Coed Brenin Enduro 2014

Coed Brenin Enduro 2014

Monday, 30 December 2013

Cross border raid.....

The plan was simple, to get in another days biking before going back to work, and I really fancied North Wales. I've ridden lots of the manufactured trails like Mach 3, the Marin Trail, the Karrimor Trail and the Dyfi Cli-machx (nice name), but never much natural stuff in the Park.

My bike is great, but I was conscious that the shocks hadn't had any attention for 2 years, the back wheel had a wobble, and some gears were unachieveable. Luckily Ben at mobile bike repairs managed to squeeze it in and service/fix all of the 'niggles' over the Christmas period. Massive thanks Ben - its now running like a dream....

So finally after what felt like ages of bad weather it looked like Sunday was going to be a calm day between two storms. So we headed over the border to Wales early on the Sunday morning.

A dusting of snow on Tryfan
It was a nice drive over and I'd forgotten how close it is as I tend to go to the Lakes due to its proximity to us. We passed the stunning Bodelwyddan Cathedral on the drive over and Abi admitted to being confirmed here. Being ill-educated and non religious I didn't really know what this meant, I imagined that Abi was taken in and they declared "yep, I can confirm she's a girl, next......"! I'm sure I was confirmed at hospital, but each to there own.....

I also have a terrible confession, for the first time in about 3 years I had a McDonalds on the drive over! Terrible behaviour I know, but it seemed so right on this fun day trip, and the breakfast McMuffin was good....

We got to Betws-y-Coed before the Sunday tourists and set of into the forest on the bikes. It was fairly fresh, and despite lots of layers I couldn't feel my feet or hands, but luckily the first long forest road climb soon warmed us up (slightly). We were following a route called 'Elin's Fancy' from an old BikeFax guide.

Abi looks shocked, but I guess I shouldn't jump out of the tree's with the camera so much!

deep lush forest tracks

It was a great route, with lots of quiet forest fire road (climbs!) and forest singletrack, I'd deliberatly picked this route to stay lower and hopefully warmer in the forest, but hadn't appreciated that when the sun was out, we didn't feel its benefit. I do love these forests though, at times it was very dark and lush and felt like you were in another land far far away (and I don't mean Wales!)..

here I come.....
We also cycled on a section of Sarn Helen the course of an old Roman Road from Aberconwy to Carmarthen. This was similar to the Lakes, and w bumped into some off roaders, who'd blown a gasket on their 4x4. Worth while coming back to explore this area, and trail further, maybe even complete the whole of the 270 mile Sarn Helen mounain bike route!

Abi in 2nd place at the water jump
With cold feet we returned to a very busy Betws, and loaded up the damp kit before heading to the cafe for a well deserved pit stop. We finished the day at the Moel Siabod cafe which was a petrol station last time I was here! Must return to North Wales again soon.....

a very happy chappy... cake and hot chocolate

Saturday, 21 December 2013

Wild weather on the winter solstice

Another bike day - yay.....

The weather forecast for the shortest day of the year (the hump!) was pretty wild, but if the BBC were to believed then it looked like an okay window between 10am - 3pm! I nearly aborted on the drive over when at 10 am the skies blackened and apocalyptic weather suddenly appeared. It went incredibly dark and the heavy rain and flooded roads made me start to think about Noah, and then tsunami's!!

Planning, unloading, sun on Coniston Fells and don't land hot air balloons here!

Luckily I kept faith and just as I met Steve at Grizedale the skies started to clear and the sun even broke free sending amazing light onto the Coniston Fells.

I love Grizedale, it's just so unique for England. We basically warmed up on some fire roads (no idea where), jumping onto sections of the 'North Face' trail when they appeared. The North Face trail isn't that great, but if you link up parts of it with fire road, bridle ways and other tracks in the area then its awesome.

Trolls live under this bridge!

Lush forest, fast trails

Could easily be BC (watch for bears!)
After the warm up we headed on a great loop getting deeper and deeper into the forest before popping out at Satterthwaite and crossing over into the Eastern forest. Again brilliant single track lead us on a blinding descent towards Esthwaite Water (recently sold on ebay I believe!).

Home again, time to dry the feet and drink tea....

With very wet feet/legs we had one final section to do, passing Foxy (Steve loved Foxy!), before finally arriving back at the cars, tired but grinning. What a great ride, no rain and we didn't see another biker all day!

Tuesday, 17 December 2013

Nice 'wee' video's

Make yourself a nice cup of tea, turn off the TV and watch this mountain bike video.... It may make you want to get up to Scotland with your bike....

Also.... a nice time lapse video of  Everest and A life well lived

Monday, 2 December 2013

Happy, sad times

I went back to Derbyshire for a funeral at the weekend, so decided to get a day out on the grit the day before. It was amazing weather, pretty warm in the morning as I bouldered firstly at Higgar Tor, then as the sun swung round on Burbage North. It was fairly busy (to be expected), but by being weak and sticking to the B1 - B4 stuff I avoided the crowds. Interesting tying to get selfie pictures with a camera on a rock, 10 sec timer, running back to the problem etc! Sam joined me for the last couple of hours before dusk and shredded some blocs too......

Higgar - easy but the top was very slimy (should have looked prior)!

Claude on the brilliant Cleo's Edge B3
Burbage North - hat on to avoid the sunburn!

Rest in peace Constance Jean Seals

Monday, 25 November 2013

frozen feet vs photo opportunity

One of the benefits of working the occasional Saturday is that you can 'go play' in the week. With mountain biking I have been in a 'rut' (pardon the pun!) for awhile, re-riding the same (brilliant) routes over and over.

Chilly start, but amazing views
Nice ferns!

For some time I've thought it would be cool to explore the low trails around the Langdale valley and try to figure out a loop, so today that's what we did.

Nice restoration project waiting in Langdale

Great trail, too many gates!
It was a good route, starting from near Ambleside and going into Langdale using various sustrans bits, bridleways, byways and the odd 'other' trail before looping back a similar way. Not a hardcore route, but very scenic. I wanted to spend some time taking pictures, but it was fairly brisk and at times I had to refrain from asking Abi to 'just ride that bit again'....................

Which way.......

I love old doors and wood!

Saturday, 16 November 2013

Kendal Mountain Festival

I caught up with friends I've not seen for awhile and saw some great stuff at this years Kendal Mountain Festival. Its a great event to check out as long as you aren't allergic to famous climbers, duvet jackets and beanies. It has inspired me to finally make the 'small film' I've been mulling over for a year or so. So lets see where this goes!

Below are a couple of interesting short films from the festival (?time fillers for the work week ;-)   ). I think the shorts are the best bit of the festival, some are glossy and brand sponsored and others are real grass roots stuff. Enjoy!

Strong (Roger)- ski


Joy of Air

Petit Bus Rouge - crazy base jumping, climbing clowns!

Haute Route - mountain bike

In the frame - Joes story of recovery (well small part of it)

Also I caught 2 great full length films on the Sunday; McConkey - about a famous skier/base jumper who led a mad life until his death at age 39 and The Crash Reel. Crash Reel is an amazing film about Kevin Pearce a snowboarder who was the best in the world and but had an accident in 2009 which left him battling to survive a severe brain injury. An amazing film I would recommend to all - check the trailer below, and try to see the whole film.

Tuesday, 12 November 2013

Everyone should own a pair of orange jeans...

On Monday I had to venture away from the safety of the NW to attend a work conference in Birmingham. Often at weekends, or holidays I'd be heading into the mountains early to catch the first light or first snows (the dawn parole), but this trip reminded me that I never venture out this early (6am!) into urban spaces.

Walking through the 'closed' dark and damp city before the open sign had been turned was actually a treat, an insight into the life of the very early risers. The only brief company being a loan jogger, and the constant jangle of milk bottles as I followed a milk round but never quite saw the float.

At the station the world was alive (awake!) with the early train to London expected soon. As I queued for a caffeine kick from the platform Costa I'm surprised and heartened when the staff greet all other customers by name and the regulars get their drinks pre-made and placed at the end of the soulless black formica bar. Loose associations are made with this daily ritual and I'm left wondering how much information is gathered and shared over the years..... How deep does the bond stretch.....The human species do have some admirable qualities after all.....

The conference was good, and Birmingham was busy and vibrant as I'd expected. I even got drawn into the Apple store and had to fight my conscience to get out without succumbing to the future. An interesting day all told... The perfect way to end this trip was to indulge in sushi and a 'can' of wine on the homeward bound train......

Sunday, 10 November 2013

Back in the saddle......

After a brief period of hibernation I headed out today mountain biking in the Yorkshire Dales with Steve. It was beautiful weather, maybe a little chilly when we set off (-1), but soon became nice and warm in the sun.

An icy start to the day. Whernside with a dusting of snow
It may look flat but this is a long climb from the viaduct!
 Steve wanted to ride the whole 'Tour d'Ingleborough', but I didn't have that in my legs so we used a car shuttle to cut out a section and rode the brilliant section from the Ribblehead viaduct round to Clapham, and back to a hot drink at Steve's house in Ingleton 17 miles later!

Over the new (ish) bridge on the Pennine Bridleway

Sunday, 20 October 2013

Time to talk pooping!

Well I never thought it would be that time, but being out of action with a foot injury has allowed me time to think and refocus the blog!

Before heading to America I read a couple of interesting books on ultra light weight backpacking, and in one particular book (which did have some useful tips) there was a whole chapter about 'outdoor pooping' on the trail. Basically, it recommended using a tent peg to dig the hole, and "don't worry about toilet paper.... use fir cones, grass or smooth pebbles". Really!?!?!

Well I bought into the first tip on our recent trip (tent peg), but not the second. I took my 16g tent peg and thought this is a smart move, but immediately had to admit it wasn't and had to go cap (should it be crap!?) in hand to Abi to borrow her digging 'tool'. You could prod around with the tent peg, but not really empty a hole. The sea to summit was a great digging machine, but maybe over kill. Can double as a garden trowel at home though.

After the trip I discovered and bought what I think is the ultimate compromise. A titanium trowel - called the 'Big Deal' (17g), (available from ). I've dug a few holes in the garden (sorry neighbours) and it seems affective, but not as yet trail tested it...............

Sea to Summit 107g, Big Deal titanium 17g and the MSR toilet peg 16g

Hopefully I will be able to get out in the hills soon so you won't have to suffer these posts....

Sunday, 6 October 2013

Night ride - Austwick

I arranged to meet Steve this weekend for a mountain bike ride, initially we were going to go out in the day, but when Steve suggested a night ride and a chance to try his new bike lights how could I not.

By day Steve is a product designer, designing 'bits' for cars, all too technical for me to understand! Over the last 3 winters he has been tinkering in his garden shed in Ingleton designing and making bike lights. Last winter I tried an earlier model and it was amazingly bright when we went on a unforgettable ride in the snow ( snowy ride ).

Getting ready to go

There goes the super nova
I'd not kept track with quite how far he had got with the lights, but am very impressed that they are now available for sale. I love the name of the company 3Peakslite, and the names of the 3 lights available, the Ingle-Beam (brightest), Whern-Star (middle) and Pen-Y-Nova (entry level) - clever Steve ;-). I knew that even the entry level, lowest output light would be super bright so opted to try this on the ride.

Walking the bridge, don't want to fall in the river tonight

Spooky bridleways
We headed out from Austwick in the Yorkshire Dales because this area is crisscrossed with loads of walled lanes, and makes for interesting, sheltered and exciting night riding. We rode for a couple of hours and it was such good fun, the lights were amazing, I'm sure Steve's were brighter than a car headlights on full beam. It was great fun trying to get some night pictures as well, something I'm rubbish at, but want to work on, so thanks for being patient Steve.

Being chased by the Whern-Star

Phew, only Steve!
I really hope someone buys these lights as well, they are amazing, and I'm still really impressed that he has developed these at home in the shed - well done. Going to put one on my Christmas list for sure. Have a look at 3peakslite.

Sunday, 22 September 2013

Muir Pass - end of the road

I'm guessing that we all left Muir Trail Ranch with different thoughts zipping around our heads. I started to think about the fact that in a couple of days we would be separating, Abi and myself turning back and hiking out so that we could fly back to the UK, and Janet and Rob carrying on for an extra week to the end of the trail.
The happy bunch

hike time!!
Initially we made slow steady progress because our bags were again loaded up with food, we had a mere 4 days worth, but Janet and Rob were labouring under 10 days worth of food (heavy packs for sure). It was beautiful heading up towards McClure Meadows, but took all day. We passed through 2/3 gates, and I have no idea why there were gates, because it was all mountain terrain, no grazing animals etc. Maybe just land boundaries/ownership.

Abi braving the river crossing!

When we finally got near to McClure the scenery was mind blowing, beautiful meadows, lightly forested on the edges and a river flowing from the cirque of giant Peaks standing guard at the far end of the valley - wow.
McClure Meadow/Evolution Valley

Rob, and great evening light

nice sunset
On our last night camping together we celebrated by sharing a big pan of 'dehydrated/packet potatoes' that Rob had 'nabbed' from a hiker barrel - delicious. It rained in the night and the weather the next day (our last hiking together) was very grey and overcast. In summary very British, and this seemed very fitting and atmospheric.

The scenery got more and more dramatic as we headed higher and passed beautiful lake after beautiful lake. We had to stop a couple of times to put on our waterproofs. Brian and Kevin both made me smile with their comical (but practical) poncho's (but ensured good photo's)!

The bunch in tasteful rain gear!

Above Evolution Lake

Abi taking in the view

The 'BritTrain' powering on... (thanks for the pics Maggie and Brian)
From Wanda Lake we spotted the roof of the Muir Pass shelter on the distant sky line. When we'd planned the hike in the UK, we had carefully worked out that Abi and I could get to Muir Pass, then turn around and hike for 2 days to get to civilisation (of sorts). On paper it seemed very fitting that this would be our end point on the trail, arguably the most iconic pass on the trail, dedicated to the great man himself, and when we arrived it didn't disappoint. We hung out in the shelter and had a cup of tea (of course) before saying our goodbyes and turning back down the trail. It was a very poignant and sad time for us, and we dearly wished we could have carried on, but sadly not this time.

Janet, Rob, Abi, German guy (!) and me at Muir Pass

As we headed back with heavy hearts we dawdled, and kept looking back to the pass. We camped this night above Evolution Lake with no one else around and watched the stars appear (a great spot). The next 2 days passed quite quickly as we headed back to Muir Ranch, then cut off the JMT to Florence Lake and got a water taxi to a 'resort' that basically consisted of a shop that sold, chocolate, crisps, T-shirts, gifts and microwave burritos (weird but good).
4 becomes 2, heading back

Our camp after the group split - beautiful spot at 11,000ft

Very old Juniper Tree, and Abi!

First sight of Florence Lake (after losing the trail earlier)

Now, where's he ferry,can you see the lorry/truck? I've put a red line above it. It was our only clue as to which bit to head to!
Radioing for the ferry (speedboat)

Goodbye trail, back to civilisation (well a road) on the far side of the lake
Camped near a car park on our last night was quite a sad affair, and we struggled to muster up an appetite for our last camp meal 'Mary Janes, Mac and Cheese' (disgusting), so we finished the clif bars and waited for our shuttle to arrive the next day to take us on the interesting (single track road) 3 hour drive to Fresno, and onward home.

Well sadly for me this is the last blog post about our time on the JMT. Almost immediately when back in the 'normal' life/routine of work, jobs etc in many respects it seems like you were never away. But I do find that I have been drifting off and dreaming of those halcyon days on the JMT. It was a magical time and I hope we can get back out there again soon.