Ben Nevis, Point Five Gully

Another night sleeping in the back of the car, another 4am alarm call, and another world-class classic Scottish winter route. This time on the mountain that some might consider to be the “crucible of Scottish winter climbing”, the north face of Ben Nevis. More “Ben Nevis, Point Five Gully”

Barden Moor

After a lovely meal (who knew vegetarian food could be so nice! :sarcy: ) with Ali, Richard, Jan, Bernard, and Laetitia on Saturday evening it was time to blow out some of the cobwebs, remember how to ride a mountain bike, and discover some of the Dales biking trails around Skipton. Ali led the way, she’s officially the Skipton area’s biking expert, while Richard, Laetitia, and I vied for least skilful rider behind. There were a fair few miles of road riding to get to the other side of Barden Moor for the main event, the long mostly downhill swooping ride back across the top of the moors. This section of tricky boulders, swooping sandy trails, and fast track was undoubtedly the highlight of the ride for me. Well, the highlight other than the fun company and the awesome lunch at the cafe in Burnsall. Although I understand that if we had been a little tougher and been able to extend the ride by about another five miles we’d have been able to beat the lunch stop with a visit to the cafe and (probably) the world’s best cakes at Bolton Abbey. The only minor niggle was that the knee I hurt on the many steep and long descents of the Rab Mountain Marathon a few weeks ago started screaming with pain near the end of the best bit – that fast downhill section. As I’ve always maintained, running is bad for you!

Halton Moor
Ali and Laetitia at the road crossing on Halton Moor
Barden Tower
The remains of Barden Tower
There's also a posh restaurant here - not the sort of place that lets muddy mountain bikers in for lunch though!
Burnsall
Lunch at the brilliant (and popular) cafe in Burnsall
Barden Moor
The swooping sandy single-track across the top of Barden Moor
The fun descent back towards Skipton
Ali had been sensible, she'd brought glasses to keep the splashes of mud out of her eyes, while the rest of us had not...
A mud splattered face, I'm still picking specks of sand from the corners of my eyes...

Rescued from Daren Cilau

I got new wellies for this caving trip; maybe that was the problem. Whatever the reason, on the way back to the Daren entrance crawl just after coming through the boulder choke, I managed to slip on a rock and fall most of the way down a rocky slope, ending with a heavy blow to my shoulder.

After a couple of minutes, I attempted to continue, but it was obvious that arm was not going to be very useful, and that in particular I wasn’t going to be able to get through the entrance crawl itself. After a brief discussion and inspection of the injured area, we decided to send Rachel through the crawl to call out the cave rescue.

[Rachel hurried out as rapidly as possible, getting many bruises along the way. She slowed down through the vice, but still managed to get her knee jammed in the floor slot for about 5 minutes until it came free. Once out, Rachel ran (with wellies full of water no less) down the hill and found a passer-by with mobile phone and from there she called the police and then the cave rescue. It was 1815 ish]

Left to my own devices, I sat around for a bit, but started to get cold, so had to wander around. I rigged up an improvised sling with my belt and waited for the cavalry to arrive. I knew it was going to be a long wait.

[Within 20 minutes the police and ambulance arrived. The latter had never attended a cave rescue before, if they had, they wouldn’t have bothered with the flashing blue lights! Over the next hour or so, cave rescue members turned up, were fed, watered and assembled into groups focusing on communications (comms), first response, support, etc… First to go into the cave were the comms., followed shortly by the first responders, which included a medic and a couple of supporting people. After getting warm, Rachel moved to the entrance of the cave to hear the comms updates. She sat there for the next 6 hours!]

Eventually, after wearing a furrow in the floor by walking back and forth, and running out of songs to sing, the first of the cave rescue – Adrian – arrived about 2130. He got communications established with the surface and then we waited for the first aid. They arrived a few minutes later and after examining my shoulder, dosed me up with painkillers. We had to wait about 20 minutes for them to take effect, but the time was quickly taken up with discussing what the best way to get me out of the cave was, and how to truss me up to do it. Eventually we opted for a chest- and sit-harness, my sling to support my arm where possible and to go out through the entrance crawl – the alternative of going all the way around to Ogof Cnwc was too horrible to contemplate – I’d still be in the cave now if we’d gone that way!

At 2210 we set off into the crawl. The first obstacle was the calcite squeezes, which had me flat on my stomach. Fortunately the floor was smooth, so with a bit of pulling and pushing they managed to drag me through. The trickiest parts were where I had to go up above the floor. Normally you do a series of one-handed press-ups and jam your body into the passage, so that you can move your hand along. With my shoulder the way it was, I couldn’t jam my body so I needed supporting each time I moved forwards. Adrian did a brilliant job of this in the first section.

After what felt like forever, crawling and being pushed and pulled down the passage, we met the next group coming in to relieve the first responders. They were all fantastic, particularly Lisa the medic, and headed out to get warm and dry and recover. The second group fed me hot soup, cooled with Ribena, before we continued the struggle. The passage continued interminably and was so tight and narrow that the people in front and behind could give me little help in many places. Eventually after a few more stops and communications with the surface, we reached the last major obstacle – The Vice! By this stage, it had been 4 hours since the rescuers arrived, so Amy gave me another dose of painkillers.

The Vice is a section where you have to go up over a narrow slot in the floor, so we did a bit of planning before getting me into there. John behind me attached a rope so that he could try and lift me a little and Chris in front turned around to face me. They also tried to fill the slot with tackle bags, although that wasn’t entirely successful. A great deal of huffing and puffing commenced and I slowly inched over the slot. Things were going pretty well thanks to everyone’s help until Chris got himself jammed. There was no way I could move to help him so he had to squeeze underneath me temporarily until he could free himself. He’s probably the only person ever to go through the entrance crawl in reverse!

Chris dragging me out of the entrance

I finally exited the cave at 0230. I figure 4 hours for the entrance crawl with only one arm was a pretty good effort. Both the parties who helped me in the cave were absolutely brilliant and the organisation of the whole affair was excellent. I’d like to say a huge thanks to the South and Mid Wales Cave Rescue Organisation. Unlike Rachel’s practice rescue, this time it was for real and all ~24 people who turned out for the rescue were incredibly professional.

Freedom at last!

The rest is pretty dull: a trip in an ambulance to Nevill Hall Hospital in Abergavenny; x-rays revealing that I’d fractured my humerus, more drugs and then sent home to catch a bit of sleep. By the time we got back to Whitewalls any trace of the rescue had vanished.

Wounded, but walking.

Pavey Injuries

Just over a week ago Jon and I went up to Pavey Ark mid-week for some quiet rock climbing on its sunny, south facing, lovely rough and bubbly Lakeland rock…

Jon in team-yellow colours on The Bracken Clock
Pete on the wonderful Pavey Ark

We started off on The Bracken Clock (E2) and then moved on to Cruel Sister (E3). However, Cruel Sister was indeed a little “cruel” to me… I snatched for a poor hand-hold, which I couldn’t keep hold of! The resulting fall – from some three or so metres above the belay to about three metres below the belay – was quite a shocker! Not quite a bone breaking fall-factor 2 as the start of the pitch was a traverse a couple metres right, so I did have a little extra rope out between Jon’s belay and my single piece of protection, a bomb-proof thread under roof. Unfortunately I got a leg behind one of the ropes as I fell and got swung in to the rock sideways, breaking a rib! Ouch! 😯 :angry:

Ah well, I’m nearly fixed enough to head out again soon…

I just hope I can keep up with Jon in my post-injury state; he went back up to Pavey at the weekend and ticked an E3 and an E4! 😛 Good effort Jon! Fancy North Wales next?

Cold Rock

We’re in Chamonix to get our annual lift passes; a significant saving is to be had, but as is typical for France there’s a series of hoops to jump through to qualify… First you need a Carte Resident Secondaire, and to get one of those you need a passport style photo, several forms of ID, and the French equivalent of a Council Tax bill for an address in Chamonix. These cards take about a week to process and you have to collect them in person. Then for a resident’s lift pass you also need a fist full of ID, another passport style photo, and the Carte Resident Secondaire. Oh, and a large chunk of cash! 😯 To get massive early discounts (-40%) you have to buy your pass before the end of November. But at least you can collect, again in person, any time.

After the first hoop was passed we got on with some very late season – cold – rock climbing! 😀 Of course Les Gaillands was the venue being low level, a bit warmer, and ease to get to after a morning of lift pass hunting.

Zig Zag
Zig Zag

Following Laetitia on <i>Zig Zag</i>
Following Laetitia on Zig Zag

We did a nice 6a+, Zig sans Zag, despite our cold fingers.

Zig sans Zag
Zig sans Zag

But it also had a few wet pockets. Laetitia found one which was too hard to keep hold of with cold fingers and slipped from the crux bashing her knuckles on the cold rock – ouch! :angry: Good job it was cold; it helped numb the pain. 😉

Ouch!
Ouch!

After that we went for a brief walk in the woods near Les Gaillands to warm up a bit…

French autumn colours
French autumn colours

Ian wanted to see a French cake blog post, sorry Ian, no cakes; we’ve moved on to the beer… You can just see the wound on Laetitia’s finger in the picture – not so bad as to stop her getting a grip of her beer glass! 😛

Mmm, a nice beer!
Mmm, a nice beer!

The rain in Spain falls mainly… somewhere else

Yes there was sun in northern Spain last week, oh joy. Apparently Galicia should have rain 24/7 at this time of year but we were sooooo lucky and didn’t see a drop. I had made a rendezvous with Joanne to walk part of the Camino Santiago de Compostela – neither of us had a few weeks to spare for the whole thing, but we could manage a few days to spend on the last section. There are loads of websites about this but basically it has been a pilgrimage route for hundreds of years, and still is.

We started at Cruz de Ferro and walked through sierras decorated with wind turbines – lots of wind turbines.

Wind turbines
Wind turbines

Joanne had come all the way from Sydney so it was very disappointing that she had an accident on day 1. Thank goodness I had some first aid training. We spent the evening in casualty and I could not believe it when she was wheeled from the treatment room with TWO bandaged legs: stitches in the right knee and a sprained left ankle.

God claims his first pilgrim!
God claims his first pilgrim!

Being a well-adjusted sort of person she decided that she would simply have a different sort of trip – relaxing and reading. She travelled by bus and taxi and I was fortunate to meet a Canadian surgeon who walked at my pace and was interesting to talk to. It would be tough to get lost because there are lots of waymarks ranging from yellow painted arrows to various representations of the pilgrims’ badge of the cockle shell

one of many varieties of waymark
one of many varieties of waymark

I tried hard not to be a history bore but collected many photos of identikit mediaeval chapels like this one:

P1010800

One of the best preserved villages is the tiny O Cebreiro which is a must-see if you are in the area; some of its buildings are thatched in direct descent from bronze age huts.

After a week’s walking (max was only 15 miles per day) we made it to Monte de Gozo, the Mount of Joy, where pilgrims got their first site of the cathedral shrine that was their goal. I was looking forward to a good view but what an anti-climax! We could see suburbs, but the towers were hidden by a bunch of trees to which somebody needs to take a chainsaw. There is only an ugly monument (and a chapel of course) and not even a cafe – the rest of the route is well supplied with cafes and bars, very civilised.

The old city of Santiago is delightful and would make a good weekend trip from the UK. Lots of history, but also amazing architecture, great bars, amazing cake shops and some really top class seafood restaurants. And here is the goal of the Camino:

Santiago Cathedral
Santiago Cathedral

Originally C12th Romanesque, the baroque facade changed the cathedral’s exterior character entirely. Inside the simple lines remain with the exception of the sanctuary which is wonderfully tastelessly baroqued with masses of gilded angels.

A view from the roof
A view from the roof

PS Here’s one for Terry:

Hi Kats!!!
Hi Kats!!!

Fat Boys Stanage Struggle

As Richard is off sunning himself in Greece somewhere (he says it’s work), I decided to head to Hathersage for the Stanage Struggle organised by the Fat Boys Running Club. It was a fell race of 6.1 miles … this distance looked suspiciously similar to 10k, a distance which I vow not to race until I can get close to my last 10 k race, which was a pb. However, the 1200 feet of climb meant that a recorded time was never going to be similar to my pb, so the race looked like a good option. Plus the first 10 finishing ladies (and top 40 men) got a Fat Boys Stanage Struggle t. shirt, which I felt was a worthy aim.

The race started at Hathersage and went up to the top of Stanage, along the ridge and then straight back down again, over some undulating fields to the finish. The pace of this race was much faster than I have been used to recently, but going up was ok and I managed to run most of the way to the top. On the ridge, I picked up some speed again and then fell over one of the rocks up there, which produced a quite impressive stream of blood from my knee! On the way down we were flying and I fell over again … although less damage this time! The undulating fields at the end were pretty horrible, but at the end I was handed a voucher for a t shirt, so I made the top 10! The first aid woman investigated the blood and deemed that there was only a small pebble-sized hole in my knee :-). Back at the car I was wondering what to do with regards to getting changed as I only had trousers and this would not have been comfortable with my holey-knee …. I mentioned this to the chap (from Stilton Striders) in the car next door to mine and he gave me a pair of old shorts to wear! What a kind chap!

The race was excellent. It was well marshalled, well organised, there was cake and tea at the finish and the people were generally really friendly!

Later, Bakewell stood up to it’s namesake and provided superb Bakewell tart!

t shirt

knee

ps. where is everyone?