Social Media Courtesy

I  have recently shut down my blogger account transferred and revamped Summituphere? 

My first post on WordPress , was to be on my forthcoming hike up the Great Glen Way and East Highland Way, however I have become disconcerted at some rather unsavoury comments made to fellow outdoor Bloggers.

Being a bit longer in the tooth than some, and the advances in social media outlets, they were initially  a little overwhelming for someone of my background. Now having spent a number of years exploring the Great Outdoors and climbing many of our munros and corbetts I had an unquenchable thirst for the knowledge and experiences of other like minded people. Moving to the social media sites was a slow progression from dedicated magazines.

My understanding had been rightly or wrongly, was to share  knowledge and skills gained from spending time in the mountains, whether it may be hiking ,climbing or wild camping. Over the past number of years I have acquired some great advice from people far more experienced in certain aspects of mountain skills than I, knowledge is priceless.

This leads me onto my main point, we have fellow outdoor enthusiasts out there whom make the choice of sharing their trips and small adventures with us all via Blogs,Twitter, Facebook etc . It takes a certain amount of courage and confidence to put pen to paper for all to critique, however we have to understand that the majority that do are not professional writers and gain no monetary value from it.

You may ask yourself why do they put themselves out there ? could it be for the love of the outdoors and the anticipation of sharing it with us all , or because simply they like to write. For me it is a little of both , but admittedly I have to be in the mood or mode for writing and time can be a factor as well, or as  in this case stirred into what I feel is unjust.

You may not agree with the content of an article or opinion ,fine but that doesn’t give you the right to use foul language or start name calling, we can all put points across in a disagreement or debate, some more eloquently than others, name calling loses the respect I had for your points of view all be it the correct one.

The biggest irritant for me is a fellow blogger criticising someones grammar or punctuation. I am not particularly top of the class on these topics myself and take more time than most to construct a Blog or similar writings. But in defence of all of us not blessed in that department, remember these guys and girls have other skills, skills that you do not have that is almost certain.  If you cannot say it face to face don’t do it behind a keyboard.

I would much rather spend time on a mountainside in the knowledge that my companion has the relevant skills out here to keep safe in all weather conditions than having to worry where my next apostrophe or comma should be.

Take the example of the professional footballer skills in abundance and overpaid. How many of those guys write there own books or journals? not many i would imagine.

To paraphrase a quote from our own Keith Foskett, “persistance and desire can conquer any gaps in skill, knowledge and qualifications” taken from Keiths new book Balancing the Blue a brilliant read.

Consideration please for fellow Bloggers.

Final evaluation of The Luxe Hex Peak

Been a bit busy of late hence the delay in getting this report on the Luxe Hex Peak to print
over the Easter holiday I undertook a 4 day trip through part of The Southern Uplands as part of my final preparations for the West Highland Way and later the Southern Uplands way.

Having purchased two new shelters to update and lighten my kit for the coming year my choices were the MLD Trailstar and The New Luxe Hex Peak however over the winter period my choice of shelter was mainly the MLD Trailstar. The Hex Peaks first outing is documented here on a previous blog Extreme Hex.

Weather conditions for most of the 4 days were very favourable brilliant sunshine all day and cold crisp clear nights. The trip report shall follow this blog when I can make time.

Back to the Hex my initial findings on this shelter as a whole were very hopeful  however the one drawback was the inner it was of poor quality and design the stress points at the corners of the tub were poorly manufactured and started to tear after a couple of overnight camps this could be down to poor quality control a rogue inner that’s slipped the net.

I also found the design could have been more user friendly it cannot be pitched as one with the outer fly and having to peg the inner to attain a taught pitch is a bit of a pain I would imagine after a long days hike in the pouring rain  and then having to go through this exercise could become a little tiresome. The inner would also have been more accessible with a full length zip running across the bottom of the nest.

I had contacted bob @ backpackinglight .co.uk regarding the flaws on the inner  however as I was going to do some mods of my own I decided not to post it back as requested. Firstly I strengthened the corners and replaced the mini tub poles with something more substantial the reflective guy lines were changed with a slightly thicker 2.5mm line  left over from the Trailstar  this gave me a more secure bite on the locks without fear of slipping, or having to tie off with a half hitch. I also found that the inner was better staked on two corners inside the fly as opposed to using the outer stakes. Another point here is the height of pitch for the fly which inevitably gives the inner the taught side walls you require.

Gladly the quality of the inner is not reflected on the outer fly all guy points and seam stitching are of high quality it maybe the inner was manufactured at another factory or some wee wify makes them by hand at home!

This is all consequential on my part  as I prefer to use a bivvy and leave the inner at home, to use the Ti Goat Kestrel Bivvy to its full potential I attached 5 loops to the interior seams to elevate the head area of the bivvy keeping it away from the face and head. I feel this is less restrictive and gives you more options on sleeping positions my only luxury here is a groundsheet. I am currently working on a customised lightweight groundsheet that can be pitched and packed along with the fly.

Using the Hex with fly only has the advantage of a very quick pitch I can have the shelter pitched and my sleep system ready in just over 5 minutes the bivvy and bag pack as one  therefore no need to be faffing about with an inner.

The big plus point for me on this one is the large door I would only close this if driving rain was compromising the interior otherwise it remains open day and night for the excellent views it gives. My only gripe here is the storm flap that covers the zip if the door is left open and the slightest wind blows across this small flap it reverberates sounding like a manic drone the solution was a small piece of velcro to fasten the storm flap around the zip. The other is the door tie it’s rather small for big hands or gloves resolved again with velcro.
I stand at 5ft 9 ins  and have bags of room  no pun intended both for comfortable sleeping and changing clothes. Even with a 50 litre pack stored inside there is plenty of room to cook safely and sit and watch the world go by.

This trip did not grace me with high winds as before but after my first experience with the Hex in high winds I resorted to using my older Leki poles which are far more stable than the ultra lightweight poles I normally use. In extreme conditions you could of course double pole and use the mid guy lines staked out for added security.

The only extremes that befell me were a couple of nights of frost I had spent a number of hours in the Hex during the trip and had no issues whatsoever with condensation.

I must admit I have become rather fond of this shelter very lightweight spacious- packable quick pitch- stands firm in high winds- sheds snow with ease. A few minor adjustments to the inner and in my opinion this could be a top shelter. Its total weight comes in at 1.25kg and a mere 620g fly only. You will have to seam seal it with the tube of sealer supplied I have found the best and quickest way to do this is to squeeze a small amount of sealer into an aerosol lid and slightly dilute with white spirit then apply using a small artists brush Luxe suggest you do this on the inside however I applied the sealer on the outside without any problems.

Bearing in mind the cost £159.00 from @backpackinglight .co.uk you just cannot go wrong with the Hex.

I honestly thought the Trailstar would be my first go to shelter but my recent trip and experience with the Hex  has left me in two minds for both walks the Trailstar or the Hex?

LUXE REPLY to the issues of the aforementioned.

I kindly received an email from Michael at Luxe he started of by apologising for his English however he translated his thoughts on some of my points quite clearly. Firstly he was kind enough to thank me for the issues raised in the blog and that it would help in the development of 2015 model. He states that he immediately went into the sample room to look at these problems first hand and spent two weeks renewing the technical specifications for the 2015 model.
Michael goes on to mention that he had a previous meeting with Bob @bpl_uk with the prototype Hex.
As for the inner he agrees that the quality has to be looked at and the inner could become tiresome setting up after long days on the trail. So the user friendly aspect is being dealt with.
The reason for the inner being as complicated he says was, that he had many requests from people wishing for a professional adjustment system he now acknowledges that it could be better designed.
For 2015 he is producing a two man version of the Hex with a rectangular inner set in the middle supported by two trekking poles and dispensing the need of a centre pole. This will also be slightly longer to accommodate the taller person

A big thank you has to go out to Michael and the staff at Luxe for their consideration in responding in detail despite the language barrier.


All pictures were taken on a four day hike over Coulter Fell and surrounding hills.

 

Testing and preparing new kit.

Now that winter is almost behind us and the happy memories of record snowfall in 2014 will linger long for most it was time I gave my attention to testing out the new kit that I had recently purchased reasons for were to get the pack substantially lighter and update worn and dated systems.

Normally at this time of year my attentions are focused on adding to the list of my Munro’s, but having missed out last year on some of the longer thru walks in the UK due to illness and injury my priorities lay with attaining hill fitness and gear selection.

The  walk I shall be doing will be the West Highland Way , having done WHW a few years ago  with a friend whom against my wishes I may add wanted to Bed and Breakfast all the way through. This time being a traditionalist I shall be wild camping to Fort William. The WHW will also play a part in giving me the opportunity to look at my set up and new kit for durability.

 

Over the past few weekends I have been spending my time on the hill committing to two or three night stays to decide on my preference of shelter and sleep systems in various different locations and weather conditions. It is best to find out now what suits your needs than two or three days into a walk.

My preference on shelter for the WHW is the Trailstar a large footprint that gives you sleeping options whether it be near the entrance or tucked up at the rear and more than enough space for kit the trekking Poles are my old Leki Thermo lites  I did fancy changing these for the now popular pacer poles but that may be for a later walk

The new sleep system takes me away from the conventional way I used to camp I have opted for the Ti Goat Kestrel Bivvy,  Rab neutrino 200 sleeping bag and the Thermorest neo air.

Using the Trailstar and bivvy I wanted to try and have as much of the outside  inside midgies and all if you get my drift. The Kestrel bivvy is a nice piece of lightweight kit at 6 ounces that packs down to the size of an apple it is water resistant  with a substantial tub floor and midge net that can be hooked up away from the face there are no concerns over condensation build up however its only use is with a shelter but I dare say that if the weather was fair it could be used occasionally as a stand alone.  I know that this does not give you that full bivvy experience but this is something that I want to progress to maybe on shorter trips to start with. I have enjoyed using the bivvy in the Trailstar it saves time over a nest and feels less restricted for positioning. The Kestrel and sleeping bag can be packed as one with ease.

I just cannot get away from the Jam 50 this is always the first pack I turn to and with  half a dozen to chose from the Jam always wins hands down. I suppose to some they might not find it functional on longer trips but I have been using this for years mastered its packing  and find it comfortable to the point I sometimes forget that its on my back. It has the added use as a day pack to so if you wish to wander off and grab a Munro which I intend to be doing, it can be cinched down to accommodate your needs for the day.

Cooking is done using a ti gas burner for convenience on the WHW however I will be looking at the new Gel4 . The Evernew solo is my cookware of choice most of my meals shall be of the dehydrated variety apart of the odd occasion I may force myself to visit a nearby chippie en route.

The only other addition to the shelter and sleep system is a Tyvek  groundsheet purposely for keeping clothes etc. from becoming damp during the night.

Now to the more personnel of choices we each make to suit our  body conditioning of running hot or cold I have tried many different types of base layers but the one that does it for me is the Helly Hansen Dry Revolution long sleeves. The HH has excellent fast drying performance I have found by the time I have pitched up sorted bedding and made preparation for a meal my base is just about dry and no need for a change. The mid layer will be the Montane Fury Hoody which can be worn without the need for a base if the weather is fine accompanied by the Montane Featherlite Endurance Windproof it will be a case of on the day adjusting these three layers to suit the conditions. I am still contemplating on my choice of waterproof the latest addition to the kit list the Karrimor Phantom Elite three layer Event however at 760g I feel it may be on the heavy side therefore may look at something lighter and packable.

The important bottom half will be adorned with Craghoppers Bear Grylls trousers these have been in my wardrobe for three years now and have never felt uncomfortable in all conditions they are light and dry very quickly the knee and backside panels are very stretchy and strong they also have the advantage of multiple pockets. Underneath Paramo boxers.

Footwear are the new North Face Hedgehogs gtx with a base liner sock. I may look at the inov8 terrocs  for the only downside of the Hedgehogs are obviously drying if the inside is overwhelmed in crossing water.

As I have stated in previous posts kit choice is an individual matter what may do for one person will be totally alien for another. This is one of the aspects of Hillwalking and backpacking that I really look forward to planning and packing the full list or thereabouts follows I haven’t included weights but my pack is around the 9.8k mark

Golite Jam 50
Trailstar/pegs
Tyvek groundsheet
Kestrel bivvy
Thermorest neo
Rab 200 sleeping bag
silk liner
Evernew Ti solo pot
Ti gas burner/2x100g gas canisters (re stock en route)
Foil windshield/fire steel
Three days provisions (re stock)
Sawyer water filter / 2 x 1 Lt pouches

Outerwear.
Helly Hansen .Dry Revo
Montane Fury Hoody
Montane Endurance Windshirt
Shell?
3 Buffs/peaked cap
Craghoppers Bear Grylls Trousers
Paramo boxers
Rab down Gillette
Long johns
2 Pair base liner socks
North Face Hedgehogs
Midge head net
The usual toiletries First Aid Kit, Maps, compass, Sylva Headtorch, Nexus 7, Camera DSLR? sunglasses!!!………………………………………………. oh and bus fare home!

If there is something you think I have missed let me know.

The End

Walk reports for the uninitiated.

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What do you do planning a walk on high terrain? We will assume that we are properly kitted out.

We have all read walk reports with nice sunny pictures and happy smiley people sitting having lunch is that the reality? or does it give a false impression to the uninitiated of the difficulty they are undertaking.

They are many sites out there dedicated to the hill and mountain walker with varied reports from people with varied experience. My personal opinion on the authors of such reports are that they have a responsibility to inform you of the complexity of the terrain and the need to be proficient in the use of a map and compass and on any difficulties you may encounter.

How many reports have you read where these points are  either forgotten or assumed the reader has the same knowledge or experience as the author.
Bearing in mind that a detailed walk report will differ from an authors narrative on a one day or multi day hike that evokes the beauty of their surroundings and reminiscences of that particular experience. 

My own particular preferences are where possible to go off the main routes therefore I wouldn’t advise someone with less knowledge to undertake my route plans.

I don’t profess to be as experienced as some however I am to long in the tooth to accept  general descriptions of a walk into the mountains therefore planning and revising my route are key for instance if I am heading for a new Munro on a Saturday outing my planning usually starts on a Tuesday or Wednesday. Firstly checking weather reports from more than one source and keeping them updated the technical aspect of the ascent escape routes along the way giving myself plenty of time to enjoy my surroundings and any historical features it may provide.

It was an encounter I had three years ago on the Tarmachan Ridge  that prompted me to write this piece.The ridge is near to the village of Killin and lies west of Ben Lawers it consists of Mall nan Tarmachan,  Meall Garbh , Beinn nan Eachan and Creagna Caillach the latter three are tops. The path in the summer months is quite distinctive and reasonably easy to follow although for the uninitiated can be a little strenuous but on the ridge the views are no more than stunning.

Two of the most popular features are the small pointy summit of  Meall Garbh and the Step which is reached on the descent from the summit of Meall Garbh  this is where I came across two young female hillwalkers the step can look intimidating to the inexperienced walkers and that precisely was the problem here for one of the girls she was visibly upset at the prospect of scramble down or turn back. It also didn’t help seeing someone trying the descent with his son in trainers and jeans and carrying a rope.

However I approached them to try and reassure and if they wished could follow me down or take the indistinct path to the right on a steep grassy slope. It was with great relief that when I pointed out  there was an alternative route  they could carry on with their adventure.

I decided to stop for lunch at the belach below the step and the two young girls joined me it was here that hey showed me their preparation for this trip it consisted of a walk report from a friend of theirs it had failed to mention the small pointy summit of Meall Garbh he did however reflect on the step and how easy it was to descend it did read a little macho and in reality I wonder how he really coped he had failed to mention the alternative route which would lead me to wonder about his actual experience in the mountains.

Most of us that enjoy our little jaunts find that you get great pleasure in the planning process and is a big part in our lead ups to the walk. My advice on walk reports would be to research more than one get the map and compass out and do your own detailed planning dependant on experience that way you may enjoy your surrounding more rather than worrying about whats around the next corner.

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Gear reviews do you follow them blindly?

I must hold my hands up here and admit “I am a bit of a gear junkie” there I’ve said it. This is not about kit but on why we choose our apparel my old sociology lecturer alway said ask questions why are they doing that?  and does that effect why we do this?

We are all keen to know how a certain piece of kit performs so we have within our midst ambassadors of kit manufacturers now this isn’t a pop at the guys out there that are in the fortunate position of being able to review the latest gear. They all play a valuable part in informing us of the pros and cons of such items two spring to mind on our social network site and that’s Martin Rye @summitandvalley.com and of
course Chris Townsend @www.christownsendoutdoors.com both prolific in there assertions of new kit. I have taken advice from both Martin and Chris regarding gear, as I have recently been replacing or upgrading my stuff.
There are three factors I take into account firstly cost being a miserable Scotsmen got to look after the bobees then obviously performance and durability.

Now call me an old cynic but this is where I like to start looking at what’s in it for reviewers of kit are they going to give favourable reviews simply because they are receiving free samples (cat amongst the pigeons) or can they honestly be objective. Bearing in mind a lot of guys and girls have in there agreements the right to be critical.

As I have stated I’ve been replacing and updating kit firstly it was the trailstar I had done the usual research online on performance etc. but never having used this type of shelter which is basically a tarp I sought advice from the best people to ask owners and users of the trailstar.
Now Martin and a few others gave me the heads up on the trailstar after that it was a no brainer.

I can sometimes be a little compulsive in my purchases I wanted a second shelter for the coming year and when the Hex Peak came on the market that too was going in the man’s cupboard upstairs. The basic reason I chose the Hex was down to cost I had looked online for reviews but there was not a lot to go on so it was a bit of a gamble fortunately one that paid of.
This allowed me to upgrade my bivvy, shell, and invest in some trail shoes.

Now the other purchases of the shell jacket in particular I had looked at quite closely having lost faith in my Paramo I wasn’t prepared to pay upwards of £300.00 for a well known or popular brand so had to try and make a compromise.

I had scoured the net for three or four nights making various notes on quality and reviews that were unbiased my final decision was on the Karrimor Phantom Elite 3 layer Event now the purchase price was half of some of the more popular brands. I can honestly say I wasn’t disappointed, it has performed to the equivalent of the big names.

Secondly I have been a fan of The North Face trail shoes in particular the hedgehog range I have worn these on a daily basis for knocking about with but decided to adorn myself with the new hedgehog guide. Believe it or not the past two weekends were the first I had used this type of shoe on the hills I am now a convert. More recently I bought myself a down jacket which for weight to heat ratio compares with the more expensive in the sales price fifty quid to twenty.
 

My personal feelings on kit choice are do seek advice from the likes of Martin and Chris or anyone else out there that has used the kit but as I am sure they will agree it’s down to individual choice and needs.
Ask advice – wieigh up pros and cons – personal needs.

Best laid plans of mice and men are destined to go awry

        

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View from the Akto

The first winter camp of the season had been eagerly awaited with great anticipation therefore my working week couldn’t end quick enough which in turn was an added incentive to get through my workload.

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Sunset over Lui

The plan……. was to head to Dalrigh near Tyndrum and take the route over the Allt Gleann Auchreoch  and through the beautiful Coille Coire Chuill Forest for the ridge of Beinn Dubchraig.

The morning started well up early and breakfasted on traditional porridge  the weather was overcast but fortunately no wind.

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Wondering whats over the ridge

I set off around 7.30 however an hour into my journey there was a strange knocking coming through the steering column of my trusty van on inspection I found a large blister in the side wall of the front tyre now I would have to change this tyre for fear of a blow out. Why oh why do garages tighten wheel nuts so much making it nigh on impossible to release them by hand. After about an hour trying various ways to release the wheel nuts I finally succeeded and was back on the road.

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claggy is an undertatement

Finally arriving at the car park at Dalrigh I was eager to kit up and be on my way.

The weather was surprisingly still with a slight drizzle as I headed up the approach path at the side of the West Highland railway.
An hour later and I had reached my first point of crossing the Allt Gleann Auchreoch but to my dismay the footbridge was down so an alternative crossing would have to be found.

After walking upstream there wasn’t a suitable crossing point to be found as the river was running high and fast I had contemplated shimmying up to the top of a tree and swaying it across to the other side and depositing myself on the riverbank Bear Grylls style but I was getting some looks of disdain from some local sheep as if to say don’t be so bloody stupid. Now to compound things even more the rain had started to come down in stair rods.

It was time to take stock and revise a new plan finding a relatively sheltered spot the coffee flask came out along with my map.

As time was against me now for setting up camp in daylight I decided to make tracks for Fiarach at 652m which I estimated should take me about an hour and a half to reach one of the flatter contours just under the summit. This is certainly a great deal smaller than my intended target of Beinn Dubchraig but it would give me views over to Dubchraig and Ben Lui.

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An old friend The Akto

The rain had started to ease off 20 minutes into my ascent of Friarach however after the initial disappointment of turning away from my original route I was starting to enjoy this little hill.
My pitch was on a well manicured piece of grass at the edge of a contour below the summit. after clearing some of the local sheep s**t camp was set and my water supply was only 50m away just out of earshot for a quiet nights sleep.

Best laid plans of mice and men are destined to go awry

Dusk descending on Ben Lui

It was time to settle down for dinner after collecting water as the night started to descend it became increasingly colder so I opted to get into my sleeping bag for dinner. Organised not a chance I’m in the sleeping bag and all my provisions and cooking kit are still in my pack it’s just as well I am on my own and there’s no one to witness this escapade. Now to say the vestibule area of the Akto  is a disorganised mess is an understatement this would now require some serious tyding up in the morning.
I eventually got round to consuming dinner and upon clearing up picked up the stove you’ve guessed it it was still extremely hot I let out a roar that had all the local stags thinking it was rutting season.

The following morning I was up early and had a wee wander to the summit and exploration of how the land lay, it is quite an impressive hill although the weather was rather claggy and the wind had picked up bringing in some snow showers it was really enjoyable nonetheless. The views across to Beinn Dubchraig and Ben Lui were non existent.

After all the setbacks it was a fun little trip and I would have stayed another night if I had ample provisions.

Lessons learnt be prepared to adapt, and be more organised at meal times.

The End.

My Relationship with Depression and the Mountains.

It may have come to some of my fellow tweeters notice that I have just recently reappeared on the media site after some absence and to add this is my first post in over a year so please bear with me. I write this with great testament to @SmirnieOutdoors whom with great courage and eloquence has written on the subject of Depression herself as to which gave me the inspiration to come to terms publicly on the matter myself.

 I can only come at this from my perspective as to the attitudes of others and the medical profession in general and as I write this it is difficult  but hopefully cathartic in doing so and be of a benefit to others…

I have had this illness on and off for the past seven years and it can show itself in various forms which some people may not be aware of. My recent setback followed on from an injury I had in late 2012 whereupon I tore my medial ligament this laid me off hillwalking, running and biking for three months,  three months of inactivity, which set the course for the rest of the year.
Being self-employed   this of course made matters worse however when I became sufficiently mobile I had no option but to return to work.

My first noticeable sign of the onset of this episode arose in the form of an obsessive compulsive behaviour to fold clothing and have drawers cupboards etc as neat and tidy as they could possibly be to the point of driving my wife to distraction whats wrong with that I hear you say most wives or partners would be quite happy with someone being as tidy. But it does have an effect on all around you when your constantly replacing items to their original place especially when your wife has told you in the past of being a messy B*****d.

As I previously stated  it comes in many forms another of mine was art however a number of people associate it with someone taking themselves away  being introvert , not eating , sleeping, and generally dissociating themselves from family and we have all heard of the stories of sufferers dependant on alcohol drugs etc and one which is coming more to light nowadays is past abuse whether it be of a sexual or physical nature.

My first experience with my local GP regarding this illness wasn’t good he basically asked me to fill in a questionnaire which took all of two minutes had a quick look and prescribed anti depressant oh and come back in six months that was it.

This was the first time it had an effect on my going into the mountains  the will was there but that final motivation had gone and I desperately tried to get it back to the extent I would kit up drive half way to my destination and turn back, then would have that overwhelming guilt feeling of not completing my task. I was still reading mountain journals and following what was going on with different expeditions but my mojo had vanished.

My advice to anyone who is suffering silently is to talk to someone sometimes its better in my opinion to discuss it with a stranger whom has experienced it themselves and will understand where your coming from rather than a therapist that could be talking out of his or her arse. A few years ago I had that experience where he was blaming it on my childhood which couldn’t have been further from the truth. My diagnosis is that I am just a miserable git that will have to put up with this now and again.

My mojo is well and truly back  the mountains are my spiritual home this is where I personally feel alive. This year my planning has already started for wild camps and munroe summits to be completed.

To conclude get help don’t keep it bottled up or hidden away its difficult but you do get through these dark days its taken me a long time to go public.

So get out there and keep positive.

I shall follow up on this article periodically .

The END