Thursday, 31 December 2009

Snowy Ochils

31st December 2009

Snowy New Year's Eve outing from Dollar with JD.

It took almost 4 hours to complete an 8 mile circuit of King's Seat, Tarmangie and Whitewisp, wading through deep soft snow.

More photos | JD's photos

Friday, 25 December 2009

Christmas Day in the Lakes

My first walk up a hill since Nepal more than a month ago. Felt good to be out, especially on such a stunning morning with hardly anyone around.

Tuesday, 22 December 2009

White Christmas

Click this link if nothing appears below.

Monday, 21 December 2009


I've decided to start using labels in this blog. It took me blummin ages to figure out why the labels weren't appearing at the bottom of each post, despite selecting Layout > Page Elements > Blog Posts > Edit, and checking 'Labels:' under Post Page Options. I then tried rebuilding the entire blog from the original Minima template, and the labels still didn't appear. It was driving me nuts until I tried Layout > Edit HTML > Revert widget templates to default, and bingo the labels were there! Obvious really.

I've created an enormous heap of labels now. You can see them if you scroll down the righthand controls. These labels make it easier to find old race reports and similar posts, and also to spot which races are missing. For example the label Pentland Skyline shows my Skyline posts since 2005 at Skyline. You can see 2008 is missing since I had a rubbish run, so I didn't bother writing it up afterwards.

Likewise for the label Nepal, you can find my various Nepal ramblings here, although I still haven't added any photos for the 2008 Langtang/Chitwan trip.

I've also noticed that loads of the external links are broken in old posts due to website demise or restructuring.

Wednesday, 9 December 2009

Taking stock

Having been ill for around a month now means I haven't run or raced since the Scottish National Cross Country Relays back in October at Cumbernauld, and in fact running and exercise have slipped off my radar altogether for now. Looking longer term, I hope to be back racing in 2010.

In 2009 I managed 74 races but without any exceptional results.

In 2010, if I can get my act together, I would like to clock a useful marathon PB and perhaps get a bit quicker on the road. I also hope to complete a large number of long hill races, but more for fun than expecting to get any decent results.

Overseas, I would like to run the GR20 in Corsica again, for example in June 2010, or perhaps to hike a long section of the GR11 in the Pyrenees, or maybe try the complete route from Atlantic to Mediterranean which should take about 3 weeks, but might be tricky to organise logistically.

Sunday, 6 December 2009

West District Cross Country

5th December 2009

Photos: men's race | women's race

Men's results | Women's results

It's been several weeks I've felt ill with sinusitis, so I missed running the West Districts at Irvine Moor, electing instead to take a few photos.

Both senior races went right down to the wire. In the women's event the early group of 5 or 6 runners was whittled down to 2 by halfway around the 2nd lap with Springburn's Danielle Brown poised on the shoulder of Glasgow AC's Nicola Hood patiently waiting to make her move until the finishing straight, and clinching the win by a single second.

The men's race was even closer with less than a second separating the first 2 athletes. Shettleston's Eritrean duo of Tsegai Tewelde and Teweldeberhan Mengisteab both crossed the line in an equal time of 30:24 for the 9.8km route. The 2 athletes had run the final lap pace for pace with less than a stride length separating them, and neither athlete altered their step as they appeared to jog into the finishing funnel, making it all look very easy!

Monday, 30 November 2009

King's Seat Grudge Match

29th November 2009

Photos | Results

I felt too unwell to run, so instead took some photos at the 2nd running of the Westies vs Ochils vs HBT Grudge Match up King's Seat above Tillicoultry. The race resulted in a dead heat between Murray Strain and Al Anthony. Alayne Finlay was 1st lady, fairly closely followed by Ellie.

Saturday, 28 November 2009

Dunbartonshire Cross Country

Here are a few photos from today's Dunbartonshire AAA Cross Country Championships at Maryhill Park in Glasgow. I didn't feel well enough to run, but quite enjoyed watching the race.

Results: Senior Women | Senior Men

Link to photos

Friday, 27 November 2009

Gokyo Jiri Trek

7th to 18th November 2009

Back in Glasgow now with horrible sinusitis and chest infection after recent 12-day trek in Nepal's Everest Region with David Riach. This was my 6th and possibly final trip to Nepal, having visited every year since 2004, which was a Jagged Globe group for climbing Island Peak.

David hadn't been before, so I thought the Everest Region (or Solo Khumbu) would provide a useful introduction. We stopped one night at Hotel Thamel in Kathmandu on arrival, then flew straight to Lukla the following morning where most people begin trekking.

Day 1 - Lukla to Namche Bazaar 3440m (Nov 7th)
Not desperately warm as we touched down in Lukla, but we were hiking soon after 10am and gradually the temperature improved. We hiked past Phakding to the National Park entrance and stopped briefly in Jorsale for some soup and tea before crossing the final exciting bridge over the Dudh Kosi and flogging up the hill to Namche. It was quite cold and grey by the time we arrived around 4.30pm.

Day 2 - Namche to Thame 3850m and back (Nov 8th)
For acclimatisation and something to do, we hiked to Sunshine Lodge in Thame for some lunch. However on the walk back the altitude suddenly caught up with me and I felt dreadful, and could barely make it back to the Lodge in Namche before starting to throw up and felt awful all night.

Day 3 - In bed in Namche all day (Nov 9th)
I felt awful with altitude sickness and stayed in bed and ate nothing all day. David went out and pootled around Namche and along the trail towards Sanasa.

Day 4 - Namche to Phortse via Tengboche (Nov 10th)
Still feeling weak, but reluctant to spend another day festering in Namche we plodded up the steep hill to join the Sanasa trail and immediately bumped into the Everest Sky Race runners, some of whom I knew from the 2005 event. After crossing the Dudh Kosi at Phungi Thanga we plodded up a steep dusty 600m climb to Tengboche, overtaking hundreds of Japanese trekkers who were barely moving. Once at Tengboche, we got the stunning views of Ama Dablam and Everest peaking over Lhotse's shoulder. However the place was totally mobbed with trekkers, so there appeared to be no point in hanging around looking for a room, so instead we made a sharp exit stage left and dived down a steep narrow trail through the rhododendrons, crossed the Imja Khola and flogged up the other side of the valley to drop over a ridge into Phortse which was more or less deserted. That evening we had entertaining chat with 3 Americans: Bill, Margery and Dianne, plus the lodge owner who had climbed Everest 3 times.

Day 5 - Phortse to Dhole (Nov 11th)
Without question this was the shortest and most mind-bogglingly dull day of the trek. We only hiked about 2 hours to reach Dhole at 4110m, but didn't want to go any higher so found a nice quiet deserted lodge. However with minutes of arriving we were totally overrun with French people - in fact 2 separate groups that took over the lodge, crushed us into a corner, and did the usual French thing of pretending they don't speak English and totally ignoring us for the 8 hours as we sat there trying to protect our space from total invasion.

Day 6 - Dhole to Na (Nov 12th)
It was with some considerable relief to be back on the trail after the mind-numbingly dull previous afternoon being invaded by the French groups. The trail was pretty easy going and didn't take long to reach Machhermo just as the Everest Sky Race runners came jogging through again. I decided to jog along for a bit with a French guy who didn't seem to know where he was going, and I showed him the cut down to Na where their next checkpoint was. We then decided we might as well head to Na as well, since it appeared to have a lodge, and is off the beaten track to Gokyo. This plan worked well at first, with just a polite friendly group of 3 French folk to chat to before in the afternoon an appalling boorish group of Austrian piss-heads turned up and decided to spoil it for everyone, except perhaps the lodge owner who managed to sell her entire stock of San Miguel at 700 rupees per 330ml can.

Day 7 - Na to Gokyo and Gokyo Ri (Nov 13th)
The previous afternoon rain had been drizzling down at Na, but when I awoke I realised everything higher was under a blanket of fresh sparkly snow with fantastic early morning colours in the sky. David was more interested in getting his 13th hour of sleep, so I just got up and left and wandered up to Gokyo on my own in the fresh snow which was starting to melt fast. After finding a lodge and hanging around for an hour or so, David arrived and we then plodded up Gokyo Ri 5300m to get fairly good views of Everest and Makulu, although neither were totally clear.

Day 8 - Gokyo to Thame via Renjo La (Nov 14th)
Once again I got up and left just as the sun was coming over the hills. The route up to Renjo La isn't that obvious at first, but I eventually picked up a line of cairns and footprints in the snow. I'm pretty sure I was the first person to reach the pass that morning, closely followed by a German couple with a guide and no rucksacks. I waited at 5340m for almost an hour getting blummin cold before David arrived, and then promptly dived down the other side for a very exciting descent down steep steps banked out with hard icy snow. I waited for more than half an hour at Lungden, and then headed on alone towards Thame in fairly grey cold windy conditions. I had to stop and precariously teeter off the path several times to allow massive Yak trains to go through empty of their goods sold at Namche. Just before Thame David finally caught me and we arrived together back at Mingma Rita Sherpa's Sunshine Lodge.

Day 9 - Thame to Surkhe via Kongde View Hotel (Nov 15th)
This was not a trail I'd been on before, or even known anything about. It's basically a high-level shortcut to Phakding without returning to Namche. Mingma's son Lhakpa Tenzing Sherpa put us on the right trail out of Thame, before leaving us to our own devices. I was feeling tired with a horrible headcold, and David vanished into the distance, so I just plodded along at most own pace around the endless re-entrants. Eventually the trail took an exhausting upwards sweep across icy ground with wire cables for protection before arriving on a high shoulder overlooking Namche with 2 brand new hotels at Kongde Mountain View for rich Americans or Japanese, but selling nothing to passers-by. From Kongde we had a 1500m descent to Tok Tok where we picked up the regular tourist trail back to Lukla. Shortly before Lukla we cut off this trail in "Direction Jiri" and found ourselves instantly away from the tourists, stopping for the night at Surke - we were of course the only trekkers at the lodge.

Day 10 - Surkhe to Ringmo (Nov 16th)
Once again David was not for getting up in the morning, so I set off on my own for the surprisingly long and tortuous route around to Kharikhola. It looks nothing on the map but seems to go on forever. After Kharikhola there's a steep descent to make the final crossing of the Dudh Kosi before a 1400m climb up to the Taksindu La at just over 3000m. Luckily this time I made it to the pass whilst it was still daylight, so this made the rocky descent to Ringmo a good bit easier. We had a great evening in the "Central Hotel" sitting in the kitchen for warmth and drinking the local plum wine.

Day 11 - Ringmo to Kenja (Nov 17th)
The day dawned cold grey and misty, but I set off anyhow towards Junbesi since it's fun watching the school aerobics if you get there before 10am. The trail along past Salung was shrouded in thick hill fog, and I almost took a wrong turn that would have dropped to the Phaplu trail but was shouted back by a local. I was also feeling washed out and tired so stopped for some yak's cheese and crackers. I only just made it to Junbesi to see the pupils dancing along to Bob Marley's "No woman, no cry" in the school yard before disappearing to their classrooms. David arrived an hour or so later and we climbed together to the Lamjura La 3500m which was cold and misty. We stopped for tea and soup at a basic shack on the pass, then headed on to the Himalayan Lodge where we needed to decide whether to stop for an ascent of Pikey (pronounced P.K.) Peak tomorrow, or to just keep going. The weather was cold and grey, so we just kept going and dropped the best part of 2000 metres down to Kenja.

Day 12 - Kenja to Jiri (Nov 18th)
The final day of the trek was from Kenja out to the roadhead at Jiri. The section leaving Kenja is through fantastic lush plantations of oranges trees, banana palms, and all types of cultivation. Descending towards me I saw 2 French-looking sportif trekkers who said "hello Chris" in English accents. The Raidlight clad runners turned out to be Ross and Catherine Litherland from Macclesfield on a Round the World ticket. We stopped and chatted for a while before heading our separate ways. Once over the Deurali Pass I stopped in Shivalaya for a few minutes for refreshments, then marched on for the finish at Jiri. There's a very scenic section on the way to Mali that I'd forgotten. Rushing water and cascades, followed by picturesque terraced farming up to a small pass. Then it's downhill all the way to Jiri on a mix of bashed in new landrover track, and older trails linking farmsteads. The trip was rounded off with beer and crisps at the bus station bar, complete with obligatory power cut and candles.