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MONTY HALLS: CHAMELEON 5 GTX - THE ULTIMATE TEST - FROM DARTMOUTH TO GUYANA TO SNOWDONIA TO THE SLATE ISLANDS...

These boots are made for walking…..

…..and climbing, and running, and for transporting you to all manner of weird and wonderful places.

Three months ago, those nice people at Merrell were good enough to send me some boots to trial. And trial them I did, on many a trail and many a travail.

Happily the boots arrived at the beginning of a particularly intense three months of activity, involving expedition-training weekends, a period of preparation for a substantial overseas project, and a couple of decent expeds. Even as I type these words they are sitting in my foyer, sagging gently with many a mile under their knobbly soles. I know how they feel.

It all began by getting a large box from Merrell. I don’t care who you are, or how old you happen to be, but the arrival of a large parcel is always exciting. I had to fight my two year old for the honour of opening it, a battle I duly won as I’m much, much bigger than she is, and subsequently tore into the box with trembling hands as she sulked in the corner.

Boots are important things. Regardless of how intrepid you may feel, if your feet are wet, chafed, blistered and sore you aren’t going anywhere. Well, you might go to a few places, but you’ll be fairly miserable when you do. To have dry, comfortable feet means you are transported on winged heels. Oh, and the boots need to look good too. Very important when you’re in a pub in Kendal having loud conversations involving phrases like “Death bivouac” and “crux move”.

The boots in the box were well-made and looked pretty dam cool as well, a long way from the “stout” footwear of yesteryear. But would they stand the test of some proper trekking? Happily I was about to find out.

First off was an expedition training weekend. I run these down here in Dartmouth, and they’re great fun. We work from a base camp in a local woods, and although there isn’t much walking involved, we certainly put our footwear through it’s paces. This is mainly because it always seems to hammer with rain on these weekends, regardless of the time of year. It’s positively uncanny, in fact I’ve considered running these events in certain drought-ridden parts of the world just out of a sense of public spirited global relief. True to form it bucketed down, and I duly abseiled, winched, clambered, and off-roaded through the forest with dry feet and happy heart.

 

It’s obviously important to break in a pair of boots, and at the end of the weekend they looked suitably well worn, with steam rising gently from them as they sat on my doormat. So far, so good. But now the real test.

Guyana is 80% rainforest, one of the last great wildernesses on the planet, and I was about to head off on a Discovery filming project to explore various untouched regions within this great, green, crackling, emerald world.

 

This would involve some serious trekking, with a touch of climbing thrown in. If the training weekend had been the equivalent of the gentle foothills of the Mendips, then Guyana was going to be K2.

One of the snags of rainforest walking is that your feet get not only wet – inevitably as it’s a forest where it rains a lot, the clue is in the name after all – but they get very hot too. This can be very uncomfortable indeed. There’s also all manner of critters trying to get access to my well-turned ankles, some of them capable of spoiling your day in a spectacular manner. Where a good pair of boots is important in England, on a three week project in Guyana they might just be the difference between success and failure.

They were nothing short of magnificent, those boots, transporting me through river, up cliff, across savannah, over tepui, and into another world. There’s something wonderful about knowing that your feet are happy. Throughout an unbelievably intense expedition – I lost a stone in weight over the course of the project – I had very, very happy feet.

And so we come to the final test, a four day expedition to Snowdonia last week. This might not sound like much, but the plan was to trek to the top of various remote peaks and dive ancient glacial pools. This, sadly, required that dive equipment be carried up giant hills. Dive kit, as it turns out, is rather heavy. The team staggered to the top of glowering Welsh mountains, bowed beneath colossal weights, trembling on wobbly pins. But make it we did, and dived ancient lakes mired in legend, looking at cracked glacial boulders deep beneath the waters surface, never before seen by man.

And what about the next few months. Well, I’m off to the Slate Islands, off the west coast of Scotland, then Cape Wrath, then Vietnam, then the Monach Islands. Then home. And…..rest.

Boots, they’re made for walking after all.
 

08/05/2014
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