Viewing entries tagged
extreme

Casio PROTREK WSD F30 Review

Casio PROTREK WSD F30 Review

Last month I had the privilege of going on two expeditions of very different nature. 

17.jpg
16.jpg
34.jpg

The first was a small team, low budget, physically and mentally demanding one where myself, my partner Tim and one of our best friends Matt, crossed the High Sierras by ski mountaineering. The second, was a large scale, big budget and basecamp orientated expedition on the Greenland icecap where I joined 11 men from USA, Latvia and Russia (I was filming out there for the mission).

That’s about all I can write about the second one for now but the first one crossing the Sierras.. Wow, what can I say?! It unexpectedly became the best trip I have ever embarked on. I thought it was just going to be a mini adventure and that’s how I would describe it when people asked what I was doing out there but it was anything but mini. It was epically magical if that’s even a description. 

Before I go into what went on during our Sierra adventure, I wanted to take the time to write about some of the that gear I took.

This first post is about the Casio ProTrek WSD F30.

11.jpg

I was testing this watch for its smart abilities, durability and general function.

I’d never had a smart watch before and previously have got by on expeditions with my little Casio that felt smart enough for me : A light to see the time at night, an alarm and a stop watch (plus the fact the battery has so far been going since my first ever expedition in 2011!) So the smart nature of the F30 was new for me but I was excited to give it a go!

The First Impressions

Now it looks cool doesn’t it?! It really does!

But I have to be honest, it definitely felt like a ‘male’ watch straight out the box and onto my wrist. Not the design, I really like its’ outdoorsy and extreme look, but it did feel very big and bulky for my wrist and a big ‘statement’. I have thin wrists and so I was down to the tightest notch on the strap which meant that the end of the strap stuck out a little and would catch on clothing. This was not a deal breaker of course, but something that was immediately obvious.

The Set Up

It is really straightforward to set up. A simple google login, bluetooth connection to my phone and wallah! It was strange as a virgin smart watch owner to have the watch buzz every time my phone got a notification.. I switched this function off pretty quickly (useful sure, but I’m not a fan of being a slave to my phone!)

As I was going to be using it on expedition, I was advised to download a more detailed app for the maps. The watch has its own GPS but this doesn’t work without signal so you must download the maps before heading out. More on maps later.

The Functionality

It has three buttons on the outside so that you can avoid using the touch screen most of the time. For me this is really important because so much of the time I’m wearing gloves and for the key functions like atmospheric pressure and altitude meter, I wouldn’t want to be taking my gloves off.

The button that I found myself using the most was the ‘tool’ button. The Casio Pro Trek WSD F30 offers a set of tools; compass, altimeter, air pressure, tide times and sunrise and sunset (surprisingly very handy and I referenced these frequently.) The other buttons take you to the on-watch maps but as I was using a separate app, I didn’t use this on location. The inbuilt map did not have the topographical detail of the remote Sierras however the ViewRanger App was a different story.

The Maps

2.jpg

As I said before, the inbuilt maps is great if you’re in signal and connected with your phone but on expedition this just isn’t realistic. I downloaded maps using the ViewRanger App (there’s 4GB of storage) and inputted my rough GPX route onto it too so always had a route to try to stick to. Now this was an AWESOME feature. I could look at the watch and it would point to the direction of the route. Now I didn’t use this as a bible but more of a reference with the map and compass when getting an idea of which mountain pass to climb. (Always take a map and compass!) Admittedly this did suck the battery fairly quickly but for this expedition that wasn’t too much of a problem as I took a battery pack.





8.jpg
6.jpg

The Battery

Don’t worry, I wasn’t expecting the same 10 year battery like my old Casio!

The F30 has a lithium ion battery that has three battery modes.

Normal, extend mode, and multi-timepiece mode.

Normal: 1.5 days of charge. This is because this mode has all the features of the watch, including all apps that use consistent GPS. This drains battery because you’ve also got the bluetooth, and Wi-Fi on with the brightest screen setting.

Extend mode: 3 days because it removes the Bluetooth and Wi-Fi and the screen dims. The GPS still works as well as maps. I used this mode in the Sierras, one thing I did find annoying in this mode was that it was hard to see the dimmed screen wearing sunglasses.

Multi-timepiece mode: 30 days (apparently although I did not test this) Multi-timepiece is the F30 at its most basic. Only the time and sensor data on a monochrome LCD.

The Charging

The charger is an elegant magnetic connection however for outdoors/in tent charging or indeed in rucksack charging, it just doesn’t work well. The magnetic connection is too weak and I found that it would disconnect itself which was rather frustrating. However, wonderfully Casio realised this and have a special clip that can be bought to keep the watch charging when out and about. You can find it HERE. I’d definitely recommend this option.

1.jpg

Other thoughts

It’s waterproof - pretty good to know with all the river crossings that went on! (Yes I did slip and dunk it on occasion!)

The alarm could be louder! It would definitely wake you up if you were wearing it (it vibrates when the alarm goes off) but the alarm doesn’t last long nor is it very loud so when I strapped it to the top of the tent I wouldn’t hear it go off on those 4am wake ups.

It syncs up with your training apps on the phone - I liked this for the lead up to the expedition. Running and cycling etc and getting the steps recorded however it’s worth noting that there’s no heart rate monitor.

It’s tough! I was scraping it on rocks, covering it in snow and dust - it’s a beast and will handle physical abuse! Just what it’s made for!

Find more information about this hardcore watch at HERE.

Adventurer in the city

Adventurer in the city

The presumed opinion is that to enjoy a life of adventure, one must reject the 9-5, the fast pace of the city and the seemingly superficial lifestyle to then resort to the sticks, become a vegan and hike all day and night. This is fine to do if that’s what you want but it’s not the way I have created my expedition orientated life.

I’ll be honest, I know I’m young and relatively responsibility free (I am fully aware that many people have more commitments) but I wasn’t born with it all mapped out for me. I had to create my own path but I made it how I wanted it to be. I’m fortunate enough to have a full-time job that I enjoy and that challenges me when I am not in the remote corners of the world but a job that allows me to take the time (within reason) to continue my exploration career.

I enjoy the glitz of the city just as much as the peace and beauty of the wilderness.

Continue Reading

 

A DAY ON DENALI

A DAY ON DENALI

Below is one of my more memorable days on Denali. It definitely qualified as one of the most rewarding and challenging days on the mountain and I wanted to share it with you along with some chilly pictures. Step into the world that is Alaska... 

The snow had finally melted and the water trying to boil. Once poured into the food bag we’d have 10 more minutes and then fuel to feed the furnace that is our tummies.

It had been a long and exhausting day on Denali. The mountain was starting to show it’s menacing side.

With the temperature below -40C, things were serious. I hold the bag waiting for the food to hydrate. I can tell the food is losing it’s heat already. I’m cold, tired and clumsy. I caress the food bag in my lap but don’t realise my grip is too tight. The bag opens and water spills out into my sleeping bag. The food is now losing it’s heat rapidly. I give it a try anyway in the hope for some much needed calories. Cold. Crunchy. Inedible. I look over at Tim. He is having the same problem. We have our toes in the same sleeping bag trying to share what little heat we have. Our full down jackets are on and never have I worn so many clothes and still be the coldest I’ve ever been.   

Continue Reading

Two girls alone in the Arctic

Two girls alone in the Arctic

We were just two ordinary 18 year old girls, with a German Mauser bolt action rifle, pulking through the Arctic...

I thought I'd write something about what it feels like to be at the mercy of the environment. So often in this day and age, people forget what it's really like to lose control. It's ever so easy to feel unimportant once you're out in the wilds. I find this sad, because it's the wilds where I feel most at home, it's the core from where we've come from. Yet it's somewhere if slightly messed with, it can kill you. Easily.

image

Ellie and I were 2/3rds of our way through our most exciting adventure yet. It was 2011. We'd been in the Arctic of Svalbard over a month by this point, and were really starting to understand what how to live out there.

image

It takes a lot of discipline, managing yourselves and looking out for one another. The people you sleep next to are the ones that you must be willing to risk your life for.

Ellie and I were on our way to what was called the 'goose hide.' This was an already set up tent in a specific position to count various kinds of geese. It was all part of the ongoing science our group were doing out in Svalbard. Now it was our time to leave the safety of our fellow team mates and fend for ourselves and get on with the science.

We were excited to be independent. I love Ellie to pieces and we both work so well as a duo. This was a great excuse to put our skills to the test and have a little peace and quiet at the same time.

Svalbard is a beautiful place. I honestly think it's the most beautiful place I have ever set foot. Every day spent there was pristine beauty. This day was no different. We left base camp with our skis on and headed north following a compass bearing.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Despite leaving base camp for a couple days, our packs weren't light. Arctic travel involves enormous amounts of kit and food for one to even have the remote chance of surviving. Ellie and I were used to pulling heavy pulks and carrying heavy loads by now, so this was no biggy. Our bodies were so much fitter than when we'd left Heathrow. We had both become very petite but still incredibly physically and mentally fit. The fittest we had ever been. I'd lost my bum (completely) and even the tightest of my clothes would hang off me yet Ellie's thighs had increased in muscle so much that she was excited to test them out when she got home to dance on them again. Ellie also developed an incredibly fetching sunglasses tan!

image

We were skiing uphill, laughing and joking about how funny it was that here we were, two 18 year old girls, alone in the Arctic. We were proud of ourselves and our compliments bounced off one another giving us this overwhelming sense of achievement and positivity for the future. "We can do anything we want to do" we told one another. It was true, it is true and not just for us, for everyone.

It was that moment that we both stopped simultaneously. We both looked to the ground, then looked at one another, then back at the ground.

It was a print. A huge animal print. We'd seen these before when with the team, yet this was fresh, this print had been made very recently. It was, of course, a polar bear print. It's claws were easy to make out as it had lifted its paw off the snow and taken another pounding step. The prints went up the hill, right  in the direction that we were headed.

Action stations. Ellie took the rifle from my backpack and handed it to me whilst I  reached into my front pocket to get my bear flare. Ellie retrieved hers too. A bear flare is the size of a pen. All of our team carried one. If the back of the pen is pulled out, it fires a small flare at your target. It is a deterrent more than anything.

00473-06209

I unzipped the rifle case and took the safety catch off. We both slowly and hesitantly continued uphill. It could be just at the top of the hill, we didn't know. It could be waiting for us, was it hungry? Could it tell we were coming? Should we retreat? No. We were very much going by the thought that we were here to get on with the job and polar bears are just something to yes, be weary of, but no they should not stop us from doing things. As we skied up, we came up with our plan. Ellie would fire the flare and if the bear showed even the slightest interest, I'd shoot. I believe that the law in Svalbard states that if one shoots a bear then they have automatically committed a very serious illegal crime and will be sentenced unless it can be proved that the bear was a threat and under 25 metres or less in distance. They treat it like a murder case. (As they should of course.)

We kept our cool. This wasn't a time to freak out, it was us that were responsible here. We skied past a point where the bear had obviously laid down and possibly rolled about, I think I even remember there being hair stuck on the snow.

Finally, we got to the top of the hill, no bear. Thank goodness. We could see the tent for the goose hide but this didn't mean we were safe.

Our brilliant team work and trust for one another came into use as we swiftly set up the bear flare trip wires, then the comms (wires set up in the right direction towards base camp so that we could make radio contact later on that night). Finally it was just the loo to dig out and jump into the tent. I had cleaned the gun before we had left so we didn't risk taking that apart that night!

image

It was obvious we had to have a bear watch check throughout our stay. We would take it in turns to look out the tent at night to check there was no bears checking us out. Luckily Svalbard's 24 hour day light presents itself to this and makes things a lot easier.

image

We got down to counting the geese and recording what we had found although geese weren't really at the forefront of our minds!

It wasn't until 8pm that we could make contact with the others as that's when we all switch our radios on. We decided that we should let them know about our print encounter, even though we knew it would cause worry.

It was my job to inform them. "On the way up to the goose hide, we saw, what we suspect to be very fresh polar bear prints." Silence. I looked at Ellie, she looked at me. We smiled nervously as this whole scenario seemed a tad bizarre. "Are you happy to continue? Over." Ellie prompted me to say that we were "as happy as larry". The others trusted us, and that was that. The radio was off.

image

The night went by and nothing out of the ordinary happened. We had breakfast and headed off. We were fine and our respect, friendship and proudness (that's not a word) for one another increased even more. As we left the goose hide, a herd of reindeer moved in to the area we'd been. It was a beautiful sight.

image
image

We both found out on our return that when our group leader, Neale, had heard of our findings on the radio, he had headed out from his tent immediately and kept watch from on top of the hill. What a guy.

Polar bears are the masters there, not us. If it had been around and fancied a quick snack, then we would have had little control in the end. This was reinforced further when we had just all returned home and on the news reports of the tragedy that was the death of 17 year old Horatio Chapple, who was plucked from his tent by a starving polar bear.

It's all too real when you're out in the wilds. Respect of the environment makes risks smaller. Respecting it means you understand the dangers and will not fight it but instead try to go with what it throws at you.

Polar bears are dangerous but as we all know, we are the biggest threat to them with our pollution. I won't even get into how angry all of that makes me.

There's a lot to be said that it was just us at that moment. If we had been in a bigger group, perhaps we wouldn't have taken on the responsibility to take action and protect everyone's lives. The fact we had no choice made us stronger as individuals and confident in ourselves to a point where whatever life throws at us, we can keep our cool and do what needs to be done.

image

Check out our ridiculous video whilst at the goose hide. Skip to 2 minutes in to find when we were letting the others know about our findings oncomms:

Patagonia is creeping up. Fast.

Patagonia is creeping up. Fast.

Oh my, oh my. The weeks are flying by. Even though I am packing training and planning into every single day, it still seems like there isn't enough time to feel at ease. This weekend we were back in Dartmoor in the snow, wind, rain and even, sun. It was another chance to test out our kit and admin skills. We did a lot of navigation work and strategy planning.

Dartmoor is the perfect training ground. It's wet, the ground is rubbish to walk on and the wind bites through any layer. As I sit and write this I can feel I've got repercussions from the wind and snow in my eye... Goggles/good glasses needed. Noted.

IMG_4199
IMG_4199
img_4137.jpg
img_4193.jpg

I am always so confident when we are all together but when I have nights alone, my brain has a freak out about everything I need to do.

We are a strong team. We just need to keep our cool and keep on plodding. We aren't trying to win, we just want to be able to get as close to the finish line as possible.

A few weeks ago we were down in Cornwall for sea kayaking practice. Sea kayaking does not come naturally to me. It's a nightmare on the shoulders and hip flexes. I know it will come down to me gritting my teeth and getting on with it. Why do I put myself into this pain??

Sea kayaking in a tandem takes concentration and those things can really catch the wind. Patagonia is wind central so we are going to have an effort on our hands.

10440981_1639525639637778_1496039806552281988_n.jpg

For me, this week consists of some cycling and walking with team member Tim, some running and circuits with my supreme trainer Greg Whyte and back to the Royal Geographical Society for a talk led by Ranulph Fiennes. It's all go.

img_4173.jpg