Packing – the reality check!

Posted on September 2, 2012 by Chris Baynham-Hughes

After weeks of faffing I finally decided I needed a list. My list was enormous, although many of the items I hope I won’t need – especially the pharmacy I am taking with me! The limits for the event were 13KG in weight in the original spec of a 109L dry bag or no weight limit in a 59L dry bag, this is on top of a 22L drop bag and my mountain pack. Sounds pretty straight forward, but the weight of food alone is not insignificant and thus it’s going to have to get battered around in my dropbag for the week.

Much of the weight is related to the significant “what if?” factors involved in a 5 day challenge. The weather is the most obvious one; i.e., if we have the biblical style rain that we’ve been having then it doesn’t matter what I am wearing, after 8-14 hours on the mountain each day I will be soaked to the skin. This is fine for that day, but a warm top isn’t really so warm when it’s wet, thus I need plenty of warm dry tops for the week if I am to drastically reduce the risk of hypotherma. As the days go by I expect to be moving slower, thus generating less heat – there are some grim statistics out there and I don’t want to be anywhere near what I witnessed at the Fellsman earlier in the year.

I’m not going to lie, I’m also taking a few luxuries, but they are pretty calculated; e.g., I’m taking the same sleeping bag I took to Everest and I’m also taking 2 inflatable camping mattresses. In reality I only need my superb Klymit X-Frame but I figured the extra comfort may be welcomed; likewise I could get away with a lower rated sleeping bag, but do I want to have sleep interrupted by the cold or wrapped up in loads of clothing? No thanks.

I’ve got access to all my food though now and a few things may need to go in order to hit the weight limit as I don’t think the 22ltr drop bag is big enough to fit all my food in. I’m going to be powered by a number of different foods. I’ve got some “techno-food” in the form of Cliff Shot blocks – these are tried and tested for me and I find them far better than gels. I’ve got a couple of jells and a couple of bars of Kendal mint cake in case I bonk, but the plan is to keep eating. I’ve mostly home made cakes – Energy bars, Bara Brith, a Fruity cherry loaf and a date and walnut loaf. I’ve brioches, a banana and a packet of crisps for each day along with cheese sandwiches for the first two days and some salt and vinegar crisps. Food is a major weakness for me in terms of knowledge. I’d rather have more than I need than less, but I’m sure I’m well over what I actually will be able to consume. The idea of not having enough though is enough to finish you off so it’s a tricky balance.

So how am I feeling before the race? Well, I’m not sure I’ve took it all in yet really. I suspect this is a self defence mechanism; the race is just too big to contemplate and whilst I don’t feel I’ve done enough long days in the mountains to be truly prepared, it was always going to be incredibly difficult to get my legs and joints moving again the next day anyway, so in some respects the lack of prior knowledge is a bonus. Day one will be largely recognisable so I just want to get that under my belt and feel comfortable. Many of the anxieties I have should quickly drift away and then I’ll be into the mindset.

I’ll be defensive for the first three days anyway and will try to enjoy as much of the mountains as possible. I don’t think for a minute that being sore or tired will stop me completing this; I’m too stubborn for that. A serious injury will need to occur or the possibility of long term damage to get me off the mountain – neither of which I am planning so fingers crossed! Almost all of the journey will be new to me so it should be a wonderful, but painful adventure… but that’ll be the same for everybody else so if they can do it so can I. I’ll also be driven on by the incredible support I’ve been given and sponsorship that I’ve had. Making a difference is a strong driver for me.

The best news I have had all week though is from MWIS. I find they are very accurate and the best mountain weather forecasts. Considering the biblical rain that we’ve had recently I was worried my bag would be overweight due to the Ark I was planning on taking!

Planning Outlook for all mountain areas from Monday, 3rd September, 2012

Areas of high pressure, generally centred over southern Britain will dominate the weather through the coming week. As a result there will be very little rain, and winds will often be light. However, an intense Atlantic low passing north of Scotland on Monday night/Tuesday will bring severe upland gales across the Scottish Highlands. Generally banks of cloud will come and go, often shrouding higher western mountains in Scotland, but elsewhere, hills often cloud free.

Let’s hope so!

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