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Sharp Edge – (Slippery As A Snake)

By Phil 2014.10.06 in Lake District

Last weekend I headed over to the Lake District for an impromptu hike with my mate Julian who is manager of Nordic Outdoor in Keswick.

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The weather wasn’t great first thing Saturday morning as I drove over to the North West following heavy rainfall during the night, though it was forecast to clear around lunchtime.

I had left the choice of hike up to Julian, but was hoping he would choose Blencathra, as I had yet to ascend Blencathra despite it being one the first great summits I see every time I drive there. I always see Blencathra as the first sign of arriving in the Lake District.

Julian said I could stay at his on sofa bed in spare room rather than book a B&B. After arriving at his house, which he shares with his friend Zoe, he showed me to my room with a massive sofa bed. Great. Or so I thought! Until I turned around a saw a large glass tank, like a fish tank but with patio doors, with its doors wide open and a branch leading out of it to the floor.

“What’s that Julian?” As I pointed at glass tank, half guessing what it was. “That’s Alex’s glass house. Alex is Zoe’s pet snake.” He replied. Well you might be able to guess my response. I’m not the best of sleepers to start with, and with the thought of sharing a room with a snake roaming around was certainly not going to help. Despite Julian reassuring me that Alex the snake would be far more scared of me than what I should be of him or her (they haven’t been able to determine the sex of Alex yet), I told him I have seen YouTube videos of snakes eating a crocodile and a human being whole, so I was pretty sure I knew who would be more scared.

Julian reassured me that we would find him when we got back from hike and he would put him away in his box for the night.

After the shock of spending the night with Alex the snake, we discussed our possible hike for the day. We were also being joined by Nigel who used to be the manager at Nordic Outdoor before leaving to setup his own adventure company Trek Tipi.

I was very happy that they both suggested doing Blencathra via Sharp Edge. Not only would I finally get to do Blencathra but we would be doing it via the classic Sharp Edge scramble route I had heard so much about.

We arrived at our starting point, which was a secret little parking spot which Nigel knew about. As we started out ascent from the car park the skies started to clear as the rain clouds headed east. Perfect weather conditions for tackling the stunning Blencathra.

Nigel was a trained mountain leader and after reading some of my past blog posts, he noticed a common theme of often getting lost on many of my hikes and offered to give me some additional map reading and navigation lessons throughout the day. Although my navigational skills have improved slightly over recent months, mainly thanks to my GPS, its great getting advice from someone who knows how to use a map and compass. I was quite pleased with myself that I managed to pass all of Nigel’s tests of getting bearings and setting compass to follow route he ask for. All without my GPS. Does this mean I can sell my GPS on eBay now! Probably best not. Small steps Phil, small steps…

The ascent up Blencathra is a steep one. No gradual walk in, its steep ascent from the start. As we headed towards Scales Tarn we had to cross a very heavy flowing stream, this was due to the heavy rainfall the day before. Nigel and Julian had never seen it this fast and flowing in all their previous trips up Blencathra.

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We arrived at Scales Tarn just in time for a spot of lunch before tackling Sharp Edge. It was a great spot to stop and admire Sharp Edge and Blencathra. It was stunning.

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As we started to tackle Sharp Edge, you could soon see how easy it would be to slip and fall in the wrong conditions. Despite the now clear blue skies and very little wind, it was still very wet underfoot due the previous night’s heavy rainfall and we had to watch carefully as we made our ascent. After about 10 minutes a lady headed towards us who had turned back due to how slippy the rocks were. After a brief chat with her we carried on. Then 5 minutes later we met a couple who had also decided to turn back due to wet rocks. Again we decided to carry on. As we got about 3/4′s of the way up, about 70 metres from the summit, the weather changed. From clear blue skies to dark skies and hailstone for 10 minutes. That’s the Lake District weather for you. The hailstone on top of already wet slippy rocks made if even more difficult than it already was. At this point I was stuck on one side of Sharp Edge. I was really struggling to get any higher up to where Nigel was and I couldn’t see behind me or where I had come from.

At this point Nigel made the wise decision for us to abort the ascent up Sharp Edge and return to Scales Tarn and head up Blencathra via alternative route. However there was still the issue of getting me away from my current position of clinging on to the side of Sharp Edge. Eventually Nigel managed to get hold of the top of my rucksack and guide me up. I must admit it was probably one of the scariest moment I have had while been out on the hills. After getting me to a safe position, Nigel had to go and help Julian return from his position a little further on from us. Once all three of us were back to a safe position we slowly made our way back down Sharp Edge, mostly on our backsides to avoid slipping as we headed to the path.

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We finally returned to Scales Tarn for a short rest before heading up the alternative path to the summit of Blencathra where we were greeted with stunning views and clear blue skies. It was hard to imagine that it had been hailstoning not so long ago.

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As we headed back down to the car park, Julian and Nigel mention about a guy being rescued from Sharp Edge the previous week. I then realise I knew who they were talking about. It was fellow Outdrr blogger Jethro Withers who recently joined Outdrr and his first blog post which was about his fall from Sharp Edge, which you can read all about here, where he had to be airlifted from Sharp Edge following his fall and is now hopefully recovering well.

After our eventful trip up Sharp Edge and Blencathra it was back to Keswick for some well-deserved beers. Just as I was starting to relax after what had happened during the day, my mind then turned to Alex the snake. I had forgot all about the fact I could be sharing a room with a free roaming snake back at Julian’s house. We headed back to Julian’s house to try and find Alex and put him in his box for the night, but it seemed he didn’t want to move from his comfy position behind the TV. Thankfully Julian said I could stay in other room while he spent the night with Alex. Panic over.

It was a cracking day and so glad I finally got to summit Blencathra. Although we never managed it via Sharp Edge due to weather conditions, it was still a great experience and now know what to expect next time I attempt the same route. I’m not sure which was the scarier of the two. Attempting Sharp Edge in wet conditions or nearly having to spend the night with a snake. The fact I can’t wait to do Blencathra again should give you the answer on that one.

Before heading home on Sunday I had arranged to go and visit my friend Lindsay who is the owner of The Sporting Lodge, and who had kindly offered to open their stunning showroom for me so I could view the new Fjällräven winter collection and have a coffee and chat. And what a showroom it is. Stunning views overlooking a sandy bay with the hills of the Lakes District in the distance. We had a great chat as Lindsay showed me their latest additions to the collection, before giving me a Fjällräven mini Kanken as a present for my nephew Evan. Just the right size for his packed lunch and other stuff he needs for first year of school. Thank you so much Lindsay.

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Well this weekend I’m off to Morocco to do the Toubkal Two Valley trek in the Atlas Mountains, which I will be posting about here when I return.

Fjällräven Sarek Three Seasons Review

By Phil 2014.10.03 in Product Review

Now I have had some real use out of my Fjällräven Sarek Three Season sleeping bag, I have finally got around to doing my review.

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After being very impressed with the Fjällräven Polar -30 sleeping bag during the Fjällräven Polar in April, I decided to stick with the “go with what you know” approach and purchase the Sarek Three Season version. I did consider the Two Season versions, but I decided on the Three Season version with the thought of I would rather be too warm than too cold while out camping.

My first use of my sleeping bag was in the Lake District in May. It had been many years since I had camped here in the UK and couldn’t remember how cold it gets on the night. As I had only been back from the Polar a month, I went prepared with my Aclima Warmwool overall which I had been given on the Polar. So the first night I went to sleep in my Warmwool overall and the Sarek Three Season sleeping bag. Within minutes I was sweating. The combination of the two was way too much for our climate here in the UK, so I quickly changed back to just boxer shorts and t-shirt, which made it much more comfortable.

The biggest test of the sleeping bag came during my recent multi-day hike while doing the Fjällräven Classic in Sweden last August. This was a much better test due to the variations in weather each night during the trek, where I was exposed to warm night, windy and very wet. On each occasion the sleeping bag kept me warm and comfortable. The night I appreciated it the most, was the last night of the trek when we camped at Kieron. That was the day it had rained non-stop and everyone was soaked to the skin. After putting a tent in the pouring rain, all you want to do as get out of your wet clothes and some warmth. Once out of my clothes and into my sleeping bag I was set for the night. Nobody was getting me out of it. It was then I really appreciated getting the Three Season version, as I was warm and dry within minutes. A great feeling.

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The sleeping bag is very lightweight which made it great for trekking. It has a two way full length zipper which is useful if you want to use for ventilation. It has a comfort temperature of -8, though I’m confident this could be beyond that due to experience. I found the head section and it’s draw string very useful, as you can pack some clothing inside to use as a pillow and the use the draw string to tighten to help keep it in place. Useful if travelling light. There is a small zipped pocket on the outside which is useful for storing things like head torch or other things you might want easy access to during the night or first thing in the morning. The two eyelets at the bottom are really useful should you want to hang it to dry or air. The sleeping bag comes in a pack bag with compression straps as well as a large cotton bag for placing sleeping bag inside when storing for long periods of time.

Technical specification:

  • Weight (FJR): 1200 g
  • Consumer Material: Padded (Down)
  • Outer material: 90% Goose Down 10% Feather
  • Fill power: 600 CUIN
  • Filling: 90% goose down, 10% feather
  • Filling weight: 650 g
  • Contains non textile parts of animal origin: Yes
  • Activity: Trekking
  • Max user length: 180 cm
  • Stuffed size: 20 x 34 cm
  • Shoulder width: 80 cm

This was the first sleeping bag I have bought for many years and I’m well impressed with its performance. I would certainly recommend the Fjällräven Three Season sleeping bag and look forward to using it during many future adventures.

Fjällräven Polar 2015! It’s Nearly Time!!!

By Phil 2014.09.16 in Fjällräven Polar

Soon it will be time for people to apply for Fjällräven Polar 2015!

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I can’t believe it is nearly a year ago since I saw the advert in an outdoor magazine advertising this unique once in a lifetime Polar adventure. I remember thinking at the time, “This is for me, I’m going to do this!”. I then started to plan my application, ready to be submitted once the competition opened in November.

Luckily for me, after months of hard work campaigning and hassling friends, family, work colleagues, local newspapers, radio stations, outdoor groups and many more, I managed to finish in 1st place for the UK and gain an automatic place on Fjällräven Polar 2014

For those who don’t know about Fjällräven Polar. It is an approximately 300km long winter adventure across the arctic tundra. The participants will steer a dog sled all the way from Signaldalen, Norway, to the forests around Jukkasjärvi, Swedish Lappland. Conditions can be grim at times, even if the weather is usually relatively stable in April north of the Arctic circle. Where participants have faced everything from exhausting stages,blizzards and minus 30°C.

Fjällräven Polar gives “ordinary” people, with ordinary jobs, the chance to discover how amazing outdoor life is in the winter, and demonstrates that anyone can experience the adventure of a lifetime – as long as they have the right knowledge and equipment..

The selection process is based on a competition where applicants uploaded a photograph or video and a text explaining why you should be chosen for the trip. The competition takes place on a country-by-country basis and two people from each country/group are selected and only 20 people in total:

  • The first person from each country is selected by visitors to the website voting for their favourite application – the submission with the most votes is guaranteed a spot.
  • The second person from each country will be chosen by Fjällräven.

The participants chosen to join Fjällräven Polar are from each of the following countries/groups: Sweden, Norway, Finland, Denmark, Benelux (Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg), Germany, UK, USA, Czech Republic and “other countries”.

You can watch the 2015 promotional video here:

You can watch the full video of Fjällräven Polar 2014 here:

I can honestly say that Fjällräven Polar changed my life. Being part of such an amazing adventure and sharing it with my fellow 19 Polarists from around the world, who I now class as very close friends, was without doubt the best experience of my life. Many of us keep in regular contact and already I have met up with 8 of my fellow participants as well as people from previous years’ Polar, when we entered a Polar team in this years Fjällräven Classic, visits from Manon and Melanie to see me here in the UK and when I visited Jostein in Norway to do Trolltunga. With many more future meetings planned. Thanks to all our friends at Fjällräven for allowing us to take part in such a once in a lifetime amazing adventure.

To find out more about my own personal Fjällräven Polar 2014 experience, check my daily Polar Daily Diary here

So if you are interested in taking part in such an amazing experience, GO FOR IT!!!

More Action, Less Slacking

By Phil 2014.09.09 in Lake District

With just over a month to go before we head off to Morocco for the Toubkal Two Valley trek, we thought we’d beter get some practice in by heading over to the Lake District for the weekend.

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Although there are 6 of us going to Morocco, only my regular hiking mates Joe and Jason could make this weekend, so it was the reunion of the Tour du Mont Blanc (TMB) 3 as we are famously known following last year’s adventure.

Joe now works over in the North West, so he drove there straight from work, while Jason picked up Terri, who had packed Joe’s hiking gear for him, before heading to mine so we could travel over together to meet Joe.

We had booked our B&B at one of our favourite places in the Lake District, Ambleside. We like Ambleside due to it’s great choice of good restaurants and bars such as The Lilly Bar, which often has great live music. We arrived around 7pm, as we’d already missed a few hours drinking, we headed straight to The Lilly bar and settled in for the nights entertainment while discussing our chosen hike for Saturday.

Jason and myself were first ones down for breakfast at 8am, before Joe and Teri joined us 15 minutes later. As we all sat having breakfast Joe told us that Terri had packed the wrong trousers and in fact packed his “Action Slacks”. Yes you read correctly. “Action Slacks”.

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Slacks is a common term used to reference pants or trousers. This term is generally restricted to dress pants, usually of the pleated variety. “Slacks” in reference to loose-fitting trousers is a term that has been used at least as long as its first recorded use in 1824.

But Joe’s were different. These were Action Slacks! Action Slacks are worn by gentlemen of a certain age who still have a bit of life left in them and like the outdoors. They have an elasticated expanding waistband, a leg pocket for a glasses case, hand pockets are located high so you don’t have to stretch far and come in raw leg length so can be easily adjusted to fit for those who may have shrank over the years.

After the laughing at Joe’s new pants had calmed down, we packed the car and headed off to do the Kentmere 7 hike, while Terri went shopping for the day, we were hoping her shopping trip included buying Joe some new outdoor pants.

The Kentmere 7 is a horseshoe walk taking in 7 of the Wainwright fells in York (706m), Ill Bell (757m), Froswick (720m), Thornthwaite Crag (784m), Mardale Ill Bell (780m), Harter Fell (788m) and Kentmere Pike (733m). It was the TMB 3 vs The Kentmere 7. Bring it on!

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We arrived at our starting destination of Kentmere Church, where Jason’s instructions had told us to start from. We looked around for sign’s to help us on our way, but none were to be seen. So instead of our usual practice of heading off on a path we think we should take, we decided to get the map out from the start and make sure we didn’t start off in the wrong direction. We didn’t want a repeat of the Courmayeur stage on the TMB last year, where we wandered around for 2 hours in the 30 degree heat with large rucksacks, before finally finding our starting point which was only 5 minutes from where we had initially started from. It seems we are learning from our past mistakes.

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It had been a while since I had seen Joe and Jason, so I told them about what I had been up to recently, like last weekend when Melanie came to visit from Germany and how I managed to guide Melanie, Ian, two lost strangers in Leanne and Kirsty and another group of 3 people who were also lost, to the top of Scafell Pike. I also told them about my recent hike on the Fjallraven Classic in Sweden last month. Joe was particularly interested in the stage where we had a Swedish sauna. I think this has made him consider doing the Classic with me next year.

It was a beautiful sunny day as we tackled the Kentmere 7 and it wasn’t long before I was unzipping the bottom and opening up the side vents of my Fjällräven Keb Gaiter trousers, while Jason also unzipped the vents on his trousers. Unfortunately for Joe, his Action Slacks didn’t have such luxuries as zipped vents and certainly didn’t have zip-off legs. Apparently they stopped making the zip-off leg versions of the Action Slacks a long time ago, due to the number of calls they recieved from customers asking for spare zip-off legs, having forgotten where they had left the leg part of the slacks after zipping them off. They probably would have more calls, if some of the customers could remember where they had actually bought their slacks from in the first place. So Joe had to put up with the very warm conditions in his Action Slacks.

Jason suggested that I ask my friends at Fjällräven if they would consider making a pair of beige coloured Action Slacks in their trademark G-1000 material aimed at the more adventurous folk of the Saga community (pre-waxed inside and out). Though I doubt Fjallraven need to bother with a UN Blue colour option, as this would confuse the Saga community who are still old enough to remember The League of Nations.

I informed Joe and Jason that Fjällräven make clothing for people of all ages and ability and that he should have invested in a pair of timeless classic Fjällräven Greenland Jeans as seen below here:

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The Kentmere 7 was a stunning walk. Despite the height you get to during the hike, the ascent is not a severe one, which makes the hike more enjoyable. The views from each of the 7 Wainwright summits we visited were spectacular. Having such great weather for the hike also helped. Looking back on the first half of the horeseshoe we could really appreciate the beautiful shadwoed hills we had already passed over. We all agreed this was by far the best hike we have ever done in the Lakes. We have done quite a few together over the last 3 years, but none as stunning as this one.

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Apart from using the map at the very start of the walk, we had done quite well in sticking to the planned route which Jason had planned. I had also uploaded the route to my iPhone as well as tracking the route with my Suunto Ambit2 GPS watch. All was going well. However, with only 3km to go until the finish, I had noticed we had gone off the route I had on my iPhone. We hadn’t strayed too far away and we certainly weren’t lost, but we wanted to try and stick to the route.

So we decided to try and get back on the route we should have been on. In doing so, we decided to go off-piste and headed through the woods in the direction of the stream. It wasn’t long before we hit our first obstacle. A barbed wire fence, just in front of the stream we needed to cross. It looked like that wasn’t a viable option and maybe we should just head back to the main road and continue back to car that way. But oh no, that would be too easy. As Joe, feeling adventurous in his Action Slacks, forced his way past me and Jason and climbed over the barbed wire fence to investigate our options. Me and Jason were stunned with Joe’s sudden Action Man prowess, but we weren’t wearing Action Slacks. However, once Joe had hurdled the barbed wired fence, he knew he’d come into the field for something but could not remember why. He looked round for a bit then decided to climb back over.

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We headed back to the main road making our way back the car. We wound through the country roads back to Ambleside to meet Terri who had bagged us a great table in the sun looking out over the shores of Lake Windermere. Time for a well-deserved beer, before heading back to B&B for a quick shower and change before hitting Ambleside for more drink and food.

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In the past we have been known to sometimes “slack-off” from doing a hike on a Sunday (usually caused by the amount of alcohol consumed the previous night following an epic hike on the Saturday) and spend the day trawling outdoor shops before heading home. However this weekend Jason and myself decided to not slack-off the hike and instead make the most of the glorious sunshine and combine both outdoor gear shopping and a hike by taking in Wansfell Pike from Ambleside, while Joe and Terri headed off on a boat somewhere. I think it was too hot for Joe to do another hike in his Action Slacks.

Jason and myself had both done this hike a few times now, and feeling fairly confident in our ever improving navigation skills, we decided to the reverse route from our previous times. This of course meant the steep ascent came at the start within the first 2km. I’m not sure if it was the heat or the alcohol from the night before, but it felt a lot harder than it should have done, considering what we had done the day before. There were also plenty of elderly gentlemen doing the hike (wearing their Action Slacks), as we slowly strolled up to Wansfell Pike. Once at the top, the views across Lake Windermere were stunning and made the struggle up to Wansfell worthwhile.

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It was another cracking weekend in the Lake District and pleased with our performance doing the Kentmere 7 on Saturday, though think we need to improve a little on Sunday’s performance in the coming weeks, as Morocco is going to be a hell of a lot hotter, steeper and well over 3600m higher than Wansfell Pike, that’s for sure!

Routes recorded by Suunto Ambit2 GPS watch:
You can view the Kentmere 7 hike here

You can view the Wansfell Pike hike here

Eine Polare Wiedersehen, Pet (A Polar Reunion, Pet)

By Phil 2014.08.31 in Lake District

This weekend I had my 4th Fjällräven Polar reunion, when Melanie from Germany came to visit me here in the UK. We had planned on doing Ben Nevis in Scotland, but due to bad weather forecast which meant we would not be able to do it via my intended CMD route, we changed plans and headed to the Lake District to do Scafell Pike.

Melanie at me at the summit of Scafell Pike

Melanie at me at the summit of Scafell Pike

There were meant to be a few of us doing Ben Nevis, but due to changes in destination and other circumstances it ended up just being Melanie, Ian and myself who would be hiking.

I picked Melanie up from Newcastle airport on Friday lunchtime before heading over to Ambleside in the Lakes. Ian made his own way there with Andrea and Evan. En route to Ambleside we took a detour to Keswick to visit my mate Julian who is the manager at Nordic Outdoor shop so I could purchase a new long sleeve Aclima base layer for my Morocco trek in October.

We checked into our B&B in Ambleside before heading out to the pub for a few beers, food and live music. This made Melanie laugh, as “pub” in German means “fart”. While having dinner Melanie asked me if I had ever been to Germany hiking or at any other time. I told her I have never been to Germany and that the only things I do know about the country are from watching 80′s comedy-drama TV series Auf Wiedersehen, Pet. Which I explained was a about seven British migrant construction workers going to work on a building site in Düsseldorf. She had never heard of this classic TV series and made a note to check it out on YouTube when she got home. Incidentally the word Wiedersehen can be used in German for the word reunion.

After a great night sleep, which makes a change for me, I met Melanie at breakfast, where we were the first to arrive. After a bit of translating of our lovely Yorkshire hosts (they had a very strong Yorkshire accent!) to Melanie, she managed to get her first ever full English breakfast, as I order my usual porridge. She then told me that only sick and old people with no teeth eat porridge in Germany. Which made me feel great, as I sat and checked I still had real teeth while she laughed.

We then headed to Borrowdale to pick Ian up from the campsite where he was staying in his camper van with Andrea and Evan, before heading to Seathwaite Farm to start our hike to Scafell Pike. As we got ready at the car, Melanie was amazed at the amount of gear I take on my day hikes. Ian just laughed and told her this is normal for me, as he pointed out how many people had parked cars after us and already started to hike.

Finally we were ready and on our way. I had decided we would do the corridor route to Scafell Pike which I last did in May when my other fellow Polar team mate Manon came to visit from the Netherlands, along with my mate Jason. Though this time I would follow the recorded route on my iPhone in the opposite direction which was meant to have been the route we should have taken in May, but as usual we took the wrong turning back then. So by following the reverse recorded route on my iPhone surely nothing could go wrong!

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The day started slightly cloudy with the threat of rain, but we could see the occasional breaks in the cloud and some sunshine. Not long into the hike we arrived at the gate where we made the wrong turning in May, so was easy enough to head in opposite direction to ensure we were on the right path. Soon after I bumped into Nigel who used to be the manager at Nordic Outdoor shop in Keswick who was on his way back down, so we stopped for a chat as he told me about his new Bushcraft adventure and other activities he is now working on. Shortly after we met two girls from Birmingham who asked if we were doing the corridor route to Scafell Pike. Feeling pretty confident that we were and that I was following the reverse route on my iPhone, had two maps, a compass and a Garmin GPS device in my rucksack, as well as wearing my Suunto Ambit2 GPS watch, I replied: “Yes we are and you are more than welcome to join or follow us if you like.” Which they did and were grateful for my offer, as they didn’t have any map or compass. If only they knew my navigational history at this point.

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With our new friends Leanne and Kirsty on board, we headed towards Scafell Pike. As we got higher and closer to the summit, we saw three people appearing from the mist to our right holding map and compass and looking very lost. The guy with the map asked me where we were heading. With my new found navigational confidence I told him we were heading to Scafell Pike and pointed in the direction we were heading. This made him confused as by his bearings and that he had just come from Lingmell, he thought Scafell Pike was West of where I told him we were heading. Leanne told him: “We are following these guys, they have loads of gadgets.” To help correct the guy holding the map I showed him my Garmin GPS and our exact position and confirmed the direction we were heading was correct. He agreed with me and asked if they could tag along. Of course I said he could. After all I was feeling like a mountain leader at this point. There was now eight of us in our group.

After another 45 minutes we arrived at the summit of Scafell Pike, the highest point in England. This was now the fourth time I have done Scafell Pike and probably the quietest in terms of number of people at the summit. It was still busy and of course misty as usual, which makes seeing the stunning views very difficult. As we sat and ate lunch, the lost guy with map came over to thank us for leading them to the summit. If only they knew my past record of getting lost. Leanne and Kirsty had decided to stay and head back down with us.

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After a short lunch stop we started heading towards the route I had came up in May with Manon and Jason by following my iPhone. As it was so misty at the top, this was the best option as there were no clear views to get a point of reference to make sure we were on the correct path. It was a very steep descent as we scrambled down some loose rocks with Leanne and Kirsty constantly laughing and stumbling on the way down. After about 20 minutes into our descent the inevitable happened. We had veered off course from the route I intended on taking us down and we were now on the wrong side of a mountain. It was time to get the proper GPS and maps out as I let Ian take over. After a few minutes he found our bearings and said if we carried on we would pick up the route we had taken to get to up to the summit, so we did and sure enough we picked up the path and all was good again.

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As we headed back down towards Seathwaite Farm, the weather improved and the sun came out to give us some stunning views which we had missed on the way up. We were all feeling good and happy at this point as our thoughts turned to how good the beer and food will taste once we get back after a great hike. Leanne then said the words which I never thought I would hear: “Thanks for today Phil. We would have got lost without you today. You saved us!”. I had to ask her to repeat it and made sure Ian heard her saying such unfamiliar words. It seems my navigational skills have come on a long way since I started all this hiking in 2012. She will probably get a shock if she reads some of my older blog posts.

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After dropping Ian off at his campsite, Melanie and myself headed back to Ambleside for a quick change and back out for beer, food and more live music. Leanne and Kirsty were going to come to Ambleside and meet us, but by the time they got back to their campsite and arrange taxi it would have been too late. So Melanie and myself headed out for the best beer and best food ever!

Unlike with my Scandinavian Polar friends, it seems the Germans have picked up on a different Mackem word other than “me” instead of “my”. As Melanie thought it was funny how I say “lovely” and was constantly repeating it throughout the weekend. Which was really funny hearing her saying it in her new found Mackem accent.

Before Melanie headed back to her home in Germany I wanted to show her a bit of the North East where I live, so we left our B&B straight after breakfast and first headed to Durham. Seeing as she is a Harry Potter fan I thought she would be interested to see inside Durham Cathedral where they filmed some of the earlier Harry Potter movies. Following her first experience of a full English breakfast and seeing as it was a Sunday, I thought it only right that we go for a typical Sunday lunch, which she really enjoyed. Especially the Yorkshire puddings, which she had never seen or heard of before. Next stop was the beach at Seaburn/Whitburn before dropping her back off at Newcastle airport.

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Although it was a short weekend visit by Melanie, it was great to meet up with her again and so glad she came to visit. We had such a laugh and got to know each other a lot more. As I have said in some of my previous posts, it wasn’t easy to chat to my fellow 19 Polarists during the Polar due to the long and busy days we had. We only really got to talk to those in our immediate teams. However Melanie was one of the few of us who stayed on the boat in Stockholm after the Polar and we did get to chat a bit more then, so it was great to pick up from where we had left off in Stockholm. It was also great to find out more about Germany and the different places which I could visit to do hiking in the future, which I will certainly be looking into. Once again it was another awesome Polar reunion and can’t wait for my next one. There are 12 left out of the my fellow 19 Polarists I have yet to meet again. So who’s next I wonder?!?!

Auf Wiedersehen, Pet. It was “lovely” to see you again and you are more than welcome again anytime. It was awesome!

You can watch Ian’s short video on our hike up Scafell Pike from his video of the whole weekend below which starts at around 1:32 of the video:

A Classic Polar Reunion

By Phil 2014.08.29 in Fjällräven Classic

Three weeks ago I returned to the Swedish wilderness to take part in the Fjällräven Classic with 5 of my Fjällräven Polar team mates who I met in April. Alex (US), Hana (Sweden), Manon (Netherlands), Greg (US) and Johan (Sweden). A few days before leaving for the Classic I received an email from Andrea (Norway) who was part of last year’s Fjällräven Polar and fellow Outdrr blogger, asking about our Polar team doing the Classic. After a few emails, Andrea was delighted to join our Polar Classic team. We were now the magnificent seven! Yeah ha!

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I had arranged to meet Johan and Andrea at the bar in Arlanda airport in Stockholm before our flight to Kiruna in Northern Sweden. It was great to meet Johan again and share a few beers and laughs as we looked out for Andrea arriving from Oslo. The others were arriving from their respective destinations earlier in the day and even the day before in Greg’s case.

After arriving in Kiruna we were shown to the Fjällräven coach waiting to take us to Camp Ripan, as were just about every other person on our flight, all dressed in Fjällräven clothing and carrying rucksacks. After a short bus journey, we arrived at Camp Ripan to be reunited with the rest of our team of Alex, Hana, Manon and Greg. The team was now complete!

The guys showed us where to go to register and get out first stash of freeze dried food for the trek. Ahhhh Real Turmat. Oh how I have missed you since the polar! Real Turmat really is one of the best outdoor meals I have tasted, I only wish we could buy it here in the UK. At least this time I could choose my food and not have Phil Parkes giving me Chilli Con Carne and Chicken Curry for breakfasts like he did on the Polar because he didn’t see all the breakfast meals we had in our box until our final day! I will never let him forget that. Sorry Phil. Haha

Greg then showed us to where we would pitch our tents before starting the trek the following day. I had agreed that Andrea (or Rudo if using her African name following here recent working assignment in Zimbabwe) could share my tent providing she didn’t snore or talk in her sleep. She promised me she did neither.

Once tents were up we headed into town for pizza along with three Swedish brothers Johannes, Sebastian and Jonathan who Manon had picked up on her train journey from Netherlands. Luckily they were also doing the Classic and not some strangers like Manon usually picks up on her train journeys.

After sleeping badly for two nights and a very long day travelling, I left the rest of the guys enjoying a few beers and headed back to our tent. About two hours later Andrea returned to the tent trying to be very quiet as not to wake me. As I was still awake I said to her: “What time do you call this!” in an irate angry husband kind of way. Our laughing probably woke everyone else around us up. At least we shared same humour. Haha

Day 1: Kebtastic

The next morning we all assembled to see if Alex’s luggage had finally arrived yet, as her rucksack had been sitting in Arlanda airport in Stockholm. Unfortunately it still hadn’t arrived, which postponed our planned 9:00am start group. After some help from our friend Andreas from Fjällräven, Alex managed to assemble a borrowed rucksack and required clothing and camping equipment she would need during trek and we were on our way for the 13:00 start group.

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Another coach took us from Camp Ripan to the starting point in Nikkaluokta. It was a great atmosphere as we mingled with the hundreds of others from our starting group. As we waited, Andrea showed us how she tapes her feet for long treks to help protect against blisters and other foot issues. As I often get issues with my feet I thought it was worth giving it a go and taped each of my toes individually as well as the balls of my feet. Places I always have issues with.

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It was a beautiful sunny day as we started our first leg of the trek. Our pace wasn’t that quick at the start as we kept stopping for numerous group selfies and other photo opportunities. Plus it wasn’t a race, we were there to enjoy the beautiful surroundings and enjoy the whole Classic experience.

After about 5.5km we came to one of the best bits of the hike, Lap Danalds! A wooden hut selling freshly made reindeer burgers and beer by a stunning lake. It came just at the right time. It was so good that we stayed for about an hour as we relaxed in the sun.

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It was great to be able to have longer chats with my fellow Polarists during the trek, as this was not always possible during the Polar due to the long demanding days we had. As I walked along chatting to Alex, she asked me about my motivation for all my outdoor adventures, and laughed and agreed 100% at her comments that how the food and drink you have after completing a challenge is always the best food and the best drink ever!

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After 19km we reached our first checkpoint at Kebnekaise and a few of us rewarded ourselves with a nice cold can of beer. We then walked on a further 1.5km to find camp for the night. Andrea and myself tried to find the best spot for our tent by testing out the ground by lying down on numerous spots to find the place with the least slope, not realising we had been lying on top of blueberry bushes which had covered our UN Blue gaiter trousers in blueberry stains.

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By the time we had all pitched our tents, it was around 10pm before we sat down for dinner, to which Alex turned to me saying “This is the best meal ever!” as she tucked in to her Real Turmat meal.

Day 2: Singi in the Rain and What a Glorious Sauna!

I woke around 7:30am after the best night’s sleep I’d had in a long time. Just like when sleeping in tent during the Polar. I’m not sure if this was down to previous three nights’ of bad sleep or that I’m destined to sleep in the great outdoors in a tent. Whatever the reason I felt great, fresh and ready to go.

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For breakfast I finally got a chance to have my first Real Turmat breakfast meal, despite Alex asking if I was having my usual Chilli for breakfast. I have to say I was well impressed and very similar to the Adventure Food breakfasts you can buy in the UK. If only Phil had not hidden them from me when on Polar.

The day started off cloudy with short rain showers as we headed to our next checkpoint at Singi. We arrived at Singi and were given surprise snack of reindeer meat wrapped in pitta bread with lingonberry jam. While at Singi we also met Carl-John from Sweden who was also part of Andrea’s Polar team in 2013. I also met a girl from Germany called Johanna who was doing the trek with her mother and wanted to know more about the Polar and asked for advice on how to win a place next year, which I was happy to oblige. I also met a woman from Newcastle who was doing it with her two young sons and husband, which was nice to hear a familiar accent amongst the many nationalities taking part.

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Alex started telling me about an event called “Mappy Hour” which they have in New York where she lives. Where you take a map and a 6 pack of beer along to a meeting place to share info on trips as well as speaking to people who have done trips you are interested in. I thought this was a pretty good idea, especially the 6 pack of beer part and wondered if something similar could take off here in the UK, though with my relationship with maps and my track record of getting lost on hikes, I may not be the best person to take part in such an event, but who knows.

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As we headed towards our next checkpoint at Salka, Johan noticed my jumbo gorilla pod for my camera sticking out of the side of my rucksack, which at first glance he thought was some kind of sex toy, until I explained. So I decided to put inside my rucksack in case any other trekkers thought the same thing.

I don’t know if it’s a Scandinavian thing, but it wasn’t long before my Sunderland Mackem accent had started rubbing off on my trekking wife (a.k.a. Mrs UN Blue) Andrea and Johan as they were both often heard using the word “me” instead of “my” as I heard them both say “me face” a few times during the day. Just as Madeline and Jostein from Norway had done during the Polar. Or maybe the Mackem accent is the common language of adventurers. It certainly seems like it.

We finally arrived at Salka where there was also a cabin with a sauna inside down by a stream. This was a great opportunity to have a wash. Despite it being very busy, Alex, Andrea, Johan and myself decided to give it a go. It may have been the quickest sauna ever, but it certainly felt like the best.

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Later that night we met a friend of Andrea’s from Natur Kompaniet and 7 of his friends who were about to start walking to the next checkpoint during the night. I think this crazy idea of theirs was due to the amount of alcohol they had been drinking, as they shared their Whiskey and Jalloviina with us before setting off. The alcohol seemed to go straight to Johan’s head as he kept us entertained back at our camp as we had dinner.

It had been a very long hard day’s trekking and I had forgot how hard going multi day trekking is on your feet when carrying a full rucksack. I sometimes wonder why I do this trekking, when feet are in so much pain, but then things like sauna, beer and a great laugh with some amazing friends from around the world makes the pain and hard work worthwhile.

Day 3: Snow Ass Mountain

After another good night’s sleep, we woke to a lovely sunny morning, which seemed to make people want to sing, as Alex and Andrea started singing Spice Girls songs as we set off for the day. Though the rest of us couldn’t actually tell they were Spice Girls songs, but they convinced us they were genuine songs.

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It wasn’t long before Johan and myself joined in on the singing as we constructed our own version of George Michael’s Faith song and called it Tape. “As you gotta have tape, tape, tape…” As it seems the strapping of my feet and toes at the start of the trek had done the trick, as I had not experienced the usual scraping of toes or as much pain on the soles of my feet as I usually do. Johan had become my Swedish version of my trekking mate Joe here in the UK, as he has a canny good singing voice on him as does Joe. I can just imagine the harmonies they could do if they ever trekked together.

We found a great place to stop for lunch in the sunshine. Even though it was sunny, it still can feel cold once you stop walking, so you tend to put an extra layer on when you stop for a period of time. As usual Manon likes to put a layer on which includes a hood, as Johan pointed out in his newly acquired Mackem accent, “Hood fyass” as she certainly had a face for hoods. She was the only one in our team whole actually looks good in the hood.

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During the day we reached the highest point of the trek, Tjäktapasset at around 1140 metres where there was a large patch of snow further up the mountain away from the path, which is now known as Snow Ass Mountain. So we thought this would be a great stop for some serious snow ass sliding action and help cool us down.

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I have to say it’s a great experience doing a multi-day trek where you chose your camp for night as and when you feel like it and not having to be at a specific location by a specific time like on my previous treks.

We decided to camp 5km short of next checkpoint Alesjaure and would aim for that in the morning and take the opportunity of reindeer kebab and coke as a mid-morning snack instead.

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After dinner Johan came in to our tent vestibule for his usual nightly chats about how the day had gone and thought on the day ahead.

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Day 4: Wet, Wet, Wet!

The next morning we were all up and ready to start by 9am, which was our earliest start of the trek.

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There was more singing along the way as we headed for kebab and coke at Alesjaure checkpoint. This was the last checkpoint of the trek where we could stock up on food and gas for the remainder of the trek.

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While at the checkpoint a few of us discussed the possibility of actually walking the remaining distance and finishing the trek that day. That meant at least another 3-4 hours walking on an already long day ahead.

As we headed to our next checkpoint at Kieron the weather changed quite a bit and started raining quite heavily and didn’t stop for the rest of the day. By the time we arrived at Kieron, everyone was soaked through, but the treat of free hot pancakes soon made you forget about being wet through.

Despite the bad weather and the fact they were already soaked through, Alex and Andrea decided to carry on for another four hours and finish the trek, while the rest of us setup camp in the rain. Alex and Andrea both now work for Fjällräven in the flagship stores in New York and Oslo respectively, so they wanted to get to the end so they could meet up with some of their work colleagues who were already at the end.

I have to say, putting up a tent in the pouring rain isn’t the most pleasant thing to do, but luckily I managed to erect my Abisko Lightweight 2 tent up in no time.

Day 5: Let’s Go Abisko! And Party!!!

As we had setup camp early the night before due to the bad weather, our Swedish friends Johannes, Sebastian and Jonathan suggested we get up really early to set off for the final leg of the trek to Abisko. We all agreed that would be a good idea, though I wasn’t expecting Johannes to come knocking on our tents at 5:30am in the morning to wake us all up!

Luckily the rain had stopped and the staff at the checkpoint had a large fire going so we could dry our clothes off a little as we ate breakfast before setting off on the final leg.

Johan and myself were ready first and set-off before the others at around 7:30am. We started at a fairly fast pace, probably the fastest pace of the whole trek. This was probably due to the thought of a beer and the finish line and a shower. Whatever it was, we arrived at the finish line at around 11:30am and greeted by cheers and applause from those already finished and drinking beer outside the Trekkers Inn beer tent.

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Not long after we were joined at the Trekkers Inn by Hana, Manon, Greg, Johannes, Sebastian and Jonathan for lots of celebratory beers.

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We had been told that there were no rooms available in the Abisko Touristation at the finish line, but Johan and myself thought we would chance it and luckily we managed to get the last available room. The thought of a proper bed, shower and bathroom was such a relief, as I don’t think I could have spent another night in a tent following the soaking we had the day before. So we checked in and had the best beer and sauna ever!

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We had finished the Classic a day ahead than we planned, so Johan thought he would try and re-arrange his flight to the following day. Rather than spend time on the internet with his phone he said: “I think I will ring me brother and get him to do it.” Not realising he was using “me” instead of “my”. He was officially a Swedish-Mackem. His conversion was complete and another Scandinavian converted and fluent in Mackem speak. Andrea and myself couldn’t stop laughing. Me face was aching with laughing.

It was now time to party like rock stars with all our fellow trekkers in the Trekkers Inn, where there was live music, beer and more reindeer kebabs. It was an amazing atmosphere with lots of crazy dancing going on. Especially from Alex’s New York colleague, Emma. I don’t think I have ever seen such a dancer who wasn’t actually on a stage professionally. We later found out she used to be a dancer, which would explain all those “Jazz hands” moves.

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We also had another excuse to party, as it was Jonathan’s birthday. As if we needed another excuse, as we were last to leave the tent at 2:00am with Johan doing belting out Oasis classics “Your me Wonderwaaaaaaalll”. It was also great waking up the following morning with a hangover in nice warm bed rather than a wet tent, as we had a lie in till 9:30am.

As the weather wasn’t great and Johan couldn’t re-arrange his flights, it meant a day of chilling and drinking in the Trekkers Inn, with more live music as well as catching up with some of our Fjällräven friends from the Polar like Johan Skullman and others. We also met Heini from Finland who was also on last year’s Polar with Andrea and Carl-Johan as she was volunteering at the Trekkers Inn.

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It was a great atmosphere through the day with a steady stream of other trekkers crossing the finishing line as we all joined in cheering and clapping them as they cross.

It was also great to meet other trekkers from around the world and share stories of past adventures as well as passing on advice for future adventures. Like the Dutch couple Danielle and Frank and two other guys. One guy, Pontus from Sweden who had done Mont Blanc in the past, was telling me all about his ascent, which I still think is a bit way off for me yet. They were all keen to know about the Fjällräven Polar, which Johan and myself were happy to talk about.

I was hoping to meet up with Nils who runs Outdrr blogging network as well as fellow bloggers Angeliqa, Jonna and Johan, however they had started and finished before us and had already left Abisko, apart from Angeliqa who had stayed on to volunteer at the Trekkers Inn, so at least I got to meet her for a chat, before our final night of partying!

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My whole Fjällräven Classic experience was an amazing one. It was great to share this with some of my fellow Polarists and get to know them even more. We had such a laugh together throughout the trek. Although I have done longer and more challenging treks in the past in terms of distance and ascent/descent, the Classic was harder than I was expecting. I think this was due to having the carry the extra weight of tent, sleeping bag, food and cooking equipment as opposed to my previous treks as well as sleeping in a tent every night rather than a bed in a refuge or other accommodation. I think all of these combined make it harder than you think. As mentioned before, this was my first multi-day trek where I had to camp and it certainly won’t be my last. I would recommend doing such treks to anyone and in particular the Fjällräven Classic. It is an awesome trek and very well organised from start to finish and can’t wait to do it again next year. I know already that more of my fellow Polarists are keen to do it next year as well as people from previous Fjällräven Polars, so who know how big the Fjällräven Classic Polar team will be next year…

We used a high-tech map designed by our chief navigator Johan Saari, as shown below:

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At the start of the trek I was asked to test and review the Suunto Ambit2 GPS watch, which I used to record our trek and compared it with the iPhone app Walkmeter which I often use for tracking my hikes. You can read my full review of the Suunto Ambit2 GPS here

You can also view the recorded route and output of the trek from the watch here

Welcome

Welcome to my blog about hiking, trekking, Fjällräven Polar 2014, in fact anything where you require boots and the outdoors.

My name is Phil, and following my outdoor epiphany which started in the summer of 2012 I’m now hooked on everything outdoors. So far my biggest treks have included the 250km Cathar Way, the 170km Tour du Mont Blanc and best of all, winning 1st place to take part in the Fjällräven Polar in April 2014.

I plan to use this blog to write about all my adventures, which will include my personal goal of becoming a Munroist (completing all 282 Scottish Munro mountains), summer treks, weekends in the Lakes and many more.

I like to try and make my blog posts humorous so I hope you enjoy reading and that I can put a smile on people’s faces while showing you some amazing places.

If you have any questions about the blog or the places I'm writing about, don't hesitate to contact me on: phil@philyourboots.com

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Please checkout my fellow Polar bloggers and read about their experience in their words:

Alex Kalita (USA)

Madeleine Hanssen (Norway)

Manon Kloosterman (Netherlands)

Peter Blom Jensen (Denmark)

Tuija Pellikka (Finland)

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