My Perfect Pillow

After many years of faffing and moaning (I’m very fussy) I feel as though I’ve finally sorted a pillow arrangement for backpacking, that suits me brilliantly:

Take one Exped air pillow (84g).


A Western Mountaineering Down pillow (89g) with half the down removed, or else the whole thing would be just too thick.



One Buff – weight doesn’t count as I carry this anyway.

DSC_0925Put them all together.



Absolutely perfect, sleep like a baby.

I used this system for 8 nights on the run in Sweden and it was brilliant – amazingly comfortable.

The only thing I’m now changing is I’ve ordered a UL Exped Pillow, which only weighs 44g.

Works for me!

Posted in Backpacking Trips, Bits and Pieces | 15 Comments

Arctic Sweden – 8 Nights In A Tent With Geoff And We’re Still Speaking

Day 1 – 8 miles

Day 1

Getting off the train at the Abisko Tourist Station was a bit of a shock. This stop has obviously been built purely for the start of the Kunglsleden, which starts right there – next to the tracks. It looked like at least 50 or 60 people got off with us, too. How busy was this going to be!

Luckily, most folk were milling around trying to take photos of each other so we made as quick a getaway as was humanly possible, whilst carrying fairly heavy rucksacks loaded up with 8 days’ worth of food.


There was an inevitable tangle to start with, with groups passing and re-passing each other along the trail, but we gradually began to spread out. Our plan anyway, was to leave the Kungsleden after the second day, so we had high hopes of a much quieter hike once we’d done that.


The walking was pleasant and easy, passing alongside the Abeskojavri Lake, through forest vegetation, with duckboards taking us over the wettest bits.


Nine miles was the projected distance to our first camping spot. The first eight miles take you through the Abisko National Park, where – unusually it would seem, for Sweden – you are forbidden to camp except at designated spots, so we wanted to be out of the park before pitching. The downside to this plan however, was that we hadn’t set off walking until about 1:30pm, and the heat (yes, heat!) and those 8 days’ worth of food we were carrying, started to take their toll.


So, just before the Park boundary after doing about 8 miles, we gave in and pitched camp. It had become apparent by then that nobody was taking much notice of the no-camping rule anyway, and we figured nobody would come looking for us. Which they didn’t.


Day 2 – 11 miles

Day 2

The first night had been much cooler than expected. We weren’t cold, but there was a thin coating of ice on the tent in the morning. Nevertheless, fluffy clouds and blue skies promised another dry, warm day.

Unlike the day before – which had been fairly flat going – we started gaining some height this morning, climbing past Garddenvarri to a high pass of around 800m. We also began to pick up the hordes again. Surely Geoff wasn’t beginning to get grumpy?



We also had an extra mile to make up after stopping short the night before, which made for an 11 mile day instead of the planned 10. But, who could really moan with views – and weather – like these?


The rest of the afternoon was accompanied by wonderful views of three lakes – Miesakjavri, Radujavri and Alisjavri.


We eventually found a spot for the tent, about a mile before the Alesjaure Hut – one of many STF huts that can be found dotted around the mountains in this area.

It was peaceful. It was beautiful. And if you look very carefully at the next two photos, you might notice that Geoff is using one of those rather nifty Thermarest chair kits on his Neoair Xtherm. I was to become very jealous of that chair kit over the following days.



Day 3 – 8 miles

Day 3

This was the day we were leaving the Kunglseden and all its busy-ness behind. But first, we were very intrigued to call in at the Alesjaure Hut, just to see what it was like.

It turned out this was one of the extra posh ones. You could spend the night there for a fee, camp and use the showers etc for a fee, or – like us – just call in and drink coffee and hot chocolate, for a fee. We might have bought and eaten a couple of delicious cakes as well.


Leaving the hut we crossed yet another fun suspension bridge, where I got into trouble for apparently creating a ‘double bounce’. I did notice that after that, he never got on one of those bridges at the same time as me again.



And so, we were now leaving the Kungsleden. Turning left, instead of right, we passed close to the Sami village of Alisjavri. Clearly occupied, this is a summer settlement for the reindeer herding community.


Our route then took us over another pass, visiting a rather scenic high lake at 874m, before dropping down to the head of the Visttasvaggi Valley.


This was were I got my come-uppence for the earlier double bounce. The photos don’t do it justice at all, but the Moarhmmajohka gorge had to be crossed by an airy bridge. Rounding a corner and catching a glimpse of it, it looked Very High. Probably because it was Very High. By the time I’d reached it, Geoff had already dashed to the other side and was standing staring at me across the gaping chasm with the roaring water far below. To be fair, this was the only bridge on the trip which made me think ‘Oh ****!’, but, I’m not ashamed to admit that I did hesitate for a couple of seconds.



I looked at Geoff. Then, locking my eyes onto his, I went for it, refusing to look anywhere else other than his face, until I had safely bounced and swayed across to the other side.


As we dropped further into the valley the walking became a little rougher underfoot, as we alternately passed through tree-rooty dense forests and over boulder fields. Always wonderfully scenic though, we eventually settled on a pitch for the night in the middle of a large, grassy flat area.





With high peaks all around, we lost the sun here very early. It was going to be another chilly night.

Day 4 – 8 miles

Day 4

Around midnight, I had to go out for a wee. It was a bit disconcerting then, that whilst answering the call of nature, I heard an enormous crack then loads of crashing, as rock after rock fell down one of the high faces nearby.

On going back into the tent, I woke Geoff up and told him.

‘So?’ came the reply.

Then we both heard another rockfall – this time from the other side of the river.

‘So?’ came the reply once more. ‘What’re you gonna do about it? There’s nothing that’s actually been falling around where the tent is for thousands of years! Go back to sleep.’

He was right of course. I went back to sleep.

Morning brought an ice covered tent again, and it was going to be hours before the sun hit us. Consequently, it was all rather wet and cool when we packed up after breakfast.


We set off for a further 3 and a 1/2  miles down the valley, towards the Vistas hut. Three hours it took us to get there, once more tackling clinging forest vegetation and the odd talus field. A beautiful setting for lunch though, the hut was a grand spot to get a brew on and gaze up at the route we were taking in the afternoon.


After a decent break, we filled our water bottles again and set off up the Stuor Reaiddavaggi valley on the other side of the river. With the peak of Nallu in our sights, we climbed ever higher. The sun was hot and frequent drink stops were required. Again, not a particularly quick route, with it turning rockier as the valley narrowed.



There was a bit of confusion too, as it turned out that the ‘lake’ we were hoping to camp near, wasn’t a lake at all, but just a river. Presumably in the spring melt it swells enormously, which is why it looks like it does on the map, but when we were there the water level was very low. It wasn’t a particularly good spot to camp anyway – far too bouldery – so we moved on a touch, finding an excellent pitch just about a mile before the Nallo Hut.



Day 5 – 8 miles

Day 5

This time, the tent had kept the sun till quite late and then caught it early in the morning, so the night was pleasantly warm. In fact, the sun woke us so early, that even after a leisurely breakfast outside we were packed and off again by 8:30.


It didn’t take us long to reach the Nallo Hut. Not one of the posh restauranty-types, but in the most wonderful alpine setting imaginable. I had a quick look around whilst dropping off some rubbish. The air was clear, the sun was shining, the sky was blue and there were people – and dogs, as they’re allowed in the huts too – excitedly chatting and milling about. We had a pleasant chat with a couple of Swedish lads, who gave us a tip about which side of the lake to walk as we continued up over the pass and down the other side.



We stayed to the right of the lake (at 1056m) as they’d suggested, and it was idyllic. Definitely a highlight of the trip.




Several miles later, we eventually dropped down to around 860m and joined the Kungsleden again, at the Salka Hut. We once again availed ourselves of coffee, Coke and cakes. Well, why wouldn’t you?


Another great camping spot was found about a mile further on and as we retired for the night, we couldn’t help but noticing that the weather was changing. Clouds were bubbling up all around us.


Day 6 – 6m

Day 6

A shorter day had been planned, to take us to a particular lake which was supposed to have good camping.

It was grey this morning. A cloud covered sky and a bit cooler, but nevertheless a perfect temperature for walking.



The first 5 miles took us a bit further south on the Kungsleden, before we turned off and left it for good. Here, we started a steady climb up to said lake, at 980m.


I wouldn’t say the camping was brilliant as the ground was exceptionally stony, but it was certainly brooding and atmospheric. We were pitched by early afternoon and shortly after, the rain and the wind started. This was definitely a time when having the larger tent with us paid off. With plenty of space inside, we could not only have all our gear in there and pass the afternoon quite happily, someone could actually use his Thermarest Chair Kit inside as well. I was nearly green with envy.


Day 7 – 8 miles

Day 7

The rain rained and the wind blew, for most of the night but by the time we’d had breakfast, it was finally dry. We still set off in waterproofs mind – the sky didn’t look trustworthy at all.


Leaving the lake, we descended to join the trail to the Kebnekaise Fjallstation. Not part of the actual Kungsleden, but known as a ‘side-trail’, it’s another section which attracts a greater number of people. The route was once again rocky and followed a narrowing, somewhat intimidating valley, between high peaks.


The menacing clouds also decided to give us an hour or so of very heavy rain, during which the temperature dropped quite dramatically.

By the time we reached the Fjallstation then, we were more than happy to partake of its upmarket-holiday-camp-type hospitality. This was another STF hut, but of the exceedingly posh variety.


We ate an extremely tasty lunch in the restaurant, availed ourselves of free wifi for a while, and used the toilets. We could have even had a shower but couldn’t be bothered, so I just contented myself with watching noticing a good looking, fit, Swedish guy getting undressed outside the shower cubicles.


All too soon, it was time for us to move on to find a pitch for the night.


Day 8 – 7 miles

Day 8

A good night’s sleep was once again had, before being woken by helicopters at about 8am. It would appear that a fair number of the visitors to the Kebnekaise Fjallstation don’t walk in, but take a helicopter. It became a bit like walking through the set of Good Morning Vietnam for the next couple of days.

The Fjallstation is situated in the shadow of Kebnekaise which, at 2106m, is the highest peak in Sweden and of course this is part of what makes it such a popular place. Not a climb for everyone, but people obviously still like to go and see it and soak up the atmosphere.

Continuing on our way, the trail now became quite a lot easier – after all if folk do want to walk into the Fjallstation they want to make it easy for them – and all boggy bits and bouldery bits were once again covered with duckboards.


We were now very much aware the trip was nearly over, but it was still very pleasant and we made the most of it. We had sun again and the scents from the foliage were decidedly autumnal.

We pitched camp for the night at the Sami settlement of Ladtjoluspekatan, alongside the Laddjujavri lake, for the princely sum of about £8. Our last night on the trail.



Day 9 – 3.5m

Day 9

Up early, we cruised the final 3.5m into Nikkaluokta, quickly and easily. We had a bus to catch at 11:10am but wanted to make sure we had time for a good breakfast at the eatery in the village.


And suddenly, there we were, being driven back to the STF hostel in the iron ore mining town of Kiruna. It had been a wonderful trip and amazingly, Geoff and I were still speaking to each other. I do wish he’d do as he’s told, though…..


Thanks have to go to our good friend James for introducing me to the Swedish mountains in Sarek, last summer, and also for putting this route together – he walked this a few years back and we unashamedly copied it for our trip.

Also thanks to Mark Waring, for help with a few Swedish tips and translations.

Practical Stuff

We used SAS airlines for our return flights from Manchester to Kiruna and back.

We used the STF hostel in Kiruna – on the way out to the trail for one night, and then another night on the way back after finishing the walk.

The train was used to get us from Kiruna to Abisko at the start (about an hour) and the bus to get us from Nikkaluokta to Kiruna at the end (again, about an hour).

And if you want to read Geoff’s version of events, click here!


Posted in Backpacking Trips, Trips Abroad | 25 Comments

Boulter’s Bimble – Version Two

James got off the train at Belper and was immediately greeted by Pebbles launching herself at him and walloping him in The Privates. She was very pleased to see him.

Geoff had driven me down to this far away land of south east Derbyshire, so that I could join James on his final training walk before he jets off to Colorado. Four tough days lay ahead. He had planned as many PUDS (Pointless Up And Downs) as is humanly possible for each day, whilst also covering a decent mileage.

He also had new trail shoes to try out before his long hike, and it would similarly be a good try out for my relatively new Altberg boots, before Geoff and I fly off to Arctic Sweden in a few weeks time.

Day One – 13.4 miles

The weather was pleasantly warm, but grey, as we left Belper, initially following the River Derwent.



It didn’t stay dry for long. By the time we’d reached Shining Cliff Woods, we’d donned waterproof jackets and it wasn’t too long after, that we gave in and over trousers were reluctantly put on. This set the pattern for the next few hours – waterproofs on, waterproofs off – as the rain came and went, and we slowly melted in the warmth of gear we didn’t really want to wear.

We bagged the trig point above Black Rock, on Cromford Moor, before descending to an unexpected little cafe. My cheese and tomato toastie was quickly demolished.



The sun put in an appearance again for the last few miles, as did the contours, on our way to the first night’s camp, near Brassington.




Day Two – 15.4 miles

An unbelievably warm and muggy night’s sleep was had, punctuated occasionally by the mating call of some rhea birds in the field next to us. They are apparently related to emus and ostriches.


The site was also home to alpacas, donkeys, Bernese Mountain dogs and Pugs.

Well, the weather was already damp when we set off this morning and the forecast a bit dire, with heavy showers promised for most of the day.


Thankfully, it never quite got that bad. We had plenty of mizzle and drizzle, and waterproofs were once again constantly on and off, but we missed the heavy rain.




We passed by Bonsall Moor, Elton and Robins Hood’s Stride, before walking the length of Lathkill Dale.


A rather pleasant lunch was had at a pub in Youlgreave, where I ordered a packet of crisps and a coke. However, on seeing James’ pannini and chips, I couldn’t stand the strain and had to give in and order pannini and chips for myself, too.




Once again, the weather dried up for the last few miles, but it felt like a very, long day.

We pitched up for the night at a nice farm site in Flagg, where we were the only tents amongst half a dozen caravans and motorhomes, and this was where a lovely helping of Trail Magic reared its head.

As we were sorting our tents, the lady from the nearest caravan came over offering us tea and coffee. Heaven! A big mug of sweet tea perked me up nicely. And a couple of hours later, as we were finishing dinner, the lady came back with two big slices of delicious, home-made chocolate cake! I was tempted to eat them both, but James had already seen them, so I had to share.


Day Three – 15.4 miles

We were looking forward to a change in the weather today. Sure enough, it might have started grey, but it was warm and dry.

DSC_0680And only about an hour into the route, we came across a tea van. It would have been very rude not to stop for fried egg sandwiches and a brew.

DSC_0683Today’s route seemed to have an awful lot of PUDS in it, but the sun came out and made everything all hot and summery.

Earl Sterndale (and the pub there) was visited, then we passed Parkhouse and Chrome Hills, before moving onto Hollinsclough Moor.





And I’m not quite sure how it happened, but we somehow seemed to end up at a second pub, in Flash – one of several villages which claims to be the highest in England.


It was to be another long day. This time made a touch more challenging by the heat.


After going by Dane Bower Quarry and the Cat and Fiddle (closed, or no doubt we’d have stopped again) we dropped down to an idyllic little campsite near Bottom-of-the-Oven.



The forecast for the next day was to be even hotter. I slept really well, looking forward to a sunny morning, eating breakfast al fresco, instead of in the tent.

Day Four – not sure how many miles

Well. We awoke to fog. No al fresco breakfast, but instead an absolutely dripping wet fly sheet, which stood no chance of drying out before striking camp.

By the time we were packed and ready for the off, the rain had also started.

We had a mile walk back up the road to start with, to access the route to Shining Tor and it was an absolute nightmare in the rain and thick fog, with rush hour traffic skimming past us. It was a relief as we finally picked up the path across the moors.


We felt slightly cheated by the Met Office as well as sopping wet again with sweat, having to wear waterproofs all along the ridge from Shining Tor to Pym Chair. (Not the one on Kinder, the one above Goyt Valley.)

Arriving at the car park there, I gave Geoff a ring to let him know we’d soon be finishing and dropping down to Kettleshulme, and would he please be so kind as to pick us up…?

He did. We tried to give the pub there some business while we waited for him, but they were having none of it, keeping their doors firmly locked. Still, it gave James a chance to have a good sniff of his Trail Shoes.



Posted in Backpacking Trips | 13 Comments

It’s Not Long Now……

It’s not long now ’till my good mate James wings his way off to the States, to do business with the Colorado Trail.

At 486 miles long, the trail starts in Denver and finishes in Durango. Much of it is at an altitude of over 10,000 feet, with plenty of up-and-down to boot. Black bears, mountain lions and regular afternoon thunderstorms also promise to make it an interesting and challenging experience.

James will be walking solo and unsupported, and is funding the trip himself. He is, however, using the expedition to raise money for the John Muir Award, which encourages people to connect and engage with nature and wild places.

Please take a few minutes to hop over to his blog post about it, to find out more, and consider pledging a few pennies to this worthy cause.



Posted in Backpacking Trips | 10 Comments

Settle To Nateby, But Who Ordered The Fuppin’ Weather???

Day 1 – 10 miles 


Settle – Great Scar – Malham Tarn – wild camp above Cowside Beck at approx 400m


Heat – lots of up – sweat – more sweat – more up – thirst – more thirst.








Day Two – 11.5 miles 


Yewbarrow Scar – Arncliffe – Moor End Fell – Starbotton – Buckden – Gilbert Lane –  Kidstones Fell – wild camp at approx 540m


Drizzle – rain – up – Biblical rain – down – tuna mayo sandwich with chips – more drizzle – lots more up – more rain – more Biblical rain.








Day Three – 13 miles


Carpley Green – Bainbridge – Cogill Closes – Oxnop Common – Low Oxnop – Ivelet – wild camp at approx 400m


Murk – drizzle – Wensleydale cheese and chutney sandwich – lots of up – more murk – rain – some down – more up.









Day Four – 15 miles 


Ivelet Moor – Swinside Gill – Keld – Ravenseat – Nine Standards Rigg – Nateby


Murk – warmth – heat – some down  – some up – drizzle – a couple of funnel clouds in the distance – afternoon tea with scones – more murk – thunder ⚡ – loads of up – drizzle – being charged at by a herd of of cows – rain.











DSC_0625James’ version of the first couple of days, can be read here.

Posted in Backpacking Trips | 18 Comments

Oh My – Glen Ey

It was like driving into a large, empty car park – I never know which space to pick. This was no expanse of tarmac though, but an amazing example of a glaciated valley. Views to take the breath away and a huge, flat valley bottom. I felt miniscule and could not decide where to pitch the tent.


We’d arrived in Braemar a few days before and Geoff had already taken Islay up to the Corrour Bothy to camp out for a night. My original plan for Pebbles and I had been to spend a night at Geldie Lodge but, ever the indecisive, I was wondering if there might be a better spot to head for.

An exchange of messages with James and he came up with Glen Ey as a suggestion. He’d not actually been there, but had heard of it by reputation and had long fancied a wild camp in the area himself.

So, Glen Ey it was.

Geoff had dropped us off at Inverey in the morning and we’d set off up the land rover track. It certainly wasn’t a difficult route in – track all the way – and it wasn’t far. Just 5 miles to the ruins of Altanour Lodge, right at the head of the Glen.

The first half of the route shadowing the Ey Burn is as pretty a valley as you’d find anywhere and, yet again, the weather was absolutely gorgeous. Heat and sun.


A couple of miles in, an atmoshperic ruin is passed. I’m a real sucker for ruins, imagining the people that once lived there and the life they might have lived.


We had a break by the river, just before a bridge. Pebbles had a paddle to help cool her down. She likes to dunk her head under the water and look for stones. I’ve not yet given her the opportunity to swim anywhere – Boxers are not generally known for being good swimmers – but she likes water and you never know, she may turn into a bit of a water baby.


Setting off again, we crossed the bridge and followed the valley round to the right. The Glen pretty much does a 90 degree turn here and this is where the scenery changes dramatically. You don’t notice at first, a few drumlins in the way break up the view, but as you pass them it suddenly hits you. And this is where I first felt tiny and inconsequential.


We followed the track snaking off into the distance. The far end of the Glen looked miles away but was in fact not much more than a mile.


Another bridge was then crossed and a short climb took us maybe another half a mile to the ruins of Altanour Lodge. I had thought that this would be the place to pitch up for the night, but the modern wire fence around the old buildings did rather spoil the atmosphere. And anyway, the jaw-dropping views were back in the valley. We backtracked a way and I eventually settled on a spot for the tent.



We spent the afternoon chilling in the sunshine. This was certainly slackpacking at its best!



Just before dinner time, a guy appeared from the direction of the ruins. He’d been out a few days and was now hurrying back home before the weather turned. Sure enough, a half hour later, the rain started. It went on for a couple of hours and I began to think that – despite the forecast I had seen – it was set in for the rest of our little trip. It didn’t last though and the next morning saw cloud hanging below the tops, which the sun burnt off within a couple of hours.




Packing up was done very leisurely as was wandering back, savouring the scenery once more on the way out. This night had definitely been a highlight of our trip.





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A Night Out With Rob Roy

This was not the backpack that I’d planned. I had hoped to have spent a night out on the Affric Kintail Way, but a badly stubbed toe and then a few days of horrendous rain, put paid to that idea.

We couldn’t hang about waiting for the weather to improve either,  as we had to be in Killin to meet up with someone, so for the sake of a night out I quickly hatched another plan.

I got Geoff to drop me off at Lochearnhead, and Pebbles and I would broadly take the Rob Roy Way to Killin, camping out in the process.


Not a lot to say really, other than it did not inspire me to walk the whole of the Rob Roy Way!




The weather was very hot (nice), but we had trouble finding a pitch for the night, close to water. There is a reservoir on the moors near Killin, but with the edges of it being sloping setts, it wasn’t the safest place to pick up water. In the end, I filtered 4 litres from a ditch and carried it a mile to a spot at the edge of the forest we would be going through the next day, to reach Killin.



An ok pitch then, but not exactly scenic and also fairly close in to habitation.


In the end, we did 11 miles on that first day instead of the planned 9, and Pebbles was definitely ready to stop when we finally got pitched!


We did have a peaceful night however, and the sun was once again up early and shining brightly the next morning, for our short walk to the caravan site to meet up with Geoff and Islay.


Posted in Backpacking Trips | 10 Comments