Croissants in the square and time for a rethink

Today, mid morning I was sitting in a lovely square in Saint Sauveur sur Tinee. I’d spent the morning climbing out of Saint Martin Vesubie before dropping down through Valdebore. The scenery was stunning but something was lacking… it was only until I stopped in the square that I realised.

The pressure of the schedule, the Route des Grand Alpes, was having an unseemly affect on my trip. I was plagued with doubt about my ability to climb these cols in the heat, and the idea of getting to Lake Geneva and beyond for that matter while still managing to enjoy my holiday was becoming an unrealistic prospect.

I was chewing over this while enjoying a very French moment… having popped into a boulangerie and buying some very good pastries for very little money to enjoy in the sunshine. I think my doubts had subconsciously caused me to stop and reflect.

It was a lovely half an hour. I talked to a couple of cyclists and walkers, both enjoying the boulangerie’s fare too. I resolved immediately to change my plans and focus on quality experiences rather than the climbing. The hard yards may have been inevitable, but what’s the point without some reward?

I climbed the Col du Couillole in the afternoon and am now holed up for a couple of days to plan and sort a flight out of Nice. I’m staying in a beautiful, sparsely populated valley and it feels like I am in the mountains proper at last. A day doing laundry, reading my book and eating good food beckons. And that sounds just dandy.

Advertisements

Lakeland hydrotherapy

Ullswater Way

The twisted boughs above were beaded with moisture and excitable streams rushed below my feet as I paced along the trail. The night’s rain was being channeled around me; drips, rivulets, forces, becks and rivers all on a downward course to Ullswater.

The previous night had indeed been wild. I’d slept in a pod, one of those parabolic sheds that find favour with holiday parks and holidaymakers these days. The shelter’s idiosyncratic profile would have made a half-decent boat if upturned – a mini ark for hill lovers should the rain have become really bad.

Maybe it’s my age, but I was glad of my wooden home as it shuddered in the wind. I was grateful too of the wool wadding insulating its walls and keeping the night’s chill at bay. The snap decision to leave the tent at home had been a wise one.

I was in Lakeland to walk and early morning prospects were grim. The rain continued and heavy gusts of wind promised a thorough bludgeoning on the fell. However, after exhausting the delaying tactic of making yet another cup of tea, the skies began to clear. A pasty-shaped hole opened in the clouds and the rain became a mist haze. When the sun appeared, so did the rainbows.

I hastily put on my boots and waterproofs and headed out.

The path was wonderful – a section of the Ullswater Way following a balcony well above the shore. It skirted plantation and much more gnarly woodland, trees with sodden branches just showing the buds of new growth. Spring, tantalisingly close thank goodness.

It felt good to be out. The difficulties of the last few months that still weighed so heavily fell away, if only for a short while. I felt invigorated, optimistic even. More important, though, was a rekindled enthusiasm for these fells.

Later, back at the hut and armed with a warming dram, I pored over maps and made plans.

It’s all gone quiet over there…

Err, yes. It has hasn’t it? I blame real life… its twists and turns and how it had an uncanny knack of kicking me squarely between the legs in 2016 for one reason or another.

So, a New Year, a new start and new plans.

Usually at this time of year, when the rain is lashing against my office window, I’m daydreaming about trips on foot and bike. I have a little notebook full of ‘adventure ideas’. It was a gift from someone very dear to me who, tragically, is sadly no longer with us… last year’s most horrible event.

She was well aware of my ability to stare out of the window and escape and, always a fan of a list, bought me the book in the hope that some of these mental voyages would become a reality.

I was leafing though its pages just after the New Year celebrations and found some notes on two trips in the Alps – a place I’d never really visited save for a rather gloomy school skiing trip in my teens.

The first adventure – on the bike – detailed a trip from the South of France to the north taking on the Route des Grande Alpes in reverse before plotting a route through the Jura and, even, taking on the notorious pavé. A personal Tour de France if you will but at a more sedate pace on a touring bike. The trip was all about good food, good wine, incredibly scenery and very, very testing climbs.

The second – on foot – revisited the Alps for a tour of Mont Blanc, the classic multi-day hike linking mountain refuges. This, again, involved some serious ascent but promised a feast of Alpine scenery.

On a dingy train home last week I chewed over these options again and couldn’t really decide between them… so I settled on both. I’ve selected June for the bike trip and September for the walking tour. In doing so, I aim to avoid the busier periods and, potentially, enjoy more stable weather.

Training has now started in earnest… ish.

Riding a bike at this time of year requires a special kind of masochism. Hail is my favourite. Still, the hard yards now will hopefully soften the blow of, say, the Col de l’Iseran and Bonette.

Hopefully.

Bob Jackson World Tour

A Dark Peak Bivvy – Alport Castles

It’d been a while since I’d rolled out the bivvy bag and the need to enjoy (or is that endure?) a night in the big orange sock became too great at the weekend.

The destination? My backyard.

I left home at lunchtime and wandered through Old Glossop past its incongruous aluminium works to the Doctor’s Gate. Walking this old route, I soon joined the manicured section of the Pennine Way where I went against the grain of the national trail, heading south east to Mill Hill and Kinder Scout’s northern edge.

Jumping from boulder to boulder on this my favourite stretch of the plateau, I dropped down to Woodlands Valley via Blackden Brook, which entailed a steep diversion at its head due to some sloppy navigation on my part. Continue reading

Walking the West Highland Way (again)

I’ve just completed the West Highland Way again. Having scurried along it a few years ago in four and a half days and pedalled much of it this year, I was looking for a more sedate experience this time round.

The impetus for this trip had been the somewhat-surprising announcement by my other half that the ‘Way needed to be added to her growing repertoire of walks (the tortuous trudges up Ben Nevis and Snowdon already ticked off).

I was looking forward to experiencing this most popular trail through someone else’s eyes. The ‘Way didn’t disappoint, nor did the weather as we enjoyed some freakishly sunny days.

Another quality of the trail also endures – the camaraderie en route. We met some fantastic folk and enjoyed some superb nights in the various pubs, crowned by a celebratory dinner at the excellent Ben Nevis Inn.

It matters not who you are or where you are from, the trail remains the great leveller .

Continue reading

Easter in the Yorkshire Dales

If a pattern is emerging in 2015, then it’s to squeeze in as much as possible in the time I have away from the office.

While my four camping trips may pale in comparison to the bevy of lightweight backpackers and cycle tourists who pepper the blogosphere with their exploits, for me the tally is an impressive one.

The fourth trip to add to these pages was an Easter amble to the rather lovely Yorkshire Dales – Swaledale in fact. We took the Vango Force Ten to Usha Gap campsite near Muker and revelled in the scenery and simply wonderful weather. Continue reading

Photo post: Edale, Jacob’s Ladder and The Woolpacks

I had the opportunity to head out with our Vango Force 10 at the weekend. The accessibility of Edale proved too tempting to resist and we pitched at Fieldhead. This campsite seems stuck in a time warp – the facilities no more appealing than the first time I poorly pitched my old, heavy backpacking tent on its muddy fields – yet its location remains a major plus.

Saturday saw us climbing Jacob’s Ladder and picking a route through the Woolpacks before clambering down the boulders of Grindsbrook Clough. I promised my other half ‘proper’ Dark Peak and the Dark Peak didn’t disappoint – although a slip on our descent and bruised behind did prompt questions about my ‘classic’ circuit.

Heading out on the Pennine Way
Heading out on the Pennine Way

Continue reading