2014 was my third year of hiking and proved to be a good one full of memorable experiences.
In terms of raw stats I managed:
- 6 Multi-day solo hikes over 27 days + one 3 day Three Peaks Challenge
- 21 Nights spent in the Akto tent
- A total of 441.28 km (274.2 miles) walked
- A total of 21,310 mtrs (69,914 ft) ascended
Although this is not a competition, I did manage to equal or exceed all of these same measurements from the previous year!
I also broke my own elevation record too, which now stands at 1344 mtrs. In fact I broke this one twice within the space of a month! The only way I can now exceed this elevation is by hiking in mainland Europe – something that I am now actively considering.
In terms of ‘firsts’ 2014 has provided a multitude of them!
It was the year where I first visited Scotland. I enjoyed Scotland so much, that the majority of my walks for this year were to be located there. You can also be sure that I will be back there in 2015 too!
I also took part in a three day Three Peaks challenge with a great bunch of people from the Paul’s Place Charity. As a result, this was the first time that I had actually found myself walking with other people!
Snow also featured for the first time too. Whilst fun, I found that it can really take it out of you and can drastically reduce the amount of ground that one can cover during a hiking day.
Unfortunately, 2014 was also the year that saw my first potentially dangerous situation develop, where I had ended up with first stage hypothermia when the eVent hardshell I was wearing failed.
In addition, 2014 also saw this hiking blog mature, in that I got to do some equipment reviews. Various companies had sent me kit to put through its paces and review. This will be continuing on into 2015 – thanks Mountain Warehouse! 🙂
Finally, in another first, I got invited to contribute to an article about hiking in the UK for Field & Trek.
It would seem that this blog is starting to get some recognition from various commercial entities – though my intent is to ensure that the majority of the content in this blog will continue to be about my walks, along with their virtual photographic tours.
If I had to pick a favourite walk for 2014, it would be a toss up between the two Cairngorms walks, with the Blair Atholl to Aviemore one just pipping it to the lead! I especially enjoyed Day 3 of this walk, a day firmly etched in my memories.
Here is the walking Diary for 2014:
2014’s Walking Diary
March 2014 – 6 days in the Lake District
This was a walk where hardly anything went to plan! It was pretty action packed with two emergency encampments, a spot of hypothermia and a smattering of snow just to keep me on my toes.
It was also the walk that featured one of the most beautiful wild camp spots that I have ever had the pleasure to camp at. The scenery was so good, that a year on, it still forms the banner for this blog!
May 2014 – 5 Days in the Southern Cairngorms – Blair Atholl Loop
This was my first visit to Scotland and was easily worth the ten hour train journey!
The Cairngorms are now without doubt my favourite place in the UK (with Dartmoor being a close second). No other place in the UK evokes the same sense of wilderness that the Cairngorms do.
I always find that hiking cross country without trails is much more rewarding – and it was this aspect of hiking that this walk certainly delivered on!
June 2014 – The climb of Ben Nevis via the CMD Arete
This is one of those walks that is firmly etched in my mind. For me it wasn’t Ben Nevis itself, but the experience of walking the knife edge CMD Arete ridge. It’s a shame that the majority of visitors don’t see this route and in turn miss out on perhaps the best hiking experience that this mountain can provide.
I also vividly remember the latter part of the train journey to Fort William through some of the most beautiful country side that I have ever seen – just as the sun was setting – pure bliss!
Even the night walk of day one is firmly imprinted on my mind. It seems that I really enjoyed walking at night, so I might need to incorporate more of these into my future plans!
August 2014 – Three day Three Peaks walk
This was a bit of an odd walk for me. For a start, it featured people – lots of people! This made for a very different experience from a Solo walk. Fun, but different.
I was originally scheduled to do the Exmoor walk in early August, but I got invited to join this team at the last minute. They felt that they needed someone with hill walking experience to accompany them. In the event they only really needed my skills on Day 2 – the climb of Scaffell Pike.
August 2014 – 4 days in Exmoor
Exmoor was a walk that I had planned for a long time but never got around to actually do!
In the event it turned out to be one of my least favourite walks. I found water and camp spots hard to come by and to top it off, I got relentlessly pursued by swarms of flies on the third day!
I retrospect I don’t think Exmoor is wild enough to suit my style of walking, but I can see it as a great place for single day excursions.
September 2014 – 5 Days in the Cairngorms from Blair Atholl to Aviemore
My favourite walk of the year – for some reason these always seem to occur in September!
The scenery just took my breath away and once again the feeling of being in a real wilderness was very apparent. Places like this are very good for us introverts 🙂
In terms of memories, it was the sunset that I experienced whilst I was atop of Derry Cairngorm that did it for me. Everyone should experience a sunset from the top of a mountain at least once in their lives!
December 2014 – 4 Days in Dartmoor – Ivybridge to Okehampton
This walk was my traditional annual pilgrimage to Dartmoor – a place that I absolutely adore. It was a cold walk and an extremely demanding one, but I thoroughly enjoyed the experience.
One day, when I next visit Dartmoor, I will have to take up Catherine’s kind offer over at Crockern Farm and pop in for a flying visit!
2014 Equipment Changes
There were a few additions and changes to my kit for 2014, these are detailed below:
The pogu mini-crampons and DMM Cirque ice axe were bought for the expected snowy conditions that I was to encounter on the first walk of the year. I had also bought a helmet – which I don’t think is necessary anymore and some full-sized crampons – these were taken out on the walk but were never used.
After a year with the Scarpa Activ SL boots, I decided to relegate them for training purposes only. The reasons being that they are extremely heavy (2 kg) and that they always gave me severe foot blisters. On the plus side, they were waterproof though!
In contrast the Salomon’s were a revelation on first use. They are half the weight of the Scarpa’s – something that is genuinely felt on a long walk – and extremely comfortable to boot (pardon the pun 🙂 ).
In fact, these boots are so comfortable that I have never got blisters from them and I have never had to tape up my feet for protection.
On the downside, they started leaking within 90 km of use – pretty poor really – but I was expecting this as my previous set of Salomons had also leaked soon after purchase.
That said, I haven’t replaced these boots just yet – I prefer wet feet over blistered feet any day of the year!
I was initially disappointed in the RAB PS Zip Top as it wasn’t as warm as my zipped fleece. However, once I got properly acquainted with it I found that it was the perfect 2nd layer to go under the hardshell in cold conditions.
It has the uncanny ability to regulate my body temperature, whether I’m climbing or stopped and it just wicks away sweat – so one remains dry regardless what one is doing.
As a fleece for keeping-warm-in-camp I can’t really recommend it, but as an activity fleece, I don’t think it can be touched!
I had never worn gaiters before. I honestly didn’t think they were worth the weight! But once I started using them, I found them indispensable. They keep water out of the top of the boots and keep the bottoms of one’s trousers dry and mud free, even when walking over wet terrain.
Highly recommended, I take these on all my walks now!
I initially couldn’t see the point of hiking poles. I thought they were more of a fashion statement than anything else. I could see why people carried them if they formed an integral part of their shelter, but otherwise I thought they were a waste of weight…
…That is until I tried them on a steep downhill descent.
They genuinely do make a huge difference! I can now descend down long and steep hills without having my legs turn to jelly along with the associated aching knees. A feature that is not to be underestimated.
In addition, they also aid with stability on the descent which adds to ones confidence in windy, steep and rough conditions.
I have also found further utility in them by using the poles for fording streams. In this role they are superb. One can probe ahead to find out the depth and they provide much needed stability against the currents and slippery rocks.
They are just too handy not to take along!
After the failure of my RAB eVent hardshell at the beginning of the year I decided that I had to replace this critical piece of kit. This time I decided to go for GoreTex Pro, which has so far proved to be both durable and waterproof.
Time will tell if the Goretex Pro material will outlive the two years that the eVent material lasted. But so far I’m very happy with the Arcteryx Beta LT.
I wouldn’t have normally have bought a flask, but luckily for me, one arrived out of the blue with an attached Christmas card just prior to my winter outing in Dartmoor. Perfect timing! Thank you Mountain Warehouse! 🙂
This flask is perfect for my needs. It fits into my hard-shell’s outer pockets, which means I can have a hot drink without needing to take off the rucksack. Very handy!
I have also found that being able to slurp on some hot chocolate whilst snacking out makes all the difference on a cold winter rest stop. This is now another item of kit that will always accompany me for winter walks!