View from Oban Bothy

View from Oban Bothy

Tuesday, 1 April 2014

Pre-TGO Challenge Gear Test & Backpack

An unfortunate appointment clash involving my hairdresser means that I won't be able to Daunder this year. This is a bit of a bugger as I really needed to get out into the hills for a couple of days to check out some new kit prior to heading off to the Challenge. Daundering is good fun, not only does it involve some wild camping stuff but it's done in the excellent company of fellow Challengers.

A solution appeared in my Inbox (I really must clean that mess up) by way of a message from the NE Headquarters of Pie Eaters Anonymous (PEA) that invited me along to a short backpacking trip in the Monadhliaths. Also invited were Challengers Alan R (who eats any kind of pie) and Judith (who only eats Macaroni Cheese Pies – but she's vegetarian).

Not a Macaroni Cheese Pie

The kit I needed to check out consisted of my new Osprey Exos 58 litre pack, a SatMap GPS, and a PHD down-filled sleeveless thingummy wotsit. I also needed to check out my repaired Hilleberg Akto – a new groundsheet had been sewn-in last year but I've not used the tent since. I also wanted to sample a couple of new (to me) recipes.

Osprey Exos 58 2013 Jungle Green



                    Osprey Exos 58                                           SatMap 10 GPS

The weather on our trip wasn't brilliant but it provided a good testing ground for my gear.

Alan and I took the train to Aviemore (it was very heavy) where we met up with Mike and Judith. We squoze into Mike's car and drove off to somewhere not a million miles from Mazeran Lodge. Mike parked his car out of the way and off we went – sort of West-ish.....which the observant amongst you will note is NOT East.

The route, devised by Mike, was sort of circularish but I'm still not entirely sure of where we went as I hadn't switched the SatMap on. Tsk. Up through Glen Mazeran, following the new roads that had appeared since last year. We were in search of a half-decent spot to plant our tents. There was quite a lot of slushy stuff around, not particularly nice to camp on but good to test out my new Akto ground-sheet.

P1010711First night in the Monadhliath, if you look carefully you’ll spot the new road

As it happened, we came upon a half decent spot to pitch – flat (sort of) and dry-ish. The ground was really only a bit wet, but certainly wet enough to test the new ground-sheet. I know the Akto isn't the latest or lightest tent in the world, but it justifiably has a very loyal following. An Akto will stand up in conditions where lesser tents will simply fail. Aktos are very good…..mind you it doesn’t take an idiot to know that.

The next item to be put to the test was a home-made and dehydrated meal, beef hash – as opposed to corned beef hash. This was made up of good quality minced beef (that way I know that Gayle won't nick any.....but Mick might), carrots, onions, beanz, and an Oxo cube. That lot was cooked up, divided into portions and then dehydrated. Each portion was packed with a pinch of salt and black pepper plus about ¼ of an Oxo cube.When rehydrating I bring it back to a gloopy soup consistency before adding 40gms of dried mashed potato. Another success: it tastes delicious, is easy to make, dehydrate and rehydrate, and is very light.

I didn’t photograph my tea, flavours don’t come across too well in pictures. It was very nice though.

We had a fairly early night, we were all a bit pooped from the travelling, and it was getting quite cold. I used my Alpkit PipeDream 400 sleeping bag with a silk liner, and slept on my new-ish M.E. Helium sleeping mat. Not lightweight, but around 40mm thick and self inflating. And warm. I wore my PHD sleeveless downfilled wotsit and spent a very cosy night, hurling abuse at the mystery snorer.....who for the purposes of this blog we shall call Mike.

P1010756Next morning three bleary-eyed campers emerged from their snow-covered tents to plan revenge on our mystery snorer....but too late, he emerged from his tent, looking very well rested indeed. Hmmm.

Mike had a plan which was to involve heather-bashing and no small amount of clever navigational stuff. I switched on the SatMap to ascertain our position, but to be honest, the new roads and signage that's appeared over the Monadhliaths have made navigation an absolute doddle. The multitude of new roads are there to serve the new windfarms that have sprouted up over the last year. The area certainly looks different to a year ago. The very good surfaces of these roads really make easy-going of the normally boggy ground, miles are easily covered.

P1010760Mike, Alan and Judith ready for the off, Day 2

P1010773 Maps are just not needed to cross the Monadhliath anymore

Having said that navigation was easy, I was rather pleased to have my SatMap with me because the landscape just bore no resemblance to anything I remembered from last year. Without the GPS and it’s pre-loaded maps I’d have struggled to locate myself on the paper map. I gather there will be a new map issued in the next few years that will have all the new roads marked.

Whilst consulting maps & GPS we were approached by a curious lot who seemed very keen to ‘help us’ get to where we were going. As I didn’t have a clue where we were going (I suppose Mike did) I found this mildly amusing, Slightly less amusing was the almost aggressive interrogation we were subjected too. This lot were clearly Eastern European although they denied it. I should have photographed them I suppose but I felt more than a little intimidated by their behaviour.

P1010765 Approaching yet another Monadhliath Wind Farm 

P1010772There were loads of really helpful bright red marker posts to ensure we stayed on the new Rights of Way and didn’t stray to anywhere we shouldn’t have been.

Right, I’m off to bed – it’s well past my bed time, I’ll write a bit more in the next day or so. My gear is strewn around the house, dripping gently. A good job I’m home alone – I suspect a lodger / wife / girlfriend / live-in house maid (the ones that dress up in that black lacy stuff) may whinge.

My fellow backpacking bloggers may well post reports on their blogs in the fullness of time:

Alan R




  1. Glad to hear you enjoyed it despite the 'mess' JJ. Sorry not to be able to join you.

    1. You'd have enjoyed it - next time perhaps!

  2. There is something soporific about sleeping near to wind turbines, that deep whoosh, whoosh as the blades turn around. From what . I hear you all had fun Quite a trip from Mike tells me!!!!!!!????????????

    1. Yes, it was good fun - a very relaxing trip indeed. You should come on the next one!


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