Sunday 8 June 2014

Grand Canal Walk– Maps and Stats

This is really just a post to keep a record of some of the nerdier stuff about the walk in one place.

The basic route was simple – follow the canal, nothing simpler, 35km almost entirely flat.

HazelHatch-Ballybrack

You have to zoom in to see the errors. I assumed I would continue on the north bank at Digby Bridge to Landenstown Bridge. That was actually the better route but it’s not the marked Grand Canal Way or at least both sides are marked on the ground.

I also made a mistake at Bonynge Bridge, although if I’d paid attention to OpenStreetMaps I’d have known that the south bank was the right one. I didn’t go wrong on the ground because I had cell phone coverage but I really should have had the printed map for this one.

The bigger problem is the section of the R402 after Shee Bridge that I correctly followed but it really is not a good route. Far better to head left over the Shee Bridge and then cut onto the canal bank and follow the L5026 ( I think ) up to the Hamilton Bridge.

Anyway the thing I need to do is very carefully revisit the routes, get my hands on official Grand Canal Way maps and make sure I avoid any road with an R in it. For a start I need to download, print and laminate all the maps on this page.

The differences between OpenStreetMaps.org, Google Maps and Bing Maps are quite interesting. OpenStreetMaps has much better detail, and is the only one that notes the terrain, walking paths and canal Locks. Google Maps has far superior mapping of the shape of the canal ( so you can see the Locks by the shape they make) but is hopelessly missing many feature names at the level I need/want. Bing Maps is better for “Where am I know” and “what is that road” but like Google has no idea about Bridge names and only occasionally identifies the Locks when there is a named house nearby. For this sort of trip, stick with OpenStreetMaps.org would be my advice.

I downloaded a really clever iPhone App called Walkmeter before I started and turned it on to see what sort of stats it would give and it’s pretty good. I’m amazed at how consistent my average pave is given the huge variability in pace at any one point. I was also very impressed with just how consistent my “fastest comfortable” pace was – there is practically a hard stop at 6kmh / 10min per km. I went faster at a few points but those were only because I deliberately speeded up to see what it felt like but if I’m ambling along it’s 6kmh pretty much all the time over the entire trip. The spikes where I’m much slower are where I was taking photographs, or having a break for lunch.

Hazelhatch-Ballybrack-Walkmeter

The phone did pretty well but ran out of Juice at Roberstown which is why this ends about 8km early.

The other thing that ran out of juice was my camera. Well it didn’t actually but it was warning me it was low on power from Sallins so I took far fewer pictures in the latter half of the trip than I would have because I thought I’d forgotten the spare battery. In fact it lasted the entire trip and its pretty clear that two batteries is more than enough to power even an insane level of taking photographs over a typical days walking so I don’t need to find a way to recharge the Nikon batteries on the full trip, That’s a relief because the charger is AC and proprietary and although I think I could build a USB powered  substitute I’m glad I don’t have to.

So I need a good solution for a backup power supply. A high capacity USB battery power pack like this one is required. That should allow me to keep all the electronics happy for a couple of days.

All the other kit worked as hoped – lightweight Berghaus backpack, packable Regatta rain jacket, boots and socks. My old reliable Levi’s are not really ideal for this sort of thing, and would be hopeless in real rain so I have to look at solutions for more rain-resistant jeans or some sort of rain resistant over trouser. Preferably the former.

The boots (Merrell Moab GoreTex) and socks (Wigwam Hiking Outdoor, 100% synthetic cos I’m allergic to wool) really proved themselves, I reckon I could have easily covered twice the distance without getting any blisters. The rest of me would have been a lot less happy mind you but it’s great to be certain I’m not going to be fighting with sore feet all the time.

And finally – I have to promise myself to never, ever go out on a hike without putting on sunblock. There wasn’t much direct sunshine yesterday but I still managed to get slightly sun burned. If it had actually been mostly sunny I’d have been fried. Not smart.

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