SIGG Gemstone

SIGG Switzerland Bottles sent us this product to test out and review.

A flask is a tricky thing to review. If you want all the technical specs then try the SIGG website , but at the heart of it a flask either keeps things hot, or it doesn’t, so I thought I’d talk about how a flask could help us out on the trail.

We have a bit of a routine on the trail. I’m always the first to leave the warm embrace of my sleeping bag and keenest to get packed up and start knocking off some miles.

Hazel and the kids are a little different and have to be “persuaded” to get up and about. For Hazel, the biggest factor is the presence of tea. She really will not get out of her bag if her cuppa isn’t made. So that’s the first job every morning. Get the stove out and brew up.

Once she’s has a lovely, warm beverage, I put the stove back on to boil water for our little SIGG flasks, which keep a brew lovely and hot all day. By the time we’ve packed up we’ve had our tea, AND got the next one sorted out already.

Here’s the first problem. Hazel is a tea monster with an asbestos tongue. So while my little flask can last all day, hers is usually empty by lunchtime. The other issue is the kids. Clearly we’re not sharing my coffee with 3 kiddos under 12 but we do carry some hot choc powder for them. So by the time lunch rolls around I’m brewing up again. So maybe a larger flask is a good idea.

We haven’t as yet taken the Gemstone out on a long trail, that’s in the planning stages, but we have taken it out a couple of times when we’ve headed up the woods or on a little day hike and the access to a litre of hot chocolate has really gone down well with the children. It’s also saved time as I haven’t had to carry and set up the stove and all the gubbins required to brew up mid hike.

The last time I reviewed SIGG products I gave a list of reasons why I liked them, so here’s something similar for the Gemstone.

  1. It looks really cool. Ours is silver and I could probably use it as a shaving mirror (If I also bought a razor), although I’m sure it’ll get battered over coming months. Which brings us to …..
  2. It feels really solid and robust. The lid is sturdy and feels like the leakproof claims will hold up and I feel confident that it’ll take a fall or get kicked about at the crag without taking anything but superficial damage.
  3. It’s light. Which should be number 1 really as it’s a massive factor when packing for a long trail. Now the kids are bigger I’m sure one of them will mange it for the promise of hot choc.
  4. Sustainability. This is a massive thing for us as we continue to aim for plastic free hiking and a product that helps us reduce our footprint is always a plus.

We’re heading off on the South West Coast Path in the coming months so we’ll give this a real thorough test on a long trail and let you know how it performs.

What’s in your Pack #4. Backpacking

After going out on a few longer 2 day hikes we felt confident enough to have a proper backpacking trip. Packing for that first trip on the West Highland Way was difficult and we carried way too much stuff which kind of hampered the enjoyment of the first couple of days. By the 5th day on trail we had whittled down some of the excess and ate a lot of the food we had been carrying so things became easier. We went from what we might need to what we had actually used. We also had a better idea of how much food we needed to carry for each day so when we resupplied in Crianlarich we weren’t overburdened.

Since that first long hike we’ve refined what we take and how much food we carry and while our packs are much lighter these days, hiking 100 miles with 3 kids under 10 is never going to be “ultra-light”.

As in the previous posts in this series, this a list of things we take on a backpacking trip, not exhaustive but it works for us. The basis of it is the previous post on Wild Camping so you probably want to check that out first and once again if you have any ideas on how we can further reduce our load please give us a shout in the comments below.

Tent or Tarp, Sleep Mats, Sleeping Bags, Sleeping Clothes, Extra Warm Layers
Stove, Bowls Mugs, Cutlery, Water Filter
, Map and Compass, Trowel and Toilet Roll,Hand Sanitiser, First Aid Kit, Mobile/Smart Phone, Waterproofs, Suncream,GPS Device, Travel Towel, Camera, Walking Poles, Head Torch & Whistle, Extra Luxuries – Kindle, Notebook Teddy

The things above are on the wildcamping post but there’s a few extra things we take with us and a couple of things needing further comment.

snow

Food and Water.

As we like to be as self sufficient on the trail as possible we need to carry more water than we would on an overnight hike. We use a 3 litre and a 2 litre water bladder as well as carrying a bottle each. We try and keep the 2 litre bladder for cooking with and the bigger one for drinking and we have our trusty water filter to top up from natural sources.

In the planning stages of the trip I try to note the resupply options for stocking up on food and try to carry as little as possible while maintaining a semblance of responsibility. We have found that 5 days food is the most we can carry (remember there’s 5 of us). We can hike up to 15 miles a day but we average 10 so a 30 mile stretch requires food for 3 days. Plus I also carry an emergency meal and a few snacks should things go awry and we don’t get to a shop when planned.

When we started our first backpacking trip I had these grand ideals of spurning cafes and tea shops (mainly due to budget restrictions) but as things have progressed we have realised that these are a welcome relief when they come and we try to factor in a bought meal so we don’t have to carry one.

Hygiene and Cleanliness

When we headed out on the West Highland Way our youngest was just 5 years old and as you know from having kids, sometimes accidents happen. The worst case scenario is an overnight “accident” resulting in a wet sleeping bag. On that first trip we carried some pull up pants but as the kids have got older we can’t take that easy option. We carry a small amount of liquid handwash which gets the worst out and we can usually dry the bag out or find a campsite with a washing machine.

We also have some liquid soap for washing ourselves when showers are available but when they’re not we still wash the kids with a soapy flannel and water every couple of days, just to get the worst off. 

Another handy tool is the packet of moist toilet tissue, for obvious reasons and we have plenty of hand sanitiser. Both my wife and me carry a bottle, there’s a third one kept with the trowel/toilet paper and another smaller one in the first aid kit for that purpose only. It may sound like overkill but there’s nothing worse than gut rot on the trail.

Clothes

Obviously a 10 day hike doesn’t need 10 different outfits but you may need more changes than on an overnight wildcamp. While I personally only carry a spare baselayer and some trousers (I hike in shorts) as extra clothing we usually take 2 full changes for the kids plus a fleece “Onesie” for each of them. Sometimes they sleep in them, usually its just an extra layer for at camp or when they get out of their sleeping bags. (I think I’ll do a longer post on clothing if you think that will be helpful)

Dry Bags

While our backpacks have raincovers we double down and pack everything into dry bags. It’s a great way to organise the gear too so each child’s spare clothes are in a labelled bag, the sleeping bags are kept dry and even the trowel and toilet paper have their own drybag which gets stowed on the outside of a pack.

These bags keep everything together and when you need that one bit of kit from the bottom of the bag in a rainstorm, everything else stays dry.

So if you combine this post with the previous one you should have a good idea on what to pack for a backpacking trip. There’s a handy checklist you can download below and I’d love to hear your thoughts about packing for a long hike whether your a veteran long distance hiker or just venturing out with the kids for the first time.

Backpacking

What’s in your Pack #2. Mountains

As often as possible we head for the mountains. Our location on the South Coast means that we generally head for Snowdonia or the Brecon Beacons. Usually the journey takes us 4 or 5 hours including a ferry crossing so heading further North is usually reserved for longer holidays.

The first post in this series detailed what we carry when in hike in lowland areas and to be honest that list is a good basis for hiking in mountainous areas with 3 kids. However there are a few extra bits we like to carry with us in the mountains. Some are for additional safety, some to make the trail a bit easier and I’m sure there’s some things we don’t carry that maybe we should and some that may seem excessive, let me know your thoughts on the comments below. There’s also a handy checklist you can download below if you find that sort thing useful.

cropped-img_0890

Basic Gear – See previous post on lowland hiking for full details

Food and Water, Map and Compass, Trowel and Toilet Roll, Hand Sanitiser,

First Aid Kit, Smartphone, Extra Warm Layers, Waterproofs, Suncream,Whistle,

GPS Device, Geocaching Kit, Travel Towel, Camera

On top of this we also carry;

More Food/Water

Climbing mountains is hard work, especially for kids so plan in more snack breaks than when hiking in lowland areas. More breaks means carrying more food. Also a hot drink is nice when it gets chilly. We started off carrying a thermos of hot water and some little sachets of coffee or hot chocolate but now we carry a little stove instead and just brew without having to ration hot water. If you go down the thermos route, just carry hot water and sachets because if it gets cold then you can still use it. Cold coffee is the worst!

Warm Layers

Probably more essential than when hiking lower down. On average the temperature drops by 1 degree celsius for each 100 metres of elevation so T-shirt weather on the beach can still be quite chilly on the summit. The higher points of the mountains are generally more exposed so the wind can prove to be a factor.

Waterproofs.

Always carry waterproofs on the mountains. They can produce their own microclimates so rain can be expected anytime. We noticed this on Snowdon when a beautiful morning turned quickly into dampness as we climbed into the clouds. The weather forecast for Beddgelert, at the foot of the hill, was set fair but by 5pm on the mountain it was torrential rain. When we got back to the village, the roads were dry.

Walking Poles

Great for powering up hill, brilliant for helping to keep your balance on the way down. To be honest, when we go with the kids I usually only use them coming down. I suffer a bit with knee pain after twisting it nastily on Cadar Idris, and I’ve noticed a significant improvement when using poles, especially on the descent.

Emergency Shelter/Tarp

Most emergency shelters are suited for two people and while we could squeeze in at a pinch, I’ve taken to carrying a 3x3m lightweight tarp. I can make a shelter with it using the walking poles and a few pegs. If the weather is truly awful I can make a fully enclosed shelter to protect all 5 of us from the elements.

Head Torch

On our first trip up Snowdon we started hiking at 8am and even though the route guide said 3 hours up and 2 back we were still hiking at 6pm. The clocks had changed the previous weekend so it was dark before we got back to the car. And while I didn’t “need” the head torch on that well marked and surfaced track (The Miners Track) I was certainly glad to have when searching for car keys in my backpack. As an additional note, you can also signal for help with a torch should you get caught out.

The next post in this “What’s in your pack” series is packing for overnight wildcamping trips with the kids. As usual there’s a checklist for you to download below and I’d really like to hear your thoughts on this subject through the comments section.

Hiking Mountains

Follow my blog with Bloglovin

Almost Off Road.

For most of our first day on the Isle of Wight Coastal Path we had to share the route with some of the busier roads on the island. Now admittedly these roads aren’t major carriageways but having to shout to each other over the incessant burble of traffic isn’t fun. We hike to spend uninterrupted time in each others company, sometimes chatting about nothing, sometimes plotting our futures and sometimes just enjoying the silence. So imagine our relief when, between Whippingham and Wootton we find the first stretch of trail where traffic can’t go and we didn’t have to share.

 

Day 2 St Helens to Shanklin.

We woke up cold, a little sore but ready for the day. A heavy dew had formed on the tent in the small hours but a quick shake and gentle rub down got the worst off and it was almost dry as I ploughed it into the stuff sack. The kids and Hazel had left me to pack away the last few things before I joined them down on the beach for a breakfast of coffee and squashed doughnuts, left over from the previous days hiking.

Hazels Round the Island - 097Making our way through St Helens Duver, across the causeway and towards Bembridge, our hearts sank when we hit tarmac again but were soon lifted by the early morning sunshine as we tried to decide which of the houseboats we would most like to live in. The map and signposts tried to take us through the village but as, the tides were in our favour, we took a little alternate route along the beach, passing the lifeboat station, which was both easier on the eyes and kinder on the feet.

Hazels Round the Island - 177

Robs Round the Island - 210From the outskirts of Bembridge we left the tarmac behind again heading, towards Culver Down on proper trail, through Whitecliff Holiday park and hitting our first notable climb of the hike, we were all in good spirits and really enjoying the day.  From here we could see where we had been and where we were heading; a previously promised rest stop at Sandown Pier. It took us about an hour to come of the hill and the kids practically ran along the promenade to play on the penny arcades inside the pier. Hazel kindly allowed me to go to the shop to get some supplies while she supervised the carnage. It was so hot and noisy inside the pier and busy and just about the exact opposite to the reasons we go hiking. The kids enjoyed it though.

Hazels Round the Island - 171From Sandown it we wandered along the prom at Hope Beach to Shanklin where we realised that Lil had once again destroyed her hiking boots! We were hoping they would last the trip and we could get her some new ones next spring but, just like on the West Highland Way, her toes were showing.  We left the trail in search of the campsite which was surprisingly busy but we had a good spot, it wasn’t as cold and we enjoyed the showers and the took advantage of the restaurant for our dinner.

We had enjoyed a shorter day than the one before but felt we deserved it. As we lay in our sleeping bags we chatted about the day, the climb up Culver, the chaos of the pier and whether we’ll be able to get some boots for Lil the shoe killer!

 

Day 1 Gurnard to St Helens

We got up nice and early with a plan to leave before dawn which didn’t happen. By the time we had a second bowl of porridge and got everything together it was nearly 9 am but hey, we hadn’t confirmed our plan to hike around the Island until only 2 weeks earlier.

I suppose we had always threatened to hike around this little island we call home but the mainland always seemed a little more enticing. Back in the summer we had moved house and the coastal path was only 5 minutes walk away now so it seemed rude not to hike it. Besides, once we’re done we can get back to the exoticism of the UK mainland!

Most of the guides online showed the route going anti-clockwise from a ferry port, I suppose for visitors from across the water, but we would start at Gurnard Beach just down the lane and head clockwise to Ryde and get the worst of the road walking out of the way first.

Robs Round the Island - 012So with laden packs and the sun starting to warm our bones we headed along Gurnard sea front which was nice and quiet, through the sailing mecca of Cowes to our first little “cheat” of the trip, the floating bridge which is the only way to East Cowes other than a 9 mile detour inland along the river.

From East Cowes to Fishbourne was some of the worst hiking I’ve ever done. Either pavement or road, with traffic being all smelly and noisy right next to us and having to cross the busy road multiple times for no apparent reason. So when we reached the path from Fishbourne to Ryde I was both relieved and disheartened at the same time. Great to be away from the road but still hiking on bloody tarmac. Plus, we hadn’t seen the sea since the floating bridge and wasn’t this supposed to be a “Coastal” trail.

Robs Round the Island - 045We pressed on through Quarr Abbey which was beautiful but busy. We pulled faces at the pigs and the kids enjoyed their first opportunity to run on and just hike like kids. Mind you we were seriously flagging when we reached the soft, soft sanctuary of the beach at Ryde, and coupled with a bag of chips and a can of pop we recharged a little.

We had about half an hour on the beach and with the sun starting to make its rapid descent, we pressed on knowing we still had 4 or 5 miles until we could camp and quietly looking forward to hiking along in the dark. The sunset just as we were heading into Puckpool Park, and as Evan and I were ahead we went through the park. Hazel and the the other two went around and we were separated for a little longer than was comfortable but ultimately were reunited after a couple of forays off trail in search of a toilet.

Robs Round the Island - 115It was  proper dark now, but with the occasional street lamp and the bright lights of cruise liners on the water and Portsmouth across it, we had a lovely wander through the night. The trail disappeared at one point so we retraced our steps and found an alternate route which was much nicer and led to a night hike along the beach and we only realised we’d missed the trail when we got cliffed out at the far end of the beach. Fortunately someone else came of the trail as we were looking for it so we weren’t delayed for long as we headed into the trees.

We went from a bright, almost full moon on a deserted beach to thick woods, illuminated by a thin corridor of light from our headtorches, stopping at every turn to make sure we hadn’t left the trail and it was here, on the last mile that the tiredness really hit the kids so you can imagine the excitement when we finally broke from the tree cover onto the beach at St Helens and spotted the campsite.

There were a few other campers on the site overstuffed with static caravans (Funny story, Hazel and I lived in a caravan on this site when we first lived together, long before the kids were around) but there was plenty of room for our little blue tent. We got the beds set up and found out we needed a code for the toilet block. I was going to pay in the morning so I was hoping someone might be around. There was and while he did give me the code for the washroom, he also made me pay there and then. A grand total of £6. I was the happiest hiker ever, we normally have to pay £25 for a night at a campsite so that was a result.

Robs Round the Island - 143The kids were tucked up with their kindles when I got back and it seemed a shame to turf them out into the cold to use the facilities, but we did and it wasn’t long after that they were snoring.

The night hiking was great and even the walk through the dark, dark woods was alright especially compared to the rest of the day. We had hiked 17 1/2 miles, our longest ever day as a family, and I would guess 16 of it was on tarmac, and 13 of it along roads and nowhere near the sea. Not being funny, I would never, ever, ever repeat this section. Fellow hikers, if your doing this trail, start/finish at Ryde. Do not bother with Ryde to East Cowes, I can think of ZERO redeeming features and we only did it to be completist. Its not even worth that.

Please rest assured better days followed on this trip!

Children! Know Your Limits.

I was just reading another blog about hiking with kids and they mentioned the importance of  “Knowing your children’s limits.” Now my first reaction was “Well, obviously” but then I thought about it a little.

Every time I plan a trip, it’s at the top of my considerations.

  • How far can they hike in a day.
  • How much can they carry in their packs.
  • How much food do we need to carry to keep them happy/full/not crying/on a sugar high
  • Can they cope with the weather and trail conditions
  • How far is it to the trailhead, do we need to stop on the way?

And many other considerations I can’t remember. I suppose its everything you would think about for yourself but your making that decision for someone else, much smaller than you.

So every time we hit the trail, I’ve gone through this process of asking myself these questions and at times they can cause some anxiety, am I doing the right thing? What if we haven’t enough food? or do the kids really want to hike 10 miles today?

The problem is, it’s all wasted time and effort. Every time I thought I knew my kids limits, they’ve surpassed them and more. If you would like some examples please read on;

October 2015. The kids are 4, 6 and 8 and we hike up Snowdon for the first time. It takes us 9 hours up the PYG track and down the Miners. There is no carrying, no crying and nothing but good spirits and excitement. The furthest they’ve walked before today is 3/4s of a mile around the rather flat Gratham Water. Tomorrow they’ll hike the Mynffordd Track up Cadair Idris and our family love affair with the mountains begin.

cropped-cropped-west-highland-way-116111.jpgApril 2017. The West Highland Way. I plan the trip to last 12 Days, each one spent hiking for approximately 8 miles. The kids will carry as little as possible, maybe their water bottles, a few snacks, a teddy and their waterproofs in the unlikely event they aren’t wearing them.
We complete the trail in 9 1/2 days, including an almost 13 miler on the penultimate day. The kids carry their own sleeping bags, as well as the stuff I had planned on and Ev carries a full 25l rucksack over 100 miles by the time you add on travel days. Isaac is 5 and hiked every single step.

snow

Easter 2018. Glyndwrs Way. I plan for good, if a little damp trail conditions, cool temperatures and the potential for sunshine, warming days but potentially cold overnight. We aim for 12 miles a day to complete the trail in the time we have.
What we get is a corridor of ankle deep mud, persistent drizzle and a cold wind. We can’t find any rhythm to our hiking due to the constant slipping and sliding. We manage 10 miles on day one and nearly 15 on day two. We wake up on the next morning covered by 3 feet of snow. The kids are excited to press on. We lose the trail in zero visibility. We are cold and wet, the tent is soaked from the previous night and there is no where to get dry. The forecast is for more rain and snow overnight. I make the decision to call it off. Now the children cry, they want to keep going. In the hardest hiking conditions I have ever encountered, they are loving it.

October 2018. Isle of Wight Coastal Path. We have 9 days to do 68 miles (on paper) We travel light. We can pick up food most days. The kids carry all their own stuff (except tent and stove which we all share). We finish the trail in 5 days covering 78 miles (according to the GPS), averaging 15 a day but including two 18 mile sections. The kids are amazing, even on the never ending road walking of day 1.

I suppose what I’m getting at is that whatever challenge we give them, they rise to it. They never cease to amaze me and while there is some sense in “knowing their limits”, surely it’s better to be constantly surprised by their determination, capability and adaptability and embrace it wholeheartedly.  After all, they are the biggest adventure.

Round the Island; Not a Trip Report

So while this isn’t quite a trip report of our hike around the Isle of Wight, which will come in the next couple of weeks once we’ve sorted the 1300ish photos, I do feel I want to write something about the hike which we finished less than 48 hours ago. (Today is Friday, we finished Wednesday evening, and this should be up Monday).

Lets call it a highlights package!

Day One – Gurnard to St Helens. 17 and a bit miles.

Ryde Seafront

Highlights – The section from Ryde to St Helens. Our first real experience at night hiking. Isaacs reaction to reaching St Helens, which he recognised, even in the dark, from a recent school trip. £6 Camping.

Lowlights – “Tarmac-geddon”. Apart from maybe the last mile and a half, the whole day was on tarmac or alongside a road, and after leaving East Cowes we hardly saw the coast until Ryde esplanade.

Hazels Round the Island - 110Day Two – St Helens to Shanklin. 13 ish miles.

Highlights – Through the Duver and across the causeway at St Helens. The climb up Culver and resulting ice cream. Late lunch on the beach. Playing the Penny Arcades on Sandown Pier (Kids Vote for that one).

Lowlights – The Penny Arcades on Sandown Pier (Dads). More tarmac. Few wild camp opportunities so had to use another campsite.

Day Three – Shanklin to Somewhere along the South Coast – 14 ish miles.

Hazels Round the Island - 263Highlights –  The landslip from Luccombe to Bonchurch, the Sea wall to Ventnor. The Cliff tops to St Lawrence, Steephill Cove, finding new beaches, the views from above Blackgang, Wild Camping on the cliffs beyond Chale, the whole day really.

Lowlights –  None, best day on the trail.

Day 4 – Chale – Totland -Around 17 miles

Hazels Round the Island - 371Highlights – Trail all except last mile. Expansive views.Ice Cream at Totland. Climb up Tennyson Down and along to Needles. Spotting a fox about 3 feet away from us and having a staring contest with it.

Lowlights – Views of Needles obscured by the Old Battery which requires entry fee and was closed anyway. Once again someone commoditising our natural landmarks!

 

 

Day 5 – Totland to Home – 18 and a half miles.Hazels Round the Island - 554

Highlights – Second breakfast in Yarmouth, Bouldnor Forest and Hampstead. Thorness Bay and the last 1/2 mile to Gurnard Beach where we were practically jogging to catch the sunset from our local beach.

Lowlights – Some very dodgy road walking through Shalfleet and around Porchfield. Running out of trail.

We had a really good time on the trail and would definitely repeat some of it again, probably Shanklin round to Yarmouth, but you can keep East Cowes to Ryde, I’m never hiking that section again. #Tarmac-geddon.

I’ll do a full trip report in the next couple of weeks so keep your eyes peeled, click the follow button or find us on social places @justupthetrail

Cheers

Rob

Image

First Time for Everything

These 3 were so excited to be climbing their first ever mountain and I can’t find the words to tell you how happy I was, just to be in the mountains with the kids at long last. It didn’t matter if we made it to the summit or not (we did) we just wanted to expose the children to the adventure of it all. 3 Years ago but it feels like a lot longer and just yesterday at the same time.

 

Pen y Fan 2018

After almost a day in the car and a 12 month delay, we had reached the base of our objective. Pen Y Fan. We had tried to climb this peak in the Brecon Beacons the previous year and were met with torrential rain and gales so we ran away to find some waterfalls instead. This time, in the midst of a glorious summer, we had to be luckier with the weather, right?

We planned a rather ambitious route rather than a straight up and down from the nearest car park, after all it was a long way to come for one mountain. So for us it was to be 4 named summits, forests, a reservoir, a historic town and a canal tow path over 2 or 3 days and around 28 miles.

Traffic had hindered our journey and the drive which should take 3 and a bit hours, resulted in a 7 hour car ride. We managed to get to Talybont on Usk around 3 pm and decided to crack on, get up into the woods and find a spot near the reservoir to camp. Once along the tow path and up through some hedgerow lined trail, we joined the Taff Trail which would lead us around the reservoir. We made good progress for the next couple of hours along the wide, flat gravelled trail which I’m guessing is focussed on cyclists, dodging a couple of vans throwing up dust as they serviced the bunkhouse accommodating some Naval Cadets (who kindly refilled our bottles).

Happy Hiking Kids

If you know our kids, however, there’s only so much wide, flat trail they can take before getting a little weary so we made a decision to leave the Taff Trail at the first opportunity, following a little track down the hillside to the back of the reservoir and onto the road for a mile or so where we found a lovely spot to have a little supper and a paddle in the stream.

We pressed on, along the road and picked up the Beacons Way on the south east side of the mountain. We started climbing steadily as the sun was dipping below the mountain, and the kids, Isaac especially, were getting thoroughly tired out. Considering they were up and about to catch a ferry at 6.30am and they were now on the side of a mountain at gone 10 at night, they had done really well. Fortunately we found a really good, flat spot to throw the tarp for the night, and while the long grass was a bit scratchy and tickley, it was fine for us.

Fan Y Big Wildcamping

Actually fine doesn’t really cut it. That was the most perfect night for wildcamping ever. Think about it, make a list of every thing you want for a wild sleep out. On a mountain, flat spot to sleep on, warm, dry, clear sky and stars, no dew and a super moon! Oh and Mars visible to the South (ish). We all fell asleep stargazing and by the morning we had all wriggled out of the tarp and were just sleeping in the grass, cowboy style. Perfect.

We woke up with the sun (about 4.30ish) and slowly packed everything away before starting to climb what turned out to be probably the steepest section of the trail (or it was morning legs) before stopping for a porridgey breakfast and some coffee. With our bellies full we started making our way to our first summit, Fan Y Big, going slightly wrong for a bit and recovering soon enough but now the early morning sunshine was disappearing behind a wall of unforecasted grey.

Tagging the top of Fan Y Big and dropping down into a bit of a saddle we decided to bypass Cribyn because of the impending downpour and to be honest, a cup of coffee felt much better than another fairly steep climb. We picked up the trail which took us around the back of Cribyn, dodging some ponies, and onto the climb of Pen Y Fan itself. Half way up this section we were buzzed by the helicopter practicing its landing on Cribyn before flying right by us, banking steeply and giving the kids a wave.

DSCF0258

The kids really enjoyed this little section and before we knew it we on top of Pen Y Fan, albeit 12pm already, and looking at Corn Du for our 3rd summit of the hike. Then the clouds burst and visibility reduced to next to nothing so we decided to get out of Dodge and off the mountain. It was the lightning that made our minds up really. We dropped off the northern trail leading off the summit and headed downwards through the rain, which by now was persistent and would be for the rest of the day, and headed for Brecon.

Basically we decided to cut off an eight mile section of our planned route, back on the Taff Trail, and see what the weather decided to do. It would have been an uncomfortable night for the kids in the tarp, on wet ground and persistent rain so on arrival in Brecon, Hazel found them some hot chocolate and I jumped onto a bus back to the car. When I came back to pick them up they were soaking wet in the play park, but very very happy.

Ok, I know we didn’t do what we had planned but we still climbed 2 mountains, slept under the stars and a super moon and hiked some 21 miles in just over 24 hours and if that’s not an adventure, I don’t know what is!!

The Tennyson Trail

In preparation for our 2017 adventure on the West Highland Way, we took a shakedown hike on the Tennyson Trail, here on the island. At the time I wrote about how thing actually “shook down” but I didn’t go into much detail about the trail itself.

The Tennyson Trail runs from Carisbrooke in the centre of the Isle of Wight for around 14 miles to the Needles on the western tip of the island. It passes through fields, woodland and culminates on the chalk ridge that runs across the island, high up on the downs, offering views of the Solent to the north and the Atlantic in the south.

We left on cold but bright February morning, laden with packs full of everything we thought we might need when we headed to Scotland. So, even though we were just out for the day we carried the tent and sleeping bags and spare clothes and the kitchen sink.

tennyson-trail-017The first mile or so through town from home to the trailhead was hard going, all uphill and on tarmac, and the packs weighed us down. Once we got on the trail itself things quickly improved and the kids ran ahead in the winter sunshine, trying their best to get in every puddle and find the muddiest way along the track.

As the trail entered Brightsone Forest, the conditions underfoot deteriorated as there had been recent forestry works and the heavy machinery had churned the track up. Fortunately they had also left a small clearing with stumps to sit on so we stopped for lunch and tested out the new stove with a brew. After lunch, with renewed vigour we pushed on through the forest and onto the downs.

tennyson-trail-035The February sun was getting lower and in our eyes as we strode westwards, through the National Trust land and the grazing cattle, (also leaving a muddle trail) and we were treated to sea views on the left and right. The kids ran on to play hide and seek among the various tumuli on Brook Down and around 5 we were treated to a spectacular winters sunset. The only downside is we had only done about 9 of the 14 miles and it would soon be dark!

We picked up our pace, which the children started to object to, and started to descend through the golf course as the last rays of sunshine disappeared below the horizon. With the gone, so the temperature dropped and the darkness brought with it what felt like an instant 10°C drop. There were a few tears here because of tiredness and cold so we decided to call it a day when we hit Freshwater Bay rather than continuing on for a mile or two in the dark to Alum Bay and the Needles.

We still had to walk 3/4s of a mile into the village to catch a bus home and surprisingly the kids were wide awake for the whole journey and back to their usual raucous best. However once we were home, Isaac promptly fell asleep on the stairs.

IMG_0108