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i_p_jones

i_p_jones
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Member since: 20.09.2000

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      07.01.2002 21:06
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      Anyone who's been to Glen Coe will know what I mean by that title. Even if you're only passing through on the A82 going elsewhere, you can't fail to be dumbstruck by the awesome Glen Coe. Coming across Rannoch Moor, a vast desolate open land, you're suddenly plunged into a steep-sided valley hemmed with Scotland's best mountains. The domineering image is that of Buachaille Etive Mor (translation: the large sheperd of Etive), the huge pyramidical peak which stands over at the edge of the moor, said to guard the entrance to Glen Coe. Where is this Glen Coe, you say? It's remarkably easy to find, lying right on the A82, the main route through the Western Highlands in Scotland. From the south, pick up the A82 from Glasgow, head north for about 75 miles through Crianlarich and Tyndrum, and you're there. From the north, the same again - pick up the A82 from wherever you are (it goes right up to Inverness) and go south. It's hard to miss! If you don't own a car, you can get a train to Fort William which is 15 miles away. Long-distance buses pass through both Fort William and Glen Coe, and there are numerous local bus services as well. Failing that, there's an airport at Inverness and numerous ferry ports in the region! Now you're there you'll want somewhere to stay. Glencoe Village has a hotel or three, a youth hostel, a bunkhouse (just like a youth hostel really but independantly run), B&B's, and a few campsites. Nearby villages of Ballachulish (3 miles) and Kinlochleven (7 miles) offer more hotels and B&B's. This opinion can't go without a mention of the world-famous Clachaig Inn. Located at the centre of the Glen Coe valley, 3 miles east of the village, it's a pilgrimage for walkers, climbers, skiiers, tourists, passers-by, families, in fact everyone. If you've never been to the Clachaig you've never lived. They have a huge selection of real ales (despite its name
      , Fraoch's Heather Ale is superb!) from Scotland's best breweries - Skye, Orkney, Fraoch, Strathallen, Houston, and other guests. The same goes for the Scotch whisky - the shelf is absolutely full of bottles of the stuff. I know I'll come under fire for saying this but I'm not a fan of whisky myself so I can't comment on it! It's not just the drinks, nearly every evening the Clachaig has live music of some kind. From a kilted Scotsman with a flute to a roaring local band, from country and folk to rock and roll. And a superb food menu (of course, Haggis is on there as well). And the hotel upstairs. It's no wonder that in 2001, the Clachaig Inn was voted the best outdoors pub in Britain. This is by readers, not by a panel of judges. Ahem. Back to Glen Coe if you can pull yourself away from the pub - believe me it will be hard work! Glen Coe is the haven of mountaineers, hemmed in by spectacular peaks and ridges. On the north side we have the Aonach Eagach (translation: notched ridge), a razor-edged ridge high above the valley to test your wits. It's not for the faint-hearted. Even I haven't done it yet. Next to the Aonach is the Pap Of Glencoe, not particularly high compared to the rest, but a nice pyramid peak with fine views over Glen Coe and beyond. Crossing the valley we have Buachaille Etive Mor (known as The Buckle), the huge mountain guarding Glen Coe from the east. Its cliffs look impenetrable without ropes and tons of ironmongery, but around the corner you can get up onto the ridge and enjoy the spectacular views over the glen and out across the moor. The Buckle's little brother, Buachaille Etive Beag (trans: little sheperd of Etive, or the Wee Buckle) is by no means less impressive. It's easier to walk it as well than its big brother. Moving westwards we come to the Bidean Nam Bian (trans: pinnacle of the peaks), the highest mountain in Argyll at 1150m (3772 ft), another one not
      for the inexperienced with high and narrow ridges. The Bidean offers easier alternatives though, including the Lost Valley. The Lost Valley must be about the size of a few football pitches, and it's all completely hidden from view from Glen Coe. Local legend has it that farmers hid their cattle up here during battles, and it's easy to see why. Back to the higher mountains, behind Ballachulish lies the huge arc of Beinn a'Bheithir (trans: hill of the thunderbolt), again with spectacular views all round. Perched on the edge of Glen Coe you're treated to views of the distant Highlands and even the islands off the west coast. If you choose the right month you get loads of skiing in as well, mainly the White Corries, or if you go for a drive, Aonach Mor near Ben Nevis. Aonach Mor is the home of Britain's only Gondola chair-lift which takes you half-way up the mountain, from where you can go higher on the ski-tows. There's even mountain-bike tracks across the mountainside. It's a strange notion to me, but if you're not interested in climbing the mountains or skiing, Glen Coe is steeped in history. The translation of Glen Coe is the Glen of Weeping, after the Massacre Of Glencoe in 1692. This was when the Campbells were ordered to murder all MacDonalds under the age of 70. Not just murder, but murder under trust - the MacDonalds for many months had been giving homes to the Campbells and giving them food and warmth. They were murdered by their guests. Only 40 were killed, but many more fled into the mountains and died of the cold and hunger. In their memory, Glencoe Village has an impressive memorial cross. The Glencoe Visitor Centre, for 50p admission, shows a video of the massacre and the events leading to it. The visitor centre, as usual, has many souvenirs to buy, and books, posters and maps, and a display on the region's mountain rescue history. It's 50p entry into the centre, but it goes to th
      e National Trust for Scotland, which works to keep the countryside in good nick, repairing paths and walls and the like. For the tourist, that's all there is to Glen Coe itself, but if you go for a drive, Fort William (15 miles) is a much larger town with plenty of local souvenir shops, pubs and cafés. Pick the right month and you also get a ride on the Jacobite steam train down the "iron road to the isles" to the port of Mallaig. Or there's Neptune's Staircase a couple of miles from the town centre, the long series of locks on the Caledonian Canal built by Thomas Telford. Eight miles beyond Fort William is Spean Bridge, with a woollen mill and a Commando Memorial to the British soldiers who used the Scottish Highlands as their training ground. Closer to home, the White Corries ski centre on the edge of Rannoch Moor has a skiing and mountaineering museum, including the ice axes Chris Bonnington used to climb Everest. There's plenty to keep you busy if you go and look for it. Need I say anymore about Glen Coe? Well yes, but there's only so much that can be said in words. You really have to go there to appreciate the sheer scale of it. Even if it's only to visit the Clachaig Inn. Websites: Glen Coe - http://www.glencoescotland.com The Clachaig Inn - http://www.clachaig.com (yes it has its own website!) White Corries Ski Centre - http://www.ski-glencoe.co.uk Nevis Range Ski Centre - http://www.nevis-range.co.uk Maps for the area: OS Landranger 41 (1:50,000) - Ben Nevis & Glen Coe OS Outdoor Leisure 38 (1:25,000) - Ben Nevis & Glen Coe Harvey's Superwalker (1:25,000) - Glencoe (with 1:12,500 enlargement of Bidean Nam Bian & Aonach Eagach)

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        16.11.2001 20:30
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        • "too much about the people and not enough about the climbing"

        In the spring of 1996, fifteen expeditions set out to climb Mount Everest, two of which were the Adventure Consultants Guided Expedition, led by Rob Hall of New Zealand, and the Mountain Madness Guided Expedition, led by the American Scott Fischer. The basis of such a guided expedition is that seemingly ordinary people can climb the highest peak on Earth, based not on their climbing skills, but how much money they have. Suffice to say, people with almost no climbing experience can climb Everest. A recipe for disaster? Jon Krakauer, an author, journalist and mountaineer from Seattle, was sent to Everest in 1996 as a part of the Adventure Consultants team to report on the commercialisation of Everest, and the growing popularity of such guided expeditions. He was sent there by Outside, an American mountaineering magazine, who payed for his expedition. For Krakauer, it was an offer too good to resist - he'd had a strong ambition to climb Everest from a young age. What resulted from the expedition was utter disaster - eight climbers died from various teams, and many were left badly injured and frostbitten. It was the worst single-day death toll in Everest's history. Krakauer, having been sent to Everest to write a report for his magazine Outside, felt such a disaster cannot be reported on a few glossy pages, and hence he wrote Into Thin Air. The book was written in November 1996, only six months after the events, so as he admits himself in the preface, "readers are often poorly served when an author writes as an act of catharsis, as I have done here." Into Thin Air opens literally at the top - Krakauer has just reached the summit of Everest, and although he's been dreaming of the moment for as long as he can remember, he's "too tired to care." Not surprising, after weeks of climbing at high altitude, where the air is oxygen-starved, and you're breathing freezing cold air laced with ice particles. As he wr
        ites, he explains that so little oxygen is reaching his brain that he has the mental capacity of a slow child. And on that basis, he has to descend back to Camp IV, over 3000 feet below. As the chapter ends, he is trying to descend as quickly but as safely as he can, but is being held back literally by "traffic jams" of climbers still ascending. To add to the troubles, it's starting to snow, visibility has vanished, and a severe storm is on the way... Chapter 2 takes us back in time, to 1852, when surveyors studied Peak XV, known as Sagarmatha - "goddess of the sky" - by the Nepalis, and Jomolungma - "goddess, mother of the earth" by the Tibetans. Through calculations with a theodolite and plenty of trigonometry, they discovered that Peak XV was in fact the highest point on the planet, at 29,002 feet above sea level (more recently, it has been re-calculated to 29,028 feet - 8848 metres). Peak XV was officially named Mount Everest, after Sir George Everest, the previous Surveyor General. Moving up through history, from the earliest summit attempts, to Mallory and Irvine in 1924, and Hillary and Tenzing in 1953. Then the first ascents without supplemental oxygen, wider challenges such as climbing all the 8,000m+ peaks, and the uprising in guided expeditions, which gained heavy criticism from people like Hillary. True, Everest was being devalued and commercialised, with aluminium ladders and fixed ropes making highways to the summit. And then to the present day, Jon Krakauer sitting on the Airbus A300 soaring above the Himalayas on his way to join the expedition. The next few chapters introduce the reader to all the expedition members, and the birth and growth of the Adventure Consultants company. Meanwhile, the team are making their way up the valleys, onto the glaciers, and onto Base Camp at a mere 17,600 feet above sea level! For people like me who prefer to read about the mountain and the climbin
        g, some parts of these early chapters get tedious, being more about the personalities of Krakauer's companions, but luckily he also writes about their climbing experiences. If they have any, that is! There were some inexperienced climbers on the team, but also plenty of accomplished climbers, several of which had attempted to climb Everest before but had to turn back befoire reaching the summit. By the way Krakauer introduces the people, you get the picture of who will be an asset, and who will cause trouble. Also as a bonus, the book is written with the non-mountaineers in mind, those who wouldn't know a jumar, piton, cam, or any other piece of hardware, if someone showed them one. Whenever there's a bit of technical speak, there's a footnote at the bottom of the page explaining what it is and what it does. The same goes for other items and procedures which wouldn't be common knowledge, such as the Buddhist prayer flags and holy shrines. Through the weeks of acclimatisation, climbing up and down the icefalls, Krakauer draws out the bonds between the expedition members : who is a strong climber and who will hold the rest of the group up. The way he writes makes it feel as if you are there, on the mountain, clipped onto the rope, hanging onto your ice axes. He shows how they change from arriving at Base Camp and feeling how thin the air is, then through acclimatisation it becomes the norm. Although he still writes about personalities, it is a very good read. Eventually the push for the summit comes around, where it really gets serious - around here, the book gets "unputdownable". As well as the climbing, rifts start to appear in the team. Especially with the two main expeditions, Rob Hall's Adventure Consultants and Scott Fischer's Mountain Madness, working together and Sherpas having disputes - neglecting to set up fixed ropes, "oversleeping" when they had been ordered to go out earlier to se
        t up the routes, and so on. This all led to the summit push being delayed, and as depicted in the colour photographs in the centre of the book. There is a picture of the notorious Hillary Step, a vertical rock face on the ridge, swarming with climbers in red down jackets. This not only slows down those climbing, but those who have already reached the summit and are returning have to stop and wait, using up valuable time and oxygen reserves. Mistakes were made up on the mountain, such as Rob Hall seemingly ignoring the "turnaround time" - the time at which it is too late to continue to the summit and they must return. Then came the storm, and the start of the tangle of events ending up as the disaster. Here comes a major criticism of Into Thin Air - Krakauer is very quick to dish out blame, and picks out particular Sherpas and guides as the villains of the story - mainly to guide Anatoli Boukreev and Sherpa Lopsang Jangbu. This stands out clearly when you do your own research afterwards - the Outside magazine's website, www.outsideonline.com, is a particularly good one. Find your way to "Scott Fischer returns to Everest" section and there you'll find press releases, addendums from Krakauer, and "letters to the editor" from those who were unfairly criticised in Into Thin Air. One particular example is on the descent, when things were going seriously wrong. Mountain Madness guide Anatoli Boukreev, an accomplished climber from Russia, went ahead and returned to Camp IV on the South Col, leaving clients up on the summit ridge in serious trouble. What Krakauer doesn't tell the reader is that Boukreev was sent down by the leader Scott Fischer to rest, prepare hot drinks and collect extra oxygen cylinders in case he was required to head back up to rescue climbers. Krakauer is quick to hand out blame to those he thinks caused the disaster, but in the effects of high altitude, everyone's mind had gone n
        umb, including Krakauer himself who did make serious mistakes (he does admit this in the book). Nevertheless, the description of the events is riveting. Struggling down to the South Col in a hurricane and zero visibility, with oxygen cylinders empty, you're there. No matter how warm you are while reading it, you can feel the cold and the effects of high altitude - too tired to stand up, never mind descend Everest in safety. It really is a riveting account of the disaster. With Krakauer in relative safety, down at Camp IV at the South Col with food and hot drinks, all he can do is wait for the rest. Boukreev, despite what Krakauer does (and doesn't) write, becomes the hero by returning to the summit ridge in an effort to rescue the standed climbers. Climbing the summit ridge is hard enough just the once, but to return to it a second time takes some doing. Eventually they have to come to extremely difficult decisions - is it worth rescuing those who are barely alive? They may still be just about alive but there's no way they will survive getting back down to base camp, so as hard as it is to decide, they will be a burden and jeopardise the safety of those still alive. They literally have to leave friends to die on the mountain. With the decisions made they descend back through the camps and back to the "normality" of Base Camp and finally back to civilisation, upon which the sheer scale of the disaster sinks in - the high standard of writing continues as Krakauer fights the oncoming depression once he is back home in Seattle. Overall, Into Thin Air is a superb book in the way it is written and the way the the events are portrayed. Other similar books I've read describe the situations clearly, but never so much that it felt like I was actually there. The only problem with the book, and it's a big problem, is that it is flawed. Maybe it is because Krakauer wrote it so soon after it all happened. Indeed, r
        eading on the Outside Online website, there are numerous key elements which he only found out months after the book was published. As he said himself at the start of the book, a reader is poorly served when an author writes as an act of catharsis. Inaccurate and incomplete facts written in the book have caused a great deal of distress for relatives of those killed. So, do read this book, it really is unmissable, but do realise that it's not the full story. Further Reading: "The Climb", Anatoli Boukreev (Macmillan; ISBN: 0333907159) Outside Online - Scott Fischer Returns To Everest : http://www.outsidemag.com/peaks/fischer/index.html

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          06.09.2001 22:14
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          Ask any climber about the Isle of Skye and he/she'll tell you about the Cuillin (pronounced "coolin"), the arc of mountains in the southern half of Skye, which about 10,000 years ago were volcanoes. The Cuillin is on a par with the Alps - the only difference is the altitude. There's nothing else like it in Britain. Climbers love it. Then ask the climber where the best base for Cuillin activity is. He/she will probably say Glen Brittle, the valley running down the western side of the Cuillin. This side offers better access from the eastern side (Glen Sligachan), with more paths and easier approaches. But since it's the Highlands, and Skye in particular, there's not much else there than the mountains. Glen Brittle is a 10-mile long valley, from Drynoch at the northern end to the water at the south. The only accomodation there is the Sligachan Hotel at the north end, with limited access to the mountains, or the Glen Brittle hamlet down the 9-mile single-track road. Accomodation comes in two flavours - the campsite or the youth hostel. Do you : (a) spend your holiday in a tent, cooking on a portable stove, in the rain, with no central heating; or : (b) spend your holiday in the comfort of a central-heated, double-glazed, fully-equipped youth hostel, kitchen-and-all? We know what we did. Glen Brittle YH sleeps a total of 40 people over 4 dormitories, in the standard youth hostel double bunk beds, pillows and duvets and bedsheets provided. Downstairs, all cooking equipment is provided - hobs, oven, toaster, microwave, fridge (no freezer), plates, bowls, cups, cutlery - everything. All you need to take is food. You can buy small odds and ends from the hostel reception - cereal, tinned meat, drinks, milk (UHT only) and other non-perishable items. The shop at the campsite a mile down the road sells more items like bread, fresh milk (for the first few days of the week, t
          hen it's back to UHT) and the usual souvenir items. Both sell local maps and walk guides. Other than those, the nearest supermarkets are at Portree (20 miles away) and Broadford (30 miles away). If you go by car, make sure the tank's well topped up - there's a small fuel pump at Carbost 10 miles away, but that's only open shop hours (ie. not early morning, late night or Sundays). Apart from that, it's another journey to Portree or Broadford to fill up. As you might have guessed by now, Glen Brittle YH is quite remote. That's what's so great about it though - you can go there and relax (unless you're going climbing on the Cuillin of course). Although the Cuillin is mainly a climber's playground, those of us who don't know the ropes can still go there on foot. Some of the peaks can be reached without climbing gear, but be prepared to go back down the way you came up - there's plenty of cliffs waiting to surprise those of us who came up the "easy way". Or, failing that, the huge corries below the cliffs provide not-too-hard walking - pick up one of the leaflets from the YH for some ideas. Or there's the Rubh' an Dunain peninsula (watch out for the archaeologists though, hint hint). Or if you jump into the car, the Trotternish region to the north has the strange rock formations of the Quiraing, or go eastwards for the easier peaks of the Red Cuillin - Blaven is a particular favourite. Just because Glen Brittle's remote, it doesn't mean there's nothing to do. Interesting fact : from some places, you can see South Uist, one of the islands on the Outer Hebrides. Beyond that is the Atlantic Ocean. Three thouand miles beyond that is America. A Gaelic name for the Isle of Skye is "Eilean a'Cheó", which translates to "The Misty Isle". They're dead right, you know. The Hebrides are fairly flat, so the Cuillin bears most of t
          he brunt of the Atlantic weather storms. Which means it rains quite a bit. To quote one of the books : "there's no point in sitting out a rain shower on Skye, they can last for weeks". It isn't all doom and gloom though, the isle does get some good weather - May seems to be the best month. And the Cuillin acts as a barrier as well - go eastwards and the weather can brighten up. Another Gaelic name for Skye is "t'Eilean Sgitheanach", which translates as "The Winged Isle". Anyone who's been there will know what it means. Midges. Plenty of them. I can recommend the Mosi-Guard spray, available from the Glen Brittle campsite shop for about £4. The Facts ========= Cost : varies from £8.25 to £8.75 per person per night (see website) Beds : 40 Recommended Map : Harvey's Superwalker - Skye : The Cuillin (available from the hostel shop) Area map : http://www.streetmap.co.uk/streetmap.dll?grid2map?x=140500&y=822500&zoom=4&isp=200 &ism=1000&arrow=y?157,103 How to get there ---------------- The usual approach to Skye is the A87, over the Skye Bridge (£5.70 for cars), then continue to Sligachan. Turn left on the A863. Then left on the B8009, from which Glen Brittle is signposted. Be warned - it's single-track roads from here!

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          • Platypus Hoser / Sports Equipment / 0 Readings / 28 Ratings
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            14.05.2001 19:05
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            Water, that is. Experts tell us we should drink at least 8 pints of water a day. They also tell us that on a walk, we should carry at least 2 litres (about 4 pints) and drink regularly. In summer, take even more. If a muscle becomes just 3% dehydrated, it loses nearly half of its power. For every 1000 kCal of energy you use, you should replace it with 1/2 a litre of water. In summer, double that - you lose a lot through sweating as well. When you start feeling thirsty, it's too late. And of course, if you've been in the pub the night before, you'll be feeling thirsty straight away (not to mention the hangover!) What all these facts and figures mean is that you should make sure you drink enough while you're walking. But I'll confess, along with hundreds of others, that I don't drink nearly enough. My normal water bottle is 1 litre, and sometimes it's come home untouched. And then on really hot days, it's not been nearly enough. The problem is the bottle. Most of the time it's in the pocket in your rucksack. Having a drink means stopping, taking your rucksack off, digging the bottle out, then having a drink. Then put the bottle back, put the rucksack back on, and get going again. Most people couldn't be bothered, and on some places it isn't practical, or even isn't safe, to stop and take your rucksack off. One solution is a bottle carrier on the rucksack's belt. A handy solution, it means you don't have to offload to get your drink. But you'd still have to stop - it's not easy walking in a straight line with a bottle in your face! And most of these carriers can't take much more than a one-litre bottle. The real answer is in hands-free kits. The Platypus Hoser is one of these - the water is held in a plastic pouch in your rucksack, and a plastic tube runs from it to somewhere you can keep handy - most people clip it onto the rucksack strap. So when you want a drink,
            you just unclip the tube, and you can carry on walking while you're drinking. That's the theory of it. So now I'll actually review the thing. Unlike normal bottles, the Platypus series isn't rigid, so it can squeeze into any space you have in your rucksack. My 1.8-litre pouch fits perfectly into the pocket my old 1-litre rigid bottle squeezed into. It also means it's lighter. Another handy thing about not being rigid is that as you drink the water from it, it shrinks down (since no air goes back in, as with a normal bottle). So if it's only half-full, it only takes up half the space. And when it's empty, it can be folded up and stored away. Being soft plastic like this, you might think it would split of burst easily. Not so. You could jump on it, sit on it, throw it off a cliff, and as long as you don't stick a crampon spike through it, your water will stay put. I've known some people to use the larger sizes as a pillow! The Platypus pouch is made of a triple-layer laminate with welded seams, so it's virtually indestructible. You can boil or freeze water in the pouch and it won't break. You might also expect a plasticky taste on the water after it's been sat in the pouch. Nope - you just get plain water (or whatever you put in it) with no added extras. The only problem is the water sat in the tube - on a hot day, the first few mouthfuls will be horribly warm. Handy hint - when you've finished drinking, blow through the tube to push the water back into the pouch. This is also recommended in the winter, to stop water sat in the tube from freezing up and making the tube useless. The makers recommend just using plain water, since the pouch can absorb flavours, and if you fill it with something sticky (such as juice), it's a pain to clean it, especially the tube. The Platypus comes in various sizes and forms. The sizes I know of are 1, 1.8, 2 and 2.6 lit
            res. The normal Platypus pouch is filled through the screw-cap which the tube attaches to, but you can get the Big Zip range which has a zipped opening (I don't know how water-tight that would be), so you can fill it quicker and add ice cubes. The normal Platypus is just the pouch on its own without a tube - for these you can buy the tube separately to convert it to a Hoser. Other attachments include a shower attachment - put the tube somewhere above you, with the extra gadget, and squeeze the pouch (preferably filled with warm water). Or for using it during the winter, there's an insulator for the tube, to stop it freezing up. Or you could take the bite valve off the tube and attach it to a water filter - handy for countries where the water is polluted. Back to the normal drinking tube. The end of the tube has a bite valve - squeeze it with your teeth and suck through it. You get a surprising amount of water coming through - looking at the valve you'd expect a slow trickle. Since no air goes back into the pouch, there's no leaks. No review would be complete without the disadvantages. Luckily there aren't many. The first one I noticed was that it wasn't easy to see how much water you've got left, since the pouch stays buried in your rucksack, as compared to a normal bottle. I advise checking whenever you stop - the water is more accessible, so chances are you'll drink it faster. The other disadvantage was an obvious one. Drinking more means you'll probably need to find a toilet more often. I'll leave the rest to your imagination. That's it, I think I've described everything. There's not actually much to it, but a Platypus is an essential investment. At the time of writing, I've only used it on a walk once, and that was a hot day with a long stretch where it wouldn't be advisable to stop and take your rucksack off. It also encourages you to drink little amounts of
            ten, as the experts recommend - tipping a bottle into your mouth tends to give you a few mouthfuls. Drinking from the tube, you only get as much as you want.

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            • More +
              02.05.2001 21:41
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              The Stereophonics are back with their third album, after the success of Word Gets Around and Performance And Cocktails. Ah, the third album. Critics call it the "third album syndrome" (TAS for short). Just look at the bad press Oasis got for their third album Be Here Now. But I don't believe in the TAS - hey, I liked Be Here Now! TAS is just an excuse to look for bad points. You'll already have guessed that I like this album. You're correct. Yes, it's different from the past two. But then Performance And Cocktails was a huge leap from Word Gets Around as well. And didn't it do well. Just Enough Education To Perform (JEEP) sits somewhere in between the first two albums - it's not as balladic as Word Gets Around, but it has less rock moments that Performance And Cocktails. It kind of fills the gap between the two. JEEP didn't get off to a good start - an American four-wheel drive manufacturer of a very similar name didn't like the 'Phonics stealing their name. But they kept the name and here it is. Vegas Two Times =============== Like Performance did with Roll Up And Shine, JEEP starts out differently with Vegas Two Times - the difference between the past two albums is there. And like it's predecessor, it's loud! I wondered what I'd let myself in for - the first minute is the odd twang on the bass guitar, and female humming. What, the female of the species in the three-man band? After that, we're back to normal. Loud guitars, loud bass, loud drums, and the trademark cement-mixer vocals. The usual style - reasonable speed beat and drawn-out singing. With more "oohs" from the women in the middle. After 4 1/2 minutes it's over. Lying In The Sun ================ Then we're into the typical Phonic-style ballad of Lying In The Sun. Starting off with a guitar melody which carries on through the whole song, accompanied
              by a simple bass and drum beat. Lying In The Sun is about a beggar on a street in Portugal while Kelly Jones was waiting for a taxi. The song describes how the beggar just wants to be like everyone else walking past him every day - doing what they want, when they want : "All the people that I'd like to be/Passing me by everyday in the street". The last verse is him wondering why he's in this situation, when he's just as fit and healthy as his passer-bys. There is definitely a message in this song, standing out in the final lines : "What's the reason? Maybe you feel how much more fortunate you are than me". Mr Writer ========= The one that everyone knows - it was the first single to be released from the album, a few weeks before the album came out. It did quite well in the charts, though it was typically beaten by boy/girl bands - to me the charts are irrelevant these recent years. Grumble grumble. As you might know, Mr Writer is a swipe at the music journalism industry - the sheer hypocrisy of the writers who are oh-so-friendly and will travel half way across the world to meet you, then slag you off in their magazine : "are you so lonely/you don't even know me/but you'd like to stone me". The song itself is a deep melody with a heavy beat, and the added touch of a wurlitzer. Together with the "eeh eeh eeh eeh" behind the chorus it's a very fine song. Step On My Old Size Nines ========================= Moving out of serious mode into joviality we move onto the story of the old couple acting young. According to Kelly Jones, it's a true story about that old couple - the woman said here feet were too tired to dance anymore, so her partner said "step on my old size nines and I'll take you round". The song is about the younger man Kelly sitting back and wondering if he'll be the same at that age. Daydreaming.
              It's another balladic track, with a bluesy guitar, wurlitzer and harmonic. Very sweet. Have A Nice Day =============== Back from the daydreaming of old age, we have the catchy "have a nice day". It opens up with the catchy "ba ba da, ba ba da da da". It's the story of a journey through San Francisco in a taxi, listening to the cabbie's chatter about "corporate communism". Very infectious rhythm, still using the bluesy guitar and an acoustic. A feel-good song if I ever heard one. Nice To Be Out ============== I was so happy when I saw this song was on the album. Nice To Be Out was the B-side on the Pick A Part That's New single (from the Performance And Cocktails album), the song which first got me interested in the 'Phonics. This one's a simple tune - a 2-chord bassline, an acoustic guitar and a drumkit. Constant verses. And a few plinks on the piano at the end. Nice To Be Out paints the picture of the old couple sat on a park bench recalling their memories, watching the world go by. Sixty years in 3 minutes. A simple tale ranging from Hitler's segregation of black people in 1938 ("when he tried to build the perfect race/he said black man ain't gonna run/alongside our perfect sons"), to today as the gormless tourists walk by, stopping every few minutes to take photos : "tourists stare and tourists stop/one more picture one more gog". At the end, they part company and will return in one week to do the same again. For me, this album is always three minutes longer, since this song is always repeated at least once. Watch Them Fly Sundays ====================== Back into the stronger style of loud bass and a heavy but slow beat. This one's seemingly about a couple being so tied into the same old routine, they don't notice what's happening around them. Thinking life's sweet as
              roses when in reality it isn't. "Not drinking no more/not drinking no less/not sleeping at all/never in the same bed". But thankfully the set-in-stone routine pulls them back together - "they say if something should fly away, and it comes back to you again, then it's yours". Everyday I Think Of Money ========================= Another daydreaming song. The song is about a man who earns a living by driving a truck loaded with money (Securicor?). Dreaming about what he could do with all that cash which sits behind him every day. "Stacked in the back, the good life surrounds me". In verse two, the dreaming of what he could do with the money changes to how he can get that money. Then after a short interlude, in verse three, the tables are turned : he's sat in the back of a truck, not one which carries money, but one which carries convicts, handcuffed to the seat. The greed of Every Day I Think Of Money changes to the loneliness of Every Day I Miss My Family. The tune itself is nothing special - a steady beat with an acoustic and blues guitar. The tune itself is in Kelly's singing. Maybe ===== Now he wants to know whats happening. Things are constantly changing, and he can't keep up. I can't figure out _what_ he can't keep up with, but it's something to do with day-to-day actions : "I give a lot/I take a lot/It's nothing new to me". Apologies if I'm being vague on this one! The tune, well, it's another simple one. Like the melody of Nice To Be Out but more to it. The acoustic tune, with heavier bass. It's even got a tambourine. Caravan Holiday =============== Typical summer holiday. Caravanning for seven days in June and it's raining all week - can't go out, eat out or sleep out. But he's not bothered, it's seven days inside with his partner. Life's too short to complain
              - "there's always time to complain about the weather/seasons change day to day just like each other". This track's over three minutes long, but it seems shorter than that. It's in the now-standard style for this album - acoustic and bluesy guitar with a lot of bass. Like it. Rooftop ======= The last track on the album, and also the longest, clocking in at over 6 minutes long. Following the tradition of the past two albums, we end with a depressing song. But unlike Billy Davey's Daughter (Word Gets Around) and I Stopped To Full My Car Up (Performane And Cocktails) the tune itself won't make you go and top yourself. Instead, this song is about the man who is contemplating jumping off the top of a high building. The empty-mindedness that comes along with the idea : "they say jump and I say how high". And then the realisation of what he's about to do, but still having no fears : "I don't feel bad/can't help but laugh". Then he's gone too far. The rhythm changes and it's the tune that goes on and on... no turning back. We don't actually know if he jumps, but the song ends with realising he can't turn back, and only then the fear hits : "but it makes me sick but I can't change again". The song is another new style, with echoey guitars and doctored vocals (thankfully not with the Cher-style vocoder - thank God!). The way the tune builds up is excellent, especially the last verses where it builds up to the end. A far cry from the last tracks on the other two albums. Sleeve Notes ------------ In the typical style, the album's inlay card has all the lyrics and some notes about when/where/how/why/what each song was written. A lengthy explanation of Mr Writer as well. The inlay card comes complete with doodles, I assume by the 'Phonics themselves. A plane crashing to the ground on Mr Writer, a tax
              i on Have A Nice Day (complete with stereotypical cabbie), a kite on Watch Them Fly Sundays, a van on Everyday I Think Of Money, skyscrapers on Rooftop, etc etc. And the lyrics look like the original writings. Bits crossed out, "middle 8" inserted here and there, arrows moving verses around, doodles within the lines, and so on. You could spend an evening just reading the inlay card. If you look out for the bonus CD, at no extra cost, the CD includes acoustic versions of Lying In The Sun and Step On My Old Size Nines, a band interview, track-by-track descriptions and Mr Writer guitar tutor. The End ------- That's it, the album's finished, after a strangely long 45 minutes and 54 seconds (or 48 minutes if you repeat Nice To Be Out). Sounds short, and yes, it could be longer. But you get the feel it's been worthwhile listening to the album. A £10 well-spent. I say, ignore the Third Album Syndrome. That's just an excuse to pick out the bad points and blow them out of proportion. If Performance And Cocktails had been the third album, I'm sure it would have got as much criticism as JEEP has. Heck, Word Gets Around would have as well. But at least the public has sense. It made it to number one in the album charts for one week. That should shut Mr Writer up for a while. Price : £9.99 from Amazon (n/i postage) Website : http://www.stereophonics.v2music.com Running Time : 45:54 Tracks : 11

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                06.04.2001 22:59
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                "I turned to Victor and mumbled stiffly through frozen lips, 'I'm glad that we made the effort ... that we actually managed to climb this mountain.' 'We're not down yet.' " This brief conversation between Stephen Venables and his team-mate Victor Saunders sums up the whole book, as well as the whole aspect of mountaineering. A Slender Thread is Venables' personal account of his part in the Indo-British Panch Chuli expedition in 1992, which so nearly killed him as he fell 300 feet while abseiling on the descent. As that quote so clearly outlines, reaching the summit is only half of the journey. I'm not giving anything away by saying that Venables did fall from the mountain - it's written on the back cover, and the book's preface starts with the actual fall. And of course, we know he survived, because it's Venables writing the book 8 years later. But even though we know the outcome from the start, A Slender Thread is essential reading, whether you're a mountaineer or not. Venables tells the whole story, from his first interest in the mountains of Snowdonia at the age of 12, through his growing experience in Scotland and the Alps, losing friends along the way, and onto the Panch Chuli expedition. Although the book is mainly focussed on this expedition, it doesn't stop there - Venables goes on to describe his recovery, and how the accident changed his life, and the slow progression back into the mountains, facing the demons again. Without giving too much of the plot away, A Slender Thread is about the expedition to the Panch Chuli range in the Himalayas, five peaks near the India/Nepal/Tibet border, all over 6000 metres above sea level. The British side of the 1992 expedition consisted of Chris Bonington, Graham Little, Dick Renshaw, Victor Saunders, Stephen Sustad and Stephen "Freddy" Venables (read the book to find out how he got the name Freddy), some
                of Britain's best climbers. During the 2-month expedition, some new records were set - the first ascents of Sahadev West, Menaka, Panch Chuli V, Panchali Chuli and Draupadi, and new routes to the summits of Rajrambha and Panch Chuli II. The focus of the book is Venables' accident on Panch Chuli V. During the ascent, the group (Venables, Bonington, Renshaw, Saunders and Sustad) encountered many dangerous obstacles - ice falls, a labyrinth of glacier moraine, steep ice towers and waterfalls. The ascent was pushed for time, and Bonington had already done a major climb the previous week. As a result of hunger and tiredness, tempers were frayed, and Venables' writing clearly describes the frictions within the group. Without Bonington (he abandoned before the final climb), the four remaining climbers reached the summit of Panch Chuli V, in the mid-afternoon. The descent required many abseils, and because of a limited stock of ice tools, the final man on each abseil had to go without the safety of extra anchors - but if three had already gone down without the main anchor coming loose, surely it would be safe for the fourth to go without the back-ups. With about 200 metres left to descend until they were back with Bonintgon, Venables was abseiling over an overhang without the back-ups when the main anchor broke out of the ice, causing him to fall 300 foot down the ice walls, but miraculously surviving with two broken legs. The way in which Venables writes these chapters is like any good fiction book would - switching the storyline between Venables, Renshaw, Saunders and Sustad stuck on the mountainside, Bonington waiting and becoming increasingly worried on the ridge below, and the rest of the team hundreds of metres below unaware of the situation. The drama is really built up. You might forget that this is a true story, not fiction. The next chapters deal with his rescue, involving a tortuous descent back to a safe c
                ol; Bonington himself falling but escaping with cuts and bruises; the task of getting food from base camp up to Venables; a long trek back to the village to start the rescue operation; and the dangerous job of getting the helicopter up onto the mountainside - again, built up like any good fiction drama. With Venables back on terra firma and the drama over, the rest of the book covers the frustration of being stuck in hospital not being able to do anything, and the pain of physiotherapy (and his stark contrast with the recovery of Joe Simpson, another famous climber/writer - you *will* flinch!). And then back at home, his own family problems and coming to terms with what has happened. And finally, his progression back into the mountains of South America, coming face-to-face with the same situation in which his accident happened on Panch Chuli V. What I like so much about this book is the attention to the fine details - as you read it, you generate a picture in your mind of what is going on. Through detailed diary entries, memories, consultations with his partners on the expedition, even going as far as event logs from the helicopter crew, Venables manages to pull everything together rather than ending up with a single-track story. It's also very easy to read - the evening I started reading, I got up to page 100 almost straight away. For me, that's unusual. The chapters aren't particularly long, and the story is well-structured. I finished the book in three (long) sittings. Unlike some other mountaineering books, A Slender Thread isn't stuffed full with technical terms - you can read and understand it even if you've never been climbing. There are a few words which some people (including me) might not understand, but it doesn't affect the story at all by not knowing what it means. What also makes it interesting is the history of mountaineering, which Venables writes about in the early chapters - from
                the early topographical surveys of the Himalayas in the 19th century (did you know the highest mountain in the world was Chomolungma, until the European surveyor Sir George Everest renamed it?), through the venturing to higher ground, and up to the first recorded ascents in the Panch Chuli range in 1929. And to complete it, a timeline of Panch Chuli expeditions is drawn up at the end of the book. The book also includes two sections of colour photographs, 48 pictures in total, all annotated. The kind of "wish you were here" photos (except for the photos of the rescue!). There are also 13 black-and-white photographs spread throughout the pages, and to finish off, a reasonably detailed location map showing the routes taken and the base camps. It all adds to the feeling that you are there while you're reading it. Although deadly serious and grittily detailed, Venables manages to include humour in his writing - a few times I found myself laughing out loud. It might not seem so funny reading it here, but with the rest of the story around it in the book, it was funny in a twisted kind of way! Take these for example: [during a thunderstorm] " ... some secondary current did seem to flow down the ridge, for out of the murk below we heard that little voice going 'Aargh!' then 'Ouch!' then 'Owh - s**t that hurt.' When Victor finally joined us, he pointed to the bundle of alloy tent poles projecting from his rucksack ..." [on a narrow ridge as a cornice collapsed] "My feet shot away beneath me and for a glorious instant I flew through the air, before stopping with a gentle bounce on the elastic rope ... it occurred to me that I might rather enjoy bungee jumping." You may wonder why I've titled this opinion "Essential Reading". It's not just to warn you of the dangers of mountaineering - for me, the real message was Venables coming to terms wi
                th almost dying on the mountain, but realising life must go on - it could have happened anywhere. On returning from the Panch Chuli expedition, he came across a beggar lying dead on a station platform in Bombay - he had been dying through no fault of his own while they were risking their lives selfishly on the mountains. Years later, Venables received an invitation from a French climber whom he had never met, to join him in Nepal, but he declined. A month later, Venables had to write his obituary, after he died in almost the exact same accident which nearly killed Venables. And a close climbing friend who had survived many climbs in the Himalayas was killed in an accident in Scotland. He sums it up with a quote from an American climber - "Doing one particular, difficult, dangerous climb is not going to kill you, but going repeatedly on difficult, dangerous climbs, you're likely to get caught out in the end." His friend who died in Scotland died from head injuries, but Venables' skull was spared. But then it was bad luck for the abseil peg to have come out of the rock, having just held three other people. It was just random - there's no point giving up climbing just because there are risks. And as I see it personally, this can be applied to anything. I think the final paragraph sums it all up nicely: "For all the richness of 'normal' everyday life, it is good sometimes to trespass high in the sky and live life with uncommon intensity, experiencing something that gets close to the sublime. I had no idea when I would next be returning to the mountains, but I knew that I had already had more than my fair share of those sublime moments. I had touched some of the most magical places on Earth - places whose beauty is inherently dangerous and where Man was never meant to go - and in the process I had seen my companions, those strangely driven oddballs and misfitswho make up the mountaineering community, at their
                very best. Nowhere had that been truer than on Panch Chuli V, the Pandava's hearth where I so nearly left the Earth." "A Slender Thread : Escaping Disaster In The Himalaya", Stephen Venables ISBN : 0 09 9279061 Price (paperback) : £6.99 Published by Arrow / Random House www.randomhouse.co.uk

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                  01.04.2001 04:31
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                  The foreword to Mountaincraft And Leadership outlines why it was written : "there was an urge for adventure in post-war Britain for which the mountains could provide an outlet ... this soon gave rise to anxienty about safety." These concerns led to a "code of standard" being drawn up for techniques and group leadership, and hence the Mountain Leader Training Board (MLTB) was set up. Although sometimes misunderstood, the Mountain Leadership Certificate is now the nationally-recognised qualification for safety-conscious mountaineers. Although some mountaineers object to the qualification, it doesn't actually imply that a "qualified" leader is better than an "unqualified" one. The foreword also mentions that safety is a relative thing - if the danger was eliminated completely, "you remove the magnet of adventure." Onto the book. Mountaincraft And Leadership, written initially by Eric Langmuir and compiled by the MLTB, covers almost every aspect of safety and technique on the mountains. It is officially recognised as the handbook for the MLTB course. Now in its third edition, recent issues such as land access and conservation have been added. Another two chapters have also been included : First Aid and Nutrition, both written by a specialist in accident medicine and an experienced outdoorsman. Other chapters such as security on steep ground, and mountain rescue, have been rewritten. Mountaincraft And Leadership contains 18 chapters: Navigation Hillwalking Campcraft And Expeditions Food And Nutrition Access And Conservation Security On Steep Ground River Crossing Mountain Weather Mountain Hypothermia Effects Of Heat First Aid Mountain Rescue Party Leadership Technique On Snow And Ice Security On Snow And Ice Snow And Avalanches Cold Injury Snow Shelters The first few chapters are "revisio
                  n" of the basics, useful to most if not all hillwalkers. The Navigation chapter covers all aspects of map reading, using a compass (as well as alternatives if you don't have a compass), common pitfalls and how to avoid them, and how to correct some of them. Chapter 2, Hillwalking, covers the considerations of hillwalking, especially that of leading a group. It starts with the basic equipment which should be taken, and what preparations to make - being familiar with the area, knowing the weather, travel arrangements, and so on. At the end is a sample route card which shows what information should be included. Chapter 3, Campcraft And Expeditions, is an extension to chapter 2, covering the extras needed for a walk lasting more than one day. It includes food and cooking, efficient packing of a rucksack, styles of tents and how/where to pitch them, and the unexpected situation of a tent catching fire! Another important consideration of rubbish and pollution is also mentioned. Beyond those first three chapters, the rest of the book is reference - read the parts that are important to you, rather than reading cover-to-cover. Some chapters such as food and nutrition, access and conservation and mountain weather aren't essential reading, but interesting all the same. In particular, for walking in Scotland, where access is an issue, the Access And Conservation chapter might be worth a look. To the normal hillwalker, a lot of the remaining chapters might become irrelevant - they are more suited to mountaineering in Scottish conditions, but can still be applied to anywhere with winter conditions - snow and ice can build up dangerously even in the Lake District. Topics covered are the use of ice axes and crampons, including the all-important braking with an ice axe if you do fall, illustrated with step-by-step diagrams. Other topics are the use of ropes - how to secure the rope and the correct ways to use it. And although the book
                  states it is not a climbing manual, the basics of topics such as belaying and abseiling are included, as there could be some parts where these are needed. Still on the Scotland theme, there is a chapter on avalanches. A lot of the information would be more relevant to a search party or mountain rescue, and some may seem totally irrelevant, such as how snowflakes grow. The more relevant parts are how to spot an unsafe slope, different types of avalanche, and cornices - a large block of wind-blown snow overhanging a cliff. On the practical side, the chapter explains how to check the risk of an avalanche, and what to do if caught in one. The final few chapters are basic first aid, no substitute for a proper first aid course, but still gives some useful pointers. Injuries covered range from blisters and snow blindness to fractures and dislocations. The effects of heat (exhaustion, heat stroke, sunburn, etc) and cold (hypothermia gets a whole chapter) get a mention, and what to do to relieve them. And finally... snow shelters. Some parts of this chapter might be useful, such as how to make a snowhole or snow cave, but I can't think of any situations i'd need to build an igloo! The section on igloos begins : "there is a good deal of fun and interest in building an igloo but it is not a suitable type of shelter for conditions in the British Isles." Still, I suppose if you go on holiday to the Arctic it could be useful. Overall, this book is essential for anyone who wants to become a mountain leader, but still useful for anyone who's just a keen mountaineer. It's like a manual - you wouldn't gain much from reading it cover-to-cover, there would be too much irrelevant information. The first few chapters are good for learning new skills or revising old ones. Beyond that, it gets more technical - more suited to winter mountaineering. Some of the chapters don't seem much use to anyone but specialist
                  s - for example, the Mountain Resuce chapter. Most of it is only relevant if you want to join a mountain rescue team. The chapter on Mountain Weather also goes into too much detail just for walking in Britain. And as a final note, this book should not be used as a rule book. Every situation will be different - the very nature of an emergency. The idea is to learn the skills, but also know how to apply them in different situations. Websites Mountain Leader Training Board (MLTB) - http://www.mltb.org British Mountaineering Council (BMC) - http://www.thebmc.co.uk

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                    11.03.2001 01:54
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                    I've had asthma since before I can remember - I think I was diagnosed when I was 3 years old. Lucky for me, 18 years later, it's well under control. Let me tell you all about it. The Basics ========== Asthma is a kind of over-reaction by your airways to something they don't like - usually dust, cold, whatever. The muscles of the airways tighten up, making the airways smaller, and on top of that, mucus builds up. Put together, it's damn hard to breathe. The most common form of medication for asthma is inhalers, which you breathe directly into your lungs, or by tablet. I've always used inhalers, so I can't say much about the tablets. Most people are fine with inhalers, but younger children sometimes have problems coordinating breathing in and pressing the inhaler, so they use spacers. These allow you to breathe in the medication normally, without having to get the "timing" right. There are two types of medication - preventers and relievers. Preventers are usually steroid-based, which puts some people off, but they're completely different to muscle-building steroids. The one I use is Becotide, in a light brown canister. It requires one dose in the morning, and one in the evening. As long as I remember it, I'm fine - even if I miss one or two doses, I'm still OK, but I would never stop using it just because I thought my asthma was "cured". Once there are problems, the reliever comes in - I use Ventolin, a blue canister. This is a dose whenever it's required. Some people say you can't overdose on it because when you need it, you can't breathe the full dose anyway. I don't recommend trying though - it's a drug, so don't over-use it. Common triggers for asthma include dust, cold air, exercise, and other allergies such as hay fever. My Experiences ============== As I said at the start, I've had asthma for
                    almost all my life. Thankfully, it's not a serious problem and it's well-controlled - the last bad attack I had was way back in 1992. When I was younger (pre-1992), it used to be more of a problem though. Whenever I had a bad attack, my parents searched around for something they had changed recently which might have caused my attack. Most of the time, this "theory" worked - it was usually a new strong air freshener or something. More recently (around 1995-6), I started some proper exercise - fell walking. As I expected, I had a few problems for a while, namely running out of breath quickly. This varied on how strenuous the walking was, and how cold the air was. I didn't have any bad attacks out on the hillside, but it was just a case of stopping for a few minutes and using my reliever. My theory about this was that doing more strenuous exercise like this was stretching my lungs, and then taking my reliever got the medication into those "new" areas. I don't know how medically-correct this is, but I'm sure it's worked. As the walks got longer and harder, I needed the reliever less and less. Now, it's very rare if I need it at all, but I still carry it with me just in case. I found swimming was another excellent exercise for relieving my asthma - it's a gentle exercise, and the moist air helped. I don't do much swimming anymore, but I'm sure it was one of the keys in getting it under control. At the moment, my asthma is fine - no problems for a long time. The only few times I've had any wheezing or shortness of breath was when I've had a bad cold or flu. At these times, I take my Ventolin reliever regularly, every few hours, along with other drugs for the cold. Endnotes ======== What I think is the best way of getting around asthma is to understand it. Such as looking out for what might have caused an attack. And realising that alt
                    hough exercise may trigger an attack, it's important to keep it up. As I've found, strenuous exercise has got it well under control. Asthma is recently on the increase. It may be due to more pollution, or less exercise, I don't know. One very interesting theory is that we're being too clean - by not being exposed to triggers like dust and so on, our systems can't make antibodies to fight off the illness. Another one I've seen is we breathe inefficiently, and a "cure" is to get into the habit of breathing deeply. I don't know all that much about this idea, and I haven't tried any of the methods (it's called the Buteyko method, there's loads of info on the WWW), but reading about it, it sounds like a good idea. For a long time, people have asked whether you can grow out of asthma. My answer is "no" - I reckon it's just well-controlled. Look at the cases of people who thought they'd outgrown it, put their medication in the bin, and then a few years later it's returned with a vengeance. Overall, as the title of this op says - don't let asthma get in your way. Get to understand it and learn how to control it and you'll be fine. Websites -------- National Asthma Campaign - http://www.asthma.org.uk/ Buteyko A-Z - http://www.buteyko.com/

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                      09.03.2001 21:47
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                      I'm a fell walker, have been for years. But a few weeks ago, along came foot & mouth disease and closed all the paths. Bummer, what do I do now? I know, I'll have a go at climbing. But again, the countryside's closed off. Little did I know Liverpool had its own indoor climbing centre - Awesome Walls Climbing Centre (AWCC). The AWCC is really easy to get to - a ten minute walk from Sandhills station, which is a five-minute journey from Liverpool city centre (a return ticket is only £1). Easy to get to, that is, if you know where it is! It's handy to look on an A-Z map before you go (it's on Athol Street, off Great Howard Street). If you get lost, ask someone where the Tai Pan restaurant is - you should be able to find it from there. The AWCC is in an old church - plenty of floor space, and a high roof. That's where the only disadvantage comes in - it's bloody cold! It's not too bad once you've got climbing and warmed up, but standing around, and even when you're belaying, it cools down quickly. There's a few portable heaters but they don't make much difference. I advise taking a hat and thin gloves - it's terrible trying to hold on with numb fingers! Anyway, onto the climbing. There's loads to do in the AWCC - last time I checked, there were 2 vertical top-roping walls (about 20-30 foot high), 2 vertical lead-climbing walls, 1 lead-climbing wall which leans back, and then the biggy - a wall which starts off vertical, then overhangs for 8 metres, then back up to near-vertical. And at the other end of the church, the pinnacle - a free-standing tower about 40 foot high, with five top-roping ropes. I wouldn't say it's five top-roping routes, because once you're going up you can go any which way. And the way it's been made, it feels like you're climbing on rock, not just a wall with holds bolted on. And as well as the top-ropes, there's bolts for lead-climbing as wel
                      l (I haven't ventured onto that side of things yet!). For getting warmed up, there's 3 bouldering walls, one with an overhang and another which leans back at 45 degrees from the start - I haven't mastered either yet! And two traversing walls - the idea is not to go upwards, just sideways. It's harder than it looks, especially when you try to stick to the rule of which you can only use for your left hand or right hand! Not to mention trying to get around the corner without falling off... It's not just great climbing, it's good value for money as well. For absolute beginners (me) you can get a one-hour taster session for £10 per person (you need at least 2 people). The price includes an instructor, harness, and entry for the rest of the day. Instruction covers the basics - how to wear the harness, climbing, belaying and abseiling. Once you've tackled top-roping, you can get another taster session on lead-climbing, but I haven't done this yet so I can't write about it. AWCC membership is totally free, as long as you know how to climb. If you're already an experienced climber, then it's fine. If not, then you have to take the taster session first. Once you know how to climb, entrance fee is £5 for a whole day (Monday - Friday - 12 noon to 10pm, Saturday and Sunday - 10am - 6pm). A £4.50 concession is available for students and unemployed people. Under-18's get in for £4. For group bookings (at least 6 people), you get 1 hour for £6 per person, or 1 1/2 hours for £8 per person. For that you get the same kind of training as the taster session. You can hire equipment once you're in. A harness and climbing shoes are £1.50 each (compared to upwards of £40 to buy them yourself). Depending on how many they've got, you can borrow things like karabiners and belay plates for free. For top-roping, the ropes are always there anyway, but I don't know if you can hire ropes and the
                      other equipment for lead-climbing. In between climbing, the AWCC sells snacks and hot/cold drinks. They supposedly sell filled buns as well, but the few times I've been in there's been none left. So it's a good idea to take your own lunch just in case. Oh, and did I mention the chocolate muffins? And for AWCC die-hards, you can buy the AWCC T-shirt for £10, recently on special offer for £8! And another special offer to look out for is the accessories - a chalk bag, vest, drill top, and allsorts of other items totalling £51, you can buy the whole lot for £41, saving a tenner. Overall, whether you've never climbed before, or you're an experienced rope-dangler, the AWCC is an excellent place - a huge selection of routes at a low price. As their slogan says - "little angels to rock gods"! The gory details: Website - http://www.climbers.net/awesome Phone - 0151 298 2422 Address - Awesome Walls Climbing Centre, St Albans Church, Athol Street, Liverpool, L7 9XT Monday-Friday : 12noon - 10pm Saturday-Sunday : 10am - 6pm

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                        12.02.2001 18:54
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                        When it comes to walking in Scotland, the word hot on the tongue of most walkers is "Munro". Named after Sir Hugh T. Munro, the Munros are the Scottish mountains above 3000 feet (914 metres) which are regarded as separate. That's where it gets complicated - there's a lot of debate over what makes a mountain "separate" - the rule I use is at least 250 feet of reascent on all sides. Whatever it is, it means it's not your average stroll up the hill. Hence the Munros, 285 of them, attract people who like a challenge. But being over 250 tops spread out across everywhere north of Glasgow, it's not easy to plan walks including the big ones. A good example is Glen Shiel - around the valley there are 21 Munros, so if you don't know the area it can be a task just planning a walk. That's where this book comes in. The Munro Almanac contains all the Munros, grouped together by the area. Each area starts with a small location map, showing the Munros and the main ridges, and local landmarks like roads, towns and lochs. There is a recommended access point (a good place to go from to do most of the walks), information on local public transport, and recommended accomodation in the area. For each area, the Munros are grouped together in relation to doing walks involving them - for example, if there are three on the same ridge, the same walk will include them. Most of the walks are the "standard" ones - for example, Glen Shiel has the Five Sisters ridge (3 Munros), the South Glenshiel Ridge (7 Munros) and The Saddle & Sgurr na Sgine (2 Munros), as well as a few other popular walks. The walk outline in the book is only a brief description of the route - it would be completely useless without a good map and the required navigation skills. For each walk, the details include the distance and total ascent in miles/feet as well as kilometres/metres, the expected time it will take to complete the walk (b
                        ut as a rule of thumb, add at least 2 hours as the conditions get worse, especially winter), the access point (usually from a road layby), and contact details for deerstalking seasons. Also for each walk, the Gaelic pronunciation of the mountain names (did you know "Duibh" is pronounced "ghoo"? neither did I...) and their English translation are given. The Scottish people have got good imaginations... a lot of the impressive-names translate into something bland like "big red hill"! Maps required for each walk are stated (using Ordnance Survey Landranger maps, 1:50,000 scale, although there are better maps for some areas) and the six-figure grid reference for each summit. When it comes to the walk outlines, some bits are left to your imagination and prior planning - a lot of the walks start and end in a different place, so you would need to find out about buses or arrange a lift. Some of the walks which end at the same place they start, the description only gets you off the last mountain so you would have to consult the map to get back to your car. Dotted though the book are a selection of photos, though there's not a great deal. But the idea of the book is to go out and see the views yourself! The lack of such extra details is probably because of the nature of this book - it's a pocket book, designed to be small and sturdy enough to take on the walk with you (although I'd recommend taking a photocopy of the relevant pages instead). There are some excellent books which have maps of each walk and extra photos and descriptions, but they are too bulky to take out on the walk with you. At the back of the book, all 285 Munros are listed alphabetically, with their height in metres and feet, and the page number of the walk involving that summit. This section is for the "Munro baggers" really, who go up the mountains just to tick them off the list! (I've done five, o
                        nly two hundred and eighty to go...) Also at the back is a list of other recommended books, a few of which are the larger books which have more in the way of descriptions, maps and photos. There's also a few books covering the smaller mountains, if you're not feeling ready for the 3000'ers just yet - namely the Corbetts (mountains over 2500 feet). The feature this book lacks is an overall location map - a small sketch map of the whole of Scotland showing the areas in the book. The contents page list the areas, but not alphabetically, so if you're looking for walks in one specific area then it takes a bit of searching through the list. Another useful addition would be some kind of glossary - the names of the summits have their pronunciation and meaning, but the names of the minor summits, rivers and cols between summits are sometimes tongue-twisters themselves. Obviously, there are dangers in a lot of the Munros, not just from bad weather in the winter, but there are a lot of exposed sections. If you're not 100% when it comes to heights, some walks might be off the list. And there are a few of the summits which you would need extra skills for, such as ropework and climbing. And then there's extra problems of navigation, such as the magnetic rocks affecting compasses on the (in)famous Cuillin Ridge on Skye. Overall, if you're planning some "bagging", this book is indispensable, although if you like looking at photos and some more detail before you put your boots on, there are some other excellent books, but not as suitable for packing into your rucksack as this one. For its price and compactness, it's an ideal addition for any serious walker.

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                          27.01.2001 03:14
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                          I'm in danger of becoming the infamous "Lowe Alpine Man" - I got the jacket, the gaiters and now the hat. But hey, if it ain't broke, don't fix it. The Lowe Alpine Mountain Cap is a welcome advance on normal hats like Thinsulate. It's made out of Lowe Alpine's Triplepoint Ceramic, which is waterproof, windproof and breathable, which I have proved through 10 1/2 hours in the rain! Wearing it for the whole day, I was completely warm and I didn't get too warm, which can be as bad as too cold. To help keep the warmth in, the Mountain Cap is lined with Polartec fleece, also very warm. Polartec are well-established in the fleece market so they're a name to go by. As for heavy rain, it doesn't replace a normal hood, since the water can run off the hat and down your neck. But it complements the hood of a good jacket well - the hood acting as an extra shell to keep water out, and the hat to keep you warm. And of course, if you wear specs (like me) it keeps water off the lenses. The design of this hat is a good one - it has a flexible wired peak, which through a bit of twisting can be angled if the rain/wind/whatever is coming down at an angle, folded up if you need to cool of slightly, or folded up and clipped back if you prefer not to have the peak at all. For clipping the peak back, it's held by a small prestud which doesn't take any effort to close or open, so you can do it with cold fingers. But in front of the clip on the front of the hat is a strip of fabric to move out of the way, which can be fiddly with gloves on. As I mentioned, I wear specs. The peak of this cap doesn't get in the way, or press down on the frames. But if you decide to take your specs off, the peak does take a bit of re-adjustment to stop it flopping down. That sorted though and it's back to normal. Then there's the ears - the sides of the cap come down well over my ears, and
                          like the peak can be folded up securely if it gets too warm. Through some clever use of elastic and seams, when you fold things away, they stay away - no flopping down when you don't want it to. At the back is a velcro'd strap to adjust the size of the cap, which is useful for if you want to wear another hat or a balaclava underneath. The edge of the hat is elasticated to allow for a bit of changes in size, and also to stop your expensive new hat blowing away in the wind. One thing puzzles me with the Mountain Cap though. On the bottom of the ear flaps are cord loops to put a chin strap on, to make sure your hat stays put. But there's no chin strap with it so you have to buy one separately or make a DIY one (I used an old drawcord and a toggle). Other caps like Berghaus' version come with a chin strap. Now the sore point - the price (you might have noticed the word "expensive" slotted in here). My hat cost me £25 - the old saying of "buy cheap, get cheap" working in reverse. But if like me you're the kind of person who prefers cold winter days on the mountains rather than a warm log fire (I prefer both actually - the pub usually has a log fire!) then the Mountain Cap is a very worthwile investment. Website - http://www.lowealpine.com/3/apparel/exp_f2k/exp_f2k_32.htm Colours - black, blue, red, dark green, grey

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                          • Autdirect.co.uk / Online Shop / 1 Reading / 11 Ratings
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                            23.01.2001 20:10
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                            Having spent nearly £300 upgrading my computer, I wasn't happy about still relying on an ancient version of Windows. Like the saying "having a Ferrari and not going beyond first gear". After a bit of weighing up the pros and cons and so on, I settled on Windows 95 and Lotus Smartsuite. As I said, the hardware cost me nearly £300, so my bank balance wasn't too happy with splashing out another hundred or more on software. Then I came across AUT Direct. I first saw AUT in a magazine, a 2-page advert crammed full with lists of hardware and software. Great prices too - Windows 95 in the "bargains" section for only £30, compared to £60 and upwards in other adverts. And in the "reduced to clear" box was Lotus Smartsuite Millenium Edition for only £10! Excellent! Not ready to part with my money just yet, I hung on and watched the adverts. Windows 95 went down to about £25, Smartsuite still hanging around the "to clear" section, so I went for it and ordered from their website. Their website is a good one - no frills and fast loading. The prices were the same as on the advert pages, so in I went with my card details and ordered. For extra piece of mind, the card details box runs in Java and you can see the progress - it keeps you informed of what's going on, while it's encoding the details and sending them on. That could be a huge disadvantage if the user doesn't have Java - the alternative is to send AUT your details via email. As recent news stories have shown, email is in no way secure. Even if prices are less than half of its rivals, I wouldn't send my card number by email. That sorted, you get an online invoice which you are advised to print and keep as your receipt. Using shared uni printers, I was wary of the card number going out to printers accessible to anyone, but your card number on the invoice is asterisked out. As well as that invoice, A
                            UT send you a confirmation email, and then another when the goods are dispatched. After a few days, my two CD's arrived, in working order and on my PC they went. Now the bad news. I had a bit of difficulty while installing Windows, so I send AUT an email asking them about it. Two weeks later there was no reply. I eventually got the answer from Microsoft's website, but I'm still waiting to hear back from AUT. Likewise, after I had placed the order and before the CD's arrived, I emailed to ask if the Win95 CD came with a manual. Not a huge problem since I knew the ins and outs and how to use it, but it would still be useful to have. No reply from AUT. And when the goods did arrive, they were actually OEM CD's which are only supposed to be sold with hardware. There was no mention of that on the adverts or on the website, and there were no checks while I was ordering to check if I was buying hardware with them (which I wasn't, but still managed to buy them). No response from AUT after asking. My problems with the customer service are only based on emails - maybe I would get better response on the phone (if I had access to a phone). But even through email, they should respond to customer's queries.

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                            • tripod.com / Internet Site / 0 Readings / 22 Ratings
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                              12.01.2001 07:33
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                              For my first attempts at websites, I used Geocities. Which was good for novices, but soon became a pain, having pop-up ads or banners on every page, and their online file manager wasn't particularly good either. And with Geocities you never got an easy-to-remember website address. Recently Tripod.co.uk has been redesigned. Oh boy, it knocks Geocities for six. For a start, it's _fast_. No waiting for ages for a page to load, and when it does load it's set out neatly. One of the first things I noticed when I signed up was the amount of webspace you're given - 100Mb! One hundred megabytes! FREE! There must be a catch, I thought. Maybe you have to pay something to get the extra space. Oh no, it's 100 megs totally free and ready to use straight away. The email account is just as generous, giving you 10Mb of message space. For the novices, Tripod offers a whole set of templates to make pages from, so you don't have to know anything about HTML to make a site. For those who do know HTML, there is a raw HTML editor, with preview facilities. For the more experienced users, the online file manager is excellent - a very neat interface and loads of advanced features like file permissions - you can make files private so only a group of people (who you decide on) can see it. If you don't want to use the online editors, you can make the pages offline and then upload them to your Tripod account. You can use the upload facility in the file manager, which can be a bit painstaking, or upload them through FTP. It's a simple process through FTP, all you need is your member name and password. No long web addresses and paths needed. Talking of long web addresses, Tripod gives you a short and easy-to-remember address for your website : http://members.tripod.co.uk/your_member_name That's it. Nothing complicated, hint hint Geocities. ( -> see Comments page) Tripod gives you
                              a stack of free add-ons, all easy to put into your site. There's a page counter (see how many people have visited your page), media library (a selection of pictures, sounds and video clips to put on your page), a "cool links" box (direct links to search engines, online route planning, music and video, etc), message board, guestbook, weather forecast, news headlines, sun and moon info (sunrise, sunset, etc), and QXL auctions. All free, and all put on at the click of a mouse. No complicated registering or forms to fill in. And also to help with making the page is a colour palette, to choose a colour you want to use for something on the page. And for any member, there's the Tripod Community - a place for Tripod members to talk about whatever. Also there's tutorials, such as HTML, JavaScript and design guides. And finally, there's banner ads. Tripod wouldn't be free without the adverts, I accept that. But for providing so much, you'd expect your pages to be swamped with banners and pop-ups. Oh no, not Tripod. All you get is a pop-up on the home page of your site, and after that there's nothing. Nada. Not even a small link in the corner. Overall, Tripod can only be described as excellent. It gives you the most webspace, the most page add-ons and advice, with a very high-standard site manager for novices and advanced users alike. All for free. I wonder why other webspace services can't be of the same standard.

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                                12.01.2001 00:42
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                                For the New Year 2000-2001, I went to Scotland for my first time and spent a week in Glen Shiel for some serious walking. For a first time in the country, it wasn't a bad place to start. Glen Shiel is a valley in the Highlands, not far from the Isle of Skye. It's fairly isolated by itself, but if you've got a car, there's loads of other places to explore, or to take on expeditions.<p> Going eastwards, it's just over an hours' drive to Fort William, one of the Highlands' largest towns, and also the starting point to climb Ben Nevis. Or, going in the other direction, it takes about half an hour to get across to the Isle of Skye - but watch out for the infamous bridge from the mainland. It looks nice, but the tolls don't. Luckily for us, at new year, the toll booths weren't open so we got through for free. Anyway, not letting that put you off, once on Skye, the main attraction is the Cuillin Ridge. The Cuillins are one of the grandest mountain ranges in Scotland, but not for the wary - don't venture on to them if you're not well equipped! If that's not for you, there's an excellent pub at Sligachan overlooking the hills! And if you want to go northwards, it's not long until you reach Torridon, another base for high-quality walking. Since this opinion is in the Glen Shiel category, maybe I should stop travelling and tell you something about the place. If it's mountains you want to climb, Glen Shiel is fantastic. On the north side is the well-known Five Sisters Of Kintail, with an extra few Munros on their east. The southern side offers the South Glenshiel Ridge, a 10-mile length of peaks giving you 7 Munros in one day! Although most guidebooks advise splitting it into two walks. Also on the south side is The Saddle and the Forcan Ridge - a short but sharp rocky ridge with sheer drops. Andrenaline junkies this way, please. (I'
                                ;ll go the other way then...) Back on flat ground, there's a few places to stay. They're all on the same strech of road, so they're all easy enough to find. At the eastern end is the Cluanie Inn, which is the recommended base for starting walks in Glen Shiel and the neighbouring areas. I didn't stay there, so I can't tell you the prices or details. It's easy to spot though - travelling into the valley, it's on the left when you come to the end of Loch Cluanie. At the western end you've got a choice of two. Just around the head of Loch Duich is the Kintail Lodge Hotel - also offerring a great pub! There's not a great selection of drinks there, but what do you expect for a remote area. Also on offer at the Kintail Lodge are postcards, posters, pool tables, and real Scotch Whisky! Oh, and a very friendly cat and two dumb dogs ;o) The other option at this end of the valley is Ratagan Youth Hostel, about two miles off the main road when you reach Loch Duich. Very reasonable prices - £9.25 per person per night, SYHA membership is £6 per person per year. All you have to take is your own food - bedsheets and kitchen equipment are all provided. The thing I liked most about Glen Shiel was the scenery - the valley is near sea-level, and the mountains on both sides are above 1000 metres. This does mean though that it takes a lot of effort to get going on a walk! But once the first climb's over, it's well worth it. If you've got your own transport, then picking a base for walks is no problem - the main road through the valley has laybys on each side every mile or so. The only problem I found was that most of the walks were "one way" - you didn't end the walk at the same place you started, and a few times it was a 2 or 3 mile walk back along tarmac which didn't do my knees much good! There is some public transport in the valley though - long di
                                stance coach trips might give you a lift, but there's also the Post Bus services. Basically, no matter how remote a place is, they still need mail - meaning long distance journeys. So as a part of the deal, the Royal Mail vans will give you a lift if you need one! If you're staying at Ratagan YH, the warden can also give you a lift, if you get your name down early enough. I don't know about what distance he'd take you, but it would be worth asking if you're there. All this talk about climbing mountains is useless if you're just there for a tourist break. Fear not, Glen Shiel isn't all hiking. About 10 miles westwards along the A87 from Shiel Bridge is Eilean Donan Castle, the place featured in the BBC hot-air balloon trailers. And it's also where parts of the film Highlander were filmed. The castle is open for tours during the summer months, but at any time of year you can walk around the grounds. Even if it's just sightseeing, there's plenty of areas which are good enough even from the car. The road up to Torridon is a good one. And Loch Ness isn't all that far away either - about 70 miles, so it would make a day trip. Now some more serious stuff... Shops ===== There is an everyday items (bread, milk, newspapers) shop at Shiel Bridge, but it wasn't open at New Year while I was there. At the other end of the valley, at the Cluanie Inn, there is a fuel station so I presume there's a shop there as well. At Kyle of Lochalsh, about 20 miles from Shiel Bridge, there are some larger shops (Sainsbury's) and a bank. If you don't mind travelling further, Fort William (50 miles away) has the typical town centre shops. Access ====== The northern side of the valley is all National Trust for Scotland land, so access isn't much of an issue there. On the south side, large areas are private. It's
                                normally fine to walk in these areas, but check before you go - most of it is closed off during deer stalking seasons. How To Get There ================ Nearest railway stations - Inverness (60 miles), Kyle of Lochalsh (20 miles), Fort William (50 miles) Nearest airport - Inverness (60 miles), Aberdeen (170 miles), Glasgow (180 miles), Edinburgh (180 miles) Maps ==== OS Landranger 33 : Loch Alsh, Glen Shiel & Loch Hourn (scale 1:50,000) Harvey's Superwalker : Kintail (scale 1:25,000) Website ======= I don't know if Glen Shiel has its own website, but for walks and photos I recommend Manchester University's pages: http://www.umu.man.ac.uk/hiking/hikedest/shiel/

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                                  12.01.2001 00:03
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                                  For new year 2000-2001, I went on a walking week to Glen Shiel (see separate opinion in Highlands > Attractions), in the Scottish Highlands. The place we chose to stay was Ratagan Youth Hostel. Ratagan is a small village on the edge of Loch Duich, near the Isle of Skye. It's also an ideal location for walks in Glen Shiel, including the famous Five Sisters Of Kintail - a ridge of mountains which is about 5 miles long. The hostel is a fairly big place, providing 6 dormitories and sleeping a total of 44 people. Each dorm has bunk beds with full bedding - much comfier than sleeping bags! The hostel was awarded 3 stars by the Scottish Tourist Board, and a gold award by Green Tourism. Downstairs, there is a large common room with very comfortable chairs - ideal for sinking into after a hard day's walking. The common room has large windows overlooking the loch and the Five Sisters ridge. Moving through past reception, there is a hanging area for putting jackets, boots, etc. Space is limited, so if you want a hook, get in there early. Next to the hanging room is a drying room for wet walking gear. Again there is limited space, but the smallness of the room means your things will dry quickly. The drying room also has a washing machine and a tumble drier. I'm not sure how much a wash cycle was, but the drier was £1. It is a fairly big drier, so it would work out cheaper for two or three people to share a cycle. And for the washer, washing powder can be bought at the reception for 30p. Next up is the dining room, which is large enough for about 30 people to be seated. What I found useful in here were the pictures and maps on the walls - one of them is a 3D map of the area, so if you want to do a walk which doesn't involve too much climbing you can take a look around without leaving the hostel. The kitchen is also fairly big, with a large workspace, three cookers and one oven. Two of the cookers and
                                  the oven/grill aren't automatic to light, so bring along matches or a lighter. There are two fridges (no freezers) and a large storage space in the kitchen, but again you need to claim space early. But as we found out, some stuff could be stored in the car being so cold outside! The hostel also provides plates, cups, bowls, cutlery and cooking utensils. The hostel reception puts up weather forecasts for the week, faxed from the Met office. The reception is open for a few hours in the morning and then around 5:00 in the evening, at which times you can buy odd little items, of course including postcards. And when you get the chance, have a chat with Nick, the hostel warden - he can be as much use, if not more, than any walking guide books in the area. As far as hostel rules go, there are hardly any - the only one I noticed was that we had to have left the dorms by 10:30am at the latest. But most mornings we were up and out well before that time - long walks meant early starts. And unlike some youth hostels there are no chores to be done. It took most of the day to drive there (11 hours including stops, from Liverpool) so it was dark when we arrived. But next morning the setting of the hostel was revealed - the view from the front was stunning. The highlights are Loch Duich and the Five Sisters ridge behind it - a classic postcard view if I ever saw one. For the less energetic, Ratagan is 20 miles from Kyle of Lochalsh, where the (in)famous Skye Bridge crosses from. If you venture onto Skye there is plenty more to see. And about half way up to Kyle of Lochalsh is Eilean Donan castle - where the film Highlander was made, and in the BBC trailers where a hot-air balloon passes it. Now there's something to tell your mates. Ratagan is a fairly isolated little village, but there are a few extras if you go for a drive. Up at Shiel Bridge (2 miles away), there is a small shop, selling everyday items like bread and m
                                  ilk. I didn't go in there while I was at Ratagan, so I can't really tell you much about it. At Shiel Bridge, head towards Kyle Of Lochalsh for about 2 miles and you reach the Kintail Lodge - a surprisingly large pub for the area. There aren't many drinks on offer, but I recommend Tennent's. The pub also has pool tables and a TV, not to mention the 2 dogs and the cat. There's some impressive photos of the area on the walls as well. Back on the road, head along the valley towards Loch Cluanie and after about 20 minutes you reach another pub, the Cluanie Inn. This place also offers accomodation, and is said to be the best place in Glen Shiel for starting walks. Overall, if you're planning to have a holiday in Glen Shiel, whether it be walking, climbing or just doing nothing, I recommend Ratagan. Price per person per night is £9.25 for seniors and £6 for juniors, March to October (prices outside those dates vary - see website). SYHA membership is £6 per person for a year, and can be bought on arrival at the hostel. Website - http://www.syha.org.uk/pages/hostel_pages/ratagan.html Maps covering the area - OS Landranger 33 (1:50,000) : Loch Alsh, Glen Shiel & Loch Hourn; Harvey's maps (1:25,000) : Kintail

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