Two sets of adventure

I had entered Richard and I for the Hebden 22 mile race this weekend. Unfortunately I tore my calf last Saturday 🙁 . The physio reported a 1 cm tear and said that I have to stretch, ice for 15 minutes in every hour (for the first few days) and then only partake in non-impact exercise … i.e. swimming and cycling…. that meant that the weekend was devoid of racing, which was pretty obvious anyway! I write whilst alternating my leg on ice, then hot water bottle, ice, then hot water bottle … x 7 times.

So, I escorted Richard to Mytholmroyd, near Hebden Bridge and whilst he was running I went out on the bike.

Richard: Richard completed the hilly 22 mile race in 3 hrs 32. Despite the fact that Richard trains about half as much as me, he still managed to come 2nd and was running with the leading group the whole way round. I believe that my husband is super-human, otherwise I would be extremely jealous of his ability to run long distances very quickly.

Rachel: I cycled from Mytholmroyd up some very icy roads (see pictures) over Warley Moor (with frozen reservoir – see pictures) to Oxenholme (where I warmed up in the station) and then back on the A6033, with a short diversion to visit Hardcastle Crags, before returning back to base.

On my return we had lunch and cake – guiness cake (see picture) in a cafe and then awaited our friend Andy, who was also running. Andy came in an hour or so later and was extremely tired … well done Andy – he finished with only three quarters of his foot left.

Above Midgley
Warsley reservoir

Station at Oxenholme where I was quite cold

Guiness Cake - very nice

Richard: Richard ran at an orienteering event in Malvern … It was quite hilly, so Richard was a bit slower than usual … (thank goodness he feels pain too!)

Rachel: Because I need to keep up an exercise campaign to be able to rival Richard on hills (even if only on events >40 miles), I decided that I needed a challenge. The 28 miles the day before had not hurt my calf at all, so I decided that I could carry on cycling, despite my sore bum. First, I took the decision to swap the bike seat on my bike with the bike seat on Richard’s bike, which proved to be a sensible decision. Second, I needed a challenge. A circular route didn’t really appeal, so I thought about cycling back home from Malvern where Richard was anyway, but the fact that Birmingham was in the way put me off. Then I had the great idea of cycling to our friends house and then getting Richard to pick me up on his way back from orienteering. I told our friends that I’d be there by 3.00pm. I left home at 10.00 and cycled from Tamworth, through Lichfield, through Rugely, over Cannock Chase, through Penkridge, through some small villages with very expensive houses, before reaching Newport, Shropshire. By this time my bum was particularly sore, but amazingly I managed to arrive at 3.05 pm, after only stopping once for a brief lunch. It was about 45 miles, which is the furthest I’ve cycled … a new lifetime record 🙂 … and it was additionally hard work as I didn’t stand up on the pedals at all, in fear of hurting my calf 🙂

A good weekend, even with no running for me. Not sure when I’ll be back running, but will hopefully take full advantage of the bike and the pool for now. Aquajogging on a Tuesday and Thursday night is keeping me busy for now. 🙂

Caving weekend?

The aim of the weekend was to do some caving in Yorkshire, specifically Grey Wife Hole. During the week I had briefly chatted with Sloth and discovered that he would be at the hut too so a pleasant evening catching up on news was in prospect.

After the drive up and breakfast at Bernies I went to the hut and found the place occupied by members all busy drinking tea. Alarm bells rang as I realised that I had turned up in the middle of a work weekend. Sloth was wearing a set of overalls, clearly indicating that he had come prepared and must therefore have known about the weekend plans. He had neglected to tell me.

Sloth; you are a git.

New bunks, apparently for students?

Forgetting the caving for the day I mucked in and drank some tea. Later Fiona returned from a walk and prepared a stunning dinner as only she can. The evening was spent sitting in front of the fire and chatting. Even some chipboard, a parachute flare and a bucket of petrol did not interrupt sitting in the warm for long. It would me nice to report that this was down to maturity but alas it was because most of the membership had the lurgy.

The fire place works well but more tea drinking is needed to finish the edges.

The following morning, balanced was restored when one member who had been to the pub the previous evening was dropped off by taxi having visited the local A&E after falling off his push bike in the pub car park and dislocating a shoulder. Everybody was very concerned about the bike. More tea drinking eventually started about mid-morning and continued until people started to think of the drive home.

No caving done but a good weekend none the less. (I must be getting old.)

The hut has two vacuum cleaners. Both go up to eleven.

Rain avoidance, France 2008

The weather in the UK has been pretty dire for caving over the last year. So to try and remember what it feels like to clamber and swim around underground a group of us headed off to the Department du Lot in France. Several other people that we know also had the same idea and we ended up meeting and spending time with them as well.

The main group consisted of me, Andy, Sue, Marcus, Kath and little Pete. The others we met up with were Big Pete, Rick, Clive, Christine, Nadir, Cedric, Steve, and Trish.

The aim of the trip was to go cave diving with some other stuff thrown in. Plans were quickly modified to take account of illness and ear clearing problems. For some of us diving was off the list and for others it changed from a tourist trip to a project support trip. The activities are listed below in summary form without dates for simplicity. I like simplicity and Pete needs it.

  • Cycling. Just myself and Andy were dedicated enough to take our bikes and we were rewarded with some wonderful evening jaunts around the area with temperatures in the high twenties. The gite we were staying in was close to a T junction which gave us a choice of three possible directions to start each ride, each of which was up hill. Fortunately the roads in France tend to have hills that stick to a constant gradient so they are easy to climb at a steady rhythm. French motorists are also much more considerate towards cyclists than the ones in the UK so riding doesn’t feel like a life threatening activity.


    We quickly established a regular circuit that took us up one side of the valley we were in, along the ridge and back down to the gite. On the first day we did the ride together we passed a house with a pool by the side of the road where a couple of ladies were drying off in the sun, the top halves of their swimming costumes clearly visible on the bench beside them. Being dedicated cyclists we didn’t slow down and were unable to take in any detail so we can only refer to the two as B and DD. Of course this incident had nothing to do with us continuing to use the same route most evenings throughout the holiday. To this circuit we would then add extra loops in different directions if we felt like it. The additional sections of route allowed us to visit various local cave entrances including the Goffre de Padirac and several Igue we were interested in.

  • Bar-B-Q. Having a lot of space available at the gite we decided to host a Bar-B-Q for all the friends that were around at the time. Several of these then invited others along and we ended up with about thirteen people turning up. Two were local (Big Pete and Nadir) and all were divers or married to divers (lucky people). The evening went off well with a good amount of information exchanged and a little personal abuse dished out.The only let down of the evening was Christine. Tasked with sorting out a pole dancer for the party she turned up with a green salad. A clear failure on her part.
  • Cave diving. Supposedly the main event of the holiday but illness and ear clearing problems meant that Andy and I only dived for the first few days. Marcus was fortunate that we met up with Big Pete who invited him along on a trip to a secret cave.

    Andy just inside the entrance of the Oiel de la Doue.

    The first site we visited was the Ressel. The viz was poor, the current was high and there was an unusually large amount of material piled up at the entrance. The dive was called when Andy had trouble with ear clearing. Big Pete and Christine also turned up. Pete scootered in for several hundred meters and Christine had a slow start after suffering a broken suit inflator nipple.

    We also visited the St Sauveur a couple of times, which was very pleasant. Marcus used the site to do some training with Big Pete in the use of scooters (push button, hang on and don’t point it upwards I thought?).

    St Sauveur

    Horses like sump pools too

    One visit was made to the Oiel de la Doue, which is an open circuit, side mount cave. Equipment problems blighted the trip but we all made it through the glorious sump one but not into the well decorated passage after the short sump two. Water levels in the cave were very high.

    The secret cave that Marcus was invited to turned out to be a digging project that Pete and two UK based divers were working that had successfully broken through to open passage. Sadly the site wasn’t as secret as Pete imagined. Several months previously a team of Dutch divers had been washed out on a holiday and had gone canoeing down the river Cele instead. Whilst paddling they spotted the water resurging from the freshly opened site and returned later to have a look. Being back mount divers they quickly decided that the site didn’t go and published the fact. (Pete and co dive the site using the more streamlined side mount rig.) Several other divers read the Dutch report and went to the site with side mount kit to have a look resulting in the line progressing over a km into sump three.

    Throughout this time Pete and co had been keeping the location of the cave secret from Rick. With the cover blown and Rick in the area this all changed and Rick was launched into the site by Pete, Clive and Marcus to see how far it would go. On his first dive in the site he reached the limit of the line in sump three at a mobile constriction which he got stuck in. Small stones and sand were being washed in around him as he tried to dig through the constriction and he later described it as “like being buried in setting concrete”. After several minutes he managed to extricate himself and retired back up the passage to consider the problem. He was seen the next day buying a hoe with which to dig the constriction out on his next visit. Marcus made several visits to this site during the holiday, mostly in support of Rick’s trips. On each occasion the air between sumps one a two was very poor quality. This situation doesn’t improve with multiple trips into the cave.

    Rick is still out in France at this time and is continuing his work in sump three. The last report we received from him stated that the sump goes to a terminal boulder chock at 1350 m in at a depth of about 50 m.

  • Igue hunting. One of the great sports of the Lot is Igue hunting. An Igue is a hole in the ground; it may be tiny with no passage beyond or it may be a massive entrance with a huge cave system below it. The problem is that the French publish a list of Igue and there location that doesn’t tell the reader with type of Igue each one is. It’s just a list of entrances. The fun part is to find the various Igue and then find out what type they are. There are guides to the local caves around each village but these rarely get published and the information is typically passed around between people that cave locally and know each other. There is no system of publishing larger guidebooks covering the whole area.

    We found a big Igue

    Igue hunting is an extreme sport. With temperatures up in the thirties and thick scrub to hack through anybody who has spent a day doing it will have ended up carrying the wounds to prove it. Andy and I spent several days at the task with some success. We managed to locate the entrances to several caves that we had information on. Most of these have sumps at the bottom. To help with the Igue hunting we didn’t take Andy (and Sue’s) 4X4 off road. We did use the bike rides in the evening to sort out the prime parking spot for the probable best walk in. Igue hunting was very technical this year…

  • Dry caving. After all the fun on Igue hunting/driving/cycling we only actually managed to get underground once.

    Dry caving?

    The cave in question offered us a trip down multiple short pitches to a sump. A local farmer had stopped his tractor to have chat with us and explain that the cave floored dramatically during and after rainfall and with the hot weather forecast to turn to thunderstorms the following day we decided to get it done quickly. I sorted the gear we thought we needed and climbed into my SRT kit whilst Andy went into the cave to look at the first pitch. Once I was kitted Andy reappeared and told me that he thought the air quality was poor and I should have a look before we decided to go to the bottom. The cave takes a small stream and has several steps down through boulders and across pool before the first pitch is reached. At this point the air in the cave was decidedly poor with both of us noticing a significant increase in our breathing rate. There was no sign of headache or increased heart rate but even so we chose to bravely run away. We can only guess that the recent heavy rains have resulted in lots of vegetation being carried into the cave which has affected the air quality. Normally a stream running down a cave is enough to ensure good air circulation but not in this case.

  • Parc de Animalier. On a rest day when I was down with a cold, Andy and Sue went to the local zoo (the Parc de Animalier outside Gramat). When Marcus’s planned trip didn’t work out he came back to the gite, collected Kath and little Pete and went there too.

    Donkey finds the wall cool

    Being French the zoo is more like a farm for the animals but without the death sentence. It’s a mix of a petting zoo and a safari park with very few concrete built enclosures. A wide range of animals are kept by a seemingly invisible staff. The mixture is quite eclectic with a strong representation of local varieties of goat sheep and horsey things but also some animals from around the world. The wolves do a good job of waking up the people in the campsite across the road at 3 a.m. each morning (I know this) and everything else just tries to keep out of the midday sun.

    Man it’s Hot
  • Driving Little Pete. Adventure sports can start at any age and Little Pete made full use of the facilities at the gite. The garden was large, mainly grass. It was equipped with a slide, a tractor/trailer combination and a football. Kath mentioned over dinner one day that Pete could do any sport he wanted as long as it wasn’t football. After the meal Andy took Pete outside and taught him to kick a ball and then ran away before Kath found out. The slide provided early morning entertainment before it heated up to much but Pete needed help with this as he is only one. The tractor and trailer were also in daily use. At the start of the holiday Pete only wanted to push it around but by the end Andy had got him to feel happy sitting on it whilst being pushed. This created more work for Kath especially since most of the garden was on a gradient and Pete didn’t seem to want to go across the direction of the slope; Andy had to run away again.

    Driving Little Pete

Arran – South Ridge, Rosa Pinnacle

Terry had a plan – to make tracks for the Isle of Arran to climb the Hard Rock classic, the South Ridge of Cir Mhor (the Rosa Pinnacle)…

The kats left the Lakes on Saturday morning with a fantastic forecast further north – while the south of the country enjoyed the rain, we headed for the forecasted sun in Scotland. We made it to Ardrossan with just 10 minutes to spare before the ferry left for the Isle of Arran. Phew, the 1st leg of our journey was complete.

The team (Paul, Pete, Laetitia & Terry) at Ardrossan ferry port

Arran ferry

Paul’s excitement at landing on Arran!

Our bags were very heavy and we must have looked an amusing sight as we cycled from the ferry port to the Glen Rosa campsite. We were told it was very busy as we booked in, but when we arrived there were only 10 tents there. So we pitched up next to the river.

Pitching tents at the Glen Rosa campsite

With the long daylight hours we decided we didn’t need too early a start – we left the campsite at 9.30am and cycled towards the route – the weather was ominous! Most of the mountain was cloaked in heavy cloud…

Cycling to the Rosa Pinnacle (Cir Mhor)

The track deteriorated pretty quickly, but we continued to push our bikes until we got to the deer fence. Only to be overtaken by the walkers we’d just cycled past.

After a long and steep walk we eventually got to the bottom of the route. The weather hadn’t improved! There was much debate, should we opt for the easier Sou Wester Slabs? But we resolved that we should try the route we’d come for. After all this was what we had come all this way for. We started preparing for an epic…

Shivering at the start of the South Ridge
The ‘S’ and ‘Y’ cracks can be seen near the top of this much foreshortened picture

After the first couple of pitches (with teeth chattering conditions) the clouds appeared to be clearing – possibly aided by the gale force winds blowing up the valley. You might have thought this wind could have propelled us up the route but instead it just made us shiver and slowed our progress, but at least it eventually took the clouds away.

Paul and Laetitia smiling as the sun makes an appearance before the ‘S’ crack

The friction on the beautiful grey granite was amazing. We’d reached the first test, the ‘S’ crack, this produced some grunts from Paul. This is immediately followed by the infamous ‘Y’ crack. Which Terry savoured, but Paul demolished in the fine style of gritstone climber!

The guide had rated the ‘Y’ crack at 4c. However, we’d read varying reports ranging from 4b to 5b. We thought it nearer the harder end of that scale – especially with a gale, carrying packs and with the temperatures. But at least it was now sunny and still dry…

‘Y’ Crack

After having successfully dispensed with the ‘S’ and ‘Y’ cracks, welcomed the passing of the dark clouds and the arrival of the sun (but sadly not the departure of the gale) we enjoyed the remainder of the South Ridge and ate our lunch before tackling the last (not to be missed) Rosa Pinnacle continuation to the summit.

Terry high on the Rosa Pinnacle

Laetitia on the amazing slab before the summit!

An awesome trip!

:star: Car – Ferry – Bike – Camp – Bike – Walk – Climb – Eat – Climb – Walk – Bike – Eat – Sleep – Bike – Ferry – Car :star:

Colin Cycle Race Hero


One again I made the trip South (Hampshire) to meet Colin for the TLI two up (the rest of the UK national time trial championship). We are both team members of Antelope RT. Chris my eldest son came along (to race) and Sue (my wife) came to make sure we knew which direction to cycle in 🙂 . It was sunny and hot and great day to cycle on. We did not win, but did have a nice cycle in the country side 🙂 .

Andrew (yes I do exist) Ward.