The Vault Regulars

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Custom Cone Windshield for Meths stoves.

Thanks to JJ for the heads up  on this new split cone windshield.

I have a cone windshield already for my 600ml Evernew pot and i am more than happy with it. However when i come to need a bigger capacity pot for when two of us are backpacking i fudge the windshield to suit.

Then after numerous emails to JJ about cones, i decided to get one of these custom made split cones which is designed around my 1.1L Toaks pot. It was on ebay here.

So today i tried it out with my 12-10 stove. I didn’t purchase the stove that is otherwise supplied with it.
It boiled 500ml of tap water in almost exactly the same time as it does with my smaller cone 7.6 minutes.
The nice thing about having the split cone is that it all fits very neatly into the pot and therefore eliminates  a possible 2nd container.
Here are a few photo’s that show the cone and the total impressive weight of 232 grams all in.

The two halves of the cone are easily put together and are well engineered.

The total weight included.
Toaks 1.1L pot and lid.
12 - 10 burner and protective cover/douser.
Split cone windshield.
Ground heat reflector.
There was still plenty of room in the pot left to put in a fire stick and a small bottle of meths and a J cloth.(Not a JJ cloth, thats something completely different)

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

How did the gear do?

I had some new bits on this trip but the majority i had used before.
I am just making a few notes here for info purposes.

Tent - Kuiu Mountain Star 2 person. 

  • Great space to weight
  • Robust main body and pole structure
  • Porch adequate
  • Door flapping improved from last time but i now know that the cut of the door material is wrong and i will have to make the best out of it. I have a mod in mind.
  • One way main door zips are annoying and i wish zips were a bit cheaper because i would otherwise change them to two way.
  • Snow was blown through the air vent opening even with it shut. Additional velcro tape added to the vent bottom edge to seal it better.
  • Two inner pockets are small and four would be better. Easily modified.
As a groundsheet protector i used lightweight double glazing sheet that i bought from Screwfix. I had my doubts that it would be any good. But it was. And at £3.29 for next to no grams in weight, it was a bargain.

Tent Light

Obviously at this time of year many hours are spent in the tent, so a light is needed. This Lixada LED one works well and has 3 power settings to save battery power. The price, £7 and 160 grams is ok.
I have since done away with the steel swing arm and clip, so its a bit lighter now.
PHD Minim 500 Sleeping Bag

  • The PHD 500 is a design your own bag and not offered as std.
  • I was overly warm and could have managed with a lighter bag.
  • Sheila was fine and couldn’t have managed a lighter bag.
  • Zips constantly snag and can be difficult to get started.
We also took a very light weight pair of Lanland down booties. Ideal for time in the tent to keep the extremities cosy. They are so light i just leave them in my sleeping bag during transits. They are very cheap as well in comparison to what is available from UK suppliers. A bit of a luxury really.
Thanks to John at over the hills blog for the heads up.

Exped Synmat UL7  (me)

  • Felt the cold through it almost instantly.
  • Comfortable, well made.
  • Easy to inflate with the schnozzle.
  • Stays inflated.
  • I like the vertical tubes rather than the horizontal tubes.
Thermarest Neo Air. (Sheila)
  • Felt the cold floor through it.
  • Was a free replacement for one that leaked and seems to be working fine.
  • Horizontal tubes.
To combat the cold coming through we use 3mm of wood flooring insulation. At 100 grams for 500 mm x 2000mm it is the best warmth to weight insulation out there. Never be without it.
You do have to buy more than you need but with the rough use it gets in a tent you can replace it at will.

Deuter Air Contact 40 + 10 Rucksack

  • Comfortable
  • Well designed hiking sack.
  • Too heavy to use on longer trips.
I usually use the OMM villain 45 but it’s quite a limited sack, basic in fact.
I am thinking of changing it and fancy the Montane Grand Tour 55.
OMM Jirishanca 35L Rucksack (Sheila)

  • A nice sack, comfortable and strong all round.
  • A bit small for multi day hikes. Especially with a winter sleeping bag installed.
  • A floating lid would help.
An addition neck closure would help as can be found on the Villain.
Sheila has now bought a new bag from Cotswold outdoors at a reduced rate from that advertised.
Its the Montane Grand Tour 50

Caldera Cone with 12-10 stove and 600ml Evernew Titanium Pot.

  • I cannot fault this system. 
  • Coped with cooking/boiling water for 2 people.
  • Works well in adverse weather, which for me is the top requirement.
Boots and Socks. (Sheila and myself)
  • Ecco Biom Terrains.
  • Very comfy and supportive boot. 
  • Made from Yak Leather. 
  • Very waterproof. 
  • Good grip.
Lots of good socks on the market, Bridgedale, Teko, Smartwool etc. My particular favourite is xsocks.

  • Jacket. Bergans Super Lett. - Cannot fault it or the Dermizax Material. 
  • It’s a longer length jacket than is generally offered today.
  • Trousers. OR Hellium 2. Lightweight, pack small and do the job.
  • Jacket. Bergans 1316 Sirdal Lady. Not the lightest jacket but reliable and again the Dermizax material is excellent.
  • Trousers. Bergans Super Lett. Lightweight, packable and do the job.
  • Sheila didn’t take a windproof.
Device Charger.
  • Sheila is more techy than i am, constantly using the iphone for photographs and social media. Unfortunately apple and others have taken the backwards step of having fixed batteries. So a charger is a necessity on backpacking trips.
  • Jackery Giant.
  • This “Giant” really is. It’s a 12,000 mAh monster. 110mm x 80mm x 20mm and weighs 309 grams. It charged up the iphone twice and we listened to music for 2 hours with it plugged in. There are 3 bars showing charge level and it stayed on 3 bars the whole trip. So this would be ideal for long trips where civilisation was not being encountered.
  • A 6000 mAh charger would be ideal for 3 - 4 day wilderness walks.
  • Well made, quality product.
  • Reasonable price.
  • Doesn’t get hot when charging a device.
  • Quick re-charge time.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

The End is Nigh maybe.

Dropping down from the top of Birkett Fell where we had intended to camp was a wet affair with no decent places to pitch either. We crossed a good water source which is the start of Aira Force Beck. That was mentally noted.
As we reached the coll between Brown Hills we hit dry land, and thought, this will do nicely.

We got the tent up and off i went back up hill to get the water. (Don’t say it, i know!) I should have got the water when we were coming down hill. Anyway it was a 3L water container so i only had to go the once. The container proved a sod to fasten the press seal and it will have to be replaced forthwith.

Coming back down to the tent the snow started, quite heavy but only for a few minutes. Too heavy to get a brew going so we waited out the squall in the tent. Weighed down with a few stones. (not yet in place in above photo).
We had a good spot and stunning views.

We were looking forward to watching the sunset and the oncoming of the dark sky filled with stars. What romantic drivel!
What happened next was just about as opposite as it could get.

Before we had even unpacked all our gear and had 5 minutes shut eye, a blizzard came in and gave us a real wake up call. From being able to see Yorkshire 5 minutes earlier we now couldn’t see across the valley. It went dark, very dark. We were a touch hungry after our days walk but there was no way of being able to prepare any food. We just had to sit it out.

It lasted about half an hour, the valley going from green to white. Helvellyn and Catstycam and the 2 main ridges would have been horrendous at that time and we were glad not to have been that exposed. Even so, we were in quite an exposed location ourselves.
When it all abated we got out to have a look at our different world. It seemed surreal. Two complete opposing seasons within an hour.

What was green, now white.

Sheffield Pike in the background.
Striding Edge, Helvellyn, Lower Man, Catstyecam and Swirral Edge looking alpine.


We rushed to get a meal on the go as we could see the snow showers moving all around interspersed with a period of blue sky. The burner sparked up no problems tonight and we enjoyed our Beanfeast with Mashed Potato, gravy and mixed herbs. After that we didn’t need a sweet, just a large mug of coffee.
Throughout the evening the snow rushed through and then cleared, off and on for a couple of hours. It was fantastic to witness first the buffeting and pummelling of the wind and snow against the tent and watch as the gloom moved eastwards and then south skirting Sheffield Pike and down towards Patterdale.
Quite unbelievable that the High Street Group of mountains was evading all of it. They stayed totally green.
We had spindrift inside the porch of the tent and some snow also got blown through the air vent. it’s not a 4 season tent so i expected to get spindrift in the porch but i will have to do a mod to ensure the air vent stays tight in future. If snow can get in then so can rain.

The scenery just got better and better and watching the light change on the mountains from the comfort of our sleeping bags was a privilege to witness first hand.
For Sheila, this was her first high up, “Bad Weather” camp although not her first snowy encounter in a tent. She has had numerous at low level.
We just lay with the doors open when we could and listened to the music of the band Iona when the flurries came in and the doors got shut.

View from my sleeping bag of the High Street range.

As it went dark the wind died down and the flurries decreased. I woke up at 12.15am and was cold but i must of dropped off without being fully in my bag. The temperature had dropped to minus 5C and it was a noticeable difference. We kept checking outside to see if we got a mass of stars but the moon was too full and night too light. The moon light enhancing the brilliant white of the mountains.

Sheila shook me and said it was nearly sunrise and we should get up. Which we did. It wasn’t one of those sunrises to remember but it still coloured the fells to a degree. The three images below.

Back to bed for a couple of hours and still no sign of anyone venturing out. We had breakfast al fresco and enjoyed what time we had left up high.
Sheila’s boots had frozen to the ground, the leather now hard as plastic ski boots and the laces like twigs. Half an hour in the sun sorted them out.

Just as we finished packing up and checking to make sure that we had left no trace, the first adventurer passed by.
Our route was now a short journey back to the car which would see us complete the tops back to Dockray.
Brown Hills are a boggy lot and not great for wild camping and running water is scarce. However the views from the summits of Ullswater lake and surrounding higher peaks make it worth a visit.
 Looking back from Brown Hills to the Helvellyn Range.
The weather was glorious although still a bit of a cutting wind. The tops are ideal practice grounds for compass work. It has been a real pleasure to walk this area and it’s highlighted a few gear changes needed. A very successful wander.
 Common Fell 545 Metres
 Ullswater from Round How
Back in Dockray.
Today the tops we did are:-

NY377 194 Unnamed spot height 550 M
Swinside Knot 553 M
Watermillock Common Cairn 545 M
Common Fell 545 M
Round How 387 M
Bracken How 370 M.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

The Dodds Pt.2

List of tops in order of ascent. (height in Metres)

Clough Head 726
Calfhow Pike 660
Little Dodd 785
Great Dodd 857
Watsons Dodd 789
Stybarrow Dodd 843
White Stones 795
Hartside Cairn 756
Unnamed spot height at NY362194. 740
Birkett Fell 725

I woke up every couple of hours. Going to bed so early means interrupted sleep. A call of nature had me out of the warmth of my PHD Minimus 500 bag and into snow, not blizzard conditions just flurries at 2.30am.

Got up again at 5.30 and waited to see if we were in for a decent sunrise, but no, the tops were still misty. The tent still covered in the white stuff.
With no rush required to get moving i went back to my pit. Sheila was checking the weather forecast whilst re-charging her iphone. It’s looking promising today she said. No rain, some cloud and 4 degrees. Like summer then i thought. Snore.

8.30 am i decided it was about coffee time. I was trying the Azera Americano coffee and it proved out to be a very nice option. Actually tasting like barista coffee rather than burned tobacco. This will be in my sack on the next outing for sure.
My usual breakfast is porridge in the bag and on this trip it’s no different except that i have now added some fruit mix to it and some chia seeds.

9.30 am and we are just about ready to go. During the night i had been thinking about the watercourse/path leading up to Calfhow Pike and how i didn’t fancy it. In a kind of blasé fashion i said to Sheila that we should give it up and go straight up the steep grassy slope of Clough Head instead.
She said “can we get over the beck” and i said yes, you just take your trousers off again.

As it happened the beck was easy to cross and no removal of clothing was necessary. I took a bearing, 302 degrees and suddenly the mist lifted and gave us a full 360 degree view, fantastic. The sun even appeared and lifted our spirits.

Clough Head 726 metres sure is steep from the east side but with a few stops to re-inflate the lungs we got up there. I was sweating like a pig whereas Sheila was perspiring a little.
Slopes of Clough Head. Less steep bits.
Sheila finds the oxygen bottle at the trig point on Clough Head.
Skiddaw and Blencathra in background.

What a view, i repeat, what a view. This has to be one of the best view points in Lakeland in my opinion. Yes there is higher but the panorama from Clough Head is awesome.
Panorama from Clough Head. (Click to enlarge - not that you needed telling)

We had to leave a great top, but now that we had cooled down it was pretty cold and blowy. Two paths leave the trig point, one heading down towards St. Johns and ours towards Calfhow Pike. 
A runner was coming towards us as we closed in on the Pike. We stopped for a chat, he telling us its a bit boggy and he almost lost his running shoes. He had come from Patterdale and had taken one and a half hours. Thats good going i thought. Then off he went to Clough Head and back to us. I asked if he’d caught the bus. He was away to great Dodd in a flash.

Calfhow Pike is a rocky promontory in what are mainly grassy hills and stands at 660 metres.

 Calfhow Pike and Clough Head
View of Thirlmere from Calfhow Pike with The Crinkles, Bowfell, Scafell, Great Gable in background.
Our next high points were Little and Great Dodd 785 metres and 857 metres respectively. A steep pull up in a fierce wind. It was cutting and ensured that we didn’t stop too long to admire the views. On Great Dodd there is a stone cairn and a shelter, we joined three others already in situ enjoying lunch.
We needed a brew and i set up the Caldera Cone with the 12-10 stove in what little shelter from the wind was being offered. I struggled to get the meths to light with the fire stick as the wind and the cold temperature of the meths was struggling to catch.
I tried a gas lighter but it wouldn’t fire up. Persevering with the fire stick and warming the 12-10 and meths inside my jacket for a couple of minutes i eventually got the meths to catch. In my opinion there is nothing better in adverse weather than the Caldera Cone system. I just need to remember to put my outdoor gas lighter in my sack for such emergencies.
We tend not to eat too much at lunch time, just a chocolate bar, some peanuts and  fruit will suffice. But we were very thankful to get a brew on this occassion.
People came and went from the shelter, only staying a couple of minutes. Then the snow started and it was horizontal. It didn’t last long, not enough to colour the ground but enough to colour the face.

 Little Dodd, 785 metres, was it worth it?

 Cairn on Great Dodd, 857 metres, highest of the Dodds and highest point of this backpack.

 Shelter on Great Dodd.
It was time to quickly move on, passing walkers were doing just that, no place to stop and chat. Lots of stalactites were seen hanging from the peat groughs on the way to Watsons Dodd which again has splendid views.

 Watsons Dodd in the background.

 Watsons Dodd cairn at 789 metres.

Sheila wondering if we are on the right motorway on route to Stybarrow Dodd.

At this point i realised that inadvertently through rushing to get into the shelter that we had missed out Randerside. We didn’t go back.
Stybarrow Dodd 843 metres was attained and it affords great views especially on it’s west side overlooking Stanahgill Head where some sheltered spots can be found to sit and take in those moments.
Our route from here left the main ridge path which eventually leads to Stake Pass and to Raise. We were going onto White Stones.
On the summit of Stybarrow Dodd you cannot see the track to White Stones and so i asked Sheila to take a bearing (practice you see as the path doglegs.) Better to practice in good weather than bad.

We had a bit of a calm 5 minutes on White Stones 795 metres and it felt good in the sun. It didn’t last.
Many cairns adorn White Stones for some reason and all a bit pointless although it is blatantly obvious how it got the name White Stones. Our next top was Hart Crag at 756 metres and prior to reaching our last top of the day Birkett Fell 725 metres, we visited the spot marked, unnamed bump at 740 metres.

 The rather non descript cairn on Stybarrow Dodd
 View from Stybarrow Dodd, across Blencathra to Bassenthwaite. Watsons Dodd in centre.

 On White Stones, view across to snow covered Yorkshire. Ullswater below.
 In the distance is Hart Crag from White Stones.
 Cairn on you guessed it. Birkett Fell.
 View of High Street Range from Birkett Fell.
 Snow coming in across Ullswater
Our pitch for the night at NY 370 192. (598 metres high.)

Our route - Day 2.

Monday, April 18, 2016

Back to Backpacking 2 nights - The Dodds Pt.1

Friday  afternoon (15th April) having picked up Sheila straight from work we headed off up the M6 motorway to the Eastern Lake District.
A couple of holdups put us back a while but it probably did us a favour with parking the car. It’s still kids holiday season and we were heading for Dockray, just west of Ullswater where parking is limited at the best of times. I wanted to park in a definite spot i knew, where the car would be safe for the weekend. We were lucky with just a space left.

The rucksacks seemed heavy, i had taken my Deuter Air Contact 40 + 10 which isn’t a light rucksack empty to start with, but it’s a nice rucksack and comfortable so i had decided to give it an outing. Sheila had her only rucksack which is the OMM Jarishinca. It’s a touch small for multi day hiking especially with a winter sleeping bag installed. She needs a new sack.

Weather wise we were lucky again, the predicted rain was holding off and so the walk to our intended overnight camp at Rowantree sheep fold at NY343 219 was very pleasant.
The Old Coach road between Dockray and the Vale of St Johns is a good track and one which was new to me. A few good wild camp spots were noted for future reference.

The views opened up across Barbaryrigg Moss and it was great to see Skiddaw and Blencathra with the white mantle of cloud which seems permanent at this time of year.
Once we reached Mariel Bridge the Coach Road was left and the track taken following Mosedale Beck to the sheep fold.

The track is horrible, the whole way is bog after bog. Just a huge sponge. On reflection it probably would have been a better option to walk on the opposite side of the beck and cross over the water to get to the sheep fold, but hindsight is a wonderful thing.

We plodded on and it started hail stoning. Then it started snowing. The sheepfold came into view non too soon. Our trousers were wet through with the constant sinking down to the knees. Would the sheepfold be dry we wondered because if it was then it would be the only patch of land. If it wasn’t then God Forbid.

Thankfully it was dry and the snow shower petered out. We got the tent up and brewed up. Then got the trousers out to blow dry on the fencing rails. It wasn’t warm enough to sit out, especially without trousers on.
The water in the beck flowed well so getting water was no problem. We just enjoyed the peace and quiet, the view down stream and the gradual approach of darkness. The fell sides above us were shrouded in mist and not long after we had eaten our Pasta and Tuna followed by Birds Custard it started to snow again. Grabbing the trousers inside before we forgot them we battened down the hatches and hoped it didn’t snow all night.
Lets hope tomorrow is fine.

 Crossing a ford on the Old Coach Road.
 Skiddaw is somewhere in the mist. (Right).
 Rowantree Sheepfold.
Mosedale Beck and Rowantree sheepfold.


It was a bit disappointing to find other folk had left rubbish in the sheepfold, we collected it up and carried it out.
Route. Friday Evening.

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