View from Oban Bothy

View from Oban Bothy
Showing posts with label Kit failure. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Kit failure. Show all posts

Thursday, 26 March 2015

18 – 21 March 2015, A Llangynllo to Caersws backpack

Day 1, Llangynllo to Beacon Hill

On Wednesday afternoon Mike and I got off the train at Llangynllo station, a tiny station, secreted in someone’s back garden. Very odd.

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The Plan for the day was to walk a few miles and pitch for the night, which is exactly what we did. Clear skies and a cold breeze ensured a cold night’s camp. Fortunately we’d come well prepared: woolly undies, thick socks, pies, and lashings of whiskey hot chocolate.

This trip was planned by Mike and he’d researched the area well. He wanted to tick some tops and the route was put together with this in mind. Potential pitches were checked for potentialness by studying his maps of the area and one of the Cairngorms. This certainly paid off, we now know there’s a brilliant place to camp by the Cairngorm Club Footbridge, close to the Lairigh Ghru. Oh, and some lovely pitches in this sparsely populated area of Wales.

This area really is beautiful. Okay, the weather couldn’t have been better, but really, this area is stunning. There’s loads of interesting features: ditches, dykes, tumuli, windfarms and loads more. Better still, it’s quite unspoilt. Apart from the windfarms.

P1040037The first hill of the trip was Pool Hill which had a little pool to the SW of it’s top. This hill was incorporated into the few miles of tarmac, Land Rover tracks and footpaths, including Glyndwr’s Way, to our first overnight stop. Our pitch had decently flat ground, running water close(ish) by, and a fine chorus of croaking frogs and froglets.

P1040039  First night’s pitch, close to Beacon Hill

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GPX route 1Our route for the day, very clearly defined (eh?) by a purple squiggly thing.

Starting at the bottom right and finished at the top left of the map. 4.4 miles, 900’ ascent

It was a damned cold night, lots of hot chocolate (and other stuff) was consumed in the interest of warding off the coldness. Once in our sleeping bags we stayed put until the morning, it was too chilly to be sociable. Thanks heavens for the ‘I’ newspaper and BBC R4. My new toy, a Thermarest Neoair, did the job well.

Day 2, Beacon Hill to Kerry Hill

An early night meant an early morning, or it should have done. It was better to stay in my cosy sleeping bag until around 8am, it being so very cold. Even the Akto’s built-in shower was only able to provide a shower of ice crystals.

P1040047Frosty tents

Beacon Hill has a trig point set on a tumulus, one of four tumuli on the summit if the 1:50K OS map is to be believed. This was our first objective of the day – if you didn’t count all the coffee I needed to kickstart my body.

P1040050 Mike on Beacon Hill

Heading north (and downhill) we came across a fenced-off area that at first glance appeared to perhaps be an open pit. On closer inspection we found a pile of rotting carrion, surrounded by snares – perhaps to catch unwary foxes:

P1040054Look carefully and you’ll see a snare. I’m not sure of the legality of such traps.  

Careful study of the OS map revealed the presence of a pub in Felindre, about 3 miles north of Beacon Hill. As our route took us through Felindre we decided that we could be considered rude if we didn’t call in the pub for cup of tea, and maybe a nice scone. The pub was easy to find but our beer tea and scones would have to wait:

P1040062 

P1040064Our fan club 

We continued, thirstily, to our next goal – Anchor. Anchor, for those not in the know, is the start point for the annual Across Wales Walk. I was more than a bit disappointed to find that the Anchor Inn at Anchor had closed down, a very sad sight (and site) indeed:

P1040066 A very shocked Mike, dazed by the realisation that beer wasn’t coming our way that day.

Not (very) disheartened, we continued our merry way to the Kerry Ridgeway, an ancient route running from Bishop’s Castle in Shropshire (famous for the Three Tuns Brewery) and Cider House Farm in Powys, which may or may not have been famous for cider.

P1040070Ceri Wood 

We joined the route at Kerry Pole:

P1040072 What I didn’t realise at the time was that Kerry Pole is the site of a megalithic stone circle. Had I known, I’d have spent a bit more time there. Oh well, onwards:

P1040073 

We were only into our second day of this trip but it was remarkable in that we’d seen very few people so far: the previous day we met a farmer who was curious to know what we were up to, on this day we saw a family out for a walk along with dad(?), a gorilla of a fat bloke, ill-treating his doggy. We weren’t at all impressed by this behaviour one teeny little bit. Some folk should just not be allowed to have dogs. Or children. It’s a shame, his children seemed quite nice.

This unpalatable episode was almost forgotten when we came a across another doggy owner walking his barmy labrador along the Kerry Ridgeway. This lovely bloke walked his doggy miles and miles every day. And he was a motorcyclist. The man, not the doggy. At least I don’t think so.

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The Kerry Ridgeway was crossed by Cross Dyke, one of the many dykes in the area. Two Tumps was (were?) adjacent to where the dyke crossed the Kerry Ridgeway. I thought that the Two Tumps was me and Mike.

P1040087I photographed Cross Dyke but forgot to photograph Two Tumps. Worratump. 

More Kerry Ridgewaying took us to Kerry Hill and the search for a pitch for the night. A nice little spot, flat and grassy, presented itself and our two Aktos were quickly erected:

P1040076Akto Central, Kerry Hill

Kit failure

Another cold night followed. In my case it was a slightly worrying night too. I’d avoided buying a Thermarest Neoair for some years, simply because of the problems that other owners had experienced – namely delamination / internal baffle failure, and overnight deflation. I was more than a bit miffed to find that my brand-new Neoair’s internal baffles had begun to fail after just one night’s use. A small bulge was developing at the bottom end of the mat. Fortunately the bulge was in a position not to cause me a problem, but it was certainly a concern. The Neoair will be going back to Gaynor’s later this week. 

Anyway, the day’s travels:

GPX route 2b

The second bit: Felindre (of closed pub fame) to Kerry Hill

GPX route 2aThe first bit: Beacon Hill (nearly) to Felindre 

12.3 miles, 1900’ ascent

 

Day 3, Kerry Hill to Cobbler’s Gate…

….well it was very close to Cobbler’s Gate. With a name like that I just had to include it in the write-up. 

The RAF were out to play today. Fast jets were flying around, it looked like they were having great fun. A low flying Hercules trundled in front of us, the pleasant rumble of it’s engines wasn’t at all intrusive.

P1040096 

P1040093Then a funny thing happened. The sky darkened a little bit, the birdies stopped singing a little bit, it chilled a little bit, and then out of nowhere a mysterious flying object streaked across the sky – could this be the RAF’s new stealth fighter?

P1040083The picture quality is poor, I didn’t have time to set the camera up – it was literally shoot and ask questions later.

Oh, and then there was the partial eclipse. That was good, even though we couldn’t see it.

Mike wanted to whizz up some lumpy little hills so our route wandered around quite a bit. It was none the worse for that, in fact it just prolonged the sheer pleasure of being in this lovely area in grand weather.

The first lump entailed a bit of trespassing going somewhere where we weren’t supposed to. Never mind, nobody saw us climb the hill without a name at SO089852. Not even the farmer at Glog Farm. 

So busy were we yacking that we turned up a Land Rover Track at Bryn Dadlau that we should have walked past, it just seemed to go the right way – uphill. It was only a minor error and we were soon back on track.

Pegwn Mawr was next, with it’s broken Belfast sink, ancient cairns, and seemingly even more ancient (and certainly more knackered) windmilly generator things. At 586m ASL this top is very significant. Or something. Ask Mike, he knows these things.

P1040107  Posing at Pegwn Mawr’s trig point

P1040108Pegwn Mawr’s Belfast sink (broken) and the cairn – which appears to be a midge’s wotsit higher than the trig point. And a load of mainly knackered windmilly things.

The man at the Beeb warned of wet weather coming in from the west, it was certainly getting cloudy – still good walking weather though.

The rest of the day’s walking was on really good tracks, the best surfaced of which were windfarm service roads. We walked north, which the more observant of you will notice is NOT east. But this is Wales, not Scotchlandshire. And it’s not May either.

About 5 miles of really easy walking took us to our intended pitch for that night around Cwmffrwd at SO041876. Whilst it looked good on the map it was completely unsuitable – loads of dead bracken, boggy bits, lumpy bits etc. We eventually spotted a half-decent patch of almost grass-type stuff on only a bit very lumpy and only slightly very boggy ground. It was mostly out of sight of the road, and better still, it had a lovely stream running by.

P1040110A not so cold night followed. The cloud was well and truly cloudy by 7pm and we were ready for the promised rain, which didn’t actually arrive. One thing about wild camping in the cold, you get plenty of sleep – once in your tent you’re unlikely to surface until the next morning.

The day’s wanderings (right to top left):

GPX route 3

16.7 miles with 1700’ ascent

 

Day 4, Cobbler’s Gate to Caersws.

The cloud of the previous evening had vanished and the sun was shining brightly.

P1040112Catkins in the morning sun

It was a short and sunny walk into Caersws and it’s train station = the end of our trip. The tea room in the village provided mugs of tea and butties, very civilised. I even managed a quick wash and shave in the tea room’s wash room.

There seems to be some local resistance to the expansion of the local windfarms – a particularly effective poster was on display in the teashop:

image

The only pub that was open in the village at that hour had just the one handpump on, serving Feeling Foul Felinfoel - that was in worse than poor condition. Lager & Guinness were the only alternatives….beggars can’t be choosers.

P1040120 For Alan

The last day’s walk:

GPX route 4

4.1 miles and 580’ descent

I was expecting a good few days away, I wasn’t expecting it to be so good though. The area is superb for backpacking, I’ll definitely be going back before too long. Thanks to Mike for his great company, coming up with the idea and then putting it all together, it’s a plan I certainly wouldn’t have come up with.  I really enjoyed it!

More photographs are here.

Mike’s version of events can be read here.

Walklakes.co.uk

Our route was tracked using my Garmin Etrex20 with 1:50K OS maps installed. The mileages and ascents were gleaned from both the Garmin and by loading the resulting GPX files to the very excellent WalkLakes (free) OS mapping website. WalkLakes is well worth a visit.

Friday, 22 August 2014

Carpet Baggers 50

Another in the series ‘A bit out of order’, the Carpet Baggers 50 is an Anytime Challenge Walk….that means it’s a challenge walk that can be done at anytime. And it’s 50 miles. Obvious really, innit?

The Plan was to complete the route in 16 – 17 hours, with a 6am start there was half a chance of grabbing a pint at the end of the walk. It’s good to have an incentive.

At almost 6am precisely the party, led by Aaron, left Birchen Coppice and headed to Bewdley and the western bank of the River Severn. It was a bit muddy.

P1000859River Severn at Bewdley @ Stupid O’clock  

The River Severn is spanned by some beautiful ironwork, real engineering:

P1000864P1000865

After a muddy 5 miles of Worcestershire Way, the route briefly left the banks of the Severn and went through Seckley Wood. It was in this wood that I thought it prudent to examine the path very closely indeed. It was a sudden decision, very sudden. Only another 45 miles to go. With muddy knees. Oh well.

The paths through Seckley Wood weren’t as clear as the map suggested. Having only recently acquired the SatMap Active 10 GPS I was keen to try it out in anger. The SatMap wasn’t any help –it took 25 minutes to compute my location, by which time we’d succeeded in navigating out of the wood using map and compass.

A more detailed report on the poor performance of the SatMap can be found here.

 

P1000866 Crossing the Severn Valley Railway, just after Seckley Wood

5 more miles of riverbank to cross the river at Highley and a stretch of very welcome dry tarmac.

P1000869

The first breakfast / lunch stop was at an ancient stone near Alveley, the ‘Butter Cross’. It’s a stone cross that dates back to the Black Death, it was where food was left when the village was quarantined.

P1000870The Butter Cross 

Miles and bloody miles (about another seven actually) of reasonably dry fieldery and roadery took us to our next breakfast / lunch stop at Claverley.

P1000873 Over the fields to Claverley

The plan was to grab some grub in the pub – perhaps a bag of chips and a pint of tea. Unfortunately the long waiting time for food meant we just grabbed a cuppa.

P1000874

Tower of All Saints Church, Claverley, and the churchyard cross. And a litter bin.

P1000875

Ludstone Hall, a couple of miles north of Claverley

Signs of the area’s industrial past became evident as we approached the outskirts of Wolverhampton:

P1000878

Awbridge Bridge on the Staffordshire and Worcestershire Canal

P1000879Judi leading the way 

P1000881

P1000884

Annabel leading from the rear

Aaron continued to drag us along way. Some of it was incredibly muddy whilst other bits were just muddy. Some bits (not many) weren’t muddy at all, these were generally the tarmac bits.

High Energy Flapjacks

Another lunch stop, I can’t remember exactly where, but it was memorable in that we were treated to some High Energy Flapjacks. Annabel had been busy baking. These flapjacks were wonderful. I’ll publish the recipe, probably after this posting. They’re not just delicious, they’re a serious source of high octane energy.

Minds were concentrated as the light faded. It pays to watch where you put your feet – when you’re getting tired AND it’s dark it’s very easy to slip, trip, fall into a man-eating fetid swamp or whatever.

I really wanted to see the red sandstone Kinver Edge in the light, but it wasn’t to be. Kinver Edge is the site of an ancient hill fort. Not so ancient are the Holy Austin Rock Houses, which were inhabited until the 1950s. These rock houses are actually built into the side of the Edge. Night navigation onto the Edge wasn’t easy, unkempt woodland concealed the footpaths and it took ages to find our way onto the Edge.

It was around this point that the SatMap actually started to perform. Admittedly it had been switched on for ages and so had already computed our position. The woodlands paths over Kinver Edge and Arley Wood were very muddy indeed and trying to navigate in the dark whilst attempting to stay upright was proving difficult. With the aid of the SatMap we managed to stay on track through the woods. So y’see, the SatMAp Active 10 CAN perform, it just doesn’t do it consistently.

Entering Shatterford I’d twigged that Judi had been quiet. Not that she’s a chatterbox or anything, she was just very quiet. I put it down to tiredness. I was wrong…..I’m a man thing, it’s what we do. All the time. This fact is constantly pointed out to me, so it MUST be right. Mustn’t it?

Judi was feeling quite unwell and really needed to bale out. At around the 41 mile mark we managed to order a taxi for Judi and she was whisked back to CarpetBaggers Control back in Kidderminster. This was exactly the right thing to do.

The last big woodland of the day, well it was around midnight by this time, was Eymore Wood. The route through the wood generally followed the signposted Worcestershire Way this really helped route-finding in the dark.

The poor weather had brought down some trees in the wood, there was no walking round these obstacles – the only options was to climb over…or scrat around and try to crawl under. Not easy when you’re knackered.

P1000890

One of Eymore Wood’s fallen trees. 

At around 1am a break was called in the wonderfully named village of Catchems End. Heaven only knows what the residents would have thought if they’d looked out of their bedroom windows to see a bunch over-tired, ragged bunch of walkers littering there garden walls at that time of night morning!

We were thankfully back on tarmac once again (I never thought I’d welcome the appearance of a road!) all the way to the eastern bank of the River Severn. A bit of Severn Way followed by some quiet country lanes took us back to our cars, parked just where we’d left them at Birchen Coppice, by the A451. Badges and certificates were dished out, there was much shaking of hands, hugs, patting of backs and so on – the sort of stuff that we stiff upper-lipped Brits do so well. Ahem.

It was now 2am and the pubs were shut. to be honest I was far too tired to go for a pint – or even eat properly. I managed a hot shower and forced some food down, and then promptly fell asleep.

Aaron had put on a good walk. Although it was a published route it can’t have been easy leading a group of unknowns over an unfamiliar route, especially considering that he’d had no opportunity for a pre-walk recce….so thanks Aaron! 

This is where we went:

Route 

50 miles with around 3300’ of ascent in 20 hours.

More photos here.

Saturday, 9 August 2014

1st August 2014, SatMap GPS review.


 SatMap Active 10

imageFrom the current SatMap website
Up until recently I’ve used an old Garmin GPS for confirming my location. It was simple, had no frills and worked absolutely fine. Newer types of GPS are just so much more powerful and provide all manner of bells & whistles – often too many to make use of!
In December last year I was encouraged to take advantage of a special deal for members of the LDWA by SatMap, offering their SatMap Active 10, along with full UK mapping at 1:50k, 1:25k and 1:10k, all for £350. The deal included a two Lithium Ion rechargeable batteries, a set of Lithium (non-rechargeable) cells, and a voucher offering a substantial discount off Ordnance Survey mapping.
£350 is a lot of money – but when compared to the competition this appeared to be a good deal. One attraction of the SatMap was the large LCD screen – a relatively large area could be displayed on the screen.
imageThe LDWA SatMap offer: I was expecting all to be hunky-dory.
The SatMap Active 10 arrived very well packaged and it really looked the business. To say I was excited was an understatement! Other than a ‘Quick Start’ type leaflet, no other documentation was provided – not even on CD. I downloaded the manual off the internet and printed it off the 90 odd pages.
Mapping is supplied on two SD cards, one covering the entire South of the UK, t’other was the North.
The advertised spec of this device is seriously impressive: a sensitive receiver, good battery life, easy to use, large colour LCD display, excellent map coverage, etc. I was itching to get out with my new toy and try it in the real outdoors.
I’m still awaiting hunky-dory. Read on:

Issue No1: Failure after 3 hours

Timperley appeared on the South card and before long I was playing outside and having great fun tracking my short walks around the garden….until the display failed. This failure occurred after about 3 hours of use. Failures happen and although I was very disappointed I was quite philosophical about it. I phoned SatMap the following morning and they very promptly sent me a returns label to get the GPS back to them. A couple of days later a brand new GPS arrived and I was a happy bunny once again.
All things considered I felt that SatMap had provided a good service: my unit had failed and after returning it to them they had replaced it promptly and without fuss.
A couple of weeks later I went off to the Lake District for a day’s walking and took the SatMap with me – putting the ‘North’ SD card card in before leaving home. Of course I took my paper map with me – I would NEVER go out without map and compass….apart from anything else their batteries never run out!

Issue No2: SD Card Mapping faulty

I parked the car in Kentmere and headed out to walk the Kentmere Round. I switched on the SatMap to record my route and waited for the maps to appear. Then I waited a bit more. Nothing happened. I messed about but couldn’t bring the maps up, whatever I did. This wasn’t surprising – the ‘North’ SD card was anything but. In fact it was another ‘South’ card.
Another call to SatMap. They asked me to return the SD card and they would re-programme it for me. I did this and within a few days I had the re-programmed card. All was well once again.
SatMap programme the SD cards themselves under licence from OS – they’d programmed  / labelled the card incorrectly. Poor Quality Control, that sort of thing shouldn’t happen – certainly not when you pay this sort of money.
Timperley is very close to the northern boundary of the ‘South’ SD card – and a lot of my walking is in the Peak District and Pennines. Because of the position of the boundary I found I was having to swap SD cards in the field, not a good thing to have to do in poor weather…..or good weather for that matter, it’s VERY easy to drop a tiny SD card and to lose it in the undergrowth. So….

Issue No3: Unusable Discount Voucher

 

SatMap advertise a ‘Central’ UK SD card, again with 1:50k, 1:25k and 1:10k mapping. The coverage of this card would be ideal for me. It covered (from memory) almost as far as the Scottish border to the north, and almost as far south as South Wales. This would dramatically reduce the faffing about with swapping cards whilst out on walks.
I decided to take advantage of the discount voucher from SatMap to buy the Central card. I called SatMap, my discount voucher in hand, but was told that the voucher couldn’t be used to buy that map. WHY?? No sensible answer was forthcoming.
Why on earth offer a discount and then refuse to honour it? I was seriously not impressed.
To their credit, SatMap offered to reprogramme the ‘North’ SD card so that it’s southern boundary was level with the southern border of the Peak District. SatMap told me that there was sufficient space on the SD card to do this, – this made the situation better but not as good as I would have liked. This reprogramming was done at no extra charge. This was okay but not really what I wanted.

Issue No4: Poor battery life and other battery problems

 

The SatMap 10 is a powerful bit of kit – and the processing power gave the batteries quite a hammering, The 16 – 24 hours of battery life advertised was never achieved, anything from 6 – 14 hours was nearer the mark. Not really good enough.
A couple of other problems in the battery & charging department, really down to poor design:
1) The battery is charged via a USB connector. When the charger is connected it turns on the SatMap. However, disconnecting the charger from the SatMap DOESN’T switch it off. On more than a couple of occasions I’ve charged the battery the day before a walk and discovered the next morning that the batteries are flat. I’d disconnected the charger, forgotten the unit was switched on (after all, I’d not switched it on, the charger had!) and after a night sitting on the kitchen table the batteries were once again flat.
2) The battery connector used really isn’t man enough for the job. It’s the type of connector used for inter-PCB connections, designed for a very limited number of connection / disconnection cycles. This is a weak point in the hardware design and the connector WILL fail if used beyond it’s design limit – I’m guessing at 50 cycles max.

Issue No5: VERY slow acquiring satellites and computing position

 

Speed…or lack of speed. My SatMap is very slow in acquiring satellite signals and computing position. It can take up to 25minutes to discover where you are unless the GPS has an absolutely unobstructed view of the sky and is kept stationary.
My Garmin Etrex20 on the other hand is very quick. Today I did a side-by-side test in my back garden: SatMap vs Garmin. The Garmin won, hands down.
Results:
SatMap 10 Plus: 18mins 21secs
Garmin Etrex 20: 1min 14 secs

Issue 6: Insensitive receiver

 

…and this could well be related to the previous problem. The sensitivity of MY SatMap when compared to other identical devices is clearly well down. On a walk with Alan R earlier this year, Alan’s Satmap took not much more than 3 minutes to compute position. Mine took 14 minutes.
I borrowed a SatMap 10 Plus from a friend to do some more controlled comparisons. The results more or less confirmed that my SatMap device (the one on the right) was a poor performer:

SatMap
This initial test was carried out with both receivers on my kitchen table adjacent to a window, not an ideal position to check a satellite receiver’s performance. The photograph above was taken exactly 4 minutes after both devices were switched on together.
The GPS on the left had received data from 7 satellites and had computed it’s position.
The GPS on the right (mine) had detected only one satellite in that time. It took a further 12 minutes (total 16 minutes) for it to compute it’s position, and that was only receiving 5 satellites.
Similar differences in performance were obtained when the same test was carried out in my back garden with an unobstructed view of the sky.
SatMap explained that this difference in performance could be down to the SD card maps – cards with more data slow the device down. My SD cards had 1:10k, 1:25k and 1:50k OS maps for the South of UK, the other device had 1:50k OS for all of UK. I swapped the cards and although there was an improvement in the performance of my SatMap device it wasn’t overly significant.
In May this year I headed off to Scotland for pre-TGO Challenge trip and the actual TGO Challenge itself. I travelled around Glasgow, Fort William, Oban, the Isle of Mull, Kyle of Lochalsh, Plockton, and then to my Challenge start point of Torridon.
I’ve mentioned before that I ALWAYS carry paper maps and a compass, a good job too. 

Issue 7: Map tiles missing from SD Card

 

Out for a bit of a walk around Oban, I switched my SatMap on. I really couldn’t believe that SD card (North) didn’t have Oban on it. I went inland 10 or so miles, same result. In fact there was a huge area of the west coast of Scotland where the 1:10k, 1:25k and 1:50k OS mapping was missing from the card – certainly up as far as Torridon.
Messages on the LDWA discussion forum show that this isn’t an unknown problem.
I contacted SatMap who apologised once again and promised to programme another card that would be thoroughly checked and sent out within a couple of days. As I was moving around and had little idea of where I was going to be from one day to the next, this wasn’t much use so I asked for the SD card to be sent to my home.
A member of their mapping team confirmed that the new SD card had been prepared and ‘thoroughly tested’ a few days later.
Bear in mind that this was the first week of May.
Last week (the first week of August) the card still hadn’t arrived. To be fair to SatMap, I hadn’t chased them – although I really would have expected them to have sent it when they said they would.
I chased them and it was quite clear that a new card hadn’t been prepared when they said it had – they asked me to return the faulty SD card so they could re-programme it.
Two days ago the repaired card arrived – and it seems to be fine. It would take an age to check the coverage is as it should be, it’s a matter of scrolling through the entire area from the north of Scotland down to the Peak District using 1:10k, 1:25k and 1:50k OS. This is simply not practical so I have to trust that SatMap have done the job properly this time.
Other problems I’ve had are relatively minor, but annoying: the LCD screen lacks clarity and is difficult to view in bright sunlight, the manual is poor, I found that the device isn’t particularly intuitive to use – it’s quite complex, the battery cover looks flimsy and likely to fail….
Whilst on this year’s TGO Challenge I spoke to two other SatMap owners – both are looking to sell them. That says a lot.
Another owner, a Challenger, isn’t overly happy with his SatMap. He finds it over-complex and finds it difficult to use. He uses a Garmin Etrex instead. 
On the other hand I know two very satisfied SatMap Active 10 owners.
Amazon have an interesting range of reviews here. It’s clear that a majority of owners are happy with their purchases but well over 30% report significant problems.

Conclusion

On paper the SatMap Active 10 Plus is a superb bit of kit, however the build quality, reliability and general performance are all poor. customer service was initially good although as time went on I felt it was poor.
Once it became clear that I wasn’t able to rely on the SatMap I put my hand in my pocket (again!) and bought the Garmin Etrex 20. If you check around t’interweb it’s possible to buy mapping at sensible prices – take a look at TalkyToaster for example.
The Garmin performs, is reliable and has excellent battery life. I’m afraid the SatMap Active 10 Plus simply isn’t a patch on the Garmin in these departments. I can’t comment on Garmin’s customer service, I haven’t had cause to contact them.
To counter it’s shortcomings the SatMap has a much larger display (and of course mine has 1:10k, 1:25k and 1:50k mapping) than the Etrex 20, and zooming and panning around the map display are both quicker and more responsive on the SatMap.
I feel I’ve made an expensive mistake in buying the SatMap Active 10 Plus – I wish I’d have bought the Etrex20 in the first place. Hindsight is a wonderful thing.

I would be very interested to receive comments on this review. So please, comment away!

Thursday, 24 July 2014

Thursday 10th July 2014, LDWA Red Rose 100 recce, Day 5


Chipping to Mellor Brook

Chipping starting stirring at around 5am – dog walkers, agricultural stuff and so on. My tent was absolutely wet through after yet another clear and still night. I draped it over a wall in some warm sunshine to dry – it didn’t take too long being as wot the sun was hot, even at this early hour.
P1020214My pitch around the back of Chipping village Hall, Checkpoint 10, 68 miles
I was aware that I probably wasn’t drinking enough on this trip…we all know the signs, eh? I filled my 2 litre Platy water carrier and promised myself that I’d make a concerted effort to drink more that day.
P1020215 The mist appeared within a couple of minutes – caused by the hot heat?
Chipping’s public bog had a plentiful supply of hot water and I managed another top-to-toe wash down before setting off on the next leg of the recce at around 7am.
P1020213 P1020216
Chipping’s tractors
Crossing the grassy fields to the south of Town End was a bit tedious – it wasn’t terribly easy to navigate. Navigating through farm fields isn’t always easy, there are often missing or worse, moved signposts. Blocked stiles, often hidden by overgrown undergrowth just adds to the problem.
I would imagine (and hope!) that at the end of May 2015, when the event takes place, the overgrown triffidness won’t have grown too much and that signs and stiles will be easier to locate.
My feet were wet through within minutes, the dew-laden grass combined with seriously un-waterproof (and almost new) Goretex-lined North Face Hedgehog XCR shoes. A fairly major kit-failure methinks.
P1020219 Lancashire welcomes you!
It was an ‘interesting’ footpath that headed away from Thornley Hall at SD632412 – it was actually a running stream at the time. Having sploshed through in my wet footwear I thought my troubles were over…oh no!
Another ‘footpath’ running from SD633410 to SD626404 was a complete jungle of boggy bits and overgrown nastiness. I imagine the overgrownedness may not be a problem in May, but I would expect the boggy bits to be boggier.
Giles wasn’t too easy to get through, although reading the Route Description just might have helped me. Koff. The gated exit from Giles is very easy to walk right past – I suspect that there may be a few folk wandering off through the private grounds on the event itself. Just like wot I did.
It’s a horrible climb out of Giles up to the road near Myers’s Farm – at least that’s what my notes say. There is bog, ill-defined footpaths and considerable overgrownedness. Oh, and it’s an uphill up. I was glowing by the time I got to the road….all hot, sweaty and a bit mithered.
By this time stomachly noises reminded my that I’d not had my breakfast and I needed to stop to rest, eat and drink. And perhaps locate an ice-cream van.
There wasn’t an ice-cream van but there was a nice grassy bit on the road by Longridge Fell. It was very hot indeed by now and I decided to sit out the next hour and a half or so. My backpacking towel protect my delicate skin from the worst of the sun’s ravages, and that same sun dried my feet, shoes and socks. 
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Longridge Fell 
Longridge Fell was very popular with Hang Gliders that day – the were loads whizzing around he skies. I don’t know why, but I didn’t take any photos. I should have done, some of the aerobatics were lovely to watch.
My next navigational faff was to very effectively miss the section through the grounds of Stoneyhurst College. I put this down to enjoying my walk and not paying attention to where I should be going. This was really a major error on my part, it’s a spectacular establishment and really shouldn’t be missed.
P1020224 Hurst Green Memorial Hall, Checkpoint 11, 76 miles.
Hurst Green Checkpoint 11 at the Memorial Hall (76 miles) was next.
I should point out here that the mileages I quote alongside the Checkpoint number refer to the distance into the actual 100 route, and NOT my mileage covered. My mileage was different ‘cos of the unique and quite interesting (to me) method of finding my way around. Or not.

Wonderful Tea Shop Warning:

The checkpoint was quickly followed by another extended stop at a very wonderful tea shop, Millie’s in Hurst Green. It was friendly and welcoming and provided all I needed for the next leg of my walk. I must confess to spending an hour and a half just chilling – quite literally.
What a difference to the unpleasant atmosphere of Puddleducks in Dunsop Bridge.

End of Warning.

Leaving Hurst Green in the very hot heat I walked south to pick up the Ribble Way. There was no wind and the sun was burningly hot, this all made for difficult walking. don’t worry though, by next May it will be cold and wet!
P1020225 
Locating the Ribble Way wasn’t too difficult but walking along it wasn’t so easy, main problems were overgrownedness and hidden stiles and signposts. Nowt new there then!
I needed to leave the route to pick up food and stuff so I diverted to Ribchester’s Spar for ice cream, electrolyte drink, more ice cream and some food.
P1020226 Bridge over the Ribble at Ribchester
The final stretch of the day into Mellor Brook presented a few access problems. I was getting the idea that this part of Lancashire didn’t welcome walkers on it’s paths:
P1020228 Footpath from nowhere
P1020229 Oh no sirr, I don’t of any path going thataway
P1020230 Broken footpath sign
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P1020234 
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Triffid-laden stiles
Eventually I arrived in Mellor Brook and found Mellor Brook Community Centre, location of Checkpoint 12 at 89 miles into the 100 route:
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Checkpoint 12, 89 miles
After locating the pub and shifting a few pints of rather good ale I nipped into the bogs for a wash down before heading out of the village to sort a quiet spot for my tent. This was far easier than I expected, within 5 minutes I found a field that was completely shielded by a tall hedge. Half an hour later I drifted off to sleep to the sound of Radio 4 in my right ear ‘ole….not before taking a piccy of the sunset from my tent:
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Wot I did:

image

19+ miles of hotness.

With this much up and downery:

image That high bit is Longridge Fell
This was really quite a tough day – mainly down to the high temperature and having to deal with obstructions on the route. It wasn’t helped by the fact I was a bit tired and was carrying 20lbs+ on my back!