Monday, 30 May 2011

Wild Scotland

Got back last night from supporting Cath on her LEJOG.

The strong winds of last Sunday grew in to Monday's storm, this was too much for Claire who doesn't like riding in wind at the best of times (which this certainly wasn't) so decided to call it a day at Carlisle. In fact it was at Carlisle that Cath had her only real mechanical of the ride when her rear tyre went all wobbly - it looked like she'd hit a pothole and tore the sidewall so the tyre wasn't running true. Cue find a bike shop and replace tyre.

Give Cath was now on her own, plus the fact that 100MPH+ winds were forecast for the highlands I decided that it would be best to keep fairly close throughout the day. By the time we got to Abingdon services just standing up was difficult so the planned route in to the wind wasn't on so we went downwind and round to Lanark.

Fortunately the winds eased (in the lowlands) on the Tuesday so I headed off to tick some Munros above Glen Lyon where the wind definitely hadn't eased, I had to crawl to and from the first summit where I had my lunch in a snowstorm! I didn't see anything from the other three summits either as I was engulfed by hail showers on them!

Cath's next day was from Stirling to Glencoe over Rannoch Moor which she wasn't looking forward to. Fortunately the wind had changed direction and things weren't as bad as she feared. I, on the other hand had a numpty navigation day on Ben Vorlich and Stuic a Chroin where I failed to find the latter!

Thursday was Great Glen day for Cath and the two Munros of Beinn a Bheither for me, again no views but interesting walking on quite narrow ridges. I got to Drumnadrochit at the same time as Cath having met Ali Welsh in the supermarket car park in Fort William by pure chance.

Friday was reasonable and I took my chance to climb Ben Hope, the most Northerly Munro, for once I got a view from the summit, then it was back to Altnaharra where I was hoping to meet Cath. Her original target for the day was Lairg 20 miles south but it would be good if she could get them out of the way for the final day. It was cold, wet and windy by the time she arrived and she was glad of a warm duvet and the car heating system.

Our overnight stay was thirty miles back at Rogart so there was an hour's drive on Saturday morning back to Altnaharra and then there was just 74 miles to go. I had Ben Klibreck to look forward to - no point in not doing the Munros that are this far north, it's just so far to drive to get to them. However I really didn't enjoy Klibreck, all bogs and not very pleasant walking at all.

A couple of minutes after I got back to the car I got a text from Cath to say she was in a cafe in Thurso so only had 20 miles to go - I had to get a move on if I was going to see her finish! I caught her up with less than a mile to go so had time to get to the finishing post to take the obligatory photos.

Just two metres to go!!
Good effort from Cath in some pretty awful weather for most of the Scottish part of the ride.

Then it was a two hour drive back to our digs for the night in Rogart and a 400 mile drive back home. Both rather tired today!

Sunday, 22 May 2011

Wild Wet Westerly Winds

Well after a year or two of pestering, Steve Brock finally decided to try the Bob Graham this year. With Andy Kitts getting round last week the pressure was on, the forecast however wasn't looking too good with high winds for the whole day and rain promised for the late afternoon.

He tried to move his midnight start time forward so as to avoid the worst of the weather but he couldn't get hold of all the pacers so it had to be the original plan. After seeing him off from the Moot Hall (along with Gavin Pattison) I decided to head up on to Mungrisedale Common to try and get some long exposure shots of them in the back O' Skiddaw. I was there in time but the wind was so strong that I had to hold the tripod down! As a result I didn't get the shots I wanted. Need to sort the technique out I think.

At Threlkeld Gavin was about 15mins up on Steve who was on schedule. A quick changeover then he was off on the Helvellyn leg with Toby, only to reappear a couple of minutes later to get a map for the following leg?! By Dunmail Gavin was about 20mins up on Steve but Steve was still on schedule as they headed up in to the clag.

I go a Text once I'd got home to say he'd finished in 21:59 so well done to Steve.

After a bit of breakfast I headed off to see various family members whom I hadn't seen for a while before heading homewards to meet up with Cath and Claire as they were going to spend the night at home before continuing on their LEJOG.

This morning it was an early start to drop them off where I had picked them up before I nipped up on to Leck Fell to have a look at The Three Men of Gragareth - three ancient cairns. Next agenda for the day was Wild Boar Fell which I've never been up before. I had to wait a while before the rain stopped and I could get out of the car to get changed! Eventually I set off in to the teeth of a gale, it was quite a struggle in the stronger gusts. A bit of lunch in the shelter around the trig point then back to the car and off to Temple Sowerby to meet up with the women.

Seems like the forecast is for more wind and rain but at least the wind will be on their backs rather than having to fight their way in to it.

Monday, 16 May 2011

BGR Success!!

Well done to Andy Kitts on completing his Bob Graham Round on Saturday! He'd kept his intentions quiet so most people thought he was only going to pace his girlfriend, Stef, on the first two legs in preparation for an attempt later in the summer but a few of us had been let in to the secret. As it happened Stef got hit by a stomach bug on leg 2 and had to drop out but she's already slated another attempt in June so good luck to her.

I had helped Andy on his first attempt last year, running leg one over Skiddaw and Blencathra. That attempt failed around Scafell. With the wonders of modern communication I knew that they had left Wasdale on schedule so headed over to Honister, just to go up to Dale Head or maybe Hindscarth with him, then back to Honister and drive to Keswick to see him in to the finish. As it happened there was someone available to drive my car round to the end of the fell section (no way was I going to run the road bit) so I did Robinson as well.

Andy trying to get some food and drink down at Honister.

Leaving Honister on the climb to Dale Head   

On the descent from Hindscarth with just one top to go.

One advantage of helping with the later legs is that the pace is a lot slower which meant that unfit me could keep up! Andy reached the summit of Robinson with 2hrs 10mins to go, so half an hour to spare to get back to Keswick. Disappointingly the clag was down so we didn't get any views until a good way down the north ridge. One of the support crew had come up to show the way round the rock steps which can be tricky in the damp and soon we were down out of the wind following the track down to Newlands Church. I bailed at this point and drove to Keswick.

We had an anxious wait at Keswick as unbeknown to us, Andy had decided to take things easy and use up some of his buffer on the road section. He pulled up to the Moot Hall to log a time of 23hrs 44mins.

The end of a very long road - Andy touches the doors of the Moot Hall to complete his BGR.

Annoyingly both the last two weekends I've done a hard day on the Saturday so have been knackered on the Sunday when I've gone out climbing. Last weekend we went to Trollers Gill and I struggled to stay awake though we did do four routes. Yesterday we went to Chee Dale and I just couldn't be bothered to do any climbing at all! Perhaps more interestingly, the tunnels on the old Monsal railway line have been reopened - they were closed for safety reasons around the time I started climbing so I've never been through them before.

Cath (Twitter: @cathonabike & #LEJOG) and Clair have started their LEJOG, nipping out to Land's End and back from Penzance on Saturday before riding to Galant on Sunday. Today's ride will take them over Dartmoor to Exeter.

Sunday, 8 May 2011

Rough Rider

Phew! Well that was tougher than expected. Managed to get an entry on the day to the Rough Rider Sportive and elected to go for the 75 mile version.

After a bit of faffing about and realising that I'd got an odd pair of gloves(!) I managed to get away by 9am, about half an hour later than planned, and hoped to avoid the forecast heavy afternoon showers. My schedule was an hour to Dent; another hour to Stainforth; then about two hours to get to Settle and half an hour back to the finish. Perhaps a bit optimistic.

A steady spin over to Ingleton then the first big climb of the day up in to Kingsdale, I got to Valley Entrance in 32 mins and the summit of the climb in about 50 minutes before the really steep drop in to Dentdale with several gates to get through which all seem to be at the foot of the steepest bits. I got to Dent in 1hr 7mins so slightly down on schedule. Turning up the valley and there was an immediate head wind which would be present until Malham. The climb out of Dentdale is steady really until you get to pass under the Settle to Carlisle main line when it kicks up to around 16% in a couple of rises. Of course the wind was in your face as you neared the top of the climb. It was a bit of a struggle to get to the junction at Newby Head but it was then a blast down to Ribblehead though the wind was now a cross wind and made it a bit interesting. Back in to the head wind for the section down to Horton where I pulled in to the food stop in 2hrs 11mins.

So after some lovely (and quite spicy) soup, tea and cake it was back on the bike and down the valley to Stainforth ready for the next big climb. Except it was a struggle even on the flat. Eventually the climb started which isn't as bad as you think it is going to be, even though some riders ahead of me were pushing. At the top of the climb there was the option of turning right on the 60mile course but I decided against it and carried on over to Halton Gill and down Littondale (in to the wind of course) to Arncliff from where another big climb leads over to Malham. By now I was getting pretty tired and I only managed the first third of the climb before getting off and pushing. Perhaps more worryingly the weather had turned and was now driving rain, time to get the waterproof on.

Getting to Malham proved hard work and I hit four hours as I passed Malham Tarn. After a rather nervous descent in to Malham there remained the last big climb over to Settle where I had to push again for a short section. By the time I got to Settle I decided to  stop and grab an energy gel. This made a big difference as I was soon riding well again and the rolling lanes to the SW of the A65 soon went by and I was at the finish in a time of 5hrs44. My cycle computer had 5hrs28 of riding time.

Basically I don't think I ate or drank properly but the strong winds didn't help.

Hopefully the breeze will dry some crags out for cragging today.

Wednesday, 4 May 2011

Sunny Wales!

In an attempt to get away from some fancy do in London we headed over to Arthog on the Mawddach estuary for a weekend's camping.

Saturday saw Cath and Claire heading for the circuit of Cadair Idris in a pretty strong and gusty East wind. I decided to go for a walk up the same mountain having only been up it once before some seventeen or eighteen years ago. Part of my plan was to solo Cyfrwy Arete but the strength of the wind put paid to that so having cut across from the Pony Path I ended up on the screes of the Foxes' Path and up to the summit. I headed down the Pony Path with a bit of pain in my right knee - I'm not sure where that came from. Anyway I was back to the car in just under two and a half hours.

Sunday was just as windy so Simon and I headed for a nice sounding (and west facing) crag on the other side of the estuary. Craig y Merched is one of the outlying Rhinog crags and is composed of Barmouth Grit which is a lovely fine grained rock. We decided to start on the upper crag, once we could find it, with a couple of pleasant E1s. I got the first and Simon was quite surprised at the speed at which I climbed it - more out of seeing the moves and trusting that gear would arrive than anything else. We were a little puzzled by the E1 to the right until we realised that the peg in the description had fallen out. Simon's lead and he managed to get good gear where the peg had been plus a small wire at full stretch above before committing to the crux wall. The top overhang wasn't as bad as it looked.

Back down on the main part of the crag was a fine looking E1 - Magic Mushroom. My lead and the first section wasn't over endowed with gear, in fact none of it would have held and I was now at the crux! A bit of searching and stretching rightwards  and I managed to get a good wire which I backed up with a cam. The crux wall reaching the groove was all on side holds for the hands and smears for the feet and not easy to read. Once in the groove there was a good nut protecting the final moves. Definitely hard for the grade.

To the right was an E2 that looked very good but the heat and a lack of water meant that neither of us felt up to it so Simon chose an E1 on the next buttress up and right that was essentially a VS with a 5c move to reach easy ground.  Then it was time to go. A nice crag but a pity that there's only route we need to go back for - the E2, yes there are others but equally there are plenty of other crags in the area to sample.

Monday was spent reccying the route Cath and Claire need to take on their LEJOG from Chester to Slaidburn. Mind you we were tired from being up most of the night with the wind threatening to wreck our cheap family style tent!