Welsh weekend

Friday 29th June

Managed to leave at a sensible time and avoid the worst of the traffic. Stopped at the Welsh food centre farm shop, lovely place, quiet. Had coffee and ice cream in the steamy heat. Arrived Craflwyn Hall at 2.30.

Room in the stables very comfortable with bath robe, slippers and tin of Kendal mint cake. Cut finger on door bolt. Tea and scones at 4, then local walk at 5 to Llyn Dinas. Got chatting to nice family from Canada and USA.

Lager. Listened to walks talk then dinner. More lager. I had roast beef with roast potatoes, veg and Yorkshire pudding. The spuds needed more roasting. Caramel cheesecake pudding was a bit odd but ice cream helped.

Early to bed.

Snowdon horseshoe
Llyn Dinas
At Craflwyn Hall

At Craflwyn Hall
Above the stables

Saturday 30th June

Woke early. I can’t sleep past 5.30 at the moment. Heat and light. Granola, yoghurt and berries, mini croissants, hash brown, beans and poached egg and toast.

Arrived Siabod cafe in Capel Curig to meet Paul, Chris and Rich. Basically out all day practicing navigation skills and Paul said I was fine which is good. He was my ML assessor. Lots of contours.

Near the end of the day I slipped while crossing a very small bit of stream only inches wider than me,  in addition to getting muddy and wet which was ok because so hot, I banged and cut my elbow which is very sore and needs sorting out a bit. Lucky that Rich was an A&E doctor. He and Paul were properly equipped with first aid. I need to update my kit a bit to cater for things of this nature requiring a large dressing.

After we finished I went to Betws y Coed and got ibuprofen from the Spar shop and various dressings from a nice woman in Cotswold Outdoor who raided their first aid kit. I drove straight back to Craflwyn and assembled my supplies including my quite big car first aid box.

Showered and tried to clean the cut which was still dropping blood on the floor fairly copiously but not done well with the cleaning so will need to see a nurse. It hurts and I was a bit in shock when it happened. It doesn’t look much but very sore.

Lager. Sea bass and veg, then ice cream. More lager. Watched people playing games. Elbow still leaking. Have nasty bruise on my hip. And no arnica.

This clumsiness and injury very unlike me. I am rattled by the compulsory redundancies announced by my employer on Thursday less than a year since I was last restructured. Angry too that they have allowed this to happen. Maybe my eye is off the ball.

 

Llynau Mymbyr
Craflwyn Hall

At Craflwyn Hall

Sunday 1st July

Not a great sleep, too hot and all one sided, no thrashing around. Went for a wee in the night and found no water in the taps. Same on waking, it turns out the whole village has no water. I got every bottle I had and it came to 2 litres. Staff managed breakfast and produced tea and coffee from bottled water. No tooth brushing this morning for anyone! Breakfast of granola, berries and yogurt, mini croissant and then haddock with a poached egg on toast.

I drove to Croesor, passed the man mending the water pump at Beddgelert. Set off up Cnicht. Stopped at about 540m as it was getting more scrambly, I was too hot and had lost a bit of confidence after yesterday, I also banged the elbow again and it was very sore . Happy with getting to where I did. Headed back down. Went to cafe in Croesor for ice cream and coffee. Drove off vaguely thinking of ibuprofen gel and arnica and passed a sign saying Minor Injuries Unit. There were about 6 cars in the car park and only 2 people waiting ahead of me. I got seen and puncture wound dressed in under an hour. Got told off for not going yesterday but hard to do that if you don’t know it’s there. Surely I must be too old now to be told off?!

Back to Craflwyn. All water back in action. Shower with cling film over new dressing. Lager x 2. Dinner of lamb kebab, a bit dry, then chicken with mashed spud and veg, ice cream. We had a music quiz in the garden and the team I was in won. We had to identify instruments, then song intros, then film themes and composers. Quite hard. Thunderflies attack. Talked to Henry and Damian about leading for HF over a glass of Penderyn.

Cnicht

View to the sea from Cnicht
Ow!

Monday 2nd July

After a light breakfast I said farewell to my new Canadian/American friends. Stopped a few times to take some photos and then again at Bodnant to pick up some goodies. Very slow journey back home. Straight to the GP which Carol had sorted for me. Got a new waterproof dressing and some strong antibiotics within half an hour. 4 days later I haven’t dared to inspect it….

Please visit Map and Compass and learn how to interpret a map and use a compass with me and my navigation partner, Cath.

MAPandCOMPASS

CPD coaching and teaching navigation

Sunday 16th April 2017

I trotted off to the Peak District yesterday and managed to arrive at Hope Sports Club before 9 a.m. There was a car boot sale on the playing field and it had some very nice coffee! I was very tired after my bike ride the day before and then yet another night not sleeping. I probably would be back to sleeping properly if I wasn’t so worried about my job situation.

Ian and Dave led the session, they are MIC and MIA instructors. This was the first run for this training and the idea is to look at coaching Mountain Leaders in how we train and how we assess people in navigation skills.

The how we train part was on the Saturday and I didn’t go to that day. The morning was looking at the what we are assessing in the classroom and the afternoon at how on the hill. All morning it was dry and sunny. We drove up the Snake Pass and parked up at the Snake Pass Inn. I got told off by a grumpy landlord but he allowed me to park after he talked to Ian and Dave. He seemed to think he was going to be swamped with customers because it was Easter Sunday, but perhaps his attitude went before him. The car park was almost empty and was the same when I got back there.

Needless to say, it rained all afternoon and with all the standing around it was cold. I’m so glad I have all the gear and it works. We split into assessors, assessed and observers. I kept forgetting what I was. The idea was that we were replicating an ML assessment and we looked for points where we could bring out learning points for students. Some good tips and strategies, e.g. forcing the use of the compass when it’s not needed because you can see where you are going, walking beyond the actual destination, not confirming or disagreeing with the suggestions of the candidates, getting candidates to put their maps away on a leg.

I found it very hard work on the hill and felt extremely unfit. I think it’s “just” stress. So debilitating. I feel angry with my employer for doing this to me.

We got back to the pub and had a short debrief. It was dark and gloomy inside and not very welcoming. No wonder he’s so short on customers!

Back home by 6 p.m. I always forget how near the Peak District is!

No photos, way too wet.

Please visit Map and Compass and learn how to interpret a map and use a compass with me and my navigation partner, Cath.

MAPandCOMPASS

 

Contours only navigation, Snowdonia July 2nd 2016

Friday
I drove straight from work to Garth Farm campsite near Capel Curig. Used Google sat nav on cousin S’s recommendation to get me to Garth Farm campsite just beyond Plas y Brenin at Capel Curig. Very good journey and whilst I was initially a bit surprised at 2 diversions I could see from the long queues I zipped past that it was in fact great! The journey was slow because of Friday rush hour but I still arrived at the time Google had said when I set off. Will continue to test out. The sign to the farm and the camping had nearly fallen off and I was a bit dubious but decided to bite the bullet and parked up with a couple of other cars. I selected a slightly sheltered dip in the field which was pretty much flat at the bottom.
Got my tent up quickly in a wild wind with some very dark clouds looming over the top of Snowdon and threatening to drop down. Promptly fell over the guy rope and broke the tent pole! Luckily it was still able to hold the tent up.
I went up to the farmhouse and gave Mr Jones my £5. He was busy watching Wales playing football so we didn’t chat. £5 was fine but if you are going there be warned that the bins need emptying and the loos and washbasins were not clean.
Cooked up my dinner of lime and coriander rice in the Jetboil and Sainsburys tinned veg curry on the MSR pocket rocket. The curry was surprisingly nice. Hot and tasty with a ring pull to open. Sainsbury are no longer doing Look what I found pouches. They were good because in a pouch, quick and hot.
I forgot a lot of things including a woolly hat, whisky, the porch mat (I looked at it last night and wondered very vaguely what it was, bugger) and the coffee and kit. More bugger but ok as will be going to Caffi Siabod first thing. Slept quite well through the lashings of rain and wind all night. And the tent held up more to the point and not a drop of rain got in. I love British summers!
Saturday
Up early to strike camp. Breakfast of fruit and yoghurt in the car. I’d also forgotten to bring any coffee so was keen to get to the cafe to remedy this. To Caffi Siabod for all their clean facilities. Paul turned up and we were a group of 6, 4 female and 2 male which is the first time that’s been the case on any of the mountain courses I’ve done.
Off to spend the day working the area around the back of the cafe (Clogwyns) which has lots of lumps and bumps, some of which are in between the 10m contours. We used 1:25K maps with only contours on them and heights. Although most of us had altimeters, we didn’t actually use them. The point of the course was to use the features in the landscape.
It was a great day and made me feel confident with my skills. I will look to see where we might be able to do this in our local area.
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Overlooking Llynnau Mymbyr
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Llynnau Mymbyr and sheep
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Blasted heather I can’t remember which one
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Llyn Crafnant
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Tryfan
Please visit Map and Compass and learn how to interpret a map and use a compass with me and my navigation partner, Cath.

MAPandCOMPASS

Save

Archaeology of North Wales – Mountain Leader CPD

Saturday 19th September

I arrived at Cefn Cae campsite in Rowen at 6.50, it only took 2 hours and 20 mins to get there. I had just enough time and light to get the tent up and my dinner cooked. I had a Look What We Found meal with rice cooked up in my Jetboil. The campsite cost £13 for the night and was a newly certificated Caravan and Camping Club site, it was very clean and well looked after. They operate an honesty system for buying quite an extensive range of supplies and I didn’t have to pay extra for a shower.

After dark, I read my book for a while. The stars were amazing and I could see the Milky Way.

Moon on Tay y Fan
Moon on Tal y Fan

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Dawn on Tal y Fan
Dawn on Tal y Fan

Sunday 20th September

I’ve never really managed to sleep properly in a tent but this wasn’t too bad. I was warm enough especially with my little blanket. It was cold in the night and there was a heavy dew when I gave up sleep about 5.30. I had a cup of tea and then 2 cups of coffee and my breakfast of granola and yoghurt. I got to see the red dawn on Tal y Fan which was wonderful.

I packed up and drove up to Caer Rhun Roman fort (Canovium). There’s not a right lot to see, don’t be misled by the photo on the website, but the church is nice although it wasn’t open.

Then I met up with the group in the lay-by down the road. Jane Kenney is a senior archaeologist from the Gwynedd Archaeological Trust. The workshop is part of the CPD made available to members of the Mountain Training Association. The requirement is for 5 CPD points over 5 years and this is my second point since gaining the ML.

10 of us in the group. We got into 3 cars and drove up to a small car park some way above Rowen. We set off and the first thing to look at was the Roman road.

We then looked at long huts (rectangular), cairns with cists, hut circles, standing stones, a burnt mound and then a very good stone circle where we stopped for lunch. Jane was very good at getting us to look more closely at the structures and how to interpret them. She also didn’t try to give us all the answers as there is a lot that is not known and subjective but she clearly has a great breadth of knowledge. We then moved on past a reservoir and up to a slate quarry which is hidden away. Then it was time to head back passing 2 very prominent burial chambers, back onto the Roman road again and another stone circle just near the car park.

Fabulous, informative day with an expert. And a bargain to boot!

Last year’s walk.

We got back to lay-by around 5.15 and I got home at 7.45.

Burial chamber
Maen y bardd burial chamber
Church at Caerhun, sitting on the Roman fort
Church at Caerhun, sitting on the Roman fort
I think this is a green man
I think this is a green man
Big standing stone
Big standing stone
And another, not quite so huge
And another, not quite so huge
A cist
A cist
Very cheeky pony
Very cheeky pony
Stone circle
Stone circle
Another big standing stone
Another big standing stone
A peat house for storing peat
A peat house for storing peat
Burial chamber, marked on map as such
Burial chamber, marked on map as such
Burial chamber but not prominently marked on map
Maen y bardd burial chamber
Please visit Map and Compass and learn how to interpret a map and use a compass with me and my navigation partner, Cath.

MAPandCOMPASS

Pyrenees August 2015

Friday 7th August
Carol clearly not well so took her to the GP. She knew she had a blood infection because this happened 2 years ago. Both her kidney consultant and our GP are on hols. Came away with a letter to admit her to St James’s via A&E. She slept most of the way. Terrible access at A&E so I had to say goodbye to her in the car park. Went and finished off at work then home for last bits of packing. C insisted I continue with my holiday but it felt odd and a bit crap. She got IV antibiotics started up that evening.

Saturday 8th August

Woke at 4.50 a.m. My taxi arrived early (good job as they never turned up for my trip to Hadrian’s Wall). As I got out at the station I realised I’d left my phone on charge. Luckily I’d allowed loads of time in case the taxi cocked up so we raced back and I picked it up, also turned a light off!
After that all the trains were ok until Nimes. My first time at St. Pancras International. Very busy and airport like. Picked up all my remaining tickets for the trip. After composting my ticket I got a rigorous twice over at security. British passport control then French.
Sat next to an Irish woman who talked the entire way to Paris to her pal. I think she was either a lawyer or an accountant. Some very interesting insights into Kids’ Co., charities and corruption. So interesting I stopped reading!
Paris was warm and smelly and the Metro to the Gare du Lyon even warmer and smellier but mercifully quick.
I’d bought my tickets for the Metro on Eurostar which helped. A wee for 80 cents and my hall of departure had changed by the time I came out. I passed a man with a foot long lizard in a cat box, then 2 separate women with cats in cat boxes who all got onto my train. Also a great many children in a chaperoned party were getting into my carriage but they were down and I was up on the double decker train. Air con, a seat to myself and I was whizzing through the flatlands of grain production for all those baguettes. Lots of water towers. A dull day weather wise.
Less than an hour from Paris the plains give way to forested undulations. Contours at last! Horses, Charolais cows. A bit of wet.
Train stopped at Valence and I thought of beds. Then Nimes.
A passenger required medical attention so we stopped for 50 mins. I had only 30 mins to make my connection from Montpellier. But on arrival in Montpellier there were no more trains to Toulouse. After much too rapid French I found they were trying to get me into a hotel in Montpellier! I explained I had to be in Toulouse at 10 in the morning so the controller got me a taxi to get me to the 10 pm train from Narbonne. Ok but it takes 1 hr 15 mins and we only had 45 mins. He tried. It was dark, wet and we shot along the motorway pushing other cars off the road. The driver fiddled with his phone all the way and all to the accompaniment of first bad rap, second football on the radio at way too many decibels. I asked him to go more slowly and not to use phone to no avail. No train waiting for me at Narbonne so the controller there filled a paper form in triplicate for my taxi to take me to Toulouse. He told me there were no hotels free in Narbonne, just as well because it wasn’t my plan to stay there either. I arrived in Toulouse only 1 hr 40 mins after the train would have! Despite being a menace to life the driver carried my bag, asked if I was ok and took me to my hotel (he was only authorised to take me to the station) and spoke a little English. I found it hard to do fast French and speak French very well under stress.
Hotel Mermoz lovely. Fell into bed with 2 paracetamols. It cost me £25 and some Avios I collected.
On the Eurostar
On the Eurostar
Gare du Lyon
Gare du Lyon
Sunday 9th August
After breakfast I checked out and walked 10 minutes to the railway station. Francois who is the guide for the week picked me up and drove me to Ax les Thermes. About 2 hours drive. Vast swathes of sunflowers being grown. I checked into La Grande Cordee. My room is in the annexe which is at the back on the 2nd floor away from the quite busy road. It’s plain but comfortable.
I went into the town, bought bottled water and had a look round. Most things shut because it was Sunday. Back with the heavy water (not the bomb making sort) then out again to do a self guided walk of the town and all the hot springs and spas. The water goes up to 74C in temp. Very, very hot just coming out of fountains and making steam as it flows into the river. It’s not used for hot water for the inhabitants because there isn’t enough pressure but they do use it to keep the roads and pavements clear of snow.
A demi pression and back to the hotel for the meeting of the group with Francois. We are 14. There are 2 other groups staying. Some of them haven’t read the instructions and don’t have boots, waterproofs or rucksacks. Francois directed them to the shops!
Dinner of salad with duck in it. Then duck kebab with roast spuds and ratatouille. I have an omelette as not keen on duck. Bread and wine. I pass on the creme brûlée although my favourite as have decided to quit refined sugar where possible. Ha bloody ha!
There is a man on the next table who looks like he’s stepped out of a Tintin story, he is short and plump, has a bald head, sideburns and a splendid moustache like the Thompson Twins and a beard.
Either the Ariege or the Oriege
Either the Ariege or the Oriege

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The meeting of the Ariege and the Oriege rivers
The meeting of the Ariege and the Oriege rivers
Hot hot water meets cold
Hot hot water meets cold
Hot hot hot
Hot hot hot

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Church being used for exhibition of "art"
Church being used for exhibition of “art”

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Monday 10th August
7.30 Breakfast of bread, cheese, croissant and coffee. The French are drinking huge bowls of coffee. I had forgotten this.
Set off at 8.45 in minibuses. Quite cool. Francois drove us a few kilometres up out of Ax to the Col du Chioula. We stop 1.5k past it at a big junction of paths at 1360m. Climb up to Rocher de Scaramus at 1868m. Gascon cattle, black Merens horses, goats, a marmot, griffon vultures and a bearded vulture. The bearded vultures need 500 sq km to lord over. Lovely walk with long lunch. Lentil salad in our boxes. Francois produced sausage, cheese, wine and coffee out of his bag! Cheese was lovely. Lots of info re geology and history. 8 or 9km. Followed it all on the map.
Back at 4.30. Into town but the thermal baths were very busy so I went for beer instead. Also I was hot enough.
Back at the hotel I rang Carol who says she will be in hospital for 5 weeks. Bugger.
Dinner of gazpacho with cheesy thing, salmon bake and apple pie. Very nice and yes I broke my resolution! After this holiday then!
Merens horses
Merens horses

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Gascon cattle
Gascon cattle

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I think this is Fredy
Fredy
Symbol of Comte de Foix
Symbol of Comte de Foix
Dent d'Orlu
Dent d’Orlu

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Inside St. Vincent's church
Inside St. Vincent’s church
St. Vincent's
St. Vincent’s
Tuesday 11th August
Col de Pailheres 1965m
Pic de Tarbezou. GR78. 2340m
Another lovely day. Francois drove us to the col and we climbed the peak. Fabulous 360 degree views across the whole Pyrenean range. Saw a royal eagle AKA golden eagle. Also griffon vultures. Down 200m to one of 4 lakes for lunch of tabbouleh, bread, cheese. We were with the other group most of the time. David the other group leader asked me to spot from the back for a while. They all know I am ML in the UK.
It was very hot so I stayed off the wine. It was still hard to get back up the 200m.
F explained about peat bogs – tourbe and tourbiere. I told him about sphagnum moss as a WW1 wound dressing from Dartmoor.
The group is made up of  5 married couples and 4 solo people. Mostly professionals. Lawyer, marketing consultant, research doctor, state psychologist.
I went to the thermal baths in all the rooms. All the names are in Latin just like at Hard Knot fort but without the Lake District weather!
Beer at different bar and getting more expensive every day!
Dinner of Greek salad with yoghurt, tartiflette – potato with jambon and cheese, tartelette au citron.
All lovely.
Slide show from F with pics of bears, wolves, foxes, deer, pine marten. Who knew that these are related to bears?
Late to bed at 11pm.

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Very big bird
Very big bird

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Reminded me of Tryfan
Reminded me of Tryfan

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Cairns
Cairns
Wednesday 12th August
Merens 1070m.
F drove us to Merens-les-Vals where he lives and parked outside his house. The walk was up through the forest for 700 m so at least in the shade but steep in parts. We collected dry beech wood on the way. Came out to a pasture with a shepherd’s hut/refuge/bothy at the Col de Joux at 1702m. A large herd of cows with bells and 2 big bugger bulls on the col.
F and David quickly got the fire going. We handed over our potatoes in foil already cooked so just for warming. Tomato salad to start, bread, baked potato, sausage like a Cumberland sausage in shape ,melted Camembert a bit strong for me so F gave me the mountain cheese we’ve been eating. Then cep mushrooms collected by Guy who is mushroom expert but who doesn’t eat them! And a little chocolate. And wine.
Then back down on the GR 107 to Merens. Saw a lizard. Lots of grasshoppers or are they crickets?
Out for a beer by the fountain, the most expensive so far.
Back for dinner – starter of green salad with cooked meats. I didn’t fancy cod so had a nice garlicky creamed spinach with carrots and Bulgur wheat. Choc dessert.
Valerie and I went into town to see a live street performance. Funny.
One of the "papas"
One of the “papas”

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Fredy outside the bothy
Fredy outside the bothy
Guy looking for a frying pan
Guy looking for a frying pan

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Francois and David cooking our lunch
Francois and David cooking our lunch

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Looking across to Scaramus

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Our group
Our group -1
Francois took this by accident but I liked it
Francois took this by accident but I liked it
Very old church in Merens-les-Vals
Very old church in Merens-les-Vals
Francois
Francois
Street artist
Street artist
Thursday 13th August
Out at 8.30 on foot to see the Vierge and then a circular tour of the villages around Ax because lots of thunder and at one point it went very dark and then rained a lot for a little while. A very humid day. I ended up as wet as Bruce doing a show.
Lunch of tuna, rice, sweet corn, chick peas salad, bread, cheese, wine by the side of the path.
Back early. Out to look at shops. Beer in square. Marie-Odile joined me. Grimbergen for me and Cro Mignon a local bottled beer for her.
Dinner of tomato pastry, duck on menu again so they gave me vegetable quiche without egg, green beans and cheesy pasta followed by tiramisu but lovely, usually I don’t like it.
The group is made up professionals and retired people. Pascale is a painter and has painted rooms for a prince of Saudi Arabia and Yves St Laurent. Janine was a nurse. Valerie is a psychologist. Marie-Odile is research doctor into organisations management. These are the people I’ve had the most conversations with in our Franglais.
Virgin who looks after Ax-les-Thermes from her Disney tower
Virgin who looks after Ax-les-Thermes from her Disney tower

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Reservoir for hydro electric system
Reservoir for hydro electric system
It went really dark before the storm broke
It went really dark before the storm broke
Orgeix
Orgeix
Family with over laden donkey who didn't want to go down the steep path
Family with over laden donkey who didn’t want to go down the steep path
Old mill
Old mill

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David and group
David and group
Marie-Odile and the local beer
Marie-Odile and the local beer
Summer house in the town
Summer house in the town
Friday 14th August
Just a croissant and a small bowl of granola with yoghurt and apple for breakfast.
Raining a lot so off in the minibus to Merens-les-Vals. Through the village, off the main road, past the municipal camping and up up up to park the minibus. Adrien a trainee mountain leader joined us. I talked to him a bit.
We went up 300m to the Etang de Comte (de Foix) but it was foggy and wet. We could have been in Scotland or Wales. We stopped at the black horses on the way, 2 of them belong to Francois, one is an old girl of 28 and the other is 16. He put down salt for them to supplement their diet. We only stayed out for 4 hrs as so wet.
Back to the hotel to change and eat our picnic at the table. Pasta salad, bread, wine, cheese. And a slice of chicken.
I nearly fell asleep but decided not to waste my time so set off for the telepherique. €7 for aller et retour. I went up to the station and chatted to a French couple on the way.
Tried to find the first path down but it was overgrown. Aimed for the second and found it. Mainly a bike route so very steep and muddy in parts with deep channels, hard work. Got down 700m and back to the hotel in 2 hours.
Very glad I am now a lot more fit and a lot more confident in navigating and in walking. The overall level of the walks we did were not anything I wouldn’t have attempted solo at home so I didn’t really need a guide however Francois did give the added history and information about the Ariege, the Pyrenees that I would have found it harder to obtain, plus it was quite fun being amongst a very French experience. He also made the walks fun and interesting. I would love to do the International Mountain Leader but it’s expensive and would take up an awful lot of time that I don’t have at the moment. And there are probably some other skills that I might struggle with.
I got down from my shower to find our group had gathered with complimentary peach wine, goats cheese nibbles and olives and Tacos. Francois forgot to tell me but it was ok. It was the only major thing he forgot to translate for me. I will forgive him because he is normally so charming!!
Dinner, toast with strong garlic spread and Italian type ham, dish like bouillabaisse without rice and with fish, mussels, chorizo, pimentos. Tasty. Discovered that mussels are ok! Chocolate muffin which was a bit heavy.
Lots of kissing because most are leaving tomorrow. Janine threw herself into this activity!
Lovely people and lovely time.

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Never seen so many capes and ponchos
Never seen so many capes and ponchos

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Florence
Florence
Francois
Francois
Attending to the horses
Attending to the horses
It could be Loch Ness
It could be Loch Ness
Looking down to Ax-les-Thermes
Looking down to Ax-les-Thermes
Saturday 15th August
The large group of cyclists who arrived yesterday made a huge amount of noise at 2.30 in the morning. I couldn’t get back to sleep so read my book.
Thankfully they were only here for the night. I hope they all fall off their bikes and get punctures. They broke the lift and knocked over all the plant pots. I gave one of them the filthiest look I could manage. All our party was displeased with them. Selfish load of louts we think from Holland. Farewell to most of the party.
Marie-Odile and I walked along the Oriege to Orlu and then the Forge d’Orlu to the Maison des Loups.  Saw a group of 4 Arctic wolves, a group of 7 Euro wolves and some cubs hiding behind a tree. They got fed raw chicken. Also it’s a family farm so there are chickens, sheep, goats, kids, piglets in close proximity.
We had lunch in the cafe at the park. M-O had cheese salad and I had cheese and mixed meats salad. Very good.
Then walked back to Ax, total of 18km or 11 miles.
On return M-O found she had lost her wallet portefeuille but luckily it was in the cafeso they rang her. The hotel then lent her their car so she could collect it. Very worrying for her. But great that it worked out ok.
I bought some bread, cheese, tomato for my lunch the next day.
Later met up with M-O for dinner. We went to a quiet, calm, small resto called L’Aparte.
Cold beetroot soup, excellent light courgette tarts with salad, lovely small choc pud. Quarter bottle of white wine. Great idea, just the right amount.
Very pleasant evening. I think we were both tired because we both tried hard to communicate in French and English.

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Wood store above
Wood store above
And another
And another
Les loups
Les loups

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This scraggy old git is the Alpha male
Happy stranger with kids
Happy stranger with kids

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Trying on a white outfit
Orgeix
Orgeix
Marie-Odile
Marie-Odile
More wood
More wood
Sunday 16th August
Breakfast and farewell to Marie-Odile. I finished squashing my gear into the 80l holdall from KE Adventures which I then strapped to its folding wheels/trolley. Mathieu picked me up at 11 and drove me back to Toulouse railway station. He was very interesting to listen to (he spoke a lot of English) and told me all about being a Mountain Leader in France, being an avalanche rescue person with an avalanche rescue dog and ski patroller. All sounds a lot harder and more intense than our awards which were not a walk in the park.
I put the holdall into the left luggage at Toulouse, got bossed around by a rather strict woman there. Then off to Tourist Info. I decided to buy a 24hr City Pass which covered all transport and some attractions. Straight onto the Metro, then onto a tram which I got off at the stop I’d been told to. Thank goodness for Google maps as it was the wrong stop. I walked for a hot 15 mins and arrived at the Roman Amphitheatre. It’s been restored using the famous pink Toulouse bricks. Did the Romans have these? I sort of doubt it but I may be doing them a disservice. Anyway there’s not much there apart from some old obviously Roman stones and big hole. There’s a copy of a statue of Minerva and some picnic tables. I sat at one in the shade and ate my provisions purchased the evening before. Very pleasant.
Then back to the centre on the tram and Metro. I got off near to the river and headed for the Bateaux Toulousains. They told me to come back a little later so I ate an ice cream from a boy with a bicycle powered wagon and then got in the queue. I wanted to be sure to get under the awning for some shade on the boat. I managed to sit near the speaker so was well blasted for the next hour and a quarter, nowhere else to go as the boat was full. The commentary bore very little relation to the English translation sheet I was given, which also bore little relation to English like what she is spoke! The trip was a bit dull, the Pont Neuf was really the highlight. We went into an old lock, out again, along a bit, turned round and then back through the lock. The main landmarks are at a distance from the Garonne. But it kept me cool for a while. There was a man living in a tent by the side of the canal.
I popped into the Jacobins convent which was especially huge as had no furniture in it. Lots of light. Glorious building.
Then went to find a beer and settled for a Kronenbourg. Wandered round a bit more looking for a corner shop. Phone call to Carol then decided to have a salad in the Van Gogh restaurant with real linen. It was very nice and I’m glad I did. Set off for the station, stopping to buy a couple of provisions for the night. Collected my holdall, scary woman no longer there. Waited for a while. Got onto train, I was first into my compartment. Turned down the heating controls. First problem there is nowhere to put a big holdall, definitely won’t fit under bunk 1 of 3. No room in bike store as full of bikes. Shove it down the end of my bunk thus reducing the space for me. 4 other women turned up eventually and everyone just said “Bonsoir” and that was it. Someone turned the light out and shut the door. Very limited headroom so hard to undress but so hot I took my top off. Felt terribly squashed. All the others had done the same with their bags. At some point later another person joined us. Later still someone opened the door and shut it from outside for no particular reason. Then I got cold so put my shirt back on, then colder so actually got into the sleeping bag thing. Gave up at about 6a.m. and got dressed and up. Train arrived at Paris Austerlitz at 6.50. In 1942, Jews in Paris were rounded up and taken from Austerlitz to Auschwitz. This is video of sleeping compartment from the website I used to plan the trip, the Man in Seat Sixty-One.
View from my room
View from my room
Roman amphitheatre
Roman amphitheatre
Repairs with Toulouse bricks
Repairs with Toulouse bricks
Minerva
Minerva
Pont Neuf
Pont Neuf
Hole to allow flow of water during times of flood
Hole to allow flow of water during times of flood
Jacobins convent
Jacobins convent

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Street signs bilingual
Street signs bilingual
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Jacobins convent

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The Capitole
The Capitole
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Never forget

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Monday 17th August
I got straight onto the Metro to the Gare du Nord just a few stops away. Went through passport control French, passport control UK, security and into the departure lounge thinking it would be like St. Pancras with shops and cafes but it wasn’t. I had a not nice espresso with a not nice croissant. And then found a nice espresso round the corner so had a second. Plugged in my phone, got in queue and onto Eurostar. Smooth journey to St. P. Across the street to King’s Cross and back to Leeds, then to Sowerby Bridge, then taxi home. Home by 2.30. Got myself a bit sorted and off to see Carol in St. James’s.
The Seine from the Metro
The Seine from the Metro
Please visit Map and Compass and learn how to interpret a map and use a compass with me and my navigation partner, Cath.

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Winter Navigation training, 27th February to 2nd March, 2015

Fri 27th February
A nice if lengthy journey up to Aviemore. I used a split tickets site: http://www.moneysavingexpert.com/split-cheap-train-tickets/ and knocked about £80 off the cost. The drawback outgoing was this:
Taxi to station
Sowerby bridge to Hebden Bridge
Hebden to Preston long wait
Preston to Edinburgh Haymarket
Edinburgh to Aviemore
Split ticket had me changing at Burnley Manchester Road too but the ticket man and I agreed this was pointless which cut my trains from 5 to 4 and waiting at Preston was infinitely preferable to Burnley Manc Rd which has nothing to recommend it.
Great scenery and lots of snow. Almost Orient Express at times. Not the passengers though.
I stepped out of Aviemore station to a bitter wind. So quickly popped into Tesco and then bimbled around an outdoor shop while waiting for the minibus pickup to Glenmore Lodge. I chatted to Carson a young man from the USA who was going to do a winter skills weekend. Another man came and told us that he’d spent a week at the Lodge and that the food was plentiful but not haute cuisine. He went away and the minibus arrived. Hundreds of people and bags got out and Carson and I got in.
I paid a single supplement for a room to myself. My sleep is very poor these days and I would hate to be disrupting someone else as well as me.
The room was enormous and had beds from the Olympic village. So I may have slept on Bolt’s bed!
I picked up my gear from stores – shovel, ice axe, avalanche probe, avalanche transceiver, helmet, crampons.
To the bar for a veggie curry with rice and poppadoms. Not bad at all. Washed down with a half of Cairngorm brewery Trade Winds.
To bed.
Drumochda from the train
Drumochter from the train
Olympic beds
Olympic beds
Sat 28th February
Got up early and walked down the road to the reindeer centre but the reindeer were not at home.
Back to breakfast. All self service so I toasted my bread and buttered it then put beans on. Orange juice.  Collected lunch. More civilised than PYB where everyone throws themselves at the packed lunches before getting their breakfasts.
To lecture theatre for welcome from Nigel.
To Ryvoan room to meet others on course and our instructor Kirsty. Billy, Steve, John, Mary, Pat. Mary and Pat are both experts in Gaelic, pronounced Gallic, so I may have learnt a couple of words.
3 of us have summer ML and 3 are beginners. Kirsty did a fantastic job of managing a mixed group.
Spent the morning doing all the basics. We measured our paces along the flat and uphill on the same stretches I used on my very first nav course back in 2008.
We practised using the avalanche transceivers and probes, impressive bit of kit.
We used a 1:5,000 map which was surprisingly hard when so used to bigger scale. Looked at aspect of slope. Very useful.
Back to Lodge for late lunch.
Out in minibus to lower ski car park with the 1:50,000 map. We went past the reindeer and back through the forest. Felt much more comfortable with this map.
Back to the Lodge quite late so we missed tea and cake.
Wet kit in driying room. Shower and yet another rucksack repack. Dinner of lentils and pasta. Choc meringue pudding. All very good and tasty. Maybe not quite haute cuisine but very nice. I sat with Billy and Steve.
We were joined by another man called Neil who is a guide and instructor etc. out of Chamonix. Mentioned my trip up Mont Blanc and the Gouter hut. Also our guide then Stephane Benoist. Turns out they are pals. Steph has since lost many fingers and toes on Annapurna and had to move to different activities. I asked Neil to remember me to Steph and tell him I now have ML! Saw Neil later and he had just received message from Steph after not actually hearing from him for some time. How strange. Steph did remember me and sent me nice wishes. Am impressed that he did remember. He is a holder of the Piolet d’Or for climbing a not previously done face of Nuptse. I was sorry to hear about his injuries as he is a very nice man with young children, he does look like he’s really been through it on this site: http://www.altissima.org/en/stephane-benoist-ampute-apres-son-ascension-en-face-sud-de-lannapurna-6269.html My account of our Mont Blanc trip is also on this blog – entries for October 2009.
To the lecture room where Nigel gave us a most amusing talk on winter nav. I may be inspired to do some orienteering especially as I know where there is some near us.
2 halves of beer with Billy and Steve and Pat’s husband Ian who had been out ice climbing.
To bed.
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Sea King coming in to land at Glenmore Lodge.
Sea King coming in to land at Glenmore Lodge.

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Youngster
Youngster

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Sun 1st March
Slept well. Packed up to vacate room. Suitcase to luggage room (great idea that PYB could do).
Breakfast of beans on toast and coffee and juice.
Ryvoan room for recap. We all decided to use the 1:40,000 map. K went through route planning taking account of avalanche risk.
Nigel drove us up to car park and we set off. We used timing and pacing according to what we wanted to practice.
We had a go at directing someone on a bearing testing how far they could hear as well.
Made a journey to Utsi’s hut during which it started to snow. Utsi brought the reindeer over here 50 years ago and the reindeer herdsman had to sleep near his flock. Neat little hut where we lunched. It’s in the bottom picture on this page: http://www.cairngormreindeer.co.uk/History.aspx?nid=8b35281c-d64f-4548-93cc-4814c175b692
Back out and up and around hill. Crossed some snow in which I got my foot stuck. Kirsty came and helped me out. Had I been on my own I would have got my pole off the rucksack and put it across the hole to lever myself out as well as scrape the snow out. (I had to think like this as mostly I don’t have anyone to come and do what Kirsty did) I was stuck surprisingly fast. Up around hill to a lochan where the wind was quite fierce. Then followed the deer fence to the path. This took us down across a bridge and back up to the Sugar Bowl car park where Nigel picked us up.
Back to the Lodge. Kit back to stores. Collect suitcase. Collect hot choc and cake. Debrief. Farewell.
Nice young man took me to Aviemore in the minibus  I was the only passenger so had no worry about getting him to take me to door of Ravenscraig Guest House.
Jonathan welcomed me. Room was fine. Put wet kit in drying room. Shower. Out to the Winking Owl to eat. Had butternut squash and lentils. Only ok. Cairngorm Highland IPA.  Music quite depressing so didn’t feel like staying.
Red grouse
Red grouse

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It's that way...
It’s that way…
We are a bit cold and wet
We are a bit cold and wet
All the gang
All the gang
He wasn't around
He wasn’t around
This is pine marten poo
This is pine marten poo

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Utsi's hut
Utsi’s hut

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It's still Christmas in Aviemore
It’s still Christmas in Aviemore

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Mon 2nd March
Pitlochry, the next stop of the train. I loved this. The trains home all went really easily. It was snowing as I left Aviemore and on my way home I got messages to say it was snowing there too. It was great that the travelling was all painless. I enjoyed my weekend but actually I’d paid to be stretched a bit more and expected to be out on the snow straightaway, but have fed this back to Glenmore Lodge. I’ve said they need to be very clear about what the pre-requisites are for courses. I’ll be back with Paul Poole Mountaineering for next time round if he and I are both free at the same time. The dates just didn’t quite match up for me this year.

Please visit Map and Compass and learn how to interpret a map and use a compass with me and my navigation partner, Cath.

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Dawn at Aviemore station
Dawn at Aviemore station

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Not likely at a railway station
Not likely at a railway station

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From the train
From the train

Mountain Leader Assessment 2014

Day 1 Saturday May 3rd

Met up with Paul (assessor), Sue and Kev (fellow candidates) in Cafe Siabod. After a briefing we set off towards Moel Siabod and basically spent the day on micro nav on the lower reaches. I did some legs ok and some needed more attention. Quite an intense day of concentration.

Day 2 Sunday May 4th

Met up with all at Cafe Siabod. Paul introduced us to the assessor for the day who took us to Ogwen Cottage and we set off towards the lake and the same rocks I had been on the weekend before. It was hard for all of us to know when to bring the rope out as the rocks were all quite scoot up able. But we did and then we were asked to cross the scree and went back down to the path. We took another route up and did some more belaying. Also did confidence roping, abseil discussion. I had a difficult day and knew this would mean a deferral on the rope work.

Trying not to look provoked
Trying not to look provoked
How it should be done
How it should be done

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Day 3 Friday May 16th

We met up at Cafe Siabod towards mid morning. After a briefing we set off in 2 vehicles and parked up at the start of the Watkin path. We walked the first part and then veered off to the right to commence our circuit of Snowdon. An early lunch and then on individual  navigation legs. Towards late afternoon we arrived descended the Miners’ track to Llyn Llydaw and then went up to meet the PYG track which we crossed. We contoured round the start of Crib Goch and round to Llyn Glas which is a lovely lake nestled under Crib Goch. We set up camp, ate our boil in the bag meals and waited for the light to go. Sometime around 11pm, we set off for our night nav expedition. I really enjoyed this, so different from when I did this on the ML training. It was dry and clear and we pootled around quite near to the camp. To bed around 2am.

Lunch time
Lunch time

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Why Crib Goch is so called
Why Crib Goch is so called
Camp site
Camp site
Paul Poole photo
Paul Poole photo
Paul Poole photo
Paul Poole photo
Paul Poole photo
Paul Poole photo
Paul Poole photo
Paul Poole photo
Paul Poole photo
Paul Poole photo
Paul Poole photo
Paul Poole photo
Paul Poole photo
Paul Poole photo
Paul Poole photo
Paul Poole photo
Paul Poole photo
Paul Poole photo
Paul Poole photo
Paul Poole photo
Paul Poole photo
Paul Poole photo

 

Day 4 Saturday May 17th

After such a long day we all slept very badly, except Paul. The sea birds who live on the island in the lake were awful noisy all night long it seemed. We had a quick look to see the start of the cycle race, it looked a bit scary as they have to race with the traffic trying to get past them. Breakfast and then up towards the Llanberis path. We were now on the 1:50,000 maps. Discussion of route choice. Discussion of first aid scenarios. We crossed the path and moved over towards the Snowdon Ranger path. I was given another chance to demonstrate my rope skills on the cliff but was very nervous about it and made some errors again. We went down the path a bit and crossed to the Rhyd Ddu path. We contoured round and ended up next to a lake where we camped. This night we all rested well. It had been a good long trek round the mountain.

Paul on island in Llyn Glas
Paul on island in Llyn Glas

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Paul Poole photo
Paul Poole photo
Paul Poole photo
Paul Poole photo
Paul Poole photo
Paul Poole photo

 

Day 5 Sunday May 18th

It was a short step round to the Watkin path from our campsite. We stopped to discuss river crossings and use of GPS. On getting back to the vehicles, Paul’s battery was completely flat so we went back in Kev’s car to Cafe Siabod. Debriefing, the other 2 passed (congrats both!) and I got a deferral to work on my rope work. Everything else was fine, just the rope work needing more attention. This was no surprise and I came away feeling really pleased as I only need to do 4 more hours of assessment on the rope. I have to wait 3 months before re-assessment.

Day 6 Friday September 26th

I stayed the previous night at Pen-y-Gwryd hotel where I’m now a regular. I met Paul at Cafe Siabod and we set off smartly to park up at Ogwen Cottage and then went up and round to the lake.

I did 2 pitches of ascent and the rock was wet so slippery and greasy which was good because it made me concentrate. We then moved over to descend to the north and I lowered Paul to a ledge where there was a sheep who was in danger of falling off if we frightened it so we beat a retreat. Paul soon found me a pitch to descend by. I got all my anchors ok and could talk about the choices I made, my knots were fine and my belaying technique was fine, using both hands (because being a leftie, I wanted to do be able to as had learnt it for right hand).

That was it, I’m now a Mountain Leader. It’s taken me a while to achieve this and I am now immensely pleased that I’ve got the award. I’m hugely grateful to my family and friends for all their love and support, especially the practical bits dangling off ropes in the wet and dark! And also to the professionals who have shared their love and passion for our native mountains with me. What’s next? watch this space!

Please visit Map and Compass and learn how to interpret a map and use a compass with me and my navigation partner, Cath.

MAPandCOMPASS