Sue and Martin above Zermatt - 2018

Sue and Martin above Zermatt - 2018

Wednesday, 26 February 2020

Pyrenees HRP - 2004 - Day 54

Sue and Martin's Big Adventure
Day 54 - Friday 17 September 2004 - Stage 45

Postcard Summary
Camp Fortunate to Banyuls-sur-Mer

Fabulous long walk in brilliant weather to a big cold salty bath – 9.0 hours, 22 km, 700m ascent

Despite a cold and windy early start (7.30am), this was a brilliant day.  Canigou glowed pink, and we saw the coast from the high point at 1250m, Pic Neulos.  We passed people out collecting mushrooms in the beech woods of the final ridge.  Our lunch spot on Pic Sailfort gave the first view of our destination, Banyuls, and way up and down the coast.  Fantastic views – clear for 50+ miles in all directions.  The afternoon passed all too quickly as we passed by cactus plants and vineyards on our well-marked (for once) path to the sea.  Sue was determined to end the walk with a splash.  She did, but not for long as the sea was cold!  Then to a rather dusty campsite to consume an excellent (and cold) bottle of champagne before returning to town to contemplate our success, and the rest of our lives.
Diary Entry (by Sue)
A magnificent final day to Banyuls-sur-Mer. There was a cloudless sky all day and the views were crystal clear. In view of our early night, it wasn't difficult to get up soon after 6.30, when it was still dark.  

It was a long-trouser and fleece morning as the wind was strong and cold. So, a 7.30 am start - the earliest of the trip! From adjacent to the chalet, we were fortunate to see the effects of the sunrise on the Canigou massif to the west - it glowed a lovely shade of pink for a short time. There was a 300 metre climb to start, through beech woods (see top picture), then up the grassy ridge to Pic Neulos, at 1256 metres our high point for the day.   

The low sun was in our eyes as we walked. Great views of the coast from the top, but Banyuls was hidden by the ridge to come. The mast on the top was protected by a serious amount of barbed wire that the path skirted around in more shady beech woods. Down steeply and a stop for chocolate and to change into shorts (although I retained fleece and gloves for a while longer!).  

The route today sticks closely to the border ridge, until Pic de Sailfort, with us staying just to the French side. It also follows GR10, but despite its regularly spaced red and white flashes we managed to lose it for a short time, so skirting round one of the cols in the woods! Here, a lady was searching out mushrooms, basket in arms.

 Another steepish climb up grass, with lots of martins catching the numerous insects just above the ground, to arrive at the next summit, Pic de Pradets (1175 metres).  
On one of the summits along the ridge
The view to the coast
Looking back to the Canigou massif
Mountain mix here to sustain us after the early start. The scent of thyme accompanied this section, growing in the grass. At the top of Pic des Quatre Termes (1156 metres), we have a chat with a man who is out mushrooming but has failed to find any, and discuss our route. 
Border stone near Pic des Quatre Termes
The ridge curves around to the final one of today's peaks, and we succeed in deviating from the path again, thus missing the top of Pic de Sailfort.
More 'treasure' is found on the way - this time a Special K bar! Our lunch spot is magnificent and fitting for the last day - from Pic de Sailfort, the Côte Vermeille is laid out beneath us nearly 900 metres lower down. We can see Banyuls at last, also Collioure and Port-Vendres, and a long way both north and south.
The lunch provided by the supermarket at Col Perthus yesterday wasn't the best, but the truffle chocolate that followed was good.
Lunch near the summit of Pic de Sailfort, with (below) a view to Banyuls
Banyuls was still over three hours away, but the descent down a rocky ridge was steep and progress was swift. A couple of  level paths traversed the hillside, from where turrets could be seen on the scrubby outcrops. A further steep section cutting off the corners of a road had Martin covered in dust - was this an accident or an intentional fall?
Orientation point above Banyuls
A water point at the bottom topped up our depleted bottles with cold water. During the last hour or so, the route descended gently on dirt tracks through vineyards where the vines were laden with ripe black grapes, and the red roofs of Banyuls got closer.
Cacti and (below) grapes
The final stretch on the streets of Banyuls brought us to the beach at just after 4 pm. No time for emotions, as self-timed photos must be taken!
I insist on a swim, although the beach is pebbly, the slope into the sea is steep and the water a bit murky and cold. At one of several wine merchants, we splash out on a €28 bottle of cold Jacquesson champagne, and stop at the supermarket to buy plastic cups and crisps (to avoid getting too drunk!) on the way to the campsite. The tent is pitched on stony ground and tied to trees as pegs are useless, then we enjoy cold champagne, reflecting a little on the wonderful journey we've done and how smoothly it has gone.
We have dinner at the waterfront, outside under clear skies - goat's cheese salad and sole with almonds (M), and moules gratinée and squid in tomato sauce (S), and a half litre of rosé.
The hard ground goes unnoticed, as we fall asleep quickly, around 9.30 pm, very satisfied and looking forward to the weekend off!
Stats and route (Viewranger):
22 km, 700 metres ascent, 9 hours

Tuesday, 25 February 2020

On the South West Coast Path (4) Polruan

Back briefly to my SWCP project. Here's the Polruan Ferry on 29 May 2005, transporting some of our 'team' across one of the many estuaries that have to be crossed during the undertaking of this walk.

We've been back from Canada for a week now, and I still haven't downloaded the photos. It has been raining for much of the time we've been back here, so I've been concentrating on a huge backlog of 'indoor projects'.

I'm conscious of not having updated recently (the Windows XP computer that houses the Dreamweaver software is out of action due to decorating) and I haven't arranged a programme of bike rides and walks. I'm not depressed, just haven't got around to those jobs, for which I won't have a vast amount of enthusiasm until the weather improves.

Meanwhile, TGO Challenge vetting continues.... and yesterday I discovered that I have a place in Andrew's taxi from Inverness to Torridon on 7 May. So I booked a train from Manchester to Inverness on that day. The seven hour journey came up at £22.95, so I didn't feel inclined to carry out the usual detailed costing exercise involving different routes and splitting the journey!

I've noticed that I left our Pyrenees HRP 2004 postings in a state of suspense that nobody seems to have noticed. I'll try to reach the end of that walk tomorrow.

Sunday, 23 February 2020

Saturday 22 February 2020 - Swanning Around at Alexandra park(run)

What a contrast to our last three parkruns at Kanata! Alexandra Park was at least 20C warmer, and there were 404 participants, compared with 11 last week at Kanata.
I used to live around the corner on Manley Road, back in the 1970s, but I didn't visit the park very much. I think the whole place has been renovated since then, with the Pavilion, described and pictured below, now housing a vibrant café etc.
Click on the pictures to get a better version.
There were over a dozen of us, plus the Cordingley family, who normally go to Wythenshawe Park, but that parkrun was cancelled today because of the waterlogged ground.
Alexandra parkrun may cancel when it's frosty, but the tarmac surfaces mean that a drop of rain  just gives rise to a few puddles, as pictured below.
Owen's needs are such that he loves parkrun, but requires a buddy to accompany him. I did this today, and we finished in a satisfactory 35 minutes or so. Rather slower than my usual pace, but just about the pace I need to maintain for over 26 miles in a few weeks' time. So good practice at running slowly!
Whilst Sue was setting her fastest time this year, and coming home first in her age category for the sixth consecutive week, Owen was loving running through the long avenue of sunlit trees.
We had to wait for a while to get our post-run coffees, whilst a dance group performed on the other side of a partition, but it was good to see that the café has changed its Saturday opening time (it was 10.00 when we were last here) to accommodate a 9.30 influx of thirsty runners; and a jolly time was had by all.
Full results are here.

Friday, 21 February 2020

Two Books to Consider Reading

It's raining outside in Timperley. It may be raining where you are, dear reader. Relief is at hand by way of a couple of books that I've recently enjoyed reading.

'Northbridge Rectory' wasn't a page turner, but I found the writing sublime. I kept wanting to highlight some of the descriptive passages. Nothing much happens in this book, but it held my attention as it tried to portray some of the characters (and their interactions) to be found in an English village during the Second World War.

'Where the Crawdads Sing' is not up to the same literary standard, but I found it to be more of a page turner. However, some readers may be put off by the unlikely sounding plot. It begins with a death. Is it a murder? Keep turning the pages!

Proper reviews of these books are available on-line, if you aren't sure whether to try them. Sue's book club members mostly enjoyed both books.

Tuesday, 18 February 2020

Philadelphia Airport

It's a massive place, serving a city that's twice the size of Greater Manchester.

We arrived on a lovely day (skiing in Gatineau Park would have been sublime) in an Embraer plane like the one on the right - less than 100 seats. We are leaving on one more like that on the left - a much bigger 787.

There are six terminals - all displaying lavish artwork and displays. Easy chairs make our seven hour sojourn here reasonably palatable, especially given the wonderful prose in Northbridge Rectory, by Angela Thirlell. Written in 1941, about a village in WW2, the author manages to enthral the reader without anything of any real substance happening.

I finished that book, and am hoping that Delia Owens will match Thirkell with her 'Where the Crawdads Sing' (2018) during the only horrible part of this trip - the overnight flight home.

Lego, and a few other things, features in the lower picture.

Sunday, 16 February 2020

Sunday 16 February 2020 - Western Cabin and some Black Diamonds

While Ken went on another Personal Best adventure on the 50 km Freestyle Loppet (race), Sue and I enjoyed a ski with Helen, outside the 'Loppeteering' arena.

On a warm day with sunny intervals we set off from Meech and up the long trail 40 hill. Sue and I got a bit ahead, so we skied the easy section of black diamond trail 9, between Ridge Road and trail 1B. After a quick visit to Champlain Lookout, we headed back along 1B and then down trail 2 to Western Cabin.

Helen had arrived at the busy cabin a few minutes before us. We enjoyed a leisurely lunch, before returning nearly all the way back to Meech via trail 2, which becomes a black diamond trail for the final descent to join trail 40 for the plunge down to P12 car park. There were numerous pauses for photos in the sunshine.

Black diamond trails are the harder ones, many being along back country routes. We were happy to negotiate today's quota without any incident other than a comment from a gentleman ascending #2 along the lines that "I'd never be able to descend that slowly!' Admittedly, it does take an effort.

We were finished by lunch time - it being only 3.5 km back to P12 from Western Cabin by this direct route. That left plenty of time to prepare a feast to celebrate Ken's mutation into Superman, and his birthday - delayed due to his Superman activities.

This may be the final posting from Ottawa, where we wouldn't wish to overstay our welcome. Though, after looking at the UK weather forecast for the rest of the month, we would be happy to get stuck here.

Today's stats:
P12 (Meech) > #40 > right on #24 > left on #1 > #9 > #1B > Champlain Lookout > #1B > #2 > Western Cabin > #2 > #40 > P12.
13 km, 300 metres ascent, 2 hours 10 mins plus stops.

The photos are of Helen and Sue on trail 2.

Saturday, 15 February 2020

Saturday 15 February 2020 - Kanata parkrun number 120, and a romp around Mooney's Bay

On arrival at Kanata on another 'three layer morning', I spotted Steve Gamble, so I knew I wouldn't be first finisher. Any pressure to come home first for three weeks running was off.

That made for a very pleasant 5 km jog on the cold day, but we were sufficiently wrapped up for only the lungs to complain about the temperature (minus 12°C plus considerable wind chill). There may be more pictures in due course, but the one I've chosen for now is of Sue at the finish, where the 'funnel' consisted of a phalanx of volunteers. 

Sue and I went back to join the tail walker, Yanic, who was with his friend Justine. She had just arrived from Singapore, where it is a little warmer. Quite a shock to her system!

Earlier results from Wythenshawe parkrun indicated over 300 participants despite desperate weather conditions. Impressive!

The majority of our runners and volunteers adjourned to the Morning Owl café, where some of us enjoyed the smashed avocado with two fried eggs on a rosti base, topped with balsamic rocket. Delicious. We were sad to say goodbye to this group of parkrun friends, who we won't see for another year unless they visit us in Manchester.

No lunch was needed.

The afternoon found Sue and me on our skis at Mooney's Bay, a five minute drive from home, enjoying a windswept three laps of the 3.2 km cross country skiing course. Meanwhile, Ken was skiing the Gatineau Loppet (Classic skis) for the eleventh time. Congratulations to him for completing the 50 km course in 4 hours 15 minutes, a personal best. He goes out on the same course tomorrow with his skate skis for his second 50 km race in two days. Good luck with that, Ken!

So it's a high carb dinner again....

The bottom picture shows the stadium at Mooney's Bay, where lots of tuition was taking place. I would liken this facility to Stretford Athletics Stadium in Longford Park, which is similar in size and nature to the Mooney's Bay area, albeit Longford Park is further from the river, and the Mersey doesn't (to the best of my knowledge) have a beach. 

Friday, 14 February 2020

Friday 14 February 2020 - Shopping

Today is sunny, but minus 32°C with wind chill, so not a day to be out on skis. Anyway, we've had some good skis over the past few days, and some of our gear is on its last legs. So a trip to the gear shops followed a bit of Alpe Adria Trail planning. I even managed to produce a Whisky Cake for consumption later.

New ski trousers, gloves, some lightweight tent pegs, hand warmers, and some wine for Ken's birthday, all lightened my wallet, but prices here are a little higher than at home, so as Sue couldn't find her target items at sale prices (most of my purchases were discontinued lines being sold off cheaply), she will have to postpone her quest for new gear until we get home.

Meanwhile, Ken was collecting his bib for tomorrow's Loppet (50 km ski race). Given the forecast for a very cold day, Sue and I are quite happy not to have entered this year.

Thursday 13 February 2020 - P7 to the Visitor Centre, via Western Cabin

After a late night due to our visit to the opening night of 'Guess Who's Coming To Dinner' at Ottawa Little Theatre (a very entertaining production), we left Ken to pre-Loppet relaxation at home.

Helen had a Spa voucher that expired today, so before going there she dropped Sue and me off at P7 (Kingsmere), for a rendezvous with Susan and Roy.

Later, she would meet us for the pictured refreshments at the Palmier café by the Visitor Centre in Chelsea.

In between times the four of us skied the route detailed below. No photos from the trail today - it was a cloudy, windy day with light snow. Quite cold at minus 12°C plus considerable wind chill.

The skiing conditions were excellent. Trail 3 (The Burma Road) was a delight, as was our stay in Western Cabin, where we are pictured chatting to locals who were curious as to how come a couple from Manchester turn up with a couple from Glastonbury (Connecticut)? [We met on the TGO Challenge in 2008.]

Accidents were mostly avoided today, by all but Susan, whose energetic herringbone ascending results in the occasional nose plant.

We'd not been on trail 13 to the Visitor Centre before; we skied it at its best, as it had been groomed minutes earlier.

Sadly the beaver was staying at home under the snow today. "Too cold to go out" was his excuse.

Stats: P7 > #30 > #1 > #1B > #1 > #24 > #40 > #33 > #2 > Western Cabin > #2 > #1 > Champlain Parkway > Étienne-Brûlé > #3 > Fortune Parkway > Gatineau Parkway > #13 > Visitor Centre.
29.5 km, 530 metres ascent, taking 4 hours 10 minutes plus stops.

Later, a lovely meal with Susan and Roy, who return home in the morning. 

Wednesday, 12 February 2020

Wednesday 12 February 2020 - P17 to Lusk Cabin

Another brilliant day on the skis with Susan and Roy. Sue and I met them at P17 at 10 am, leaving Ken and Helen to go skating on the Rideau Canal, mostly open today. Ken had hoped to skate the whole 7.4 km and back, but they managed slightly less as he was hampered by having taken two left feet skates!

The four of us went merrily along to Lusk (pictured), where the cabin was warm but the fire was clogged with the ashes from overnight visitors. (The legend of the lost skier of Lusk Lake lives on...) So we adjourned to Renaud Cabin for lunch. The fire there was so hot that it toasted our sandwiches in seconds. Then, leaving two other visitors engrossed in a game of cribbage, we enjoyed an easy ski back to P17 past the turns into a special 2 km section of Saturday's loppet, one of which is pictured. 

My waxing (blue) worked fine today, and my gentle pace avoided any risk of falling over. The other three, following yesterday's tuition from Françoise, had multiple falls. I wondered why I kept catching up with them!

P17 > #53 > #51 > #50 > #55 > #54 > Lusk Cabin > #54 > Keogan Cabin (lunch) > #55 > #50 > #55 > #51 > Philippe > #53 > P17.
28 km, 600 metres ascent, taking 4 hours plus breaks.

Tuesday, 11 February 2020

Tuesday 11 February 2020 - P7 (Kingsmere) to Champlain Lookout and back

Whilst Sue, Ken, Roy and Susan opted for the torture of a two hour skiing lesson with Francoise, I chose to join Helen on a short outing from Kingsmere.

Conditions were good. Not much below freezing, and a well groomed trail.

I took the route described below; Helen only went as far as Huron, taking the Parkway/Huron link/Ridge Road route, to meet up for lunch at Keogan Cabin, where it was lovely and peaceful once a loud Frenchman had gone.

Blue Jays on the feeder were joined by a Downy Woodpecker (a small 6" cousin of the more common 9" Hairy variety) and a Chickadee, with a red squirrel enjoying their spillages.

Keogan is the lower of today's pictures, only about 5 km from the trail head at Kingsmere.

Stats: P7 (Kingsmere) > #30 > #1 > Champlain Lookout > Champlain Parkway > Fortune Parkway > #1 > Keogan Cabin > #1 > #30 > P7. 
17.5 km, 340 metres ascent, taking 2 hours 40 minutes plus stops.

Meanwhile, Sue and Ken were delivering a watch that they had found to the Visitor Centre, where the resident beaver was actively restocking his lodge with branches. No pictures here, but Ken has compiled an entertaining video...