Sue and Martin in Mallorca 2019

Sue and Martin in Mallorca 2019
On the Archduke's Path in Mallorca

Saturday 17 January 2009

Ken's Night Out ('Cold Enough to Freeze the Medals off a Brass General')

Ken's comment on yesterday's posting warrants a little more than his modest 'aside'. So I've inserted an actual image from a 'Gold Camp' for which Ken was practicing, and here is his report on last night's 'Bivvi in the Park'.

They are made of strong stuff over here!

Actually it got down to about -35C at our 'camping' spot near Lac Philippe (hard to tell since my thermometer only reads down to -30C).
Three of us set out last night from the bright lights of Ottawa to the snow laden forests of Gatineau Park. The purpose of the trip was to try out our gear for the Canadian Ski Marathon Coureur des Bois Or, which involves skiing 80km in a day, camping overnight, then skiing another 80km the following day.

So you need to get your backpack down to a manageable weight but without being too cold at night.
I discovered a few things:
  • I need to make a few adjustments to my kit.
  • It was too crowded in my sleeping bag with ski boots, booties, over mitts, water bottle, pee bottle, midnight snacks, phone; hardly enough room for me. I am average size but my "large" bag wasn't big enough. How do "Clydesdales" (large people) cope? I had to get rid of the ski boots and put boot warmers (heat packs) in them in the morning.
  • At low temperatures: duct tape and foot warmers are not sticky; Thermarests do not self-inflate, unless you blow into them really hard (when you close the valve it then freezes shut); Ziploc bags do not open easily and when they do they tear; peanut butter freezes.
  • After you have been sitting round a smoky campfire at -35C, you smell worse than a kipper...!


Ken also reports that he got about 2 hours' sleep.

Friday 16 January 2009 – Deep Freeze in Ottawa

Sue and Helen on Bate Island on Friday morning

Our journey here yesterday was wholly uneventful, unless you regard an encounter with Bobby Charlton, who failed to recognise me despite my having spent many hours on the terraces of Old Trafford in full view of him, as an event.

It was quite a long day, during which we conspired, so far as I can recall, to enjoy at least five meals.

After hitting the sack at 10pm we managed to sleep soundly until 7am; so there is no jet lag on this occasion.

It dawned bright and sunny. But cold. It’s between about -20 and -30°C here, so just a bit chilly. We had already decided not to ski today, so a trip to the Visitor Centre to collect my ski pass (we have enough vouchers for Sue not to need one) was all that was on the agenda. On the way we passed an accident. Apparently the salt doesn’t work below -20°C. I’m told there were 175 recorded accidents in Ottawa yesterday.

The Ottawa River is only partially frozen. The current cold snap is the first of the winter, so the river is still flowing strongly. In this weather a local fog arises from the river, so at places like Bate Island, where we paused this morning, the trees are encrusted with the soft hoar of the frosted vapour.

Bate Island is accessed from a bridge over the Ottawa River, linking Ontario, where we are staying, with Quebec, where our skiing area – Gatineau Park – is situated. I wonder which district Bate Island is in?

Later, a short stroll from Woodroffe Towers drew us back down to the river on a ‘dog walker’s’ circuit in brilliant sunshine, but in temperatures that served to confirm the efficacy of the local frostbite warning.

A lone skier had appeared to produce this furrow, but it is probably the groove of many folk, taking their exercise in single file....

Meanwhile, 'Crazy Ken' was unable to join us today due to having to go to work. He is making up for it by camping out in Gatineau Park tonight, together with a couple of crazy mates. Well, they are not actually camping, just bivvying. It'll be interesting to see how cold it/they get(s)!

Good luck Ken. Please report back on your experience.

Thursday 15 January 2009

Across the Pond

1501lacphilippeHere are our hosts for the next few weeks, pictured on 28 January 2006 on the 'pond' known as Lac Philippe.

Hello Ken.
Hello Helen.

We hope to be able to post regularly, but please bear with us if we go a bit quiet.

Wednesday 14 January 2009

A New Hat

Courtesy of a little competition run by Phil, over at Doodlecat, and with the assistance of a pin (well, it was a little more scientific than that) I have A New Hat.1401hat It's Lowe Alpine's legendary 'Mountain GTX Cap', or 'Mountain GTX Casquette' - sorry, I'm just practicing the lingo for our next destination - and the Hat will certainly come in useful where we are going.  The maximum day temperature there over the next five days is currently forecast to vary between -11 and -22°C.

I won't be providing a test report on this excellent piece of kit as it is of known, and very sound, provenance - best used in very cold weather, I hear, and we are certainly heading towards that.

So, thank you Phil for drawing my name out of the 'hat' at such an opportune time, and for delivering said item so efficiently.


Tuesday 13 January 2009

Rob Gauntlett and James Atkinson

We were saddened at the weekend to hear of the deaths of Rob Gauntlett and James Atkinson.  Back in 2006 Rob achieved fame as the youngest Brit, aged 19, to summit Everest.




This image, copyright of Adventure Peaks, shows Rob with James Hooper above the Third Step.





Here, they celebrate on the summit with Stu Peacock.

We followed their expedition with great interest, as our friend Conan Harrod, who had broken his leg near the summit of Everest three years earlier, was also on that trip.  It was an anxious day, as following the news of the youngsters' success, there was no news of Conan for several hours.  In their euphoria, the Adventure Peaks team had forgotten to broadcast his success, shortly after Rob and James.

It is of no comfort to know that accidents amongst those who climb at the levels of these folk are all too frequent, especially in popular places like the Chamonix area.

Our thoughts are with everyone concerned.

A report is here.  And a tribute is here.

Monday 12 January 2009

Saturday and Sunday 10/11 January 2009 - À La Carte at Ashburton

As a special treat, for a special occasion, Sue and I enjoyed a weekend at Ashburton Cookery School.

1001ashburton1 We were students on the two day 'Express Dinner Parties Plus' course.  Eight of us were guided through some inspirational menus by Joe 'passionate about food' Bartlett.  We had great fun all weekend, not least enjoying the products of our efforts.

Saturday involved cooking for lunch and dinner, whilst on Sunday we enjoyed a light lunch and an early dinner, enabling us to start the long journey home by 4pm.

Saturday Lunch

Selection of canapés (crab and avocado bread tartlets, parmesan biscuits, and stilton and sesame biscuits)
Creamy mussels with leeks, bacon and smoked paprika (below - getting this ready for 'service')1002ashburton2

Saturday Dinner

Leek, garlic and sweet potato soup (to take home)
Roast duck breast with a cassis jus, Dauphinoise potatoes and glazed green beans
Apple tarte tatin with crème fraiche

Sunday Menu

1003ashburton3 Chicken liver paté with red onion marmalade (to take home)
Mini aromatic seafood parcel (a delicious snack for lunch)
Roasted chicken breast wrapped with parma ham stuffed with red onion marmalade and goats cheese, together with pesto new potatoes and balsamic dressed salad leaves (above)
Seasonal fruit sabayon with lemon shortbreads (below)1004ashburton4
We also made copious quantities of vegetable stock and white bread rolls.

Thank you, everyone, for making this such a pleasurable weekend.
In particular, thank you to Maureen and Trevor in Exeter for their hospitality on Friday and Saturday - their skills as former B&B proprietors remain undiminished despite several years of retirement.

For a small (13 images) album of snaps from the weekend, click here.

Bon appetit...