Reindeer, Mountain Char & Super Noodles: ‘Gröna Bandet’ Stage 2

 Mark Waring continues his 1,000 miles on foot across Sweden

The small village of Duved nestles amidst the mountains of Jämtland, in the summer it’s quiet as any ‘out-of-season’ ski resort. A few shops and bars lie below ski runs and lifts, with a sense of everything waiting for the return of snow. For me, it’s my first ‘town stop’. A chance for a ‘rest day’, an opportunity to eat properly, wash clothes and, importantly, to resupply for the next leg of my journey, another ten days through Sweden’s forests and mountains.

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The Little Owl in Britain

Little Owls are amazing birds. They’re only eight inches tall, yet they ooze so much personality. Their quirky behaviours are utterly charming and a sheer joy to watch. Many people are surprised to learn that this much loved owl is not native. Landowners successfully introduced the Little Owl into England during the 1880s; these were brought over from mainland Europe to control ‘garden pests’. After its initial and rapid spread across England and Wales, the Little Owl started to decline from the late 1930s. More recently, this decline has accelerated, with numbers down by 64% in 25 years.

The Little Owl has declined across parts of its native range too, and is a Species of European Conservation Concern. This decline has been linked with agricultural intensification, urbanisation, traffic collisions, predation by mammals and raptors, and low juvenile survival rates. We’re unsure why the Little Owl is declining here, but it’s likely to be for a combination of reasons.

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Reporting from ‘The Last Wild Race’

 

As reporters on www.SleepMonsters.com, we end up in some far flung places covering expedition adventure races all over the globe. Even so, a recent trip to report on the Patagonian Expedition Race was something special, perhaps our biggest reporting challenge of all.

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Páramo wins Guardian Sustainable Business Award

David Bacci in PFC-free Páramo clothing on Ragni route of Mount Fitz Roy, Patagonia, January 2016

Páramo has been announced the winner of the ‘Bold Move’ category in the prestigious Guardian Sustainable Business Awards 2016, recognising the importance and impact of the British clothing company’s sign-up to the Greenpeace Detox Commitment in January 2016.

In January 2016 Páramo became the first outdoor company to sign up to Greenpeace Detox commitment, leading the outdoor industry in ensuring hazardous, persistent pollutants are excluded from textile production. The resulting publicity from this sign-up was linked with professional climber, David Bacci, successfully summiting Fitz Roy in Patagonia wearing PFC-free Páramo clothing.

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Flight of the Swans – the big Flight prep

Sacha over forest

There is nothing so magical as flight. If you’ve ever been asked what your preferred superpower would be, I bet it was high on your list. In September I will summon my inner superhero and begin the first ever attempt to follow the migration of Bewick’s swans from the air, flying 7,000km from the Russian Arctic back to Gloucestershire.

Unfortunately, I won’t have superpowers on my side. Instead I will be flying a paramotor – basically I will be dangling from a wing of fabric, with a propeller strapped to my back.

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1,000 miles on foot

Mark Waring tackles a Nordic wilderness walk – the 1,000 mile ‘Gröna Bandet’

First miles on good trail

In the midst of Borgafjäll, a remote mountain range in Sweden’s sub-arctic, I pitch camp after another long day’s hiking. The intention is an early bed, it’s been a hot day and I’ve covered around 35 kilometres carrying all I’ll need to live comfortably in Lapland’s wilderness for another 7 days.  Just as I almost fall asleep I am disturbed by the sound of an aircraft, at odds with my remote location. The Sámi are herding reindeer by helicopter!  Continue reading

Saving the albatross in comfort

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The endeavours of ocean wanderers like the albatross never cease to amaze us. Perhaps it’s because we humans struggle to endure the mighty seas and freezing temperatures of the southern oceans where these birds thrive. For those who spend any time upon the raucous seas where albatrosses roam, it is a constant reminder of just how frail we are compared with the albatross which have perfected their physiology to cope with the harshest of environments. However, sometimes their adaptation works against them because they are so adept at foraging over vast distances that our presence in their habitat has become a threat to these seabirds.

Longline fisheries use hooks baited with squid, an albatross staple, deployed at intervals on lines that stretch over 60 km long to catch high value fish such as tunas and swordfish. Seabirds, especially albatross, follow the fishing vessels and steal baited hooks before they can sink into the depths. This stolen meal far too often results in the death of the thief, with over 300,000 seabirds killed in longline and trawl fisheries per year, at least 100,000 of which are albatross. However, this unnecessary mortality is easily avoided, by using bycatch mitigation measures like a bird-scaring line to ward off foraging birds, line weighting to sink the hooks faster and setting lines at night when the birds are less active. The hard part is

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convincing the fishing industry that these measures are effective, and necessary. To create that awareness, and generate the uptake of mitigation measures in the worlds’ bycatch hotspots, the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) and BirdLife International launched the Albatross Task Force. The ATF is a team of bycatch mitigation practitioners who work directly with industry, at sea, on deck, right next to the people setting the hooks. The mission of the ATF is to implement best practice mitigation measures in seabird bycatch hot spots, to reduce the levels of mortality and ultimately to improve the conservation status of these threatened birds. This involves generating links with industry and government, conducting frequent sea trips to test, and improve mitigation and help industry re-adjust their fishing gear and operations to prevent albatross mortality. Our results show that the measures are extremely effective, with seabird bycatch reductions of over 90% possible where mitigation is adopted. These results are only possible by spending the

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necessary time at sea in all conditions, and that is why the ATF uses Páramo directional clothing. Staying warm and dry makes long periods on deck much more comfortable, but the design details are really what make the difference. Adjustable hoods that hold off the worst of the rain without diminishing the view of the wearer are great for performing seabird abundance counts. A range of pockets help store the range of utensils for recording data during hours on deck, and the lightweight and flexible fabrics permit changing the number of layers beneath the top coat as weather demands. Oli Yates, RSPB

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Páramo Sapiens – a winter climbing adventure

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The day dawned clear and cold as we left the car park at Sligachan and took the path towards Sgurr Bhastier through iced up puddles crunching under foot. Following the right side of the Allt Dearg burn, we soon reached the snowed up slopes under the north face. A few days before I had been climbing on the lower buttress and had come across this excellent looking route, but armed only with nuts and a bulldog I decided we were not “hard” enough to attempt pure ice, so reluctantly left, but you know what happens in your mind… … Your only mission is to return before anyone can “steal” that coveted first ascent! Unfortunately, (for him) my friend Murdo has a proper job, so couldn’t do mid-week, so like any conscientious climber I quickly decided to find a new best friend. With conditions this good it proved to be a doddle. Matt and John, better known as Skye Adventure made up the team and what a team… full of fun, always an advantage on the belays climbing as three! All too soon the ice “reared” steep and forbidding above us and after scratching around for a belay and uncoil… (I mean untangling the ropes!) my new compatriots decided it was my lead, said with a smirk (no smirk without fire I always say). In these circumstances it’s best not to show panic, so with a deep intake of breath and a few choice words to myself, I attacked the ice with gusto and waded through thigh deep powder snow to the bottom steepening. Ice screw placed, the tools sank easily into the bomber ice and I was “off” on my adventure. Nothing better than doinking your ice axe in some 5,000 year old foliage hanging on in a hostile terrain! Sweating profusely, mouth dry, I am soon joined by my partners and after a bit of backslapping we ponder what we’ll call this little gem for posterity. Since we had a theme for these cliffs, starting with a route I called “Je Suis Charlet” as it was just after the attacks on Charlie Hebdo. It didn’t take long to settle on “Páramo Sapiens” as a quick perusal of our gear revealed us all to be wearing Páramo jackets and trousers which we all find to be warm and comfortable both climbing and snickering on belays. A quick bite to eat whilst admiring the view and it was time to head back down through the virgin snow, before daylight deserted us. “Páramo Sapiens” IV 4 north face Sgurr Bhastier, Black Cuillins, Isle of Skye

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