Friday, November 30, 2012

Cotton vs. Wool Insulation

Oh no! Not another insulation comparison test! That’s right, it’s another one. This time it features the material that we keep being told is just about the worst insulator for the outdoors. How many times have we heard “Cotton Kills!”. Well, I figured I would run it through some tests to confirm that.

The method for testing is the same I have used for wool, merino wool, and fleece so far. You can click on each material to view the results and the testing method used.

So, how did cotton stack up? For the test I used a cotton sweater similar in thickness to the wool watch caps and the 200 weight fleece shirt used in the previous tests. First, I measured the temperature loss when a heated container was wrapped with cotton insulation. I then compared it to the results when no insulation was used. Here is the resulting graph.

Dry Cotton

For ease of comparison, I have added here the results from dry wool and dry fleece insulation.

graph (1)

Dry Fleece

While it is hard to compare the materials head to head, as despite my efforts to pick materials of equal thickness and make, there will be inevitable differences, we can still see a more pronounced dip in temperatures with the cotton insulation than with the other two. I think it is a noticeable difference between the materials.

Now, I repeated the test with the cotton insulation being initially wet. Here is the resulting heat loss.

Wet Cotton

And again, for comparison purposes, the wet wool and wet fleece tests.

graph (4)

Wet Fleece

So…I don’t know what to say. I expected much more significant differences. We could certainly conclude that cotton is not as good of an insulator as the other two materials, both when wet and when dry, but I am finding it very hard to say that “cotton kills”. The numbers are just not that different. The unavoidable fact is that all of the tested materials lose significant insulation when wet. I don’t think any of them can be said to keep you warm when wet, and I certainly don’t think any one of them is so significantly worse than the others as to make it deadly.

Now, I should note that the cotton sweater was the slowest drying material so far, taking almost three days (about 65 hours) to dry. However, wool seems to dry extremely slowly as well, so the difference there is not that extreme.

It is often said that cotton is a poor insulator when wet because the fibers collapse when they get wet, eliminating the dead air space which provides the insulation. I think however, and this is just my opinion, that the type of knit used to make the fabric will make a difference in that respect. While the fibers collapsing certainly sounds true for something like a cotton t-shirt, a thickly knit sweater will likely retain quite a bit of dead air space, which is what might have happened in the above test. I don’t know; that is just my theory.

To give credit where credit is due, a fellow blogger (Perkle’s Blog) has been saying for years now that in his home country of Finland people have both traditionally worn and currently wear cotton clothing in the woods without a problem. The above test seems to indicate that this practice is not as insane as the internet sound bites would indicate. While we may conclude that cotton is not as good of an insulator as other materials, it appears you will be just as cold in any of them if you get them wet.

Tribes of Omo Valley: OZZO Photography

Here's a behind the scenes video of a trip to Southern Ethiopia by Icelandic photographer Oli Haukur and other team mates who visited a number of tribes in the lower Omo Valley. The video was made with a Sony RX100, a Canon 5D Mark III and an iPhone 5, while the real behind the scenes portion is shown around half way through.

I was reminded of the brutality of the traditional whipping of Hamar women preceding the jumping of the bulls ceremony, and of the sound of the switches landing on bare flesh and at seeing the wounds and bloody welts on the backs of these women. I've written a post explaining this custom in The Whipping of the Hamar.

Photo © Oli Haukur/OZZO Photography
The lower valley of the Omo is believed to have been a crossroads for thousands of years as various cultures and ethnic groups migrated around the region. The people of the Lower Valley of the Omo include the Mursi, Suri, Karo and Hamer.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Kiliii Fish: Native

I stumbled on the lovely NATIVE project; sepia portraits of modern indigenous people photographed by Kiliii Fish in Alaska, Oregon and elsewhere around the North Pacific rim.

Kiliii Fish is a photographer with ancestry spanning from China to Siberia, who grew up in the United States. His work consists of still photography and cinematography for portraits and for the sports/adventure. He also works with non-profits on issues from indigenous rights to environmental justice.

Photo © Kiliii Fish-All Rights Reserved

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Trip to Bordeaux - École du Vin Bordeaux (Wine School)

         École du Vin (Wine School) - featuring Caroline, one of the school's excellent wine experts.

Posting by Kitchen Delights Roving Reporter.

My food and wine press trip started on a cold cloudy Friday afternoon at Luton airport and in just over an hour I arrived in glorious Bordeaux in the south of France, to discover why it is the natural home to sensational food and great wine.

Described as the 'mini Paris' of France, due to the stunning architecture and the cool city vibe you would expect to find in Paris - Bordeaux is a very walkable city which makes it the perfect weekend get-away.

My culinary objective was to discover knock your socks off wines and scrumptious food.  I hope you will get just as excited as I am, as I share in a series of forthcoming blog posts, my visits to gorgeous Châteaux, delightful food markets and other amazing treasures that wait for you in Bordeaux.

A Visit to École du Vin

When you visit Bordeaux be prepared to thoroughly immerse yourself in food and drink (and of course the amazing shopping!) and where better to start than with a trip to École du Vin (Wine School) which is located in the centre of the city.

Learn how to sniff, slurp and sample sensational wines, just like a professional, and learn all about the different soils, grape varieties and other complexities involved in the wine producing process.

This two and a half hour masterclass paints a colourful picture of Bordeaux, as you learn about it's geography and the impact this has on wine production.  Don't worry if you are not a pro - it's a really fun and accessible way for anyone, to start appreciating Bordeaux wines.  You'll feel suitably smug that you have attended a masterclass before visiting a Château or two - trust me!

To find out more about the introduction to wine course

Disclosure:  The trip was funded by The Bordeaux Wine Council (CIVB)

Carey, Rosamund and Natasha at R&R Teamwork. Thanks a mill....

Fleece vs. Wool Insulation

So, you guys know that I am skeptical about most things that I can’t confirm through personal experience, so I have been doing some testing with different types of clothing. Last year I wore only wool clothing as insulation all year round, and became skeptical about its alleged properties as a result of my experiences. You may remember I put together a small test to see how well wool retains its insulation when wet. You can see the test here.

In the test, I measured the heat loss from a container with hot water, when no insulation was used, when dry wool insulation was used, when continuously wet (1) wool insulation was used, and when only initially wet (2) wool insulation was sued. The results showed that the claim that wool retains its insulation when wet were far from true. The heat source wrapped in wet wool lost more heat than when the container had no insulation at all, and lost significantly more heat than the dry wool insulation.

A few days ago I posted the same experiment repeated with Merino wool. The results were virtually identical, and you can see them here. Please note that the significant measurement here is the difference in insulation between the fabrics when wet and dry. While in this experiment the two articles of wool clothing were almost the same, we should try to avoid direct head to head comparisons unless the materials were produced to identical specifications for purposes of the test. A thin material will certainly lose more heat than a thick one.

Well, as you know, I was without power for a few days, without much to do, so it gave me time to do some more of these time consuming and very boring tests. The material I chose to tests was fleece insulation, and answer the corresponding question, does fleece keep you warm when wet? For the test I chose a regular 200 weight Polartec fleece top because it was similar in thickness to the wool caps used in the previous tests. The test was performed in the exact same way as the one outlined for the wool clothing, except that for the wet material, only an initial wetting test (2) was done to save time.

Before starting each of the tests, I performed a control test without any insulation. Since the measured temperatures were very similar to the ones shown in the earlier wool tests, I have used the original “no insulation” numbers to make comparison easier.

As expected, the test using dry fleece insulation showed a clear decrease of heat loss.

Dry Fleece

Just for ease of reference, here is the old graph of the “dry” results from the wool insulation.

graph (1)

Despite the fact that we should not make direct comparison between the two materials because there are too many variables, it is hard to ignore that the lines look almost identical. It would appear that 200 weight fleece has about the same insulating power as a knitted wool watch cap when dry.

When the fleece insulation was wet, its ability to retain heat decreased as expected. Here you can see the chart showing the dry and wet fleece test results.

Wet Fleece 

Again, for ease of reference, here is the old chart showing wet wool insulation (when only initially wet).

graph (4)

The results again seem very similar. Both wool and fleece lost significant amounts of insulation when wet, and in fact provided less insulation when wet than the try container with no insulation at all. As the material dried over time, the insulation improved. I don’t think we can say that either material keeps you warm when wet. If you are thermally regulated with the clothing you have on, such a significant drop in insulation will get you in trouble if the temperatures are low.

Equally noteworthy however is the fact that the two materials performed in very similar manners both when dry and wet. Assertions about wool keeping you warm when wet while “synthetics” not doing so, appear to be unsupported.

Another important part of the test, although not one that I initially set out to test was the drying time of the pieces of clothing. For the wool cap it tool almost two day (nearly 45 hours) to dry. The merino wool cap took close to 50 hours to dry. The fleece shirt on the other hand was dry after about 5 hours. The drying time was just incredibly faster. Of course, that is to be expected as fleece fibers do not absorb any water, while wool fibers can absorb close to 30% of their weight in water.

This additional aspect of the fabrics however raises a question about the above heat loss registered in the tests. It is often postulated that the faster drying time of synthetic materials is what causes them to “make you cold”. After all, if you have two materials that have absorbed an identical amount of water, and one dries in half the time, then all of the energy lost in the evaporation process would have been expanded in half the time, i.e. higher heat loss. So, why isn’t the fleece test showing  faster heat loss even though the fleece dried faster? Well, if we look closely enough, it is. You will see a larger initial dip in temperature with the fleece insulation than with the wool one, although the fleece caught up by the end of the test. Of course the difference seems small when compared to the overall decrease of insulation in both wet fabrics, but it is there none the less.

Keeping this in mind though, I think there are two things to consider here.

The first is that the evaporation of water from a material is only part of the cause for heat loss. There are several aspects, including the loss of dead air space due to water occupying the area, and collapse of the fabric material due to the added weight. Rate of evaporation will not effect these aspects, except in that the faster water evaporates (is removed) from the material, the better the insulation will get.

The second is that all materials do not absorb the same amount of water. While the same amount of water may be poured on a material, with something like fleece, where the fibers themselves absorb virtually no water, much of that water will simply drip out rather than evaporate. I think this is perhaps the greatest factor in explaining how a material can dry faster than another without any appreciably increase in the heat loss. 

The faster evaporation rate will probably become more noticeable when we are dealing with very thin materials such as base layers, that have become damp due to sweat. The synthetic material will dry faster, which initially cools it down more quickly, making it feel “clammy”. Over time however, as the materials dry, the synthetic fabric will gain its insulating ability back much faster. As the materials increase in thickness, their water retention will increase exponentially, giving us the results we see above.

In conclusion, I suppose it is not surprising that the two materials, wool and fleece, tested very similarly when dry and when wet. After all, fleece was designed as an artificial substitute for wool. If I had to offer an interpretation of the data, I would say that both materials loose significant insulation when wet. Your best betfor staying warm, as always, is to stay dry. Fleece dries much faster than wool (in this thickness), and as a result loses heat faster upfront, although then it regains it faster than wool over time. If you think you may get wet and will be in the woods for a short period of time, wool would be a good choice. Since it dries slowly, it will lose slightly less heat than fleece when initially wet. If you can get indoors to dry it out fairly soon after getting wet, it would be a good choice. On the other hand, if you will be in the woods for an extended period of time, the faster drying time of fleece will give you better overall insulation because It regains its full insulating ability much faster than wool. Anyway, all of these interpretations are rather academic. Your time is better spent figuring out how to stay dry than worrying about which fabric to wear. If you get wet, you will be cold in either one.

Captain Tristram Speedy: Travel Photography At Bonhams

Why would I mention Bonhams, an auction house, on The Travel Photographer's blog?

Well, it's because Bonhams is holding an auction of a rare photographic album of 180 Ethiopian images by Julia Margaret Cameron, Felice Beato and others. These images include a number of self portraits of Captain Tristram Charles Sawyer Speedy(1836-1910), a well-known English explorer and adventurer during the Victorian era, who was also known by his Amharic name 'Báshá Félíka'.

He was a fascinating character who was an Indiana Jones of his time, with a long association with India, Ethiopia and Sudan.

Born in Meerut (India), Captain Speedy was a red-haired bearded man 6'5" tall, who learned to speak Amharic, adopted Ethiopian native dress, and was photographed by Cameron in various guises such as a Bedouin chief, a Nubian chief, a Nubian warrior and much more. He was the inspiration for a number of popular books.

I am enormously interested in news like that because it merges history, Africa, Asia, adventurism, exploration and photography. Despite my abhorrence of colonialism, I consider men such as Richard Francis Burton and now, Tristram, as quintessential eccentric explorers, as orientalists and ethnologists, and as remarkable linguists with an extraordinary knowledge of languages and cultures.

They just don't make men that way anymore.

For those who don't know Julia Margaret Cameron: she was a British photographer born in Calcutta, known for her portraits of celebrities of the time. Her photographic career was short, spanning eleven years of her life (1864–1875), and got her first camera when she was 48 as a gift from her daughter.

As for Felice Beato (1832-1909), he was an Italian–British photographer, and one of the first people to take photographs in East Asia and one of the first war photographers. His work provides images of such events as the Indian Rebellion of 1857 and the Second Opium War.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

POV: The Facebook © Kerfuffle

I'm not a lawyer, but in my previous career incarnation I had to peruse, study and negotiate many complex legal the recent kerfuffle with many photographers posting some legalese jargon on their Facebook pages prompted me to reread its Terms of Service.

But first, here's what the photographers in my network of friends posted on their walls. Simply stated, this means that everything on their pages is copyrighted and cannot be used by Facebook et al.
In response to the new Facebook guidelines I hereby declare that my copyright is attached to all of my personal details, writing - published and unpublished, personal/professional photos and videos, etc. (as a result of the Berne Convention). For commercial use of the above my written consent is needed at all times! (Anyone reading this can copy this text and paste it on their Facebook Wall. This will place them under protection of copyright laws. By the present communiqué, I notify Facebook that it is strictly forbidden to disclose, copy, distribute, disseminate, or take any other action against me on the basis of this profile and/or its contents. The aforementioned prohibited actions also apply to employees, students, agents and/or any staff under Facebook's direction or control. The content of this profile is private and confidential information. The violation of my privacy is punished by law (UCC 1 1-308-308 1-103 and the Rome Statute). Facebook is now an open capital entity. All members are recommended to publish a notice like this, or if you prefer, you may copy and paste this version. If you do not publish a statement at least once, you will be tacitly allowing the use of elements such as your photos as well as the information contained in your profile status updates...
Well, while it may look impressive, it's utterly useless. 

First and foremost, creators always own their intellectual property and posting it on Facebook won't change that. What is at stake is that Facebook, according to its terms of service, is granted a license by users to use it and display it. If you use Facebook, that's what you agreed to upfront...but it doesn't mean your copyright is at risk.

Facebook is very specific about this:
You own all of the content and information you post on Facebook, and you can control how it is shared through your privacy and application settings. In addition: For content that is covered by intellectual property rights, like photos and videos (IP content), you specifically give us the following permission, subject to your privacy and application settings: you grant us a non-exclusive, transferable, sub-licensable, royalty-free, worldwide license to use any IP content that you post on or in connection with Facebook (IP License). This IP License ends when you delete your IP content or your account unless your content has been shared with others, and they have not deleted it.
However, if posting some legal mishmash on your Facebook gives you comfort, go ahead cut and paste it.

Facebook users must realize there are no free lunches. The social network is a business and seeks to generate profits for its shareholders. People who are serious about privacy issues, their name and brand ought to be careful and choosy about what they post on Facebook, while others go further and use their walls on their own terms; only sharing information they want to share for good and valid reasons.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Antonio Gibotta: Holi

Photo © Antonio Gibotta-All Rights Reserved

In contrast with the currently underway Pushkar fair whose authenticity is marred by its popularity amongst foreign tourists; a topic I posted about a few days ago, Holi festival is one event I encourage most photographers to attend despite the potential damage to one's cameras from the dyed water and powder that is thrown during it. It's one of the events still outstanding on my list of Indian religious festivals, and it's one I blogged about repeatedly.

Today I add another Holi photo gallery by Italian photographer Antonio Gibotta.

Like his father, Antonio became a photographer and specializes in human and social issues. His international photo galleries include work from India, China, and Africa. Browse through his website, and don't miss his lovely black & white work from Kashmir. He won a number of recognitions and awards from international publications and contests.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Christmas Crumble Muffins

Christmas Crumble Muffins - Christmas - crumble - muffins all rolled into one, perfect.  The muffins are filled with dried cranberries, sultanas, raisins, and black spiced rum, the buttery crumble is perfumed with cinnamon.

These are go large and there was far too much batter for the recommended 12 and will make 16 smaller cupcakes by half filling the cupcake cases.  There's a very generous amount of crumble topping too, I'm going to make 16 muffins next time.

I'm not too sure who the recipe belongs to but I've adapted it. Maybe the recipe is written by Annie Bell, I seem to be making quite a lot of her recipes recently.  I have now found the original recipe - I thought so, it's another great recipe by one of our best cookery writers Annie Bell.

This is a fabulous bake and ticked all the boxes - hope you have a go at making these.

They freeze perfectly and can be refreshed and gently warmed in the microwave, if you use foil cases remove them before refreshing.

Listening to Chris Evans on Radio 2 this week, he made the comment that all lovely Christmas foods should be for Christmas Day and two weeks after that.  I feel really guilty now..........

Crumble Topping

35g dark brown muscovado sugar
35g light brown sugar
70g chilled and diced unsalted butter
100g plain flour
⅓ tsp cinnamon powder

Whiz the above in the food processor until it takes on the look of breadcrumbs, put to one side.


180g diced unsalted butter
180g light brown sugar
3 eggs + 1 egg yolk
50ml dark rum - I used a black spiced rum
80g sultanas
40g raisins
40g dried cranberries
180g plain flour
¾ tsp baking powder
icing sugar to decorate

1.  Line a cupcake tin with either 12 or 16 cupcakes.
2.  Preheat the oven to 190ºC.
3.  Put the butter and sugar in a food processor and whiz until fluffy, add the eggs one at a time whilst      still whizzing, add the egg yolk.  Now add the rum, it will look curdled but no worries.
4.  Toss the sultanas, raisins and dried cranberries in some of the plain flour.
5.  Pour the batter into a large bowl.  Sieve over the flour and baking powder, fold into the batter.
6.  Fold in the fruit.
7.  Half fill 16 cupcake cases or use all the batter mix in 12 large cupcake cases.
8.  Sprinkle the crumble mix over the top of the batter.
9.  Bake for 25 minutes or until cooked.
10.Once cool dust with icing sugar.

Friday, November 23, 2012

New! Unique! The Sufi Saints Of Rajasthan & Kashmir

I earned the reputation of planning, organizing and leading unusual "off the beaten path" photographic experiences, so I am particularly pleased to announce my forthcoming The Sufi Saints of Rajasthan & Kashmir Photo Expedition-Workshop in early May 2013, which promises to be another unique photographic expedition, rivaling in intensity those that preceded it.

This is a unique photo expedition delving into the esoteric traditions of Sufism in Srinagar (Kashmir) as well as to attend the Urs Ajmer Sharif, an annual commemoration of Sufi saints in Ajmer (Rajasthan). It is the largest commemoration of Sufi saints in India, attended by many thousands of South Asian Muslims. The Ajmer event attracts the pious and the not-so-pious...the religious and the charlatans, the fakirs and the storytellers.

In common with my photo expeditions-workshops, the aim of this one is to assist participants produce multimedia bodies of work by merging their still photography and audio recordings to create compelling narratives.

For a taste of my work with Indian Sufism, interested readers can view The Possessed of Mira Datar, an article and photos that offer insight into sufism in the subcontinent, the multimedia photo essay on The Possessed of Hazrat Mira Datar, and a gallery of still photographs on In Search of the Sufis of Gujarat.

Details are on The Sufi Saints of Rajasthan & Kashmir Photo Expedition-Workshop website.

The Bar of Aero - Chocolate Heaven

A new fun way to get hot chocolate.
Posting by Kitchen Delights Roving Reporter.

Have you ever dreamt of munching your way round Willy Wonka's Chocolate Factory, like young Charlie Bucket did?  I certainly felt I'd won a golden ticket when Kitchen Delights was invited to the media preview at The Bar of Aero, Trumans Brewery, Brick Lane to celebrate 70 years of bubbly fun in a bar of Aero.

We all know Aero is famous for containing bubbles, but have you ever questioned how a piece of chocolate can contain perfectly preserved bubbles without popping. Listening to the boffins from Aero, it has a lot to do with 16 variables including gas and temperature. Sadly, they didn't reveal any trade secrets to help us make it at home.

I'm not the Roving Reporter!
Putting science aside, the pop-up bar was full of giant multi-coloured plastic bubbles whooshing up and down on air streams, and hot chocolate pods to bring the bubbles to life.

Aero Fool
Aero Mess
There was also a deliciously quirky take on the classic British pudding Eton Mess - Aero Mess, as presented by food stylist Andrew Stellitano.

Thank you to Red Consultancy and The Bar of Aero for a bubbly evening of fun!

Knorr Gourmet Recipe Mix - Review

Classic Chicken Casserole
Knorr Gourmet is a new range of restaurant style mixes developed by the Knorr Chef team.  They are a great idea if you don't want to cook from scratch are short of time or need a quick and delicious meal.  On the front of the packet mix there is a shopping list of fresh everyday ingredients you will need to make the meal.

Knorr Gourmet Baking Bag - Classic Chicken Casserole with Red Wine and a Dash of Balsamic.  A great idea to save time and washing up - all you have to do is add chicken cubes, button mushrooms, red onion, streaky bacon, red wine and the recipe mix to the bag. Place the bag into a casserole dish and cook for 30 minutes.  Taste test: Very rich, and the chicken and vegetables were cooked to perfection.  We would have preferred less herbs.
Knorr Gourmet Foil Steam Pouch - Mediterranean Salmon with Extra Virgin Olive Oil and a Pinch of Oregano - this is based on the 'En Papillote' method of cooking. Only four fresh ingredients are required for this meal. Taste Test: The salmon was moist and perfectly cooked, the sauce was delicious and bursting with flavour.

Rustic Ratatouille
Rustic Ratatouille with a Pinch of Oregano and Basil, all you need to buy are peppers, courgette and broccoli to add to the mix.  Taste Test:  Full of flavour and delicious too.

Luxurious Cheese Sauce with a Hint of Pepper - this was made by simply putting the mix into a pan and adding milk.  Heat to thicken.  Taste Test: I would have preferred a stronger cheese flavour, hubby thought it was perfect.

Thank you for the samples.

Piers Calvert: Amazonian Body Paint

Photo © Piers Calvert-All Rights Reserved

"To realise the project I travelled solo with 45 kilos of camera equipment. All photos are shot on location with natural light."

Piers Calvert visited a photo exhibition in Bogota, Colombia, where he saw a photo of girls from the Okaina tribe wearing body paint, taken by an explorer in 1908. The beauty of this art form inspired Piers,  and he found the Okaina had long stopped the practice, and that the tribe was nearly extinct.

Nevertheless, Piers set out to learn if body-painting still existed in Colombia at all, and if so, if he could document it. His research revealed that Colombia has over 100 different indigenous tribes, but not all of them practice (or practiced) body-painting.

Piers' message to the indigenous tribes he visited was that their culture was disappearing, and offering a chance to record some of it. Most communities weren’t interested, but some of them were and allowed him to record their practices.

Most of the body paint is made using "jagua". This is a tropical fruit whose juice is used for traditional body art. It's painted (or rather stained) on the skin making elaborate designs, and only lasts for a few weeks, similar to henna.

The Way We Are Now is the Piers Calvert photographs of these indigenous tribes.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

The Frame's Pushkar Fair

Photo © AP / Rajesh Kumar Singh-All Rights Reserved

The Sacramento Bee's photo blog The Frame is featuring some 27 images of the Pushkar Fair, which started Wednesday, November 21 2012.

According to The Times of India, it kicked off "amid colorful celebrations and enthusiastic participation of foreign tourists"  and its first day highlight was a soccer match between local and tourists. This annual five-day camel and livestock fair is supposedly one of the world's largest camel fairs and has become an important tourist attraction.

You can see where I'm going with this. The Pushkar Fair, once a visually compelling event for photographers, has become a tourist attraction with all the negatives that such a description entails.

I've written up a post about the demise of the fair from a photographer's perspective in February 2007 (almost 6 years ago) saying this:

"It's absolute nonsense for serious photographers to time their stay in the town of Pushkar at the peak of the fair because it'll be full of tourists, the real camel trading occurs almost a week before the fair's announced schedule, hotels are more expensive at the height of the fair, and so on. If the idea of photographing a solitary dopey camel trader left with his final unsold scrawny camel (not to mention the gaggle of tourist-photographers who invariably will intrude in your viewfinder) excites you, go right ahead."

It seems it's gotten even worse. I haven't researched if there are any serious photo tours to Pushkar this year, but I suspect if there are any, they are very few.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Trip Report: Blades and Bushcraft Meeting 11/17/12 – 11/18/12

This past weekend some of the New York members of Blades and Bushcraft had out third bushcraft gathering. We are counting the Van Wyck airplane crash site trip as our second meeting.

For this one we decided to keep it simple. We would stay on trail the whole time, and pick a route that was not too exhausting, but at the same time would keep us active for a good part of the day since the temperatures were not particularly high. There were five of us: Beanbag, Son O’ Beanbag, Mibuwulf, Wood Trekker (Me) and our newest member, Terahz. Brother O’ Mibuwulf was supposed to be with us as well, but at the last moment he had to drive around a visiting family member, so he jumped on that grenade, allowing Mibuwulf to come.

The weather was supposed to be great. No rain was expected, and the temperatures weren’t too low, although they were in that annoying range where they keep going above and below freezing. When we started out it was a brisk 27F (-3C).


We gathered at the trail, and headed up the mountain. Two of us brought our dogs along for the trip. I brought Rhea, who is camouflaged in the picture below. She looks like a toy dog, but I have been taking her into the woods with me since she was a few months old, so she does great.

Copy of 044

Mibuwulf brought along Roxie, his hunting dog.


There was some scrambling to be done right off the bat, but the dogs kept up well.


The great thing about this area is that while the elevations are not high, there are some wonderful views because you can climb above tree line very quickly.


Here we had our first opportunity for a group photo, although the harsh sunlight is not a friend of the camera.

Copy of 027

The hurricane had done some damage to the area, although all the snow we had last week had completely melted.

Copy of 035

While we were still within the tree line, we decided to stop and have lunch.


After a short stop, we got back on the road and proceeded up the mountain. From that point on the trip was all above the tree line, where the wind picked up sharply. Luckily it was relatively warm in the sun, especially when we were moving.




We managed to spot a few deer as well. Later in camp we saw an eight point buck (according to Mubuwulf who said he was counting) running up the side of the mountain, but there was no time for pictures. We did get a few pictures of a smaller doe who seemed to pay little attention to us.


Along the way we passed by a rock outcrop called “ship rock”. We tried to climb it. Most of us made it to the same spot up the side of the rock before losing our nerve. You can see Son O’ Beanbag giving it a try here.


The only one of the group who managed to reach the top was Terahz, who has rock climbing experience.


After some more hiking up the mountain, we reached the area where we had planned to camp. We decided to go down the mountain into a small valley below the tree line. We hoped to find water there and some flat terrain sheltered from the winds. We lucked out and found exactly that.


It was getting late, and the temperatures were starting to drop. I pulled out my heavier jacket, the Patagonia DAS parka.


Rhea was also wearing her coat. She is pretty good with the cold, but I don’t want her to be shaking the whole time.


I was using the winter set up for the Shangri-La 3 just for practice. It includes additional lines to the side of the tent for added wind and snow load resistance. I recently started using these figure nine tightening mechanisms, which have been working well and allow me to use thinner line than if I was using friction knots.


The rest of the evening was spent gathering fire wood. After that we settled down around the fire, ate dinner, and exchanges stories. Some of the guys were waiting for a meteor shower that was supposed to start at midnight, but I only lasted till 10pm before going to bed. That was much better that my usual going to sleep at sundown routine.


The smartest person in the group was Terahz, who brought a lightweight chair to sit in. I brought a piece of closed cell foam that I use as a seat during cold weather.

The night was not too bad. The lowest temperature for the area was 24F (-4C). The biggest issue was a pack a coyotes that kept howling all night. We were not sure how close they were, but it wasn’t far. We were more worried about the dogs. If they decided to chase the coyotes, they would certainly be killed. Fortunately, the night passed without incident.

In the morning we made breakfast. On an unrelated issue, everyone was very amused by my pee bottle (a folding 48oz Nalgene bottle). I find it to be essential during colder weather. The guys didn’t see it that way.


All of the gear performed well. I was happy with the Shangri-La 3 as well as the Kovea Spider stove. I also filtered some water in the morning with my Sawyer Squeeze filter. I kept it in the sleeping bag over night to keep it from freezing. I can’t wait until we get enough snow for me to start melting and leave the filter home.


After packing up, it was time for a group photo, and we were on our way.


On the way back, we encountered some more deer. This time Roxie took off after them. It was quite some time before she came back, so we had to wait. Upon her return she had to wear the leash of shame.


We also ran across several old 19th century mines. Most of them were just cuts in the rock. One of them seemed much more elaborate.


Around noon we stopped for lunch. We found a nice spot near a lake. The wind however was very strong, making us glad that we found that small valley the previous night.



After lunch we followed the trail out, completing the loop. Here is what it looked like from the GPS recording.



It was a good trip with good friends. It was exactly what we wanted it to be. It wasn’t too stressful, but at the same time kept us working for most of the time. I’m sure the next one will be just as much fun.