Monday, 5 December 2016

TGO Challenge 2017: A Third Man, Map & Route Sheet

Latterly, Mad'n'Bad has been walking with the Bigger Boys and in a very Big-Boy-Full-of-Testosterone fashion has broken one or two of them on the way. You may find this difficult to believe, but the old bastard had one or two good points. But let's not get carried away, there were only one or two. The first was a magical propensity to produce cans of beer from his tiny man-bag when all was seemingly lost. The second was to pour oil over the stormy waters that is the relationship between Lord Elpus and me.

Phil and I walked as a pair for the 2016 Challenge. The silence was blissful. I was not jabbed once by flailing walking pole-tips and rest stops were taken plentifully and at length; No-one stomped about in the far distance harrumphing. We walked along roads in polite lines; No vehicles were seen to fly off into the scenery or bury themselves in roadside ditches. 

But there were no magical beers and the disputes were wild and stormy. For 2017, Something Had To Be Done. We needed another Fixer. Another Bon Viveur. Another intellect to calm the stormy outbursts. A Third Way.

We believe we have found just the chap: 

God, No! Not the lunatic on the left. He's Mad, Bad, and Dangerous to know. No Sir. The fellow who has chosen to join this elite team is the smiley gentleman on the right: David 'VeryVeryNiceMan' Williams. 

When we let the Fat Controller at Challenge Control know that David was walking with us, there was a stunned silence. At length, this was followed by "Does he know what he has let himself in for?"

And this is what he has let himself in for. This is the route Phil (who is our Team Captain again this year) will shortly be sending off to the Vetters. 


The route is a heady mix of high-level camps, crafty Corbetts, mad Munros, rocky ridges and handsome hotels. And there's a cheese and wine party thrown in as well, at two thousand, six hundred and sixty six Imperial Feet above Her Majesty's Ordnance Datum.   



What could possibly go wrong?

Wednesday, 2 November 2016

Four from today

A good friend will have had a difficult day today, which led me to try to find John Rutter's new reworking of his fabulous Requiem, that I heard on Front Row the other night. 

Happily, I found the third part, Pie Jesu on Spotify, but unfortunately nowhere else. It is magnificent; I urge you to seek it out. However, if that link for the new version doesn't work, here's the best version I could find of his old, equally sublime version.

This inevitably had me locked in Youtube's basement for most of the day, and so here's the pick of today's treasure: Enjoy.

Sunday, 30 October 2016

Planning a wind farm-free TGO Challenge 2017

In the light of the Conservative UK Government's recent axing of new wind farms' subsidies (The removal of ROCs and LECs) and the corresponding sudden drop in the number of new applications, I wondered how a new TGO Challenger might go about planning a wind farm-free route across Scotland for 2017.

Just over two years ago, I wrote a piece titled "Planning a wind farm-free TGO Challenge 2015." I would encourage you to take a moment to refresh your memory. It was quite a popular post, with almost three thousand visits. Of course, there have been quite a few new wind farms that have been approved, or are under construction or have been completed in the years since I wrote that piece. 

The simplest way for a new Challenger to plan a route that avoids wind farms is to have the information available on a map. Of course the SNP Scottish Government, whose policy it is to have wind farms plastering the Highlands, do not provide such a beast. They certainly do not want the full horror of the carnage to be easily available to the public, do they?

There has been a really good effort to log the position of wind farms (and a host of other renewables as well) for the whole of the UK, and THIS MAP shows the wind farms, but only provides an indication of the location and not in relation to landforms, paths and tracks etc, that a walker needs to plan a route. It also requires a subscription, but after spending an hour trying to subscribe, unsuccessfully, I gave up. 

So, I set out to find wind farm maps that cover the TGO Challenge's bounds. Most of the Challenge area is covered by the following planning authorities: 


           In the north & west:     Highland (20)
           In the northeast:          Moray (19)
           In the east:                  Aberdeenshire (17)
           In the east:                  Angus (16)
           In the southeast:         Perth & Kinross (23)
           In the southwest:         Argyll & Bute (22)

So I went to each of the Councils' websites to see if I could find current maps of the status of wind farms in their areas, ie., wind farms being scoped, in planning, approved, in construction or built. Presumably because resources are very stretched, not all the councils have such maps. But where they do I have included them in this piece.

Here is what I have found so far:


After a few years of dreadful inactivity, Highland Council now has a pretty good online resource, albeit missing the vital information of wind farms that are being scoped by developers. 

This is what their online map looks like for a chunk of the Challenge area:


You can zoom in and click on each wind farm to get the location and size of every turbine, in relation to the surrounding area at 1:50k scale O.S. mapping. 


You certainly would not want to plan a route up the track following the River E, would you? It runs right through the centre of Corriegarth Wind Farm. I can tell you from personal experience, it was utterly ghastly.

To summarize: The Highland Council interactive map is very good, although it sorely needs scoped wind farms to be included. It is ten months out of date; the last update being January 2016. It can be found by clicking: 

Next up? 


Moray Council's map is not good. In fact, it's pretty poor: It is a downloadable pdf that shows the approximate location of each wind farm, in two versions: Turbines up to 50m in height and turbines over 50m. Each location is numbered and there are tables below the map that give details of each wind farm. 

It looks like this:


However, Moray do show wind farms that are being scoped by developers. It can be found by clicking :

Next up?


What can I say? I couldn't find anything on Aberdeenshire's website. Now, it may be that I'm looking in the wrong place, and if so, please could someone correct me. But I believe this is pretty poor. But perhaps the following interactive map provided by "Concerned about Wind Turbines in Aberdeenshire" explains why there is no map. It is deeply shocking:


Every single turbine is located on excellent O.S. mapping. This is a credit to whoever built this map. It can be found by clicking:

Next up?


Now then. I may be wrong, but I have searched high and low for a map showing wind farms in Angus on the Council website. But there is nothing. At all. They do, however, have a downloadable pdf on where developers are welcome to apply for planning permission for wind farms. 

This is deeply shameful. If anyone can correct me on this, please let me know in the comments section and I will amend the post. In this area I would use the very first resource I mentioned earlier. Click: 

Next up?


Another excellent map, from the Perth & Kinross Council website However, it does not show wind farms that are being scoped by developers. 

It looks like this:


It can be found by clicking:

And lastly:



At first glance, this interactive map looks promising, but when you come to click on the individual wind farms you realise that the map is like a cheap chocolate Easter Egg: Beautifully presented, but sod all inside - not even a bag of Smarties. There is precious little information on the wind farms or the position of turbines. If it isn't on the O.S. map's own information, it's unlikely to be on this web-map. It shows the likely location only. Still, I suppose it's better than nothing.  It can be found by clicking:

So there you have it. If you want to plot a route across Scotland that avoids the worst of the wind farms, you're going to have your work cut out, but this post should be of help.

Good luck with your planning. I hope to see you on the walk if we are lucky in the draw for places.

If anyone can find better resources or maps please let me know in the comments section. Thank you.

Thursday, 27 October 2016

A rare thing! Gear review: G-Works Gas Saver R1

We've all got one. A cupboard of shame. 

Open the door and stuff spills out over the floor. Stuff you haven't seen for quite some time. Back then, a long time ago, there was a reason why you put it in the cupboard. It's just that right now you can't remember what it was.

Two pairs of very expensive, but bloody useless, walking poles. A bag you can strap around your waist in case your rucsack and trouser pockets aren't big enough. Make that two bags. A dozen multi-coloured nylon stuff sacks - all with holes or pulled stitching. A rucksack. (Where on earth did that come from?) Two hydration systems - both bloody useless. Three anoraks. A dozen mis-matched merino socks. Six (yes, SIX) pairs of walking trousers that have barely seen the light of day. And so on. And on.

And then right at the bottom of the cupboard, rolling around like wild things, are these boys:

Eight cans of gas. All with varying sloshes of gas inside. Some are virtually empty, some half full. But: Eight of the blighters. Each could tell a story of a trip, a few dimly remembered, others as vivid as a nuclear flash.

Much to everyone's surprise, Lord Elpus recently had a dalliance with Social Media. It didn't go well. He has now closed down his Facebook account. Miss Whiplash tells me the night sweats have now stopped and he is once again back in his happy place. 

But this post celebrates the wonder of social meeja. For it was on twitter that an enterprising fellow walker put up a link to the little chap below:

And here he is again:

He comes from Korea (South, not North. The North's the place with soldiers in extraordinarily big hats) and weighs in at just over an ounce. And now instead of eight canisters of gas of varying sloshiness, I am the proud owner of two completely full tins of gas, and six empty tins that can finally be tossed away. The spreadsheet below (there has to be a spreadsheet or it isn't a proper gear review, right?) shows what can be done.

It comes with absolutely no instructions. At all. Once upon a time I was an Engineer and so I worked out what to do by myself. There are a few Youtube videos, in various languages, to help as well. These give you a steer, but have varying degrees of oh-so-wrongness about them. Indeed, some offer potentially dangerous advice. But I'll let you work that out for yourselves. It's more fun that way.  But here's a tip: Don't heat up the top canister on your stove. There's a love.

I paid for this with my own money, just before Sterling went into freefall. It was about twenty quid plus a bit extra to tie it to the foot of a carrier pigeon.

I love it.

And now, in the spirit of Old Mortality, some music: (But please read my important edit below the music!)

IMPORTANT EDIT! (Added 28th October 2016)

It *is* possible to overfill the receiving gas canister. This is NOT a good idea. I've seen a chap on one Youtube video saying he overfilled a canister by some 20% (and was mightily pleased about it) to then find that the concave bottom sprang outwards.

This, is definitely NOT GOOD!

Okay. As you were...
posted from Bloggeroid