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Welcome to our humble blog that will follow the misadventures of very average camping, hiking/rambling enthusiasts based out of Oxford. We will blog on camping trips, latest hikes, equipment reviews and whatever takes our fancy...

Thursday, 5 May 2011

Gear used during the Three Peaks

With the Three Peaks Challenge now well and truely behind us we felt it was worth looking over the key equipment that proved essential when undertaking this challenge. Here is a quick look at the gear we chose when taking on Ben Nevis, Scafell Pike and Snowdon.

Waterproof Jackets  
Berghaus RG1 Waterproof Jacket (Mens)
Ideal for all year-round use, on the hills or around the streets.

Incorporates Aquafoil technology, the RG1 is waterproof and extremely breathable. Features a roll-away hood for easy access to protect from any sudden downpours. Hardwearing but lightweight jacket.

Berghaus Calisto Waterproof Jacket (Womens)

Female version of the RG1. Again, ideal for all year-round use, on the hills or around the streets.

Incorporates Aquafoil technology, the Calisto is  waterproof and extremely breathable. Features a roll-away hood for easy access to protect from any sudden downpours. Hardwearing but lightweight jacket


 Berghaus Deluge Waterproof Overtrousers
Ideal for any outdoor lover who wants protection from rain, sleet and snow, without excess weight.
Lightweight yet effective, the Deluge Overtrousers are designed using Berghaus' very own Aquafoil technology (AQ) ensuring they provide hardwearing protection from winter weather over your existing activewear trousers when you need a waterproof cover which is fuss free.
Sprayway Santiago Waterproof Overtrousers (Womens)
If you're seeking a simple no fuss rainpant to provide easy going protection when the weather toughens up, look no further than the Sprayway Santiago Waterproof trousers. Made using a unique 'bombproof' Taslan fabric and a simple no-fuss design, the Santiago Waterproof Trousers are ideal worn alone, over leggings, or as an overtrouser in cold and wet conditions.
With an elasticated waist and internal storm guard as well as a rain gutter, you an face the rain with a smile, whilst the Santiago stay put.

Berghaus Spectrum Micro Half Zip Fleece (Men & Woman)
Lightweight, sporty and warm, the Berghaus Spectrum Micro Half-Zip is ideal for all your outdoor pursuits where comfort is key.
Made using Berghaus' AWL 100 fleece, it is the perfect fleece to grab and go, and thanks to special non-pilling fabric,  as well as having a soft velour touch it's also low maintenance to take care of.
As well as being comfy enough to wear day to day as well as on the hills, the fleece also has function covered too, with a zipped pocket on the chest, you can make sure that if you need your mp3, phone, map or a snack then it will be right at your fingertips.

Craghoppers Corey Microfleece (Men)
Warm and lightweight, the Craghoppers Corey microfleece is perfect for layering, in everyday use and travelling adventures.
The Corey is made from fast drying wash and wear fleece polyester fabric, ensuring precious exploring time isn't wasted as it can be worn straight from your backpack.


Helly Hansen Stripe Crew Baselayer Top (Mens)
The Helly Hansen Stripe Baselayer is a quick wicking baselayer that provides comfort and dryness in a range of activities.

Specifically designed to keep the body dry, this crew top is perfect for intense outdoor activity, whilst the 100% polyester construction ensures this can be cleaned at home with ease.
Hi-Gear Long Sleeved Baselayer Top
Made in a soft to touch polyester/cotton blend, the seamfree Long Sleeved Baselayer top from Hi Gear is ideal for use during periods of activity in cold environments.

Made without seams,this smooth fabric avoids abrasion and is ideal for all day wearing underneath multiple layers. 

Walking Pole
Hi-Gear Walker Antishock Pole
The Hi Gear Walker Trekking Pole is fitted with comfortable ergonomic rubber grip with an adjustable webbing strap, letting you get the best hold on the pole for maximum comfort and support.

It is also extendable to 135cm and compacts down to 65cm for easy packing in a rucksack or bag.

Hiking Boots
Hi-Tec V-Lite Altitude Ultra Luxe Wpi (Men & Womens)
Hi-Tec's top of the range hiking boots. The boots feature:

•ion-maskTM hydrophobic technology
•Waterproof full grain leather upper
•One-piece vamp for waterproof durability
•V-Lite metal hardware lacing
•Micro-fibre collar and tongue lining
•V-Lite design and build technology
•Comfort-Tec contoured sockliner
•Stabila-Flex, contoured thermo-plastic bi-fit board
•CMEVA midsole for cushioning and support
•Exclusive Vibram rubber outsole

Hi-Tec V-Lite Rapidtrail Ultra WPi (Men)
Super hiking boot featuring:

•Waterproof Nubuck/Suede Leather and mesh upper
•ion-mask waterproof technology
•TPU heel locking system
•V-Lite Hardware lacing
•Molded rubber toecap and mudguards for protection
•V-Lite design and build technology
•Comfort-Tec contoured sockliner
•Advanced Stabila-Flex, contoured thermo-plastic bi-fit board
•Exclusive Vibram rubber outsole
We would love to hear if you have tested the same products as well as your thoughts? Full reviews coming soon.
Nearly all our gear was purchased from Go Outdoors but our boots were generously donated to us by Hi-Tec to which we are most grateful.

The Ramblers

At the foot of Ben Nevis - The challenge begins and the smiles start to fade.

Thursday, 31 March 2011

Scafell Pike: A second chance...

The wind whipped up the valley from the head of the magnificent body of Wast Water and the OS map i was holding fluttered like a terrified bird in my hands. I searched it for some clue as to the next step to take on my second attempt to reach the top of Scafell Pike, England’s highest mountain. At less than 1000 metres above sea level it’s not a particularly imposing mound but the lack of pathways and the steep incline at the peak makes it more of a challenge than the relatively short stature suggests.

The point at which I stood was within ten square metres of the spot at which I called off my first attempt to climb the Pike. That time I couldn’t see ten metres in front of me as the cold October rain drove into my face and the low cloud obscured the land. That walk was curtailed by various factors; injured knees, aggressive weather and the fact that we’d only just finished climbing Ben Nevis and had Snowdon yet to come. This time, I was focused on the one mountain and I had no intention of being beaten again.

Setting off up the valley
The path from Wast Water isn’t clear but by following a brook up the valley we were able to keep our place on the map. Steep screes rise dramatically on either side of the valley, ushering the hiker along until the flat basin rises sharply into the sky from whence waterfalls tumble down impossible heights. After an exhausting slog up the sodden mossy incline we reached Turnaround Buttress as it shall now be known to me. This time, with dry weather and eight eager companions I suggested we do some scrambling in the direction we knew we had to go rather than concern ourselves with  finding a path.

We set off up the rocky buttress, climbing over boulders and grassy mounds, with the occasional call of “Below!” ringing out as the face came free under grabbing hands and scrambling feet. No injuries were suffered by falling debris but one member came close to a 127 Hours moment as a large boulder sailed past his arm. After another 15 minutes of climbing we saw three hikers, two adults roped to a child. We looked about wondering which of us should be roped up and possibly who we’d least like to be tied to. The fellow hikers were descending a path from the summit and informed us they didn’t feel it was safe to attempt the peak with their infant. Using the path and various levels of geography education we could once again find our place on the map, a great relief indeed.

We followed the rocky path for a further 20 minutes before stopping for lunch. It’s an unusual path which occasionally tumbled down over rock faces which required scaling and across streams with slippery stepping stones.

The path becomes less clear
Finally we reached the promised screes. Loose rocks punctuated by snow-filled holes waiting to aid an ankle sprain stretched out above us. We set off, leaving significant gaps between each scrambler to avoid any rock-fall related injury. It was hard work and I was unable to have any real confidence in the surface beneath me; the jovial conversation which had flown about up to now froze in the bone-stabbing cold as the wind picked up. My Hi-Tec Altitude Ultra boots are fully waterproof and warm, the sole provides good grip and the ankle support helped enormously, they were finally getting the treatment they had been made for and standing up to the test admirably. I felt for the members of the team boasting urban hooves and the one clown in shorts. Some temporary respite was afforded us at a short plateau before the final climb.

We climbed through the cloud bank and over giant slabs of rock until finally we reached the summit with it’s rock mound. There we were: standing on top of Scafell Pike. In jubilation the nine of us danced about on the top of the mountain like celebrating pagan peons. A bottle of Scotch was passed about to accompany some wolfishly eaten snacks. After a few moments we succumbed to the exposure on the peak and pointed our boots back the way we had come. The descent was a hairy one, slipping and sliding down rocky snow-banks on our backsides while clinging to anything and everything to control the speed. Having offered my gloves to a friend whose hands had become numb in the wind, I suffered when attempting to use my palms as brake pads. Though it hurt I was able to prevent myself cartwheeling off the side of the mountain. The adrenaline pumping noisily past my ears made the danger no more than an exciting challenge, but looking back we really should have taken some precautions. Or an ice axe.

Alex and Ryan scramble up the final, treacherous section
As snow and rock became grass and bog I felt satisfied that I’d climbed the smallest but most difficult of the Three Peaks.

At times it felt like we’d bitten off more than we were capable of chewing and it turned out that our route should only be scrambled in summer, not during the harsh back end of winter. Risks were taken but no serious injuries or ailments were suffered. Once again we’d escaped to the natural world, found it almost empty of people but full of dangerous beauty and enriching experiences.

The route back down, eding along rock faces (Images: Luke Doyle)
Hiker Hugh

Monday, 31 January 2011

The Boot Review - Three Peaks Challenge

When it came to choosing the correct type of hiking boots for our 24hr Three Peaks challenge it could have become a long and arduous process for each of us.

Deliberation was made over whether looks or comfort was more important. In the end, all our problems were solved thanks to Hi-Tec who very kindly kitted our hiking party out with their top selling hiking boots; the V-Lite Altitude Ultra Luxe WPi, the V-Lite Rapidtrail Ultra WPi for the men, for the lady in our team the V-Lite Altitude Ultra Luxe WPi. We are all very grateful to Hi-Tec for this. The V-Lite Altitude Ultra Luxe WPi's won the Which Best Buy for walking boots (May 2010), so we were in the best of company when taking on this challenge.

As with all new things, it is a shame that they get dirty and stained so quickly but that is not the case with these boots which feature ion-mask technology by P2i, making them extremely hydrophobic and dirt repellent. You can see the technology in action here:

With our footwear sorted we were ready to take on whatever Ben Nevis, Scafell Pike and Snowdon had to through at us.

The Rambling Hikers Three Peaks Boot Review

James: The boots were on the whole comfortable, offering excellent support with the waterproofing technology, keeping my feet dry and warm throughout all three hikes. If there is one fault, the tongue of the boots did not give enough cushioning on the descent leaving blisters towards the end.

Hugh: Whatever the walking occasion there is nothing more important than good footwear and attempting the Three Peaks Challenge during a sodden October weekend proved to be a stern test for my Hi-Tec V-Lites, but a test that passed with flying colours. Walking for hours at a time my feet were comfortable, well supported and dry. I stood in a Ben Nevis mountain stream (below image) to test the ion-mask technology and found the entire boot, including laces and tongue to be impenetrable to continuous flow of water. Overall, an excellent walking boot.

Testing the boots out near the Halfway Lochan, Ben Nevis
Iain: The V-Lite Rapidtrail were a revalation throughout the Three peaks with my feet hardly aching at all at the end of the challenge. Well-padded on the sharp rock edges of Ben Nevis, well-balanced on the narrow ledges and steps of Snowdon and of course the waterproof technology kept nature at bay. Very good and comfortable throughout.

Chris: The first time I wore the V-Lite Rapidtrail boots was on the four hour hike up Snowdon, having had to change my original boots due to significant water uptake. In such I was wary as to how comfortable they would be as it can take a few walks to wear new footwear in. The Rapidtrails fitted extremely well and supplied support in all the right places, being comfortable, lightweight and sturdy. In regards to the ion-mask technology, I enjoyed walking in and out of streams and puddles, watching the water bead and slide off leaving the boot completely dry. All in all I was very impressed and just wished I had wore them throughout the challenge.

James and Iain at the halfway point - Ben Nevis
Rachel: Echoing James's comments, the boots were superb and my feet stayed dry throughout. The only problem was the tongue rubbing at the beginning of the hikes causing a few blisters, however by the last peak, once they were worn in, this was no longer an issue.

Greig: I can only comment positively on the V-Lite Altitude Ultra's as they performed well on all three peaks. Testing out the ion-mask technology claims, I endeavoured to put them through every river, stream and puddle I could find, including heavy rain towards the top of Ben Nevis. In each instance they passed with flying colours, my feet remained dry and comfortable. The only issue I had is the concern that has been expressed already, that they rubbed initially causing blisters until worn in. Overall, very happy with the boots and would recommend them to serious and casual hikers alike.

The Ramblers

Tuesday, 26 October 2010

Rambling Hikers raised £2,093!

With The Three Peaks Challenge now becoming a distant memory it is time to reflect and count the amount of sponsorship that we raised in the build up, during and after the event.

In total (including Gift Aid) we raised a total of £2,093! Which is great and we would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone that sponsored us along the way. The money will be split equally between the following charities:

- Breakthrough Breast Cancer
- British Heart Foundation
- Children in Need
- The Stroke Association

The charity page will be taken down at the end of the week, so there is still time to donate :) http://www.charitygiving.co.uk/ramblinghikers2010

Now onto the next hike...

Friday, 1 October 2010

Checklist for the Three Peaks Challenge

With the challenge fast approaching it is time to ensure that we have everything we need for a successful trip. To do so the following items are all recommended:

To take on each peak (In rucksack)
- Map
- Compass
- Gloves
- Hat
- Mobile phone
- Spare socks (In case your boots don't do their job)
- First aid kit
- Sunglasses (It maybe sunny at some point)
- Head torch
- Camera (To prove you have done it)
- Glucose tablets
- Energy drinks/water
- Survival blanket/bag
- Snacks
- Walking poles
- Whistle

Equipment to be worn
- Walking boots & socks
- Thermals
- Walking trousers
- Fleece
- Waterproofs (Jacket & Trousers)

To Leave in the car
- Spare clothes
- Water bottles
- Food
- Sleeping bag
- Travel pillow

(List adapted from the Official Three Peaks Challenge site)

Thursday, 30 September 2010

A breif guide to the National Three Peaks

As we get ready to embark on our Three Peaks challenge we thought it was time to take a closer look at the three mountains that make up the national version of this challenge: Ben Nevis, Scafell Pike and Snowdon.

Ben Nevis (Estimated climb time - 5hrs)

Ben Nevis (Scottish Gaelic - Beinn Nibheis) or The Ben as it is also know is the highest moutain in the British Isles and is located at the western end of the Grampian Mountains close to the town of Fort William.

The summit of The Ben is 1,344 metres (4,409ft) above sea level and attracts an estimated 100,000 ascents each year, 100,006 if you include our group of ramblers. One of the key features of Ben Nevis, are the ruins of an meteorogical observatory at the summit, which wass permanently staffed between 1883 and 1904.

Scafell Pike (Estimated climb time - 5hrs)

Scafell Pike is England highest fell, or mountain and is the smallest of the three peaks at 978 metres (3,209ft). Located in the Lake District National Park in Cumbria.

 In 1919, the summit of Scafell Pike was donated to the National Trust by Lord Leconfield.

Snowdon (Estimated climb time - 4hrs)

Snowdon or Yr Wyddfa in Welsh is the highest mountain in Wales. Constantly describe as the busiest mountain in Britain, Snowdon at 1,085 metres (3,560ft) is the second highest mountain in the Three Peaks challenge.

So there it is, a very brief guide to the Three Peak mountains.

Wednesday, 29 September 2010

Walking in Sandford Pit and Parsonage Moor – The Last Hike before the Challenge Begins!

Our last practice walk before the big day and we headed out into the Oxford countryside once again in search of those hidden footpaths and bridleways that offer a glimpse of rural Oxfordshire. We decided on the network of routes in and around Sandford Pit and Parsonage Moor.

Once again the weather was pleasant, if a little on the cold side, and I got the chance to try out my new fleece for the first time (this may not sound exciting but it’s good to know I won’t be shivering by the time we get two thirds of the way up Ben Nevis). Almost immediately we came upon Sandford Pit, which opened out into an oasis of calm with a lily-covered pool at one end, surrounded on all sides by sandy slopes with thick vegetation at the top.

Sandford Pit from above
It was one of the first times on these walks that I felt entirely cut off from the surrounding world, which although fleeting, was an enjoyable experience.

As this was new territory for us we had no definite route in mind so we chose instead to let the routes guide us, which enabled us to be flexible in our approach. The most surreal moment without doubt was when we came upon an area of forest with several large ramps in it. We quickly decided that it must be used by BMX riders and thought little more of it. However, as we moved deeper into the woods things became even more curious as we discovered more and more ramps and about 30 empty bottles of antifreeze. Just to (ahem) ramp up the tension even more we rounded a bend and found ourselves face to face with a hand carved totem pole and skull-like carving.

A conservative estimate would say that in that relatively small area there were in excess of 35 ramps of varying sizes forming an intricate and complex circuit designed (I assume) for very skilled and experience BMX riders. The antifreeze would stop the track from becoming frosted with ice and so treacherous. We all came away with the feeling that we’d just seen something quite special, and I certainly wouldn’t want to be someone waiting to drop in vertically from the starting ramp and then have to take on such a demanding course.

Just one section of course
As we moved further into the heart of the Oxfordshire countryside we found ourselves out of the wind and able to take in the pastoral scenes that surrounded us. Greig even kept us informed of the potential pitfalls and possible dangers of doing the three peaks. Thanks to a quirky book written about the challenge, I have found out that one of the symptoms of hyperthermia is ‘death’. I’m not sure if there’s a cure for such a symptom but the book didn’t seem to offer any suggestions.

So there we were approaching the end of our last practice walk as ‘amateur’ hikers and we all looked particularly attractive in our new ‘Rambling Hikers 2010’ custom beanies (my personal favourite is Rach’s pink one and am slightly jealous that I didn’t choose that colour).
Greig & Iain

Rachel & Greig

And so we waved goodbye (not literally) to Parsonage Moor and took several faltering steps towards this weekend’s epic walk. 26 miles up and down the three highest mountains in the UK…..I can’t wait to get started. (Iain - hiker)

You can see all our pictures from this walk on our Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Rambling-Hikers/135758203132272