Wednesday, 28 August 2013

Peacock Butterfly

Saw this lovely little beauty whilst out in Macclesfield forest yesterday - a Peacock Butterfly - and managed to capture a photograph on my phone before it took flight:

Tuesday, 27 August 2013

Bumbag review: OMM Ultra Waist Pouch 6L

Packed and ready to go...see picture below for what's inside
I already own various rucksacks and a small bumbag for when I'm out running, but with a trip to the Swiss Alps planned I was after something that was in between the sizes I already have. I considered getting the same rucksack as my other half, as I needed my new purchase to be lightweight and compress down nicely for when I was travelling and had all my stuff in my large rucksack (he has the Adventure Light 20L).

But, the Adventure Light was a bit over my budget, especially as I don't need another 20L rucksack. I soon came round to the idea of a larger bumbag, partly so that I didn't have to deal with having a sweaty back all the time - the Swiss Alps can be very hot in summer. Plus my Osprey 5.5L rucksack is more than suitable for most running days (and I swear that it can hold 10-12L of gear anyway), and my 22L sack works perfectly for when I need to carry more stuff. Narrowing my selection down I settled on the OMM 6L bumbag. My only concern was the bottle being on one side - would that make it sit unevenly? Everyone I know who owns one didn't have a bad thing to say about it so that was that.

The bumbag is advertised on the OMM website with the following text:

"A larger waist pouch with innovative ‘quick stash’ single handed bottle holster, supplied complete with OMM Ultra Bottle. A favourite with Ultra runners who need to carry that little bit extra, or for longer training runs. A great size to get all fell race approved items plus your essentials in without having to move to a rucksack."

It sounded just what I was after. Having now used the bumbag on the Swiss trip, and a few runs around the Peak District I have some comments about this bit of gear:

bungy cord/compression strap on top: great for attaching an extra item (eg. rain jacket or dry bag with extra stuff in). Even with additional items strapped on the bag was comfortable and didn't bounce up and down any more.

Side pocket without a zip
side pockets: good for quick access to food/phone - something I miss when not using my larger rucksack

inside organisation: there's a separate internal pocket with a couple of divider bits so I can store emergency cash, compass etc and can find them easy when needed; it's got velcro on it so there's little chance of bits of stuff falling out if you go into the main area whilst on the move.

comfort: it sits really well around my waist, no digging in, no points that rub. With the compression straps and bungy cord tightened up there is no bounce, even with it stuffed as full as I could get it. I've even set off running with it full and forgot to do the straps up and there was little bounce - it took me a few kilometres to realise I'd forgotten. There's plenty of padding around the whole bag so it really is very comfortable.

space: there's loads; enough to get in waterproof jacket, waterproof trousers, spare buff, hat, gloves, cash,
phone (only waterproof pouch shown), food, spare food, compass, (it has an integral whistle on the zip), ultratherm jacket stuffed in a dry bag, arm warmers, emergency bivi bag, headtorch....a few other bits and pieces. That's a decent amount of kit and all I could need for a full day on the hill - in winter or summer.
Contents of the bag unpacked: black item at back left is a windproof beanie; inside the green dry bag is my ultratherm jacket; black item is waterproof trousers; blue rolled up item is OMM smock; white item are arm warmers. Only 2 bars shown - I could easily fit in a couple more in the side pocket plus spare food in the main bag.
The bag also sits well around my waist with virtually nothing in it, as the compression straps and bungy cord really compress it down very well.

my solution to stop items falling out
Right hand side pocket - this is the one which doesn't have a zip. I use this for my food and bars so they're handy to eat on the move...but...items tend to work out of it over time, so I was forever checking that I'd not lost anything - food is quite important! Also, when you take the bumbag off there's a tendency for items to actually fall out of this pocket - you can see in the photograph above that the top edge isn't very tight. I've overcome this issue by putting a sweat band around this bit of the bag. I think a longer term fix would be a compression cord or tighter elastic around the top to hold things in better.

Bottle - this is my biggest grip with this bag, and it annoys me - for such a good bit of kit the bottle is proper rubbish! The drinking nozzle is useless; it has a tendency to close as you're drinking so the flow isn't great. When I'm running and drinking I have to time my breathing too, so this issue just throws my breathing out and having a drink takes up more time and effort than it should.
On a couple of occasions I've actually pulled out the nozzle as I've tried to drink while running - the result is water just pours out everywhere.
deconstructed bottle
Putting the bottle back in the holder is easy enough if the compression cord isn't done up too tight, and there hasn't been any issue with the bottle falling out which is good.
My initial thoughts were that the bottle could be slightly larger; but, surprisingly it does hold 500ml of liquid (if you literally fill it to the brim). However on longer runs I've ended up taking another bottle and putting it in the main compartment.
holes in bottle pouch are for...?
You can't actually get last bit of fluid out of the bottle unless you take the lid off - and that just isn't possible when running. When you stop to take the lid off and drink out of the wide bit it tends to spill
very easily. Not great if you're relying on that fluid to get you to the end of a run or race.
Holes in the bottle pouch - not sure why they're there but it does mean you can't use that pouch for any small items if you don't have a bottle with you.
I do find my hand catching the bottle sometimes as my arms swing through, but I'm really pleased that having it on the side doesn't make the bag feel lopsided.

Waist straps - this is a common issue for rucksacks and bumbags of any type I've used recently; the waist strap is just way too long and there's no-where to stash the extra length. OK so there's a 1cm wide bit of elastic, but over time that will stretch through constant use - it's already showing signs of wear. For my 9 stone body there's an additional 20-24cm (on each side) that I just don't need and even tucking it back on itself under the elastic I still catch it with my arms/hands, or it works loose, then flaps around until I can tuck it in again. That's just faffage you don't need when you are out running.  In colder weather I'll have an extra layer on, but that won't make 40-48cm gain around my waist!
spare waist strap folded and tucked into elastic

spare waist strap unfolded

elastic for stowing spare waist strap, it's already going baggy
Whistle: absolutely great that one is provided...but it's on one of the main zip pulls and it rattles and tap-tap-taps on the bag as I'm running along. Tapping and things rattling is one of my pet hates!! I end up tucking that zip pull inside and closing the zip with the other puller. Ideally I'd have the whistle on a short cord inside, you are after all unlikely to be running and blowing your whistle at the same time.

OVERALL IMPRESSION: I really do like the bumbag; I dislike the bottle. I'd buy the bag again, but I've already swapped out the bottle for another.

The bag in action in the Swiss Alps - climbing up from Bettmeralp to the ridge overlooking the Aletsch Glacier

Heading down to the Aletsch Glacier
High above the glacier on Bettmerhorn-Eggishorn ridge

Sunday, 25 August 2013

Half the Edale Skyline

I ran half of the Edale Skyline route yesterday, about 18km with nearly 900m ascent. My aim was to run it as a long steady distance (LSD), keeping my heart rate steady, not letting it get too high on ascents. I am wanting to run the whole route this year, but need to build up the distance steadily over the next 3 months. This run was a good opportunity for me to see how long it would take me to get to Mam Tor, and, to satisfy my curiosity, whether I would get there before the magic race cut off time of 2hrs 45mins. Given that I wouldn't be pushing on the run, and definitely not at race pace, I had no thoughts on how long it would take me. I was just out for an LSD and to enjoy the scenery. Here's a few photographs:

Looking down towards Edale, nearly at the top of Ringing Roger
Looking up to the top of Ringing Roger

Looking towards Hope Cross from the south edge of Kinder
Jaggers Clough in the foreground with Win Hill and Lose Hill

The path on south edge of Kinder, heather in full purple bloom

Lose Hill from above Hope Brink

Win Hill from Lose Hill summit

The Mam Tor ridge from Lose Hill summit
As you can see, it was a rather overcast day. The temperature was pleasant, if not a bit muggy so even when it rained on me whilst on the southern edge of Kinder I ran in just a t-shirt. The key time was obviously reaching Mam Tor within the cut-off time and I was really pleased to get to Mam Nick in a total of 2:26:54. Actual moving time was 2:21:22 so stopping to take photos and a couple of brief pauses only added 5 minutes on.

Tim had kindly dropped me off at Edale, thereby avoiding adding on a link section of a few kilometres. He then parked at Mam Tor and ran the route backwards until we met up, we'd envisaged that being somewhere on Win Hill. Sure enough, after about 11km each we were running together, down Win Hill towards Twitchill Farm. The climb up to Lose Hill summit is brutal; my calves were screaming but I was determined to walk with purpose and not stop. Managing this I paused only briefly to take a few photos at the summit, and then we were off again along the ridge. Knowing that the drag up Mam Tor isn't entirely runnable for me I stuck to Tim's heals on the flatter section from Back Tor to Hollins Cross, he really did help me keep the momentum up on that bit.

So, my plan is to get some progressively longer runs done each week and see how I get on with that. One of those runs will be the second half of the skyline route, just to prepare myself for what's coming. The full Edale Skyline is about 34km with 1373m ascent, so I've a bit of work to do yet.

Friday, 23 August 2013

Tree identification

Gosh, once you start looking there's so many different types of trees, and a lot of them are confusingly similar to the untrained eye. Whilst out with a private guiding client I took some photographs of trees (and a few other things) and have attempted to name a few, if you can confirm or correct me please add a comment at the bottom.

Look carefully...there's a speedy dragon fly in this photograph


No idea of the type of tree but the bark and branches are interesting


Pine or fir (we saw both)



An old tree stump...

...which we used to age the former tree to be about 125 years old

unknown tree...?

Variegated Holly

Yew or Redwood?

lastly, a cluster of mushrooms - any clue as to what sort?

Sunday, 18 August 2013


It was the Sedbergh Hills fell race today and at 22.5km with 1850m ascent it was a little beyond me (for now). So, joining the Glossopdale gang in a support role I drove a few of us up there then headed out for my own little run. The rain had cleared up, though it was a tad windy on the tops. I ran nearly 18km with 1028m ascent, and was out for about 2hrs 45mins. Pretty decent, though it involved a stop to watch the race pass on Arrant Haw, and a few other stops to chat with other runners just out enjoying the day but not racing. Here's a few photos I took:

Looking back down towards Sedbergh after the long first ascent

The ascent continues...

Arrant Haw (605m)

The view North-ish from Arrant Haw
The first descent off Arrant Haw
Looking back to The Calf (676m) from White Fell Head (636m)

Somewhere in between The Calf and Arrant Haw on the way back to Sedbergh

Winder trig point

Thursday, 15 August 2013

Macclesfield Forest

Last year I ran the Dark & White Mini Mountain Marathon in Macclesfield forest and have been promising myself to visit the area again. Well today I got the chance, but this time I was working with a private client, teaching navigation and learning a little about the flora in the area.

The day had forecast rain but it turned out to be glorious t-shirt weather. We set off from the car park and were immediately mesmerized by the innumerable raspberry and blackberry plants bearing a glut of berries. I'll be back to do some picking very soon.

Teggs Nose seen across Ridgegate Reservoir

Fungi growing on a fallen tree

Wild raspberries - very tasty!
Wild raspberries
Wild raspberries

Ladybower reservoir with glorious cumulus clouds

Wednesday, 14 August 2013

A running and walking holiday in the Swiss Alps

Our holiday this year was to the Swiss Alps where we visited Bettmeralp for a week with the Glossopdale Harriers running club, then on to Kandersteg and Grindelwald with a couple of friends. There was plenty of running, walking, eating bread and definitely way too much cheese (especially for Tim, the fondue was the tipping point!). Here's a selection of photos to show you what we saw and got up to:


Bettmersee....the lake just 5 mins walk above the village of Bettmeralp

Running on the first day

The Aletsch Glacier seen from below Bettmerhorn
A close up view of the Aletsch Glacier

Bettmeralp Chapel Maria Zum Schnee

On the mountain trail to Eggishorn

The ridge we came over from Bettmerhorn to Eggishorn

Swiss National Day - the band

Swiss National Day - children (!) with torches ready for the procession

Swiss National Day - the torch lit procession back to the chapel


A massive waterfall on the walk up to Lake Oeschinensee from Kandersteg

Glaciers from Blumlisalphutte, Kandersteg way below us

Just leaving Blumlisalphutte back down to Kandersteg 

Looking back up towards Blumlisalphutte

Lake Oeschinensee with the cliffs towering over

One of many glaciers seen on the walk from Kandersteg to Blumlisalphutte 

On the journey to Grindelwald there was a storm brewing


Train ride up from Interlaken to Grindelwald

Running up from Grindelwald to Kleine Schiedegg, Shrekhorn in the distance right of picture

A well earned rest above Kleine Schiedegg with the Jungrau creating clouds

Looking down towards the Lauterbrunen valley with the Schilthorn in view

The very helpful Swiss sign posts

Starting the steep descent back into Grindelwald after traversing on the Eiger Trail

The Eiger is trying to hide in the clouds

The Swiss obsession with storing wood

A beautiful rainbow on our last evening

The Eiger with the Grindelwald in the foreground

A more moody Eiger with a storm brewing