Dark Peak Walks by Paul Besley

Another review that should have been completed a while ago, but hey ho!
Paul Besley aka “the Peak District guru” as well as being an outdoors writer, is a Mountain Rescue Team Member and dog handler. He also does some voluntary work as a Ranger in the Peak District Dark Peak WalksNational Park. This is the first guidebook he has had published, and it has to be said, he’s made a good start!

I really like Cicerone guides, and think they have got the format down to a fine art.  I particularly like the fact that the books are pocket size, which is always important in a guidebook I feel, as there is every chance you will actually be taking it with you rather than leaving it at home.  However, the downside is that readers of a certain age may require a little help viewing the text!

Typical of Cicerone publications, the book is nicely designed and laid out, with numerous photographs accompanying the text.  Sections of OS 1:50 maps are also included, with the day’s route clearly marked.

The book contains thirty five circular walks, with five longer routes thrown in for good measure. Conveniently, the book is divided into four areas: East, Central, North and West Dark Peak. The short routes offer a really good introduction to a beautiful part of the UK, with the medium routes giving you a more strenuous day out. If you really want to escape the crowds and experience some remote moorland, the long walks are for you. 
Each route is broken down into legs, all of which are clearly and simply described in great detail and are, to my eyes, easy to follow. Points of interest are noted, and each chapter contains an abundance of information on the area you are passing through.

Great credit must be given to Paul Besley for the amount of research that has gone into this book.  The introduction contains more than enough detail for visitors to the region, providing a potted history, notes on geology, wildlife, local services, route planning, access and the CROW Act, and travelling around the area.  The appendix contains useful links, information on transport, tourist information centres and a particularly interesting list of aircraft crash locations complete with grid references. All of the information appears to be accurate and up to date, however as things can and do change, it may be worth checking before travelling. 
Overall, this is a great little book and a worthwhile addition to anyone’s bookshelf.

Zamberlan Expert Pro GTX

 This review should have been posted long ago, however due to unforeseen circumstances, the boots weren’t worn as much as they should have been last winter.

Anyway, what an awesome pair of boots they are! They have replaced my faithful old Salomon SM Experts as my go to winter boot.

They were unbelievably comfortable straight out of the box, and have proved to be very comfortable on long walk in’s. They were not designed for this of course, being aimed at ice climbing, high level use and glacier approaches. They are stiff and stable, however they have a nice forward flex, which does make them comfortable for long walks with heavy loads.
They are beautifully made from a single piece of Hydrobloc Perwanger leather, with a double tongue system and high rubber rand, and are insulated with Gore-Tex Duratherm. They also have a Vibram sole which gives good grip on rocky ground.

The acid green colour does make them rather loud, and maybe not to everyone’s taste, indeed until recently, they wouldn’t have appealed to me!
In use, the boots proved to be supportive and rigid, providing all the stiffness required, yet were surprisingly sensitive underfoot. They were used on several ridges and a couple of Grade 1’s, and were superb.

Verdict: if you’re looking to replace some worn out winter boots, you won’t go far wrong with these. If they fit of course!

Montane Torque 40

Having used this rucksack for several months now, it has taken over as my main "do it all" pack. Basically the Medusa's big brother, it has a bigger load carrying capacity and includes many of the same well designed technical features.

The excellent Raptor TL fabric for the main body, and Raptor UTL for the base, make the pack very strong and light (without being ultra light) and not feel flimsy. Waterproof shell friendly mesh on the shoulder straps and back pad facings are also nice additions.

The pack has one main compartment, one inner and one outer lid pocket. All you need really. The outer lid has a "buddy pocket" with a stiffened rim, preventing items from falling out. It also has a stretchy skirt which allows for a close fit when the lid is closed.

There are too many features to list in this review, however some of the main ones are:

One of the things I immediately liked about the Torque, is the fact that the back is stiffer than the Medusa. I found it quite irritating how that used to bend in the middle. The Torque is a very comfortable pack to carry, and I can pack in all I need for a day out with a group, or for an overnight camp. When not carrying a full load, the side straps allow you to compress the pack.

As with the Medusa, this has most of the features you want, and few you don't. If I had to nitpick, the inclusion of stretchy wand pockets and a stash pocket would make this pretty much the perfect pack for me. As it is, it's another winner from Montane, an excellent addition to the range, and great value.

Berghaus Torridon 65

I bought several of these a while ago for group use, and I have to say I am impressed with them after using one myself on several wild camps,

The pack is a very comfortable carry, due to the adjustable back system. This is a simple design that allows you to adjust the back length with a few pulls of straps and Velcro. There’s a chunky waistbelt as well as various tensioning straps, plus an elasticated chest strap. This combination ensures the pack should fit a variety of different body shapes. Otherwise it is a fairly standard design.

There are two side pockets, an internal divider and access to the base compartment via a long zip. You get a large lid pocket too, as well as mesh wand pockets, which can be accessed while wearing it. There are also attachment points for ice axes/walking poles, and compression straps on the bottom. It’s also hydration system-compatible.

Like most Berghaus Rucksacks, I found this to be an extremely comfortable pack. With the adjustable back system, it was easy to get even the heaviest loads to sit just right – and obtain a level of comfort I was quite happy to pay the slight weight penalty for. Although this is relatively weighty pack it doesn't feel particularly heavy, and 1.8kg is still acceptably light given the durable fabric used and the back system.

The one thing I missed however, were side compression straps, I do find these useful for storage, and obviously compressing the pack when not fully laden. I found that, without being minimalist, the pack pretty much swallowed everything I required for two or three nights backpacking, with ease.

In summary: the Berghaus Torridon 65 has a great back system, is comfortable carrying heavy loads, has an easily accessible base compartment, side pockets, is good value, is made from tough fabric, and is excellent value. The downside's are: no side compression straps, the side pockets aren't as easy to access as they could have been, and the pack is not as light as some. Minor niggles really.

 Montane Medusa Pack 

 The Medusa pack is Montane's first addion to it's rucksack range. I have been using this pack for about a year now, and have to say I'm impressed.  It is a very light and comfortable carry, has all the features I like, and very few that I don't.

The pack is light but in no way feels delicate or flimsy; this particular example has been used and abused while out with groups and shows no sign of wear. The Raptor TL fabric that the main body is manufactured from certainly appears to be tough and durable.

The bottom panel is made from Raptor UTL, which is ultra tough and prevents abrasion. The straps and waist belt are of good quality, are comfortable, and also appear durable. I particularly like the stash pocket on the right side of the waist belt; why don't more manufacturers include one of these? A gear loop is on the left. 

There are side pockets, which I am pleased to say are deep enough for items not to fall out of easily. They are also stretchy, which is useful. As you would expect, the pack has a lid pocket, and an inner pocket. A nice touch with the outer pocket is that the zip is on the outside, making it easier for your "buddy" to access it on your behalf. The lid also has a stretch skirt which enables a close fit when closed. The chest strap has a clip, and easily fastens using one hand.

The pack is hydration pack compatible, has compression side compression straps, and has a "Dual Tool" ice axe/walking pole attachment system. The pack is rated as having a 32L capacity, but I have no problem packing everything  for a day out with a group, and imagine it could hold all you need for lightweight backpacking.

My only real gripe with this pack is the "Comfort Back Pad". It is comfortable, however I would have preferred it to have been a little stiffer. After using the pack for a while, the back pad has started to bend inwards, resulting in the pack resembling one with an airflow back system. This of course could be as a result of not packing correctly! More experimentation needed.

Overall, this is a cracking pack, which has been well designed, well thought out, and is great value for money. Now looking forward to checking out the Torque 40 L pack.

Walks from Wooler by Geoff Holland

Trailguides Publications 

Another cracking little book from Trailguides. This one however, is a little different. It is essentially an update of a book of the same title, written by W. Ford Robertson, and published in 1926.
This version is written by Geoff Holland, author of numerous walking guides to the North of England, and contributor to various magazines.

The book has the same clean layout of the other Trailguides publications that I have seen, inside and out. The introduction explains how Geoff came to write the book, and also contains sections devoted to: how to use the book, information and history of the area, access, weather, and accommodation to name a few.

Wooler is a town in Northumberland, situated on the edge of the Cheviot Hills, and gives easy access to large chunks of the National Park. It is a popular destination for walkers and cyclists.

There are eight walks contained within the guide. Distance, terrain, and time are included as you would expect, grid references to key points on the route are also given. Each walk is then broken down and described in great detail, accompanied by numerous photographs taken by the author.

Don't expect up to date OS mapping, with the route marked: that is not Trailguides' style. What you do get, are clear diagrams based on old OS one inch maps. All the information required is there,  however a little work is expected of the reader. Which can be no bad thing!

Contained within the text are numerous quotes from W. Ford Robertson, which add to the entertainment value provided by this book. It really is a good read, a great introduction to a beautiful part of the country, and a useful addition to the bookshelf.

The Dales Pack 2 by Peter J. Beresford and Jim Rubery

The Yorkshire Dales is a beautiful area which was designated a National Park in 1954, and  on a personal note, is a favourite destination for me. I never tire of its landscape, and many unspoilt villages and pubs. Did I mention the pubs? The area lends itself perfectly to a day, weekend, or even longer out, with some fantastic walking to be had, over and among its rolling hills.

dales pack 2The Dales Pack 2 is the perfect guide to accompany the visitor. This is one of a series of packs covering various parts of the UK including: the Lakes, North Yorkshire Moors, Peak District and Snowdonia. This is my first experience with these publications, and I have to say I am impressed. The Dales Pack 2 comes [as do the other packs] neatly boxed, containing a user guide, a card holder, and laminated walking cards.

The user guide has several sections containing useful information on topics such as: weather, clothing, safety, map reading and the country code. The twenty walking cards cover walks ranging in length from five to fifteen kilometres, and are graded from easy to difficult. The grading however, is subjective; one man's easy is another man's hard etc. Nonetheless, many people find this useful.
Each card is packed with detailed information, not only on the walk itself, but also of the surrounding area, and other places of interest you may choose to visit.

The walks are broken down into legs, which are then described in great detail. On the reverse of the card, the route is clearly highlighted on OS mapping. Useful stuff. However I am pleased to say that the authors stress that a FULL map should be carried, and they include some handy tips for the novice, on reading a map and using a compass. Again, useful stuff.

The walks themselves are a nice selection, with something to suit all tastes, and time constraints. An afternoon round Brimham Rocks? A  longer day on one of the Yorkshire 3 Peaks? Or how about Arkengarthdale from Reeth? I am familiar with most of the walks in this pack, the ones I am not so familiar with, I will most certainly be checking out soon.

All in all, this an excellent, and slightly different slant on walking guides. Recommended.

Walks around Reeth and Upper Swaledale by Keven Shevels

Trailguides Publications

This book is published by a North East company by the name of Trail Guides. The aim of the company is to produce guides that are user friendly, informative and in an easily readable format. On the evidence of this book, they have hit the nail firmly on the head.

First of all, for anyone looking for a guide containing OS mapping, look elsewhere; this book has route diagrams based on old OS maps. It has however, been updated by numerous field trips and site visits by the author. The lack of mapping is not really an issue to my eyes, as the diagrams are clear, well drawn, and contain as much detail as is necessary. My view on this is that it encourages a little research on the reader's part.

The introduction contains useful information, with sections devoted to access rights, weather, maps and accommodation within the area. Each walk is then introduced with some background information, such as local history. This is followed by a rough guide to the route, including time, distance, terrain and grid references to notable features on each leg.

The walks are then described in detail, with great clarity, and have clearly been well researched by the author, who guides the reader step by step, from start to finish. In fact, the routes are so well described, that I found myself building up an accurate picture of exactly what to expect.

Numerous photographs are also included, not only of the landscape variety, but also of interesting features you will encounter on the walk.

All in all, I found this to be a great little guide to a wonderful area, and a very useful addition to the bookshelf. I look forward to reading many more of Trail Guides publications.