ADVENTURES ISSUE 2 | Summer 2018
The Cuillin Ridge | Pyrenees Gastro Refuge
| Running | Hammocks
Woohoo it’s Summer! Thanks for reading our second issue. We’ve got so many stories and tons of advice from some pretty inspirational people. We’re so grateful to our contributors for their hard work in helping to make Adventures Mag what it is. Get involved with the Photo competition ’Show us your Breakfast’ for your chance to win a Grizzlys Brew Adventure set and a weekends supply of TentMeals.
You can connect with us through social media, or email, we love hearing what you’re upto and would love to know what you’d like to see more of in the next issue.
email@example.com FB: @adventuresmag Twitter: @_adventuresmag Instagram: adventuresmag
Cover Phot: Adrian Trendall Left: Robert Grew Photography
Summer To Do List Explore your local Coast The coast, not the beach. Take a walk along the cliff tops, discover lighthouses and keep an eye out for Sea Birds, seals and porpoises.
Why don’t you…… Take a whole day without turning anything on. You’ll need to make fire for hot food, walk anywhere and everywhere and find something other than a screen to entertain your brain.
Go Kayaking Whether sea kayaking in the Algarve or sit on tops around your local reservoir, Kayaking is an excellent pastime and nothing beats jumping off for a mid session swim on a hot day. You’ll explore places inaccessible by foot and get a bit of a work out at the same time.
Go to an Adventure Festival There’s festivals for everything. Weekends full of your favourite things; Trail running, climbing, walking, paddling, cycling or all of them in one!
Climb a hill Not a mountain. There are so may amazing hills around that we often ignore on the way to the bigger ranges. Explore your local hills , they may surprise you. Think the Malvern Hills, The Ridge way or the Yorkshire Dales.
Breed: Marbled Bengal Loves: Playing fetch with his favourite straw, Adventuring out on hikes, the boat or just to the shops. Rigsby was raised with a Doberman and a Jack Russel so doesn’t know any different. He is the PURRRfect sidekick to his owner Klare on all of their adventures. Currently Road tripping through Scotland.
In This Issue:
“Only those who risk going too far can possibly find out how far they can go”
The Traverse of Skyeâ€™s
Cuillin Ridge By Adrian Trendall
Skye is a magical island with the most alpine like mountains in the UK. The 900+ metre Black Cuillin rises straight from the sea forming a classic ridge that many walkers and climbers aspire to traverse. The holy grail of British scrambling, and â€œarguably the finest climb in Britain.â€?
The ridge runs from Gars-bheinn on the left to Sgurr nan Gillian far right and can be done in summer or winter although the latter is quantum leap in difficulty and can be a bit of a suffer fest given the low temperatures and short daylight hours. The gauntlet was flung down by Leslie Shadbolt and Alastair McLaren on the 10th of June1911when they not only completed the first traverse of the Cuillin Ridge but did so in a day. Their time of 12 hours and 18 minutes from first to last summit is still credible today and lots of modern teams would be only to pleased with it. Over the years the record has fallen to a remarkable 2 hours 59 minutes and 22 seconds by Finlay Wild, a runner and climber of repute.
The traverse is a big challenge but part of itâ€™s appeal is that it is achievable by many people and it has been my privilege to help many people achieve their dream. If you are fairly fit and a keen hill walker with a smattering of climbing skills then the ridge may well be achievable especially with a guide. Various approaches are possible but my favourite is by boat from the picturesque village of Elgol. As you approach, the views become even better and you invariably see dozens of seals basking on the rocks. The initial ridge is mainly rough walking with only a few hands on scrambling sections. However it is very spectacular with views all round to die for.
All too soon the technicalities start with the scramble up to a steep sided cleft which bisects the ridge. Known as the T-D Gap, it must be crossed if one is to continue. This has is only graded Severe but it can be a real struggle up a wide, polished crack especially with a backpack. Looking up at the climb from below gives a good impression of how tough it can be. Strictly speaking the ridge bypasses the highest peak on Skye, Sgurr Alasdair, but it is well worth the few minutes it takes to scale it. It’s a spectacular place to be especially as the sun sets.
Left: A climber at the top of the exit from the gap. Prior to this the pair had abseiled down the wall behind before making the 20m climb.
What’s the challenge?
● 12 kilometres of ridge with about 3000 metres of ascent.
● Technical rock climbing pitches graded up to Severe
● Multiple abseils
● Lots of scrambling and walking.
● That’s just the ridge itself but the approach can involve up to another 7 Km and 900m of ascent and the descent and walk out is a similar effort
The ridge is usually done in one or two days and may well involve scrambling as the night draws in. One or two days, the choice is yours. Light and fast works well especially if you are with someone who knows the route well; navigation is complex and compasses are badly affected by the magnetic rocks. The rock is Gabbro with Basalt intrusions running through it. The Gabbro is extremely rough and grippy and makes for excellent climbing but beware fingers and hands will easily be trashed or “gabbroed”. In the wet the ridge can become a real challenge with the basalt in particular becoming treacherously slippery. Many of the more technical sections on the ridge can be bypassed by easier options which are often equally spectacular. The next Munro, Sgurr Mhic Choinnich can be climbed by King’s Chimney which is steep and exposed but not as hard as it looks. The easier alternative is a walkway known as Hart’s Ledge. Equally exposed, it traverses the side of the mountain in an airy position. Much of it is a walk along ledges but there is some adrenaline fuelled scrambling in places. The famous trials bike Danny Macaskill who grew up on Skye has even ridden along it, His video shows much of the Cuillin Ridge.
â€œThe Inaccessible Pinnacle has a fairly low grade of Moderate but it is harder to imagine a more exposed
Perhaps the most iconic rock climb in the UK, the Inaccessible Pinnacle has a fairly lowly grade of Moderate but it is harder to imagine a more exposed climb for the grade. The climb follows a thin fin of rock with huge drops down to the loch below. Descent is an obligatory abseil (above) with great views out to the Isle of Rum. With several abseils on the ridge, this is a skill you need to have practiced prior to arriving on Skye. For the timid, the Pinnacle can be missed out by a walk up slabs below it.
Above: Much of the terrain is fairly straightforward but with huge drops either side then great care and concentration are needed. Here a guide and two clients move together using a process known as â€œshort roping.â€? With practice and a skilled guide, it enables ground to be covered swiftly and can rapidly be altered to technical climbing pitches where a greater degree of protection is needed.
Right: a competent climber ascends what is a graded climb which many people doing the traverse will choose to protect with a rope.
â€˜Everyone has to set their own level of comfort on the ridge and decide what they are happy to solo and what they feel a rope is needed to
As with any big challenge, prior preparation will reap rewards and increase your chance of success. Contenders need to be fit and used to moving quickly over rough terrain. Rope techniques and abseiling need to be quick and slick. The more practice you put in , the better your chance of success. Local guides reckon only about 10% of those trying the ridge succeed on their first attempt. Unless you are exceptionally fit, most will opt to do the ridge over two days with the advantage of a night out up high with stunning views. Conversely it does mean carrying a sleeping bag, waterproof bivi bag, stove and food and water but does remove the pressure of finishing in a day. If you do opt for a fast one day traverse then stack the odds in your favour. Many people know that it rains a lot on Skye (and it does) but many people give up having run out of water since there are no sources actually on the ridge.
“Local guides reckon only about 10% of those trying the ridge succeed on their first attempt”
Towards the end the Bhastier Tooth blocks further progress on the ridge. It can be climbed by Naismith’s Route (Severe) or by the easier Lota Coire route or simply bypassed by screes to the left. Naismith’s coming as it does, right at the end, will be too much for some parties Summit success on top of Sgurr nan Gillian, the final peak, and well worth a wee dram from a hip flask. Stay switched on and concentrate because it’s still about 3 hours back to the road and a celebratory pint or two at the Sligachan.
Adrians Top Kit Tips
Lets Talk Kit Undoubtedly the item of gear I get asked about most is footwear especially approach shoes versus boots. I prefer shoes which combine the advantages of a rock shoe, the lightness of a trainer and are extremely comfortable. There are a bewildering range of shoes available but since 2008 I have worn only Scarpa. This was purely down to luck and a bargain priced pair of Quests; the resulting fit and comfort converted me from boots. I have since had more pairs of Scarpa Quests, Zodiac and Cruxes and have just got my hands on a pair Mescalitos .These look fantastic and combine Vibram Megagrip soles for traction on rock, a smooth zone under the toe to facilitate climbing on small holds, an EVA midsole for comfort and support and an overall design geared for prolonged mountain use. I have only used them briefly but they seem the ideal ridge footwear.
Light is right so think carefully about what you take especially if doing it in a day.
A 35 metre rope is long enough for all the climbs and abseils.
Take a small rack of a few nuts, slings, a belay device each.
Lightweight waterproofs and spare warm clothing.
As small a pack as you can get away with.
Gloves both for warmth and to protect your hands from the rough gabbro.
If doing it over 2 days, consider pre placing bivi gear to save carrying too much.
Water can be problematic but a bit of research will show you where there are springs and thus reduce the amount needed to be carried. Isotonic tablets etc are a real benefit.
The ridge is very complex so checking out some parts beforehand will be well worth while.
Above: Adrian’s Scarpa collection Right: The new Mescalitos
Adrian is a Local Guide who spends his days leading clients through the beautiful mountains on Skye. For help, Advice or professional guiding, get in touch via his website: allthingscuillin.co.uk He also manages a facebook group which has lots of advice, photos and regular updates on weather and conditions on the Cuillin ridge. With 2500 members it is updated daily so well worth joining.
10 Festivals that are more adventure than acoustics
Love Trails Festival, Adventure Travel Film Festival, London Wild Night Out Southwest Outdoors Festival Alpkit’s Big Shake Out Camp Wild Fire Adventure Camp Cliff Hanger Festival Boardmasters
Northern Grip The North Face Mountain Festival, Italy
13—15th July 2018 10th—12th August 2018 30th June—1st July 2018 5th—7th October 2018 28th—30th September 2018 31st August—3rd September 2018 6th—8th July 2018 8th—12th August 2018
7th July 2018 27th—29th July 2018
Adventure Running Words by: Nikki @ The Adventure Running Company Photos by: Robert Grew Photography
When I was a kid all I ever seemed to want to do was to grow up. Make my own money, go where I wanted, eat what I wanted, mostly, just do what I wanted. I'm not entirely sure at what point I declared that I had finally made it as an adult, but I certainly don't recall memories of running through the streets high fiving folk in the celebration, of what I thought was such a milestone in life.
do, I have collected a varied amount of responsibility along the way that enables a particular way of living. A good job, a mortgage or two, some brilliant relationships, and an incredibly fat cat called Thomas. All of which comes complete with its very own set of significant advantages but also with its stresses. (Thomas can become very unfriendly when he gets hangry). As such, there has come a time where I have felt the need to escape the things I 'ought' to be doing or Fast forward fifteen years later or so, and one may perhaps the things I should be taking care of. It say that I've been sincerely fortunate to make my seems that the very things I wished for as a child, I way through some of the most excellent years of now spend much of my adulthood trying to free adulthood, reasonably unscathed. As many of us myself from.
â€œRunning distances is like living a year of your life all at onceâ€? I suppose when you note it all down like so, it may sound a little bit like adulthood is total rubbish and its all very much work and no play. Well, at times it certainly can feel like that, but I'm here for more than that and being a responsible(ish) adult allows me to test the boundaries, to go to the places I want. To seek and find experiences that fulfil the adventure that I look for, beyond the day-to-day living. Trail Running has offered and, on many occasions, delivered experiences that are stacked with fun, laughter and some incredibly valuable tools that I use in my own way throughout my life. It allows head -space and time to put things into perspective. Freedom of such, similar to the kind that takes you back to when you had so few responsibilities, but it also allows me time to help make those all essential grownup adulty decisions. It's time away with friends, a time to chew the cud, a time to nurture thoughts and my never-ending imagination. It provokes and inspires ideas and, at times, fills me with a sense of belief that I can do just about anything that I put my heart and mind to. I read somewhere once that running distances is like living a year of your life all at once. There's something within that little saying that certainly resonates with me.
During races, I have experienced many emotions over the course of, say, 30 hours. Some vast highs followed by some mega lows. Self-doubt, insecurity but also the incredible feeling of being unstoppable. You feel emotion. Trail Running and pushing those limits accentuates many emotions and, dare I say it, makes me feel quite alive. From the glorious pages of Facebook, and the picture-perfect images on Instagram we're continuously exposed to the positive and endearing quotes that, if they catch you at the right time, may have you stop and think for a moment or two. One of these little quotes that seems to appear from time to time is 'you can do anything, but you can't do everything'. Iâ€™ve thought about this one for more than a moment and will choose to ignore its sentiment and keep pushing, keep trying and keep believing. I suppose we're all trying. Trying to be responsible and all that being 'a responsible adult' entails. Although adulthood can be very confusing and equally terrifying from time to time, it is also an excellent and incredibly fortunate place to be. Trail running may not make the reality of responsibility disappear, but it indeed equips me with the tools to take it all on and the confidence to try absolutely anything and everything.
SHOW US YOUR BREAKFAST For your chance to win
WIN: A weekends worth of TentMeals and an adventure set from Grizzlys Blend
If you’ve not heard of them then you’ve obviously been living under and urban rock.
Tentmeals Create healthy, yummy, lightweight expedition meals and Grizzlys Blend produces yummy blends of tea and coffee to enhance your adventures, sent to you in biodegradable packaging.
How do I enter I hear you say? Simply Follow us all on Instagram and give us all breakfast jealousy by tagging us in your breakfast photos.
@adventuresmag @grizzlysblend @temtmeals_expedition_food
We’ll pick our favourite and they get to eat like adventure kings for the weekend!
Terms and Conditions: Competition is open from 12th June 2018 and closes Midnight 25h August 2018. Prize is Weekend supply of Tent Meals and Grizzly’s Tea and coffee. Prize winners will be announced on 1st September on the @adventuresmag facebook. If the prize is not claimed, the promoters reserve the right to publish the winning photograph.. No cash alternative is available. The Judges decision is final and no correspondence will be entered into. United Kingdom Postage entries only.
The CMD Arete The adventurous way up Ben Nevis By Alex Langfield
Ben Nevis. The Ben. The highest mountain in Great Britain. Regardless of all else, this fact alone propels 150,000 people to hike to its summit every year. For me, it is a mountain of two sides.
There's Side A. Side A is the zigzagging path that winds up its fairly featureless western face. Side A represents the fact that it is the highest mountain in Britain at 1344 metres. This makes it an incredibly popular mountain and on many people's to-do lists, hence the zigzagging path becoming known as the Tourist Route. Many of these people who ascend will not neccesarily be passionate about hill walking, mountaineering, scrambling, Munros. They will just know that Ben Nevis is the highest and they want to stand on top of it. Perhaps they will be doing the Three Peaks Challenge. They won't know that the mountain that drew their eyes on the road north of Tyndrum was Beinn Dorain. They won't know that the mountain that took their breath away across Rannoch Moor was the Buachaille Etive Mor. They won't return to Glencoe, despite pulling over to take in the majesty of the Bidean's Three Sisters. They will summit Ben Nevis via a distinctly mundane route, possibly thinking it something of a slog. They will do it with hundreds of others. They will have no sense of the freedom and wilderness that a good mountain day should provide. They will not get
the bug. This is Side A, Ben Nevis the massive, popular and potentially disapointing hill. Then there's Side B. Side B is The North Face of The Ben, the scene of World Class winter climbs with routes to test highly skilled mountaineers. In summer, it offers a host of fantastic rock climbs and atmospheric scrambles. It is a cold and unforgiving face, a place of "loveless loveliness.â€? For a hiker, The North Face is just about out of bounds, more of a climbers arena. However, there is a route for hikers that dips its toes into this drama. A route that is pure adventure and freedom, yet without the hassle of ropes, pitches and helmets. The route in question is the Carn Mor Dearg Arete, a long, narrow ridge of shattered boulders that sweeps down from the summit of Carn Mor Dearg and curves around and up all the way to the summit of Ben Nevis. All of this drama is completely lost on the poor souls trudging up the Tourist Route in the company of hundreds of others. So, this is Side B. Ben Nevis the mountain. Sherlock, which way do you think I'm going up?
I start in Glen Nevis by the youth hostel, change into my Salomons and turn my attention to the Ben. Only I have not really seen it yet. Britain's highest mountain is doing a grand job of hiding and this is another gripe I have with the Tourist Route - you never really get to see the mountain you are climbing. But I am to follow the Tourist Route as far as the Halfway Lochan and I make good progress on the well built path. The ascent to the Halfway Lochan is charming enough but predictably busy with people from all over the World getting to grips with Ben Nevis. At the lochan, as the masses take the right fork in the path to continue to long slog, I head left, content in the knowledge that I am heading for a beaut of a route. Gaining the ridge that leads to the Carn More Dearg Arete is the most punishing part of the day. Youâ€™ve just got to get your head down and get on with it. As I enter into the jaws of the Corie Leis I survey the scene to my left and my right. To the the left is the flank of the ridge that rises to Carn Mor Dearg; it is green, steep and speckled with boulders. To the right is the dramatically unfolding North Face of the Ben; it is dark, scarred by crags and forbidding. Loveless loveliness indeed. It is an unremittingly steep and tedious ascent up the grass and scree strewn slope. I follow a burn most of the way up and try to use the naked rock surrounding it as firm ground that I am able to trust. The problem is, much of it is damp and slippery. There are constant judgement calls to make. Do I pick my way up the grass and shrubs that are unpredictable underfoot? Do I scramble up the large boulders amongst the scree even though many of them are loose? Do I continue by the burn even though a lot of the rock is wet? It ends up being a mixture of all three at different times. When, finally, I meet the path that signals the end of the ascent it is an almighty relief. Bring on the good times. I ascend towards the summit of Carn Mor Meadhonach. Glorious does not begin to describe the views from its summit. Carn Mor Dearg, the ninth highest mountain in Britain, is close at hand and beautifully pointed. The ridge that bears its name is beginning to make itself known but is still mostly hidden by the main summit ahead. However, it is to the right that one of the grandest scenes in the British mountains fills my vision. The length, breadth and massive height of The North Face of The Ben is seen in profile. And it is sublime. I trace the routes that I have read about from right to left up to the main summit. Castle Ridge leading to - you guessed it - The Castle; Ledge Route winding its way up the dark crags, in what is an improbable low grade scramble; Tower Ridge looking every bit the rock climb and Observatory Ridge leading steeply to the summit.
After taking all of this in, I set off on the short hike to the summit of Carn Mor Dearg. Topping out, the full extent of the CMD Arete is revealed in all its glory. In a graceful arc that first plunges downwards and then rises and curves to the summit of the Ben, the arete looks as narrow as it does enthralling. Its backdrop is the wonderful Mamores range and behind that the Glencoe peaks and behind that the Glen Etive peaks and behind that... Well, you get the picture. From up here the Western Highlands unfurl in a sea of rolling ridges and sharp peaks. The dramatic termination of the Buachaille is a highlight, as are the many peaks of the Bidean almost directly behind Sgurr a'Mhaim. The majority of the Ring of Steall is visible and I am eagle-eyed enough to spot the Steall waterfall. This is pure Highland majesty. It is difficult to spend much time on Carn Mor Dearg's summit when the arete is ahead, beckoning. After a short descent, the terrain soon narrows and becomes a jumble of rocks and boulders. The exposure is not in the league of Crib Goch or The Aonach Eagach and you can keep it at arms length if you so wish. Easily the best way is to pick a path across the very crest of the ridge and I revel in the progress. However, like on Striding Edge, there is a path lower down that avoids the majority of the exposure for those who have no inclination to airy scrambling. Every now and again, I stop to look around and take in the incredible surroundings. Aonach Beag and Aonach Mor, Britain's seventh and eighth highest mountains respectively look their full height across Coire Giubhsachan. The summit of The Ben looks more pointed the further along the ridge I go and I find myself wondering what the steep looking ascent from the end of the ridge will be like. As the arete swerves around to face The Ben, the drop on the right gets that little bit more intimidating and the crest feels that bit narrower. There are no pinnacles to negotiate for itâ€™s entire length; it is a continuous, boulder strewn walkway. Hands are needed more for clambering than any kind of climbing but they are used nonetheless. The most exposed section comes towards the end of the traverse - a raised platform about two feet wide with drops on either side. Fortunately, the way is flat and accommodating, although I can imagine it being slightly more malevolent when under snow and ice. The very final section starts to climb and hands are needed here. Before long, I am stood by a very well fashioned cairn that I later learn to be the marker for an abseil point. I look back along the arete. It has been an absolute and sustained pleasure. All that is left to do now is climb to the roof of Britain.
The clamber up the flank of Ben Nevis is entertaining enough. I may have lost the path but I am not concerned, I am enjoying the clamber up the huge boulders. Care has to be taken in making sure that the boulders are not loose. Eventually, the gradient eases. The summit plateau is suddenly upon me. I have arrived at the summit of Ben Nevis. There are people everywhere. Some are sitting by the ruins of the observatory. Others are taking selfies on the raised platform at the true summit. Some are looking south over the Mamores, Glencoe and beyond. A few are looking west, to the islands of Mull, Rum and Skye and others looking north to peaks that I do not yet truly know. Which one is Ladhar Bheinn? I wonder. Can I make out Torridon from here? What of Glen Shiel? Supposedly, one can see over one hundred Munros from up here. I am blessed with a clear day in which to take in the endless sea of high land around.
But it is not the distant landscapes that truly hold my attention. And that, I realise is what they are - distant. Even the Mamores look distant from here, in a strange sort of way. It is, once again, The North Face of The Ben that is the spectacle here, or at least the pinnacles and ridges that lead up it. I find my way to an outcrop that juts out from the summit to the edge of the abyss. I swear that the temperature drops considerably as I get nearer the edge. A cold wind blows up from below. A chill creeps across my heart and my limbs tremble slightly. It is a daunting place to behold at such close quarters. Vertigo inducing. It feels lifeless and somehow unnatural. I feel a deep respect for the mountaineer who ascends this way. The summer rock climber must be brave. The winter iceclimber must have nerves of steel. I now also understand why the summit of Ben Nevis can be deadly in low visibility. Broad it may be, but there are horrendous, sheer drops all over the place. Descending with the low sun and the Inner Hebrides on the horizon is something of a treat. My eyes spend a good while tracing the spikiness of the very distant Cuillin on Skye and then the less dramatic Cuillin on Rum. Ben More on Mull looks huge but that might have something to do with the fact that it is the only mountain visible that has cloud licking its summit. Eventually, I decide to break into a run. Running downhill is a pleasure that any trail runner will attest to and it is something that I always enjoy immensely. There are sections of the Tourist Route path that are made of large, flat rocks that are a joy to leap between at speed. The speedy descent is done and, thankfully, the youth hostel has a shop for some liquid refreshment. Ben Nevis has served up a truly superb mountain day. It is a mountain that deserves to be treated the right way, not by the mere facility provided by the Tourist Route but by an adventurous scramble or climb. In the case of the Carn Mor Dearg Arete, it is a route truly deserving of the highest mountain in the land. It is long, sustained, exciting with superb views and just enough exposure to keep the scrambler on their toes. Of course, there are even more adventurous ways to the summit, ways that climb that intimidating, cold North Face. The Ledge Route is the obvious natural progression for me and I am sure that one day I will be back to climb The Ben once more.
Alex is passionate about the mountains of Britain. You can follow his adventures at alexrambles.com and on his YouTube channel Alex Rambles
The Camping Diaries By Adrian Lee-Stokes
5pm Friday afternoon and the train is crawling along the tracks painfully slow. Eight o'clock is my aim. Sundown. I need to get home, last minute check of my kit, walk 8 kilometres to where I think will be a good wild camping spot, explore the area to make sure I'll be thoroughly out of sight, pitch up, cook, eat, all before it gets too dark. And the train stops again. 6 pm I walk up our road with my wife who is trying to rub it in my face that she'll be getting fish and chips to enjoy alone. Thatâ€™s OK I tell her, I have Wayfayrer adventure food which is surprisingly tasty. She really doesn't mind me doing this but she hasn't seen me all day so I don't mind the few minutes stroll to catch up on the day but when we part ways, the pace quickens and it's all about business. Places to go countryside to see! 7:15pm A white tail from a deer bounces into the distant tree line like a cotton wool bobbing on waves. I ask myself why I'm so bothered about finding my camera? Not that it would make a difference if I had it to hand. By the time I turn it on, focus and aim, the scared animal will have bolted to the safety of the shadows. Just enjoy the moment. 8pm The tent is just up in time and the water is on the boil ready for my adventure meal. Chilli con carne. I stand and look about as the lights dim around me. I think it's this time of day that I can see the clearest. Everything seems so much more in-focus, as if a misty film has been taken away from in front of your eyes. The meal is tasty but not enough but right now I wouldn't swap it for any fish and chips in the world. 8:45pm I've taken a walk in the dusk and have found a game keepers high chair perched against an oak tree. I take a climb, sit down and loose all sense of time. My ears are ringing from the silence. There is a distant rumble from what, I can't tell. It is so faint it's less of a distraction and more of a soothing lull. I can feel the stress and anxiety of the world outside these woods drip away like melted candle wax. After I don't know how long, I realise that I've started to fall asleep. I decide to turn in for the night. 9pm I will never take my bedroom for granted again. I've forgotten how difficult it is to get ready for bed in such a small confined space. My tent is barely bigger than a coffin which means wiggle space is at a premium. But it's cosy and warm. Perfect for a nice nights sleep. I turn my phone back on to text my wife before I shut my eyes: Night night, Sweet dreams I love you Xxx 9:30 Damn, I need a pee....
Sunglasses [Sun-gla -sis] NOUN Glasses tinted to protect the eyes from sunlight or glare Whether you wear them as a fashion Item, to prevent you getting squint lines or to protect your vision, most of us own a pair of sunglasses. They prevent our eyes from being damaged by UV and visible light as well as covering up the blood shot eyes, hiding the effects of the night before. During the summer months they’re a vital piece for kit for those of use that spend out days exploring the outdoors and exposing ourselves to all of the UV rays the sun can throw at us. But how do you chose a pair of sunglasses suitable for your activity? For us it’s simple:
Find a pair that suits you
Make sure the category is suitable for your needs
Pick a reputable brand that specialises in looking after your eyes on a sunny day.
Sun glasses Categories Explained
Safety goggles/glasses rather than sunglasses. Great for keeping bugs out, let the sun shine on in.
Great for comfort on a sunny day, they’ll keep some UV rays out while you’re driving to town. Most common and useful. Great for playing sports, protecting your eyes on holiday or stopping a good 50% of UV rays reaching your eyes.
Great protection from UV rays, perfect for long days in the mountains or on the water. They’ll let less than 20% of light through.
They’ll keep UV rays and visible light away, allowing less than 10% of light through. Great for high altitude mountain sports, not so good for driving!
With 30 years of experience, BLOC’s Innovative sunglasses are designed to be flexible, lightweight and comfortable while protecting your eyes from harmful UV rays. With everything from lifestyle shades to maximum protection for High octane sports, BLOC have a style to suit your life. Every pair, from the Cruise to the Coast to the Tide (Above) is made with 30 years of experience and designed with the latest fashion in mind Check out the Fox (Left)range for ultimate sport performance eyewear, with impact resistant lenses and an adjustable nose grip they offer full protection during the toughest of adventures.
Check them out at: www.bloceyewear.com
The Alps Are Calling By Simon Ablett
The first time you break out into alpine whitewater is like taking the wheel of a sports car when previously you have only driven family hatchbacks; it is still essentially driving but wow, there is now so much more power to play with! The pressure of a large volume of impatient meltwater in its rush down the valley can at first be a little unnerving but when you get used to it you’ll want to come back time and time again for the sensation...
The French Alps is not just a classic paddling destination, in many ways it is a rite of passage for UK whitewater boaters developing their skills. Once you have spent a winter or two testing yourself against some of the home nation’s best rivers you are ready to fill a car to the brim with friends, paddling kit, camping gear, balance as many boats on the roof as possible and head across the channel. It is a long drive but you arrive to find a near perfect whitewater playground and although there is a lot of focus on the more difficult rapids, it is also a great place for intermediates to sharpen their skills on higher volume rivers in the sunshine. This article does not intend to duplicate or replace the great guidebooks available for the area which will give you detailed accounts of each river section. Instead I aim to draw upon ten summers of whitewater boating in the French Alps to give you some tips on how to make your first trip to the area fabulous.
When to go? The paddling season generally runs from late May when the rivers are high and quite a challenge to early August when the volume has eased off and the rivers are much easier propositions. But within this scale two changeable factors come into play; how much snow was there over winter, and how warm has spring been? Lots of snow over winter and/or a cool spring and the season shifts right, the opposite and the rivers get low early. I personally like to head out in late June or early July to hedge my bets, where although the exact levels will vary, all of my favourite sections should be running.
Where to stay? I have almost always camped on French Alps trips and base myself mostly in the Durance valley between Briançon and Guillestre. This leaves you well placed for a good number of fabulous local rivers within a 30min drive and most of the best runs in the region within a 90min drive. There are several great campsites, one right opposite the slalom course at L’Argentiere, and the summer weather is perfect for camping. However, there are plenty of alternatives ranging from staying at a "gîte d’étape”, which is quite similar to a hostel, or more popularly, renting a chalet which is often surprisingly cheap in June and early July. Beware that the French tend to holiday en masse from mid July to late August so if you are visiting in this window prepare to pay slightly more and book in advance.
What kit to take? Whatever boat you use for running rivers in the UK should be your boat for the Alps. If that happens to be a playboat then fine, but be sure that the group are happy with your limited capacity to carry gear and take part in rescues and that your skills in the boat match the grade of river. When it comes to kitting up, the contrast between the air temperature and the water temperature creates dilemmas. My perspective is that swims are generally very short and you warm back up quickly in the sun, whereas, spending hours boiling in a drysuit is uncomfortable and dehydrating, so dress for the paddle. Besides, if you are swimming that often perhaps you are on the wrong river?
Some of my favourite rivers There are so many river sections, covering all grades and types, and the White Water South Alps guidebook is essential reading. I simply mention here a few of my favourites to give you some ideas...
Briançon Gorge - A lot of the gorges are Grade 4/5 intimidating affairs, but this one is fun from start to end. Almost the perfect alpine continuous grade 3, this is short and sweet and, with an equally short shuttle, it is not unusual to run it a couple of times back to back. I have fond memories of a high water impromptu boater-x race down it with friends!
Lower Guisane - The Guisane is a great river but the very best section is the lower. Getting in just above Le Post Carle and running down to Briançon is fast, continuous Grade 4 and a real test for your skills; this is not a river for just getting away with it, you need to be in control and have a confident roll. But, have a good run and you’ll finish with a beaming smile.
Ubaye Racecourse - A great gateway section for those wanting to try a bit of alpine Grade 4, this is a wonderful day out on a river that has a bit of everything. I would say it is mostly Grade 3/3+ but has a couple of notable Grade 4 rapids to add spice, a few play spots and a spectacular gorge towards the end.
Middle Guil - This is a top contender for what the perfect local run would look like. A fun day out if done in its entirety, or a great end of day blast run from ‘Le Tunnel’ down. Rarely dropping below Grade 3 and Grade 4+ in places, it is a wonderful alpine test piece and for a skilled paddler it will be a highlight of any trip.
Isere - I mention this even though it is not close to the Durance valley because it gives you options. It is a lot further north (3 hours or so via a spectacular drive), so means moving to a new campsite. However, it is dam released throughout the summer so guaranteed water, the slalom course at Bourg Saint Maurice is testing and the paddle down to Centron is super fun! I often use it as an end to a trip, especially if the Durance Valley water levels are dropping off.
Alpine Paddle Skills Clearly, this article is aimed at people who would already class themselves as pretty competent paddlers (I would not recommend going out to the Alps without a coach if you are not) but there are a few points worth making about the paddling style on these bigger rivers.
Get deep into eddies… This British habit of spinning on the eddy line, born out of the fact so many of our eddies are small, works against you in the Alps where eddy lines are wide and/or powerful. Try to cross the eddy line and continue deep into the eddy, using either the right combination of angle and glide speed or employing a stern squeeze to control your spin angle.
Run the river ‘Alpine Style’… The water speed is swift in the Alps and quite often this means river sections cover big distances. So get out of the habit of stopping in every eddy you see and let the boat run, resting in the flow between rapids. Of course, I’m not suggesting you run into things blind, so if you cannot see the line then slow things right down, but building confidence to read and run more often will make for fun days covering multiple sections.
Think rescues through… If somebody takes a dip it is important to have a plan of action as once a flooded boat gets up a head of steam on an alpine river it can be difficult to stop. Know the skillsets of your group and plan how you will deal with incidents, especially if not everybody in the group has a solid roll. And, if that is the case, and nobody in your group is confident of chase boating on the river you plan to run, then you might need a new plan…
A little something extra… Finally, I would remind you that sitting in a kayak isn’t the only way to have fun in the Alps. It is an outdoor adventure playground and pretty much any sport you want to pursue will be available to you, from paragliding to rock climbing, alpine mountaineering to lift assisted mountain biking. So, if you enjoy a bit of variety, see if you can squeeze a bit of extra kit in the car for some off the water activity too!
Simon Ablett is a British Canoeing Advanced Whitewater Guide who runs Live2Flow, a small company dedicated to inspiring adventure and providing high quality coaching and leadership. Each year Live2Flow runs paddling holidays to a number of destinations, including the French Alps
Footpath Erosion We’re all guilty of it. The path is muddy, lose or just awkward so we step across onto the flat grass on the side of the path. It’s easier to walk on, our boots stay clean and we’re less Likely to twist an ankle. Harmless right? Wrong. When a patch of foliage is trodden on hundreds of times, the flora is damaged beyond recovery. Once the Flora, and it’s roots, are gone, there is nothing to hold soil together. It rains and water flows along the surface, washing away loosened soil. This happens over and over, often after a prolonged period of time resulting in trenches and scars on the landscape.
What is being done? Many national parks work hard to manage footpath erosion by laying footpaths, often costing thousands of pounds, in order to encourage walkers to stick to the paths and reduce further damage. Fences are erected and grass seed planted to help areas regenerate.
What can we do? Itâ€™s simple; stick to the paths. Let people know why they should stick to the paths. Educate your children on the impact they can have. Lead by example.
Book onto a conservation holiday with the National Trust. You can spend your break doing a variety of activities, including laying footpaths, learning to build dry stone walls or learning about conservation of our coast and countryside.
Lake Waikaremoana A New Zealand Great Walk By Jenny Dart
Lake Waikaremoana on New Zealand’s North Island is one of the least visited, most remote and difficult to get to out of the 9 (soon to be 10) Great Walks. It is located at the end of miles of winding gravel roads on the eastern edge of what was once known as the Te Urewera National Park. The closest city is Gisborne, but we approached it from the direction of Rotorua after work, greatly underestimating a.) the distance, b.) the handling skills of our faithful car Cecil and c.) the various hazards that present themselves on a Thursday evening after dark in ‘the deep bush’.
contacting the local information office. The huts are basic – bunks and mattresses only, no cooking facilities, long drop toilets, drinking water available (although you may wish to purify) and fire wood sometimes available for the wood burning stoves. Although these are not the luxurious Alpine huts you may find on other similar treks in Europe (eg Tour de Mont Blanc) they are a pleasant surprise for those of us more used to canvas. The track is well maintained (although muddy in places so we were thankful for our boots!) and well waymarked.
The walk and route is well The track is 46km long we had heaps of time to documented online, with a useful (non circular) and DOC leaflet describing the trail and starts from Onepoto, swim, take photos, have different hut options. We decided climbing up to a multiple snack breaks and on a 4 day, 3 night combination as striking ridge before recommended by DOC. This would descending to the lake not worry about time side and following this be my friend Sam’s first experience around to a water taxi of multi-day trekking and I wanted it pick up point. Due to the location, the route and to be as enjoyable as possible! This meant we need for shuttles there was a certain amount of walked for 3-4 hours the first two days and spent logistical faffing required, but there are many a significant portion of time swimming, lounging, helpful companies easily found through the excellent Department of Conservation (DOC) reading and yoga-ing. The third day we walked website (http://www.doc.govt.nz/ for 5 hours (with an additional 1 hour side trek waikaremoana) or a quick google search. The to the 22m bridal-veil Korokoro waterfall, we’d majority of visitors to the lake are there for the definitely recommended it!) and then the last tramping so there is a good local network of day was a 4 hour stretch to the water taxi pick support, guides and accommodation. up point. Even on the ‘longer’ day we had heaps As the track is a Great Walk, the huts require of time to swim, take photos, have multiple booking before starting on the tramp – this can snack breaks and not worry about time easily be completed through the DOC website or pressures.
For us this was a time to decompress, reflect on life choices and practice mindfulness. . The part I value the most about multi day hikes is that all you have to do that day is walk. That is the main event. There is something quite liberating and refreshing when that is your only requirement. Knowing that we had all day to travel a short distance and not exactly knowing when the hut would appear helped in focusing the mind on the journey, not the destination.
â€œall you have to d that day is walk. That is the main eventâ€?
The scenery was simply spectacular, photos do not do it justice. I am not used to such lush and thick vegetation , even on the ridgeline the birch forest was incredible. I have never seen such vibrantly green lichen and moss. The forest surrounding the lake contains over 650 different types of native plants, providing an essential habitat for a wide range of native birds, including the elusive brown kiwi. There are kiwi protection zones around the lake and we heard the calls on two nights from the huts. Simply magical.
Anyone that visits a place becomes a guardian of it and so reflects on our responsibility for the natural world and the resources within it. Some of he huts are wardened, we had the delight of a Maori female warden on our second night. ‘Auntie’ (a term of respect for Maori female elders) enjoyed welcoming trampers to the hut and provided inside knowledge to the beautiful surroundings.
formed 2,200 years ago by a massive landslip blocking off the river gorge and producing the drowned valley system seen today. Maori legend tells of the lake being formed by the daughter of a Maori chief when she was drowned in a spring for disobedience and transformed into a tanjwha’ (monster). She longed to Waikaremoana means ‘sea of rippling waters’ and is reach the sea so tried escaping north, then east but the home of the Tuhoe tribe (‘children of the mist’). It was blocked each time. She then became exhausted features heavily in early Maori legend and remains by daylight and remains as the form of a rock with the significant in Maori culture to this day. The lake was rippling waters of the lake running over her body.
Above: One of the Great Hike Huts. Right: bridal-veil Korokoro waterfall
The former national park of Te Urewera surrounding the lake has a lot of attention currently after a change in ownership in 2014. It is no longer ‘owned’ by the local iwi (tribe) or the government, instead it belongs to all people, with the Tuhoe being guardians. This is an international first following the Treaty of Waitangi and so the results are being closely monitored. The concept of guardianship or ‘Kaitiakitanga’ is one that resonated with me whilst visiting the plentiful natural wonders on my visit and is one I will take back with me to my work in Britain. Anyone that visits a place becomes a guardian of it and so reflects on our responsibility for the natural world and the resources within it. When I’m working in our National Parks I want to instil this importance in younger generations so they feel a connection to our natural spaces and will have a reason to speak up for their protection in the future.
Branching out with Ticket to the Moon
It comes as no surprise when I say we love camping in Up and Under. Whether you’re a walker, climber, paddler or general lover of nature, at some point camping will become a priority. Nothing beats falling asleep to the sound of nature’s nocturnal choir, or waking to the ambient glow of dawn’s first light.
However… there’s possibly an even better way of immersing yourself into the wild - AND - get the best night's sleep you’ve ever had! No it’s not some newfound super-techy-singleskin-tent-withbuilt-in-aircon-and-yet-still-weigh-less-than-2kg; we’re going old-school for this one. I’m of course talking about the humble hammock.
Used for centuries across the globe, these minimalist swinging beds are a lightweight, lowcost option for anyone looking to snooze amidst the branches. But not all hammocks are created equal. For us, the Ticket to the Moon set delivers high performance at a reasonable cost; let’s take a look at what they have to offer…
For sleeping... The TTTM hammocks come in a range of sizes: single, double, king size and the ridiculous mammock which can hold a whole family! I personally use the double as I like having the extra material to wrap around me, but the single is pretty generous. Made of high grade parachute nylon fabric, they’re durable, breathable, anti-mildew, lovely against skin, quick drying and machine washable. They can hold up to 200kg and the single weighs little more than 500g. They have thousands of colour combinations to choose from - get creative!
INTERESTING STUFF: There may be evidence to suggest sleeping in a hammock can help improve back problems - due to no pressure points - and the rocking motion can possibly trigger something within our brains that reminds us of being rocked as a baby, encouraging deeper sleep…
STAFF TOP TIPS: To avoid sleeping like a banana, make sure you lie in it at a slight diagonal angle; this will allow you to lie flat and is a lot more comfortable.
Price: (Single) £45.54 Weight: 590g Size: 320 x 155cm
For swinging… To attach your hammock to nature’s bedposts we recommend TTTM’s nautical rope. This takes the headache out of setting up the ropes yourself; these 5mm nylon ropes come preknotted allowing you to set your hammock in less than a minute. Each rope is 2.5m long and has a max load of 200kg. The alternative is TTTM’s tree-friendly traps; they’re the same basic thing, but come with a nylon looped strap to wrap around the tree, so as to minimise damage to the bark.
STAFF TOP TIPS: You want your rope to hang at around 30° from the ground. This will allow your hammock to have enough slack for you to lie in a diagonal position, rather than squashing you like a cocoon.
Price: Nautical Rope £10.06 Length: 2.4m each Max Load: 200kg
For shelter… The next thing to think about is how to keep the rain away; cue the TTTM hammock tarp. Designed cover all hammock sizes - minus the mammock as that thing is just absurd - this simplistic tarp is the ideal way to protect yourself from both rain and harsh sunlight. Made entirely of polyester-treated ripstop nylon, this tarp weighs around 660gs and can be used as both a diamond and a rectangular tarp, making this a lightweight and diverse shelter. It even comes with its own stuff sack for easy storage - win!
INTERESTING STUFF: No need to worry about rubbing it down to pack up like you would a tent. You’re already outside so there’ll be no condensation to get rid off - just give it a shake when you’re done and away you go.
Price: £59.70 Weight: 660g Size: 350 x 350cm
For protection… With warmer weather come swarms of midges who are eager to feast and you don’t want to wake up to these critters munching on your face - BELIEVE ME! Therefore, we suggest you use the TTTM 360° mosquito net; made from netting with 525 holes per square inch, these nets have been tested in high malaria-risk zones and are an absolute necessity for any traveler. They’re simple to set up and can either be attached to your ridgeline or to the ends of your hammock. With a two-way zipper complete with velcro, this net is easy to use needing little-zero instruction to set up.
STAFF TOP TIPS: If you fancy sleeping under the stars, the mozzie net can help protect your from falling twigs and leaves and still allow you to gaze up into the canopy.
Some Caveats… Before you go headfirst into the arboreal world of hammocking, here are a few things you may want to keep in mind…
Firstly, everyone sleeps differently and what I’ve listed above is a very general way of hammocking and just so happens to be the way that works for me. You may need to tweak this system to find what suits you, so you may need to persevere for the first couple nights. But once you’ve found your system, you’ll sleep like a baby!
Secondly, you’re much more likely to get cold from below than above, so take an insulated mat (such as the Klymit Insulated Static V.) with you for chillier conditions, Remember to stay diagonal within the hammock for max comfort.
Finally, sleeping in a hammock is very much a one person activity; doing it with someone else doesn’t work. Trust me, I’ve tried! They’re fine for quick naps, but you won’t get a decent night’s sleep with two of you squashed inside a swinging cocoon.
A gastronomic surprise in the Pyrenees mountains By Penny Walker
hink of a mountain refuge and I'm sure the last thing to spring to mind is exceptional gastronomy. However, in one exceptional refuge in the mountains of the Ariege Pyrenees in SW France, gastronomy goes hand in hand with adventure.
The Pyrenees mountains which form the natural border between France and Spain are a hiker's dream. The terrain is rugged and wild and the hiking is challenging. But the reward for your efforts are farreaching vistas of a pristine landscape that remains blissfully unspoilt by mankind. The fact that over 40 brown bears as well as ibex, chamois, bearded vultures and Egyptian vultures have settled in the central Pyrenees is testament to the wildness of this breathtaking area. There are numerous catered refuges dotted throughout the mountains. From June to October, once the snows have receded, the dedicated guardians welcome weary hikers and mountaineers with food and a bed for the night. Staying in a mountain refuge is always a hugely sociable affair. Thereâ€™s one set meal in the evening which is taken at a communal table where you can share tales and discuss your love of the mountains with fellow outdoor enthusiasts. Refuge accommodation is always bunk-room basic and showering facilities may be limited. But when it comes to feeding his hungry hikers, Anoura, the guardian at the refuge dâ€™Araing (Right) in the Ariege Pyrenees, offsets this no frills accommodation with a hospitality and a passion for food and his environment that is quite frankly extraordinary.
When it comes to the evening meal, the majority of refuge guardians content themselves with providing staple casseroles and other hearty mountain food which serves to satisfy the stomachs of their hungry clíentele. However, Anoura, who has been the guardian of the refuge for 17 years, is different. He doesn’t just want to fill your tummy. He is intent on delighting and surprising your taste buds. He is passionate about supporting local producers and uses horses and donkeys to transport fresh local supplies up to the refuge from the valley below. With its 1200m of ascent this is no mean feat. On your hike up from the valley you may encounter donkeys laden with huge rounds of cheese from the Bethmale valley, produced from the milk of sheep and cows that have feasted on rich summer pastures, freshly churned butter, legs of cured ham, organic bread that is made by hand and baked in a wood-fired oven and of course fresh seasonal fruit and vegetables from his favourite producers. If you’re lucky the consignment may even include trout, freshly caught that morning! Otherwise, meat is from local farmers who actually care about the rearing of their animals. ‘Eat local’ is very much at the heart of Anoura’s philosophy. But it doesn't stop there. Anoura and his team painstakingly collect edible fruits, herbs, leaves, flowers and roots such as wild thyme, gentians, wild liquorice and of course bilberries from their surroundings. Their passion is to transform them into the most divine and unusual cordials, syrups, wines, liqueurs, sorbets, ice creams, jams and jellies which are offered to you during your stay. Taste the outstanding elderberry or gentian wine, enjoy a refreshing mint or lemon verbena cordial or indulge in a post-dinner wild liquorice or wormwood liqueur which is prepared by the distillation or infusion of many aromatic mountain plants and flowers.
In July and August, using a comb-like collector, the team harvest tiny bilberries from the low growing shrubs around the refuge. These may then be transformed into a mouth-watering 'tarte aux myrtilles' for the evening meal’s dessert. Just divine when accompanied by some home made ice cream or sorbet. After a strenuous hike and an ascent of one of the surrounding peaks on a hot summer’s day, you’re sure to appreciate a glass of refreshing wild mint or lemon verbena cordial, or a scoop of acacia, wild thyme, wild liquorice or bilberry sorbet. Simply delicious! Gourmet mountain fayre is the name of the game at this exceptional lakeside mountain hideaway. Combined with the outstanding hospitality of Anoura and his team you have the recipe for an unforgettable stay which is sure to be the highlight of your hiking trip to the central Pyrenees
About Penny Penny Walker has lived in the foothills of the French Pyrenees for 11 years. She's passionate about the outdoors and spends as much time as possible in the mountains with her husband and border collie Taff. Her business, The Adventure Creators https://www.adventurecreators.com, is all about sharing her passion with fellow adventurers and encouraging outdoor lovers to explore a lesser known mountain range in all seasons. She works in conjunction with local guides and activity providers to coordinate everything from women’s mountain biking trips to horse trekking holidays to tailor made summer and winter multi activity holidays. Instagram - https://www.instagram.com/adventure_creators/ Twitter - https://twitter.com/AdventureCrtrs Facebook - https://www.facebook.com/adventurecreators/
It had been raining for what felt like a week before our Tour du Mont Blanc hiking adventure. The thought
of walking for 12 days around the stunning Blanc Massif in the pouring rain was not exactly what I had in mind when I agreed to join friends taking on this classic hike.
The butterflies were fluttering. I was already feeling a tad apprehensive about my fitness compared to the gang, a group consisting of my husband, 3 Clipper sailing crew alumni and a man nicknamed ‘the mountain goat’. Furthermore, I was suffering buyers remorse and pining after my beloved old pair of boots, my new ones stubbornly resisting my attempts to break them in. I really didn’t want persistent rain to be a test on my resolve too.
Mother Nature took pity on us. The moment we arrived in Chamonix the rain stopped, the sun came out and the clouds drifted away. Amazingly, the rain wouldn’t make an appearance again until we finished, the first drops falling at the exact moment we checked into our final hotel. Instead, our 180km route had taken us through luscious green mountainous landscapes stretching as far as the eye could see, drenched in warm alpine sunshine with a glorious deep blue sky backdrop. Pinch yourself.
The Tour De Mount Blanc By Bells Travels
The TMB guide published by Cicerone was our bible (I can’t recommend it enough if you’re thinking of doing the hike). The route takes you in a loop through 3 countries, France, Italy and Switzerland, the glistening peak of Mont Blanc never far from the corner of your eye. We were covering steady ground each day but didn’t need to rush, instead taking our time to savour the magnificent views that changed with every stride, constantly taking our breath away. We often met others in the refuges at night who were lamenting their decisions to do the hike in fewer days, but I guess it depends on what you’re looking to achieve.
Though you can camp, we opted to stay in refuges at night and get a hearty hot dinner (and sometimes a hot shower), watching the sun go down each evening with a beer in hand. The refuges really varied in standard. Some are cabins tucked away in a valley with a cosy dining room and roaring fire, others are perched beneath glaciers upon the hillside with morning coffee views to die for. Then there are the modern refurbished types and the more rustic nights, spent in a cold draughty barn with old cattle chains rattling above your head!
The really special nights were those in the middle of nowhere, with weekly food deliveries arriving by helicopter, and only otherwise accessible by foot. The atmosphere was always great fun, like minded people swapping tips and stories, sharing in the glowing buzz and exhilaration that adventure in the outdoors brings.
As someone who struggles a bit with heights, I thought the narrow tracks with intimidatingly steep drop offs would be my biggest hurdle to face. It turned out to be the nauseating knee pain a week in that really tested my true grit. Over the course of the hike we ascended and descended just shy of the combined height of Everest and the Three Peaks. If I hadn’t of found a substantial knee brace mid way through, I’m not sure I would have made it. And my blisters, it’s safe to say that me and my boots did not get along. I resorted to getting new footwear in a village we passed a few days in. However, the only thing I could find were hiking sandals, not exactly ideal. I laugh now to think I spent 9 days trekking around the Blanc Massif in sandals and hiking boots strapped to my pack!
The Tour du Mont Blanc hike is a sublime trek that you should definitely bump up your ‘One day I’ll…’ list. Hiking is good for the soul, and this is an amazing adventure accessible to those of average fitness too (with a good pinch of dogged determination). I’m testament to that.
Summer Adventures to inspire you to get outside