Sue and Martin above Zermatt - 2018

Sue and Martin above Zermatt - 2018
Showing posts with label Highlights. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Highlights. Show all posts

Wednesday, 19 December 2007

Tuesday 18 December 2007 - Highlights of the Year – Part 4 – New Year’s Day 2007

We try to start with a good walk. It sets the year off with a good feeling.
After a lovely meal at home with Mike (why should my 22 year old rock guitarist son want to spend NYE with his dad and stepmother?) involving scallops, a few courses in between, and finishing with toblerone mousse (maybe that’s why he came!), we managed to get a good night’s sleep before leaving at 8 am and enjoying the quiet run up to the Old Dungeon Ghyll Hotel. It was a dull day but the tops were clear. We were pleased to find the extortionate NT cark park ticket machine out of action (£5 a day hereabouts) and whilst there were lots of tents ‘hung over’ the campsite, there was just one other couple in the car park. They ran off, and by the time we strolled up the path to Stool End at 10.10 we were totally alone.
We headed up Oxendale to reach the ridge at Red Tarn, shortly before which fleeces had been donned to counter the cool breeze.
A right turn took us past Great Knott and on to Crinkle Crags, the top hidden by outcrops and a spot of mist. We saw just one person before reaching the Bad Step, which proved an ideal, sheltered lunch spot. Lunch, however, was rudely interrupted when a chap launched himself down the greasy slab and surprised us by landing head first at our feet. Luckily he was shaken, not broken, but his mate, standing above, had turned white. We showed him the way down. It’s not so easily spotted from above, where the greasy slab looks like the easiest route as it’s a shorter drop. It’s best, for non-climbers, to reverse down the longer, less steep, route indicated in the photo above. It’s really very simple, even Wainwright had no problems here. But for the nervous it’s easy enough to avoid the whole thing by taking an alternative path to the west. It’s (sorry about all these 'it's's!) easy to go astray in the mist, so get your compass out!
The two chaps had not been here before. I think they were quite impressed (Cringle Crags is an Excellent Hill). We gave them some caramel shortbread (the only medicine we had) and they went happily on their way.
We continued over the Crinkles to Three Tarns, then over the deserted summit of Bowfell to Ore Gap, where we succumbed to donning overtrousers to combat the squally rain that had finally reached us - initially in the form of stinging hail that made our faces feel as if they were pin cushions.
Below Ore Gap we were in the lee of the wind, and the path down to Angle Tarn was free of ice for a change. Above the tarn our ‘people sightings’ doubled to its final tally of six for the day. There were three young people with fairly small packs but with sleeping mats and maybe bivvi gear, as well as completely unnecessary axes and crampons. Whilst we enjoyed the final instalment from our large flask, they faffed, clearly undecided (or divided) on what to do next. I had them down as being on a ‘Mission’ for Trail Magazine, possibly involving a winter camp with foolishly lightweight equipment, as part of that magazine’s continuing efforts (accidental or deliberate – I don’t know) to discredit the use of lightweight gear by sending inexperienced people into the hills with inadequate kit for the conditions.
We were soon speeding down Rossett Gill under a blue sky, to reach the valley in the gathering gloom of the short day, reaching the car at 4.10 (6 hours for the 15 km walk with 1150 metres ascent).
By now there was a nearly full moon to accompany us; a lovely evening.
We eschewed tradition by changing clothes, as we had a rendezvous with the ever hospitable Andrew and Rosemary at the rather upmarket Town House Hotel in Ambleside, where we pretended to be residents and enjoyed excellent helpings of afternoon tea and cakes before returning home in light traffic.

It’s Snowdonia’s turn this coming New Year’s Day, when the Dishy Pharmacist and I will be starting from Llyn Ogwen at 10 am for a walk over Y Garn and the Glyders, returning by the gentle route to Tryfan col and down past Llyn Bochlwyd. It’s about 11 km and just over 1000 metres ascent – 4 hours on Naismith’s formula, so we should easily be back by dark. If the weather’s foul, we’ll do something from Betws-Y-Coed.
All welcome.

Saturday, 15 December 2007

Wednesday 12 December 2007 - Highlights of the Year – Part 3 – Berliner Hohenweg - 27 July 2007

The Berliner Hohenweg, or the ‘Zillertal Rucksack Route’ as Allan Hartley describes it in his Cicerone guide published in 2003, was my choice for a hutting route with just The Dishy Pharmacist, to follow our week with other friends in the Dolomites in July.
I still plan to do a report on this trip as the guide book appears to have been completed in a hurry and contains numerous minor ‘debatable’ issues. In fact the route is simple enough to do without a guidebook, though I hope to produce an A3 pamphlet (or equivalent, ie 4 pages of A4) that people could print off. For us, the guide book provided evening entertainment with a red pen, but it also contains a lot of information about excursions from the basic route. Allan Hartley is a mountaineer of the climber genus and clearly enjoyed the diversions more than the basic route that we undertook, so people like Ali and Lay would probably benefit from the book, and reach a number of Alpine summits. For the more pedestrian amongst us, the route is clear, well marked and well used, and Kompass 1:50000 map No 37 – ‘Zillertaler Alpen Tuxer Voralpen’ is all you really need.
The whole trip was a ‘Highlight of the Year’ but I’ll focus on just one day, the last day’s walk from Friesenberg Haus to Gams Hut:
We rose at 6.45, as usual, in our small dormitory where the other beds remained unoccupied. But the dining room was full of breakfasting Alpinistes from 7 o clock. It was hazy, with cloud already obscuring the peaks, but warm enough for shorts as we left on the 14 km trek to Gams Huts before 8 am. The first section was bouldery and passed a small lake, Wesendkarsee, at 2375 metres, where last year I camped in beautiful weather with Mark and Juliana, and I also camped there back in 1993. It’s a great spot facing south east with fabulous views.
The cloud engulfed us here, but it was still bright and it soon cleared again, but felt very humid. We passed Kevin and Alison, the only other Brits seen all week. They planned to descend from Kesselalm as Kevin has a cold. Soon afterwards we passed Manfred, a 67 year old from Cologne who is the only person to have been on the trail with us all week. They all started early as the guidebook suggests 10 to 12 hours will be needed, though the signs say it is a 9 hour day. Manfred has seen gamsbok (antelope) but so far we have only seen a large cobweb and have heard marmots whistling. There’s a sharp descent to Kesselalm (no axes needed this year – we had used one to negotiate a frozen gully last year) where two curious grey calves were frolicking in the meadow. An attractive waterfall oversaw an excellent half hour brew stop. Sue ate several handfuls of bilberries – ripe and warm from the sun.
A hot climb followed, through green meadows with loads of flowers. There were fine views from here, and throughout the day, across the main valley to the route we had enjoyed during the first three days from Edel Hutte.
Pitzen-Alm provided a welcome stop, with a small café perched on the edge of the slope dispensing welcome Schiewasser and Apfelsaft on its balcony. They were surprised we had arrived so early; we must have been going well! We were now well ahead of the others on today’s route. We met Alphonse coming the other way, and he promised to say ‘Hello Manfred’ when passing the gentleman from Cologne. We had done this earlier in the week, and Manfred, walking alone, was always chuffed to be greeted like a long lost friend by complete strangers!
Next, we climbed from the Alm, passing through areas of pasture and boulders, not far above the firs. The gradually increasing cloud at least provided shelter from the burning sunshine, and a few drops of rain were felt as we crossed another boulder field.
The final couple of miles were on a precipitous narrow path, high above the valley, with stream crossings requiring care. Here, at last, we spotted a gamsbok browsing in the steep grass just below us. There were masses of colourful wild flowers, from Houseleeks to Harebells, around here.
Only when we rounded the easternmost point of the main ridge below which we had been walking, did we get a view of our destination, the well appointed Gams Hut, at 1916 metres the lowest we had stayed in all week. The path weaved down through more bilberry bushes, with fine views down the ever widening Ziller valley. We arrived at the Hut at 2 pm, after a 6 hour walk including an hour of stops. Interesting in the context of the 9 to 12 hour timings suggested by guide book and signs, especially as we were not rushing.
We enjoyed a cooked lunch in the Hut, as always, and basked in the satisfaction of successfully completing this high level traverse, before providing a welcoming party for Manfred, who arrived tired but happy and much in need of the beer we had set up for him.
This was the only hut we had felt a need to book in advance (Friday night, close to a holiday town) but only a handful of others arrived. It seems that many folk are put off by the prospect of a long day with steep slopes and boulder fields, and they descend to Ginzling from Kesselalm or Pitzen-Alm. The hut log reveals just 5 visiting Brits in the 8 weeks since the hut opened for the summer. The cloud sat at about 400 metres above us but the expected storm didn’t materialise and the three of us enjoyed our final meal together – schnitzel and salad, with Manfred providing Schnapps, which appeared to be the hut warden’s ‘home brew’. We couldn’t resist topping the meal off with apfelkuchen, which left the two of us with just 6 euros to buy coffees on the way into Mayrhofen the following morning.
There is a slide show of this trip (100 images) - please let me know if you wish to view it.

Saturday, 8 December 2007

Monday 3 December 2007 - Highlights of the Year – Part 2 – The Canadian Ski Marathon (CSM) – Saturday 10 February 2007

This, my fourth CSM, was a great day.
We were up at 6 am in our hotel in Montebello. After breakfast in the room shared by 5 of us we got the bus to the start and the four of us in the ‘Scrabbled Skiers’ team set off at around 8 am together with 100's of others in good weather with occasional snow flurries. The skiing was fairly easy. Michael shot off ahead, Helen dropped back, and Sue crashed. Ken, as a ‘Coureur des Bois’ had an earlier start.
Due to poor snow conditions in the east, this year’s route had been changed. It now comprised 4 sections each day, Sunday’s route being a straightforward reversal of Saturday’s. It was just 70 km each day instead of the usual 80 km.
I had never even dreamt of completing all the sections in a day, due to early cut off times and my inability to ski at any speed. But Sue and I stayed together and whilst she had quite a few falls over the two days, including one incident with a bush from which it took ages to untangle her, I discreetly removed my skies to deal with the trickier icy sections. (This is Not Cheating!) Towards the end of the third section I was baulked by a number of folk spreadeagled down a steep hill. Sue had dodged them but I’d stopped to allow them to tidy themselves away before flying down this exciting hill in what I thought would be my last action of the day.
But at the checkpoint Sue was shouting ‘they haven’t closed it’, so without a second thought I went straight through, being the last person before the 2.30 ‘cut-off’. Whilst Sue ended her day with refreshments at the checkpoint, I was now ‘last man’ having missed the refreshments, at the start of the 17 km section.
Time for some adrenaline to kick in!
I soon started to pass groups who had started between one and two hours earlier than us and had clearly rushed through the checkpoint before taking a break, so I was encouraged by all the overtaking. And then I spotted Linda, usually one of our team but this year attempting the whole course as a ‘Coureur des Bois’. I knew that she was taking the event very seriously and that her training had been completed before ours had even started. She wasn’t at all impressed to hear my cheery ‘hello’ – I was not someone she had expected to see at this point! Anyway, with the aid of a couple of drinks stations and a few chocolate covered raisins, I managed to maintain a good speed to the finish, in the tracks of Ken and Michael, who had been much quicker over the 70 km course that had taken me about 8½ hours.
The hot bath followed by a delicious a la carte meal at La Lanterne Restaurant concluded a brilliant day.
The following day Sue and I enjoyed a leisurely 56 km, knowing that we couldn’t possibly ski fast enough to manage the 2.30 pm cut off due to the configuration of the course and today’s short final section.
Even speedy Michael failed to make the cut today, but Ken, with his early C de B start, did succeed in completing the whole course and got the medal he’s been trying for over the past few years. His moment of fame came later at The Banquet, when he went ‘on stage’ together with all the others who had succeeded in this not inconsiderable Challenge.
[For those who do the TGOC, the CSM Banquet is a Canadian version of the Thursday night dinner, buffet style, but otherwise the same trusty format, with a French Canadian clone of Uncle Roger.]
Later we discovered that Linda was sufficiently traumatised to have stayed in bed on Sunday, having retired from this event ‘for ever’.

But Sue and I had got Silver and Gold individual awards, and our Scrabbled Skiers team actually received the Bronze Medal in the mixed touring team category. Wow!

Sue and I are sorry not to be able to take part in 2008; this event has produced some memorable days, not least my first attempt in 2004, recorded in all its gory detail here.

Thursday, 6 December 2007

Wednesday 28 November 2007 - Highlights of the Year – Part 1 – The Rum Cuillin Ridge

As today is a bit grey, and my bowels are still recovering from Jordan, it’s a day indoors, and I’m short of inspiration.
But Jon Metcalf has emailed me with a request for photos for this weekend’s XXL Club Annual Dinner at the Fife Arms in Braemar. Sadly I can’t make the dinner, but I can recall with clarity a highlight of the year, on 5 May – Jon’s 1000th Marilyn – Ainshval on the Isle of Rum. This was a baggerfest. Even Alan Dawson, author of The Relative Hills of Britain – a book you will pick up again and again - was there. Jon took a low level route whilst 6 of us fumbled our way along the misty ridge and steep ground of the Rum Cuillin. This was not ‘a walk in the park’, but between us we had enough experience of Scottish weather and navigation to see us through to our rendezvous with Jon at 2.45. He was a bit cool, as we were 45 minutes late due to the necessary care that the conditions had required. Here he is, enjoying the moment with a couple of mates (he’s holding them) - and very relieved to see us too. The summit is just up to the right.

Our haste to descend from the final summit left some of the party floundering in the mist, so it was by three different routes that we converged on Dibidil Bothy, where several young ladies were relieved to learn that we weren’t planning to stay. Most of us got back to Kinloch Castle at 7.45, after an 11 hour day. Jon walks more slowly, so we had to delay dinner until his arrival, at 9.15, after an adventure with a river (it was raining hard). A very long day for him, but I think he did get one of the better rooms in the ‘bunkhouse’, like this one I shared with the Dishy Pharmacist for just £14 pppn!

Thursday, 15 November 2007

Thursday 15 November 2007 - Happy Days

Whilst it was as delightful as ever in Timperley today, I thought I would take a break from the local Autumn scenes (they will no doubt be kept in reserve for dull winter days to come) and recall one of many Happy Days from this summer.
The picture is one of my favourites, despite tonight being rejected from the shortlist for our 2008 calendar. If any of my readers doesn’t recognise the fabulous outline of the Tre Cime mountains a few miles north of Cortina d’Ampezzo in northern Italy…you have a treat in store. As they are iconic in stature these three peaks arguably provide better views for non-climbers like us than they do for the brave souls who actually try to get to their summits.
And so it was on 16 July 2007 that the five of us parked up at the end of the toll road by Rifugio Auronzo and headed off to Forcella Lavaredo for what has become a traditional self-timed snap. As usual, the sun beat down and we headed on for drinks and ‘apfelstrudel’ at Rif 3 Cime, with more fabulous views. After taking lunch at a small col just beyond the refuge, Julia left to walk around the neat little mountain named Torre Toblino whilst the rest of us donned our Via Ferrata kits for a more sporting traverse of the 2617 metre summit.
I recall, on my last ascent of the VF delle Scalette route, being hassled by aggressive Germans. But the etiquette this year has been impeccable as we have encountered mainly Brits (very courteous) and Italians (prone to coach parties but not deliberately rude or incompetent). And so it was that the Italian party ahead moved aside to let us pass, and it was a delightful, traffic free ascent to the compact summit. I had the place to myself for 30 minutes before the others (they have a more purist technique that if I employed would result in unnecessary injury) arrived, and then we regrouped to descend via the easier Sentiero del Curato Militare Hosp route, leaving the Italians to enjoy the lovely weather on the summit.
Soon we were reunited with Julia outside the chapel next to Rif 3 Cime. There was a sad note on a scrap of paper next to some dried flowers lamenting the death, yesterday, of Silvano, a young man in his 20s.
We continued our stroll around the iconic mountain that continues to exact its toll on human life, despite no longer being a war zone, following the Alta Via 4 route back to Rif Auronzo, past a herd of cows desperately sipping water from the only small stream to be seen.
Compared with the difficulties and the ecstasy and agony of success and failure on Tre Cime, our day had been easy and relaxing, the only stress arising when the car failed due to having had its lights left on all day. And with power needed to release the electric handbrake, it was fortunate that we quickly located a friendly local with jump leads who happily took a break from supping schnapps!
And so it was that we got back to Cortina before the shops shut, and enjoyed a fabulous al fresco meal back at camp, with the usual cold beers and lovely evening light.
A day to remember – and the photos could fill an album.
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