Well where have the last 4 months gone since I sat down for long enough to update you on my plans for 2013, time passing quickly is possibly more scary than some of the things I get up to these days! I won’t bore you with the various races again as I think I’ve covered those pretty well already & they have generally gone as well as I could had hoped. That said I did recently run the Dolgellau 5 Mile race in a pb despite still struggling with the Chest Infection I’d brought back from the Alps. The ‘highlight’ from the race was to see my beloved ex-wife handing out ‘water’ at a drinks station for the second time in a month! Seem to remember when I first took up running 3 years ago she thought I was mad, offered no encouragement & yet now seems duty bound to offer me ‘water’. Call me paranoid but I chose not to take the proffered cup.
Onto more serious matters, The Alps! & here I’m going to write about it a little back to front:-
As I sit here today I am still struggling to come to terms with a slight feeling of being underwhelmed by what I recently did out there. Quite why is hard to get my head around & I probably should spend a day chilling out & analysing why & what it should mean for future challenges I set myself. It was on the face of it a very successful trip & if anyone had suggested to me one year ago that by now I would have summited Mont Blanc I would surely have replied ‘pull the other one’. My hunch is a combination of three things have contributed to this deflativeness, these being: Nepal last year was simply a massive step up in so many ways that as I knew before I set off for the Alps they were never going to be such a leap forward. Secondly 2013 has seen significant strides forward in my physical abilities & achievements, especially with the success in the Welsh 1,000 metres & completing the Coed y Brenin Trail Marathon. The Alps by comparison were a ‘physical’ Walk in the Park not allowing me to feel that I’d really pushed my body as hard as I can. Thirdly & on a more one-off basis the Chest Infection & Fever that lingered for 2 weeks after my return was not the ideal way to celebrate such a trip. As time goes by I hope the sense of our achievement out there grows & allows me to set the right next goal, for me, in relation to the high mountains of the World.
Below is the meat of what we got up to, there will be a far fuller report on Fraser Mackay’s blog which Fraser drafted last week with minor input as a proof reader from me. Please refer to this if you are planning something similar because it offers far more detail on how we combined the Mountain Goals with a wider mini tour of European Culture.
Saturday 13th July – Said goodbye to Dorina at approx. 12:00, picked Fraser up from Chester & made our way to Ashford.
Sunday 14th July – Very early Eurotunnel Shuttle to allow us to drive into Chamonix by 14:30, settle in & allow us to meet up with our Team Leader Tim as well as James who would join us on our Italian Leg.
Gran Paradiso Leg
Monday 15th – Drove into Italy, parked up & walked up 916 metres to our first hut ‘Rifugio F. Chabod’ (great co-incidence with Siabod).
Tuesday 16th – Summited Gran Paradiso at 09:30 after a 1,310 metre climb over Glaciated Terrain & an airy scramble to it’s true summit. Descended 1,338 metres on increasingly wet & slippery snow to the ‘Rifugio Vittorio Emanuelle’.
Wednesday 17th – Collectively deciding that Fraser should have a well earned rest day, Tim, James & I slotted in an extra acclimatisation day by climbing Becca di Monciair, a peak standing at 3,544 metres. This climb of 822 metres felt like full on Alpinism & had me near the absolute limits of my technical & physiological limits. It included a steep glacial traverse & a long & steep ridge climb to the summit on a mixture of rock & snow. After rejoining Fraser we descended a further 772 metres back to the car. Said goodbye to James once we were back through the Mont Blanc Tunnel before returning to Chamonix.
Thursday 18th – Short early morning run up to Cascade de Gard. After amending our plans with Tim the evening before based on a stormy weather forecast we set off late afternoon for the Gouter Route of Mont Blanc (Plan had been the Italian Pope Route). From Les Houches took the cable car & Tram to the ‘Nid d’Agile Refuge at 2372 metres.
Friday 19th – Ascended 1,445 metres to the Gouter Hut including an excellent Grade 1/2 scramble (of my life) of 750 metres after crossing the Grand Couloir.
Saturday 20th – Setting off at 02:35 we reached the summit of Mont Blanc in good time (although I’d wanted to go faster, N.B. Tim got the pace right for the group) at 06:00 to a glorious sunrise at 4,810 metres the roof of Western Europe. We then descended 2,438 metres (not to be sniffed at) back to the Tram station including passing the very real threat of numerous stones falling down the Grand Couloir & it’s supposedly less hazardous neighbouring Couloir. Tram & Cable car then returned us to Les Houches & Chamonix where a night of celebration would follow.
Sunday 21st – Left Chamonix with that dreaded Chest Infection at 11:00 & arrived at Strasbourg by Mid-afternoon, great city & whilst dining at the Maison Kammerzell we were treated to a fabulous Lighting display of the Cathedral to a Classical Soundtrack.
Monday 22nd – Early morning run (with Chest Infection, mad?) before driving to the Mosel Valley, purchase some of my favourite Riesling’s before finally finding accommodation at Trittenheim.
Tuesday 23rd – Early morning run (yes with the Chest Infection, no comments on madness required here either) then drove to Calais, mid-afternoon Eurotunnel Shuttle, dropped Fraser at Chester & reached home at 22:00. With temperatures reaching 35 degrees in Europe on the journey back & the infection getting steadily worse I was to say the least tired when I got home to a waiting & as ever smiling Dorina.
An 11 day trip that simply flew by, left both Fraser & I achieving our goals & included some excellent European Culture along the way.
Next, for me I am beginning to think about the second highest mountain in the Western Alps, Monte Rosa, on the border of Switzerland & Italy next Summer or alternatively a hard trek in the Karakoram or Cho Oyu itself in Autumn 2014. I have completed the reading of The White Spider since returning from the Alps & have Joe Simpsons ‘The Beckoning Silence’ as my next reading material, hopefully they will help me find the right challenge for me so Fraser watch this space. Of course money may be a contributing but hopefully not the ultimate deciding factor to these plans.
Well I hope that little overview helps to inspire you & if there is a hint of my being underwhelmed just remember I could have stayed at home & watched TV, gladly those days are well, well behind me.