Filming with an iPhone 7 Plus

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Apart from enjoying a lovely morning, the aim of today’s hike was to find out how well an iPhone 7 Plus and a Gorillapod work together as a video filming set up for backpacking.  Sadly, I can’t show you the results as this blog doesn’t accept video so you’ll have to take my word for the acceptability of the product.  It’s plenty good enough for me and would look fine on YouTube.

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However, my interest lies in a set up for backpacking and there is a problem.  Filming on a cold day absolutely demolishes the charge in the battery.  Viewranger claims I was out for 2 minutes under 4 hours.  Filming occupied the first 3 hours and, in that time, the battery charge dropped from 100% to 21%.  For the walk home, I put the phone inside my jumper and listened to a podcast.  For this leg of the walk, the charge dropped from 21% to 20%.  So, for backpacking, the iPhone and Gorillapod set up would need to be used sparingly even though my Anker battery pack is pretty huge.

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The Gorillapod is part of the problem.  It’s head is stiff and not easy to deploy.  Getting the tripod out of a rucksack, attaching it to the phone and setting it up would be tedious enough to keep me from shooting video except when highly motivated.  Today, I kept the iPhone locked into the Gorillapod and held the phone in my hand.  The legs of the tripod lay along my forearm.  This set up was convenient and very easy to use but exposed the phone (and my hand) to the cold wind.  A permanently attached tripod could also be a problem if I chose to take a side trip up Suilven on my next hike.

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I’m hoping my next trip will take no more than 5 days between power sockets.  Even so, discipline will be crucial.  Using my iPhone, a Gorillapod and an Anker power pack will get me the results I want so, failing a lottery win, that’s what I’ll be taking.

 

Aquapac phone case

Using my hugely expensive new phone as a camera when near cliffs gives me the willies. The naked phone is slippery, if gorgeous, and the Apple leather case only slightly more grippy.

Today, I tried using the phone inside an Aquapac case. Firstly, I found that Touch ID wouldn’t work. I also discovered that the bare phone sticks to Aquapac’s plastic but, when in the leather case, it slides in and out quite easily.

During a walk, I need a phone case which helps to stop me from dropping the phone at all, let alone over cliffs. Aquapac’s lanyard does exactly that. I had the phone in my top pocket with the lanyard round my neck. The lanyard was unnoticeable during my 4 hour walk. Obviously, I’d be wary of putting the lanyard round my neck in a situation where it might catch but today’s walk was an easy one.

The last question concerns photos. Can a decent shot be taken through the plastic case? Here is some silica-based evidence – sunlight rocks and a cropped photo of an engraved door panel.

Not too bad, I think.  My thanks go to Ian Sommerville at Daunerin’ Aboot for advising me to try the Aquapac case.  Sadly, in this day and age, I have to mention that I paid for the case with my own money.  No one never gives me nowt!

Kale crisps

Two powerful hikers who eat more interestingly than most when backpacking are Aria Zoner and Liz Thomas. Both have mentioned kale crisps as a source of veggies for wild camps. I like kale and miss green vegetables when walking from one remote pitch to the next so I decided to give kale crisps a try.

The recipe is really simple but I’m not going to provide it here. After eating half of my test batch, I experienced nasty, sulphurous belching. I dread to think what the farts are going to be like. A recipe strictly for wilderness walks, I think.

Ben Macdui – the Munro for families

 

Ben Macdui used to be a hill with a reputation.  Its distance from roads meant that any problems could become serious.  Now, the funicular on Cairngorm and the easy mountain biking approach from the south have opened the summit up to families – three on my visit.  Its not only the hill which has become tamer.  One of the mums chatted to me, which suggests solitary men in their sixties don’t look as scary as they did before their few remaining tufts of hair turned grey.

I had started the day at Bob Scott’s Bothy and finished under my Trailstar in Coire an Lochain.  The formally permanent snow patch has gone but the coire is now home to large numbers of ptarmigan.  Next morning, I hiked down to the ski centre and arrived just in time to use my free bus pass for the ride down to Aviemore.

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Diets

Some of the books currently available on the subject of dieting are very good indeed. Books written by paleo dieters and also by committed vegans deserve praise, in my opinion. Of course, if books on low carb and on low fat dieting are both of a high standard, reading them could be confusing for someone who just wants to be healthy and a little lighter.

So, to start with, here is some simple guidance. The right diet for you is

  • One you can stick with
  • Promotes big, easy poos

Not so difficult after all, is it! Recent research from Belgium, which was corroborated by Dutch scientists, found that big, easy poos are a characteristic of a rich and varied community of gut microorganisms. You probably want a healthy community of gut bugs if even half of the claims currently being made on their behalf is true.

My own preference is for a whole food diet similar to the Mediterranean diet recommended by the NHS. However, I have enjoyed reading both of these.

  • The Art and Science of Low Carbohydrate Living by Jeff Volek and Stephen Phinney
  • How Not to Die by Michael Greger


They come from opposing viewpoints and both manage swipes at the other while promoting their own preferred diet.

As a neutral, I can’t help noticing that the vegans use the latest research when explaining the benefits of a plant-based diet but then use older research when discussing the opposition. That older research lumps grass-fed meat and beef broth enthusiasts in with the pie and chips brigade, which has the effect of making saturated fats look bad.

But the paleo and primal enthusiasts are equally guilty. They, too, use the latest findings for justifying their own choices but use ancient research which groups cake, biscuit and fizzy drink guzzling in with the kind of diet for athletes described in Matt Fitzgerald’s book.

Bang their heads together and you might get some sense out of them. Crucially, both camps are down on refined foods, which is why both kinds of diet, vegan and paleo, can work for the people who adopt them.

Despite all of the claims of bad advice from the medical community, damning saturated fats, the average person has not cut back on fats. Modern diets are high energy diets, rich in both fats and carbs. If we worked the way Superhod used to work or if we tried to backpack over all of the Munros, we could get away with eating a high energy diet, but we don’t and that is why so many of us now have Type 2 diabetes.

For sitting, whether in a car, at a desk or in front of the TV, we need a low energy diet which fills us up and that is where whole foods come in. Sugars, starches and fats are OK when encased in cellulose cell walls. We can’t digest the cellulose but our gut bugs can. They love the stuff and, at least until they digest it, the cellulose makes us feel full.

There is no end to the cake or pie, both sweet and savoury, that I can eat but apples and baked potatoes soon fill me up. Meaty diets also tend to promote satiety but the best diet ever measured for quelling hunger pangs was a super high fibre diet, which involved eating 3kg of vegetables, berries and nuts a day. Five hundred grams of cabbage as part of lunch is a little more than I could manage.

One other benefit of eating dietary fibre lies in the slowing down of absorption of glucose into the blood. If glucose levels stay within homeostatic limits, no new insulin needs producing. As insulin promotes weight gain, keeping its level constant is good for those of us who are already big enough.

Our taste buds can soon get used to a diet which contains very little refined sugar. When I was 14, nearly half a century ago, my mother announced that we were all giving up sugar in our tea. Getting used to tea without sugar took roughly ten days. Now, I cannot stand tea with sugar in it.

Life without sweets or cakes is also achievable and results in the discovery of sweetness in all sorts of natural foods, for example, ordinary potatoes. Taste buds recalibrate fairly quickly, although discipline is needed during the transition.

If you can make that breakthrough, whichever diet you opt for will work. Saturated fats may not be the danger still claimed by some and gluten definitely isn’t for the vast majority of the population but John Yudkin was right. Refined sugar is pure, white and deadly. Avoid!

Food for Thought

In a recent Guardian article, Martin Robbins wrote about weighing himself hourly for three days.  The article is well worth reading.  This paragraph caught my eye.

“The first surprise was just the sheer amount of mass involved. In three-and-a-bit days I consumed a massive 14.86kgs of stuff – about 33lbs. That was made up of 3.58kgs of food and 11.28kgs of drink (including 700 grams of a nice red). That’s way, way, way higher than I expected.”

That mass is roughly what my rucksack would weigh in total, including a tent and a stove, at the start of a six day hike without resupply.  Assuming I consume a similar mass when at home, two conclusions are obvious.  First, an awful lot of a backpacker’s daily consumption comes out of streams.  My second conclusion is that my lighter, backpacking diet is so different from what I eat at home that I really should treat myself to more, better, restaurant meals when I hit town.

A short walk in the Cairngorms

19 October

A long train journey got me to Aviemore after 2 hours waiting for a connection in Inverness.

During my wait, I visited a couple of phone shops and then went to Morrisons for an early lasagne lunch which made its presence known in some malodorous emissions later in the day. I asked for salad with the lasagne. It came, neatly displayed, on a separate plate, in a plastic bag, as if it was being kept for a special occasion. The salad was half coleslaw and the coleslaw was mostly mayonnaise. The mayo was pure white and probably safe for vegans. Nevertheless, I enjoyed my meal – at the time!

Arrival in Aviemore brought unwelcome news – snow on the tops. Clouds too. With the wrong shoes for snow, Roclite 295s, it looked as if this was going to be a low level trip.  Such heavy traffic on the road to Coylumbridge that I was glad to get on up the track beside the caravan park. Soon there were no more walkers but mountain bikers came by sporadically.

The Rothiemurchus forest, which as a biologist I had been looking forward to, soon became boring. The trees and shrubs were all the same age and largely devoid of birds.  This forest needs bison and wild boar to tear it up, producing a greater diversity of plants in the process.  Of course, if the Rothiemurchus was properly rewilded, I’d be the first to complain.

A family came by with their bikes set up for bike packing. I saw them pitching shortly after the Cairngorm Club footbridge. They must have known where they were going as few pitches are visible from the Lairig Ghru track.  The ground between the trees is covered by heather, bilberries and juniper, again all of the same age.

The track started climbing and still I was unable to spot any decent pitches. The heather moor above the forest was sodden and tussocky. Finally, when I had started to wonder whether I would find anything before dark, a pitch appeared. Sadly, it was on the other side of a healthy burn. And then the Trailstar was reluctant to fit the small patch of dry grass. One peg went in gravel over the edge of the burn’s bank and another was on the far side of a small, wet bog.

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This morning is taking ages to brighten up because of heavy clouds. The Trailstar proved a hero. Enough rain fell to have the tiny bog under one corner of the tarp flowing but there was no condensation inside. By a stream, in Autumn!

The write up continued when I reached Bob Scott’s Bothy

Going back over the burn was no nicer than the first crossing had been and then the weather deteriorated. I put my poles away as my hands were cold and wet. Fortunately, the foul weather was hitting my back.

The summit turned out to be 2 kilometres of boulders with occasional grass and a couple of lochans. Green grass made its first appearance on the descent. Pitching a tent would be much easier on this side. The burn running south from the Pools of Dee was too boisterous for a visit to Garbh Coire bothy to be tempting so I decided to go to Corrour to try out the new facilities. Still the rain continued and each little side burn spewed across the path.

A walker emerged from the drab background. He was possibly Scandinavian and seemed a thoroughly decent chap. As we chatted a fast walker in black and red waterproofs descended from the murk hiding the Lairig. He overtook, telling me it was an hour to the bothy.

When the bothy came into view, I spotted one person in pale clothing as well as the fast walker in red. After an ill-advised shortcut to the bridge, I discovered that the two men were there to change the toilet bags. A couple of Germans were also in the bothy, waiting for a clearance in the weather for an ascent of Ben Macdhui. They must have spotted a patch of blue because they set off. The two workers burned their overalls in the fireplace and we settled down for tea and a blether. Malky, the fast walker, had to head back through the Lairig so he soon left, too.

The two of us left continued talking until a hiker, who had climbed the Devil’s Point joined us.  He was the sanitation expert’s son. Then they and their Labrador headed out. I followed after a civilised dump into the brand new toilet bag.

Writing up my adventure, using the Day One app on my phone, has halted again, this time by visitors to the bothy.  More in the next post.

Apigill and the Flow Country, again

Approached from the east, Apigill Hill had never been quite as daunting as it had been when climbing from the Borgie River.  However, this time, after a gorgeous ride from Kinbrace Station, I was floating upwards.  On a loaded Thorn xTc, my progress was steady, to put it kindly, but entirely free from lactate.  With no one able to accuse me of needing a rest, I had no qualms about stopping to take photos.

A realisation dawned.  I was nearly 10kg lighter than I had been when living just a few miles from the big hill.  There lies the beauty of retirement.  Consistency is possible in a way that it never can be when work is exhausting and plagued by meetings which go on into the early evening.

My previous best at sticking to a training effort had been four weeks on the surprisingly excellent Lance Armstrong Performance Program.  One retailer at Amazon UK currently has that book on sale for a penny, which suggests most people are unwilling to remember that Lance occasionally did good things.  As far as my own programme of pre-breakfast physical jerks and a wholefood diet is concerned, I’ve managed almost a year so far and the consistency appears to be paying off.

Back to the riding.  The weekend in Tongue was highly enjoyable but Monday morning meant battling into a stiff wind on the way back to the train at Lairg.  I stopped too often for photos and then lost more time fighting the wind on the endless climb from Altnaharra to The Crask.  Once over the top, I had to put the hammer down or miss the train.  I arrived with 15 minutes to spare.  Then the train was another 15 minutes late.  And if I had been late, the train would have been on time!

All of the photos were taken with a 50mm lens.  No wide angle shots.  This is pretty much what Flow Country looks like.

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Between Kinbrace and Syre
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Loch Badanloch under a big sky
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It was a long way up from Strath Naver
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And there is still a bit more to do
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The summit, where granite ribs run through the psammite
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Loch Loyal, east of the ben with the same name
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Loch Loyal
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Ben Hope from the south east
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Near Altnaharra with Ben Griam More peeping over the moors
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Ben Klibreck

Cycling in Caithness with an old phone

Caithness is a wonderful place to cycle when the wind is not blowing.  Dual suspension is overkill for forest roads but I can’t leave a bicycle as good as this one languishing in the shed.  What a shame I failed to move the pedal around before clicking the shutter.

As for camera gear, this picture was taken with an iPhone 4S.  Still a great little computer if somewhat overfaced by modern websites, which take ages to load largely because of all the advertising.  I wish Apple had shown some love for the SE at their recent event.  A phone of that size could be an ideal device for the outdoors enthusiast.

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Exercise versus ageing

Between the ages of 77 and 95, Olga Kotelko set more than thirty world records for running and jumping.  A book was written about her by Bruce Grierson, a man who had started feeling  a bit frail after turning 47.  Shortly after an article appeared on the BBC website about her, Olga died.  Her death may have been delayed by exercising but that’s not the point.  The reason for carrying out endurance and strength training after retiring is to stay as active as possible so that life is as fulfilling as possible for as long as possible.  Olga certainly achieved that.

Is there anyone who wants to sit in a chair till the minibus comes to take them down to the Centre, where they can sit in another chair?  Is there anyone who wants to face up to the statistics on the many old people who die within a year of falling and breaking a hip.  Ageing can be grim if you do it sitting down.  So, health permitting, get up and boogie.

Telomeres

Here are a few of the many articles on the internet about the effect of exercise on ageing.  The first, from the Daily Mail, discusses telomeres.  Let’s face it, no discussion of ageing would be complete without giving a mention to our cellular aglets.

Can endurance exercise SLOW ageing? Intense aerobic training ‘prevents cells from shrinking and breaking over time’ 

Please note that lengthening telomeres may also require reducing stress and improving the quality of both your diet and sleep.  Warning: the following reference contains traces of Ornish.

Lifestyle Changes May Lengthen Telomeres, A Measure of Cell Aging

Promoting independence by defeating chronic illness

Staying active is what it’s all about.  Arthritis and diabetes brought on or aggravated by obesity is certain to put a damper on things.  Here’s what the US Department of Health and Human Services has to say on the benefits of exercise for the elderly.

Your Everyday Guide from the National Institute on Aging

The Guardian has this positive offering.

Could extreme exercise help slow down the ageing process?

Sadly, Dr Charles Eugster, whose photograph begins the article, has also died but, as with Olga, he did not go gentle.  I quite fancy being a wild man who caught and sang the sun in flight so it’s a good job I like backpacking.

The fight against muscle wastage

The next article, from the New Scientist, suggests that a pill may help those who cannot maintain muscle mass through weight training.  It discusses sarcopenia and alleges the problem is the biggest killer you’ve never heard of.  Free radicals are at the heart of it.

Exercise may be the best anti-ageing pill

I wouldn’t mind betting that Olympic athletes are already abusing the drugs mentioned in the article.  You heard it here first!  For the rest of us, Mens’ Fitness has this practical advice.

The anti-aging workout

The Brain

Remember that the brain is a physical structure which responds to the burdens you place on it.  According to 80/20 Running by Matt Fitzgerald, one of the reasons we tire when running is because the brain gets tired.  Training strengthens the brain and so we are able to run further and more stylishly.  Personally, I’d learn to paint, a language such as Italian and coding in Swift if I wanted to get smarter but the Independent has this article on how exercise can improve brain activity.

Do these exercises to make you smarter?

 I’ll end with this reference to an article in Time because most readers (both readers?) will have given up a long time ago.

Exercise Slows Brain Aging By 10 Years

Ten more years of sharp thinking because exercise helps to maintain an effective blood flow to the brain.  Sounds good to me.