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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

Classic Cols Pictures

Here we go, not running but hey it was great…

Loads of daisy cows on the Saisies

This is the time of year for the fighting cows to make their way from high pastures to to the valley for the yearly competitions and then low pasturing amd barns for the winter

26km climb

Morning ride up the Madeleine, Telegraphe next

Yours truly on the col

Made it up , fixed a few punctures for folks and handed out some gels on the way, all good.

On The way up the Col Du Telegraphe

Great views on way up Telegraphe. David is close to finishing - battling a knee injury. Awesome effort all week and he was raising money for Macmillan.

Chilling on Col Du Galibier

Galibier done, Alpe D'Huez to go to finish the trip. The sun is still shining and everyone is on fine spirits, living the dream

Perfect weather day 3. Galibier summit The group regoups

Perfect day and 1 more climb to do . Next stop Alp D'Huez

Steepest section on ALp Dhuez is low down first , bends 21 to 16...Harsh. Classic

All the guys attacking the steep section , Bends 21 to 16

Classic finish to a great trip

I managed 56 minutes for the original finish , and 1hr 1 min for the TDF finish

Pictures of the days Trail running up Mont L’Etoile

I was lucky to have seized the opportunity yesterday to get up high as today the snow is down to under 2000m again and its super rainy….

By the way the shoes of choice today were my North Face Ultra Guides, very comfortable and great grip althou a couplle of times I felt as tho I would have preferred a tiny bit more feeling of my foot locked into place that I get with the Adizero shoes. (V12 have these in stock as well as the TNF  Hayasa, and the Adidas Adizero XT4)

The Ultra guides tho are a great long day out trail shoe and are wearing well…

Here is a selection of pics from the day out – exciting and awe inspiring and just great to move so easily in the mountains..

This is where I have run up - the glacial moraine on the left of the valley, an amazing backdrop. now at 3100metres, light winds

Above the Aiguilles Rouge Hut Arolla valley nestles far below

Beautiful views across to some big mountains - Dent Blanche, Matterhorn, Aiguille de la Tsa This is from the Col De Darbonneire, panoramic, to the left iss the ridge towards my destination

La Gouille at 1834 metres is a fine start followed by steep steep climbing upto 2700metres, where the angle backs off a little as you head up glacial moraine towards 3143 metres and Col de Darbonniere, where you would turn left and put on crampons to go across towards La Vuasson.

The ridge ahead was snowed on one side and clear the other and was alternately rounded and rough requiring some careful footing due to snowy patches and the everpresent glacier de la Vuasson to the left and scree cliffs down to the right

Glacier De La Vuasson to the left, a nice open ridge leads with a couple of sneaky sections to a steep finish

The peak in the distance is Mont L'Etoile, a steep shale peak, very pointy, and once on the summit ridge there is a very exposed traverse to get to the highest point. Care needed with rotten rock, snow and vertigo.. I am not used to this stuff after my 5km stretch of Ugandan dirt road for the last few months..

A lofty spot - 3370m Mont L'Etoile

Aiguilles Rouge D'Arolla to the right above the approach ridge

I made it to the top 2hrs 15 minutes after leaving the valley bottom and was well pleased, as I took it pretty carefully on the last 300m climb due to steepness.

A good view back to where I am returning. The ridge is pretty shaley and broken and amazing views down either side onto glaciers or scree

Steep Shely descent made for a great plummet, fast and loose underfoot just like scree in the lakes but better. A 150m quick before back to traversing

Heading bacck down via the Cabane des Aiguilles Rouges for a fine piece of chocolate cake then contouring round to descend to Arolla, the track back is great singletrack for thousands of feet descent. Once down, its into the woods, where a wrong turn took me back up another 300metres to Lac Bleu . Great tracks but a little unnecessary..

Having just run and extra 300m ascent, I took the opportunity of icing legs in the lake, to the stares of myriad children and people, then headed to a small Buvetter for a fine Tarte aux Myrtilles ( no one had any soup today):-

Picked on the hill side and eaten in a great setting with a fine coffee before the 10 minute descent to the car from Lac Bleu

Raining in Les Hauderes and mountain bike fun

Cloud low, rain rattling on the roof of the tent as I sit wrapped in compression gear and thermals.

I have aching quads ( the long descents ) but the r est of me feels fine apart from the creeping damp chill. I just spotted a rivulet of water creeping across the inside of the tent floor so that was a timely reminder to re-organise the layout and stash stuff that can be stashed. Much better living space now and clearer, apart from the bogging wet mountain bike clothing…

Headed off for a fine ride between rain showers, heading off up the Arolla road into the mist before breakig back right in the direction of Lac Arbey, a small hamlet high above Evolene. The track/singletrack across the hillside here is fantastic – Uber exposed , technical and rolling with a bit of a nasty wooden bridge /step shocker before the track opens out towards Arbey. Too wet to attempt the wooden bridge step thing, no railings and super slippy with a pokey drop…..

In the now heavy rain I opted for a route I haven’t followed before signed for col dela meina and vuasson, through the trees ( Advice – don’t follow this route this way round – better to reverse it – If you want to head towards La Meina etc, then take the dirt road just above the lake and save yourself a lot of pushing, slipping, and bruised shins….)

As soon as I could I cut back on atraail marked for Arbey ( about 35minutes later) and this was the aforementioned sensible option for upwards progress followed down hill this time.

In torrential rain the descent to Evolene is awesome, I rode it clean 3 years ago in the drybut this time I had to get off for 3 secctions and went over the handlebars once.

The whole area is criss crossed with amazing mountain bike opportunities, each one a gold mine of technical fun, even in the rain!!

Evolene even has its own Raid Evolenard - a big route in the valley also done as a race once per year…Thirs only hints at the scope for mtb in the valley and once you have ridden here – far from the madding crowds, you will want to come back for sure…

So a good 2.5 hrs out and about on my bike, bogging wet and now trying to dry out and warm up. Another run to the top of something planned for tomorrow….

La Gouille to Mont L’Etoile, via Lac Bleu and the Aiguilles Rouge trail.

A hard day out today, my quads were still burning from the descent the other day, I think the bike ride yesterday and the Via Ferrata helped a little to move some lactic…..

Set off early morning from around 1600m below Arolla and followed a route that Helen, Bella and I went up a few years back, beautiful ascent in stunning scenery, blue sky, low wind speed and crystal clear…Marmottes singing in the background as I remember Bella being obsessed by these cute creatures last time we were here…..

At the final turning for the hut I headed right towards Mont Vuasson, until the final col then a cool , airy and semi snowy ridge run/scramble leads to a steep shale peak and onto a very narrow ridge with big drops to either side and the summit of L’Etoile. 2hrs 50 minutes after leaving the van I made it, before heading back down towards the hut again and detoring via the beautiful track that leads from the Aiguilles Rouge hut back to Arolla. I eventually arrived back at the road and foolishly took a turning that ked right back up to Laac Bleu, another 300m ish above the van!! Still it was extra height gain and the trails are just awesome…

Mont L’etoile is at 3370 metres, and the views were stunning!

Pictures will be uploaded soon. – ie tomorrow – it will be  a rest day with some mountain biking in the valley to recover my quads! Plus the forecast is a bit iffy so better stay low ish and hit the tech trails for mtb round here.

Snowdonia Weather