Saturday, 30 July 2011

ALPS TRIP 2011 -July 27th to August 18th

Sat out in the sunshine of the campsite in Termignon in the Vanoise Alps in France.  The sun is shining and it’s good to be here.  But Christ it’s been an epic and a half!  D has been having some pretty full on dental surgery and I’ve been kicking myself for not suggesting that he cancel the appointment to have 6 teeth removed a week and a half before our trip.  Yes, he’s had a lot of bother with them and yes, being a man, has buried his head in the sand that there was the slight possibility that there could be an infection and that’s why there is pain.  So, after much nagging from myself and a dentist appointment and course of antibiotics later he was on the road to recovery.  Problem one solved.
Problem 2, the van insurance…………….4 days before our departure date we get a letter saying that the insurance company want an extra £200 as they have no proof of D’s full no claim’s bonus as he’d forgotten to send the proof to his previous company.  So, many phone calls later and we were still no further forward with Direct Line threatening to cancel our policy if we didn’t get it sorted.  It’s a long and protracted, agonising and stressful story but I finally got it fixed.  

Problem 3, D has some sort of reaction to the antibiotics he is on, nausea, digestive discomfort etc and yes, being a man, sits and procrastinates and is full of ‘woe is me’-ness and is undecided whether he will go on holiday or not.  I feel utterly torn.  Do I bugger off to France on my own and just play on some lesser mountains or do I do the supportive wife bit and stay at home with him and make sure he’s alright, knowing fine well that if he *is* okay within a few days and we’ve missed our holiday that I’m going to be a right grumpy and miserable cow for the foreseeable future.  On the other hand, if D is at home, ill and I’ve buggered off to France, then what sort of unfeeling and selfish person does that make me?  Anyway, problem 3 was solved when D decided that he would come along anyway, as we’re convinced that when his treatment is finished he will start feeling much better and regret not coming.
Problem 4, problem with the van engine…………..we got as far as part way down the road to Lille from Dunkerque when the Engine Management warning light came on.  We pulled over as soon as we could and D went to investigate.  Oil, check, water,check, brake fluid check, um other fluid, check.  No manual in the van, so not a Scooby what the light means.  A quick phone call to Bekah’s Dad back in Dundee who although not a mechanic, is more clued up about cars that either D or I, and we find out that it could be something or it could be nothing!  Basically, there is a problem with the engine and it will need a garage with a hook up to an electrical/computer diagnostic doodah.  Plan…………..close all the blinds on the windows and get some shut eye for a couple of hours before we deal with the situation.  D has had 2hrs sleep in the past 24hrs and I have had 1hrs sleep.  We did try to sleep before Dover but it was too hot for me and I was getting restless legs and was too achy to sleep.

So a couple of hours later and we’re driving to the nearest town where we find a Citreon garage only to be told that we need a VW garage.  Thankfully there is one in the nearby town of Hazebrouck and it doesn’t take us long to find.  A wait of a couple of hours and one hundred euros down and the van is fit for the road again.  Don’t have a clue what the problem was as the bill is in French (google translator might come in handy later on)  The man did come out and point to the bit that needed replacing and it looks electrical but I don’t know what it is.

I had been dreading problem number 5 being the campsite full, sorry no spaces but thankfully here we are.  D is still feeling under the weather and now I’m not so convinced that it’s a side effect of the antibiotics as I’ve had to rush off to the toilet twice now and I’m feeling dizzy everytime I stand up.  Feel like I’m coming down with something.  Rats!  Two ill and grumpy feckers on holiday, joy!   I WILL NOT BE ILL ON HOLIDAY! 
Plan is to walk into town for some maps tomorrow then perhaps take a walk up to Lac Blanc and a nearby refuge.  It’s a short walk of 6km with nothing strenuous so I’m sure we’ll manage in our present state.  Although toilet stops could get interesting!

Sat 30th July -  Well, I’ve gone back to thinking that the problem with D is related to the antibiotics and my grumbly tummy is just to do with eating crap like Beanfeasts and tinned beans and sausages on the way down.  A wee grumble this morning and fine after that.  But D is still not feeling 100% so I was on my own today on the walk up to the Lac Blanc.  We went into town first to buy some maps, mission successful and we now own maps of Les Trois Vallees, Val Cenis and Tignes, Val-D’Isere Haute maurienne.

Termignon is a lovely wee place!  With old French looking buildings and plenty of wee tourist shops.  There are 2 cheeseries which I’m sure Bekah would love and a chocolate shop which of course had to be visited!  Also found an outdoory type shop which has a sale on and has a softshell jacket similar to the one I own (over £200) which is on sale for 35 euros, very tempted to go back and buy it!  I’ve also discovered that they do tandem paragliding rides nearby for 70 euros and I’m really tempted to give it a go one day.
So after our trip into town, D decides that he’ll just stay at the campsite and maybe go for a wee stroll later, so I get my stuff sorted and head off for a local bus that takes you from Termignon up to Bellacombe for free.  The bus ride is scary!  Horrible, narrow, windy alpine tracks, sharp bends above hair raising drops, sickening!  I had to clutch my seat on several occasions!  Half an hour later and I’m there and happy to jump off the bus.  I spot my path pretty much straight away and head off.

I can see tantalising wee glimpses of spikey and snowy peaks poking out through the cloud on occasion and they look gorgeous, definitely got to get up there soon!  Signs say half an hour to the lower carpark of Coetet but I’m there in much quicker time, even after a short stop off at the Saint Marguerite Chapel.  Cross the road at the carpark then slog up to the Lac Blanc.  Crikey, I’m not feeling that fit and this is an easy walk!  There’s just one little steep section at 2187 metres and it’s got me huffing and puffing a bit, but I’m determined to keep the same pace and not slow down, my calf muscles don’t thank me for it!
The lake is really pretty, but even better is the view up to the Vanoise Glacier and peaks above and then West across to the Dent Parachee.  That looks an impressive mountain and I’m looking forward to climbing it, hopefully this week some time!  There’s a lot more snow about than I’d expected though.  I know that Chamonix has had a hell of a lot of snow but I thought with this area being lower that it wouldn’t have gotten as much, but anything over around 2500-3000m has snow on it, albeit patchy lower down.  I hung around the lake for around half an hour then made my way up to the Refuge lacBlanc, declining a visit as I wanted to press on.

Arrived back at Bellacombe an hour before the next bus was due back to Termignon and recalling that I’d seen signs on the way to Coetet that said Termignon was 2hrs away, I decided to walk back rather than take the bus.  Quite glad I did as it was a nice walk through the Forest Domaniale des Sallanches passing buy some funky limestone towers on the way and an equestrian centre which had the cutest little foal ever wandering about who came over to say hello and have his neck scratched.  I made it back the campsite from Bellacombe in 1.5hrs, beating the bus anyway!

Not sure what we’ll do tomorrow yet.  D is looking through the guide book and hopefully he will be fit enough to do something.  Hopefully a longer walk (todays was 4.5hrs, in the baking sunshine I should add) than today and maybe a wee scramble if he feels up to it.


D finally made it out , woop woop!  So much nicer to have his company rather than beon my own.  He just fancied a fairly short day though to see how weak or strong he felt, but in the end he was going totally fine and fitter than me as usual!  We took a walk up to the Pointe de Lanserlia at just under 3000 metres.  We took the bus up to Bellacombe again, with me on the seat away from the window.  I’ve discovered that if I close my eyes and don’t look at the bends and drops then I don’t feel so sick.  We caught the 9.30 bus and were walking by 10.20.  I’d bought Andy Hodges guide book called Mountain Adventures in the Maurienne but his description of where to go was at odds with what I was reading on the map.  I could see the ridge up to point 2879m on the map and I could see the same ridge poking it’s head out from the mist, but I was confused by descriptions of passing Le Plou where you can buy cheese and eggs.  The path doesn’t go past this farm at all!  So if anyone is reading this, then simply follow the GR 5 path until you pass the first ravine and this is where you start going uphill, there is a faint path.  The rest of the description is correct enough though.

Soon we were dragging our asses up the steep and grassy hill (well, I was dragging my ass, D seemed to be going fine, and the ridge isn’t that steep but it felt steep to me.)  I seem to feel the effects of altitude really easily and starting at anything above 2000m then I can feel it alright!  We reached the first top in just under 2hrs after much fannying about with D having to find a source of water to fill his bladder and then getting confused by the guide description.  We ended up walking along the GR 5 for far too long and having to back track and contour up towards the ridge.

The views from the top are amazing though!  Across to Grande Casse, her South Face looking like a Torridian mountain and covered in snow with the huge fracture line of a cornice at one point.  Made me wonder how much snow is on this hill on the North side!  In front of the Grand Casse we could see the funky looking Pointes de Pierre Brune looking like something from some deserty region in America.  In fact, it’s an amazing place altogether.  Walking down from our peak it seemed funny to me that we were walking down this green valley, with rocky, tottering towers above, and snowy peaks higher still.  Like 3 separate places all in one.  

Over to the East we could see the Impressive looking Point du Grand Vallon (which I’d like to climb on this trip) and the even more impressive Grand Roc Noir at 3582 metres, it’s towers covered with snow and looking very intimidating indeed.  Be curious to see what this peak goes at and if there is any serious climbing on it’s eastern cliffs which look really impressive!  Back to the SW we could see tantalising glimpses of the Dent Parachee peeking out of the cloud, another peak we plan to do on this trip.
It doesn’t take long at all to reach the summit of Point de Lanserlia from point 2879 and we hung around for a while on the summit, just relaxing and taking photos.  Just to the North of this peak, lie the Rochers de Lanserlia though I don’t imagine there is much climbing on them as they look pretty tottering and chossy, but impressive to look at all the same!

The way down into the Grand Vallon is really pretty and at one point there is a really curious hole in the ground surrounded by chalky limestone walls which looks almost like the remnants of an old glacier.  I’m really curious to find out if it is.  Once down into the valley, it’s a bit of a slog back along a level track which reminded me of the Pony Track on Ben Nevis back home, simply due to the fact that there was so many people!

We were pretty early for the bus back to Termignon so we stopped off at the touristy refuge du Plan du Lac and I had 2 cokes (the woman though D wanted one too so I drank his as well as he didn’t want it.)  I also had the most delicious apple crumble I have ever tasted in my entire life!  Mmmmmmmm, nice crumbly pastry, with an apple filling, topped with a crumble with pieces of almonds and raisins and sprinklings of cinnamon, topped off with a side serving of a little cream and a drizzle of some sort of liquer.

I’d been getting a crappy headache and stopping off and eating and having a big drink, necking some painkillers in the process, seemed to shift it into the background.   I’m still none the wiser as to what causes these headaches when I go on holiday as I seem to get one every time!  Although I didn’t get one when I went to costa Blanca.  I’m still sure it’s to do with exerting myself in the heat rather than anything to do with altitude.  I was up at 3000 metres today and my head was fine, it only got sore once we were lower (at 2400) and I didn’t get a headache yesterday.  They seem to come on really quickly as well.  One minute I’m fine and then within seconds I’ve got a horrible headache.  Luckily this one wasn’t too bad, there was just one moment where it was thumping when there was an uphill section.  I made sure I was wearing hat all day today though I didn’t put on my sunglasses until later in the day.  And I’m sure I was drinking plenty as when the headache came on and I made an effort to drink, I started needing the toilet every bloody 5 minutes!
The bus ride back to Termignon wasn’t too bad with just a few intakes of breath as the driver kept on braking too suddenly for my liking!  We made a quick visit to the outdoor shop which was still open and I bought a red softshell jacket made from exactly the same materials as my Mountain Equipment one but around £200 cheaper!  And D bought himself a pair of approach shoes.  We’re going to do a traverse of the Lessiers tomorrow which goes at PD and is supposed to be similar to the Aonach Eagach.  Another day of sun forecast for tomorrow, should be good!

Friday, 15 July 2011

9 MUNROS AND A COUPLE OF RUNS - 9th to 14th July

Phew!  I've survived the first year of marriage intact, crazy considering if you'd told me a few years ago that I'd be settling down and getting all responsible by living in a bought house, studying a professional degree at Uni and being a Mrs, I'd have said you were off yer rocker!  But there you have it, one time school drop out (tender age of 15,) habitual runner away from home rather than be grounded after too much under-age drinking, party animal and general wild child is now a non-smoking, pretty much non drinking (bar the 'odd glass of Chardonnay or preferable Sauvignon Blanc'), law abiding (mostly, apart from yesterday evening when we drove away from a campsite without paying after having half used their facilities, but that was in protest at their utterly disgusting price!), aspiring healthy person. What a year it's been!  I guess we are an odd couple, a silent and moody Aspie bloke and a foul  mouthed and emotive woman make for an interesting combination.

So we've had a fab week this week but I think we're both glad to be home and out of the confined living space of the van where we start doing each other's heads in a bit I think.  D, (being a bloke) and being slobby and me nagging at him to have a bit of courtesy (no, I don't like your dirty socks that you've just worn for the past 9hrs (and the previous day!) through heather and bog sitting on the surface where I'm about to cook our evening meal, nor do I like you picking out your nose hairs and pinging them over my shoes, nor do I like your toothpaste spit being left in the sink where I'm about to wash my face, yes I'm a bit precious about these things :oD    Our 3 week trip to the Alps is going to be testing and I remember frayed tempers last year, so we're taking a tent this year so one of us can escape for while if need be for our much needed space.  It's funny how someone that you can love can equally drive you bonkers.

Friday saw us drive up to Inverlochlarig and up fairly earlyish to head up Ben Tuleachain, Cruach Ardrain, Ben More and Stob Binnein.  The forecast had been for showers coming later in the day so we were keeping the option open to bail after the first 2hills if need be.  I don't think it's normal for most folk to do these 4hills together, more normal to do them in 2 lots of 2 and we were out for 9hrs with 2140 metres of ascent and just a smidgeon short of 12miles in distance.  We didn't need to bail as the weather was fine, with just one small shower as we approached the top of Ben More.  Was a bitty nippy though and the shower was a bit sleety with a bit of hail thrown in which had me worried about thunderstorms, but none materialised.  No more showers but we were clagged in for the rest of the day until we got down lower off Binnein.  And lo and behold was there not bloody cows at the bottom, cows which refused to move even as I approached cautiously and started waving my poles at them.  It took me roaring and a big lunge with the poles to finally get rid of the beasts from my path!  Once down, we drove back down to Lochearnhead and down to Inverarnan and the Drover's Inn where we had a double room with jacuzzi no less.  Sweet way to spend you first anniversery and a lovely day and evening were had by both! 

Sunday's plan had been to nip up Beinn Chabhair but the morning brought some heavy rain and neither of us felt inspired so we decided to make the drive up to Skye instead.  Our original plan had been to make an attempt on a traverse of the ridge but D had forgotten to bring his water bladder (far too heavy carrying bottles I reckon) and I'd actually forgotten to buy one!  So we moved on to plan B which was to go up some Moderate scramble on to Sgurr Mhadaidh, over onto Sgurr Ghreadaidh and possibly Banachdich after.  Follwed by all the munros at the other end that I hadn't done the next day.  We parked up in Fort William to buy a few bits and bobs and checked the weather forecast on the laptop.  The charts didn't look that promising with a big trough across the country over the next few days.  However, the far North was far enough away from the trough and there was a high sitting to the North too.  That was it, decision made to head North after a quick visit to Nevis Sport for a few new OS maps.  Great decision too as though we had a bit of a drizzly day on Monday, both Tuesday and Wednesday were amazing.

Driving up North didn't seem to take too long either and before long we were parked at the South end of Loch Hope in readiness to head up the North Ridge of Ben Hope the next morning.  Now I just thought it was a wee easy scramble but according to D it was meant to have quite a tricky and exposed bit on it.  The day dawned fair enough though looked a bit threatning and I was nervous of coming across anything too hard if it was going to be wet.  And wet it was.  The rain started not long into the walk in, which we did in a convuluted and strange way, going directly up the hillside from where we parked up, steeply up to Dubh loch na-beinne.  By this point the mist had clagged in and it was impossible to see a way to breach the North West cliffs.  We decided to contour around to the very start of the North spur and boy was that a slog and a half!  Fecking boulders!  I HATE BOULDERS!

I mentioned that as punishment for criminals, instead of community service etc, we should get them all filling in random holes in the ground that I always seem to fall in, or go over my ankle in and get covered in bog, and they can fill them in with all the blasted boulders from boulder fields!  Job done!
Anyway, the North Ridge was boring until the top and the scramble was far, far too wet and dripping and slippery for my liking.  A wee slip and it would be bye bye, lights out time for sure.  You have to traverse round onto the face and peering over the edge it's actually overhanging and looking down made me feel quite sick.  So we bailed and took the easy option of a wee gully round the back which still needed hands and made my fleece gloves absolutely sodden.  I had gloves on after my walking poles gave me a blister on Saturday, which then burst, leaving a stinging hole of rawness.  So that was that, Ben Hope bagged but no view on top which was gutting as I bet the view up there is amazing!  On the way down we met some dude who had been walking since the 25th March, from Penzance to Land's End, taking in a few hills on the way.
  We had a moment of weirdness when we starting dropping out of the mist.  The Strathmore River was the first thing we saw and for a short time, it looked like a river of snow, running down a hillside, funny how the mist really distorts things!

Once down, we made our way back down the road with the intention of spending the night in the infamous Crask Inn.  This wasn't to be however as all rooms were booked by several parties of fisherman.  However, the dude who owns the Inn (Mike I believe) was quite happy for us to doss in the carpark in our van.  A few other folk were camping in the garden and someone was sleeping in the summer house in the garden.  So, to the bar.........D ordered a pint which arrived promptly before Mike went off to make me a pot of tea.  He got distracted however, by bringing in some logs and lighting the stove, so it was 20minutes later than I gently reminded him that I'd ordered some tea (it had to be gentle, didn't have the heart to be cross as he was so quirky and charming)  Meals were being served at 7.30 and because it was busy, we were asked to share a table with another couple.  Rats!  Not sure I could be bothered being sociable but it was actually really nice.  The couple were really into triathalon and hill running and had cycled from Inverness and gone up Klibreck.  The girl had had a few drinks and the conversation, mostly about hill running and gear, was quite animated.  The food was amazing!  A home made quiche from eggs from their own hens and the veg was fresh from their garden, simple but quite lovely.  And the lemon cake for afters was divine! Next morning and I was eager for another cooked breakfast!  And for £6, I had bacon, sausage, mushroom and toast (with home made marmalade) and 4 cups of tea.  I could have also had porridge, a half grapefruit and an orange juice included but grapefruit and porridge are evil.

D and I had a leisurely morning and were setting off up Klibreck around 10 ish.  We went along Strath a Chraisg, cut off path and though some really marshy ground, following the Alt Domhain for a short while, before cutting off up the hillside to spot height 528 which was marked by a cairn built by Mike from the Crask. The plan was to head up the spur to Carn an Fheidh, pick up a fence line and then countour round spot height 808 before joining A'Chioch and the spur up to Klibreck summit.  Well, D gave his usual grunt or monosyllable acknowledgment of what I was saying, though in retrospect I think he was off in his own world and hadn't taken in a thing I'd said.  As it was, I picked up the fence line quite easily but D wandered off on his own, so I left him to it.  And though he is much faster than me going up hill as he's so much fitter and stronger legged, I still managed to get ahead of him as he ploughed right up point 808 rather than go round.  I was worried that D would stop and wait on top of 808, thinking that I was still lagging behind him as we were out of view of each other as soon as D wandered off but I decided to keep pushing on regardless and he finally caught up with me on the final pull up to the summit.

We got our view from the top which was gorgeous!  You could see South for miles and miles and miles and the large forms of Ben Hope and Ben Loyal to the North, towering up out of a flat landscape, with Orkney visible in the far distance.  We descended the south spur (taking in an impromptu dip into a rock pool.  Well, D stripped and dipped, I half stripped, tested the water and started hyperventilating from the cold of it and hastily retreated!) This took us down to a track above the Loch a Bhealaich.  It was really pretty down there (apart from holes in the grassy ground with water running underneath which were really spooky as they were hard to spot and I was convinced it was ankle breaking time, so slowed right down.)  I was left wondering if there was any winter climbing on the Creag an Lochain cliffs on the east side of Klibreck.  The walk along the track under the cliffs of Creag na h-lolaire up to the Bealach Easach gave a gorgeous view back along the Loch a Bhealaich and then all that was left was the 5/6km slog back to the Crask where I discovered that they also had J20 juice, which seemed a bit out of place but refreshing all the same.

That evening, I drove the van back down the road to Lairg and then cut across country on the most hellish single track road ever to the Ledmore junction and up to Assynt.  I hate single track roads but I'll never complain about the length of the ones in Glen Lyon or Glen Lochay again!  This road seemed to go forever and ever and made me feel queasy even driving it!  However, things looked up when you could see the extremely strange form of Suilven rearing it's head up in the distance, not long followed by views of Cul Beg, Cul Mor and Ben More Coigach.  Coigach, my favourite area in the whole of Scotland and to my shame I've stopped off and looked longingly at the hills there when off climbing at Reiff or passing by in winter to climb on Quinaig but I've never yet been up either of these hills.  My big all time dream winter route is to climb the Fhidhleir nose, but that's not happening anytime soon if ever!  I might have to console myself with one of the easier routes.

We parked up in a wee carpark not far south of Inchnadamph and again had a wee lie in, starting out for Conival and Ben More Assynt around 10 ish.  My wee leggies were finding it hard going that morning!  D was off in a shot and I insisted he keep on ahead rather than tail gaiting me.  The track from Inchnadamph up Gleann Dubh seemed to take forever and I didn't really enjoy it until we started going uphill to the col between Conival and Beinn an Fhurain.  The ground was rocky and peaty rather than heathery and the going was much easier than the previous few days and my early morning sluggishness and heavy leggedness seemed to have worn off.  Before long we were up at the col and faced by a steep pull up to the top of Conival where I once again slowed down a fair bit.  The weather was amazing, sports bra and thin trousers on and my hill running shoes was all that was needed.  Getting really in to wearing my trail shoes on the hill for hill walking as they are so much comfier and give the option for running wee bits too if I want to.  I'd worn my new summer hill boots on Saturday going up the Crianlarich hills, carrying my trainers in my bag and switching to them for the downhill as they were hurting my feet.  On Ben Hope I'd worn a new pair of stiff B3 Kayland boots to see how they felt.  They were amazing!  On sale in Tiso and I think they were supposed to be £99 but there was only a £75 sign up that I could see so that's what I got them for, double bargain!  The comfiest winter boots I've ever worn and definitely a keeper.  Going to sell my Nepale Extreme's which are a modern form of torture!

The connecting ridge between Conival and Ben More Assynt is really short and it didn't take us long to get across to our 2nd munro of the day.  The views are superb up there!  North to Foinaven, east to Ben Hope, Loyal and Klibreck and Southwards down to Coigach across the Corbett Braebag, which according to SMC Northern Highlands has a few routes on it.  As do the cliffs on Beinn an Fhurain.  The munro guide had mentioned something about the south ridge along to the south top of Ben More Assynt being somewhat like the Aonach Eagach.  D said that was rubbish and it was nothing like the Aonach Eagach, but my curiosity was piqued.  D couldn't be bothered going across as he'd been before so I dumped my sack and poles and set off down the hill at a run.  And I didn't stop running until one tiny section at the very end where I went over a wee rocky bit rather than round it and had to use my hands.  The Aonach Eagach it certainly isn't!  But it does look a little like it from a distance.  I gave D a wave from the South Top and set off at a run again, though it was more run/walk/run on the way back, being  mostly up hill.  I was boiling by the time I got back and needed a moment for a drink and recuperation.

Downhill seemed to take no time at all and D gave me the keys for the van as I had set off at my usual fast downhill pace, a bit between a walk and run.  My mobile phone went off part way down and I stopped to answer it thinking it might have been RB who was away attending a school trip to visit lots of different Universities.  However, it was some woman called Sharon who keeps ringing my number looking for someone called Lucy!  I told her she had the wrong number and this was a brand new mobile phone and nobody called Lucy had ever had this phone.  She still phoned back 5mins later and left a message on voicemail!  The bottom section of Conival before you hit Gleann Dubh again is seriously peaty and spongy and bouncy and I couldn't resist fleeing down this section with my brakes off, so much fun!  Though the rucksack on my back was really annoying!  I waited at the bottom and let D catch up and we walked along the Glen together for someway, chatting about how Alpine it felt with all the greenery, wild flowers and sunshine.  I couldn't resist setting off at a run again though and managed to run all the way back to the van with just a couple of stops to walk briefly.  I then collapsed in a sweaty heap with chaffed shoulders from the rucksack rubbing and covered in itchy kleg bites!

We drove down to Ullapool that evening to the aforementioned campsite as we both fancied a shower.  £16 fecking pounds for a night in a campsite, disgusting!  I grumbled but D said we should just go in.  We went out for curry then came back and went for a shower.  D had money on him but I didn't.  So D got his shower and I didn't!  And I refused to pay extra for a shower anyway when the campsite was charging such an extortionate ammount!  I was so disgusted that I told D that I wanted to leave and it turned out that we'd both run out of money anyway so wouldn't have been able to pay for our pitch, oooops!  So we didn't really do runner as we hadn't stayed there a night, and D had only half used their poxy facilities.  So we buggered off and parked up at the side of the road nearby the Braemore Junction where neither of us got a great nights sleep.

Last day of the trip and I wanted to blast up A'Bhuidheanach Bheag from the Drumochter Pass.  I'd been up here several years ago to do this munro and it's next door neighbour, but after doing Carn a Caim had taken a bearing to Bheag, but come across a path and started following that instead.  Realising it wasn't really going where I thought it would I then re went on to my bearing, stupidly not taking a new bearing!  Got a bit disorientated, took a back bearing to the path, followed it back to my original point and then got an attack of doubt in my navigating ability and bailed off the hill.
Today's trip up there was interesting and similar navigational stupidities ensued!  I'm thinking about doing some navigation re-practise after our Alps trip as I've rarely had to use my skills of late and I'm getting a bit rusty and forgetfull!

So, we hadn't really planned on being over Drumochter way on our road trip hence we had no map.  However, the sky was clear and there was no low cloud forecast and it was looking like it would stay that way for some while.  D was very hesitant of going up the hill mapless but I was feeling more brash and confident that it would be a doddle and there was probably a path all the way up.  Forget Cameron McPish's munro book suggestion of ploughing up heather slopes as it's bog ridden below and a steep, heather slog above!  I could see a track going up the spur above the North Drumochter Lodge so the plan was to scoot up there, once on the 'top' go SE to the top at point 936 and the directly east to the summit.  I screwed it up completely by changing plan.  Once through the fence across from Balsporran, I came across a track heading up so decided to follow it (never ever get lured off bearing by these stupid tracks which head off to nowhere!)  It didn't take me long to realise that this track was heading off up Creagan Doire Dhonaich and whilst I could have gone this way it was pretty circuitous and silly to go that way, so I dropped down to the Alt Coire Dhubaig where I got wet feet and ploughed straight up the middle spur between the Alt Coire Chuirn and the Alt Coire Dhubaig.  This added a pointless half an hour off faffing onto the journey and I could see my original track going up the spur to the left, mocking my stupidity!  However, this heather bashing was a good leg training exercise and I pushed up this hill in hill runner stylee bent over and using my hands to push down on my legs.  Easy at first, but a steepening at the top left me pushing on for 60 paces and stopping for 10secs for a breather and so on.  By the time I was nearing the top, my quads were protesting and were close to being painful from the exertion but I'm a master at ignoring these little niggles!  Finally the top and I could see that there was no path anywhere to speak of that I could see and that the terrain was really featureless and that the tops I was aiming for were in reality nothing more than featureless humps.  Still, I managed to run my way, leaping across peat hags to the summit where I stopped for a quick bite to eat.  I went to phone D but realised I'd forgotten my phone, went to take some pictures and realised I'd forgotten my camera!

Shot back off down the hill the way I'd come, initially following some fence posts, then felt a bit unsure of the landscape so got my compass out.  This is when things went a bit pearshaped and I made  stupid blunder.  I set the compass to a setting SE and ran off on my merry way.  I'd gone downhill gently for a short while and reached a peat hag ridden area which seemed familiar, but then hit a total and utter peat hag and thought, 'hmmmm, this area doesn't feel or seem right at all!'  I could see a small top further on, so zoomed off up there, only to be met by a view down some glen which certainly wasn't the A9, arse!  I was totally confused as to where the feck I was and realised the only sensible thing to do was to retrace my steps back to the summit.  D had lent me his GPS with the summit coordinates in it, but other than that I didn't really know how to use it.  Anyway, I could see the trig point off in the distance, but felt hesitant that this was actually the top I'd come from so the GPS had it's use! (though I do feel that D relies on it far too much.  He'd got it out on the summit of Cruach Ardrain back in Crianlarich as he didn't believe he was on the summit. However, I could see, even in the mist that we were at the highest point and in glimpses between the mist could see the path to our col below.  As D got out the GPS I set off down to the col in disgust.)  But yes, the GPS has it's place.

It was on my trot back to the summit that I knew where I'd gone wrong.  What an utter, utter idiot!  It was a SE bearing that was going to take me from the spur that I'd gone up, to the summit and I'd forgotten to reverse that process for the way back.  Numpty!  So I'd wasted another half an hour jogging off in completely the wrong direction and then having to nip back to the summit.  Correct bearing of NW taken I scooted off in the correct direction, feeling a little miffed at myself for such a stupid mistake and unsure of how long I'd actually been faffing for and getting concerned that I'd maybe been ages and that D would be back at the van worrying.  As it was, if I discount all the time I spent faffing on the hill, then it took me just over 2hrs to run up and down which I thought was not bad for nearly 10k and 500m of steep ascent.  Not breaking any records, but pretty good for my crappy standards!
I happily found myself back on track and zoomed off down the track I'd originally planned to go up!  This was ace fun!  A bit stoney at the top which made me too nervous to let off the brakes but a middle section of peaty ground had the brakes almost off (too steep to take them completely off) and I was careening off down the hill.  Got to another stony section and found it difficult to actually slow down as I'd gathered so much momentum!  But I finally slowed a little which was just as well as there was a boggy section coming up and my shoes weren't up to it.  I slowed through the bog and down onto the track, running past the Drumochter Lodge and onto the A9 and back to Balsporran.

Wednesday, 6 July 2011

KINLOCHLEVEN RUNNING - 30th May to 1st July

Nothing exciting to report on the climbing front.  Not sure where my climbing is going at the moment.  Marriage, Uni work and Bekah's comps seem to have obliterated my time to get out climbing and as I can't get out regularly, my confidence turnes sharply downhill!  I guess I've made a bit of a compromise with D, as long as I can get out winter climbing LOTS then I'm happy enough sacrificing summer climbing time so that I actually have time to spend with D.  And having a 3 week trip  to the Alps for some snowy mountains feels like a pretty damn good compromise actually!
That said, I did actually make an attempt of sorts to get out climbing whilst I was living up in Kinlochleven during my clinical placement.  I met up with Isi who works at the Ice Factor and we did actually drive to Polldubh, when the heavens opened and it rained, and it rained and it rained.  In fact, I barely stopped raining the whole 5weeks I was living up there!  But when it's nice, boy is it nice!  I had a day back in Dundee once my placement was over and it felt like such a dirty, grey and dreary place to be.  Even Brechin feels too towny now!  I'm craving countryside and hills like crazy!  This Alps trip can't come soon enough and I know I shouldn't wish my life away, but I'm eager for the 3 years of Uni to pass so I can qualify, get working and move somewhere decent with nearby mountains.
Back to Kinlochleven........So, I didn't do much climbing, but I did get out running into the hills 6x whilst I was there.  And it's tough!  There's no running whatsoever in Kinloch which doesn't involve any steep hills.  My first run took me up the West Highland Way towards Fort William and it was far too steep for me to run the start of and involved run/walk/run until the incline eased off to undulating and I was able to run much longer stints.  My next run involved running up to the Mamore Lodge, where I was going to run along towards Loch Eilde Mor but descend back to Kinloch before I got there.  Jamie, manager of The Ice Factor (who was putting me up (or putting up with me as D would say!)) was arriving back home that evening and I wanted to be down off the hill and back to the Ice Factor for his keys incase the place was shut before he got home.  As it was I got a text from him mid run to say he'd got the key and was home.  So I decided to keep running.  Right along to Loch Eilde Mor, around the dam and through the boggiest countour ever around Leitir Bo Fionn where I worried about losing my shoe on several occasions!  A steep descent followed down to some woodland to the East of Kinloch where the recent storms had blown several trees down over the path.  A bit of an assault course ensued to get back to Jamie's.   It was amazing though!  One of those runs where you feel good and the running feels easy and your mind just drifts off, lovely!
I had a run down the Lairig Eilde next, which lies between the wee Buachaille and Beinne Fhada.  This run was hellish!  Going up the Lairig to the pass was fine enough and zooming down into Glen Etive was fun.  But the run back up to the pass was probably the steepest thing I've ever attempted to run and involved bouts of 30 second running, followed by stopping, slumped over for 10seconds (I refused to allow myself any longer) then walking for a minute.  I carried on in this manner all the way back up to the pass, very systematically which is the only way I can cope with steep ascents.  If I try to walk the steep bits and run the easier bits, I think I'd just end up walking the whole lot!  I was getting serious hunger pangs on the way back down and felt pretty weak and shaky at one point.  Felt good to get back to the car!
My 4th run had me going back along the West Highland Way along to an old ruin known as Tigh na Sleubhaich.  There was a couple of guys camping in the ruin, blethering with an old dude in a landrover.  So I didn't go right up to the building and just turned about.  The old guy caught up with me and stopped to chat, telling me that the guys were trying to light a fire, unsuccessfully due to the wood being too damp and due to it being Rowan wood which doesn't burn so well when fresh.  He then went on to say that his Grandmother used to live in the old ruin and we then went on to discuss the harsh winters we've been having.  This was quite a nice run, felt easy apart from the hard start.
For my final two runs I went out with a friend from Kinlochleven.  Pete 
had recently run the West Highland Way race, a 96mile race in just over 20 hours.  Mental!  So he was more than happy to do a few wee runs with me at my pace for his recovery runs (though I'm sure he'd still have gone faster for his recovery without me slowing him down.)  Our first outing was along the track at the back of the Kingshouse in Glencoe, along past the Black Corries Logde and to the mast below Meall a Phuill.  This was more suited to me than the steep things I'd been attempting and I wasn't having to stop and walk as much as usual, just a few times and never for long.  The heat was boiling that day and I had my thicker running tights and fleece on and that made it a bit of a struggle! 
The final run was into the forest at Gleann a  Chaolais and this was amazing!  Just a wee start along the side of the road and then up into foresty track.  I still had to stop a few times, but I wasn't timing as I was too busy blethering with Pete.  Before long we hit the turn in the track, flat from there for a while as the track contoured around under Beinn a Bheithir, then downhill which was so much fun!  The track was really soft and spongy and it was steep enough to get some speed up and smooth enough to cut loose, I even got my speed up to just over 5 minutes a mile at one point, though that pushing things for me and didn't last long especially as a wee uphill section loomed up ahead!  The view out to Glencoe and down Loch Leven was simply stunning and it's one of the nicest runs I've been out on.
So that was that.  5 weeks working at the Belford, surrounded by mountains galore but no climbing whatsover!  I did have a couple of sessions at the Ice Factor wall, but I found the grading there pretty desperate and the holds a bit dire and  smooth for my taste.

Bekah had the finals of the Youth Climbing Series down in Wolverhampton on the 25th June which she really enjoyed.  She's not been training as much as she was last year and that reflected in her result, 7th place out of 32 I think.  She was beaten by girls that she was beating last year, so I think it's made her realise that if she wants results then she has to put the work in.  The routes at the comp were really tough, but they were set really well, with several cruxes which worked to seperate them all.  The boulders were tough too, with nobody topping the final boulder problem which was utterly desperate!  As much as I enjoy taking RB round her comps, as I know how much she enjoys them, it's so much more fun getting out climbing!
Monday is our normal training day and it was blazing during the day, so much so that I just couldn't face going indoors to the wall.  Last summer saw us spending far too much time indoors climbing for the comps, but I'm sure that Beks can train just as well with days climbing outside too.  And I'm missing proper climbing, indoors is so sterile that it just gets boring after a while.

I did think about taking RB to Rob's Reed, but seen as she's only been out once this summer and I've only been out a few times, I thought we'd just stick to where we know and keep Rob's for another day.  So Kirrie it was.  I was really nervous at the prospect of climbing again and just warmed up on a 3+ (which is so dirty I don't know why I bothered!) and a 4 that I always seem to find tricky as I can't find this crucial intermediate hold for me to reach the big hold above.  No problems this time though and the thought of spending the rest of the evening leading all the same old easy stuff that I've done a billion times before wasn't inspiring me.  Time for a challenge!  I got the clipstick out and clipped the first 2 clips of Fat of The Land at 6b.  Ignoring holds off to the right and using holds in line with the clips seemed the right thing to do at the grade and it took me several goes off a wee crimp to get the other crimp by the 2nd clip.  Some fancy footwork was needed to get me to a juggy rail above but I couldn't seem to commit to doing it.  I think it was the thought of then being above the clip and not knowing what would come above.  I came down and got Jon to lead it so I could do the whole thing on toprope.  Still took me several goes to the get the crux but I managed the rest in one go.  Lovely route, nice layback moves, up to thinner moves above and a funky finish.  I was buzzing after that, so nice to find a route where the climbing is involving, something I've not felt for a long time!  I'm sure I can lead this route cleanly after a couple more goes.

Bekah was climbing with Ali and between them they did, The Hill Has Eyes (5), Hillbillies (3+), Spent (6a), La Plage (4), The Twa Dogs (6c), Wisdom's Door (6b+), Hanging by a Thrum Hold (6b) and Fat of the Land (6b)