Monday, 30 April 2012

Arizona Trail 2010 - Part 4, Oracle to Superior

Leaving Oracle the pack felt heavy with a fresh load of food and enough water to cover 60 km. This is a long dry section and to save carrying too much water I decided it best to hike the 97 km to the Gila river over 2 long days. The hiking was easy but the heat intense and with no natural protection the umbrella came in very handy. The first day is spent hiking down Pipeline Road which, not surprisingly, is a service road for a pipeline! It's long, straight, hot, dusty and boring. The peak in the background is Antelope Peak and it will be many hours before you get there, however, it WILL tease and taunt you all day. But... even a boring section like this has much to offer...

Arizona Trail 2010 - Part 3, Vail to Oracle

Vail was a quick resupply stop and I was soon ready to press on towards Oracle. To rejoin the official AZT required a road walk to the La Posta Quemada ranch.

Sunday, 29 April 2012

Arizona Trail 2010 - Part 2, Patagonia to Vail

The route out of Patagonia is probably the least interesting of the whole hike with a long road walk right to the end of the dusty track. I carried an umbrella for shade and found it really useful on sections like this, as long as it wasn't too windy.

Saturday, 28 April 2012

Arizona Trail 2010 - Part 1, US Border to Patagonia

Back in 2010 I hiked the Arizona Trail. This was an incredible experience and my favourite thru-hike to date. On a long hike it can be tough to keep motivated and you can find yourself becoming numb to all the surrounding beauty. Variety keeps you stimulated and the Arizona Trail certainly has plenty of that.

The Arizona Trail (AZT) starts at the US/Mexico border and ends 1300 km later on the Utah border. It passes through some of the best of what Arizona has to offer, and deserts, snow covered mountains, forests and the mother of all canyons, the Grand Canyon, will be climbed or crossed. Add to this the heat, snakes, plant life that eats kit and lack of water, then you have a challenging trail. The AZT is normally  thru-hiked in spring or autumn because of the scarcity of water and the intense summer heat. In winter you would be faced with deep snow on the mountains and around the Grand Canyon making hiking difficult or impossible. Out of the two spring is the most popular and generally has more reliable water from the winter snow melt and also the desert will be in full bloom. My hike started 4th April and finished 6 weeks later on the 20th May. More details of the trail can be found on the AZT website. I would also throughly recommend reading Chris Townsend's book on hiking the AZT which I found accurate and inspirational.

Part 1

Thursday, 12 April 2012

Therm-a-rest NeoAir - comfortable but unreliable.

When Therm-a-rest released its NeoAir in 2009 it was a revelation. For the first time you could have it all. The NeoAir was amazingly comfortable, but also light and with a tiny packed size. I liked what I saw. This was the future of camping mattresses. Initially demand was so high that I struggled to find one in the UK, but on the 2009 TGO Challenge I finally got to see one. It was certainly comfortable but looked a little fragile, could it last a long hike? I wasn't so sure. The following year I hiked the Arizona Trail. This trail is known for being brutal on kit and that proved to be true. Inflatable mattresses were not recommended. Being a sensible hiker I heeded those warnings and took a standard piece of closed cell foam. This was light and reliable but also plain uncomfortable when laying on the sun baked mud and rock that makes up a lot of Arizona. During that hike I met Kimberlie Dame and she had bravely used a NeoAir for the entire hike without any problems. Convinced that with a little care they could be robust enough, and sick of sleepless nights and pain I finally tracked one down. The deal was done and it preformed brilliantly for the rest of that hike. It changed the way I camp forever.

Sunday, 8 April 2012

About Me

My name is Colin Ibbotson but I've acquired the trail name Tramplite. For the past 23 years I’ve been an Aeronautical Engineer with a passion for the outdoors. I had a car, a mortgage, and a good wage, but I’ve not enjoyed my work for some time. In 2012, at the age of 39, I decided to reverse my career and devote myself fulltime to the outdoors. That wasn’t a hard choice for me and had actually been made many years earlier. Its taken nearly 20 years for me to be sure and in a position to follow my dreams.
I’m a believer in that life is for living and should not just be an existence. If you are not happy with your life then CHANGE it! You can do it too, IF, you really want it.

My love of the outdoors began at the age of 13 when I got involved in the Duke of Edinburgh Scheme run by my local school. Here they make you romp around the hills with a pack that's at least twice as heavy as it needs to be, but rather than putting me off hiking for life it started my pursuit of greater adventures. Initially my targets were low but as each goal was reached I looked that little bit further. Over the next 26 years I refined my skills at home, and abroad, and realised more and more that it would not be possible to work fulltime and fulfill my dreams. A change was needed.

2012 was a transition year with me leaving employment in September. Luckily there was still sometime for an adventure or two and I was able to hike my Coast & Moor route and head over to Tasmania for a cycle tour.

My goal for the next 3 years is to complete the US Triple Crown (PCT, CDT, AT) and I will start that with the PCT next year (2013). After that I’m not so sure, one goal at a time is enough! I love the outdoors and not just hiking, I'm just as happy on a bike or the water. Expect to see many different types of adventures here.

I make a lot of my own gear and see that playing a bigger and bigger part in future trips. Keeping costs down is one reason, but I often find commercial gear is just too big a compromise for me. Function is number one in my book, fashion has no place on an adventure.

In this blog you will find my thoughts and opinions on adventures and kit, among other things. You will NEVER be bothered by advertising or paid-for reviews. I will only review kit that has actually been used for a considerable period of time, normally that means at least one long adventure. Reviews won't be the quickest on the web but they will be accurate. Staying independent and testing throughly is your guarantee of honest and impartial views, if such a thing is possible.

Thanks for reading and hopefully I will see many of you out on the trail in the future.

Colin Ibbotson