After a few weekends (and evenings) of DIY and hiding away from the elements I'd promised myself that this weekend I would head for the hills and attempt to find snow. Turns out I found a little bit more than I was expecting with the walk ending up as one of my more interesting Peak District experiences. Apologies now to my companion who'd I'd flippantly invited for a walk in the snow and who I think suffered a lot more than me in the conditions.
Part of my determination to get out was that last month I was given the chance to test out a Sigg Hot & Cold flask. Sigg knew the filter worked with tea but wanted a few willing volunteers to test it with coffee - and I was one of them. Along with the 50cl flask I was also given a selection of Grizzly's Adventure blend coffees to try out with it and after a week of test runs in the comfort of my office I'd decided I really should put it to the test alfresco.
Now I should make a few provisos. I like my coffee hot and strong. Like stand your spoon up in it strong. And I'll very rarely finish a cup at work because even with my thermos mug I find the end is too cold for me. And by too cold I mean probably the normal temperature most people drink their coffee at. Sigg says that the Hot & Cold keeps drinks hot for 12 hours and I'm definitely going to test that.
My planned route on Sunday was the Castleton circular, starting from the Mam Tor carpark, through Winnet's Pass, along the river to Hope and then up to Loose Hill and the ridge past Hollin's Cross to the Mam Tor summit. Having cut my outdoor teeth in Edale and the Peaks I knew this area well and was fairly confident that I could manage anything the weather threw at me. I also knew snow was forecast and thought it'd be a perfect opportunity to try out my gear bought for a forthcoming trip to Scotland. Nice walk in the snow I thought, maybe a bit of crampon action, a few snaps of me drinking coffee on the ridge with Kinder in the background and then down to the carpark in time for a Sunday roast. Well it didn't exactly turn out like that.
Most of the walk was uneventful, if a little bit muddy in the valley. I was keeping a close eye on the light after a late start and knew we couldn't hang around too much. We stopped briefly on the way up Loose Hill to chat with a lone walker who warned us that the Mam Tor summit was a bit blowly and to check we knew the route. Even at this point I wasn't particularly worried. How bad could a route regularly done with kids actually be? Well it turns out pretty damn bad.
After the slog up to Loose Hill we turned into the wind and at that point visibility dropped from poor to almost nothing. I certainly hadn't been expecting white out conditions but that's exactly what we got. It was only the fact that the path is so well sign posted, and at times sheltered by the wall ridge, that stopped me suggesting we turn around. I certainly would have gone back if I hadn't walked the route before.
With that white out went all plans of stopping for a coffee and even after the clouds blew past us I was worried enough about the light that we pressed on. We did get treated to some spectacular views of Kinder and the Hope Valley in between the sideways hail but mainly it was a head down, follow the fence line, slog. Our summit was accompanied by winds strong enough to knock you off your feet and a frozen ground with very little purchase. Definitely not a day for the paragliders that so often use Mam Tor as a launching point!
So by the time I actually got to drink my coffee it had been sat in the flask for 7 hours and I was safely back in my car. It was still boiling hot and served as a nice warmer upper while I was trying to get the ice out of my bobble hat. Pity I then had to get back out into the elements to push my friend's car off the carpark - thanks to the lovely bloke who also came and helped!
So, the flask and coffee itself so far.
My work based testing had been done with my existing coffee. This is a fairly fine ground espresso coffee and although it made a good strong brew the fine ground did cause problems with the filter - seeping through and escaping into the main body of the flask. In the main it sank to the bottom so not an issue at work but problematic if you are lugging the flask around. In fact by the end of the Mam Tor walk there was hardly any coffee left in the filter at all. So I'd suggest getting a courser ground. I'm having no problems with the Grizzly Coffee (which arrived yesterday) and am very much enjoying the Black Bear. My only complaint is that the brew isn't as strong as I'd like so I'm going to have to experiment to see how best to achieve something more robust.
The flask itself hasn't leaked and the filter is surprisingly easy to clean. I'm looking forward to next week when I'll be in the Scottish moutains and will have the opportunity to try out some of the other Adventure blends. I suspect my flask and I would be very popular with my friends - if it wasn't for the fact I take my coffee black and with two sugars, making it undrinkable to most people!