Running Blog

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 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

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.



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

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

A few pictures of the Spectacular Rowanduz Gorge. An appetizer perhaps?!

Grade 2 to 3 rapids - awesome looking gorge - The Rowanduz River as it descends towards the main gorge. Check out the great trails in here too. They look awesome

Great gorge, great river, looks like a cool trail hidden n the depths too.So many possibilities for such great trips

On of of the cleared tracks to the gorge top

Perched tentatively and feeling the exposure - Rowanduz gorge near Pank

Acres of limestone for rock climbing - no routes on here as far as I know. Such potential

Running above the Lower Rowanduz Gorge near Rowanduz Village

High Above Rowanduz Gorge, just next to our tarmac run circuit

You could base jump this if you were that way motivated!!

Kit for Work and running Rowanduz

Its been a hot month and a lot of my clothing has ben used for crossover running and working out in the hills, The North Face Trail Guides have taken a good beating, they are over a year old now, and my Adidas Adizero Adios have finally given up the ghost due to excesive trail running in what are in fact a pure road shoe (used them loads in Cambodia).

I am saving whats left of my Adidas Adizero XT4’s for the alps but seriously need a new pair of shoes….

The North Face Stretch trousers, Better Than Naked Shorts, Adidas and The North Face tops – short sleeve that I got from V12 have been great and actually I really did benefit from the wicking nature of both TNF stuff and Adidas. I could wear the t’s throughout the day, then don my shorts and run in the tops as they would dry so quickly. Good airflow and comfortable fit, plus hard wearing are the impressions I get from these garments, all great.

Loads of tarmac km’s lots of ascent and descent, fresh air, salads, work work and more work, and I feel super healthy now and pysched for the Alps trip with Helen … New adventures always…

Good work and plenty of exercise in Rowanduz. Next stop Home.

I am due back in Wales on the 11th after a fine hard working month up in Rowanduz, in Eastern Kurdistan on the edge of the Zagros mountains, with distant views of Iranian and Turkish peaks. Its a magic place to be honest and such a great place to work.

Admittedly the options to run wild over the mountains are out due to work commitments and HSE rules, but just running around the Pank Holiday resort where I was embedded for a month was stunning due to quality tarmac and great views. Work has also involved a lot of hiking into the hills and 2 out of 4 weeks I have managed 3700 m of ascent, one week 85 km  and another week 106 km, squeezed in to late afternoon tarmac sessions, marching in the hills to check out work teams, and occasionally running on dirt roads at the end of the day with a vehicle following me on the way back to camp… I am sure the photo’s posted give a bit of an idea of the potential here – tha place is ripe for new routing, now ridge running, trail runs, gorge exploring and kayaking, with road biking and mountain biking options a plenty.

an amazing place full of fantastically hospitable people, Kurdistan is an adventure waiting to happen

Snowdonia Weather