I was watching Levison Wood on Ch4 last week as he rounded off his latest adventure, trekking from Russia to Iran through the Caucasus Mountains. The scenery was simply stunning as one would expect, but it struck me that wandering around in a £600 leather jacket and only one bag feels as if he was trying to portray being more adventurous than he was. Dont get me wrong im sure he did more than the camera would allow, but it strikes me these programs can falsely show how ‘easy’ these adventures are.
Now any of you good folk who have travelled, camped, hiked or backpacked will know that you need significantly more than what TV appears to show so I thought I would write a little on planning.
I’m currently in the midst of planing for 2018, yes im that far ahead. You have to be if there is any chance of success and having something to look forward to help focus my training better.
There are 3 types, the planners, the wing it and seers and the in-betweeners.
The planners take time, study, pursue, arrange and organise to the finest detail. Kits is checked multiple times before embarking on journeys, miles each day logged and places to stop pinned. Some planners ask other planners to help them such as travel companies or sherpa guides to help move luggage from start to end points everyday, they also provide route plans and itinerary. I can see the draw of asking another to carry the burden, ive been in places where I longed for a kindly lift into my evening camp after trudging for hours.
The wingers and in-betweeners tend to just go and hope for the best, im an in-betweener. I plan but not to any analy retentive level just enough to stop me from dying ( hopefully).
I tend to stick to three things, Time, family and work. Money is not a major issue as generally what ever I pick it will cost me very little. Most of the stuff I do has to revolve around family time and work annual leave. I’m bound by agenda for change so leave works out at around 6 weeks per year, this has to stretch between family holidays and other time off. Family time is important more so that if I am away too much ill get into trouble. One way around this is to involve the family, bring them camping or arrange to meet them along the way or at an end destination and turn my adventure into a family holiday
Every good adventure needs a start, it starts with an idea usually, this takes the longest time for me as im easily distracted. Here there is usualy a few questions
- What do I want to achieve
- Where do I want to go
- How far do I want to explore
- Time of year
The adventure has to interest you, take you out of the norm and comfort zone. Take your time and day-dream, walk, run, cycle or take less strain with motorised power. I look to others to gain inspiration or try to seek those adventures others havent yet done or that have little air time or are little known. Here the power of the internet comes in handy and a quick search through forums, google and YouTube can usually yield many answers. It has taken a good few months for me to finally pin down what I want to do.
My initial idea was multi-day run and camps, I looked at forest runs, iconic forest trails and a road trip and this may still be on the cards yet. National trails were another idea but the mileage involved was staggering and without taking a year off would not be doable.
Then about a month ago it struck me, our National parks and the idea is born. For the last few weeks ive been reading and perusing various information relating to our national parks. There are 15 parks in all, stretching from the south of England to Scotland, the terrain diverse as rugged coastland to secretive forests and looming mountains and so present a great range of terrain to explore.
After you’ve dreamed and decided on what and where, your level of fitness will determine the next heading. How far can you walk/run or cycle in a day. The terrain will greatly determine how long it takes, when im in hillier country I can add an extra hour onto the day, this allows for strenuous climbs. Another aspect is can you keep going the day after, im not a super athlete, I wouldn’t even consider myself an athlete. But I have bags of stamina and an ever deeper bag of stubbornness. Will you be keen to keep going when it rains or its misty. Any outing can be as hard or difficult as you want it to be. I like a little discomfort it adds to the whole experience and gives me a greater appreciation for what I have at home.
The next part is how?
I had decided early on that it had to be more than just visiting each park and running a section, I would have to start and end at the boundaries of the parks, a main town or train station was another essential tick box as it would mean quick access and departure. So it was born that this would be a traverse of the entire park. Now with time an essential component I will aim to complete 30 miles per day and I have decided where possible to use existing long distance footpaths. I’ve found that 5 out of the 15 actually have these very paths that handily traverse the entire lengths, either south to north of east to west, but more about them later.
What is handy about the first 5 is that with well signed paths there will be limited navigation to do and they inevitably pass through towns and villages making refueling easy. OS mapping is where the route finding begins, for me I access the online version, for £19 a year I can plot routes and print off only the sections I want rather than spending a fortune on paper maps. It also allows me to go back and re-plot should I not like a particular route. YouTube is also a great source, with clips of nearly every part of the Uk having been walked, it can give valuable insight into the terrain.
With route finding I try as much as I can to pass water sources or near to towns, again it will be another essential component to success, once I enter Scotland this changes slightly as the terrain and remote aspect may require some additional support. Camping sites, Youth hostels and roads also play a part. With the ‘how’ aspect you have to consider your own comfort. Tent and tarp are by far the cheapest option and also give a greater freedom such as wild camp but offer limited comforts should the weather close in. Hotels, BnBs, Youth Hostels and campsites offer great comfort, warmth and safety but you pay for that comfort and over a few days the cost can add up. Another aspect to consider is what do you want to see along the way, OS mapping offers up curiously named places and sites that can heighten the experience and make it more memorable.
Probably one of the main points, if its one singular block adventure then the right time of year can make all the difference. Going abroad the weather can be pretty predictable but here in the UK were are not blessed with normal season. When I trudged the C2C the weather was ridiculously hot, the same cannot be said of this year at the same time, last year in september it was hot, this year the temperature seems to have suddenly dropped and forcing one to don winter running gear. The only hard and fast rule is check the forecasts, I often check either the Met office or Mountain forecast as these remain the most accurate. Scotland is best accessed early spring or october, outside of these and the midge will eat you alive, but that throws up the chance of bad weather. The time of year will also determine what facilities you can access, to early and pubs, shops or accommodation wont be open or close early the same can be said of going to late. With my National park adventure it will run throughout the year so with exception of Scotland im free to choose anytime.
So we are back to the how question again, when looking at your chosen adventure you will inevitably need to consider how you get there. Car is easy but where will you leave it? I have at times left my car in lanes or towns but that is only after checking with others safe areas. Trains are my choosen transport, buy tickets far enough in advance and its fairly cheap. I traveled by train on the C2C and enjoyed it immensely so wouldn’t hesitate to do it again. You could tap up a friend or relative for a lift but they might not be willing to be your taxi for hours on end, buses are another option but only stop at city stops so would necessitate some extra transport planning.
Once you’ve done all the above, you need to finalise your plans.
If you choose a well-known route, maps and guide books will be easily sought and advice readily available, again hit up google, YouTube and Facebook groups for advice. Once I have cemented my route, the next step will be printing off sections from the OS site, laminating and then annotating, this could be a week worth of work per route.
On the rear of each section I will annotate descriptions of routes, miles at landmarks, local facilities, numbers and addresses, this will allow easy changes to routes and at the end of a days hard slog less stress. Train tickets will be booked in advance to save money but to also make the adventure real, by booking something, it becomes material, an item to hold and grasp onto.
As ive explained in other post, I will start arranging my kits a few weeks before I set off. My kit will depend on the area im heading to, but ultimately it is always based around my essential standard items. With the addition of removal of certain thing depending on wether I camp or Youth Hostel it.
http://www.alastairhumphreys.com/ has a good selection of blogs dedicated to quite a few things and is the invetor of Microadventures.