Wednesday, 31 December 2008

Ben Lomond


Ellie and I went for a wander up Ben Lomond on the last day of 2008. It was cold and misty on the climb, but at 800m we magically broke out of the gloom to a world of sunlit frost covered peaks emerging from a sea of cloud.

Arrochar Alps from Ben Lomond Summit of Ben Lomond Summit of Ben Lomond

Saturday, 27 December 2008

Westerlands Christmas Handicap

27th December 2008

Photos | Results

Here are some photos from today's Christmas Handicap at Carbeth:

Dave Calder Got my number?

Tuesday, 16 December 2008

Simonside Cairns Fell Race

14th December 2008
11 miles

Results | Photos from Will Horsley

Probably my last hill race of 2008. Felt suitably rough at the start after last night's Westies Christmas Dinner, plus horribly early start, but worth the long journey for a fine end of season blast round snow-covered boggy hills in Northumberland, courtesy of a lift from John Telfer from Haddington.

This was my 8th year in a row at Simonside Cairns. I decided to set off up the first hill nice and steadily for a change. So tucked in behind Ian Mulvey, whilst the 3 front runners shot off into the distance. Ian and I were never more than about 5 metres apart until the summit of Simonside, at which point he opened a slight gap. The whole way back from Simonside James Dickinson was right on my heels. It was mind games stuff on the final farm tracks before I managed to slightly the deeper and pull away in the last 400 metres or so to finish in 5th place in 1:35:35. Nick Swinburn won the race by almost 5 minutes in an incredible time of 1:22:34, given the snowy conditions.

Route Snowy conditions

Saturday, 29 November 2008

Dunbartonshire Cross Country

29th November 2008
9.4km cross country at Kirkintilloch


A bit of disaster really. First of all I set off with a seized up back after last night's IKEA trip, then during the 3rd lap my sore right hamstring decided to go into complete spasm. I instantly decided to drop out and walk to the finish, but found I go still do a sort of hobbly limpy run that might see me finish the course. This did duly get me to the end, but I lost 5 places in the process slumping from 6th to 11th as 3 Garscube, a Stornaway and GUHH runner all passed with ease. Don, Gibby and Stuart were the only the other Westies who turned up.


Friday, 7 November 2008

Chitwan National Park

5th to 7th November 2008


I've just been down to Chitwan National Park for a few days to relax and spend time with the elephants.

It took around 7 hours on the bus from Kathmandu down to Sauhara where you access the park. The first afternoon we spent some time checking out the local village life of the Tharu tribe who inhabit the region.

On Thursday we had a full day of jungle activities that included an elephant ride through the forest where we managed to round up a single-horned rhino plus baby rhino which felt all a bit Jurassic Park. Then later we rode the elephants into the river where we all took a bath, with many hilarious attempts to climb back onboard a large slippery moving elephant. In the afternoon we took a serene wobbly ride down the river in a dug-out canoe, the higlight being a breath-taking cruise past a man-eating crocodile basking on a sandbank only metres away, with jaws slightly ajar. Needless to say, everyone was very quiet as we coasted past.

We also visited the elephant breeding centre with dozens of Dumbos chained to posts, and were later entertained by the Tharu tribe performing mesmerising stick dances.

This morning we did some misty early morning bird-watching, where within minutes we spotted dozens of exotic species of hornbill, woodpecker, oriele, bulbul, flycatcher, treepie, shrike, babbler, and many others.

Another hot and sweaty 7 hours on the bus, and I'm now back in Kathmandu enjoying the mayhem of Thamel for one last evening before flying out to Delhi tomorrow afternoon for the trip home via Dubai.

Tuesday, 4 November 2008

Langtang-Gosainkund-Helambu Trek

Back in Kathmandu now after 7 day trek around Langtang and Helambu, starting at Syabru Besi and finishing up at Sundarijal, after crossing the Laurebina La at 4550m.

Day 0 - Kathmandu to Syabru Besi (Oct 27th)
The trek was preceded with the 9 hour bus journey from hell. No words can fully explain how uncomfortable this ride is. It combines an extreme and violent assault on every aspect of your anatomy, including the draining sense of imminent death. It didn't help either that the back window spontaneously imploded due to the stresses on the bus, and for the final 5 hours of so dirt and dust were pouring into the bus and into my lungs. We finally arrived shaken and wobbly in Syabru Besi just before sunset, and I picked the first available lodge.

Day 1 - Syabru Besi to Langtang View Hotel (Oct 28th)
The first was a long slow plod up the Langtang Valley from around 1600m to 3100m, climbing through dense forest alongside a raging river. I stopped 2 or 3 times for the odd drink, and was eventually accosted by a Tibetan woman who insisted I stay at Langtang View Hotel. The "hotel" is really a small lodge with 2 rooms. I was the only person staying, and enjoyed relaxing beside a scorching hot stove before an early night. In fact every night is an early when you are trekking and it's pitch dark by 6pm!

Day 2 - Langtang View Hotel to Kyanjin Gompa (Oct 29th)
The following day I was escorted by the same Tibetan woman (Tsolmo) who was carrying a gallon of Tibetan wine to her sister in Kyanjin Gompa. We stopped for a while in Langtang Village where I met more of her family and had various foodstuffs thrust upon me. Eventually we arrived up at Kyanjin Gompa 3800m where the view really opens out and you finally feel amongst giant snowclad peaks. I spent the night in a small single-room hut with Tibetan sisters and 4-year old niece (Yishi Zangmo Lama), sitting on the floor around a fire filling the room with woodsmoke.

Day 3 - Kyanjin Gompa to Langshisa Kharka and back (Oct 30th)
Ater much haggling with the Tibetan sisters I finally escaped for the day to hike up to Langshisa Kharka - a yak herders hut at 4100m in a very remote location, surrounded by gigantic 6,000m snow-covered mountains. The dominant hill of the region is Langshisa Ri, and little did I know at the time but a French team had just climbed this 6400m peak, and during base camp alcohol-fuelled celebrations, a 61-year old man collapsed and died. I saw the helicopter heading in the next morning to collect the body. Anyhow, my hike was far less eventful, and I saw virtually nobody all day apart from one English guy and 2 Americans who had lost their ponies that had carried their camping gear in. I slightly underestimated this walk and got really cold and tired on the way back, and just collapsed in my sleeping bag when I finally got back to Kyanjin Gompa after more than 8 hours.

Day 4 - Kyanjin Gompa to Domen Lodge (Oct 31st)
My original plan had been to climb up to Kyanjin Ri viewpoint first thing, but it turned out pretty cloudy, and I was keen to get away from the smoke-filled Tibetan hut, so I made my excuses and tried to head off down the valley early. However then Tsolmo decide that she and Yishi were going down to Langtang Village, so I ended up carrying 4-year old Yishi on my back most of the way, while Tsolmo carried my rucksack. This got a few funny looks from other trekkers. After Langtang Village and seeing various other Lama family members, I finally escaped and legged it back down the valley all the way down to Dolmen Lodge, which is only just above Syabru Besi where I started. More and more kids were heading down the trail to catch tomorrow's bus to Kathmandu for school following the Tihar vacation. Dolmen Lodge was pretty rough and basic, with my room full of giant spiders, and only a few porters in the smoke-filled dining shed for dinner.

Day 5 - Domen Lodge to Chyolangpati (Nov 1st)
Today was uphill all the way, climbing from jungle at 1680m to sub-alpine scrub at 3580m. The first 600m was up steep steps in cool shady jungle before reaching Thulo Syabru at 2250m where the early morning sun finally struck. This was possibly the most picturesque section of the trip, with colourful terraced farming and village life. As I climbed higher I moved into dense quiet shady forest. I passed through Shin Gompa and reached a high easy ridge section leading to Chyolangpati, where I decided to stop at Lirung Langtang View Hotel, even though it was quite early. It cold windy and cloudy higher up at Laurebina, so I just festered around all afternoon chatting with the lodge owner Nima Tamang.

Day 6 - Chyolangpati to Mangengoth (Nov 2nd)
All my days so far had been pretty short, but I was starting to feel pretty grubby and fancied getting back to the hotel in Kathmandu, so decided to motor on a bit today and more less triple-stage it. Leaving the lodge around 7am the ground was frosty and icy, and early morning sun lighting up huge snowy jaggy peaks. I plodded up to Gosainkund Lake and stopped for a drink before crossing the pass of Laurebina La at 4550m, with expansive views. The descent to Phedi was easy enough, but the next few hours after that past Ghopte were unbelievably tortuous along a rough rocky trail snaking around the hillside with constant and enormous climbs and descents, so I was fairly wasted when I finally reached Thare Pati at the start of the ridge into Helambu. However there was still plenty of daylight, so I carried on for a bit further down to Mangengoth, where once again I was the only trekker at the lodge.

Day 7 - Mangengoth to Sundarijal and Kathmandu (Nov 3rd)
It was a lovely fresh crisp frosty morning at Mangengoth as I set out around 7am. The trail was pretty much deserted. I saw a few school kids just before Kutumsang, and also bumped into Jean-Marc Wojcik from Everest Sky Race, so stopped for a chat for a few minutes. The villages and people were scattered, but the hiking was easy and I reached Chisopani at just before 2pm where I stopped for a drink and bought the permit for the final section through Shivapuri National Park. There is a short wooded climb to 2400m before a long descent down to Sundarijal that get progressively more interesting as you drop back down into civilisation, with colourful farming and eventually meeting hordes of day-trippers and school kids on the trail. I arrived in the town square of Sundarijal around 4.30pm and savoured the completion of my trek for all of 10 seconds before being accosted by a taxi driver giving me a special price direct to Thamel, and so straight back into the mayhem of Kathmandu!

Saturday, 11 October 2008

West District CC Relays

11th October 2008
Laps of 4km

Men's results | Women's results | Photos

I ran 14:11 on Leg 2. Our Westerlands team finished 16th out of 46 teams, with Dougal clocking 14:28, David did 14:03 and Nige, who still hasn't joined SAL after all these years, ran 14:56 as John Donnelly.

Race Route

Monday, 22 September 2008

Dalehead Fell Race

21st September 2008
7.9km with 725 metres of ascent

Results | Photos from Borrowdale Fell Runners

My legs felt fine after the Three Shires, so I thought I'd give the much more low-key Dalehead race at Borrowdale Show a bash on the Sunday. The show had been cancelled due to water-logged fields, but the hill race still went ahead with about 66 runners.

Jonny Bland won the race for the umpteenth time, which follows more or less the exact same route as the final descent of Borrowdale Fell Race, but as a straight up and down. I trailed along in the second group of runners with Keswick's Mark Denham-Smith providing entertainment by constantly swearing at himself the whole way up the climb. I waited for Mark at the summit cairn to let him show me a good way off, avoiding any nasty rocky bits, then followed him all the way back to the river crossing before nipping in front for the sprint to the finish to grab 1st V40 in 6th place overall. Managed a PB of 54:10, despite the route being a bit longer than usual.

Race Route Climbing through the quarry Descending through the quarry Descending through the quarry

Saturday, 20 September 2008

Three Shires Fell Race

20th September 2008
18km with 1480 metres of ascent


4 Westies ventured south of the border for this classic Lakes race - myself, Keith Adams, Jason and John Hamer. At 18km, or 11.2 miles, this is the shortest and most enjoyable of the Lakes Classic series. Car parking at Hodge Close quarry made for a social pre-race amble to the Three Shires Inn where the race starts. A massive turnout of 334 runners made for a slightly delayed start.

Once the race was underway, to avoid getting trampled I lead the field for the first 800 metres or so, down to the bridge crossing, before letting Ricky Lightfoot take over to win the race for the 2nd year in a row, in a time of 1:57. I had a reasonable climbs up the first couple of hills - Wetherlam and Swirl How - before getting caught by Mike Robinson, Janet McIver, Alan Smith and Steve Birkinshaw. After the next hill - Pike o'Blisco - I managed to follow Alan and Steve across to Blea Tarn and up Lingmoor without dropping any more places, despite Mike Johnson of Bowland and Dave Birch of Keswick getting close to my heels. I finished in a 5 minute PB of 2:11:34 in about 15th position I'd guess.

Race Route Near the finish
Race Profile against Time Race Profile against Distance

Friday, 12 September 2008

Simon Triger (1977 - 2008)

Tributes to Simon

Photo tribute to Simon

Reports: Chamonet | Daily Mail | The Herald

I have just received the terrible news that our good friend Simon Triger has died on Mont Blanc, aged 31. It is hard to believe the loss of Simon. He was such a genuine larger than life character who lit up the world with his infectious laughter and enthusiam.

Simon passed away on 10th September 2008.

Kilpatricks 2008 Dumgoyne Handicap 2008 Red Moss 2008 Kilpatricks 2008 Arrochar Alps 2008 Dumgoyne Handicap 2008 Glen Feshie 2008 Glen Feshie 2008 Glen Feshie 2008 Ben Lomond 2008 Manor Water 2007 Maddy Moss 2008

Sunday, 7 September 2008

Glasgow Half Marathon

7th September 2008

Results | Photos

The legs, mind and body were sore after yesterday's Ben Nevis race, so I just jogged down into towm and watched the Glasgow Half Marathon, which I never seen before.

Two Westies were running - David Riach who allegedly clocked 1:17:45 for 57th place, although David doesn't wear a watch, and wasn't wearing his ankle-strap chip, so we only have his word for that, and Stuart Burns who ran 1:39:14 for 1005th place.

I find it strange for a race that's so expensive and high profile, they don't bother publishing proper results. None of the runners have club or country against their name, or even what gender or age group they belong to.

David on St Vincent Street Race winner Emmanuel Mutai at mile 11 David approaching the finish Stuart Burns

Saturday, 6 September 2008

Ben Nevis Race

6th September 2008
14km with 1360 metres of ascent

Results | Photos | More Photos

My 5th time at the Ben Nevis Race, and 2nd fastest time in 1:52:35, although 6½ minutes slower than last year, mainly due to being 5 minutes slower to the summit. Ellie managed 2:17:38 in her first attempt at the race, despite taking some nasty falls.

Race route Race profile Ellie on the climb On the descent Entering the finishing field Ellie at the finish

Monday, 1 September 2008

2 weeks in the Pyrenees

8th to 23rd August

Ellie and I went to the central and eastern Pyrenees for 2 weeks of hiking and dossing around. We started off by flying from Prestwick to Girona on Friday 8th August, then picking up a hire and trying to drive as far as possible towards the hills on Friday night. We made it far as Graus before it was too late and dark to carry on, checked into a basic hostal above a bar and found somewhere to eat.

9th August - Graus to Torla
We followed narrow tortuous roads for a few hours before finally arriving in Torla at the entrance to Ordesa National Park. We pitched the tent and wandered up the River Ara for a swim. Later we hatched a plan for the next few days that would involve the GR11 and GR10, Cirque de Garvanie and the might Ordesa Canyon.

10th August - Torla to Baños de Panticosa
We got up early and packed our rucksacks with sleeping bags, tent, gas, stove, food, etc. for a 4 or 5 trip. We headed north up the road out of Torla until we could strike left into the forest on the GR11 trail running up the Ara valley to Bujaruelo. It was pretty hot and crowded when we reached Bujaruelo. After a brief rest and drink we carried on, quickly leaving the crowds behind, as we headed into the remote and stunning upper Valle del Ara. The head of the valley appears hemmed in on all sides, but the GR11 climbs into a rocky lochan-filled basin before crossing the Collado del Brazato, 2550m. Beyond this col was rough descent to the gleaming Embalse del Brazato reservoir, and then an even rougher descent down endless rocky zig-zags until we popped out at the bizarre Baños de Panticosa spa village. Bizarre because it looks like some sort of futuristic architecture competition, mixed in with a handful of scruffy old original buildings. We downed a couple of well-earned beers before heading to the Casa de Piedra bunkhouse.

11th August - Baños de Panticosa to Pont d'Espagne
Lying fast asleep at 5am, a massive thunderclap jolted me to life and I lay there listening to the rain hammering down, wondering what on earth we would do today. Luckily by 8am the storm had abated, so we departed with some trepidation climbing slowly up the wet greasy path into dank cold misty hills. Bit by bit we gained height on the GR11 to the Embalse de Bachimaña reservoirs, and then climbed higher to cross the Puerto de Panticosa col at 2541m, and then dropped north into France descending to the Wallon Refuge for some lunch, and continued to the Chalet du Clot where we stayed the night. We arrived early so went for a swim and visited the tourist trap of Pont d'Espagne for a couple of beers.

12th August - Pont d'Espagne to Gavarnie
We made an early start on the GR10 from Pont d'Espagne up to Lac de Gaube, then followed an easy trail with the mighty Vignemale looming in front, as far as the Refuge des Oulettes. The weather was rather cool, windy and grey for the 600m climb to the Hourquette d'Ossoue 2734m. We didn't bother making the short steep detour to the Petit Vignemale but carried straight on, dropping to the Refuge Bayssellance for a quick lunch, then carrying on down the valley towards Gavarnie. We stopped at the Refuge les Granges de Holle just overlooking Gavarnie, then dropped into town for a mooch around and to buy some provisions.

13th August - Gavarnie to Torla via Cirque de Gavarnie and Ordesa Canyon
This was without doubt the biggest longest and most exciting day of the holiday that included donkey rides, glacier crossings, walls of death with metal spikes for footholds, massive 5 hour detours to the Goriz Hut and down the entire length of the Ordesa Canyon, and finally catching the last bus from Pradera to Torla with 5 minutes to spare after a 13 hour day on the hill. The beer at the campsite tasted good on this evening.

The rest of the story plus photo galleries will get added when I get round to it. At present I'm finding it difficult to summon the necessary time and enthusiasm to update this blog...

Thursday, 7 August 2008

Narnain Boulder Dash

6th August 2008

Donald Evans won in a new record time, and Val Houston became the first woman to dip below 40 minutes for the course, despite crocking her ankle en route.


Monday, 4 August 2008

Helensburgh Half Marathon

3rd August 2008
Results | Photos | View route in Google Maps

In the absence of any local hill races, and after a hard day's geographing on Bute yesterday, I decided to get up horribly early on a Sunday morning and head over to Helensburgh.

The weather seemed fine to start with. Dry, fairly warm, and a slight headwind for the first few miles. However soon after the race started the rain began - light at first, then unremittingly torrential.

For the first couple of miles I ran with Lindsay Cunningham and John McMillan, until I slowly lost touch, and was caught by the next group lead by Nick Reid. I tucked in with this crowd until the turning point near Faslane, and then ran with Clyde Marwick until about 10 miles, until we were being closed down by several other runners. I decided to latch onto Gerry Graig and Iain Cullen, and then had a good battle during the final mile as the pace ramped up, and 4 of us just squeezed in under 1:20. I was 14th in 1:19:54.

Robert Russell won in 1:06:22, almost 4 minutes clear.


Monday, 28 July 2008

Luss Games Hill Race

27th July 2008

I'd been warned about the Luss hill race on more than one occasion. It has a reputation for runners ending up completely lost in chest-high bracken. I was not to be disappointed, and duly got completely lost on the descent and ended up in chest-high bracken just as expected.

Like the day before at Dufftown the temperatures were sweltering, but today there was no hazy cloud, so conditions were full-on scorching. The race started with a lap of the 300m games field before launching out onto the road and under the A82 on a footpath. Next was some diagonal cuts across fields and gates to climb before hitting the open hillside. A narrow path climbed through the bracken but petered out leaving a steep tussocky climb with odd patches of bracken to thrash through.

The race started off super-fast with Jethro Lennox and Edinburgh Uni's Ales Drahokoupil pelting off in the lead. Next Ronnie Gallagher, Des Crowe and Lindsey Cunningham all passed whilst I gasped along in 6th place, just managing to stay in front of Des's 13yr old son Jamie on the climb.

Jamie and I touched the flag at the summit turning point together, but then Jamie hit his stride quicker on the descent, only to run himself into some pathless bracken, allowing me to get in front again, until I had a mental aberration and headed off way too far to the left leading down the wrong track until I was fighting through chest-high bracken.

I vaguely thought of abandoning the race and just heading back to my car, but eventually fought my way through a track and caught a glimpse of Davy Duncan whisking past, so I gave chase back into the games field, narrowly avoiding catching him, but finishing the race all the same.

I've no idea what time anyone else ran, but I think I finished 7th in 32:28.

Route Route Race profile against distance Race profile against time

Saturday, 26 July 2008

Ben Rinnes Hill Race

26th July 2008
Results | Photos

A sweltering hot day at Dufftown Highland Games for Ben Rinnes. Quite a few runners suffered in the heat. Not least Brian Marshall, who managed to throw away an unassailable lead by falling apart on the last couple of hills. This allowed Sean Bolland to win the race, and David Riach had a fantastic run getting the better of Alec Keith and Brian Marshall to finish 2nd. I was pleased enough to finish 8th on such a hot day, even though I was nearly 10 minutes slower than last time in 2003.

Race route David Riach Graham Kelly Sean Bolland - race winner David Riach Ross Bannerman Keith Adams
Race profile against distance Race profile against time