I have reached that point of the year where I struggle to find the time to get out on the trail or to get the opportunity to visit the mountains.
I find my time is taken up with sports, birthdays and preparation for the upcoming holiday period.
Instead I get the chance to look at my gear. What worked well and will it last another year or does it need replacing.
It is also the chance for me to review what gear I took on Long distance trails and whether I used everything in my pack or was I just carrying extra weight on the idea I could use it.
I also have the chance to plan my intended long distance trail for next year.
Last year I walked the West Highland Way with friends and it was a truly amazing experience. I originally had the idea to hike the same route again but this time with my son when he finishes his GCSE's.
Unfortunately with exam times and available holiday I just can't get it to work. I therefore decided to do it in 2025 but hope to extend the hike to include either the Great Glen Way or the East Highland Way.
I decided to think about what I wanted to achieve and feel the answer is to try and go further than before. I want to push past 100 miles but what trail can I complete in my available time period and although I have camped and wild camped a lot it has generally been with other people and not really by myself. To be honest I feel a little apprehensive about camping on my own and being completely isolated although I know I have the skills and capability to be fine.
I had thought about completing the Cape Wrath Trail but realized I don't have the time to complete it in one go and feel I would be cheating myself to do it in two parts. That's just my feeling. It is also very remote and I recognize I need to hike on my own to get used to it first before taking on such a challenge. There is also a chance I won't enjoy hiking on my own and that would completely rule out individual hiking.
I looked through loads of trails in the UK and Europe to find something I really fancied but at the end of the day I love Scotland and the freedom it provides and after already ruling out the WHW/GGW and EHW I came up with the Speyside Way. I spent some time looking at the route and decided I want to really push myself and figure out my own capabilities.
It was then and only by chance I discovered the East Highland Trail which runs from Inverness all the way back to Drymen and completes the loop starting with and including the West Highland Way and the Great Glen Way.
This route is hard to really find information on with only a few Youtube videos up to the half way point and one website. The website does show the route and has some lovely map drawings. The other problem is the route is not on any of the hiking apps that we all use and if it is it is only the northern section.
I have had to add the route step by step to the Outdoor active app as it didn't exist so I can try to plot stopping points along the trail knowing in my timescale I will need to be completing 32 - 36 km each day.
Going back to my gear I know I need some new trail runners which will be the Saucony Peregrine 13's. I have been using the 12's which truly love but they are properly battered and falling apart.
My current sleep pad needs an upgrade. I use a Trekology UL80 which I find a bit noisy but comfortable but for some reason it seems to be deflating during the night which is not ideal and therefore can't use on trail unless I can work out the issue. It is also about 850g and I am sure without breaking the bank I could save some weight in my pack.
The pack I took on the WHW was a Montane pack weight just under 1kg but doesn't have a lot of padding on the straps so if I am carrying a bit to much weight it can be uncomfortable on the shoulders.
I am not going to change or modify the pack but will probably take out a few luxury items like my Jetboil Skillet and cook set and a couple of items of clothing although I don't take much clothing anyway but should save between 1 and 2 kg if clever with my cook set.
I think I can ditch the frying and cook set along with cutlery and titanium plate. One small pot and long spoon will properly be enough if I keep cooking easy and straight forward unlike last time when I cooked potatoes, meat and multiple vegetables which was amazing but not necessary.
The next step will be looking into travel.