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Doodlecat's Homepage

Picture of Doodle - a 
black cat

Welcome to Doodlecat, where we enjoy the pleasures of life (with a slight bias towards the outdoors). This page is regularly updated with news and views plus information about any additions or changes to the various parts of the site. It acts as Doodlecat’s Blog too, so the odd rant considered opinion may pop up from time to time.

I would love to be able to say that Doodlecat is all my own work, but it isn’t. Much of the outdoors content is courtesy of the splendid people who participate in the annual TGO Challenge (there is a section entirely devoted to this unique event) and many others.

To help in tracking down that elusive morsel on Doodlecat, the search facility under the title bar above is tailored to help you find it, either on this home page (Doodlecat's Blog) all the rest of the site (Main Site) or – if all else fails - the internet!

So have a rummage around the old cat basket and enjoy your time with us!

Wednesday, February 20, 2008


With a high pressure system sitting over europe and only a couple of days snow cover, so far this winter, on our local hills. It was time for a quick trip to the Alps for some snowshoeing and vin chaud.

With fabulous weather we decided on an ascent of the Prarion, then out to La Charme (see first picture above) for a picnic. Surprisingly, we saw no one else on the Prarion's summit, despite the Telecabine du Prarion being only a short distance away.

After several days snowshoeing in the Chamonix Valley & Switzerland, we took a trip round to Les Contamines for an easy ascent to Mont Truc. The train and bus connections ran smoothly and soon we were on the forest track from La Frasse to the Chalets de Truc. The snow cover was good and it was clear skies again as we summited on Mont Truc. The views were superb of the Domes de Miage, we descended and then climbed towards point 2048, just stopping on a small level area before the final slopes. Now the fun bit, we turned and ran back down the slopes to the Chalets de Truc for lunch.

Fiona snowshoes towards point 2048, with Mont Truc in the background.

Descending on snoeshoes is fun, you can run down powder snow in great bounds, just keep the front tips of your snowshoes up, otherwise you will take a dive into the snow.

Fiona prepares the the well earned lunch at the Chalets de Truc, after the descent from point 2048.

Despite being out every day of our holiday, we ran into only a handfull of other hikers snowshoeing. The only exception being the weekend, when the Chamonix Valley Train was packed with French Hiking clubs going snowshoeing, with their Accompagnateur's en Montagne . Startling, we ran into no groups from the U.K or Eire, why is this? Given the choice of staggering around in icy rain in 100 mile an hour winds on a British hill in winter or being in shirt sleeves, putting sunblock on and snowshoeing in deep snow with a blue sky above, I know which one I would chose!

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Tuesday, February 19, 2008

New TGO Report

Geoff Reed is returning to the TGO challenge this May, after ten years away from the event. He has fond memories though, and shares some of them from his 1995 crossing in the TGO Challenge section. Follow Geoff and his pal, Dave, as they make their way from Oban to Auchmithie, surviving trials by Guinness, lost maps, stag party, a wedding and finally being fire bombed on their way to successful crossing.


Tuesday, February 12, 2008

It's Deja Vu - all over again!

Just back from a great 'break out of winter' week end in the Lakes, admirably reported by Alan Sloman. As Alan says, we kicked off the weekend with Friday night at the Old Dungeon Ghyll, where, bizarrely, we were surrounded by exactly the same people who had been there on 20th October - six female students from Hull, and a beardy chap in his forties desperately trying to entertain them all with the manic intensity of a game show host on speed...just trying far, far too hard.

They were stunned that we not only remembered them, but the exact date of their last visit. But this time one of the girls was on his knee, and Alan, with the diplomacy and tact which is his hallmark, warmly congratulated him on scoring (and with a pretty one), as we had completely written off his chances last year.

I think he took it as compliment, but fortunately we slipped away through a fault in the space/time continuum - one minute it was 10.15, the next it was 11.25 and we were wandering away to our tents to sleep like babes.

Next morning we were off for a magnificent afternoon on the hill. Alan has reported this in full, so I'll just add to the photos!

Great Mell Fell from the Old Coach Road
Alan takes a photograph against the sun
Our 'irregular' campsite by Stick's Gill
Alan sizes up another great shot
The new rucksack purchased in Ambleside was not a total success, however. My first brush with a fixed back length and whilst I thought it fitted OK, a full day's fiddling revealed the truth - it didn't.

Back home a tape measure confirmed that I have a back length of 20.5", whereas the sack only adjusts to accommodate a 19.5" maximum. It's surprising the difference this makes, and a bit of a disappointment as the Millet Peuterey 40 is a great little sack. Oddly, Alan is slightly taller than me and his fits like a glove, but he has long legs and a short body, whereas I am the opposite. Ah well, just goes to show what the lure of a bargain can do - £85 down to £70 made this a snip compared to the expensive and (I thought) rather overrated "lightweight" packs. It holds far more that its nominal 40 litre capacity implies and will easily cope with a 30lb load.
I have offered it to someone I know, but if they don't want it, it will be up for grabs - and at an excellent price. Miss Whiplash will permit no more gear purchases until the rucksack/funds situation is rectified, so I am a desperate man.

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Monday, February 4, 2008

Challenge Gear
No, not the sort of gear that has Mr. PC Plod knocking on your front door early one morning, but the lightweight variety, beloved of challengers everywhere. With May fast approaching it seems everyone is trying to reduce their rucksacks weight, the challenge message board is full of advice on and requests for info on how to cut pack weight down or what lightweight down jackets and food dehydrators to use. While old hands are cutting their weight down by other means, such as Terry L. who is not carrying Stefan this year, but getting himself carried across by Richard B. instead.

Last summer after finishing the Tour of The Jungfrau Region we visited the first european Mont-Bell shop in Grindelwald, the shop was full of interestingly designed light weight kit. I had used a Mont-Bell Thermawrap jacket on the challenge last year and found it coped well with cold nights on high camps, despite its low weight. So, on seeing a gilet Thermawrap in the store I immediately bought one for this years challenge. The weight of the gilet is low (around 169 grms), lighter than some base layers, and it takes up hardly any space in my pack and my initial impressions are good, so hopefully an ideal top for the fickle weather of the challenge. Of course others will have their own idea's on whats their ideal challenge wear, a discussion I recently had with Phil L. at The Challenge Reunion last October, while Mr Sloman tried on womens tights and other garments in the Ice Factor outdoor shop at Kinlochleven.

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Friday, February 1, 2008

New Pictures - and more on Wild Camping

Some new pictures on a winter theme from Roger Boston are now in the gallery - Roger has sent in some superb photos, so we'll feature some more in a couple of weeks.

The debate surrounding the petition to extend the CRoW act to allow wildcamping continues, and the argument against the nay sayers is well put by John Manning . Throughout this debate both pro and anti views have been expressed reasonably and cogently, which reflects well on the outdoors community.

I think it has been good to have the debate carried out in a relatively low key way at first, allowing the arguments on both sides to be aired and tested outside the national media. However, presently the debate is mainly being carried out on the web, by outdoors bloggers and forum users, and clearly needs to break out into other media to gain momentum. It will be interesting to see how it is covered in the national magazines such as TGO and Trail. Hopefully this will be the route for the story to become mainstream without ill informed reporters for the general press going off at half cock. Even so the Daily Rant will no doubt predict waves of itinerant vagabonds pitching up in their readers gardens!

Next Friday I'm off for a couple of days backpacking and wild camping "somewhere in England", with Alan Sloman, so watch out for a dispatch from the front line!