Run-touring the Cleveland Way, in the rain.

[6 minutes read time] Teaching is a very rewarding profession. The main reward is August. In my five week break of 2016, I’d squeezed in a cycling tour of Holland, Germany, Denmark, Sweden and Norway, a climbing trip in North Wales, a week in the French and Italian Alps, and a week climbing and Munroe bagging in Scotland. I had just three days left before term recommenced and felt determined to squeeze something into the final weekend and it wasn’t going to be the ironing. It was decided that I’d embark on a new kind of tour. One that involved running.

I’d already done plenty of tours by either walking or cycling, but never running. The key was keeping the weight down, so we’d not be camping. I had already done a section of the Cleveland way from Helmsley to White Horse Bank so we agreed that car park atop Sutton Bank would be the meeting place. Friday night, from Nottingham, I was there in two hours, I ate a poor egg sandwich from the visitor’s centre and swallowed it just in time to

Continue reading “Run-touring the Cleveland Way, in the rain.”

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Part 5 – My first ultra marathon – the V3K – Welsh 3000s in one day.

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Preparation

I arrived embarrassingly under prepared. I was about to take part in my first ever ultra marathon (this is just a footrace that is longer than a marathon) and by the time I swung my sandaled feet out of my car, it was late enough for the near solstice sun to have dipped behind the dark green ridge of the mountains. There were excited and very fast looking runners everywhere, all of which were sorting through impossibly lightweight racing bags and flexing lean calf muscles.  As I jealously looked through the windows of the converted vans and estate cars, I could see tomorrow’s competitors had already pinned on race numbers to vests, shovelled pasta into their mouths and were starting to settle down to sleep.  I wasn’t sure if I was too late to sign on and collect my number (teachers cannot just ‘take the afternoon off’), didn’t have a fancy VW Transporter to sleep in and only had a solitary scabby apple to eat for dinner and nothing at all for the following morning. Worst of all was the fact that I bloody hate running. Continue reading “Part 5 – My first ultra marathon – the V3K – Welsh 3000s in one day.”

Part 4 – 15 Peaks – No Messing

If you go to the trouble to shave your legs and know your FTP power in watts then you are probably a pretty keen cyclist. Which means that by most peoples standards, you are pretty fit. Lots of people who go to the gym lots are also pretty fit, as are many footballers, 10k runners etc. When attempting to climb several high, rocky mountains in one trip, fitness alone just won’t do.

Cycling blesses the legs but also teaches you how to look after yourself on a big day out and that is a pretty transferable skill.  Knowing to eat before you get hungry, never go in the wrong direction, wrap up before you get cold, strip off before you sweat and keep drinking makes a big difference over ten or more hours of exercise. This means any fit cyclist could easily handle some pretty amazing mountain days. The way I see it, if you are pretty fit, you have a responsibility to go out and do the Welsh 3000s. It’s an adventure between mates at its most beautiful. It’s a feat of endurance and most importantly it’s free.

This time I was determined to hit all 15 of the Welsh 3000ft mountains in a single weekend.  I had two fellow cyclists from my club come along with me. We carried only what we needed and nothing more.  Trainers, pork pies and one map between three. We didn’t run but we did walk quickly. We drank at the same time as each other, ate at the same time as each other and pissed at the same time as each other.  We stayed warm when it was cold and didn’t sweat too much when it got hot. The cumulative benefit of working together to eliminate ‘faff’ and keep moving towards the next peak worked wonders.

Experience is a fine thing and so after many visits to Snowdonia, I finally managed to get all 15 mountains summited in just one weekend. Once you know what to do, it’s pretty easy really.

The only problem was that it made me realise that I really ought to do it in just one long day.

 


On Friday night we bivvied up behind the Pen-y-Pass YHA. It was a great bivvy. We had some wine out of tin mugs and slept pretty well. It rained lightly in the morning but it was time to get up then anyway. This was free.

We paid for the car park (£4 for four hours) and did the first loop before we ran out of time.

We then drove to the Ogwen valley for the second loop and parked on the A5 for free.

We camped at Ogwen Valley YHA. It was inexpensive (less than £10 and worth it for showers/toilets somewhere warm to sit in the evening).

We parked at the car park near Corwen for free on the Sunday. Then had a little wash in a puddle and drove home.

Very cheap and very fun.

 

 

Part 3 – Snow in Snowdonia – What not to pack on a winter walk

You’ve probably all seen those photos with a silhouetted figure looking out across some high alpine ridge, snow everywhere and a slogan about ambition or achievement or standing tall or that you should ‘go to your dream’. I get the impression that rather than actually wishing to climb mountains in the winter, most of the people sharing these photos actually ‘dream’ of a couple of weeks on the Costa Del Sol and free chips on the flight out. Don’t get me wrong, I love free chips as much as the next guy, but I like to think of climbing mountains not as symbols for something difficult or inspiring,  but as a good way for just about anyone to spend their weekends.

The funny thing is that Continue reading “Part 3 – Snow in Snowdonia – What not to pack on a winter walk”

The Garrigil Round – Taking in 5 Hewitts – Burnhope Seat, Dead Stones, Flinty Fell, Round Hill, Viewing Hill

A quick weekend up in the North Pennines. It’s a beautiful place, wild, lonely and yellow. We set out on a run taking in 5 Hewitts – Burnhope Seat, Dead Stones, Flinty Fell, Round Hill, Viewing Hill. Starting as the sun came up, pretty close to the shortest day of the year, the ground was frozen. It was a cold day, but not too cold. We enjoyed an Ainsley Harriott couscous and Mugshot stop at the Garrigill village hall where there are toilets and taps open 24 hours a day. Worth knowing! By the time we finished it was getting cold, red skies, refrozen ground and irritated lungs that are the telltale sign of a great winter’s day running.

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Here is a link to a Google Maps trace of the GPX 

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From being lost in the clouds to my first ultramarathon – the Welsh 3,000s and the V3K

It’s been about a year since my last post on here. Since then I’ve ridden 1,500 miles from Nottingham to Norway; ran a few ultramarathons; hiked in the Italian and French Alps; learned how to rock climb and been on a climbing trip to Mallorca; ridden to Brugges and back on a fixed gear bike (again); been to a golf dinner with my grandmother; slept out on Hadrian’s Wall and all sorts of things that I’m dying to share with you.

As much as I can’t wait to write about getting so hungry in Sweden that I squeezed a three day old tube of the saltiest fish paste imaginable straight into my mouth, there is something about my Welsh trips that embodies what I’m trying to achieve with the whole thingswhatihavedone thing. All the other places I’ve been to, even the most spectacular, have had only a fleeting hold on me, but Wales has me by the balls.

This post is the introduction to a collection of five shorter posts about my relationship with a particular feature of Wales. There is a list of mountains in Snowdonia, all of which are 3,000 feet above sea level. The number of mountains in this list is the golden part – there are 15. Enough for a challenge, but few enough to really get to know them as individuals. They are known collectively as the Welsh 3,000’s and I have a feeling that the majority of people reading this entry will have already ticked at least one off the list – Snowdon itself.

The articles are a a mixture of nostalgia, advice, kit lists and just general self indulgent tripe spanning over eleven years. Read from the beginning or just pick the part that could help you on your next adventure.

Part 1 – Snowdon 2005: The first mountain.
Part 2 – Welsh 3,000’s Aug 2011: The first time being lost and scared. 
Part 3 – Snowdonia in Winter Feb 2014: The first time I’d ever seen an ice axe.
Part 4 – Welsh 3,000’s: The first time it feels like I know what I’m doing.
Part 5 – V3k: The first ultramarathon

You can go alone but its a good idea to have someone with you to open the gates. Then, when they are about to get in, you can do that thing where you pretend to drive off.

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Part 1 – Five Clueless Teenagers Climb Snowdon ‘Fast and Light’

This is the first installment in in the story of my obsession with the mountains of North Wales. At the time, I didn’t think that it would lead to multipitch climbing, crampon envy and more recently, completing a vegan ultra-marathon. This article breaks the usual thingswhatihavedone rules in that these photos aren’t taken with a phone, this story takes place in the Nokia-Age. These photos were taken with a wind-on disposable camera.

In the year 2005 I called up some lads on their parent’s landlines and told them that they Continue reading “Part 1 – Five Clueless Teenagers Climb Snowdon ‘Fast and Light’”

Part 2 – Welsh 3000’s in Two Days

It’s 2011. I’d completed a few of the classics by now, National 3 peaks, Yorkshire 3 peaks etc and so started to look for the next challenge. I wondered what other attention grabbing ticklists there were to complete in Wales.  After all, my very first mountain was in Snowdon and my curiosity about those other outlying summits had been growing ever since.

A quick google search revealed that those neglected peaks did indeed have names and not only was it was possible to climb to to the top of them but the highest 15 mountains in Wales were all in the same corner of Snowdonia, and that it was possible to visit all of them in just two days (it is actually possible to do them all in one go but more on that later). The Welsh 3,000’s (three thousand feet above sea level) sounded intimidating but just the sort of Continue reading “Part 2 – Welsh 3000’s in Two Days”

Off the grid in Wales – Bothies and Babyhead.

Another Sunday afternoon discussion in a pub. Two friends letting their imaginations run away with themselves. Wouldn’t it be good to just disappear into the wilderness for a few days? Go somewhere really wild, where you won’t see anyone, where there is no phone signal and no car headlights lights on the horizon. No fences, no rules, no measurement of time beyond the setting sun. And I’m not talking about your favorite Lake District tarn with its four foot wide gravel paths, picnic benches and cairns like stalagmites in a show cave. I’m talking about somewhere so silent that there aren’t even any footprints. Probably have to go to Canada or Siberia or somewhere like that. Somewhere with an expensive air fare anyway. I’ve only got a few days holiday anyway. Plus we’d be at the mercy of the weather – if it’s foul and there’s only a little tent for the two of us that’d be pretty miserable. Once stuff gets wet, it stays wet. In Norway they have those little huts where you can dry your stuff out in front of a fire. Yeah – I’ve seen that on Instagram. We can’t bloody go to Norway on Thursday, I don’t get paid till next week. Continue reading “Off the grid in Wales – Bothies and Babyhead.”

The ultimate motivation for a day in the White Peak- a new coat!

I never need much of an excuse to go away and get muddy for a couple of days. My delightful girlfriend can however be a little more reluctant, especially when the weather forecast makes out like the apocalypse is just about to strike during the only two free days we have. She’d been banging on about wanting a new coat for ages and with Christmas coming up I thought some technical outdoor clothing would be the perfect present. I thought there could be two great outcomes from me buying her such a gift. Firstly she would be tricked into believing that I was the normal type of boyfriend who bought thoughtful Christmas presents and secondly I would probably get to go on a two day backpacking trip even though it was my designated don’t-go-away-on-one-of-your-adventures-because-you-need-to-spend-more-time-with-me time. It was worth a try! Continue reading “The ultimate motivation for a day in the White Peak- a new coat!”