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Thursday, 13 June 2013

TGO Challenge 2013: Day 6: To Laggan

Now I don’t usually bang on about gear on this place, but today I’m making an exception. When you have bought a particularly SHITE piece of gear, thinking it was going to be the Dog’s Bollocks, it is particularly distressing.

The kidneys help regulate your body temperature, and for quite a few years now, my knackered pair had me constantly feeling the cold. So, when I saw that TGO was offering a heavier TGO Challenge branded fleece this year from one of the most respected gear manufacturer’s on God’s Good Earth, Rab, in a colour-way that makes you weak at the knees – a refreshing deep black – I dusted down the cheque book and parted with my own money! (This is a rare phenomenon these days.)

It took a while to arrive, so I wasn’t able to take it on the PreWalkDaunder to check it out. I tried it on the once before packing it away in the rucksack, delighted with the purchase.

I will warn you now. NEVER, EVER buy this pile of ordure! Here it is in all its glory:

RAB BOULDER PULL-ON

Here is a link to Rab’s website: Rab Boulder Pull on Fleece

This is what their website says about it:

  • The Boulder Pull-On is a lightweight, highly insulating fleece pull-over using hi-loft Polartec® Thermal Pro® in a light weight format.
  • The Pull-on provides fantastic warmth to weight ratio and is an ideal layering piece under your waterproof shell. The deep pile make up of the fabric means that it is 20% warmer than standard fleece and 40% more compressible.
  • The hi loft nature of the fabric does mean it is susceptible to wind passing through - but this also means that it is supremely breathable, making it the ideal fleece layering piece for year round use.
  • Weight 440g

It is quite obvious to me that no-one at Rab, at the prototype stage of this fleece, had ever taken it out backpacking, because if they had it would never have made it to manufacture.

Both inside and out the fleece has a thick pile that slopes downwards, a bit like the thatch does in a thatched roof. This sounds, on the face of it, to be an excellent idea, as light rain showers are shrugged off and the water runs down the outside of the fleece. So far so good.

Now I want you for a moment to imagine that you are sitting in your living room on a cold winter’s day, with the fire burning nicely in the hearth. In front of the fire is you trusty Labrador,  sitting on the fireside rug, which is sitting on your lovely Wilton carpet.

All house-husbands who do the hoovering will know about this. In fact I cannot imagine there is anyone on this planet who doesn’t know this: Every time you hoover, you notice that the rug has “walked” sideways by a few inches. And you have to struggle and tug the thing to reposition it centrally back in front of the hearth.

Why is this?

It’s because the pile of the Wilton has a slant to it. Every time your pooch gets up, shuffles around and lies back down, this tilting pile slowly shuffles the rug which is sitting on it a tiny fraction sideways. Over time this builds up to quite a few inches.

With the Rab Boulder Pull-on Fleece, this process happens at an alarming rate. The bottom of the fleece which sits on your hips, after a morning backpacking, will be up around your nipples. The bottom of the sleeves will be up round your elbows. You will feel you are being strangled by the bloody thing, while your tummy and forearms are freezing their nadgers off!

I cannot remember how many times I bored the bollox off my two compatriots with this dreadful tale of woe. I am sure they can tell you though…

So just in case you didn’t get the message, here it is again:

NEVER, EVER BUY THE RAB BOULDER PULL-ON. IT IS A COMPLETE PILE OF SHITE!

And now, relax. And let’s continue with the day!

***

 

We’d all walked today’s route on previous Challenges, but we were still looking forward to it, as it is a little honey. One of the main reasons it’s a little beauty is that it is 26km heading EAST, instead of North. Hallelujah! It’s mostly on good paths and minor roads, passing alongside the very top of the Spey Valley, from it’s source at Loch Spey. There are some boggy bits around Shesgnan, but they just add to the fun.

TGO2013 DAY 6

[TODAY’S ROUTE: BETWEEN THE RED WAYPOINTS – CLICK TO ENLARGE]

The other Andrew had set off early for his tramp up to the Window and along the tops. We didn’t envy his inevitable slow sloppy plod back up the way we had come down yesterday afternoon through all the never ending bog.

ALISTAIR'S PIC: CROSSING ALLT CHONNAL

[ALISTAIR'S PIC: CROSSING ALLT CHONNAL – CLICK TO ENLARGE]

We left the bothy in the care of Alistair and Rich Flint and set off over the Allt Chonnal which was nice and gentle. It can be a bit of a problem in spate. Luib Chonnal is set magnificently in big country with wonderful views.

LUIB CHONNAL WITH ALISTAIR & RICHARD

[LUIB CHONNAL WITH ALISTAIR & RICHARD – CLICK TO ENLARGE]

And the next picture is looking back to the bothy. The weather was wonderful: Bright, sharp, clear air with a blustery wind and hefty showers  that would splatter against your coat and then fly away. It was perfect walking weather.

PHIL & ANDY & LUIB CHONNAL

[PHIL & ANDY & LUIB CHONNAL – CLICK TO ENLARGE]

Shesgnan is a lovely little private bothy that has had a pile of money spent on it – it has a generator out the back and is in very good order. The track from Melgarve has also been improved for better 4x4 access, which helps speed progress.

BIG COUNTRY, PASSING SHOWER, SHESGNAN

[BIG COUNTRY, PASSING SHOWER, SHESGNAN – CLICK TO ENLARGE]

Shesgnan is the little bright dot in the middle distance in the photo above. Another perfectly set little place.

We strolled on to Melgarve bothy, not quite making it in time before a really hefty, walloping shower had a go at soaking us. So we called an early cooked lunch and sat in the comfy chairs while the rain battered the window. In the back room we turned up another of Stormin’s laminated maps; We seemed to be following an almost identical route.

After Melgarve, it’s paved roads all the way for the rest of the day, but taken steadily and softly they’re fine. In the afternoon we bumped into John, a lovely fellow and we strolled on for the rest of the day as a party of four, taking roadside rests in the sunshine.

One shocking aspect to the day was seeing the horrendous road that has been built alongside the pylons down the Spey valley. It is a monstrous scar on the hillside with HUGE trucks running along it. Having got home I see that Bidwells are now pressing for this road to be kept after the pylon run has been built, in order to facilitate future wind farm construction and forestry projects. You can read about it HERE.

At Garva Bridge we met another great character, who was rangering and had a nice little fire going in a stove at the back of his 4x4. He shared a nip with us all and all was well with our worlds.

We all piled into the Monarch Hotel (used to be the Monadhliath) and met the new Australian owners. They have spent quite a bit of money upgrading the hotel and it is all very pleasant, but it has lost a little of the Highland charm that these out-of-the-way hotels seem to have. That said, this couple are hard nosed and are looking for a definite clientele, and we were not quite sure that we were their target market! However, they looked after us handsomely and I look forward to going back. The food was excellent and the beds very comfortable.

After dumping our gear in our rooms we were back at the bar in nano-seconds and to our surprise we were handed an envelope addressed to Andy Phil & me. Inside was a very handsome drinking voucher and a very nice note from Humphrey that explained that this was in lieu of his company at tomorrow’s cheese & wine party!

We spent absolutely no time at all in spending the very generous voucher (I would add that we went some way over the voucher – I wonder if Humph could be persuaded to send another for the difference?) Then, Lordy lordy! We were handed a parcel, again from Humph. We opened it gingerly, to find two quite gorgeous vacuum-packed artisan cheeses that Humph had sourced locally – a goat and a cow. That just left the wine to sort out then!

We spent the evening in the bar with John & Mike Knipe. Mike had chased us down the road and arrived only moments after us. We might have had one too many beers and we whiled away the evening talking about strangling fleeces. He had suffered the same misfortune with his purchase. We both agreed that we were missing the belligerent drunken Scousers. We have rotten throwing arms.

37 comments:

  1. Nice review of the Rab Boulder Pull-on.

    BUT, Alan, you can't do too many such reviews or you'll get problems with your blood pressure :-)

    I thought it looked OK.

    Personally, I would NEVER wear a fleece for serious, aka backpacking, activities.

    Back on the Challenge - Hotels now, Whatever next?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I can't see Rab asking me to review any of their gear now...
      :-)

      Hotels... yes.... We weakened. I admit it. We are softie southerners. We adore comfort, beers, comfy settees, fine food and beds.
      It was lovely!

      Delete
  2. calm down dear boy it,s only a fleece now pray continue with the writing

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. :-)
      Hmmmm. Mutter mutter, mosker, mosker....

      Delete
  3. Looks a lovely route and one to consider for next year:-)

    I do wonder whether gear gets tested before reaching the market. If it does, I suspect if it is, it is cursory. Unfortunately fashion seems to be a higher priority than function.

    It's not just clothes. The number of tents I see with basic design flaws makes me cry :-(

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Phil is entirely to blame, sorry, thank, for the excellent route.
      You will have noticed that today, we started to head EAST!

      I agree with you on your gear observations. A cursory once-over from a practiced eye would nip a lot of problems in the bud, but this doesn't seem to happen. Then the gear should be tested thoroughly before going into production.

      Delete
  4. Nice review. I expect bloggers to say, “I got this in to test and wow its great. Fine fit and so comfy” Use it for a day and night in the woods nearby and call it a review, and then have a nice affiliate link to get it. All this used it for a 100 miles and more is so out of the norm Alan.

    I would point to big thick Patagonia R3 mate, or my RAB Power stretch which is good. Fleece rocks and is so good. Its essential backpacking kit and keeps the dew point close to a hard shell surface on wet and horrid days. Oh nice bit of walking you got in there mate. Hope the boys kept up..

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I agree totally on the need for fleece because of the dew-point. Andy didn't wear a fleece and so consequently thought his jacket (the same as mine and bought at the same time) was leaking.

      I'll look into the Patagonia R3 fleece as I find Powerstretch too cold for me.

      Cheers fella.
      :-)

      Delete
  5. I have a Patagonia R1 Pullover, which I rate highly. Seems to regulate temperature better than other fleeces http://www.patagonia.com/us/product/mens-regulator-r1-fleece-pullover?p=40107-0-984

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Robin
      Well, if the new kidney does its job, hopefully I won't have the "feeling cold all the time" problem anymore, so something like the Patagonia R1 would be ideal - I have fondled it in Covent Garden in the past and admired it's loveliness, but thought, at the time, that with my problem it would be too chilly. Now however...
      :-)

      Delete
  6. And now it is my turn to call you a bastard Alan :). I too purchased one of these fleeces. Mine, an XL, is too small for me. I was about to advertise it for sale on the Challenge message board as in a brand new, unworn condition, with the intention of fleecing someone (geddit?) for almost the full cost. Your review has just reduced its value by about 95% :( It seems the only use for it now might be in the dog bed. The new puppy will devour it within a week and it will never be seen again.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Whoops!

      Sorry about that old thing!
      (Did I call you a bastard????)

      Well the dog will nice and warm, as long as he doesn't try to wear it.

      Delete
    2. Yes Alan you called me a bastard but only in a comment on my Blog so it doesn't really count. Anyway, the dog isn't having my fleece now. I am going to wear it as a pyjama top. Very sensuous ;)

      Delete
    3. You'll be needing the black silk sheets to go with that then, and the under-bed blue lighting.
      Very "Jason King"
      :-)

      Delete
  7. We have to do hotels every 2 or 3 days Gordon, because we are civilized Southern Gentlemen at heart.

    So anyway Al, about that fleece.
    You didn't mention about how you raved on about it until you actually used it properly.
    No fear, I will add that to my blog now that I know where we went.

    Weird, we had very few photos between us on this day.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes it is true! I thought it was to be the answer to my prayers! And in such a fetching colourway too!

      Oh! The crushing disappointment!

      Delete
  8. If I had Fellbound's spare fleece, I could, with a bit of engineering, wear it upside-down, together with my own the right way up thus providing a well-balanced and warm combo for the Co Durham winter, wot is usually perishing. In view of it's current value, my bid is a fiver. The interaction between the two fleece lofts might also provide sufficient electricity to power up a small MP3, thus providing music at the same time.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Now, why didn't Rab think of that, eh?
      You could power your virtual trousers with the new top!
      :-)

      Delete
  9. I don't remember any mention of a problem with your fleece? ;-)

    I'm rather liking this route, or bits of it. If I hadn't already planned our next route, I'd be pinching bits I think. But I like the gentle stroll I've got in mind.

    Onwards dear boy!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Has anyone ever told you that you are a very naughty girl?
      ;-)
      I have a very busy schedule over the next couple of days with hospitals and visitors so it might be Sunday before the next thrilling instalment.
      Andy's will be along before too long.

      Delete
    2. tick, tick, tick...

      Just sayin'....

      Delete
  10. Good job Rab doesn't have any say on who gets a place on the Challenge eh? Having explained on the comments section of my blog why I can't get comments posted on your blog, I suddenly find that I can!

    No need to ask how you are doing ....... Are you out of hospital yet?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Gibson
      I'm not so sure about Rab's influence as you are...
      :-)
      The wonders of Blogger never cease to amaze.
      Yes Sir! I am out! I came out yesterday (ooh! Madame!) but I am back in as a "dayboy" tomorrow and will be three times a week for a while while they balance the complicated anti-rejection drug regime and make sure everything's as it should be.
      Life, eh?
      Good to hear that your knee's working. Have a grand time in those hills, but don't over-do it!

      Delete
  11. I bought one of those and I rather like it. It's very warm and comfy and Jane Egg was very jealous. Mind you, I only got it as a fashion accessory - to go with my pinny.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You'll need some black fluffy mules and I suppose you could use the latest rather fetching black TGO buff as a headscarf and the picture's complete.
      :-)
      I recall Jane fondling my fleece at the Bree Louise. And I thought it was my animal magnetism....
      ;-)

      Delete
  12. Which of these 3 comments is not true: according to Andrew?

    Civilised?

    Gentleman?

    And when is he going to keep up with his own fiction on your pure facts?

    3? :-(

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I am perfectly sure we meet all three criteria.
      :-)
      As to his tardiness of late...

      Delete
  13. Tsk tsk ... kids! ... you lot today! I used to do serious hill-walking and climbing in a tweed jacket + oilskin jacket over when cold and wet i.e. most of the time.

    Never mind. I am enjoying your tale very much and excellent photos.

    Godspeed, you scoundrels!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you Sir!

      I think we should have a "traditional" Challenge one year. Map, compass tweed jacket and breeches, big leather hob-nailed boots and Bergan rucksacks. That would sort the men from the boys!
      :-)

      Delete
    2. It'll put hairs on their chest!
      :-)
      We'll make men of them yet!

      Delete
    3. I can do the map and compass but tweed is a bit itchy for my sensitive skin :-\

      Delete
  14. Just caught up with your blog again after several recent distractions. What a fabulous set of photos. They gave me a powerful feeling of being there, especially the ones of familiar locations bringing back great memories.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thats very kind of you to say, Conrad.
      Thank you Sir.
      If it brings back fond memories to others as well as me, it's done more than enough.
      :-)

      Delete
  15. Enjoyed catching up on a few of your posts this Saturday evening Alan. A fine way to pass the time. I nearly got one of those fleeces, glad that I did not now.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. A close shave there.
      :-)
      Which is what the fleece needs...

      Delete

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