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Last bit of our Alps trip

Its a bit late for posting it but I decided to pop a few pictures in and summarise the last few weeks of our trip to the alps before I was dragged off to work in Romania, where I am now…… It is a stark contrast and I will post some pics and give a bit of a review of the area I am staying in. Unfortunately its not the mountains, neither Carpathian or Transylvanian, but an especially flat bit in the North East near the Romanian border…

Of course as usual, all the plans I had to take part in the Tor Des Geants were dashed due to work coming up.. Hey Ho, all part of the fun. Best try again next year!!

Anyway I digress:-

The last couple of weeks of the alps trip ( The van is still hiding away in Geneva airport somewhere) were spent in the amazing region of Bardonecchia and then back over to Courmayeur, where we camped below the Grandes Jorasses in the Val Ferret  again, a really stunning spot..

Bardonecchia was chosen due to dodgy weather threatening the area we were in – Around the Grand St Bernard again and what a place it was. Beautiful valleys and stunning mountains. The Peaks are prety rocky and big limestone, albeit smaller than the main alps area to the North but stunning. The main valley out of Turin is a fine spot and surrounded by great mountains, although there are not many camping spots.. We spent a few days here then headed over to the area around Sestriere and Fenestrelle, a truly stunning spot, and after this, over to Melezets just up a side valey above Bardoneccia town itself.

Great mountains , great walking and stunning trail running, both in the valleys and up onto the peaks, I am really excited about getting back to this area. We have only just scratched the surface of. We had some great mountan biking too above Oulx and road biking to Sestriere…..

Where else can one can run up and round a fantastic Circque at around 2500m and be back in 1.5hrs after great ridges and views, or power up to a 2700m col late afternoon in mists and pop out into blue skies…wow. Awesome spot. Biking in the morning, running in the afternoons, great food, wine and cold beers, hot showers…

Here are a few pictures. I am as usual using my North Face Better Than Naked Shorts, which are really lasting well and are so comfortable, plus the Adidas XT4 Trail shoes, although on some of the flatter trails in the dry I have been in my Salomon Sense Mantra’s. The Sense Ultra SG’s I purchased when my older Adidas shoes wore out are only used in super wet conditions and as a change to my XT4’s currently, as they sem to be wearing rather badly. A great shoe the Salomons but not too good on longevity, especially as they are not cheap… The Adidas XT4’s win hands down for lasting well and the fit is super comfortable, and not too dissimilar to the Sense Ultra.

An evening run up from Sestriere Passo Banchetta at 2700m below Punta Rognosa

A wicked run with a great flat start from 2000m then a steep climb below the Rognosa peak in a great setting. The valley catches the evening sun til prety late and once up onto the ridge below the peak, the views just open up outstandingly. I was going to scope out a route from here up the peak itself but that wil have to be saved for another day and possible with company - all I could see was a dodgy goat track barely visible snaking off into a rock field and no apparent line through the rotting scree cliffs.... The next day my self and Helen went up the Punta Rognosa topping out at 3280 metres in bright sunshine, a great day. From the high point of the run where I took this picture you can just about see Sestriere back down at the foot of the valley. A really fine and isolated spot, no one around..

Different Scenery again to the rest of the alps we have visited, lots of limestone and pretty craggy - Bardonecchia and Melezets area. Fantastic as ever

Another quick afternoon run up from Melezets to the obvious cirque of mountains overloking the campsite. This was a spectacular run and as ever, I try and memorize the map and head off so one is always wondering whether one makes the right decision . Usually its easy of course, but I did wonder when I started heading up through the trees low down if I had taken a wrong turning and would miss the traverse by topping out in the wrong place. All went well however after I cut to the right up and through some steep tree covered slopes to emerge into the base of the couloir you can see in this picture, with a fantastic run below the peaks and along a ridge with some old military emplacements and some airy paths above the valley. I cracked on pretty sharpish due to impending rain storms that I could see creeping in from the nearby peaks, and managed to beat them back to the van...

Great rock scenery and nothing but the marmottes. Storm clouds lurking behind drove me on. The Adidas XT4's were brilliant especially on the super rocky descent with the awesome zigzag track , so rooty and rocky..

More stunning scenery on the same run. Alone high on the hills, I love it. The feeling of moving quickly over this sort of terrain is just awesome, free of clutter - I took a couple of gels with me and a gilet... Nice and light. This was taken just after the main climb up from the campsite, and this rail ahead just looks so inviting. A wicked singletrack followed by an airy traverse hanging above the valley floor on a fine ridge with great views, wondering what the descent was going to be like.. I managed to avoid the storm clouds rolling in by about 15 minutes as I descended via the Col de l'echelle on the Italian French Border, with some great cut offs to avoid the road hairpins into the valley, below sweeping crags and across huge flood wash out channels. Very cool indeed

Travelling Light again and having faith in breaking through the clouds. This was about a 1hr 20 minute ascent from 1300m to 2700 followed by a 40 minute return. A 20km round trip

An afternoon run up through thick clouds above Fenestrelle and past Laux into a beautiful valley and a very fine col where the sun came out. Again, this could be connected to the previous run by heading over a 3300m peak to the right as i got to the col, but time didnt allow - this was after all an afternoon fix after a very pleasant morning spent pottering around Fenestrelle, a really old traditional Piemontese village, next to our camp site. Again a nice and quiet spot, and so spectacular as the mist cleared - A great 20km round trip - 1hr 20 up (1400m vert) and a 40 minute return. My quads were pretty battered after that!

High above Val Ferret and out above the UTMB course

Dave Harvey a mate from Manchester came over and met us in Val Ferret for the last few days before work and we had a great run out, heading up over the hilss opposite the mont blanc massif and then returning via the UTMB trail which hangs a ways above the valley botom and rolls pleasantly along. The first time this year I was up here the stream and col were still caked with snow so myself and Dave scampered ( actualy we power marched) up a great zig zag trail into the hanging valley before traversing to where I took this picture from. Another col ahead of us and the descent back to Val Feret await.. another great 20 km trip out and the last one in the mountains for me!! The morning after this, I was off at 0500hrs with Helen to drive to Geneva airport through the Monte Bianco tunnel. It was absolutely chucking it down as we left Dave and Mel asleep in their van and heading off to other adventures, Helen off to Annecy and myself off to Romania....


Pank Camp Loop – Best camp location for views and quality loops

Possibly the best 3.5km loop of tarmac I have come across with around a 100m heigh difference and a few diferent hills on a single lap. Telly Tubby style bridges, a couple of short grass tracks and great views means its actualy pretty inspiring to run here, depsite the fact that one is not going anywhere.

Combined with the very hospitable Kurds and our friendly OPF, a bunch of Asaish and lots of holiday makers, its quite an experience. These pictures are all from the quiet end of the camp near the gorge behind Rowanduz Village. This place is surrounded in trails and climbing opportunities. Might have to come back on holiday!!

Paul Dixon flying along at Pank

Soran in the background and Hamiltons Road running up the valley into Iran in the distance

Jim Plaice on the Pank Loop with a great Back Drop

Jim Plaice, one of our gang of four - myself Paul D and Qudrat make up the other 3 - daily battering on the tarmac above Rowanduz. It could be worse?!

Paul D going for it again

Akoyan Valley in the background and the Harmusche ridge. Full of potential routes - biking, running, scrambling or climbing. Rowanduz is such a cool spot. Qudrat,Paul D and Jim P on a mission. 38 degrees C.

Rowanduz, running, Kurdistan

Paul D and Qudrat, more partners in crime on the Pank Loop, steps and sweeping mini paths ad to the fun and stretch the lungs and calf muscles

Rowanduz Gorge behind, Pank Camp super Loops. 38 degrees C. Tired Legs

Pank Loop - Your truly - attacked the steps and the rather fancy red and white paved swoopy paths jioning the tarmac loops, lol


The good the bad and the hamster wheel – Running Rowanduz

So its happened again . After 10 days of some relatively free but still confined running, on the best quality short tarmac circuit I have ever encountered, I am back to running in the virtual hamster wheel that comprises my camp in Hajiawah, Kurdistan.

The last 10 days has bbeen a blast at work with good trips out oon the hills to inspect check out work crews, interspersed with some of the best qualtiy tarmac road running oone could wish for in a small area. Steep roads, lots bends and views to die for ( in fact if you ran off the road in a couple of places you could end up a few hundred metres lower pretty quickly!!! One can notch up 300m of vertical in a 10km session whch is good hill training in anyones book I think ( at least thats what I tell myself whilst surrounded by these amazing mountains just begging to be run up / over/ between and around!)

I have notched up just about 80km this week so far with a lot of vertical, which is great news.

However the last 2 days have been back to my flat gravel 0.7km circuit.The joy of joys and I need to develop  the fortitude of caged hammsters to keep myself going round and round on the crunchy slightly loose gravel that really works the lower legs.. I had forgotten how hard it is, after the hilly flowing tarmac itts a shock but with a few more days of it, I will develop the speed again on the stuff……

Here are a few picture sof the last weeks views and mountains and hopefuly they capture the beauty of this place along with its amazing potential for adventure sports. All the pictures are taken in and around the Rowanduz Gorge area, between Rowanduz and Hajiawa/Raniyah in Northern Kurdistan, only 2.5 hrs from Erbil International airport. One day the whole Rowanduz area in Northern Kurdistan will be a really hot destination for climbing, trail running, adventure mountain biking, mountaineering, ski mountaineering in winter, rafting, base jumping etc etc…

I just wish I was free to run these trails. The best I have managed outside of my camps are some quality descents ahead of my vehicle on grreat tracks from cols to valley, faster to run than to sit in the car, even if I am in my walking boots…

A great run would be along this valley, from Rowanduz to Hajiawa/Raniyah - either on this dirt road below or on the ridge high up.

30km out, 40km back - head out on the dirt road, come back along the ridge - potential for trail running is endless. Keep to paths and watch out for UXO

The View down towards Rowanduz Village from Chiye Harmusche

The view into Rowanduz from the hills behind. This area is a future mecca for adventure sports - rock climbing, scrambling, trail running , mountain biking and mountain walking. The Rowanduz gorge contains acres of great quality rock and everywhere you lok in the valleys here are crags. Some shaded for summer comfort, early morning or evening potential. Just beware of the potential for UXO

In a 20km square area is more rock than in the Peak district. Unclimbed lines everywhere and potential for base jumping

Trails in and out of the gorge look great for running, and the road itself would be an awesome 30km hily circuit early in the morning

High pastures and rocky outcrops with brilliant dirt trails, Northern Kurdistan

Spring and Autumn trail running here would be amazing - Above Balisan Valley and Akoyan Valley , just South of Rowanduz. Dirt Roads lead up 800m vertical onto great mountain ridges, goats and sheep abound , rocky trails and small trees. And such tranquility. The Kurs are super welcoming of visitors. The future meca for so many adventure sports

Run or bike up or down them or both. Dirt trails everywhere and rocky ridges.

I have only been able to descend some of these tracks and can't run out and about due to work restrictions . I would love to come here on a holiday trip to get into these hills for some runs. I think the Adizero XT4's of mine ( courtesy of V12 Outdoor ) would be great here, or the new North Face Ultra Trails

Imagine an area with so much sunshine, so few crowds and so much trail running!! Big days out in so many varieties of settings and areas, all feeling highly explorational. Just be aware of potential for UXO and listen to locals, stick to well worn paths or dirt roads. The mountain of Halgurd is around 3600m high and would be a a great adventure to run I reckon

More amazing scenery, 30km long ridges at around 200m altitude. Be aware of the risk of UXO and don't take any chances!!!


Back In The UK And Getting Into It Again

Clasic view from the Glyders towards Snowdon, Its great to be back in Wales

Great weather this week, a good welcome back to Wales, Snowdon from Glyders

So after a month of work and being confined to the camp and running in circles ( got the camp circuit down to 2mins and 5 seconds, segment on Strava. Paul Dickson has matched the time so need to smash it when I get back to work…. However:-

Back in Wales Weather has been great, I am feeling really good, the flat circuits have kept me in reasonable form I reckon and what a good week of trips out:-

For all the runs this week i am back in my pair of Adidas Adizero XT4’s. They are as ever great grip and superemely comfortable whilst minimal enough to give a great feel for the trail but stil protecting the sole of the foot from battering. They are light, dry fast and never seem to smell bad… my 3rd pair and they last for ages. the last pair I bought slightly small and I have passed them on to Duncan whilst there is still some life left in them. I am in size 46 not 45 now, and this is perfect for me , locking my foot into place with enough toe box room so i dont stub. Really locked onto my feet and super comfy.. ( I am a size 44.5 in a normal shoe and have decided that 46 suits me best in most trail running and road shoes, especially Adidas.

Looking down into te Ogwen Valley on my first day back from work.

The start of a great week of running and fun, with plenty more to go before I head back to work. Looking down from Y garn into Ogwen, Pen yr Ole Wen on the left, Tryfan to the right

Wednesday 16th April – 17km 1087m ascent

Arrived back at 1315hrs and then by 140hrs met duncan and headed out up through the quarries onto Elidir Fach, then Fawr, my favourite ascent, tons of steps and steep, more of a power march than a run, but runnable sometimes… headed over to Y Garn with a chily Breeze and a very excitable Sam the Dog, and then managed to convince Duncan that the descent via Pen Dinas would be fun. Possibly the steepest bit of grass in the pas and annualy used for the Pen Dinas Fell race – a vertical thrash u and down….

A great day out finished by continuing back into Llanberis along the road from Nant.

Thursday 17th –  MTB 25km – plenty of climbs and some awesome descents, Trail Run 8km with 40m ascent

Battered legs – quads particularly tender due to the steep descent off Y garn via Pen Dinas. The flat lands of camp dont prepare the legs for this realy so some pain is inevitable! but its good stuff and clears away once the legs get moving..

Trip to Coed Y Brenin and a great ride round the Dragons Back, havent been here in quite some time and unusual not to have Helen with me as Mountain Biking is one of our things … Plenty of it lined up for when she returns from Cambodia.

Sam is always super excited to get out with us! I get a great welcome from him every time i turn up.

Duncan and Sam are always keen, and duncans odd work hours means he is available during the day sometimes, in between building his house and family time.

Biking was great and helped the legs recover, weather was ace again.

After the bike ride I decided to try out a short trail in the forest – The Sarn helen Long route – 8km and 400m ascent, a great little spin out and legs felt beter and beter as the run went on. There are a load of trails marked up in Coed y Brenin, including the trail Half Marathon Course which would be a great run, save it for next time. I have done the marathon course a couple of years ago at the inaugral event and the race goes from strength to strength each year…

Friday 18th Road Bike ride 60km

Headed out with tired legs over towards Waunfawr, then round via Beddgelert and up the Nant Gwynant to Capel Curig, along the Ogwen valley and down through Tregarth , and picked up the van from my mate duncans. Excellent ride and legs actualy felt ok climbing the Gwynant but knackered later on. tried to keep the pace reasonable and maaged about 3hrs ride including half an hour stop at the magnificent Nant Gwynant Cafe. Once again, great weather , and its just so good to be out when its like this!

Saturday 19th Mountain run 21km 1770m ascent

Great rocky ribs reuire some care as they are pretty rotten but height is gained quickly

I did this route when I was a teenager into scrambling and its one of my favourite ascents onto the glyders. No good in the rain tho . Spot the XT 4 Adidas Adizero's and also Ynys Etws hut in the bottom of the valley.

Once again an awesome day weather wise and out early ish to seek a parking spot in Nant Peris (couldn’t face running down the tarmac to Nant).

A great way up onto the glyders from the Pass- Bryants gully is steep and has some awkward scrambling in it when wetm but its good and steep and relentless to power march/climb

Great views into the pass from high up in the gully, avoiding the wet and slippery awkward wall, steep scree,heather and rocky buttresses

Picked a cold damp and shady route up onto Glyder Fawr to avoid the easter crowds, via Bryants gully, actually pretty slippery and awkward at this time of year as there is still afair bit of water running down it. Its a steep steep way onto the glyders and the higher part of the gulley features a short steep wall which can be a bit lethal in the wet so this was side stepped by ploughing on up the scree hillside to the right of the gully to keep it safe and sound today.

Onto Glyder fawr the towards Glyder fach to the top of the Cneifion Arete, above Clogwyn Ddu. I descended the ridge to Llyn Idwal after wondering if I could face it – it loked a long way down and my legs were tired…However once the decision was made, I was feeling great and loking forward to the climb back out from Idwal lake. Steeply down to the lake then crossing at the outflow, i head directly up towards Y Garn , a long a step stren ridge ascent with not much horizontal terain between the lake and the summit. A great way up and legs felt OK, tho I took it steady.

Tryfan in the distance,looking down the Y Garn ascent with Cneifion Arete in middle distance

A great track up steps and a broad ridge from Llyn Idwal right to the top of Y Garn, lots of ascent. The middle ground behind the ridge is the Cneifion Arete, that I had just descended,

From Y Garn it was onwards via the crowded summit towards  Elidir Fawr – most of which is quite runnable on tired legs even when one is feeling lazy – then descended to Elidir Fach and cut off the top to join the tarmac road  to the surge pool and then down through the quary on the zig zags, al the way back to Nant Peris via the small path that breaks off about 3 or 4 bends above the lake, across the hillside, a great variation.. Awesome few hours out.

I took Sunday off for paperwork and a break, just to keep me keen, and then Monday had a plan to run with Duncan and Brian

Monday 21st April 27km 1646m Ascent

Great route that was chosen for the decent weather. we had planned a round snowdon Jaunt but decided instead to go high and do a vatiant of round Snowdon.

Met up with Duncan, Brian plus Sam the dog who is always bonkers keen, and unaware of the distance he may end running of course!! Wish I had the metabolism of a dog for energy  - he seems to go on forever!

So we headed off up Bwlch Maesgwm ( Telegraph Valley) then followed the left  fork after the gate on the descent towards the Snowdon Ranger path, then headed through a gate and leftwards towards the old quarries blocking the way between us and Rhyd Ddu. Great trails, tho at times boggy lead one around the hilside and across a great summer bathing spot at a stream, to the railway behind Rhyd Ddu. 100m along the railway you can jump the fence leftwards where there is a pile of breizeblocks for just such a purpose and cut over to join the Rhyd Ddu path towards Snowdon summit. Breaking right , we take the rough track towards Bwlch Cwm Llan and head up the South ridge towards the Summit. Its alternately hot and chill  windy and a steep ascent that keep us huffing and power marching before a wel earned cup of tea in the summit cafe,( Thanks Jonathan!)

After a refuel it was off over too Cryb Y Ddysgl/Garneddd Ugain, tthen down diagonally to the Snowdon Ranger descent and the steep leg busting climb upto Moel cynghorion, before the classic descent down to the top of Bwlch Maesgwm and then down to Llanberis, legs feeling great and my Adidas Adizero XT4;s feeling great all the way. A great day out again  and a fine week of exercise..



The Trail Delights of Hong Kong Island

Having escaped from the clutches of work I was most keen to get my legs and mind liberated by a bit of wholesome trail running. Actually I was desperate!!

Fortunately for me at the last minute, an opportunity arose to spend a couple of nights in Hong Kong, meaning that I would be able to meet an old mate and partake of some trail fun, as well as good food while I was there.

The islands are suprisingly rural outside of the city limits which are actually quite confined to the lowlands. I think 60% of the landmass is designated as National Park, and trails and forest brush up against high rise and downtown locations right the way through what I saw of the islands. The trails are endless, and Lantau Island – one of the remoter trail destinations here, with some of the larger hills and epic trails is very close to the airport and is most convenient.

I chose to run on Hong Kong Island itself, as I could meet Brendan there and check out his office / downtown HK and have a potter along the Hong Kong Trail.

Am I really here, so cool to be getting a chance tto check this place out

An Urban/Rural Trail - Amazing views and so close to downtown HK!

The views are supposed to be legendary, but of course during my visit the cloud was really low and made for just occasional spectacles along the way but the trail itself was fantastic.

Having caught the futuristic train into HK station I met Brendan and after a spot of breakfast with Brendan and his girlfriend Steph ( my 2nd breakfast of the day) we headed up onto The Peak and the official start of the Hong Kong Trail, just above the centre of town, a short taxi ride uphill, after arranging to meet Steph later in the day to to continue running with us.

The legendary views of the HK harbour from The Peak were nowhere to be seen and it was damp and chilly which was a shock, but the trail kicks off with a lovely rolling downhill section to warm the legs up. We intended to do about half of the trail – the whole thing is a 50km trip and looks great .

Plenty of paved and un paved sections, plenty of steps but it rolls really nicely

Brendan rolling down above Aberdeen, we followed a storm drain for a while after this, dodging into it and a low tunnel section to bypass a crowd or two

The cool thing about HK too and the area generally is whenever you hit a road you can flag down a taxi which are cheap too use, so however far you get , you will always find your way back to your hotel / starting point.

Brendan regaled me with information about the New Territories trails and so many other places to visit that it was a shame to be visiting only for a day!! A return visit for a longer spell is definitely required.

The Hong Kong Trail is a great rolling trip contouring, climbing and descending around the island on a variety of tracks from tarmac paths and stone concrete steps to tree rooted and rocky tracks, a great variety and the kilometers slip under ones feet almost effortlessly ( surprising as this is my first run in 3 weeks ).

Aberdeen Harbour - a typhoon refuge for many a ship

Aberdeen. Great views and a great trail on the hillside above the urbanity

After 20 km and some awsome trail we catch up with Steph, and run jog to a garage in the middle of a posh residential area, just off the wild trails to stock up on water and snack, before heading off on another trail through Tai Tam Park down to the coast involving plenty of steps and a fine ridge with no doubt amazing views to finish in Repulse bay.

The views were rather intermittent, but mean that the feeling of being away from the city was increased

A brief view between the clouds

one minute Bush the next minute Urban - Cool

Brendan and Steph on a roll

A walk through thee market and a bit of sight seeing led us to a fine vietnamese restaurant in an old colonial building ( moved here stone by stone apparently  and rebuilt on the spot ) where they didnt mind at all that we were sweaty and dressed in trail running clothing a la European style – (compresssion this that and the other etc…)

A great day out and a thoroughly whetted apetite.

The land of many long distance events, here is a fine challenge that has just been completed – the 4 main trails in 4 days:- Check this link out – a great multi day event no doubt and quite insane

For us, our running day was complete so it was a tourist trip taxi ride  across HK Island to see the sights and then a  wander through downtown HK later, plus a very fine Moroccan restaurant, then an epic foot massage – Reflexology – where we all suffered some pain as our Chi channels were unblocked and the day was finished….

I bid farewell to me mates and headed back on the futuristic train to arrive around 2330hrs back at the hotel ready for the flight to Cambodia in the morning.

I felt refreshed and cleansed of work, and really keen to visit again… Next stop Cambodia and Phnom Penh first befor eheading North to Mondulkir and the Elephant Valley Project


Up to date and skiing in Brenta Dolomites

Brenta Dolomites - Above Madonna Di Campiglio, early January

Great skiing on good snow in fine weather for a week with family. Not much running due to knackered back but great fun skiing

Since my return from Kazakhstan, I have done only a small amount of running, with more biking and skiing thrown in. This is all mostly to do with a stomach bug on my return from Kazakhstan before Christmas and then a bit of a savage cold after Christmas that dragged on a bit – I have heard it called Manthrax by some….

Fortunatey it had cleared by new year and I got some good running  on the roads and ttrails round here and also a good blast up to the surge pool from the vilage and back in my best time yet of 1 hr dor to door, but from the Slate Museum Car Park and back I made it in 47 minutes, so prety pleased with that. I followed that later the same day with a road bike blast upto the top of Llanberis Pass in a respectable 27 min from home, and back in 40 minutes overall, with a big head wind on the ascent…

It was great to get up high again on Elidir as it has been a while on the flat lands, and it also put paid to the last remnants of my cold…

A Brenta Dolimtes ski trip with our family went down very well, and we have just got back, however I am nursing a bad back – suffered during the frst day skiing – no idea what happened but it has rquired a certain degree of pain management and groaning to get moving in the mornings before long days out on the slopes… Roll on Monday, when I will get it treated…Hopefully fixed properly and back onto the running mission..

I managed one spin out in the evening whilst skiing but decided to avoid extra back stress and concentrate on ski fun instead..

It now seems as though I have only  a few days before I head out to work in Papua New Guinea so need to make the most of the time now….Biking tody then a run later hopefuly and I really want to get a tour of Snowdon run in before I go to work – maybe Tuesday night… Be fun in the dark..

After  the first stint of work in PNG, I will be heading to Cambodia to catch up with Helen at the Elephant Valley Project for a month, and hope to spend some good time running there as well as volunteering on the project, as I did last year..

More details later..

I am also hoping to enter the Tor des Geants ths year – a 330km run around the Aosta valley with 24000m ascent, and with a time limit of 150hrs, which will be the big running goal for the year as long as work fits around it.. Part of the plan is also to do a solo run round the Grand Combin on the trail of the same name, probably whilst Helen is at work at some point – its a 6 day walk but I reckon a 3 day run would make it a great trip…


Adidas Adizero XT4 Trail Shoes

The pair I have now are my second pair of these shoes and are doing great, as did the last ones.

As I sit in my trailer in Kazakhstan, somewhere between The Aral Sea and The Caspian, miles from any hills or even slight bumps, I thought it a good time to reflect on what it is that I liek about my shoes and whether there are any things that could be improved on them too.. I have the XT4’s in my bag and am just waiting for the opportunity for a run in the dusty steppe landscape that surounds me. There are apparently wolves here ( saw a paw print of a wild dog / possible wolf just earlier this afternoon) and gofers/marmots and apparently this part of the world has a bit of a reputation for outbreaks of the bubonic plague….Fortunately the weather is getting cold so I reckon the likelihood of outbreaks of any disease is well diminished, and things like ticks, fleas  and snakes and other biting creatures are lessened in numbers – hiding in holes etc..

Anyway I digress:-

The XT4’s

Upper Materials

These shoes look light and feel light at first glance and first touch, and sort of lok like they may well wear out pretty quickly. However from the pounding that they get on a variety of surfaces, and the amount of we, sandy, dusty, rocky terrain they travel through, the appear to be super resilient..

Dont let the bright colours put you off. if they are not your thing, then there is a choice some twin coloured or single coloured. These bright materials are superlight synthetic uppers that seem to drain water out of themselves a treat and dont soak it up. The mud soon covers any visual disturbance and the great fit and feel of the shoes soon washes away any colour issues you may have had

The upside of the super draining materials is that even on a 6 hour run recently, the shoes remained really light feeling and comfortable for the day despite geting soaked through within the first 10 minutes of starting out – I crossed a bog on the way up towards Moel Hebog on a scouting trip along part of the Paddy Buckley Round from Aberglaslyn back to Llanberis.

Time after time, bog after bog the shoes shake off the wet and don’t stretch, so once the laces are adjusted  in the first place they don’t need fiddling with to adjust the fit on the shoe as the stretch is totally minimal.

The laces themsleves do take a bit of geting used to – they are fairly old style lace eyelets and require a bit of work to adjust, but once sorted at the start they keep the shoe firmly on the foot and with a reliable pressure..The thin tongue on the shoe obviously saves some weight and despite being skeptical of the lack of padding I m always surprised at the comfort levels of the shoe.

The non stretch uppers also mean that the shoes remain feeling fast , precise and stable all day – The last few weeks have seen a good number of forays onto the hills that re-confirm this, and the XT4’s don’t rol on the ball of the foot when traversing sloping ground.

XT4 Midsole

Some of the superlight and more minimalist aimed shoes have left my feet feeling slightly delicate at the end of a good few hours on the hills. However, time and again, the Adizero XT4 sems to keep my feet feeling good, without any of the bruised feeling that I occasionally get on the balls of my feet with other shoes. After 3.5 hrs on the Moel Hebog/Nantlle section of the Paddy Buckley, and the climb up onto Craig Wen and Yr Aran on the way up Snowdon, my feet felt great as i hit the hard rock steps and trails on Snowdon itself. Through all this the shoes maintain a good ground feel and really grip well on mixed rocky/muddy/ loose stones and grass trails.

I guess the Adiprene and other cushioning materials in the shoe are responsible for this great protection and superb ground feel and I am well happy with the shoes on any terrain for any length of time.

Outer Sole

The outer sole has some pretty good lugs poking out of it and my first thoughts of this were that perhaps there are not enough of them ( some of the Inov8 shoes bristle by comparison) and that they may also wear quickly.

In both these cases I have found that the lugs are great and sufficient for sure. They maintain traction at speed and on descents, and the shape of the shoe seems to help one run on the forefoot on descents, particularly improving speed and control, and  lessening impact on the legs, despite the minimal heel cushioning.

The sole and upper combination just seems to lend itself to light  and faster feeling more effortless descending, allowing great foot placement and encouraging / generating lighter footwork without one thinking about it.. quite impressive for a shoe i think…

The insole of the shoes stays firmly in place too and doesn’t creep towards the front of the shoe, even on steep and wet descents. I have a few pairs of other makes of shoe that have this problem, but not these..

I have a couple of ideas about how to potentially improve / extend the use of the shoes to a wider audience:-

One would be to increase the number of aggressive studs on it to  appeal to the super steep and super short genre of fell racers out there for a short blast and who are usually convinced that only their Inov8 Talon shoes will do what they need – If they tried the XT4 as is they would find that the XT4 is great for this as it is but a few more lugs woud tempt them further and also add some grip although this would compromise weight a little.

I personally would love a pair of XT4 style adidas shoes with a flatter sole, with a lower profile tread for the more buffed trail days out or when there is more of a road and trail mixture, I think this would complement the XT4’s I currently have , extending the life of them and giving  an option in the shoe range tht would be more of  competitor to the likes of the Salomon Sense… I know my shoes feel great on the roads but I am sure they will wear faster with some extended  road running miles in them  that one needs when getting to the climbs out of the pass and in other valleys that necessitate tarmac miles

In Summary:-

All in all I am well happy with theAdidas Adizero  XT4 shoes and will be having a few more pairs I am sure, they really are great…. I wonder if Adidas can improve on such a brilliant shoe still further?

These are going to remin my favourite shoe for my longer mountain days and for Paddy Buckley Route scouting trips where I need to be on my feet for 6 hrs plus at a time… They are definitely going to be my choice for a PBR attempt when I can get it sorted, and also for some of the long things that I have planned for 2014…

First things first though, I need to get some speed sessions and a few flat runs in, here in Kazakhstan….


Plenty of hills in advance of a month of flat runninglessness at work

Panorama of Bwlch Cwm Llan to Bwlch y Saethau, with Tregalan ridge, Snowdon and the top of the Watkin path

Back part of the run showing Tregalan ridge to left and on the right the ridge running down from Snwdon onto Lliwedd. We are heading for the right skyline and Snowdon summit before we head back to the village

This week so far has been all about hills and all about a bit of scouting for the now highly elusive Paddy Buckley Round, that I have already had a couple of abortive attempts at starting over the last year… I am also trying to get some hlls and vertical in before I am cast away to work for a month over in the flatlands of Southern Kazakhstan, where I am going to be barely able to get out at all… A daunting prospect…….
Apart from some general pottering around the lake and a mighty fine mountain bike trip to Coed Y Brenin, I have had a couple of fine longer days out on the hills between the dodgy weather we have been having.
Below are accounts of both days adventures and also another instalment of the ongoing assessment of my marvellous Adidas Adizero XT4 trail shoes ( my 2nd pair in fact)
Tuesday 12th 27 km
Moel Cynghorion, Snowdon , descending the Tregalan Ridge towards Yr Aran then descend to Watkin Path via Bwlch Cwm Llan, heading back over Snowdon summit to finish down the Llanberis path
Plenty of vertical gain on this run. I was accompanied by Duncan and his dog Sam, who goes absolutely bonkers each time he see’s me as I am totally associated with running on the hills with Sam.
Weather for the day was pretty clear but chilly on the tops, and we started steadily up Bwlch Maesgwm. This is a great ascent to get to the last mile of climb up Cynghorion, and oddly enough after so many years this is the first time I have been up Moel Cynghorion from this side on a run.. I usually climb from Snowdon side….
Heading up Snowdon on the Ranger path, a rocky track and pretty steep

Great weather for the day to start with and good temperature as we head up Snowdon on the Ranger Path. Duncan with plenty of get up and go in the legs..

The view of the climb up the Snowdon Ranger Path from Moel Cynghorion looks great and Snowdon is pretty imposing from this direction, a lot steeper ascent than the Llanberis path (which I always find a hard ascent for some reason)
The drop down to the Bwlch between Cynghorion and Snowdon is very steep grass and we took it easy jogging down to save the quads for later. Heading up from the Bwlch after a gel, one can avoid the zig zags by cutting across them directly, reducing horizontal distance and increasing the gradient substantially. This obviously is power marching territory and my Adizero XT 4’s grip great here, combining with my Cheating Sticks ( Black Diamond Ultra Distance Carbon running poles) to chew through the ascent pleasantly…)
Chily Snowdon summit on way out and back

Freezing cold and the odd view through the clouds, Adizero XT4 trail shoes were great all day

Cold winds on Snowdon summit led to jacketing up and gloves as we headed off down the great and quite runnable ridge towards Yr Aran. There are only a few spots where it is necessary to use hands to descend some rough sections and the situation is fantastic, I love this ridge..
At Bwlch Cwm Llan we realised that we had run out of time for an ascent of Yr Aran – A good excuse to come back another day- and headed diagonally down towards an old mine track leading away from Snowdon, before cutting down to the slate quarries at the head of the lower mid section of the Watkin Path.
Descending Snowdon

Well wrapped for the descent towards Yr Aran, Snowdon behind us. TNF Summit Jacket, Adidas Adizero XT4 shoes, and Salomon compression calf supports and leggings

This is such a cool spot, feeling like its miles from anywhere, with lots of slates stuck vertically in the ground near ruined houses, looking rather graveyard like, in the amphitheatre formed below Yr Aran, Snowdon and Lliwedd. I really like the sense of being on the far side of the mountain from home too and the sense of the waiting ascent back up.. With an achey ankle, Duncan chilled his feet in the stream before we headed back on up on the Watkin path. Any attempt to maintain dry feet by either of us now abandoned as we had both sunk into deep bog sections on the last bit of the descent.
The weather held over the top of the Watkin path as we passed a couple of pairs of people descending, at least one of which had been too far to the left descending and had entered some nasty steep ground – this area catches quite a few parties out when the conditions are worse, its hard to see where the path goes and there are plenty of tempting options, many of which are pretty rough and steep, leading into worse terrain… Anyway the guys were heading back to the correct trail and moving ok as we popped back out on the end of the Tregalan ridge into freezing cold winds, forcing us to jacket up again.. A quick lurk in the doorway at the end of the summit building to scoff a few gels and we were off down the Llanberis path to get back in time for Duncan to get to the climbing wall…
Of course, after a great day of good footwork and no tumbles, I managed to go headlong onto my front in the middle of the path on a straightforward section, whacking my ankle, foot and arm and causing concern to Duncan as I hopped about tryng to make the pain ease….I must concentrate more on what I am doing – too busy chatting and day dreaming I fear) The group we had just passed must have found it entertaining anyway… Luckily no damage and no broken poles so off we jolly welled and a few more steady kms found us back in the village as night fell, a great day on the hill and a tired Duncan .and Sam too ( not to mention me).
Heading towards Yr Aran and Bwlch Cwm Llan

Great ridge - Tregalan - superb singletrack and nice and technical in places, great views. Adidas Adizero XT4 as ever firmly fixed on the end of my feet

Sunday 17th November 36km – Plenty of vertical again
Paddy Buckley Route from Aberglaslyn Bridge to Moel Cynghorion then descending Bwlch Maesgwm back to the village.
Peaks travelled:- Bryn Bannog, Moel Hebog, Moel Yr Ogof, Moel Lefn, Gyrn, Tal y Mignedd, Trwm Y Ddysgl, Mynydd Drws y Coed, Y Garn, Craig Wen, Yr Aran, Snowdon, Moel Cynghorion.
A wicked day out, having been dropped off at Aberglaslyn by Helen at around 0930 hours I spent a great day ( 6.5hrs ) finding my way back to Llanberis. Once up onto the first Hil – Bryn Bannog I was in thick cloud for the entire trip except for 5 minutes near Y Garn, and crossing the main road at Pont Cae’r Gors and as such it was a great navigation / hill knowledge scouting day. I had deliberately headed out without a map, just the GPS so I could back track if I became fully disoriented, but as it turned out, although I made quite a few errors picking lines on the first half of the route, I spotted them early so didn’t waste too much time back tracking and didn’t need to pull out the gps to find my trail back.
Whenever I have a go at the Pady Buckley Round, its going to be knowledge of the good lines and solid navigation that will avoid frustration and consequently loss of motivation and wasting of energy, so the more comfortable I become in multitude condition the better. Getting round in less than 24hours if at all is all about small details – terrain, line, footing, nav, food hydration, etc. etc.
I caught a pair of runners also scouting for the PBR approaching Y Garn and it was to good to have a gas with them, Ed had already completed the route a couple of years previously and Julie was scouting for an attempt. Good luck guys and good luck with the ankle op Julie…It was good to see other people out but also rare over this part of Snowdonia at this time of year in such poor visibility..
Managed to run a better descent from Y Garn down to the track into Bedgelert forest, that saves the quads from too much steepness and battering which was satisfying too – I fear that my quads could suffer on my attempt at the full PBR so anything that can save them from being battered will be important when the time comes….
3hrs and 30 minutes Aberglaslyn to Pont Cae’r Gors, and my feet had been soaked from 10minutes into the route… The Adizero XT4’s felt great all the way…
Heading off up onto Craig Wen and Yr Aran was back to power marching and a discussion of best lines to take with the 2 folks I had met just before helped me to pick my way up the hillside efficiently with some nav hints..
It was rather baltic as I entered the cloud again and visibility closed down to around 20 metres again, a feature of the day, so the trail rolled by asa I recognised sections of path, steps and rocky sections up over Yr Aran and onto Snowdon.
Stinging chill onto my face from the persistent wind and  fine rain now drove me to shelter for a moment again in the rear doorway of the summit café to cover up – a very sheltered spot it seems and consistently useful to layer up in / eat a gel / bar etc etc..
I took it steady down from Snowdon to the finger stone and onto the broad rocky / rubbly ridge down the Snowdon Ranger path to the Bwlch below Cynghorion where more gels and some firm planting of poles dragged my tiring self up the steep ascent onto Cynghorion summit. I was feeling more energised by now again, and reckoned I had paced the day well, although too fast for a full attempt at the PBR.. I hope that if I can do each section a good bit quicker than my target times, then on the day I make the attempt proper, I will be going steadier and be able to maintain pace better..
Unfortunately no pics from this run as weather was so poor there were no views, lol…..
The next mini blog will be a summary of what I like so much about the Adidas Adizero XT4 trail shoes that I wear more often than not on these sorts of outings

Catching up on the last couple of weeks:- Marathon and more fun

I havee beeen rather slack with keeping on top of the blog for the last couple of weeks but I have been up to all sorts locally (North Wales) so I shall recap below:-

I was busy slipping thrrough towards the front - I just like the feelinng of starting close to the line, even if I am overtaken straight away...Always a buzz

This picture seems to capture the atmosphere and the environment of the race. This year 2200 people took part, The weather held out for the first 4 hours then degenerated for people coming in later - hard rain nd high winds meant a difficult finish for many . Its always a buzz aand I really enjoy the race once the first half is out of the way and you can tell a bit more about how the legs are going to do over tthe 2nd half

At the end of October I ran the Snowdonia Marathon, unfortunately I had left it too late to enter myself but my mate Anthony had an entry and couldn’t run so I stepped iin and ran under his name… A bit naughty I know but I just had to be a part of the event seeing as how I was in the village at the time and its a home race.

With plenty of long mountain running and just a small amount of sprinty work, I knew I was lacking on the tempo run training department. Last timee I ran it, I hhad done a lot of 4.5minute to 5 minute km long run training to get used to sustained effort, and managed 3hrs 26 finishing time… This time I managed 3hrs 27minuttes and was well pleased, I stopped at aid stations to drink and recover each time so must have run generally a bit quicker than last time, even though I was slower on the ascent of the Llanberis Pass due to wind and a hheadwind doown the Gwynant.. So even tho’ I was a minute slower, well pleased with my result and generally swift recovery afterwards..

Afteer the marathonn, I ran a 95km week all told, with Eilio horseshoe , a few laps of the lake and a couple of hits going up from the slate museum to the surge pool directly.

Adding onto that some good bikinng trips, both road and mountain and it was a good 10 days for exercise..

The mountainns have been wet and windy, my legs have been alternatively sluggish and very peppy. My energy levels have been a bit haywire too, post marathon recovery issues I suspect… A few days back I woke up with such heavy legs and energy failure that I did nothhing for 2 days physically speaking, and this as ever rechrged my batteries. It has become a common feature and can happen any time, almost irrespecttiive oof whether or not I have done a lot or a little in the preceding weeks. It only occurs every couple of months and so it is a useful recovery….

Earlier this week I headed late uup onto Snowdon and then down over Moel CYnghorion. As evr my legs felt empty on the way up the Llanberis path. I find this ascent so difficult as it should be so runnable, but always takes lomger than I think it ought… Tired legs or not warmed up properly who kknow’s… The legs were great however heading down the Snowdon Ranger patth and up Cynghorion and I knoocked a minute off my previous best time to the top.

With the clouds boiling around below me and snow on the ground on top, the trip out was great and I raced the darkness back into the village ( Ihad a head torch but I din’t want to stop to get it out. A great 2hrs 20 mins spin out…


Western Italian Dolomites – Ponte di Legno- Lombardy and Stelvio – Sud Tirol

Awesome cloud inversion , looking North towards Sud Tirol region of Italy

Best views of the pass and surrounding mountains was on the day we arrived. Endless trail running and mountain biking options, but probably more accessible if you come earlier in the year

This was our 2nd stop on our Italian Alps trip, having decided that due to low cloud and chillyness we needed a change of scene from Ponte Di Legno in Lombardia.

Travelling through Bormio and up onto the Passo Di Stelvio, one cannot help but feel totally inspired, with such trail running potential and great biking, both road and mountain… The mountains are stunning, and of course  combined with great food, one cannot fail to be inspired and energised…

The North side where we were to stay is old Austro-Hungarian territory, now Italy and has a mix of Italian and German/Austrian cooking.

After crossing the pass, including an overheating van and a great temperature inversion we descended the 48 hairpins from 2750m down to Stelvio village and booked into a small hotel for a change….

The next week, apart from a van breakdown recovery thing, was characterised by amazing road biking and mountain biking with Helen in the mornings and fantastic mountain running in the afternoons, with a general aim of getting around 1000m of vertical into my legs wherever possible.

So many trails and so many varieties of surface, from buffed single track, grassy meadows, old cart tracks and rocky technical trails, the place is another mecca for encouraging one up into the mountains again and again..

Adidas Adizero XT4 trail shoes

Adidas Adizero XT4 trail shoes, afternoon run / super stteep zig zag track from Stelvio up above Trafoi, craggy areas, scree filled gullies and fixed wires on the way, plus a bunch of horses that mobbed me as I hit the high pastures above, and the trail levelled out. The shoes are awesome

The mountains energise me, I feel like I draw strength from them and some how tiredness doesn’t seem to feature.

Perhaps the amazing road bike rides, including the STelvio pass and its 48 hairpins, with 1600m of ascent stretch my legs and dissipate the running tightness, but I found myself repeatedly rearing to go… On a couple of occasoins that the weather was poor or time was running low, I did a 10 x 30 second sprint interval session to try and maintain my leg turnover, in the face of all the steady steep climbing.

Beautiful afternoon, we had biked over this the day before, 2 hrs push up then amazing track, but at the time there was zero visibility

Great views, stunning trails and another 1000m vertical in the afternoon, a 1hr 45 minute loop high up. So energising

The long steep and fast descents have hopefully conditioned my Quads too, as they were constantly battered. I tried to interval some of the descents rather than run steady, to maximise the benefits, and on top of the Swiss leg of my trip, before I met up with Helen, I think my quads got into good shape too.

I am halfway along the ridge, its a 30 minute round trip from the junction with the climb up Chavalatsch from Stelvio Village, at around 2500m. A fun mini add on to a great days walking. The first part of the traverse does cross a gravel wash out over a steep drop, so a bit oof care is needed...

We also spent a day up high walking, where I scampered briefly along another fine ridge from Pic Chavalatsch, see the above picture, great views and also another insight into the network of high level paths up here that beg to be run across. Fells like you are on top of Europe, just brilliant. My Odlo clothing, mt Better than Naked North Face Shorts, The Adidas Adizero XT4’s and The North Face Trail Guide running shoes were all brilliant and reviews will follow….

Awesome cloud inversion , looking North towards Sud Tirol region of Italy

Best views of the pass and surrounding mountains was on the day we arrived.Endless trail running and mountain biking options, but probably more accessible if you come earlier in the year. The road up the Stelvio Pass is a work of art not just a road, and such a good ride. 48 hairpins and 1600m vertical gain...amazing tarmac and brilliant views

A few of the 48 hairpins up this work of art road

Helen descending the Stelvio, top left on the tarmac,it was sleeting when we began the descent.This pic shows only the top half of the pass. It was freezing cold, but we were welll wrapped this time


Snowdonia Weather

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