Welsh 3000s and Remembering an old Friend

When I was about ten, my parents along with another family with similar aged kids, decided they should take us tramping (multi-day backpacking for non-New Zealanders). That summer, my parents, my brother and I, along with Graeme and Win and their kids spent a glorious seven days in Nelson Lakes National Park. The next year, we went for ten days, and this continued every summer until I went to university and got a job. Those are, without a doubt, among the most vivid memories of my childhood – being woken up by Keas in the little patch of woodland behind Upper Traverse Hut; crossing the Wangapeka Saddle in torrential rain and hail, with all the rivers in flood; eating sardines on cabin bread for breakfast at Coldwater Creek because it was all the food we had left.

Graeme made a huge impression on me during those summers with his humour, his confidence in any situation, and his evening stories of 20 day trips to the Arawata Valley and elsewhere. I learned about bush-craft from Graeme, how to back-country camp, proper hut etiquette, and how to lead a group and make decisions so nobody got lost or was asked to do more than they could. I think it’s safe to say that I wouldn’t be as confident and competent in the outdoors as I am without Graeme’s influence.

Sadly, Graeme died last week, so it seemed appropriate to dedicate my weekend’s adventure to his memory. Without him, I’m sure I wouldn’t have spent Sunday doing the Welsh 3000’s challenge – summiting all the 3000+ ft peaks in Wales in 24 hours – solo and unsupported, and as a circuit rather than the usual one way trip. Graeme, I think, would have loved the spectacular mountain scenery, as well as the challenge of a really long day out in the hills.

First light on the Crib Goch ridge, with Garnedd Ugain and Snowdon behind.
First light on the Crib Goch ridge, with Garnedd Ugain and Snowdon behind.

I camped overnight between Pen Y Pass and the foot of the Crib Goch ridge so as to get an early start. At 5:30 I was packed up and ready for the first peak of the day – Crib Goch, with it’s tricky scramble to start, and then knife edge ridge with massive exposure on either side. Even at that time it was surprisingly busy, mostly with other people attempting the challenge. The ridge was slow, but after that things sped up with quick ascents of Garnedd Ugain and Snowdon, then the steep descent to Nant Peris, 950m below. After that was the long slow ascent of Elidir Fawr, which I reached four hours after setting off, and where I met up with a group of fell runners. I ran with them over Y Garn, and down to the lake at Llyn y Cwn, then as they headed up Glyder Fawr, I descended to the road at Ogwen Cottage for a well earned sausage roll and a bit of a break before my third big climb of the day.

Y Garn summit, with Pen yr Ole Wen and the Carnedds behind. Five down, ten to go...
Y Garn summit, with Pen yr Ole Wen and the Carnedds behind. Five down, ten to go…

Pen yr Ole Wen was the next peak, but the route from Ogwen Cottage was horrendous, with an indistinct trail, some serious scrambling, and just unrelenting steepness for 700m of ascent. However, from the summit, the whole Carnedd ridge was stretched out in front, with peaks every km or so – at that stage I’d done six peaks in seven hours, but the ridge promised quicker progress for a while. After a short break to recover, I set off again, and quickly reached Carnedd Dafydd, then the long flat ridge to the foot of Carnedd Llewelyn. Since I would be coming back this way, I left that one for the return and traversed around to Yr Elen, stuck out on its own on a side ridge. Then back to the main ridge and on to Foel Grach, Garnedd Uchaf and finally Foel-Fras, my turning around point.

Looking back the way I'd come from the summit of Carnedd Dafydd. Pen yr Ole Wen is directly behind, with Snowdon and Crib Goch on the skyline.
Looking back the way I’d come from the summit of Carnedd Dafydd. Pen yr Ole Wen is directly behind, with Snowdon and Crib Goch on the skyline.

By this stage I was feeling pretty tired, so was only running the gentle downhill sections, but fortunately there were quite a few of them! I returned along the ridge, picked up Carnedd Llewelyn, then dropped off the side to the stream below Ffynnon Lloer and so to the road. That left me three peaks left to do, Tryfan, Glyder Fach, and Glyder Fawr. I decided I was too tired for the scrambling approach to Tryfan, so opted for Heather Terrace and approaching the summit from the South. Unfortunately, tiredness was really kicking in at this point and I missed the main route to Heather Terrace, and rather than going back decided to follow an indistinct track that was climbing in the right direction. This worked, but with a bit more scrambling than I’d planned given my tired legs. Despite arriving at the summit just before 7pm (13 and a half hours after starting), there was still a crowd at the top – I hate to think how busy it must have been earlier in the day! From Tryfan there’s a very steep scree climb to Glyder Fach – I was glad to be going up instead of down – and then an easy wander along the ridge, bathed in the last of the sunshine, to my last peak, Glyder Fawr. 14 hours, 55 minutes after starting I had finished the peaks!

The summit of Tryfan. Number 13 out of 15!
The summit of Tryfan. Number 13 out of 15!

The descent to Pen Y Pass was long and tedious, and my knees were quite sore by then. I finished the loop just over 16 hours after starting. A very big day out, but a challenge that I’ve been thinking about for quite a while conquered!

I thought about Graeme a lot on the way around. He had a big influence on me, and I undoubtedly wouldn’t be the outdoors person I am today without him. I’ll always remember those sunny (and occasionally not) summer days tramping in the New Zealand bush. Thank you, Graeme.

Celebrating on the final peak, Glyder Fawr. Sorry about the picture - there was nobody else up there to take it!
Celebrating on the final peak, Glyder Fawr. Sorry about the picture – there was nobody else up there to take it!

A Chamonix Painting Expedition

Time to Work

Last week Ian and I went to the French Alps to get a load of apartment maintenance work done. The lounge area got a complete floor-to-ceiling paint job (there was a nasty crack in the ceiling to repair too), and Ian’s kitchen area got a new worktop…

Fitting a new worktop in Ian's kitchen first required us to make a very big mess removing the old one!
Fitting a new worktop in Ian’s kitchen first required us to make a very big mess removing the old one!

Here’s a shot of the lounge area freshly painted and looking neat and tidy ready for guests in the forthcoming ski season…

The newly redecorated living room looking fresh and clean!
The newly redecorated living room looking fresh and clean!

Pet Passport

One of the fun, or at least new to me, attributes of the journey was taking Zac to France with me. He’d had his rabies injection and was kitted out with a brand new pet passport. 😀

Zac's Pet Passport
Zac’s Pet Passport

One irksome thing about pet travel is that despite the ferry companies not charging any more for a car with five passengers than they do for one with just one passenger (i.e. just the car is charged for) a pet costs £15 extra each way. What is that charge for? There are no special facilities provided, not even a dog walking area at the port areas. Seems like simple unashamed profiteering to me!

Before coming home we had to take Zac to a French vet (between 24 hours and 5 days before returning to the UK) to get his special worming tablet for some kind of wicked dog and cat tapeworm that isn’t present in the UK, and they want to keep it out as it’s transmissible (and can be fatal) to humans.

So all in all a bit of extra cost: rabies inoculation, pet passport, micro-chipping (if not already done as it was for us), ferry passage fees, and French worming treatment. But well worth it – having Zac with us painting, relaxing in Chamonix, running, climbing, and sharing the long drive to and from the Alps was brilliant! 😛

Zac relaxing after a hard day painting with a Gin & Tonic
Zac relaxing after a hard day painting with a Gin & Tonic

Time to Play

After all the maintenance works Laetitia joined us. Typical girl – swans in after all the hard work is done, strokes our egos a bit with the odd tiny compliment on the work, cracks out the gin & tonic, and then drags us out to play the next day…

Laetitia and I had already spent the previous day at the easily accessible Les Gaillands (it was easier to go there as we could take Zac!) but today all four of us went up in to the Aiguille Rouge. Ian and Zac went for a run from Plan Praz to La Flégère and Lac Blanc… Laetitia and I went for a climb…

Interestingly, I guess because it was such a wonderful and still day, there was a constant stream of BASE jumpers leaping off the top of the Brevent. Each one of them whooped as they hurtled towards the Chamonix valley. This is the first time I’ve been close enough to see wing-suit jumpers exiting. They really do “fly”. In just a couple of seconds they have picked up enough speed to inflate their suit’s wings and then they seem to shoot off horizontally at incredible speed. It looks like a fantastic buzz! But what a risk – 1 in 60 die! Take a look at this infographic…

Your Chances of Dying

Anyway, back to the matters in hand – climbing! A much safer activity. Oh and running, safer still!

Pete looking after Zac on the Brevent cable car - he was very anxious
Pete looking after Zac on the Brevent cable car – he was very anxious!
Laetitia coming off the top lift station of the Brevent - there was loads of frozen snow underfoot and a beautiful inversion in the Arve valley looking towards Sallanche
Laetitia coming off the top lift station of the Brevent – there was loads of frozen snow underfoot and a beautiful inversion in the Arve valley looking towards Sallanche
The first pitch of Crakoukass
The first pitch of Crakoukass
Pete descending from Crakoukass - the right-hand skyline of pillar behind is where the 6b pitch goes
Pete descending from Crakoukass – the right-hand skyline of pillar behind is where the 6b pitch goes

Zac and Ian go for a Jogette

Zac the Mountain Poodle trotting along the Aiguille Rouge trails
Zac the Mountain Poodle trotting along the Aiguille Rouge trails
Pete and Ian enjoy a beer at the end of a hard days play in the Aig. Rouge
Pete and Ian enjoy a beer at the end of a hard days play in the Aig. Rouge

That evening poor little Zac was utterly knackered! He immediately curled up and went to sleep when he got in. A little later, when we decided to take a stroll though Chamonix to see what was going on in town, Zac was so stiff he could hardly walk. 🙁 Poor thing. But he recovered quickly and was full of energy again the next day! 😀

Time to come Home

Laetitia left Chamonix by Easy Bus to catch her Easy Jet. Ian and I settled in for one last night with a beer before the long drive home. But at 11pm we got a text message from Laetitia, her flight had been cancelled due to fog in the UK! There had been travel disruptions for a couple of days in the UK due to fog. So surely they could have predicted this and saved Laetitia the scary prospect of travelling right across Geneva to a hotel, alone, at night, and in an unfamiliar intimidating city!!! Terrible customer care.

Then to top it all, the next flight home that they could get her on wasn’t for four days!

Luckily Ian, Zac, and I drove through on a rescue mission the next morning and all four of us travelled home together. Not the journey Laetitia had planned, she missed a couple of really important business meetings thanks to Easy Jet’s ineptitude, but at least there were four of us to entertain each other and share the driving…

Zac taking on his share of the drive home
Zac taking on his share of the drive home

2014 Rab Mountain Marathon

This year’s Rab Mountain Marathon was in the East of the Lake District, in the bit between Kendal and Shap that’s not that often visited. That bit of the Lakes seems to like to borrow placenames from more famous bits, so the event centre was in Borrowdale, there’s a Lord’s Seat and Wasdale made up one boundary of the map. As has been the case (I think) for every Rab I’ve done, the weather was pretty good, with glimpses of sunshine, but cloud down on the tops at times.

This year I was running in the Long Score as a solo again, determined to improve on last year. That gave me seven hours on day one, and six on day two. Unfortunately, it also meant there was nobody to take pictures!

The first day start was in Crookdale, and I planned out a longish but hopefully high-scoring route. I headed up the valley at first and onto high ground to the North of the start. There the controls were in the cloud and I had a couple of small misses with visibility less than 10m. Eventually, after a brief view of the Day 1 finish, I dropped down into Long Sleddale for a 4km road run down the valley before climbing back onto the fells above Staveley, almost in sight of Sterling Central, where I’d spent the night before (thanks!). Then back North, through Kentmere and over the hill into Troutbeck and up the old Roman Road that leads from Ambleside to Penrith over High Street. This easy going didn’t last long and was followed by a very steep climb up Ill Bell, by which time I was feeling pretty tired. From there, things looked familiar as I traced the Kentmere Horseshoe path and managed to get running again, before dropping down to a 40 point control above Small Water. From there I had a little under an hour to climb over Gatesgarth Pass and down to the camp site in Long Sleddale. Unfortunately, a cramp attack on the climb, and a complete lack of energy meant that I couldn’t make it to the finish on time, and I ended up with 7 points deducted for being late. Not too bad, except that I’d also had to abandon a 15 point control that was not far from the path on the descent.

Happily, despite the points I’d dropped, I was in third place overnight, just behind Adam and Andrew, who I’ve raced against many times, and Stewart, my partner from the LAMM a few years before, who had a ten point lead at the front, and it looked like had chosen a route with a lot less distance, but perhaps more big climbs. The campsite was one we’ve used before, at the top end of Long Sleddale in a beautiful spot.

The campsite
The campsite (although this picture is actually from the 2010 Saunders MM).

Day 2 involved more clusters of controls, and it was pretty clear that the route was to travel South down the West side of Long Sleddale before crossing the valley and collecting a few points on the East side and around the finish in Borrowdale. The only question was whether to do a biggish climb at the start to get a couple of controls in the North East, or whether to do a bigger loop around the top of Borrowdale at the end. I elected to do the latter, but most of the top runners seemed to opt for the former, so again that may have been a mistake. The advantage of my route was the opportunity to pick up extra points near the finish if time was available, but in the end I couldn’t do the route fast enough, and got in with just a minute to spare and a ten point control close to the end that I couldn’t get to.

I lost one place on Day 2, to end up 4th overall, but 3rd solo runner. I’m pretty happy with that – I don’t think I could have done any more (I was totally exhausted at the end of both days), and given the limited opportunities this year for long days in the mountains, I’m pretty pleased to still be competitive with the top runners. As for the event, this year’s courses were excellent – I still don’t know what the best route was on day 1, and the contrast between the big climbs and long legs on Day 1, and the shorter more technical stuff on Day 2 was good. The event centre and camp site were well organised, and I particularly like the new policy of giving seperate prizes for solo and team runners.

My route on day 1 (in blue) and day 2 (in red).
My route on day 1 (in blue) and day 2 (in red).

Summer in Les Contamines … week 1

With the UTMB looming at the end of August, Anna and I decided a few months ago to have a couple of weeks in Les Contamines to coincide with the race and her birthday (30 something, I believe). We had entered the OCC, part of the UTMB program, but failed to get a place as it was over-subscribed.

Despite not getting into the race, we have been alternating our days with some high mountain runs, hoping that the altitude will help when we get back to Cumbria, with the Derwent trail almost immediately we are back. The Parc Loisirs is also only 800m from the appt., so we’ve also tried a few routes on the local crag, used the open air swimming lake (with beach), and biathlon.

On the ridge to the top of Mont Joly
On the ridge to the top of Mont Joly

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On the way to the col de la Fenêtre
On the way to the col de la Fenêtre
On the run from Megeve back to St. Gervais
On the run from Megeve back to St. Gervais
Anna on the biathlon course
Anna on the biathlon course

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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 🙂

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 🙂 .

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

Buttermere Shepherds Meet Race

This weekend was scheduled to be the Buttermere Shepherds Meet and Show. Disappointingly, due to an over zealous poor forecast which was wildly inaccurate, the show was cancelled. There was only slight, occasional drizzle on the day, and the race, part of the show race series went ahead.
Being a show race, it was only short, about 3km, but very steep. This fact I had omitted to tell my sisters 2 girls, who were up from London for the weekend. As the show was cancelled, the juniors were allowed to compete in the main race. They arrived with completely inadequate kit and footwear, but still took part and finished as first and second junior girls!! (they were the only junior girls). They weren’t last as one adult dropped out, and there dad, Steve came in woefully trailing them!! It was a great effort and they were pleased to get a prize. Anna managed 2nd in her class, and despite the forecast, the turnout was excellent for a show race…. over 50.

The start of the race
The start of the race
The field ascend from Langthwaite green to the top of Whin Ben
The field ascend from Langthwaite green to the top of Whin Ben
A sprint finish from Crystal
A sprint finish from Crystal
....closely followed by Emerald
….closely followed by Emerald
well earned scones in the Buttermere tea shop
well earned scones in the Buttermere tea shop

A successful first fell race for the girls, and hopefully they will have fell shoes for the whole show race series next year (hint to my sister!!)

Rab Mountain Marathon 2013

This has been a chaotic year for us, and with one thing and another I hadn’t got to do a single mountain marathon all year. Since we usually do at least four, that’s quite a change! I got a last minute entry to the Rab Mountain Marathon (thanks Adrian), and since Rachel wasn’t so keen, opted for a solo entry.

This year the Rab had a great event centre at Newlands Adventure Centre, and the start was at the foot of Catbells. I opted for the long course, so had seven hours the first day, and six the second to collect as many points as possible. Watching a slow-moving line of “runners” heading straight up Catbells, I instead opted to start with a fast path run around the edge of the hill past Little Town, then over a ridge into Little Dale, and on to Hindscarth Edge. This part of the route was clearly unpopular – I didn’t see another runner for about an hour. After that I rejoined the crowds for a couple of controls above Honister Pass before dropping down to the pass and up to Grey Knotts and a group of five controls around Fleetwith Pike and Haystacks.

I’ve never been along the ridge on the South of Buttermere (featuring the famous Innominate Tarn) before, so it was nice to run along there, especially given the gorgeous sunshine and clear views. Unfortunately, the steep and rocky descent to Scarth Gap, followed by the two very steep climbs up High Crag really did me in, so I wasn’t very fast along the ridge. From there, my chosen route dropped down towards Buttermere for a few more controls, and then up Rannerdale Knotts before a fast descent down Rannerdale to the finish. I ended 17 seconds late, so lost one point!

Looking down to the head of Buttermere (and the field we were supposed to camp in during the cancelled OMM of 2008) from Scarth Gap.
Looking down to the head of Buttermere (and the field we were supposed to camp in during the cancelled OMM of 2008) from Scarth Gap.

Day Two was just as sunny as Day One, although windier on the tops. The controls were mostly North of Newlands Pass this day, and I started with a poorly judged steep climb through waist-deep heather to the summit of Grasmoor, followed by Hopegill Head and a steep descent into Hope Beck. From there I headed East to a control below Grisedale Pike and then over the ridge into Coledale. All of this was quite slow because of the tall vegetation – much harder than the good running on Day One, so I was far behind my planned schedule and had to change my plans for the second half of the day, collecting a bunch of controls near the finish rather than heading back to the Southern half of the course. I ended up finishing 40 minutes early having run out of points to collect.

I was 10th on Day One, and 11th on Day Two, but somehow that worked out to Eighth overall – not too bad considering I haven’t done a mountain marathon since October, and haven’t managed nearly as many long runs as in previous summers. However, there’s clearly room for improvement – I could barely stand up at the finish, and struggled to walk the morning after!

Struggling to walk on the way back from the finish.
Struggling to walk on the way back from the finish.
Yes, the flag is holding me up!
Yes, the flag is holding me up!

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