Running Blog

Back in the zone!

Heading down from Elilio towards the vilage, a great afternoon blast.

Cool singletrack to avoid some of the tarmac descent to the village, great for the legs and pretty slippy - Cloud just sitting on top of Y Garn and Elidir Fawr. It was patchy on top of Elio too and made for a great atmosphere. So refreshing to get up on the hills again. What a relief.

At Last,

Back at home back in the mountains of North Wales and catching up with everyone again after a bit of a long trip away.

Suffice to say that its great to be back, the weather has been great and so far this week I have managed to get out on the hills and on the road bike and mountain bike.

A bit like a kid in a candy shop as they say, and my legs are readjusting to the inclined plane again…

So this week I have had a great quick blast up Eilio and back, the ascent was actually my fastest to date which was well pleasing and the quads didn’t feel too bad afterwards.

On 25th November I set off with Duncan from Pen Y Pass after a plan to head up the ridge out of Nant Peris to Crib Y Ddysgyl was aborted due to rain starting.. The Pyg Track was amazing and as we got higher the snow started, with an inch underfoot as we topped out and it was seriously chilly – big flakes of blowing snow and clouds enveloping us as we lurked very briefly on the summit… It was great to be out at night, and we had the mountain to ourselves…

Bit chilly but super happy to be out in the hills and back home

Atmospheric day on top of Eilio. We headed up the left ridge and descended the normal route, my favourite way

Earlier in the day a great spin on the mountain bike with H, up to the surge pool and down to Nant was great to readjust to mountain biking, and just the day before we had taken a good spin around the pass and the Ogwen on road bikes…..

Mountain biking at Coed Y Brenin yesterday was great and a hill run tonight… Its alll just great!!


The End Is Nigh

Increasingly the last few weeks my mind has been drifting back towards the mountains, and increasingly, as the time since I was in any of them increases I have been feeling a sense of almost exile with regards to my disconnection with them.

The heady days of summer seem such a long time ago now when I felt like I could move endlessly over whatever terrain I chose and felt strong and confident doing so.

I have been maintaining my fitness out here in the flat lands as best I can , even though the longest run I have had since the Bucharest Marathon is about 16 km. Its just nigh on impossible to justify spending longer away from the work environment……

The trails are pleasant and I continue to see some lovely sights as the sunsets, with deer, hares, foxes and all manner of birds of prey presenting themselves as I pass through the landscape, empty but for the odd tractor cutting a late corn field or harrowing a rich brown plowed field…

I can turn the legs over pretty quickly now and feel ok, but increasingly I suffer from a bit of a motivation issue – The closer I get to arriving home, the less inclined I am to worry about squeezing another run in here, except that without the day to day runs here I will lose fitness for the days I want to spend up high somewhere else.

This has been keeping me going and within a week now I am going to be at home…Fantastic indeed and I can’t wait to traverse the hils again with a sense of freedom that a snatched hour here or there cannot quite deliver..

When you have only an hour to run, one is aware of a particular end point and how long it will take to get there. At home by comparison, I think about where to go on a run , not really how long it will take me to get back and that is liberating. The same with our cycle trips, its all about the journey …….

So I am ready for Wales again. From early August til now I have not set a foot on the hills there….Bring it on, they lok great on the webcams I have been viewing the last day or so….


Romania so far…..Farmland, animals and tradition… And a Marathon

Well here I am in Romania where I have been based since late August. What was supposed to be a 6 to 8 week job has stretched into probably a 12 week trip and I will be home around mid to late November… Bit of a shock to the system and goes against my usual principles of rotations and work, but hey one must adapt to the times……

Clasic local scenery and great horse and cart

I love the horses and carts used around here. This is the number one means of transport for these dirt roads, I imagine in winter that this is the best way to travel. I so want a go on one of these!

Its work again, so time for running has been pretty limited.

The area I am in is up in the North West of Romania, Satu Mare County in a place called Tasnad, fairly close to the Hungarian border. This area apparently used to be part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire until after WW1.

Classic  villages

A regular visit to Silwas as its on one of my 12km circuits. A cute place with loads of geese,ducks,horses and churches, alongside old style cottages and water wells.Cool

The area reminds me a bit of East Yorkshire where I grew up, its a mix of flat agricultural land – corn and sunflowers plus some pasture land, with some low ( 100m ) rolling hills along the edge where Tasnad town is and I am staying in a small hotel with a thermal water pool…

Silwas Vilage

Very Eastern Yorkshire, UK prior to the Agricultural Act and the ripping out of anything that impeded progress for tractors ( and mechanization of British agriculture, depopulation of the rural areas and destruction of wildlife habitats) - There are wild boar here, any number of birds of prey, Hares, Foxes etc etc.

The running is certainly not mountainous but is cool nevertheless. Its really different to anywhere I have spent time recently and as such its a pleasant spot. Admittedly I miss the mountains – Alps and N wales home but there are lots of subtler things around that help to compensate for the lack of mountains here.

More views

More rural views on my runs around the area. I am getting to know all the little paths and tracks. I love it when you begin to build up a mental image of the network of trails and tracks in an area, and everything starts to fit together somehow

The place is riddled with agricultural tracks and quiet country roads ( a lot of the roads here are still gravel and dirt and get almos

Workplace

Out at work one day... I have run through this place a few times and was suddenly taken with the light over the stream and the bridge. No mountains of course but it has a certain charm...

t impassable in wet weather – and very little tarmac), hedgerows, ditches and old style villages.

Horses and carts are common here too, the main form of transport for a lot of people and produce and its great to see so many of them.

Old communist barns with pigs lurking inside, quintessentially rural villages with churches, ducks, geese, hens and all the crucial ingredients for classic olde worlde charm, dilapidated hen farms, rustic built hay barns and friendly people.

These have to be licenced and all have a number plate of sorts to go on the main road

This is in Santau, one of the villages where we are working..

Occasionally one gets a glimpse of the edges of the Carpathian mountains in the distance…

So what am I up to? Well my runs until the last couple of weeks have focused on around  45 to 90 minutes in length ( as much time as can be taken off during the work) and I have been working on building some pace into my general running turn over speed so some interval sessions have been incorporated – 80m x 8 reps, trying to keep a pace of under 3 mins per rep ( around 2 min 50 s in fact), with some shorter 200 m rep sessions. In between these its been 1 or 2 runs to get around 10 to 6km in on the flat farmland tracks or on the rolling hills, and really been exploring all these quiet villages and small valleys and farmland that surround us here.

I have a quality 10km race track on a road out to a spot called Saucas, its got some small climbs, and I have in fact managed a 39min 21 second 10km on this so I feel as though I am definitely speeding up..

Out and about there are some cool sights and again, different to the usual. On my jaunts out, the peace away from work is really appreciated, and I have found Foxes, Hares, loads of birds of prey , from Buzzards to Kites, Kestrels, Sparrow hawks, marsh and hen harriers.

There is the added fun of a huge number of seemingly mental dogs, basically every building seems to have at least one in it which love to run up behind and bark at ones calves, which are well exposed to a bite should they fancy it! However, the technique is to stop running , crouch down as one turns around and these seemingly deranged dogs either quieten down and wag tails or charge off in fear, most amusing…..

Sheep dogs and cattle dogs everywhere

All these dogs look a bit mad when you first see them, barking and running at you but then they chil out as soon as you say hello. Nte the dangling stick to stop them running too quickly... seems a bit harsh..

Watching the seasons change is cool, as harvests are gathered and fields are getting ploughed turning dark earth browns under the plough blade. The rich green that enveloped the area when I arrived is well on the way to its rich golden and yellow autumn coat as the temperature drops and the nights begin to draw in… I remember this time last year in the Alps was spectacular…

Anyway despite all this working is not the same as being on break and I miss the mountains!!!

I did manage a weekend off last week courtesy of my employers, and I headed to Bucharest to have a bash at the Bucharest Marathon , which turned out to be a great event, albeit almost pan flat…

Ceaucescu's old residence where the Marathon started and finished

A great and grand setting for the Marathon Start/Finish Line. Ceaucescu's Palace 2nd argest building in the world after the Pentagon apparently...Bonkers

I was not really prepared to try and run a PB due to all the hill time and not too much speed training, but I was well pleased to manage a 3hrs 11 minute race, coming 60th overall, well chuffed with a spur of the moment excursion. I have knocked off 15 min from my previous PB on the Snowdon Marathon and well chuffed.  I am proper convinced that with a few more paced runs and some tempo things I could actually break 3hrs……Maybe I will try and enter the Barcelona Marathon in March, or something equally flat around that time when the weather is still a bit mingy for long mountain runs and out of season races are few and far between on the fells…

These are my favouritest Road Shoes ever - Adidas Adios Boost - Awesome

Found these in Adidas shop in Bucharest. So hard to find the size for me. They are awesome - Adidas Adios Boost, they are so light and so springy, super comfy neutral and just make you want to try and run faster. Oh and by the way these were the shoes that were worn when the world marathon record was broken 2 weeks ago in Berlin

The atmosphere was great, loads of crowds watching, cheering, music, friendly aid stations and the start and finish were in the lee of the old Ceaucescu Palace, the 2nd largest building in the world ( pentagon is 1st)

Watching the prize giving. I am not usually back in time for this sort of thing. Cool

Great atmosphere at the BUcharest Marathon, sunny and warm and watching the prize giving at the end. A fun race, I well enjoyed the experience despite it being not hilly and not in the countrysde... It was cool


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....


A summer of fun in the worst Alps weather since 1930’s!!

Typically, whilst Me and Helen spent our summer in the Alps, the UK weather was best for a long time. Despite the worst Alps weather since 1930’s we had an awesome time and managed an awful lot of trips in the hills , on foot, mountain bike or road bike and saw some great areas on the way.

We spent time in the following areas, visiting some of the placws twice or 3 times:-

Aosta Valley – Courmayeur / Gran San Bernardo

Bardonecchia Region – Piedmonte  Region, Italy

Grand Bornand – Haute Savoie, France

Valloire and Col Du Galibier Area

Switzerland – Valais

Finale Luguria – Italian Mediteranean Coast

An awesome time, and now abruptly halted due to our requirements to go back to work:-

Unfortunately the summer long plan to take part in the Tor Des Geants went down the pan again!! Typical that a job came up to scupper the possibility to take part, I seriously think that I was getting to the point of being able perhaps to complete the thing…. I am feeling on top form even now, sitting in Romania at work………

Beautiful Mountains, beautiful valeys, cloudscapes and snowscapes, jagged peaks, every valley offering something totally different, and on top of that, 2 of the most enjoyable mountain races I have taken part in, with fantastic support from local villages along the way….

Here are a few pictures from the most recent of adventures:-

Chamonix from the Brevent- Halfway through an awesome run from Passy up past the Moede Antenne Hut and up the back of the Brevent

A great 32kn day out in the quiet side of the mountains around Chamonix. I hardly saw anyone until I popped out at the Col DU Brevent. Great trails, loads of ascent, awesome weather and then some great cols along the ridge of the Aiguilles Rouges, until a descent to Argentiere pasing the top of La Flegere lift..

Adidas XT4’s have been my general companion for this trip to the alps with a trip to the dark side to wear some Salomon Sense Ultra SG , whilst my XT4’s had worn out…. I still prefer the XT4’s to be honest. The grip is slightly better in the ADidas XT4’s, especially in wetter weather, and they last longer that the Salomon Sense Ultra SG ( the salomon uppers are beginning to split around the top of the toe box near big toe/ball of foot area) . The Salomons are a little lighter mind you, but as an all round shoe its the Adidas one for me everytime, high mileage, great grip, positive..

Last 10km featured a super steep descent sloshing muddy in the rain. I missed the worst weather

I absolutely loved this race. Cheese and ham with tarte au framboise at the aid stations, running on awesome ridges at around 2800m, great views of mont blanc massif through clouds, good people and great organisation. Awesome. I wore the Salamon SG Sense, as I h.ad worn out my old pair of Adidas XT4 trail shoes

Cycled over the Col Du Galibier to watch the TDF come through the Col DU lauteret.

A great afternoon spent chiling on a hilside, the rain held off and we had a great view of the race coming through. Then coffee and a great climb back up from the Col Du Lauteret to the Galibier. the wind was behind and we were flying....

A high mountain day after cycling the Galibier the previous day on mountain bikes, a great descent off road down a valley towards Valloire too!!

Beautiful weather, around 3000m. Had a great walk on a funky ridge. SOme wicked evenings spent running in this area too. Wild camper vanning in the valley and running every evening, living the dream....

Not a soul around, high above Valloire, late afternoon. Views all around great and a lovely ridge line to follow, technical but runnable. Nice and hot.

Living the dream. We had been on a via ferrata during the day then running in the evening. Heading down to Valoire and looking forward to a beer...

Bumped into Matthew Roberts from the village at the Sierre Zinal Race. 2 Eryri vests. He was first Welshman, I second...lol

Myself and Janine headed over to the famous Sierre Zinal Race, with Helen driving and crewing for us. What a great day. Warm sunshine, an amazing course with 2500m climbing in it ( first 8km ascends 1500m) . Killian Jornet won it in 2hr 32, I finished around 250th out of 2000, very pleased in a time of 3hrs 46 minutes. I was nervous of the race to be honest at the start and took it fairly easy, gauging my speed to finish well.. Faster next year, lol

Sierre Zinal Finish.Cramps kicking in, due to intense downhill sprint for final 3 km..super steep. The race went uphil forever first!!1

This race was such a well supported event. Oompah bands along the route, cheering villagers everywhere, rattles, cowbells, a bit reminiscent of the Tour De France. In th middle of the woods on the first climb there was an old boy with an accordian playing great tunes and a string of cowbells powered by another aged gentlemen and a piece of string.Brilliant. .Leg pain and in need of cold drinks in this picture as I am 100m away from the finish..!! Helen had an awesome apple strudel lined up for me as i met up with her. No cold beer at the finish, unlike the Gran Trail Courmayeur


Very late update Still in the Alps and feeling good

OK, sorry for no updates, but flakey internet and limited data access plus battery on computer ….blah blah blah….

Whats been happening this last couple of weeks -

Well Lots of running in and around Cournayeur, in fact I was pleased to come 9th overall in the Gran Trail Courmayeur 60km race – very pleased as I felt good all the way through and only started to feel competetive rather than just finishing it at around 35 km… A great race with 4000m ascebt in it and good preparation for stuf to come…

The feeling of being out so high in the mountains above Val Veney and on beautiful ridges is just so energising….

Helen has been out here with me and we have also been hitting the road biking and mountain biking with some good cols trips – Telegraphe and Galibier in a day plus a day watching the Tour De France come over Col de Lauteret, along with a good ride back up and over the Galibier to finish the day off. an awesome descent down to Valloire where we stayed for around a week…

Great running around Valloire too despite some wettish days we had some awesome weather

Oh, I also forgot to mention our trip to Finale Ligure , a fine coastal resort on the Italian Riviera with some fantastic mountain biking trails. We explored for a couple of days and even went for a swim in the sea, as weather had really gone bad in mountains

A trip over to Le Grand Bornand with dodgy weather allowed some more road biking cols and some hour and 2 hour runs for training, I have been generally getting in 1 to 2 hour blasts since the Gran Trail Courmayeur, just to allow my legs to recover…

I reckon I may have a go at the Pady Buckley on my Birthday, 1st August, and on the 10th I am back out in Switzerland for the Sierre Zinal Race, which will be awesome…

I am still on for the Tor Des Geants too in mid September so far… fingers crossed it all goes well….

Photos to folow of some adventures.

I am currently visiting my mate James in Argentiere up the valley from Chamonix and fancy a run over the Aiguille rouges……


Les Hauderes to Col Des Ignes

As the weather forecast was looking reasonable for yesterday, I planned a longish run up high as I suspected the weather today ( Sunday ) would be rubbish ! ( I am currently sat inside in the camp site in rain and low cloud so an ideal time to write up yesterdays trip out.

As there was likely to be snow high up I was equipped with the Kahtoola Micro Spikes and also my Adidas XT4 Trail Shoes, although they are beginning to get worn down with all the mileage I am putting into them….

Despite the high mileage week, I still felt pretty fresh – no aches and pains , just a feeling of fatigued legs…

The day was beautiful as I headed off at 0845 hrs from the campsite in Les Hauderes (Camping Molignon – a great spot with views of mountains all around and great facilities).

Inspiring weather early in the day

Dente Blanche from Les Hauderes - just outside the campsite

The view up the valley towards the Ferpecle glacier and the Dente Blanche in the distance was fantastic, but my goal lay u the valley towards Arolla, and along the valley track instead of the tarmac, to reach La Gouille. Its quite a pull first thing in the morning and I was glad to actually begin the steep ascent towards Lac Bleu and the Aguille Rouge Hut, as I had a good excuse to power march… The valley up to here is such an angle that it feels entirely runnable, but on a long day I try to manage the feeling that I ought to run it all, and just run the flatter sections….

Steep climb up from La Gouille and a snlw slope to cross to get to the Cabane at 2810m

The climb upto the Aguile Rouge hut at 2810 metres is great, I love this and around 2hrs after leaving the van I am 1300m vertical higher up than I started and surrounded by great peaks of around 3200m plus. Pic a’Letoile is upto the right, with the Aguille Rouge behind then various peaks in the direction of the Col Des Ignes and The Pigne D’arolla. Behind the hut across the valley there is the Aguille de La Tsa, the Dente Blanche and hidden in cloud today the Matterhorn is lurking somewhere.

Great views down to the Arolla Valley

Past the Aiguille Rouges Hut and heading for the start of the Col Des Ignes path

Stopping for a coffee at the hut, after crossing yet more steep snowy patches on the way to the hut – some soft and some pretty hard – I get an update on the weather – the Guardian reckons it will be fine all day, which suite my plans for crossing the Col Des Ignes, then running round to the back of the Pas De Chevres / Col De Reidmatten to cross them and descend back via Arolla….

I set off at a cruise from the hut, legs feeling great and traverse the hillside on great singletrack mixed with some rocky sections until a blue and white marker indicates the mountain track uptowards the Col Des Ignes..

Around 2900m weather is a bit dodgy and I dont fancy getting caught on the far side of the col in bad weather

Beginning to rain and I continue only upto the snow slope on the final approach before I turn round. Sense gets the better of my urge to explore the other side...

There’s plenty of snow about and I alternatley seek rocky bits and wade through softish snow to make progress, in a great surrounding. Unfortunately the cloud is building on the far side of the col and as I climb higher I get to the last 100m vertical height to gain the col, and it begins to rain…. The complete snow slope ahead and the thought of getting caught on the far side of the mountains in a thunderstorm ( forecast) is enough to get me to reconsider my goals, and I turn tail and head down…

Fast going through the moraine and snow leads me to the Aiguile Rouge Arolla path which is great running ( although one section is covered in the debris of an old snow/rock avalanche …) I ping down on snappy legs to the dirt road that leads down from the Mayens de Arolla ( a lovely group of old mtn cottages high above the valley floor) feeling spritely, as it sprinkles lightly with rain.

The long descent to Arolla is finished on a great steep singletrack path into the village, where an easier angled Randonne path ( a great MTB descent) leads into the fields below the village then fantastic alpine meadow running alongside the river, just Idyllic!

idyllic running on a mowed singletrack through great flowers

Heading down towards La Gouille along the river banks through alpine meadows, what more could one want...

I am beginning to tire as I get to La Gouile and begin the steep valley descent back to Les Hauderes, realising why in fact it is so hard to run up it ( it looks and feels well steep on the return journey)…

I have some very odd stomach cramps on the descent that I suspect is either hunger and long descent related or glacier water drinking… but once back at the campsite and after a bit of stretching the symptoms are gone and I suspect its just a reaction to the long week of running….

A fantastic day out, despite not getting to cross the col’s planned. Probably around 28km running with around 1600m ascent involved.

This brings the total since last friday to 160 plus KM with around 10000m ascent, including the mid week runs in the Sanetsch Pass area. 2 days rock climbing and a great mountain bike spin out with Graham – a British Mountain Guide – Frost Guiding have made for a great high mileage week / training week, and I am hoping that this is going to go in the bank for a) the Sierre Zinal Race and b) the Tor Des Geants……


The Tour Of The Grand Combins

I have fancied this for a few months and a bit of route knowledge and planning have had me inspired over the winter months. Its a 100km circuit of the Combins Massif with over 6500m ascent in it and usually done in a 6 day trip.

I wanted to run it in a couple of nights out, with 3 days on the hill.

Its the first time I have attempted something like this so I was super excited to be able to get the chance and also to have a weather window to do it in… This route would be pretty intimidating in bad weather, I would not like to be caught out on the cols in bad storms etc….

I am hoping that this is also going to go into the bag for training for the Tor Des Geants that I have managed to enter now as I was on the waiting list… That is going to be an epic!

The start and finish is in Bourg St Pierre in the Great St Bernard Pass – Swiss side – My original plan to do it clockwise was thwarted due to Panossiere hut not opening in time for me, so a last minute direction change meant I would arrive at Panossiere hut the first night it was open.

As it turns out I reckon its the best way to do it as a running trip because apart from the first morning, both the next days start with some downhill running, which helped wake up the legs……

Day one consisted of around 3o + km with around 2500m ascent in 6 hrs – snow on the first col slowed me down substantially … I stayed in the Rifugio Champillon, above Doues/Etroubles on the Italian side of the St Bernard Pass with great views of Grand Paradiso all the way round to the Fenetre Du durand and the Combins.

Day 2 started with a down hill run losing 250m alt. then aorund 8km of rolling beautiful singletrack, with the Fenetre Du Durand drawing me along through beautiful meadows under great ridges and peaks…The goal was to reach the Panossiere hut, to break the back of the bulk of the route and have a steadier day to finish on day 3. This was a big day, probably around 40plus km with a good 2500m climbing, and some snowy cols requiring a lot of care to cross, along with many gullies filled with hard snow – a lot of step kicking and poling in some potentially dangerous situations … 9hrs on the trails brought me to The Panossiere hut with stunning views up the Corbassiere Glacier to the Combins, an amazing sight, and especially so due to awesome weather again.

I mistakenly though that day 3 would be an easy cruise all the way back to Bourg St Pierre to finish the circuit off but again it was around a 25 to 30km day with penty of climbing and endless ridges to cross. I stopped for a coffee and cake at the mighty fine Cabane De Brunet. After that it was a case of col after col, as I constantly expected to be descending to Bourg St Pierre which happened eventually after 5.5hrs out again. The final run down to the valley was exhilarating and fast, in the afternoon sun…. A fantastic day again…..

For shoes for the trip I chose my Adidas Adizero XT4 trail shoes because of the grip and the lightweight feel, plus the Adiprene cushioning really seems to protect the feet from sharp rocks and impacts, whilst maintaining a great ground feel. I had my The North Face Better than Naked shorts, and a variety of tops – Adidas, TNF, and Salomn, plus my Black Diamond Ultra Distance Poles.

I tried to travel light but of course with emergency gear in my sack plus gels, fluids ( I filled up from streams on the way) and some self heating meals, my North Face Summit Lightweight waterproof, I guess I was carrying around 10kg. This will hopefully have strengthened my legs, and will mean that in future with less weight on my back I will go better…..

Tsalavey above Bourg St Pierre. upto 2266m before descent down to Bourg St Bernard

A variation start to the Tour of The Grand Combins, to stay above the valley and pass through quiet alpine pastures on the way to the first big climb of the trip. I saw no one for hours....

On the way to the Col Nord De Menouve

A slow ascent, 2nd climb of the day, first col of the TDC, using my Kahtoola micro spikes and kicking steps, around 900m vertical climb alongside the old Super St Bernard Ski Lift, now sadly disused. It used to give access to some reputedly amazing off piste powder runs down into the Italian side of the Grand St Bernard Pass

A steep and step kicking climb led to this col, a variation on the genuine tour des combins

Looking back down towards Bourg St Bernard and then Bourg St Piere in the distance. First Col of the day, snowy and steep. Defunct Ski lift - Super St Bernard . 2801m. About to head down into Vallon de Menouve before the climb to Col de Champillon another 900m climb

Fenetre Du Durand from the Col De Champillon

Last col on Day 1. I was here with Helen and Bella a few years back. Great view of tomorrows first objective...The Col De Champillon at 2800m with views towards the Fenetre Du Durand, about 13km away . Looking forward to a beer at the Rifugio and some Italian food..

View of my Shoes from Rifugio Champillon on Italian leg of TDC

trusty Adidas Adizero Trail XT4,s with Fenetre Du Durand in the distance, the next days objective. The Refugio Champillon was comfortable and friendly with amazing views of course. Chilly due to broken boiler and cold night outside!! I needed ( and had) 2 duvets for a great night sleep

From Cabane de Champillon to Fenetre du Durand

Lovely running on gently rollinf trail for 8km from Champillon towards the Fenetre Du Durand, before the climbing begins again. Great views and awesome weather. Day 2 begins gently, with a long way to go. 1hr in, 8 to go....

Hi above the Mauvoisin dam, possible the worst bit of the route was running on the dirt road level with the dam..

Heading up and away from the Mauvoisin Dam was a relief after a few km of rolling 4x4 track which was hard work. Heading up towards Pierre Vire then on towards the Col Des Otanes at 2800m, and a good few km away yet...

Kahtoola Microspikes on and a few particulalry steep sections of step kicking and traversing to get onto the col approach

A lot of snow left over from the winter made progress slow at times, with step kicking and some very careful traversing above large steep slopes, led to Col Des Otanes and a super steep and loose rocky descent towards the Cabane de Panossiere, again plenty of snow filling in the paths and making progress delicate!

Steady descent to start the day off over glacial moraine and great "Paserelle" ( funky suspension bridge over Corbassiere Glacier

Day 3 -As I set of down from the Panossiere hut, I asumed it would be a couple of hours running to finish in Bourg St Pierre.... ( Took 5.5hrs in fact). Endless amazing running trails, and all of it remote, mostly above 2ooom.

Black Diamond Ultra Distance Poles holding up well. Legs tired. Adidas Adizero XT4's doing well

Awesome trails on the last day, greener and plenty of flowers, still plenty of height gain along the way. This is on the way from Panossiere hut towards Cabane Brunet, still a long way to go, but the ever evolving and changing scenery and meadow like areas just fill me with energy and lead me on from col to col, ridge line to ridge line steadily.....

Great single track trails and stil another mini col to go over

Plenty of mini cols/sadles and great running, plenty of ascent between the ridges. This is below Pointe du Parc on the way to the Vuardette - the ridge in the distance. I saw 3 other runners coming the other way here, and the running was great as I began the descent into this area. The path by now is pretty clear from ridg eline to ridge line and draws me onwards to the final fast descent into Bourg St Pierre.

Verdict:-

Fantastic

3 days

98km trails

6500m ascent

21hrs on the trails

Anticlockwise is best way round…

My Route:-

Day 1

Bourg St Pierre via Plan de Jeu – Bourg St Bernard – Col Nord De Menouve – Vallon De Menouve – Col de Champillon – Cabane De Champillon

Day 2

Cabane De Champillon – Fenetre Du Durand – Lac Du Mauvoisin – Pierre Et Vire – Col Des Otanes – Panossiere hut

Day 3

Panossiere Hut – Caban Brunet – La Treutse – Cabane De Mille – Col De Mille – La Vuardette – Le Coeur – Creux De Ma – Bourg St Pierre….

Super inspired for more of this stuff….


The Tour Des Grand Combins and other adventures

OK so a quick round up this evening and pictures plus more details to be posted tomorrow as irs a rest day planned more or less.

Out in Switzerland and had a great wek biking and running with Helen before she had to go off to work.

Then Cue the Tour of the Grand Combins – a 6 day walk with 100km and 6500m ascent, and a plan to do it in 3 days 2 nights out… A successful and most amazing adventure, in a weather window so it was before I was planning but had to make the most – amazing views, great weather, lots of step kicking over cols and great trails starting.finishing in Bourg St Pierre in the Great St Bernard Pass… More later.

This week has involved some climbing with mates and what a great adventure – a real shock to the system – limestone near Martigny – single pitch stuff and then Arnad in the Aosta valley on a high valley crag, multi pitch super exposed with abseils to finish, a real shock for me… James, Graham and Mark needless to say climbed great…

As the forecast got better we headed to Sanetsch Pass and some limestone cliffs that are possible the jewel in the Swiss Crown of Limestone, , a cold day and a warm day had J and G climbing and myself out running and again more adventures, camped out in the vans at 2300 metres… Snowy summits a temporary loss in the mist and a bit of a word with oneself saw me off the top of a fine 3000m peak and the second day was a great jaunt ober the top of the crags to explore a potential mega ridge travers, but this turned out to be unfeasible as a solo trip and would need ropes etc… Again more to follow ….

Shoes in use for the trips – Adidas XT4 Trail shoes – awesome on a multi day spin in the mountains, and good on snow, plus my North Face Ultra Trails, a comfy and light fats shoe with a it less grip, but great on bare rocks and buffed/ prepared trails..


More Views of Rowanduz and Akoyan Valley

This view is of the mini gorge running on South side of Rowanduz vilage, with a free hanging waterfall amazing climbing lines (all unclimbed) one in particular stood out – a hanging arete with an open book corner cut into the promontory. Looked cool, even tho’  I dont climb anymore…

The area is great an full of potential

This is the gorge on the Southern edge of the Village - mini Rowanduz Gorge with solid rock and great lines

Awesome routes to do, all new ones no doubt. Freehanging waterfall, great trail in the bottom and right next to town.Reminds me a bit of Rodellar in Northern Spain

Great dirt roads, views and atmosphere, plus blue skies, work, play and a lift back to camp .Cool

In full flight - pegging it mode down the Akoyan Valley on the way back from a day at work

Paul Dixon took this one

Lots of North Face stuff on.. Work trousers not shorts... Great run. 9km 38mins


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