Friday, 27 August 2010

Not what we thought it was

Following last week's blast biking in Scotland, this week has been particularly lazy for one reason(excuse) or another.

In fact the only real exercise I've done has been to get out on the road bike one evening for about 50mins, though it was a fairly hilly route but then they are all hilly routes round us. I might have gone for a run but for my knee (more of which in a moment) but since it was a fine evening I thought I'd try the bike, plus I'm heading out for a ride on Saturday with a group of MAMILs (Middle Aged Men In Lycra) who do a lot of biking.  A road bike feels totally different to a mountain bike, less efficient brakes for a start, so I took it steady especially, somewhat paradoxically, on the downhills - I'm wary of coming off given the state of my left elbow and that I'm still suffering in my right shoulder from the last time I came off a road bike some two years ago! The middle part of the ride was nice and flat though so I got a good blast in, keeping up at around 22 MPH.

The results of the MRI came back. There is no meniscal tear in the knee but there is moderate arthritis. The original diagnosis of a meniscal tear was based on my description of how it became apparent:  a sudden pain when pulling up after a run along with occasional partial collapse of the leg - i.e the leg giving way under me. It makes sense really that it is arthritis since I have it in the other knee.

I'm not sure where this leaves me though - in a way if it had been a meniscal tear then the choices would have been easy - an operation or no op. With arthritis it's going to be along the lines of long-term management. At the moment things aren't too bad but then I've not really been doing much running. Will just have to see how things develop.

Sunday, 22 August 2010

Mountain Biking in Scotland

Just returned from a week's mountain biking in Scotland with Cath. Did some excellent rides and some not so good plus a day on the routes in Leanachan Forest.

We'd booked a chalet at Bunroy Park in Roy Bridge on the basis that if the weather was poor then at least we'd have somewhere to dry and sort things out rather than have to struggle camping. We've been to Scotland in August before! Getting there took a bit longer than we had planned - an accident on the M8 in Glasgow meant an hour and half delay in getting through the city. This combined with the holiday traffic meant that we took nearly eight hours to get to Roy Bridge (it only took six going steady going home).

We'd got a mountain biking guide to "Wild Trails" in Scotland. One was just up the road on the Ardverikie estate. The estate house is well known as it is the setting for the BBC series "Monarch of the Glen" but this ride heads over towards Loch Ericht on good tracks then passing round Loch Pattack before a steep climb and descent back over to the Laggan side before heading back along loch shores to the start.

Loch Pattach. The route went over the col just right of centre.

With good sunshine and little breeze it was a really nice ride with great views.

The following day we headed off for another route out of the guide. We had thought of doing this ride last year when coming back from a trip to the Outer Hebrides but the weather had been poor so we didn't bother. On paper the route, Glengarry Circuit, was similar to that around Ardverikie - easy fire roads then a climb to and descent from a high col before more fire roads back to the start. On the ground it couldn't have been more different! Once leaving the fire roads, the climb to the col was several hours of pushing and carrying over peat hags, tufted grass and heather. The supposed brilliant descent was largely washed out and you'd need to be better riders than us to ride it all. A bit of a disappointment after the previous day.

One of the things I'd wanted to do was a two day ride with an overnight stop in a bothy. The guidebook described one such ride which circumnavigated the Mamores and Ben Nevis/Grey Corries ranges. However the first day was mainly on estate tracks and having walked/run on them before I knew they weren't desperately interesting so I came up with a variation: get the train to Corrour station then head down to Loch Treig before following the river up to the bothy then do the described second day. Bikes go free on the train but you need to pre-book them. That done we got packing, trying to get all we'd need in to 25L sacks.

Our itinerary actually makes a decent day ride but splitting it into two meant that we wouldn't feel rushed, plus we could take time getting used to riding whilst wearing larger and heavier sacks than we were used to. It also meant that we could get the midday train rather than the early one.

Luibelt in the trees on the left. Ben Nevis and Aonach Beag in the centre distance with Meanach bothy to the right.
I have to say that the guard on the train was very friendly, not really had a bad experience on this line. Getting off at Corrour we remembered that we'd forgotten coffee powder so a visit to the cafe (now run by the SYHA) to try a bit of begging was in order - we also bought some tea and cakes while we were there!

The direct path looked a bit boggy following the recent rain so we took the estate tracks heading east before turning and descending to Loch Treig. The good tracks continue around the head of the loch until the remote Creaguaineach Lodge is reached, apparently the postman used to deliver here! From here we followed the Abhainn Rath past Staoineag bothy ( a lovelier spot is hard to imagine) until the valley opened out and we got to Meanach itself. Much of the second half of the route had been intermittent riding, maybe on the bike for 50 metres then a couple of ditches or rock steps to negotiate then a bit more riding etc. It's not like the purpose built trails which are designed to be ridden.

The bothy is well maintained (by the MBA) and has two rooms one of which has wooden flooring which makes a lightweight trip all the easier - we'd only got cut-down sleeping mats. It's also got a resident mouse called Clive! Another advantage of doing short overnight trips is that invariably you get things about your kit wrong: too much of this; not enough of that; should have brought that piece of kit; never used that; etc. Bothying and bivvying is an ongoing art and with practice you do get close to an ideal set of stuff to take.

The following day began with a big push up to the col above the Lairig Leacach, you could ride short sections where it levelled out. Once at the top there was a brilliant kilometre or so of singletrack before it became a recently bulldozed track - apparently the singletrack used to continue all the way to the bothy at Leacach. Once at Leacach it was all good surfaced landrover track down to the River Spean before a couple of miles of road to finish. Since leaving Corrour we had only seen one fisherman in the distance and the crew of two Tornadoes as they flew by the bothy.

Our final day began with heavy rain. By dinner time we could no longer put it off so headed to Leanachan forest to do some of the trails there. As it happened we timed it just right as the rain stopped about ten minutes after we set off on the first trail. After the grandeur of biking in the highlands pretty well any trail was going to disappoint, and so it proved. The "World Champs" trail was effectively a single climb followed by one long section of descent of varying technicality. Having done that we headed out on the "Ten under the Ben" trail. This is used for the annual race of the same name, suffice to say that for three quarters of the trail I was using the big front ring with high gears. Stuck in the middle of all this cruising was a short downhill section, including about 50m graded black. All a bit unsatisfying really, it is as if they are training routes for the main event here - the downhill course - plenty of riders doing that but in the whole week we only actually met two other riders out riding - near the end of the Ten under the Ben course.

In fact we only met a handful of people each day, usually Munro baggers, everywhere was decidedly quiet despite the amount of traffic we had seen heading north on the Saturday.

The forecast now is for "mixed" weather, let's just hope it doesn't put all the crags out of condition.

Saturday, 14 August 2010

Marking Time

It's a truism that the more you do something the easier it becomes. Climbing is no different and getting out just one day each week means that I'm effectively marking time, not really going backwards but, more importantly, not improving either.

Sunday saw Simon and myself back at Blue Scar, it was a fortuitous accident really: we had umm'ed and ahh'ed about where to go and decided to give Blue another go. As it turned out, despite all the rain through the intervening time, it was drier than it had been two weeks ago! A couple of easier routes right over at the right-hand end then it was time to  try something a bit harder. On the previous visit I had just top-roped an F6b on the buttress to the left so I'd better get that done. I made a complete mess of the bottom section by using a weird sequence rather than the obvious holds. Simon also did it as well as the F6b next to it that I'd already done.

Next up I thought I'd try something harder - there were a couple of F6cs to the right of this buttress so I set off up the right-hand one. After making a mess of the first hard move I managed to get to the bolt before the last of the difficult moves but didn't have the oomph to do it. Simon managed it as a red-point having taken rests on his previous attempt when we were last here. A couple of cool-down routes back on the main right-hand section and we were done.

My knees were still sore from the running on Saturday, definitely some instability there. Come Tuesday and I thought I'd try another run however lethargy meant that I just went on the roads (for the first time in many months) for a 3 miler. It was definitely hard work and I don't think I broke any records!

On the water front it seems as if the fixing of the leak has worked as we still have water filling our header tank.

Saturday, 7 August 2010

Wait and See

You'd think they'd make them a bit quieter wouldn't you? MRI machines that is. They are like a cross between a washing machine on spin cycle and a pneumatic drill! The other thing is that unlike x-rays which take about a second to grab the shot, you need to stay still for twenty minutes or so. The trick I found was to think about an itch somewhere other than my leg even if I didn't have an itchy nose to begin with then it certainly was by the end of the scan! Now it's a case of waiting around three weeks for the specialist to review it.

Our water (lack of) saga would finally appear to be over! Our neighbour had noticed a damp patch on his living room wall around 18 months ago. It had slowly got worse and on Thursday the plumber finally turned up and they discovered that there was rather a big leak right next to the wall just at the T-joint in the pipe where our supply spurs off. The flow from the leak was rather bigger than that flowing in to the field tank. While things were wet it probably didn't make much difference but once things began to dry out then it was going to drain the tank rather quickly. With one night's light usage it seems to have filled our header tank. Fingers crossed!

A bit frustrating on the climbing front this week. It has all been very showery so Simon and I ended up at Robin Proctor's Scar on the assumption that since it was exposed it would be quick drying. Unfortunately just as we got to the crag it began to rain! The two teams already there decided to pack in and headed off but after twenty minutes of hiding behind a drystone wall from the light rain we had a look at what might be in nick. The crag was a mixture of dry and wet - all leftward facing rock was wet but that rock facing right or forward was mostly dry. Within ten minutes things were dry enough to give it a go.

Two warm-up routes later and things were looking good :-) I decided to have a go at The Shield, F6c, as it had been on my to-do list for a while. I got the third bolt clipped easily enough then launched out on to the shield itself - a lurch to the big jug then a distinct lack of holds to get stood up. I had a couple of goes but I don't have enough oomph in my shoulders at the moment so reversed back to the deck. Loads of blood! In slipping around on the crux I'd taken a couple of flaps off my fingers with red consequences. Also when down climbing I'd pulled a side hold off and cut my thumb. As it happened another big shower was bearing down on us so we called it a day and headed back to the car.

Since it was still early we went for a look at Low Stoney Bank since we'd been recommended it. Looked a bit poor to be honest so we wandered further upstream to check out the High crag. Simon fancied a route but since we didn't have the update with the sports routes in it was just a guess as to the grade. As it turned out it was a F6b and fairly good, even if some of the bolts were clippable from existing trad routes. All in all not a bad day given the weather.

Actually went for a run today, about an hour or so. Nothing too strenuous with not too much up and down. I was pretty slow though, but then I've hardly done any running, just a couple of 3 mile runs, in the last month. Will have to see how my knee copes.