Tuesday, 26 December 2017

My trip to Nepal

About 2 years ago, we got an 'invite' to join a trip to Nepal to climb Baden Powell Scout Peak in the Ganesh Himal (Langtang) region. I was assured it would be a 'strenuous hike' and not at all technical... Hmm.
I was excited but terribly nervous at the same time and spent a lot of time in denial that it was even happening.

My life became immensely busy before the trip and I just ran out of time for training as I needed to pack and sort out things like the Club AGM. We managed one or two trips to the bouldering wall at Middlesborough, but not enough.

It was however, time to drop the dog at my father-in-law's at catch our plane from Manchester Airport. We were on a huge Airbus A380, never been on such a big, luxurious plane, and that was in 'cattle class'. The trip was uneventful and fairly boring (which is never a bad thing when at 30,000ft!) we flew via Dubai and Delhi. Each time we changed planes, they got smaller and more dicey. When we landed at Kathmandu airport, we hit the ground so hard part of the ceiling fell down...

It was hot. It took a good 45 mins to get through the confusion that is immigration and found our baggage already on the floor next to the single carousel... As we left the building, we spotted a little Nepalese guy in a blue shirt holding the Venture Medical sign we were looking for. This turned out to be Prakash, our rep for the trip. It was a bit weird trusting our luggage to guys we'd never met and getting into a car in a foreign country with strange men...

Prakash took us to our hotel, where we were met by guards on the front gates. Again, our bags were entrusted to strangers. The hotel was rather nice, an oasis of calm in the middle of the madness that is Kathmandu.

We relaxed for the afternoon and met the rest of the team that evening for a meal in town.
The next day we met our mountain guides, Ambrit and Kishan who checked our gear, all good to go! We headed into town for a couple of bits we hadn't got, like rope and an extra sleeping mat. The afternoon was ours and we had a beer in a bar in Thamel.

The next day, the adventure began nice and early with our porters loading our stuff on the roof of the bus... It was a long hot drive, it took a couple of hours just to get out of the city!! We stopped for lunch at Jimbu it was so hot it was unreal, I almost burnt my arm on the metal railings. Back on the bus. About 10 hours later, just as it was getting dark, we reached Syabru Bessi and our accommodation for the night. We were already at a reasonable altitude and I felt dizzy as hell, although in hindsight, I think it was a borderline hypo from lack of food. I was surprised to find we had our own rooms, which were en-suite. There was a lizard in ours...

Up and on early the next morning for the first day of actual trekking. It was hot, again.
We trekked for about 8 hours in total, stopping for lunch at the Bamboo. We climbed the height of Ben Nevis that first day! The sweat was running off the brim of my hat, we all drank loads. We followed the Langtang River through forest, almost jungle, on good paths. Some of the climbs were steep and often we returned to river level. At last, around the corner through the vegetation we caught our first glimpse of the Lama Hotel our destination for the night, I was very excited to climb up the stone steps as the place looked exactly like it does on the internet, a collection of hostels and tea-houses lining the path above the river. We stayed in one of the first ones we came to. Again, we had our own room, the shower and toilet was across the yard this time though!

On the road again, more hot, uphill hiking. We gradually left the forest and the chirruping of bush crickets behind. Another 8 hours on the trail took us to Langtang village. We crossed the vast landslip that in 2015 wiped out the village and surrounding area. It was a little spooky crossing it, as it was clearly still very unstable. We wondered how many bodies were still underneath, unaccounted for.
The mist closed in a little as we reached the (new) village. We had time to have a wander round the village, there was lots of building going on, new tea houses going up. I was offered some drugs by a little wizened old man!! Our tea house was small but cosy and we enjoyed pasta for tea and a comfy bed. Inside toilets here, but I don't think there was a shower?

Eggs for breakfast, the hens looked healthy and the eggs were good!
Todays trek was shorter and much less strenuous, after an initial stiff climb out of the village. The environment was more like prairie now and we could see into the high mountains beyond, including our objective, Baden Powell Scout Peak.
We reached the final village, Kyanjin Gompa after just 4 hours so we had time for a nice hot shower and a walk around. The village was relatively large, again with lots of new buildings going up. The altitude now was considerable, about 3800m, and was having an effect.

The next day, we set off before dawn to tackle Kyanjin Ri at 4400m. It was relentless uphill for a couple of hours, we got to the summit without mishap and celebrated with coffee and snack bars! My OH was struggling, the other chap B wasn't much better. Me and the other two girls G and R were busy planning how to turn the walk into a ridge route! Turns out, that's what we were doing... The guys faces were a picture. Thankfully, it wasn't too much descent and ascent to the next summit point. Soon, we were on the path heading steeply downhill back to the village. To say it was frosty when we'd set out, we were now in just our T-shirts! The path was made of a silky fine dust, rich in mica and I fell over several times!!
We were back in time for lunch, egg and chips. Yum. We had the afternoon to ourselves to assist with acclimatisation. It was tough though and I said to my OH it would be a miracle if either of us made it to the top of the main mountain...

Another fairly early start for the push to high camp, it was very slow, my OH was really struggling and needed to rest every few minutes. The guides were very good and we took it slow. It took 9 hours to get there, but another 1000m climbed. The porters came down to meet us part way with hot mango tea to boost our spirits. Crossing the ridge into High Camp was like walking into paradise, we were exhausted. Asinja the chef had a 3 course dinner waiting for us, but nobody had any appetite. We spent the night in bright yellow expedition tents.

Another acclimatisation day. Before the trip, I'd wondered what on earth I was going to do at High Camp all day, now I was here, sitting in a heap seemed like hard work! My OH had been slurring his speech then later in the morning was sick. We had to face reality that he had mountain sickness and was going to have to go back to the village. I managed to hold it together and not cry, felt a bit wobbly though. He disappeared off with two of the porters and we had lunch.
After lunch, we went for a walk and practiced using the abseil devices and jumars etc. It was a welcome distraction. Dhal Bhat and cake for supper, before a very early night. I was surprisingly comfortable in my now huge tent, but I had three sleeping mats now. I could hear avalanches rumbling down across the valley. I got a message on the satellite com to say HQ hadn't heard from OH yet... Panic. After a few stressful messages backwards and forwards, it turns out he had arrived safely a couple of hours earlier, the message had just been delayed. I settled down to sleep at last.

We were up at about 1am, forced down some porridge and set off by 2. It took a long time to reach the snow line, the climb up the snout of the glacier and rocks was hard and scary. I was crapping myself from the start and the sounds of the glacier popping under our feet didn't help. B had also pulled out at breakfast, he'd twisted his knee so now it was just the two guides, Prakash, me and the two girls G and R. G has previous climbing experience, R was a novice like me. The guides looked after me as I quaked in fear on the ice. The sun was coming up when we reached the snow line and the first of the fixed ropes. The physical effort of climbing up the fixed ropes using the jumars took my mind off being scared and I was making good progress until I got stuck in a snow hole! The quality of the snow was awful and as we went over a convex portion of the snow it all just disappeared out from under me until I was stuck on my crampon tips in fluff. Kishan came back and with a lot of hauling from him and flailing from me, I got out of the hole and we powered up the rest of the slope. We roped together to cross a crevasse field, that wasn't too bad, until I got stuck in another bloody hole would you believe?! Got out of that one with G's help. Next was a fixed rope up to a snow bridge over a crevasse, I think I crossed the ridged bit on my hands and knees, I feared it was a cornice (I was later proved correct). Another steep climb, another fixed rope and suddenly we were on the summit!! 5860m high in the Himalayas. It was approx 11:40am we'd been on the go for 9 hours. And I was still shitting myself! The summit ridge was so steep and narrow we clipped onto a safety line just to take photo's. We were the first UK team to summit Baden Powell Peak and the first females EVER to summit this mountain*.
Now, once we'd taken the required summit photos, we turned around to begin the long abseil down. Oh, my poor calves were in bits from my earlier snow hole episodes. The abseiling wasn't quite as bad as I'd feared. To start with, looking down triggered my fear of heights, but in time I could manage it without my head spinning! Which was a good thing as we had to go around obstacles rather than just zip down in a straight line. About 3pm we stopped for food. First time we'd eaten since breakfast. The abseiling continued until we reached the rocks we'd climbed up earlier that day. Now though, the heat of the sun had destabilised the glacier so we had to descent the snow face instead. My legs would no longer hold me up and after about 10 falls, I slid the rest of the way on my bottom. Crampons went back on and we scittered across the rotten ice on top of the glacier and I was relieved to see Kishan setting up a belay anchor point. R went first as she was slowest, I went next leaving the more experienced R to descend by headtorch. I needed mine before I reached the bottom. Not technical, huh? It took ages to cross the boulder field at the bottom of the glacier back to camp, we were guided in by a couple of young porters. We collapsed into the mess tent to find B and Asinja had made us chips for dinner!! 17 hours. I was exhausted. It had been the scariest, hardest day of my life. I had been scared I wouldn't manage it without my OH but the guides looked after me well.

I slept well that night, but refused to get up in the middle of the night for a wee, partly as it was about -10 out there but mostly because I knew my legs wouldn't work to cross the rocks to the toilet tent...
We got our appetites back that day, breakfast was scoffed with glee! We packed up our stuff, the porters broke camp and we began the long descent back to Kyanjin Gompa. We took it steady, my legs were not happy, my calves were so sore. Actually hungry, I wondered when lunch would be, but we kept going through the scrub, then the forest and down onto the river meadow where we found Asinja and the porters waiting for us with plates full of pasta, cheese, spam, toast, veggies and tea!! We all had seconds. It still seemed to take a long time to cross the meadow but at last we were back at the village and found my OH waiting for us. He had been looked after by the Chairman of the village and was looking and feeling much better. It hasn't really sunk in what we had achieved.

The next day was OH's birthday! So we had cake for breakfast! Asinja had somehow baked and decorated a cake for the occasion and we all shared it. We set off on wobbly legs and hiked all the way back to the Lama Hotel, missing out Langtang village, although we did stop there for a cuppa.
We all had pizza for tea and shared a bottle of beer to help celebrate OH's birthday.

Final day of the trek, didn't seem as hot now but I think we'd just acclimatised to it. We had lunch overlooking the Langtang River at the Landslip tea house, Tibetan bread. We saw Syabru Bessi a long time before we reached it's dusty streets!! We had more beers that night and enjoyed a long hot shower at our guest house before sharing dhal bhat with the guides and porters.

We spent the next day doing the return trip to Kathmandu on the bus. When we were met in town by our English leaders (who never made it on the the trek...) it finally hit us and I think we got a little emotional. The next day, we got a guided tour of The Monkey Temple, Patan and got to meet the Kumari and we received a blessing from her! It was sad to be leaving the next day, didn't want the trip to end.

Nepal has left a mark on my soul, I feel different since I came back and I wouldn't hesitate to go again.

* The mountain was originally called Urkema Peak but was re-named as part of the celebrations for 100 years of Scouting. No females have climbed Urkema or Baden Powell Peak until us. Nice one.

Monday, 10 July 2017

Blackfell Race

I was going to write a blog about the Whorlton Run fell race that I did about a week and a half ago, but I realised it was going to be an over-analysis, 'woe is me', beat myself up kind of blog, when in reality I struggled because it was simply too bloody hot (about 26 C) 
So I shalln't.

Instead, I will write about the Blackfell Race we did yesterday!
Oh my.
It all came about as Gavin's brother-in-law, Dean, has entered Ben Nevis race and needs some 'A-grade' fell runs to satisfy the entry requirements. Plus a bit of hill practice.
So he'd talked Gavin into doing it, who subsequently talked me into doing it and when Hilary and Helen found out about it, they decided to come along too!
This is a proper fell race, no markers, navigation across open fell required, 'local knowledge an advantage' it says on the Bingley Harriers website. Our local fell races are more like tough trail races if I am completely honest, so we felt a little out of our depth.

Here we all are, smiling before the start...

None the less, here we were on the start line. It was sunny and blustery in the registration field just outside the village of Kettlewell in the Yorkshire Dales.
Our mission was to get round in one piece, without getting lost. If we weren't last, that would be a bonus! Well, that was for us three girls anyway, the boys were here to race.

The start was a 2 mile hill climb, steady away on a good, wide stone track. It narrowed near the top, but the field was already very spread out (and only 57 strong!) so that wasn't an issue. First checkpoint at the crossing of Cam Road and the climbing continues but of the more vertical variety now! Steep slog all the way up to the ridge running along to Great Whernside. 

Now came the first section of open fell. A moment of hesitation to check the map, before crossing the stile and heading into the tussocks. We'd picked up a local Bingley runner at this point, so we followed him down down down to the checkpoint, losing over 500ft of elevation. It was very awkward underfoot and our ankles took a battering. Checkpoint 2 checked and we turned around for the climb back up to the ridge! Competitors were free to chose what ever way they liked, we followed the Bingley man as he seemed to know where he was going, as did another lady in yellow. In hindsight, there were more direct routes, but they involved a hands and knees scramble as the valley sides were so steep!! As it was, we had to stop once or twice just to stop our calves from screaming but after what felt like eternity, we were back on the ridge and the marshal at CP3 came into view. Now although it was better underfoot, the head wind was enough to knock you off your feet!! We headed onto the main footpath along the ridge where the ground was easier and ran on, unable to speak over the wind, not far to CP4. They advised we followed the fence line, which we pretty much did. It was a gentle downhill here, but again awkward under foot so we couldn't go as fast as we would have liked.
The yellow lady was still with us and between us we navigated the route. 

The next bit of open ground between checkpoints 5 and 6 had caused us to scratch out heads, the best route was not obvious from the map and here the 'local knowledge' comes in handy. We had overheard other runners were planning to 'stay high' so we decided to do this too. Going lower looked like it would involve crossing some nasty looking bog.
So, we contoured along the hillside, yellow lady leading most of the way. Didn't run that much of it as it was so tussucky and there were lots of little holes you could easily turn an ankle in. We made slow progress but kept moving, glad to be out of the wind. The Scout Hut was visible across the valley and that was CP6. We had to negotiate a steep bank to get down the path but nothing too bad and soon we'd dropped our last token into the marshals bag and we were on the short cropped grass of the final descent.
This is where my so-called running buddies buggered off and left me! Now they didn't need a chief navigator they were off like the clappers. Monkeys.
The last descent is still very steep, but lovely underfoot and I could hear the crowd at the finish line!

Yay! We'd done it! I was so proud of us all, even though they left me with less than a mile to go.
Both Gavin and Dean had great runs and really enjoyed it.
We rounded the trip off with a quick visit to the Blue Bell for a spot of refreshment

Tuesday, 20 June 2017

More Cowbell, less stitch please.

All races should have cow bells, takes me back to watching Ski Sunday with my Dad as a child.

Anyhoo, the Wetherby fixture was a week ago now. It was a warm night, again. Another good turn out of Harriers among the runners, I'll have to check how many there were.

It's all on road this one, a very simple circular route. We were off quickly, too quick as when I glanced at my watch I was doing sub-7/min miles! That is not sustainable, not for me anyway! However, within a few strides of setting off, I started with stitch. Really bad stitch. We went into a downhill stretch and I had to slow right down, almost to a walk as the pain was so great. Right from side-to-side and up the middle of my sternum. Fellow Harriers were overtaking me as I struggled on.
At around 2 miles, we reached the turn around point, and the marshal with a cow bell!
I managed to get into a bit of a rhythm and the stitch eased a little. We started heading up hill and now I was able to run at last and powered my way past numerous runners, some of whom were walking up the really quite gentle slope! I can only think that as this is quite a short race (4.3 miles) that people try and sprint the whole thing then run out of steam on the hills. I have in previous years passed people who are on the grass verge heaving!
As comfortable as I was on the uphill, anything even slightly downhill caused the stabbing pain to come back. At last, with the second hill out of the way, I knew the finish was around the corner and I was able to stride out and finish well, despite being rather sore.

Not my best performance and way off a PB.

Monday, 12 June 2017

A tale of Dragons and Oiks.

Another two races have been and gone.

The first was the HDSRL fixture at Yeadon hosted by the Dragons running club.

Another warm evening, we drove over to Yeadon near Leeds and got there in plenty of time for the race. There was a massive turn out of Harriers as it was Championship race. I've only done this once before and I could remember most of it, I had forgotten how much of an out and back it was though.

A narrow start, over 300 runners heading for one cycle gate is quite a thing! I'd put myself too far back on the start line and had to work hard to claw my way up the field. The first mile or so is on paths and good cycle track, then we enter Guisely Woods. The lane here is always wet and muddy and tonight was no exception! I made use of this and over took many people by simply ploughing through the mud and water. There is a fun down hill now, twisting down through trees over rocks and roots. The path is narrow and it's difficult to overtake.
We spill out onto a concrete road and my legs are failing, I'd gone at full tilt to this point and was now slowing down on the flattest, smoothest bit!! Sums up my running entirely!
Next comes the return climb, after all, what comes down must go back up, right?! This is again through the trees, I ran and sweated and huffed and sweated and swore and grunted but I didn't stop. The sweat was dripping off the end of my nose and the vomit was rising in my throat through sheer effort but I over took a few more people. Thankfully, the hill wasn't as long as I remembered and I gasped for air as I topped out. The rest of the run through the woods was undulating, I enjoyed flying the downs and kicking away on the ups.
We rejoined the muddy track, not many others here so I didn't need to take the muddiest line. All the way back, I was having a to-and-fro with a lady in yellow, but again on the smooth, flat tarmac path back to the finish she pulled away to beat me convincingly. I was on the point of spewing as I crossed the line and had to have a little sit down!
I was rewarded for my efforts with a PB of just 4 seconds...

Back at the cricket club, the Dragons had put on a splendid spread of sandwiches, snacks and cakes.

Just a week later and I'm stood on the start line of local fell race, the Ossy Oiks. Our club have taken this one on since Dave Parry passed away. Again, we had a good turn out of Harriers including one first timer!
Straight in to the uphill, 2 miles of it. I didn't manage to run all of it though, this is 'proper' uphill. The conditions underfoot were good considering all the recent rain we've had and it was (thankfully) much cooler this evening. I'd been cold hanging around at the start, but ran in just a vest.
The first climb over and the lovely run across Scarth Nick Moor, I ran with one of our coaches Sonja who is training for this years Mountain Masters, she is doing so well with her hill work.
Short road section before the next climb, Sheepwash. There is no good line here and I took a little walk break, only to be overtaken by fellow Harrier and running buddy Helen! I tried to push past her, but she upped the pace, I got past with some hard effort and ran hard to stay in front! With both Sonja and Helen so close the race was on! I got the advantage when it came to the beck crossing, the other two dithered, I just jumped in and was across! My lead was soon lost on the third and final hill, I was already maxing out to keep ahead of Helen and lost control of my breathing and could feel a bonk creeping up on me. I had to walk now and both Helen and Sonja came past me again. I felt too sick to challenge them and had to let them go. So frustrating!
The final stretch is downhill, the nausea subsided enough for me run on and I took the dreaded vertical descent. I quickly caught Sonja, technical downhill is not her forte, another guy behind me fell, but used it to his advantage and slid past us on his bum!! I thought that was a good idea so threw myself past Sonja on my backside and carried on. Another guy stood aside to let me by, this NEVER happens to me! A little further down I caught Carol who is very good at descending, but she was trapped behind a Stockon runner who wouldn't let us past. We moved quickly, but could have been quicker down the bank/cliff and when we got to the ditch at the bottom, Carol all but pushed him across. We hit the last little bit at speed, 4 of us now racing for the finish. I made sure not to start sprinting too soon, it's always further to the line than you think, the others kept pace on my shoulder. At last, it was time for the final push and my legs felt like they didn't belong to me, annoyingly as we round the corner the Stockton chap pulled past just feet from the finish and I think I may have yelled in anger, although I did pat him on the shoulder after. I'd held the other two off though.

My rubbish hill work potentially cost me a PB but I am really pleased with how I handled the descent. It's only taken about 5 years to be able to move down it without crying!!

Unfortunately, the lady who's first fell race this was got lost at the beck crossing, not realising she had to get wet. She did find her way back and we met her up the track to run her in to the finish. The organiser had saved her a bottle of wine...

Tune in next week for the next race installment!

Summer racing starts here!

I have missed the majority of the various summer races over the last couple of years, due to a combination of ultra training and work induced knackeredness.

This year though, I have no such excuses!
The club takes part in 2 leagues, the Harrogate District Summer Race League (here after known as the HDSRL) and the Dave Parry Summer Fell League.
Tonight, the two leagues clashed (of course) but I chose the road race 'cos it have a free supper.

I haven't done a 'proper' race like this for a while, 6 miles, road, almost 500 competitors. I felt a little out of place in a starting crowd. It was warm tonight so I was wearing just my vest and new shorts, also out of character as I am used to layers and a rucksack full of 'stuff'.

We were off, very gentle uphill. I feared I may have started too near the front as an awful lot of people were over taking me! I plugged away and my legs hurt from the start. I passed a club mate Phillip, he is doing really well at the moment, but I would never hear the last of it if he ever beat me. Over the course of the run, I ummed and erred about whether to race him if he tried to pass me or just let him go and reel him in at the end..?

First of the two hills was soon upon us. Although the pace slowed, I didn't drop in effort and over took several people along the way. It didn't go on for anywhere near as long as I remembered and I was soon at the top and feeling pretty good now. It's only taken three miles to get into a rhythym...

Some of the people I'd overtaken on the hill came back past me on the flat section. I wondered if I could hear Phillip behind me, but each time it was someone else.

The next hill starts with a sharp turn onto a footpath and a very short muddy section, down a bank over a bridge then a long climb that starts out on a rough lane before continuing on tarmac. I overtook one girl on the downhill and several more on the rough section, my fell running feet taking me through the mud and wet while others minced around it. I think I hit the hill a little too hard as I felt a touch sick for the rest of the climb!! Still, it was over soon enough and several more competitors were behind me.

I continued to mostly over take other people as we headed for the finish now. I knew it wasn't far but resisted looking at my watch, I felt like I was running well and that would do. As I approached the last corner, I caught up with another fellow Harrier, Dave B. We matched pace for a while, but I kept directly behind him hoping he wouldn't see me and I could beat him to the line, that worked until I saw him do the double take of recognition, I upped the pace but he was faster and beat me to the finish! Little monkey.

Done in 48:30. I will have to check my previous times, although the course has been altered very slightly to allow for chip timing so it is a tiny bit shorter, also removed a horrible tight corner on the sprint finish. Pleased with that though, and overall I didn't hate it.

After cooling down and getting changed, we all piled into the pub for cake, chilli and chips. In that order.

Oh, and I beat Phillip by a good 3 minutes, so that's ok ;-) 

Edit: Yep, a new PB even taking the slightly shortened course into account. Nice one

Saturday, 6 May 2017

Rest is bad for you!

Due to my cold (pretty much gone now) and the pre-planned post fellsman easy week (which I suppose I didn't really need) I have had the best part of 2 weeks off. 

Now, my knee and my hip are both niggling. They haven't niggled for months.

Only one thing for it...

Starting to feel a little better?

Since only getting half way round the Fellsman, I have been mostly resting up.
Sunday I slept til lunchtime, dragged myself round an hours dog walk, and power walked just enough to call it a streak saver.

Monday, once OH had slept off his night shift, we went to the seaside. Had a walk along the beach looking for fossils then had tea at the pub.
A late night power walk continued the streak, I also walked the dog to squish a few FetchPoint bugs.

Tuesday I coughed myself stupid on my mile, but I managed to go a bit quicker, a bit more convincingly like an actual run.

Wednesday, apart from coughing so much at one point I was sick (nice, ladylike) I felt quite good on my little jog and even did a tiny bit extra!! My legs have certainly appreciated the rest, despite 30+ miles of fells in the middle of it.

Thursday, tonight, saw my first proper run since Saturday. Thursday night Harriers On Tour were in Boltby for a (not that hilly) little route. Well, I didn't think it was hilly, some of the others would disagree! I stayed nice and relaxed, but still kept up with Gav who is running so strong despite completing the Fellsman less than a week ago. My breathing was fine, although I still had a coughing fit each time we stopped.
Felt like I could go round again when we got back to the car.

So that's a good feeling. My throat still feels funny though, not sore as such, but 'hollow' is the only way I can describe it, like the infection is still active. Taking a deliberate deep breath makes me want to cough, but it's in my throat, not my chest. It needs to bugger off as I have a busy 10 days or so coming up, friends party, 10 mile recce on Sunday and a trip down to Devon for work then finish off with step-daughter coming the following weekend.