Sunday 29 December 2019

57 Varieties

57 is the number of races I've completed in 2019, starting and finishing with Victoria Parkrun.

This keeps my batting average going of more than 1 race per week for the past 20 years.

The shortest sharpest race was 4:44.73 in Heat 4 of the Scottish Open 1500m on 12th January. 

Only 2 races were longer than 10k.  These were the Round Cumbrae and Derwentwater 10-milers. A good bit over the hour for each, with 63:26 and 64:24 minutes respectively. 

The longest race time-wise was Cort-ma Law, my only hill race of the year, in 1:08:43.

I managed to pick up 4 individual national Scottish medals in the M55 category:
  • Gold in the 10,000m track race at Carluke - 37:41 in very windy conditions
  • Silver in the Emirates 3000m on 4th January (Guy Bracken took gold)
  • Silver in the Emirates 1500m on 17th February (Dave Clarke took gold)
  • Bronze in the Masters XC at Hawick (behind Colin Donnelly and Stan Mackenzie)
I also collected 3 national team medals:
  • Senior Team Silver for Cambuslang in the National Trail Championships (with Alasdair Campbell, Justin Carter and Richard Cooper)
  • M50 Team Silver for Cambuslang in the National Cross Country Relays at Cumbernauld (with Mick O'Hagan and Colin Donnelly - Perth RR took gold)
  • M55 Team Bronze for Scotland in the British & Irish Masters Cross Country at Aintree (with Ted Gourley, Denis Williams and Dave Eckersley for Team Scotland, behind England and Republic of Ireland) 
Not sure what 2020 has in store.  All being well, it will be my 21st year of racing.

I'm contemplating entering the European Masters in Braga, Portugal in March 2020 with a view to racing the 800m, 1500m, 3000m and 5k XC.

Friday 30 March 2018

1000th race - European Masters, Madrid

M50 3000m results

20th March saw me complete my 1000th race in 18 years at the European Masters in Madrid.

It was a close run thing making this my 1000th race. The previous weekend I'd notched up Valentines Parkrun plus British Masters 1500m and 3000m to place me on 999 before heading out to Madrid.

The evening of Monday 19th I went out for a meal with seasoned campaigners Brian Scally and Anthony Treacher who have both been there, done it, and worn the T-shirt when it comes to winning world medals at masters athletics.

I felt very much a novice in their company, this being my first track race in a GB vest.

On the morning of the event, Brian and I left the hotel soon after 7am and wandered along to the stadium at Gallur.  There was a sobre mood at the warm up track, with GB athletes pottering around, trying to get inspired at 8 o'clock in the morning.

The M50 3000m race was split into 2 heats. I ended up at the back of the medal-winning race, with 18 runners on the track.  The pace was not fast for the first 3 laps, but eventually heated up.  I settled in behind an Irish runner before passing him near the end, and lapping the French runner in the photo below.  I was also lapped by the first 5 runners, with just under 500 metres to go, so as they hit the bell I still had 2 laps to go.  I managed to speed up a bit for the final 400 metres to finish 15th out of 18 starters in 10:16.

Despite being my slowest ever 3000m on the track, I was pleased to go through with the event, and come out the other end without feeling too disappointed.

Madrid European Masters 3000m.  Photo: Alan Ramage

Monday 4 April 2016

National Road Relays

A quite exceptional day for Ronhill Cambuslang, and possibly the most exciting event I've been part of.

After my horrific dose of flu in February, it was touch and go I'd make the team. I'd done no racing in 2 months, apart from an 18:17 Springburn Parkrun the previous weekend. So I was far from being race fit.

Anyhow. The team selection was made. I was placed on the long (9.3km) 2nd leg. With Paul Thompson and Colin Feechan on the short legs, and Stan MacKenzie heading off last on the anchor leg.

Our main rivals were Shettleston, with John Oates, Denis Williams, Billy Coyle and Andy Little.

It would be a finely poised competition.

Paul handed over to me in a good mix of runners. All the warnings of going off too fast were ringing in my ears, so perhaps I settled into far too easy a pace. But I wasn't sure how I'd survive the 34 minutes or so. I'd thought I'd be chasing down runners, but apart from passing one Kirkintilloch vest, I'm not sure I caught anyone. I could see Paul Carroll and Alex Lamond about 100 metres up the road, but couldn't seem to close the gap.

Paul leading out on Leg 1
Photo: Alan Ramage
Getting hunted down by Denis Williams on Leg 2
Photo: Colin Stephen
Only with about 300 metres to go when I heard a shout of "Go on Denis!" right behind me did I finally properly wake up and start shifting, to ensure I was handing over a lead to Colin.

I was well down on the time I'd estimated, so it was looking ominous giving Colin such a slender advantage to defend.  To be honest, at this point I thought we'd totally blown it, and Shettleston would romp away with the victory, so I was astonished and delighted when 18 minutes later Billy Coyle emerged on the home straight with Colin right on his shoulder, hanging on for grim death, limiting the loss of every second.

Colin digging deep on Leg 3, hanging onto Billy Coyle's coattails
Photo: Colin Stephen
There was a bit of chaos as Andy jumped the gun on the transition, got called back, stopped, and restarted, and immediately Stan was chasing after him.

I didn't hold out too much hope of Stan keeping pace with Andy, who is almost unbeatable in the V50 category, but I dashed off to give Stan every shout of encouragement. At around 800 metres in, it looked like Stan had been dropped already, but Colin was confident he would put up a fight.

We jogged across to 7km on the route, and waited. When the pair emerged, Stan was sitting right on Andy's shoulder.  Both guys looked wrecked. But neither was giving an inch.

Stan MacKenzie and Andy Little, locked stride for stride on Leg 4
Photo: Colin Stephen
Next for me and Colin was a mad sprint back to the finishing area to catch the closing stages. We split up to give our shouts the maximum effect. With 300 metres to go Andy was launching his attack up the final hill, but Stan was still in the game and timed his move to perfection.  Just as the angle eased, Stan used the change in gradient to slingshot Andy and for the first time took the lead.  At this moment it could have gone either way.  It was down to who wanted it the most.

Stan rose to the occasion, and didn't look back. Stretching away in the final 200 metres.

It was nail-biting stuff.  I can't remember any M50 team event going down to the wire like this before, so it was great that we had 2 teams testing each other to the limit.

With our job completed, and the drama of the M50 race over, it seemed almost a formality that Kyle McLellan and Kenny Campbell coasted home to win the seniors and M40 races to complete an historic treble, with Ronhill Cambuslang taking home all 16 of the men's gold medals.

Ronhill Cambuslang Team Winners: Seniors, M40 and M50
Photo: Colin Stephen
M50 team
Photo: Bobby Gavin
Round up at Scottish Athletics:   Cambuslang land a treble at Livingston

Monday 26 October 2015

National Cross Country Relays

This was my 9th shot at the National Cross Country Relays in Cumbernauld Park, and 2nd time running for Cambuslang Harriers.

Last year we won M50 team silver, after being overhauled by Shettleston's Andy Little on the final leg.  This year we fielded the exact same team - myself, Paul Thompson and Colin Feechan - with the minor tweak that Paul and I swapped legs, with me going off first.

 Earlier in the week I had been feeling fit and strong and relished the idea of Leg 1, but come the day I wasn't feeling at all well.  Obviously I didn't want to let the team down, so tried to blot out of my mind how dreadful I was feeling.

I had hoped to run around 14:40~ish on Leg 1, but instead it was damage limitation, and just trying not to throw up with a horrible pain in my stomach and overwhelming sense of nausea.

Trying not to throw up on Leg 1
I went out steady for the first 2km,with the original plan of then chasing runners down, but instead was myself hanging on for grim death, and just trying to ensure I didn't drop any places to keep the team in the running.  I did manage to finish 1st M50 in 15:05, which was enough to give the team a chance.  Paul was not firing on all cylinders by his high standards but managed 15:33 to keep us in the lead, and then Colin put in the star performance of the day with 14:57 to bring the team home 33 seconds clear of 2nd-placed Strathearn Harriers.

Podium finish
Quite how I managed to run the 3rd fastest M50 time on the day feeling so ill, I'm not quite sure.

When I got home I went straight to bed in all my clothes, aching and sweating, and spent the night throwing up repeatedly.

Monday 17 August 2015

World Masters Half Marathon

Strava track |

Not all races go perfectly according to plan, and this was no exception.

For various reasons, not all of which I can remember, I didn't do anywhere near enough training beforehand.  I had grand plans of high mileage weeks, and long runs, but only ended up with a few 25 to 30 mile weeks, and one longish run at Dunoon Half Marathon, 2 weeks before Lyon with 1:21:35 in a gale force wind. So I was fairly sure I could run faster than this at Lyon.

Straight after Dunoon, I ran the Tour of Clydeside - 5 race in 5 nights - which made both Achilles exceedingly sore. So I didn't run again for 9 days prior the Lyon Half. Not exactly ideal preparation, but I thought I might get away with it on the day.

The day of the race, Sunday 16th August, started at 4am with a couple of bananas, some biscuits and 800ml of Go Electrolyte. At 6am I was down at Parc de Parilly in cover of darkness. I bumped into Northern Irish twin sisters Lisa and Sian Finlay from Dumfries, and we went for a warm up jog, and to find some toilets.

We then bumped into Colin and Scott. More warm up jogs and toilet visits, and with 10 minutes to go it was suddenly time to get on the startline.

Imagine my dismay when I realised I was stuck at the back of this crowd, with no plausible way of jumping up to the front line.
Log jam at start of half marathon / marathon
The starting area was barriered off, and totally solid with people. There was no possibility of moving up and getting a decent starting position.  Once the gun went off, it seemed to take 20 seconds or so to reach the start line. I was then running into a wall of slower runners, dodging street furniture, and generally jostling for position. Not the best way to start the race, but after a kilometre or so things started to settle down.

I could see Colin Feechan around 50 metres ahead, and it took me until about 4km to finally catch him. After briefly overtaking Colin, I sat right behind him to 8km, before a slight gap opened up, which I didn't work hard enough to close down again. Just before halfway, I was caught and passed by Lisa Finlay, and noticed my first 10km was much slower than expected at nearly 39 minutes.

This didn't bode well for going sub 1:20. In fact some instant maths suggested I'd be struggling to go sub 1:22 at this pace.

I did try to pick things up for the second half, but so many twists and turns, I never got another site of Lisa or Colin, plus all the other runners in the way.  So I had no idea how far ahead they were.

I finished strongly enough, but somehow felt like I never really got properly into the race, what with the duff start, followed by all the jostling on the corners, and then being so far back in the race I got into too much of a comfort zone with slower runners, rather continually pressing and pushing on.

My finish time of 1:21:38 was not a complete disaster, but was 3 seconds slower than at Dunoon 2 weeks previously, where I felt like I'd been taking it deliberately easy. So it was not a great time either. Just something fairly average in the middle.

Despite the slowish time, I did finish as 1st M50 in the British team. And 19th M50 overall.

About 2km to go.
Photo: Alan Ramage

Tuesday 16 June 2015

Via Dinarica

This trip is now fully written up at

Maja Jezerce 2694m - Photo: SummitPost
Starting on Friday 19th June, I'll be attempting to hike from Tjentište in Bosnia & Herzegovina to Valbona in Albania along the highpoints of the Dinaric Alps.  A distance of around 280km (plus a few extras).

The route will link up the massifs of Maglić / Bioč, Durmitor, SinjajevinaBjelasica, Komovi, and finally the Prokletije or "Accursed" Mountains on the border with Albania.

Hopefully I'll manage to climb all the main peaks along the way, the highest being Maja Jezerce 2694m, which is the highest peak in the entire Dinaric Alps.

If I have time, I'll also attempt an out and back from Plav to Đeravica 2656m the highest peak in Kosovo, and Zla Kolata 2534m, the highest peak in Montenegro.

After reaching Valbona, I hope to catch the amazing-looking Komani Lake Ferry to reach Tirana for the flight back home.

Route from Tjentiste to Valbona
More detailed route map:

Link to route map in new window

Sunday 8 February 2015

Scottish Masters Cross Country


This was my 8th attempt at the Scottish National Masters Cross County.

My first was back in March 2004 when I finished 30th V40, and 48th overall, on a heavy muddy course at Cupar before I even had any cross country spikes.  Things improved a good bit for my next attempt where I placed 5th V40 at Bathgate in 2007.  For the next 4 events at Irvine (x2), Kirkcaldy and Kilmarnock I was always 5th or 7th in my age category.  And then in 2014 was the horror show at Hawick, in the worst conditions anyone had raced, where I was happy just to finish and get off the course. My position was way down as 11th V50.  So apart from 3 times getting 5th age category in the past, I'd never really been close to a medal.

For 2015, I felt much better prepared than the previous few events, and determined to run more positively from the start. I'd run most of this course before as the West Districts in 2013, and knew there was plenty of good running, but it was important to get out fast at the start, since there are a few pinch points.

I found myself well up, without trying too hard, and reeling folk in early on.  It was tempting to keep on overtaking on the first small lap, and also tempting to hold back a fraction, but I ignored any voice hinting at sitting back and forged on, and getting higher up the field than I'd expected.

I sometimes find that running hard and aggressively produces its own positive feedback loop, where having committed the effort, you need to hang on to reap the reward.  Going into the last lap, I still felt reasonably good and strong, and ready for any final battles.  I was swapping places with Greig Glendinning, and was aware of more vests right on my shoulder.  I attacked the final hill to try to slingshot a gap at the top, but runnng off Eddie Stewart drew level alongside.  For an instant I could imagine him passing, but then responded and surged away, and made the last 800 metres count to hold position, and to finish as 1st V50 in 13th place overall, with no older athletes in front.

Sunday 18 January 2015

Scottish National Open 1500m


After running the Yuletide Meet 800m, the Miler Meet 3,000m, and training last Monday, this was my 4th trip to the Emirates Arena in a month.

It was also my 2nd attempt at running a 1500m race.  My first was 2 years ago when I ran 4:44 with a cold, so I was fairly sure I could beat that time.

My target time was 4:30, i.e. 3min/km pace, since I'd run faster than this at the 800m. My plan was therefore to go through 500 metres in 1:30, then press on in the middle 600m, and finish fast in the final 400m. In hindsight, I should have started running faster sooner.

I had hoped to be place in the same heat as John Thomson, so I could use him as a pacemaker. But John was in the heat before mine. When I saw that John failed to get under 4:30, this psyched me out slightly that I shouldn't be aiming for 4:30, since I know that John is faster than me.

Anyhow. It was slightly amusing trying to collect my race number and get into the call room, where the officials thought I must somebody's father, and I was told "only athletes beyond this point"!

I watched the Kelly Holmes video from Athens 2004 for ideas & inspiration (unfortunately very poor quality on YouTube), and tried to follow suit by lolloping along at the back from the start, and then gradually winding it up.

There were 9 other runners in my heat who all shot off from the gun way faster than me. I tried to stick to my task of getting to 500 metres in 1:30 before starting to chase them down. Things became a blur quite early on, and it was not that easy to read the clock at the finish line, to gauge exactly where you were, but time was running out so I made a big move, and passed all 9 runners ahead of me over 2 laps, such that when I hit 600 metres to go I was in the lead.  For a moment I felt pretty good, but then started getting challenged by Harry Nimmo of Giffnock with 400m to go. I held off a couple of attempts for him to get by, but then buckled with about 300m to go.  I could feel more footsteps on my heels, so really had to get up on my toes to finish off the final 200m lap without losing any more places.

I was pleased enough to get a PB of 4:39.30, but feel that I could get closer to 4:30 if I understood better how to survive that combination of pace and distance.

Photo: Bobby Gavin

Thursday 27 November 2014

British & Irish Masters Cross Country

22nd November 2014 - Wollaton Park, Nottingham

Results | Track on Strava

This was my 3rd time representing Scotland at the British & Irish Masters. Previous efforts were Dublin 2010 and Bellahouston, Glasgow 2011.  So this was my first time in the Over 50s race.

Friday was quite tiring with an epic coach journey down to Nottingham from Glasgow, arriving in the dark and pouring rain.  I checked into the Travelodge before heading out in the dark and rain to track down food and drink with several Clydesdale runners.

I had already started going down with the lurgy mid-week and woke in the night feeling grim with sore throat, so wasn't confident about the race.

The Scotland team convened at Wollaton park at 10am for pre-race photos.

Scotland Team Photo

My race started at 12:30pm

Start of M50-64 race

With 4 laps of a 2km course, I set out at conservative pace. After 300 metres, I'd passed all the Scottish runners except Stan Mackenzie and Peter Buchanan. I had to hold back a fraction to avoid passing any more runners, and settled in behind Peter. After maybe 500 metres, I passed Peter, and then focussed on closing the gap to Stan.  The gap didn't change much for the first 2 laps, and at the start of the 3rd lap I briefly passed Stan going up the hill, but he passed me straight back going down the other side.  After that I just plugged away, trying to hold position, whilst leaving something for a strong finish.  I did get passed by one Northern Irish runner, but don't remember too many other going by.

Chasing Stan Mackenzie (Peter Buchanan behind)

Strong finish
The 4-lap course at Wollaton Park:

The end result was I finished 2nd in the Scottish Team, 11th M50 overall, and we picked up Bronze team prize, the team being Stan, me, Peter and Ted Gourley.

Saturday 25 October 2014

Scottish National XC Relays

Results | Photos

My first time representing Ronhill Cambuslang at the National Cross Country Relays.  The weather was largely dry with the odd blustery shower passing through.

I was running in the V50 team along with Paul Thompson and Colin Feechan.  Paul went off first and came in well up the field.  I went out steady, and found myself running with Marc McColl and Paul Carroll.  I thought I would be able to hang onto them both, but somehow let them both slip away. The only runner to come past after the opening tussle with Marc and Paul was Graeme Murdoch of Gala who seemed to make up a huge number of places. I thought I'd run reasonably hard enough to give us a good chance of team gold.  Colin gave it his best shot on Leg 3, running 1 second faster than me in 15:40, but it wasn't enough to stop Andy Little of Shettleston snatching the lead in the final 800 metres or so.  We therefore had to make do with team silver.

Approaching the end of Leg 2. Photo: Bobby Gavin
Cambuslang M50 Team Silver

Cambuslang M50 Team Silver
Battling in the wind on Leg 2

Sunday 28 September 2014

Swiss Alpine Pass Route

An 11-day hike across Switzerland via the so-called Alpine Pass route, or Via Alpina (marked as National Route #1).  The hike started at Sargans near Liechtenstein, and finished at St Gingolph by Lake Geneva.  Link to online map
Roughly 360km with 21,500 metres of ascent.

Photo albums:
Day 1 | Day 2 | Day 3 | Day 4 | Day 5 | Day 6 | Day 7 | Day 8 | Day 9 | Day 10 | Day 11

View Alpine Pass Route in a larger map

Day 1 - Sargans to Weisstannen (Sat 6th Sept)   Photos from Day 1 
2h10m, 14km, 640 metres ascent
The trip started at 5am in Glasgow with a train and bus to Edinburgh Airport. Then an Easyjet flight to Geneva, and 3 trains to Sargans, via Biel and Zurich. So it was after 5pm before I started hiking. I faffed around a bit leaving the train station at Sargans, trying to decide to whether to buy any food, but decided on balance it was better to get a move on since I was pressed for daylight hours. I reached Hotel Gemse after 2 hours, just as the light was starting to fade. I was in a shared dorm, but nobody else was staying. Dinner was schweineschnitzel, beer and chips, accompanied by traditional folk music.

Leaving Sargans on Day 1
Approaching Weisstannen on Day 1

Day 2 - Weisstannen to Martinsmad-Hütte (Sun 7th Sept)   Photos from Day 2
6h58m, 30km, 2193 metres ascent
I set off at 8:25am just as the locals were heading to church. The trail was wooded and cool with heavily dewed grass. Gradually the trail climbed above the treeline to the Foopass at 2223m, the first major pass of the route. On the descent I stopped for a while at a small farmstead to eat bread and cheese, and chat with some local hunters and cheese-makers (blessed are the cheese-makers), before battering down a long stony track towards Elm. Just before reaching Elm, I decided to head steeply back uphill again to the Swiss Alpine Club Martinsmad-Hütte at 2002m. It was a good sociable evening chatting with Swiss hikers, who were all doing short multi-day hikes in the region.
Foopass 2223m
Martinsmad Hutte 2002m
Day 3 - Martinsmad-Hütte to Klausenpass Hotel (Mon 8th Sept)   Photos from Day 3
12h27m, 45km, 3055 metres ascent
7:10am start with a steep descent to Elm. A quick snack at the village bakery in Elm, then upwards and onwards towards the Richetlipass. The pass has a false col then flattens out before the real pass at 2261m.  The descent entered some slightly wilder country, and a short sharp rain storm added to the effect.  Once down in Linthal I re-grouped for a few minutes, then decided to head for the Klausenpass, having read that the Klausenpass Hotel is "unmissable". I summited the Klausenpass just as it was getting dark, only to discover the hotel is still another 2km down the other side. Schweineschnitzel, beer and chips again for dinner, although I was too exhausted to finish the beer.  The night was creepily quiet in the bunkhouse on the opposite side of the road.

Richetlipass 2261m

Approaching Klausenpass

Klausenpass Hotel
Day 4 - Klausenpass Hotel to Spannort Hutte (Tue 9th Sept)   Photos from Day 4
11h02m, 42km, 2506 metres ascent
After a leisurely breakfast in the Klausenpass Hotel, I was away just before 8am. The route fiddled around below Schachentaler Windgallen before dropping into the Schachental valley.  Unfortunately I was day-dreaming so ended up in Unterschachen and had to hike along the road to Spiringen. There was quite a bit more hiking down the road to get to the outskirts of Altdorf. I missed out going to the town centre to see the famous statue of William Tell, but instead headed straight across to Attinghausen for the steep slog up to Brusti.  I had thought of staying the night in Brusti, but instead decided to press on over the Surenenpass 2291m.  The weather got iffy on the descent.  Misty. Pouring with rain. Full waterproofs required. I got a bit confused in the mist, but eventually found a sign pointing upward to the Spannort Hut. It was getting pretty late by this stage, and the climb to hut was steep and rocky. I arrived just as it was getting dark.  The guardian was surprised to have a visitor.  Nobody had visited the hut for several days. It was a very quiet night, with just the sound of rain and running water outside.
Sunrise at Klausenpass (Schärhorn)
Surenenpass 2291m
Approaching Spannort Hutte (Titlis)
Day 5 - Spannort Hutte to Meiringen (Wed 10th Sept)   Photos from Day 5
11h43m, 45km, 1864 metres ascent
Misty, murky weather leaving the Spannort Hutte. Mass migration of cattle, bringing them down for the winter, as I dropped into the Surenen valley. A long gradual descent to Engelberg, then quick supermarket stop before heading back uphill towards the Jochpass.

The Swiss have an uncanny knack of converting their wonderful natural landscapes into industrial building sites, and the Jochpass was no exception with an enormous new hotel in mid-construction. I headed on past various lakes to the Tannensee at which point the weather really closed in. One minute it was quite tolerable, and the next I was scrambling for full waterproofs and getting a real pelting from the rain and wind.  The route headed along an undulating ridge to Planplatten 2245m on the edge of a ski area. It really was pretty grim, and I was glad when the trail finally started descending towards Meiringen.  It took a fair old while to descend the 1650m to reach the "Sherlock Holmes" town of Meiringen, and then I had to try a few hotels before finally getting a very quiet room at the Hotel Rebstock.

Trübsee before the Jochpass 
Descending to Meiringen after the storm
Day 6 - Meiringen to Lauterbrunnen (Thu 11th Sept)   Photos from Day 6
10h13m, 42km, 2477 metres ascent
Another fairly cloudy overcast day.  Pretty cool dull weather all the way to the Grosse Scheidegg 1962m, which I hadn't appreciated has a road up it from both sides, so not exactly a wilderness experience. The view from the pass must be stunning on a clear day, but we had to make do with fleeting glimpses of the Eiger. The descent to Grindelwald was pleasant enough, with great views of the Wetterhorn, Schreckhorn and Lauteraarhorn taking me back to 1997 when I climbed the Wetterhorn with Jeff Knight and Micky Ross.

Entering Grindelwald was awful after solo-hiking for several days. Far too many people, and commercialisation gone mad. I stopped to grab food from the Coop, then kept walking without stopping for a break. The trail to Kleine Scheidegg couldn't have been more straightfoward. A steady trail of tourists. It does feel bizarre when you reach the col, and the Swiss have built a major railway station, with hordes of people, and cigarette smoke blowing in your face. Needless to stay, I kept on hiking straight over the other side and down towards Wengen and Lauterbrunnen.  It was quite late, and getting dark when I reached Lauterbrunnen, but I found a room at the Hotel Schutzen right beside the very spectacular Staubbach Falls.

Hotel Rosenlaui 
The Eiger from Grosse Scheidegg
Wetterhorn above Grindelwald
Day 7 - Lauterbrunnen to Griesalp (Fri 12th Sept)   Photos from Day 7
7h02m, 28km, 1866 metres ascent
The day dawned with torrential rain in Lauterbrunnen. I faffed around getting waterproofs on, by which time the rain had more or less stopped.  It was still pretty damp and cool for the hike up to Murren.  For a while on the hike to the Rotstock Hut the weather threatened to improve with the odd fleeting of a snowy peak. I stopped at the hut for a bowl of soup, and chat with an American guy from San Francisco, and then ventured out into the increasingly cold and grey conditions for the climb to the Sefinenfurgge 2612m.  The rain was turning into sleet, and the descent was on black shale for a while. Lower down it started raining properly for the hike out to Griesalp. I checked into the Naturfreundehaus Gorneren, which turned out to be a good evening chatting with an American guy Damon, and Swiss guy Chris over dinner and a few beers.

Staubbach Falls at Lauterbrunnen

Gspaltenhorn above Mürren
Day 8 - Griesalp to Adelboden (Sat 13th Sept)   Photos from Day 8
11h08m, 36km, 2671 metres ascent
An early 6:45am start for the climb to the impressive Hohtürli Pass 2778m, the highest point on the Alpine Pass Route. For once, the weather didn't disappointment. Great views of snowy peaks, with wispy low-lying clouds. I pottered down the other side the outstandingly scenic Oeschinensee, then continued down to Kandersteg for a supermarket stop. After eating as much as I could in 10 minutes, I headed up to the surprisingly dramatic Bunderchrinde 2385m, and impressive rocky gash reminiscent of the Breche de Rolande. The hike out to Adelboden had an uphill sting in the tail. It was not the kind of place to find cheap accommodation, so I checked into the Hotel Waldhaus Huldi at the end of the main street.

Hohtürli Pass 2778m

Hohtürli Pass 2778m

Oeschinensee above Kandersteg
Day 9 - Adelboden to Gsteig (Sun 14th Sept)   Photos from Day 9
9h20m, 36km, 1984 metres ascent
A leisurely breakfast at the Waldhaus Huldi then an easy hike over the Hahnenpass 1956m to Lenk. Everything was shut in Lenk, apart from a bakery with virtually nothing left, so I just kept on hiking, for once in pretty hot and sunny conditions. I crossed the Truttlisberg Pass 2038m to Launen, then kept going straight over the Krinnen Pass 1659m to Gsteig, where I checked into the Hotel Bären which had an incredible chilled-out atmosphere, with great music in the bar restaurant.

Descending towards Lenk

Hotel Bären at Gsteig
Day 10 - Gsteig to Col des Mosses (Mon 15th Sept)   Photos from Day 10
6h31m, 23km, 1366 metres ascent
Today marked the transition back into French-speaking Switzerland after crossing the Blattipass 1900m. After the Col des Anderets 2034m the trail fiddled around contouring for a while before reaching some chalets at Chersaule, where I took a break to sit out of the sun and relax for a few minutes. It was quite hot and oppressive when I reached Col des Mosses a short while later. It was early afternoon, but there was no point in continuing today, so I checked into the Hôtel Le Relais Alpin and watched a re-run of yesterday's Vuelta final time-trial in my room.
Arnensee after the Blattipass
Col des Mosses in pouring rain
Day 11 - Col des Mosses to St Gingolph (Tue 16th Sept)   Photos from Day 11
8h45m, 35km, 816 metres ascent
The final day. A gentle descent to Lac de l'Hongrin past some sort of Swiss Army training camp. Around the lake some huge barrages, then through a tunnel, and down a road to a scruffy farm at Vuichaude d'en Bas.  Some nice autumnal colours on the hike up to Col de Chaude1621m, when Lac Léman (Lake Geneva) opens out below. The 1200m descent lead down to the vineyards above the historic town of Villeneuve.  I took a break for a while looking out across Lake Geneva, before hiking around the lake through the Grangette Nature Reserve and over the Rhone to reach St Gingolph on the French border, and where I started the GR5 hike to the Mediterranean 2 years ago.

Leaving Col des Mosses

Lac de l'Hongrin

Approaching Col de Chaude

Col de Chaude

Lake Geneva at Villeneuve
Looking back to Col de Chaude from edge of Villeneuve

Grand Canal at Les Grangettes

Lake Geneva at Le Bouveret
Lake Geneva from St Gingolph