Mountain leader training stage 1


Having been on the cards for a while I had the opportunity to go on mountain leader training with peak mountain training who are based up in the Peak District. Driving up with forecasts of rain and relatively high winds wasn’t the most appealing to be out in the Peak District but it would certainly make for a more interesting experience!

My room in the bunk house, with beautiful views onto the hills

My room in the bunk house, with beautiful views onto the hills

After the long drive I reached the bunkhouse at Pindale Farm where it turned out I was the only one in my room out of a possible 7 others. So with kit spread out I began making myself at home and although relatively basic it had everything I wanted and was comfortable enough. I woke early the next day to get all my kit ready and have a look over the map to see where I could head on my first day. Normally the course is a 6 day course but for a number of reasons outside of my control I could only start it after the first day. My plan for the day was to make a loop around the local hills before heading back. The forecast hadn’t improved as I sat with my coffee cupped between my hands viewing the map but with a plan, lunch packed and kit ready it was time to go.

Planning time

Planning time

The initial section was heading up a valley with a castle overlooking the area; the recent weather had turned the path into a wee stream as water swirled between the rocks and my feet.

The Castle overlooking the valley

The Castle overlooking the valley

The day was certainly one of all seasons with patches of sun mixed with rain, strong winds and hail that stung any patch of skin that was exposed to it!

One of a couple patches of sunshine

One of a couple patches of sunshine

While I saw quite a few groups hunkering down behind stone walls avoiding the worst of it.

My turn to hide behind a wall

My turn to hide behind a wall

I made my way round admiring the view from each of the peaks despite it being slightly imposed on by a rather large cement factory. I finished up at a cafe full of cyclists, motorcyclists, walkers and runners enjoying a final blast of coffee and a sugar hit before heading back to make homemade pizza.

another wet evening

another wet evening

The next day was much more classroom focused with us learning about risk assessing both before and during an expedition, understanding weather patterns and looking at emergency situations involving mountain rescue. This was quite appropriate given the wet conditions outside. The afternoon was spent out in the hills to put into practise the risk assessing we had been doing in the classroom into practise. Heading to some of the steeper areas I had been on the previous day where we would consider the potential for an accident and the severity of it. We also practised the art of walking slowly and I mean really slowly to the point where one bystander stopped to witness the event. Stopping for a bite to eat we tried experiencing how it would feel just needing to wait around in a relatively cool day to see how quickly we would start feeling the cold. The results were quite surprising in terms of the speed by which our body temperature fell and certainly highlighted the need for the right equipment in the mountains. Heading back for some cold pizza, soreen malt loaf and setting my tent up to make sure it was all ok ahead of our expedition phase.

Day 1 sunshine

Day 1 sunshine

Day 1 rain and hail

Day 1 rain and hail

Day 1 strong winds

Day 1 strong winds!!

The next day was our last day in the Peak District and it was due to be a pretty interesting one. The morning began in the classroom, planning expeditions before we decided to head to an area called Stanage Edge to do some scrambling and rope work. The emphasis of the exercise was that rope work within mountain leading is definitely a last resort but if the terrain, group and/ or conditions require it then we need be to able to do it safely. Soon we were all tying ourselves in and climbing up and down areas. For those interested it was using the remote belay using a rock as an anchor as it is designed to be safer method if anything goes unexpectedly wrong.

Remote belaying and the challenge of finding a suitable anchor

Remote belaying and the challenge of finding a suitable anchor

Finally in a suitable spot

Finally in a suitable spot

Whilst standing admiring the surroundings we could make out bands of rain rolling towards our position as it rain began waterproof trousers and jackets were donned. The area is very popular with climbers particularly in the area and you could certainly see why with options of bouldering and climbing on shorter pitches. The final exercise was leading an individual down and up steep slippy terrain which was now in perfect condition thanks to the recent rain. The idea wasn’t to create the impression of danger but more act as a confidence rope. With the exercises all done it was time for a quick bite to eat and driving over to Wales for stage 2 of the training.

Stanage Edge on my way to Wales

Stanage Edge on my way to Wales

Photo Frenzy


The summer has certainly hit the UK shores and with holiday season in full swing I thought it would be great to share some of your travels, adventures and weekend mini adventures. If you have any epic pictures that you would like to share drop me an email with the picture and a bit about the moment. I’m wanting to do a picture a week, I cant offer prizes or anything like that but maybe it will inspire others to check somewhere new out which is always good.

At the same time and partly because I’m currently massively behind on writing about them all I had a bit of a brain wave, doesn’t happen often but here it goes, the plan is to give you a sneak preview of a selection of my pictures or if I don’t get round to writing about it as they say a picture is worth a thousand words. Check out the link below which is also on my links, save it to your favourites and share it.

https://www.flickr.com/photos/bennorawlinson/

Happy snapping and I hope if provides a big of inspiration for some photos or trips.

Lunga Estate Scotland

Lunga Estate, west coast of Scotland

Injury Frustrations


Having been watching a bit of golf recently and witnessing the likes of Tiger still suffering as he continues his recovery from his back problems I thought I would share my own experiences of injury from this year which has certainly changed my plans for the year. And the thing is regardless of how active or sedate your life is, injury is one of those things where it can just happen, sometimes it can be preventable and sometimes not. Either way it can have all sorts of different impacts.

Unfortunately back in February I picked one up, I was in the gym doing some squats and felt something suddenly become a bit uncomfortable. In my wisdom I thought it was just a bit of tightness and that it would be eased off by one more set at a lower weight. The answer to this question was very quickly answered with a resounding no. I had to rack the bar quickly and hobble off to the stretching mat, a lot earlier than expected and certainly not in the same mood that I had entered the gym.

My initial thoughts were I had pulled a muscle, as I had a running event coming up I quickly booked in to have a sports massage. It soon became apparent that this wasn’t going to do the trick as after a couple of sessions and some stretching my conditioned worsened. I woke in the morning and virtually had to crawl out of bed, whilst putting on my socks felt more like a pensioner.

The pleasures of acupuncture

The pleasures of acupuncture

After the first couple of sessions I wanted to know which activities I could get back into hoping to be told anything. After going through a short list of some of the activities I had been doing he interrupted that I could do anything as long as it didn’t hurt. Which turned out to be swimming only, cycling was out as was my running. For the first couple of months I kept thinking I could get back in time for the events that I had planned through the year. It slowly dawned on me though as training time was reducing from months to weeks and then days that the risk of re-injury became too much and that they would have to be binned as the list of incomplete’s grew.

SUPing and Surfing in St Andrews

SUPing and Surfing in St Andrews

Despite the setbacks it hasn’t been all doom and gloom, I hunted down new activities to keep me busy. Doing more photography, making a coffee table, improving my swimming and as I recuperated some more stand up paddle boarding.

The coffee table i made

The coffee table i made

Now a few months of physio, MRI scans, acupuncture, a few other treatments and I’m beginning to get back to running and cycling which have certainly taken on a new kind of joy and freedom of being out and about. I have “eased” myself back in with kayaking, climbing and cycling to and from work each day. Overall it taught me a lot in terms of ensuring I tackle weaknesses and really start focussing on good technique rather than just lifting the weight, running the distance or something similar. Regardless I can now start eyeing up some events to do later in the year.

So I guess the overall lesson is that setbacks can take many shapes, forms and sizes but it is how we handle them afterwards, taking them in our stride that really matters and makes the difference. Some say it makes us strong but I think it is more the knowledge that it gives you that provides you with more strength. If you would like to share your own experiences of coming back from injury then let me know.

Run the Wild with Simon James


In between us both working I managed to catch up with Simon James the founder of Run the Wild which launched last year as the UK’s premier running holiday. It’s been built around the passion of running and exploring the outdoors.

Running in Chamonix

Running in Chamonix

http://www.runthewild.co.uk/

As an incredibly experienced ultra runner and mountaineer he has conquered peaks over numerous continents and run in some of the most extreme environments. I first met him a few years go whilst training for Marathon des Sables, he has gone on to do the GR20 (the toughest long distance trail in Europe) and Ultra Trail Mont Blanc considered by many to be one of the ultimate races when it comes to ultra running mixing distance (160km ) and elevation gaining more height than Mount Everest.(you can find some interesting facts in the link below http://visual.ly/ultra-trail-du-mont-blanc-utmb-all-stats-youll-ever-need-know)

Marathon Des Sables 2011

Marathon Des Sables 2011

Where did the idea of Run the Wild come from?

After being made redundant from the city I spent 2013 running and climbing full time. It was a big shock after working 12 years at the same bank, but looking back, one of the best things that has ever happened to me. Whilst I was climbing an 8,000m peak in the Himalayas (manaslu) it suddenly came to me. I love climbing because of the amazing places as well as friendships you make, but it’s not a race. I love running self sufficient style over the alps, so why isn’t the mentality of climbing in running? Running for the love of running, with a team… So “exploring places, not running races” was born and Run the Wild.

Denali Summit

Denali Summit

How did you get into running?

I used to run as a kid on the cliffs in Gower, South Wales where I grew up. But I didn’t do any running really until I was 28, when a business client challenged me one evening whilst in a bar to a 36hr walk across 54 miles of the West Highland Way in Scotland. I foolishly said “yes”. He then rang me the next day to tell me we would be running it. I was 3 stone overweight and had not run more than 8 miles in my life. We finished it in 14hrs and I was hooked. And he’s now one of my best friends.

Most enjoyable event you have taken part in?

Race – London Marathon, no one normally shouts my name like that crowd!

Trail Run – running round Mt Blanc on my own in 2.5days, self sufficient.

Maxim Bouevs Photo

Maxim Bouevs Photo

Hardest challenge you have taken on?

Running The Walkers Haute route when there is too much snow and with a broken backpack.

Best bit of trail running?

Freedom

Most important item you carry with you?

My lightweight Patagonia smock

What is your luxury item on multi day challenges or expeditions?

Jelly babies

Check out run the wild and if your a runner of any level get yourself booked onto one of the trips as they are certainly worth the experience. Until then where abouts do you normally go running? Have you got a favourite place or route?

Running the Chilterns


Myself, Si (tent mate from Marathon des Sables and a few other adventures) and his friend Chris finally got round to running a section of the Chilterns earlier in the year. Despite the horrific conditions that had been devastating the country and flooding parts of it we had managed to choose a weekend with a break in the weather, as sunshine was the forecast for the day.

Bridgewater Monument
I was a little apprehensive as my running training had not been ideal over the previous months but the prospect of getting out and kicking starting my trail running again was very exciting. The route for the day was due to finish at Ashridge estate visible from miles around by Bridgewater monument, after sorting out the logistics for the day we headed to the start. Packs at the ready I had definitely too much stuff and my pack was more suitable for a few days rather than a quick marathon ish distance.

The wet conditions soon revealed themselves as we found ourselves with wet feet, skating and sliding through the mud and that was within meters of starting.

We were soon eating up the miles along sections of the Chilterns way through woodlands across fields and along some of the other paths that crisis cross it which did result in a few unexpected deviations from the route. Although some of the trails were so slippy it was hard keeping a decent pace whilst running and so our pace slowed to a quick walk in places.

Checking our deviations

With the sun out we were meeting all sorts of people enjoying the outdoors from mountain bikers to Duke of Edinburgh groups all dressed in the standard green or black waterproofs with tents, sleeping mats and all sorts of other items spewing from their rucksacks. It was great to see them all out and about.
The Chilterns
Some large sections of the trail were flooded still which we tried to avoid as well as one section where it looked like a mudslide had occurred before setting solid which we had to cross. It turned it was not set as my foot sank into it ankle deep thick, gluppy mud. The most interesting of all was passing through a field full horses which in the conditions had opted to stand on the hay they were due to eat, looking slightly sorry for themselves. As we crossed the same field I think we all had similar looks on our faces too.

The remainder of the run was a lot drier and we managed to pick the speed up as the patches of blue sky and sunshine seemed to be diminishing and rain began to look more likely. The Bridgewater monument came into view high up on a ridge that we were due to finish at. Despite being a bit of a distance away still, it was a welcome sight. There was the final short and steep section just to kick us into gear at the end before arriving at the top to a welcome cup of hot chocolate.

The biggest relief being my legs felt surprisingly good, even after the drive back which can be a slightly uncomfortable experience. Now that the summer is getting into full swing have you got any routes your running, walking and exploring?

Rockett heads to Baffin Island


One of the things I particularly enjoy is hearing about peoples adventures, expeditions and challenges that they are taking on regardless of what or where it is.  I was very pleased to be able to grab some time with Ben in between a busy schedule of last minute packing and preparing, for a quick interview on his thoughts prior to him heading north to Baffin Island and his next adventure. Having followed his progress cycling from land end to john  o’ groats and back and nailing the world record in the process to seeing how far he can cycling in 24 hours I am very interested in seeing how this one goes. Baffin Island is an incredibly inhospitable place up in the Arctic circle where temperatures reach -30C. You can follow his progress on the link below:

http://www.rockettrides.com/?page_id=2214

How did you come up with the idea?
For a while I had been thinking about taking on something that posed a new challenge. I was not sure what that would ultimately become, but a few conversations with a variety of people turned to the idea of cycling somewhere that was completely different from the road scene and attempting a ride on snow. I’d also felt a bit flat after the previous year’s competitive racing and I was eager to get back to what I loved about cycling; using a bike for an adventure! Eventually, (and I know I’m missing out a lot of details!) the idea of attempting the traverse of Baffin Island arose and I was straight on it. 

Baffin Island

Baffin Island

 

Have you done any specific training to cope with the environment over there?
Absolutely. Getting used to the temperature and ensuring that not only the bike but also I function in that environment was essential. And I can tell you I’m not the most resilient to the cold! Getting used to that by being in simulation situations (sitting in a freezer) and preparing myself to get in the right physical shape has taken its time. Especially as it’s rather different from any event I’ve done before. I’ve had to train to be more efficient with my packing, too! 

 

What do you think will be the hardest end most enjoyable part of the expedition?
I am particularly looking forward to experiencing the isolation when I’m up there. My ‘professional’ lifestyle keeps me pretty inactive and there’s so much that happens with a computer screen. I’m excited by the physicality of the expedition and the absence of a screen! I think the hardest part will also be overcoming the struggles whilst being so isolated, and fighting through soft snow! So the hardest and the most enjoyable aspects I’m guessing will be the same. Perhaps it’s more accurate to say that I’m excited about overcoming the hardest parts. 

 

A Snap shot as the Adventure Begins

A Snap shot as the Adventure Begins

What food will you be eating?
I’m going to be surviving on dehydrated ration packs and regular snacks, such as biscuits and chocolate bars (which I need to keep near my body to prevent them from freezing). 

 

Lance Armstrong said its night about the bike but what will you be riding for this adventure?
My longstanding bike sponsors, Qoroz, have built an entirely bespoke bike for this expedition. They’ve taken the demands of the environment and the self-sufficient nature of the traverse into consideration as they’ve constructed the bike, and the finest of details have been tested and modified to ensure the bike is up to the task. We are extremely grateful to Hope Technology who have provided the components and Strada Wheels for supplying the hand-built wheels. There’s a lot of rubber under this thing! 

 

A specially designed Qoroz bike

A specially designed Qoroz bike

Why did you opt for working with action for children?
Having spent several years working with children in care, I had come to see just how vital the work of Fostering and Adoption services were. They provided safe homes for children most in need and sensitively helped those children towards more secure futures. Accordingly, I wanted to do something that would support those services in a different way than the research I was doing. I wanted to try and raise necessary funds to assist the Fostering & Adoption work of Action for Children who play a remarkable role in helping some of the most vulnerable children and continually seek to improve the system for children and youth of all ages.  

If you would like to learn more about the charity or donate please see the link below:

http://www.justgiving.com/BaffinIslandBike

 

Into the Atlas Mountains


The alarm sounded or at least I initially thought so, it was in fact the local mosque’s call to prayers, known as Adhan, in the early hours of the morning. After this initial disruption we had a long lie in thanks to some confusion within the group, our phones and we realised the local vicinity as no one really seemed to know what the time was or should be. We were instead woken by a knocking on our door wondering where we were at what ever time it was.
Breakfast arrived and I stuffed my face as if the expedition had already started with bread, omelette, muffins, pancakes coated in honey all washed down with copious amounts of sweet mint tea. It did however lack one ingredient initially, much to the dismay of some coffee lovers within the group. We were soon on our way into the foothills of the Atlas Mountains.

 

Heading into the Atlas Mountains

Heading into the Atlas Mountains

The drive was broken up by a quick stop at an argan oil factory. This was also the time to experience having a snake wrapped round your neck as a guy came over and draped it over me. It all felt very touristy!

The snake to be draped round our Necks

The snake to be draped round our Necks

We continued the drive, passing an estate car which quite literally had the entire football team squeezed inside of it before finally arriving at the lunch stop and the point we were to begin the walk up the valley. It had felt like we had spent the whole day eating! Whilst sitting there with me trying to get comfortable in the cross legged position, which seemed much easier when I was smaller, we began to notice a change in the weather. The wind was picking up with the trees swaying and the dust being whipped into the air.

The bags were tied onto the mules which are different to donkeys we discovered  as we were off.

We began the trek wondering up the dirt track past terraced plots and olive trees. It was like a green oasis curving along the side of the river that meander it’s way down the valley. The villages that we passed through appeared to be becoming more basic with the animals living on the ground floor and the family upstairs with mud walls and roofs. Yet there were still the satellite dishes fixed to their sides, it was quite a contrasting sight especially with the smells mixed into it of smoke and manure.

IMG_6627

Villages Gripping onto the Hillside

Local bus service with vertical drops

It started to spit ever now and again, finally the heavens opened, the temperature dropped and we could no longer hold off from wearing a waterproof. It was the first time it had rained in weeks apparently. It was a case of hunkering down and getting to the gite quickly.
We arrived dripping wet and fumbling around for places to hang all the wet items in the low light under head torch. A light bulb was found and screwed in giving us time to take in our surroundings. The village only got electricity a few years ago and mobile reception the following year. It sounded like such a dramatic and quick transition.

Our sleeping area for the next couple of days was effectively a massive covered balcony open to the elements but with loads of blankets laid out.

IMG_6649

Clothes Everywhere (our sleeping area was behind the wall)

Gas fired light bulb
Gas fired light bulb

The wind continued to increase and the clouds rolled in further as we munched down food. We tested our oxygen levels so we could start seeing how we were dealing with the altitude before getting our heads down for the night.

Storm Rolling In

Storm Rolling In