always feeding some animal or other whether it was the succession of pets we had over the years or the birds and other wild-life wandering about in the garden. It’ll be a leaner time for many a creature around the Wood house, though dad is already planning to carry on where she left off.

And with my dad having a back injury and having great difficulty balancing, she took on more things even as she found it more difficult to get about herself. It wasn’t that dad asked her, she just did things, and couldn’t be dissuaded from doing them, even when unwell. He has a lot of adjustments to make and things to learn in the time ahead but he’s already working out plans to cope with daily things that mum used to do for him. It’s very impressive to see.

In the mean time, the Big Walk crew are making their way across Corsica on the GR 20 without us. After a great deal of agonising we’ve decided to go anyway (two weeks later than planned), and might even catch up with one of them to bag the highest peak on the island.

For now, we have the usual melee of things to work through and work out in the days and weeks ahead. Things that must be done when anyone leaves us like this. But once that is over, there will always be an awful gap in our lives where once we had mum.

(Those that knew her probably know that Mum hated money being spent on flowers at funerals and always preferred to make a charitable donation instead).

Publishing A Book Via Lulu

This post is simply my recipe for publishing a book via Lulu although a lot of it may be relevant for anyone wanting to write up and format a book.

Though to be frank, I’ve had a lot of trouble getting the images printed correctly. With a lot of help from Lulu support we finally got good copies last week. Hence the delay in posting about the  GR5 Honeymoon ebook.

Next time (and there may be a next time!) I think I’d use Blurb since they review well for image printing. I may still use an uploaded PDF with Blurb rather than using their (admittedly very good) downloadable book creation tool since I think I’ll want more control over how it hangs together (plus I believe you don’t get much choice as to the style of cover with that tool – though I may be wrong!).

There is a wealth of instructional material on the Lulu site. But because there are a great many different options, I thought a very specific path through it all might be helpful to someone.

Besides – I wrote all this out as I went along so it seems a shame to waste it!

Recipe for publishing a book via Lulu: Continue reading “Publishing A Book Via Lulu”

GR5: The Book – A GR5 Honeymoon


As we walked the GR5 we made diaries, audio for me, written for LB. “LB” being a nickname, like “Red Yeti”. Some may be surprised by her actual name. Some who know us have been mighty confused by the “LB” mentioned on this blog!

So, assuming you don’t want to spend silly-money on a real, harback book about our honeymoon, take a look at the:

Free ebook version (you need to register to download) of A GR5 Honeymoon.

Unfortunately the ebook version doesn’t come with the cover that’s on the real book – but that’s at the top of this post – just click the image and you’ll get the idea.

The first Big Walk we did together in the Polish/Slovak Tatra has now faded somewhat in detail with only the pictures, a single, rather retrospective blog entry and the odd good yarn that has been told and re-told to friends to remind us. We didn’t want the GR5, or in fact any other Big Walk in future, to fade so much.

I wasn’t sure that I would remember to make an audio diary every day but with the lack of other distractions I managed it almost without fail.

We then transcribed it ourselves, partly as a way of making it more accessible in future to look back on and partly to add the details that we didn’t think to mention in the original as we went.

And then the project grew…

We added LB’s written diary into the transcription, organised it into a semi-formatted document (using Google Docs which allowed us to both be editing and adding to the same document at the same moment).

We then decided it was very, very “dry” without some photos so they started to come in.

And eventually, we had something not far short of a book. So we decided to go that last mile and create one. Just for us, with a copy for each of our respective parents.

It was completed last November, a couple of months after we returned, but we had quite some trouble getting the images to print correctly.

At last it’s time to “publish” it to the world.

Not that I expect anyone to read it all! But it might be of interest to flick through.

I certainly don’t expect anyone to buy a copy. Particularly since it’s rather expensive. The price that you see is purely the price that the Lulu charges to print, there’s no profit margin on there for me.

But considering it’s around 260 pages with a photos on most of them, and it’s wrapped in a glossy, full colour cover and printed exactly to order – it’s not badly priced at all.

Five Fingers And Girl Feet

Five Fingers - Not just for the great outdoors

My brother once said “You have girl feet!”

He wasn’t referring to the size of them (most girls don’t take an 11.5UK) but the general lack of smell.

Most of the time it’s true. They do remain reasonably pong-free when compared to other people’s feet under the same conditions. Nothing in the laboratory you understand, just things like being on the hill for a while.

However, wearing shoes without socks is a recipe for disaster even for my feet. And the same goes for Five Fingers.

During the colder weather I’ve taken to wearing them with socks. Also last summer on the GR5 the socks were an attempt to give us a washable layer to prevent the hum.

But as the summer comes, I’m tempted by the ease of sockless Five Finger wearing. It’s easier taking them off when I reach the client site and swapping into them if I step out at lunch and yet again at the end of the day.

But whilst I wear the more work-appropriate footwear the Five Fingers sit in my bag… being rather warm and damp…

Which is certainly not the most sociable thing to have in an office environment.

Dampire Dryzone Shoe dryers, OPSak and Five FingersSo, I’ve come up with a solution that not only keeps me from getting too unpopular but also means I should have dry Five Fingers to slip into.

A 32X50CM (12.5X20 inch) OPSak (“Odour Proof Sack”) purchased from Top Of The Range and a pair of Dampire Dryzone Shoe Dryers to dry them out whilst they’re safely encased in the pong-proof plastic (which apparently is used for other bio-hazardous material as well).

That should keep everyone happy, especially my feet since they get to walk about in the Five Fingers as often as possible.

Duct Tape Or Gaffer Tape?

Edit 07 May 2010: Folks – Duct tape is not the same thing as Gaffer tape. Gaffer tape comes from specialist camera equipment suppliers and is very, very expensive. I can use Google pretty effectively and if I could have turned up actual Gaffer tape with a quick search or two, believe me, I would have done. What’s the difference? Read on! :)

I’ve been looking for Gaffer tape for ages and at last my search has come to an end, twice in the same week.

What? Surely you can walk in to any DIY shop or visit ebay to pick up a roll of Gaffer? Same as Duct tape – right?


Duct (or should that be Duck tape?) tape is great stuff. It should be part of everyone’s repair and first aid kits.

But if you’ve ever used it (and really, who hasn’t?) then you’ll know it’s sticky.

Really, very sticky.

Which is rather the point. It sticks like… well, you know what.

But it’s also a drawback, you stick it on something, and when you want to peel it off, some of it stays. Or, worse, some of what you’ve stuck it to, doesn’t stay.

When the film and theatre industries started using it for sticking cables and other things that they didn’t want covered in glue, that became a problem.

So, they invented Gaffer tape. Named for the head of the lighting department on a film crew.

Its surprisingly hard to find. I eventually stumbled across it in the obvious place; professional camera supplies.

In the USA Adorama supply a 50 yard roll (they still use measurements that are impossible to convert between ;) and in Europe Calumet do it in a 50M roll (they also have a large selection in their US shop, and also in those odd measurements!).

It’s a specialist item, so, as the Wikipedia article has it; “[it] is therefore not a consumer good“.

Meaning it’s not cheap.

But if, you want to make things using tape or if you find yourself having to repair something that you don’t want to get covered in residual glue, it might be just what you need.

GR5: Walking The GR5 Using Google Street View

As we walked the GR5, we used a Spot tracker to record way-points along the route. It managed pretty well and only missed one day (oddly, I’m sure it was on…).

As we walked, I had it uploading to a page on the Spot web site so people could track our progress, but sadly it only logged the last seven days of activity. I hadn’t realised that I should have logged in to and created an “Adventure” so that the way-points could be recorded permanently. The Spot web site, rather like the Spot tracker, doesn’t always have a very intuitive interface.

Luckily though, Google Maps allows you to import several track formats, so in they went. (It only shows 200 track points at any one time; scroll to the bottom of the list of points, in the left hand panel, to see more of them).

The great thing is, since Google Street View has arrived in France, you can see a couple of landmark points on the walk in an “interactive” format:

The start of the walk, just by the roofed-over shelter by Lake Geneva.

Our favourite village, St Dalmas le Selvage.

And the end of the walk, on the tiny beach at the edge of the marina in Menton.

In ordinary map view, try left-dragging the little orange man (in the top left, at the end of the scale) and as you wave him about over the map, the roads that have Street View are highlighted in blue.

Of course, there are only a few points where the Street View images intersect with our walking route, but it’s remarkably evocative to be able to see the route in such detail.

GR20: The Big Walk for 2010

Well, despite the fact I’ve still got several half-written GR5 write-up postings… Here’s the start of the Big Walk 2010 postings: Corsica, the GR20. It’s around 190 kilometres long with 12,500 of height gain (and loss).

We decided that we’d have to do it when we also decided that we’d have to walk the GR5;  as we listened to a Cicerone sponsored podcast with Andy Howell interviewing Paddy Dillon.

We’d considered going straight on to the GR20 from the end of the GR5 but realised that we’d rather just take our time meandering about on the GR5 instead. Which was certainly the right decision. After all, it’s not about how far you go or even where you end-up; it’s about the journey itself.

Although the GR20 is often described as “the toughest waymarked route in the world” it has to be noted that’s “waymarked” route (I think Paddy mentions exactly that in the podcast). By the sound of it, many “walkers”, including us, do more technical scrambling routes in North Wales, albeit for far shorter distances. None the less, it’s probably not the long distance route to be starting on as a novice walker, unless perhaps you’ve done some scrambling.

Once again we’ll be using Paddy’s excellent Cicerone guide book and taking  a TopoGuide number 67:  GR20: À Travers la Montagne Corse (from The Map Shop – as usual). The TopoGuides worked out very well on the GR5 since four of them cover the whole route. I’m also getting a couple of 1:100,000 scale maps to paw-over whilst planning and to get a feeling for how the whole route fits into the island.

It looks like the most practical way to get there will be to fly into Nice and then take either a ferry or a local flight over to Corsica. Which will mean we’ll be effectively picking up the walk from the point where we left  it last summer.

As last year, a couple of the Usual Suspects from other Big Walks will be joining us for the first sections before leaving us to complete it at our leisure.

Paddy outlines the route at fifteen days of actual walking. Add on another day each side for travelling to and from the start and finish points and you’re a couple of days short of a whole three working weeks. So we’ve decided to stay for those extra days to give us contingency on the route itself as well as some time to explore the more inhabited parts of the island once we’ve finished.

I’ll probably make most of the postings for this walk retrospectively since, on the one hand, I’ve not even finished the GR5 set and on the other, I like recording not only what our planning was but perhaps more importantly how that planning actually worked out in reality.

Excited now…

Iceland: Volcano Erupting from Fimmvörðuháls

The volcano that sits beneath the Eyjafjallajökull (glacier) has started to erupt.

Which  is interesting since it appears that it’s emanating from Fimmvörðuháls; the col that we crossed on the last day of the Iceland walk (pictured above).

Apparently the “What to do if there’s an eruption” signs were well worth reading after all.

There’s a good picture and balanced article on Al Jazeera and not bad reporting but pretty poor picture on the Times Online.

Others are more sensationalist of course and no better pictures that we could find for the moment.

The fact that it’s coming from the col rather than actually beneath the Eyjafjallajökull is good news for Iceland since it’s less likely to cause massive flooding.

Of course it’s very early days, but at the moment it would seem likely that the route to extend the walk past Þórsmörk (Thorsmork) to link to Skógafoss on the coast may be out of action for a while.

Still, if the dreadful, derelict old hut near the col is destroyed that will be no great loss! I just hope the new one survives…