Via Ferrata in the Vanoise

We spent the last few days of our holiday exploring the via ferratas of the River Arc Valley. Yesterday we went to Fort Victor-Emmanuel in Aussois, where there is the highest concentration of via ferrata in France!

Victor-Emmanuel Fort
Victor-Emmanuel Fort

We started off with Via Ferrata du Diable. This VF started on the cliffs below the fort. It was fairly easy going and provided great views towards Avrieux and its huge wind tunnel facility (where they can reach wind speeds up to mach 6!).

Richard hanging on for dear life
Richard hanging on for dear life
Rachel hanging around
Rachel hanging around

After about 30 minutes, the VF led us around the wall of the fort and through one of the gun ports in the wall!

Richard sitting in the gun port - yes this really is a sport!
Richard sitting in the gun port – yes this really is a sport!
Richard appearing through the gun port
Richard appearing through the gun port

The route then continued in the port and out of another gun port before continuing along the edge of the fort.

VF positioned around the edge of the fort
VF positioned around the edge of the fort

Before the route finished, it incorporated a nice bridge underneath the fort’s drawbridge!

Richard VFing under the fort's drawbridge
Richard VFing under the fort’s drawbridge

After completing this VF, we played on another one in the canyon next to the fort and explored the forts before walking back to Modane (past the wind tunnel facility and the array of objects, e.g. aeroplane wings and hydrofoils that had been tested in the tunnel).

On our final day in France, we went to the Val Frejus resort up the hill from Modane, where we knew there was another VF. We found it with ease given that the tourist information were of little help, and we were soon on the case. This VF is probably around 600 m long and sited within a deep gorge. The VF crosses the gorge multiple times and gives great views of the thundering waterfalls.

The route started with a bridge and then a steep climb up on the cliff face.

Richard climbing the steep cliff face
Richard climbing the steep cliff face

After this the route became rather overhanging and committing, e.g. hanging on with one hand whilst needing to move VF gear with the other. I called to Richard that he might not like it, so he took the easier route, whilst I quickly made progress in the hope that my arms wouldn’t give up first. All worked out ok, and I reached the next bridge, which looked down on one of the waterfalls.

Looking down on the waterfalls through the bridge
Looking down on the waterfalls through the bridge

Richard rejoined me for the next section, which passed over numerous bits of steep cliffs and wire bridges.

Three-wire bridge
Three-wire bridge

After about 60 minutes, we reached the end of the route and ate jaffa cakes :-).

After the VF, we walked up the mountain (for about 2 hours) and admired the flowers and views from the top, before heading down to Norma Village, where Richard had promised ice cream (it was good ice cream too!).

View from the top of Mount Rond
View from the top of Mount Rond

Tomorrow we’ll be in Turin and then we’re heading home to pick the remains of the greengages and eat the masses of veggies that have hopefully been growing whilst we’ve been away :-).

New year in Hawes

We spent the week after Christmas in Hawes, North Yorkshire with Tony and Catherine, our friends who are both runners and orienteers.

Day 1

The holiday started with a 7.5 mile walk into Widdale from our cottage in Hawes. After a short time on footpaths we were beating our way through moorland tussocks to get to the top of Widdale Fell. It was pretty windy and cold on the tops, so we soon descended the Widdale Valley and made our way down the valley via Snaizeholme where we saw a number of pretty red squirrels. Once back at the cottage we feasted on soup made by Catherine and ginger cookies made by Tony and then we headed into Hawes to have a look around and to say hello to my Uncle who runs the Whites of Wensleydale clothing shop. Tony is from Yorkshire and proved this fact by purchasing a very nice flat cap!

Running down the side of Widdale
Running down the side of Widdale
There was sun at times... just not where we were
There was sun at times… just not where we were
Happy people :-)
Happy people 馃檪

Day 2

T+C rode their mountain bikes on the local trails, whilst Richard and I went for a 14 mile run. We headed from the cottage up Wether Fell, to the Cam High Road. We then cut across the open access land to the top of the Bardale Valley and ran the 4.5 km descent to Semer Water, which was rather nice. We looked around the ruins of Stalling Busk Abbey and refuelled on cake, before continuing on to Butterset and back to Hawes. We spent the evening relaxing and working on a jigsaw (a very Christmassy activity!).

The long descent to Semer Water behind me
The long descent to Semer Water behind me
A view of Semer Water from the north
A view of Semer Water from the north

Day 3

The rains came down and no-one felt like going out! Eventually we decided to walk into Hawes and take a look at the creamery and the ropemaker. This took longer than expected as there was a flood on the main road just outside Hawes. I was wearing boots and trudged across happily giving Catherine a piggy back. Richard, who was wearing trainers, turned around and went off to find an alternative route. Meanwhile Tony, who was also wearing trainers, and his new flat cap, thumbed down the next car and managed to blag the world’s shortest hitch of about 25 m (probably because he looked like a yorkshireman in his hat)! The creamery was less exciting than the journey there, as no cheese was being made… the ropemaker was also closed. So, we headed into my Uncle’s shop where Richard purchased a very stylish harris tweed jacket. After purchasing supplies and a few bags of wood, we headed back to the cottage via the flood. This time, Tony braved the water and gave Richard a piggy back and I provided the same service to Catherine. By this time it was about 1300, so after a quick bite to eat Tony dropped Catherine, Richard and I at the top of Sleddale in the pouring rain and we ran the 6.2 miles back down to Hawes via the Roman Road and Wether Fell.

Day 4

On New Year’s Eve we went for a run-walk from Muker. We walked around the southern side of Black Hill and then along Jingle Pot Edge to Lownathwaite, from where we walked across to Keld and then back down the Keld Valley to Muker. At the end of the 9 mile route, we were displeased to see that the pub had closed, so we headed back to the cottage for tea and cake. To celebrate the new year, we ate at the Crown Inn in Hawes, which was very nice. We just about managed to stay awake for new year, but were in bed soon after!

View down to Muker from the side of Black Hill
View down to Muker from the side of Black Hill
The remains of mining activities around Gunnerside Gill
The remains of mining activities around Gunnerside Gill

Day 5

The weather on New year’s day was not exactly nice, so Catherine, Richard and I made a plan to run early and get home before the worst of the weather set in. Tony planned the same, but on the mountain bike. We ran from Hawes up the side of Great Shunner Fell. The weather was wet, windy and cold so after ascending a fair way, we realised that the view from the top would be rubbish (and cold), so instead of making our way to the top, we descended into Cotter Dale and then back to Hawes. About 0.5 miles from the cottage we bumped into Tony who was making his way back to the cottage after a wiery mountain bike ride. We were tired after the 11.4 miles; Catherine even needed an injection of cake to make the last kilometre back to the cottage! In the late afternoon and evening we were entertained with skeleton building… See Richard’s post!

Day 6

The weather improved and so we decided to entertain ourselves by taking a 13 mile run-walk on Ingleborough. We parked in Clapham and ascended Ingleborough via Gaping Gill. After a short cake stop on the top we headed back down through the limestone pavements above Horton in Ribblesdale, and then we traversed the slopes back to Ingleborough. A lovely day was enjoyed – Richard didn’t even put on his waterproof, which was quite amazing given the recent weather. We got back, feasted on Wensleydale cheese and worked on completing the skeleton 馃檪 .

Our route up Ingleborough, with the summit in the cloud
Our route up Ingleborough, with the summit in the cloud
On the top of Ingleborough
On the top of Ingleborough
Views over the limestone pavement on the route back down
Views over the limestone pavement on the route back down

Day 7…

… was unfortunately our leaving day. The holiday was very enjoyable. Catherine described it as like a boot camp… and I tend to agree, it was pretty active… but of course we wouldn’t have it any other way!

Aysgarth Falls
Aysgarth Falls

Hunstanton

North-west Norfolk is just a 90 minute drive from Rutland so on Saturday we visited the Norfolk coastline. We drove to Hunstanton and then got the local bus to Thornham and walked back along the beach.

The beach was empty, except for the large numbers of birdwatchers. We asked one of them what they were looking for and apparently there had been a big storm at sea, which meant that a wide variety of birds could end up on the beach. We couldn’t see any birds, so we carried on along the beach.

The beach of Hunstanton
The beach of Hunstanton

Along the way we saw some cool sand formations… and also some dead starfish and loads of razorshells on the beach

Cool sand formations
Cool sand formations

Soon we caught sight of the main chalk cliffs of Hunstanton…

Chalk cliffs
Chalk cliffs

But we also saw many more starfish, snails, crabs and razorshells. There were literally 10s of 1000s starfish on the beach.

A wreck of starfish
A wreck of starfish

A sun star starfish
A sun star starfish
A sea snail
A sea snail

After saving a few half alive starfish and snails by putting them in water, and after playing with a few crabs, we headed back to the car in Hunstanton, just before the rains came.

Back at home, I looked up the starfish phenomenon and apparently this happens about once a year when a large storm dislodges sea creatures from the ocean bottom and hurls them all onto the beach.

Four Lakeland Passes

This weekend was the Rab MM. I decided that I didn’t fancy chasing Richard around the fells, so I opted for an LDWA event called the Four Lakeland Passes. The route started from Borrowdale and went over Styhead Pass, Black Sail Pass, Scarth Gap Pass and Honister Pass visiting Borrowdale, Wasdale, Ennerdale and Buttermere. It was a beautiful day and I had great fun running the flats and downhills and walking the uphills, usually chatting to some other competitor. The 18 mile route was punctuated by pretty views, but more importantly great refreshments stops. My favourite was in Wasdale, where the refreshments on offer included party sausages, chopped up sausages, frankfurter sausages, sausage rolls, cheese rolls, cheese and jelly babies! What a feast! The end of the walk was marked by pie and cheesecake in the Rosthwaite Village Hall :-).

Styhead Tarn
Styhead Tarn
View down to Wasdale
View down to Wasdale
View back to Scafell
View back to Scafell
Ennerdale
Ennerdale
Buttermere
Buttermere

On Sunday I slept in and had a relaxing morning in Keswick before awaiting the arrival of Richard, who was a little worse-for-ware!

Richard
Richard

The Ponton Plod

Richard and I decided that we needed a bit of exercise, so I entered us for the Ponton Plod. I chose this event because it starts a few miles from where we’ll (hopefully) be living soon and I thought it would be a good way to get to know more of the area. Given that the route is 27 miles long, we did indeed see our fair-share of Lincolnshire countryside… slightly too much if anything!

The race started in Great Ponton and heads over the A1 to Stoke Rochford. This village has a lovely hall and gardens and provided a lovely start to the run. We then headed to Skillington and then to Buckminster, where refreshments were served (6 miles into the event). Then we passed through the pretty village of Spoxton (pronounced Sproston), then Saltby, where we got lost temporarily on the way in. Then we headed to Croxton Kerrial, where there were yummy refreshments again :-)! Then, we plodded… and it was a plod by this stage… on to Harston, then Denton, and then Denton Reservoir. Around this area we started seeing flour arrows, circles and dots on the ground and we realised that the Rutland Hash must have been running in the same area. We didn’t see them, but when we arrived at Harlaxton, someone honked at us on the road, and we confirmed later that they were indeed hashing from Harlaxton. This gave us something else to think about other than the tired legs, which was good! We ended up running at the same speed as two other runners and so we grouped together and chatted, which distracted us further from our increasingly tired legs. Soon we were at Wyville, where there were even more refreshments, and then after another three painful(!) miles we were back in Great Ponton. The post-event fuel was fantastic; soup and apple pie :-).

The start - Can you spot us?
The start – Can you spot us? Courtesy of Stuart Ashley, Ponton Plod

The start - Can you spot me?
The start – Can you spot me? Courtesy of Stuart Ashley, Ponton Plod

Richard and Rachel making the most of the refreshments
Richard and Rachel making the most of the refreshments. Courtesy of Stuart Ashley, Ponton Plod
Rachel
Rachel. Courtesy of Stuart Ashley, Ponton Plod
Leaving the last checkpoint running slowly!
Leaving the last checkpoint running slowly! Courtesy of Stuart Ashley, Ponton Plod

We had a nice day, saw a lot of countryside and definitely had a good dose of exercise! Thanks to the Ponton Plod for organising, and for allowing us to copy their pictures.

More wet adventures in Iceland

Sight-seeing around Iceland continued for another day, this time with visits to the Skaftafell National Park and then to J枚kuls谩rl贸n.

We arrived at Skaftafell to rain and fog and ‘enjoyed’ a very damp meal of sweet and sour noodles with about 50 other people under a very crowded shelter. The next morning we awoke to a brief lull in the persistent rain, so we headed up the hill to get views over the nearby glacier. From here we made our way to Svartifoss, a spectacular waterfall flowing over a wall of fantastic basalt columns.

Svartifoss tumbling over basalt columns
Svartifoss tumbling over basalt columns

After our walk, we decided to go in search of sunbeams. Apparently the weather was better to the east, so we drove to J枚kuls谩rl贸n. Here, a huge glacier descends from the Vatnajokull ice cap into a lake, which is right on the coast. It is a fantastic spectacle and even the sun came out! In addition to visiting the main tourist-trap, we also visited Fjalls谩rl贸n, 5 minutes to the west, which was perhaps even more spectacular and less frequented by tourists.

Icebergs at J枚kuls谩rl贸n

Icebergs at Fjalls谩rl贸n
Icebergs at Fjalls谩rl贸n
Fjalls谩rl贸n
Fjalls谩rl贸n
Fjalls谩rl贸n
Fjalls谩rl贸n
Richard gets into the holiday spirit
Richard gets into the holiday spirit

After absorbing enough sunbeams, we headed back west to Vik and spent the evening eating delicious food from the cafe next to the tourist information, and watching literally hundreds of puffins flying around the cliffs.

Puffins on the cliffs at Vik.
Puffins on the cliffs at Vik.

This visit concludes our ‘tourist visits’; adventure comes next…

The Rutland Hash

There’s always something new to try … and this weekend in leafy, undulating Rutland, it was hashing!

We met the Rutland Hash House Harriers in a leafy back lane near Stamford. We arrived unannounced but received a friendly reception from Swollen Balls, Bummer, Canary Boy and everyone else. We were briefed on the basics of the activity by the Hares, Fanny Boy and Squelchy, and then 10 mins later we were off. The Hares had marked the way via chalk and flour marks on the floor. Crosses signified the way, but at each junction the way on was not obvious and so the pack (maybe 20 hashers) split up to work out which way the crosses continued. There were a few red herrings laid just to confuse us, but once the pack on the correct route saw three crosses they yelled ‘On On’ and everyone followed. At other times we came across a back arrow on the ground, which meant we all had to run to the back of the pack, and then sometimes we came across a cross in a circle, which meant we had to wait for everyone to catch up. After about 90 minutes we arrived back where we started, and crisps, nuts, cake and beer appeared from somewhere. There was some singing and some drinking of beer and some name calling for those that were old, hadn’t been seem for a while, were last in, first in and for those that had done/said something amusing.

A fun way to spend a morning :-).

For drinking... we had to buy a mug!
For drinking… we had to buy a mug!

Bank holiday in South Wales

We spent the Sunday and Monday of the bank holiday weekend caving in South Wales. On Sunday we met Brendan and a new Dudley recruit, Laura, at Penwyllt, the South Wales Caving Club HQ. After numerous cups of tea we kitted up and headed up to Top Entrance of OFD.

Getting ready at Penwyllt
Getting ready at Penwyllt

Our destination was The OFD Columns, which are only available for viewing on bank holidays so that damage to these fine formations is restricted. This is kind of amusing to me, because The OFD Columns are supposedly anthropogenic, i.e. they were formed as a result of lime leaching from kilns on the surface. Apparently, as a result of not being true stal, they are more delicate than normal formations… hence perhaps why they need special access arrangements. Regardless they are very pretty.

The OFD Columns and Richard (photo courtesy of Brendan Marris)
The OFD Columns and Richard (photo courtesy of Brendan Marris)
The OFD Columns and Laura (photo courtesy of Brendan Marris)
The OFD Columns and Laura (photo courtesy of Brendan Marris)
The OFD Columns and me (photo courtesy of Brendan Marris)
The OFD Columns and me (photo courtesy of Brendan Marris)

After seeing the columns we headed to Salubrious Passage and then into the Sand Crawls before making our way out for more tea and cake (madiera) :-).

On Monday morning, we met Brendan and Laura at Luigis for breakfast.

It's such a memorable place that it deserves a picture!
It’s such a memorable place that it deserves a picture!

After a great feed, we headed up to Whitewalls for tea and then got kitted up. We went into Aggy with the plan to do the Inner Circle. Part way however, we decided that we’d had too many cups of tea and hence, a trip to the Coal Cellar Passage and the Coal Cellar was perhaps a more sensible destination in order to get out at a reasonable time. When we got to Coal Cellar Passage we explored a few side passages. The first one was extremely muddy and led to a chamber which was even muddier – very sticky, knee deep mud! After extracting ourselves from here, Richard then explored the next side passage, but decided it was too horrid to continue. The final side passage we explored turned out to be the Coal Cellar itself. It was a chamber, with black boulders seemingly appearing from a hole in the chamber roof. A good destination… but no pictures. On our way back from the Coal Cellar, we noticed some tracks in the cave which looked a bit like bike tracks. Given the number of boulders around, and given the entrance series, this seemed improbable, but then Brendan found this link

There are people more crazy than us by a long way!

We returned to Whitewalls and recovered by drinking tea. I also took a few pictures around Whitewalls of some of the more amusing wall decor…

This will be amusing for those in the know :-)
This will be amusing for those in the know 馃檪
...neither do we...
…neither do we…