Sue and Martin in Mallorca 2019

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

Friday 1 July 2011

Vernante (2)

Jamie, there are lots of places we haven't been! Scandinavia, for example... (You'll have to come on one of our walks to claim your prize.)

Jenny, we do remember that night fondly, and it's true that Notchy and I got less inebriated than the rest of you. ...I didn't have my dancing shoes then!

This year we stayed in the posh hotel opposite the currently shut 'Touring' where we laid our heads two years ago. It was excellent, but we did miss out on the delights of La Diligenza as (like many of Limone's restaurants) it wasn't open. The holiday season hasn't yet started. We did however find very good value food at Pizzeria La Crubarsela.

Today has been another lovely day, with less afternoon cloud than yesterday. Sue and I enjoyed a 5.5 hour, 11km stroll with about 1000 metres ascent, by way of a warm up. We had left a large bag at Albergo Nazionale in Vernante, so my load was lighter than it will be for the next few days.

We started out at 10.30 on a route under a bridge and up past a mediaeval tower to the east of the town, soon leaving the tarmac and progressing to dirt track and then a mountain path through beech woods. These provided good shade but didn't stop us from dripping in the heat.

Paths thick with leaf litter led eventually to a small col where we turned left down an indistinct contouring path. After a while we found ourselves drifting gently down through the woods to a point about 150 metres below where we should have been.

There was only one thing to do. Regaining that 150 metres was a bit of a thrutch up the leafy slopes of the beech wood, but it was hardly a jungle. We were however surprised to emerge onto the crest of the hill by a signpost. We must have been just to the north west of Rocco Baila, as surmised in the previous posting.

We rewarded ourselves with a long lunch blessed with formidable views from this final outpost of the Ligurian Alps, to the Maritime Alps across the valley. It was perfectly quiet here, apart from the call of a cuckoo, other random chirpings, and the occasional rumble of a train in the valley some 800 metres below us.

Dragonflies flitted around us, whilst a bird of prey floated on the air currents high above us. Just for fun, or marking its territory?

A right turn took us slightly to the east of the crest and to a fine viewpoint that looks across to Bec Rosso and a line of high mountains to the east, with Cuneo and the plains that lead shortly to Turin to the north east.

Heading along the crest of the ridge on a path not revealed by our 1:25,000 map No 2, we made it to Passo Ceresole at 1620 metres. Hereabouts were the unmistakable rootings of wild boar hunting for truffles. On the way we had passed lovely wild flower meadows flaunting orchids, lilies, broomrapes, houseleeks and many other striking plants, and the pleasant aroma of thyme accompanied us as our boots smothered the small plants.

A steep descent from the col led to a contouring path and the welcome shade of the trees in the beech woods.

There were several more open sections where the views could be admired, before the dense cover that marks the domain of mushroom hunters in these 'private

A visit to the mediaeval tower concluded our little jaunt at around 4pm. Despite our proximity to Cuneo and Turin, we had seen just two people low down on the walk, which had proved to be an excellent choice for the day.

Reunited with Susan, who in turn had been reunited with her jacket, we booked into the hotel and then pottered around Vernante, where hundreds of paintings on the walls of the houses depict the story of Pinnochio.

'Half Board' was a good choice tonight. Lots of tasty morsels have contrived to bloat us into submission!

Tomorrow we plan to start a six day 'hut to hut' trek in the Maritime Alps, based on walk 12 in Gillian Price's excellent book 'Walks and Treks in the Maritime Alps', published by Cicerone. Thanks for your advice and encouragement, Gillian.

There may be some transmission delays as we'll be in a relatively remote mountain area.
Should be fun though...

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Vernante (1)

Here's Sue, at lunch time, looking down towards Vernante from near Rocca Baila at around 1500 metres, with the Maritime Alps sheathed in a haze in the distance.

Susan has popped back to Tende to recover a misplaced jacket, so it's just as well that we chose the 8 minute train journey to Vernante today, rather than the longer trip around to Terme di Valdieri. Besides, Vernante is a lovely place to stay.

Comments: I'll now be replying to comments on this trip by way of the following posting rather than by further comments, as signing on in Google etc is just too much of a faff. In that context, thank you Gillian for your good wishes - Sue now wishes she had read your book more carefully before we set off (re transport, accommodation, etc) - we are already having a little adventure by way of an experimental route - as you may gather from the guess at our location (more of that later).

Alan, you are absolutely correct, the message to those having problems viewing this blog should be "please update your browser to the latest version - eg Internet Explorer 8 or 9, or Firefox 4 or 5 - and that should solve your problem - a Google search 'how to update browser' will no doubt reveal how to do it if it isn't already obvious".

Now then, let's get back to that wonderful view towards the high mountains that are our destination on this trip!

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Thursday 30 June 2011


Here is Limone's main square, where we are savouring the delights of this pleasant Italian town a couple of hours north of Nice.

It has been a lovely day, but the mountain weather has temporarily darkened the skies.

Thanks go to Mike for getting Sue and me to Liverpool by 5.30 this morning, following which we enjoyed an 'easy' journey all the way to our apartment for the night at the Grand Palais Excelsior Hotel here in Limone.

By coincidence, as our train passed through Tende, Susan hopped onto it, having already been here for a few days. So our planned rendezvous in Limone proved pretty straightforward.

The apartment (suite?) is excellent and we are enjoying a welcome beer before popping out to La Diligenza for something more solid.

Another day, another trip. Let the good times roll!

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Out with the Old, In with the New

Crocs, after over four year's use
Do all good things come to an end, or does life simply move on?

Both, I suspect.  My trusty old Crocs were purchased 4½ years ago at Ottawa airport for the purpose of river crossings and evening wear whilst backpacking.  Since then they have been on five TGO Challenges and numerous other backpacking trips and holidays of all descriptions, as well as accompanying me on wet day walks when it has been handy to have spare footwear for the pub.  At 285gm they are really no trouble to carry around.

I’ve also backpacked for around 100 miles in the Crocs, an activity for which they are not ideal, especially when the sole wears down to a smooth piece of plastic (or is it rubber?).  Anyway, they slip easily in the wet, and aren’t all that secure when being used for river crossings.

So, I’ve been keeping my eyes open for a successor to the Crocs, not really expecting to find anything as light as they are.

Then Alan Rayner discovered the Hattori running shoe, from Saucony.  I investigated this minimalist piece of kit and am now the owner of a pair of running shoes that weigh just 245gm, 40gm lighter than my Crocs!

I can run in them!  They have (a bit of) cushioning, and a grippy sole, and they will be great for river crossings, evening wear and for backpacking generally, when the boots become tiresome on hot dry sections.  And I can use them for running – not that I do much of that.

I took this picture earlier and should have taken one of the grippy sole as well.

The Saucony Hattori running shoe

I’ll have to add the sole picture later, as the shoes are now stuffed deep inside my bag for our next trip, which starts shortly.

Meanwhile, the Crocs are not dead, they are very useful for trips into the back garden, and they do slip on rather more easily than these Hattori shoes…

Finally, I notice from Alan’s blog that Inov-8 have some lightweight shoes – 190gm is quoted – that’s excellent if it’s for a pair, but I suspect it’s per shoe, as in the case of the Hattori’s quoted 125gm.

PS You’ll note that I’ve changed the header, footer and background images to some taken on the TGO Challenge.  Poor Michael now features on the header, at a spot that many Challengers will recognise.  Not so many will be able to identify the Munro from where the footer image was taken, probably because they have never been there.  Even fewer will recognise the Munro from whose trig point the background image was taken, and in truth, it could be anywhere.  It just happens to be Meall Chuaich, early on 20 May, before the snow melted.  I hope that those of you who have your computers set to bring the background image to the foreground on your screens will appreciate my effort to provide you with a clear background/foreground for a few weeks.  If anyone is aware of this problem and knows how to sort it out, I know a couple of readers who would appreciate the sharing of your knowledge!

Tuesday 28 June 2011

The Vaude Soft 111 Baby Carrier (Papoose) – A Review

Vaude Soft 111 Baby Carrier with 8 week old baby

[Note that on 5 September 2012, Webtogs Limited went into liquidation, but its business has legitimately been continued in the name of Dorset Mountain Sports Limited, t/a Webtogs, with whom I have had no contact whatsoever, nor did the liquidator of Webtogs Ltd respond to my enquiry as to whether any members of the public had lost money as a result of the liquidation.]

Webtogs delighted my daughter by sending the Vaude Soft 111, one of their range of Baby Carriers, for me to review.

Here’s what she thinks of it:

“I first took Jake out in the papoose when he was five weeks old.  At this age he was beginning to hold his head up and I was confident that the papoose provided him adequate support.  I tightened the adjustable straps at the top of the outer facing part of the papoose to help support his head.  He seemed comfortable, and must have been as he fell asleep as soon as I started walking.
I had help putting the papoose on the first time I used it, but have subsequently put it on myself without difficulty.  I fasten the strap that goes across my back first (pictured),

Vaude Soft 111 - demonstrating rear fastening strap

then put the papoose on over my head.  With the buckles undone I  hold Jake against the part against my body and then carefully do up each buckle, making sure his hands and feet are not trapped.
My husband helped me to adjust the back strap and the two lower side straps (on either side by my waist) to make the papoose comfortable the first time I used it.  The side straps have stayed in that position and don’t need to be adjusted each time I use it.  I can reach the back strap and pull it to tighten it to myself, which I do when I feel I need to – the strap is shown below, with the buckle obscured by my hair.

Vaude Soft 111 - showing back strap

I’ve now used the papoose quite a few times whilst taking the dog for a walk as well as Jake.  It makes walking with both Jake and Oscar (the dog) really comfortable and easy to do. (Oscar is usually on a lead!)

Mum, baby, and dog, all enjoying the freedom offered by the Vaude Soft 111 Baby Carrier

To make sure I’m comfortable and safe, I make a conscious effort to walk with a good posture, bend down using my knees, and support the outward facing part of the papoose (where Jake’s back is) with my hand if I have to lean over when I bend down.

So far, I’ve only used the papoose with Jake facing me, and every time he has fallen asleep as I walk.  He always seems comfortable and I can feel his hands, feet and head to check that they are warm enough.  His body stays warm as it is close to mine, so he doesn’t need extra clothes, just a hat if it’s sunny or cold, socks/shoes and gloves if it’s cold, and suncream when sunny.

I intend to use the papoose with Jake facing outwards when he is around three months old and can hold his head up: I don’t think his head would be well enough supported at the moment (he’s now 8 weeks/11½ pounds).

The papoose has been excellent for taking the dog out on terrains that don’t permit a pram (and on terrains that do permit a pram) as it makes holding his lead easy, enabling me to walk comfortably.  There’s even a pocket for Oscar’s biscuits!”

Vaude Soft 111 Baby Carrier, showing motif and dog biscuit pocket

So, that’s Kate’s comprehensive appraisal of the Baby Carrier to date.  She’s delighted with it and sees it as accompanying her for another 6-9 months, after which time a more substantial carrier, such as the Littlelife Cross Country S2 Child Carrier, with space to store clothes etc will probably take its place.  In the meantime I’m sure that when Jake gets a bit bigger, she will try using the carrier on her back – that does not seem appropriate for a very small baby – and will notate this review accordingly.

So, to summarise:

Fit and Finish:
  • this is a well made piece of kit, thoughtfully designed
  • the baby carrier can be adjusted (within reason) to suit any user
  • baby can face forwards or backwards and be carried on the user’s back or front
  • fully adjustable for custom fit
  • useful mesh compartment for dog biscuits etc
  • not an issue for this product
Practical Use:
  • ideal for babies up to 9-12 months old
  • £44.99 from Webtogs, whose service is excellent, with free delivery in the UK, and you won’t be charged until the goods are dispatched
  • there may be alternative products around, but Kate has no desire to seek them out; this one is perfect for her present needs.
  • a well constructed carrier for a very young baby, this piece of kit frees mum from the drudge of pushing a pram and sends the baby to sleep instantly.  Brilliant!

Note: Whilst the gear was provided by Webtogs, this review, over which I have total editorial control, is totally independent of that on-line retailer.

Finally, a view more images, as I was asked to provide ‘lots of cute pictures’.  That isn’t so easy when the baby falls asleep immediately he’s inserted into the baby carrier!

Vaude Soft 111 Baby Carrier with 5 week old babyVaude Soft 111 Baby Carrier with 5 week old babyVaude Soft 111 Baby Carrier with 5 week old baby Vaude Soft 111 Baby Carrier with 5 week old baby
Vaude Soft 111 Baby Carrier with 8 week old baby

Monday 27 June 2011

Sunday 26 June 2011 – The Mam Tor Classic Bike Ride

Martin and Richard on the summit of Mam Tor

Richard has only recently taken up mountain biking, having volunteered to do the tough ‘gold’ course on the Cairngorm Challenge in September.  It was a pleasure to join him today, on a perfect Peak District morning, for a ride that he found in his book of rides and I found on this excellent website run by Pete Gamble.

We may both have been a bit fuzzy from the previous night’s separate red wine incidents, but we managed to rendezvous and depart from the car park at Castleton by soon after 9.30.  Incidentally, there are numerous free parking opportunities along the route for those who object to shelling out a fiver for the convenience of the car park.

The ride starts with its most boring section, along the tarmac, past the turn to Winnats Pass, which rises steeply past Speedwell Cavern up the valley shown below.

Winnats Pass from Castleton

You could choose Winnats as a challenging variation, but it really is much steeper, with more traffic, than the ‘classic’ route we chose to follow, up towards Mam Farm before doubling back above the Blue John Cavern and regaining the road that is open to traffic and heads up to the top of the pass leading to Edale.

It’s good to get this major ascent over with, and the whole route is a delight from hereon in, starting with the lovely path to Hollins Cross, just by way of a warm up for the ‘rough stuff’. 

Although we shouldn’t have ventured onto the footpath, we cycled up the paving to the summit of Mam Tor, where a bystander kindly took the header photo.  Nobody seemed to mind, and we hardly damaged the cobbles as we descended courteously back to the bridleway.

There were lots of mountain bikers about, and Richard’s new bike was a subject of envy.  Mine was also admired, but without envy; at 21 years old it’s maybe the bicycle equivalent of an original Fiat Panda 4WD.

Anyway, from Hollins Cross care was needed for perhaps the most technical section of the entire ride, with one or two bouldery steps to negotiate on our way down to Edale.

Here’s Richard, setting off from Hollins Cross.

Descending towards Edale from Hollins Cross

The road section from Edale to the turn off to Clough Farm was fast and easy, with little traffic, unlike the narrow nettle lined bridleway up to the farm, down which a succession of mountain bikers roared.

It turned out that the latest Polaris Challenge mountain bike event was being held in the Peak District this weekend, and many riders had chosen to come down this bridleway just as we went up it.  We managed to find a gap in the traffic to slither unimpeded up the narrow muddy sunken lane that comes out at Clough Farm.  Beyond the farm a wide track leads gently upwards before descending steeply to this ford across Jaggers Clough.

Richard, in Jaggers Clough

We met more Polaris challengers, about half way into today’s allotted 5 hours of mountain bike orienteering, having already done 7 hours yesterday, as we rose steeply up towards Hope Cross.

Instead of going right to the cross, we turned left up a gentle but slightly technical slope, before descending joyfully over rough ground to Woodlands Valley.  I was pleased to be just about able to keep up with Richard on the descents (‘pride before a fall’!), despite my lack of suspension, though he was much quicker on the ascents.

Anyway, we were soon across the A57 and rising steadily past Rowlee Farm to the ridge that separates the two long fingers of Ladybower Reservoir.

Once on the ridge a welcome breather in the sunshine on this beautiful day preceded a much less technical ride along the pleasurable ridge, through buttercup meadows.

In the meadows above Ladybower Reservoir

Grassy tracks led towards Crook Hill, and we failed to locate the boggy ground mentioned in Richard’s guide book.

Heading along the ridge towards Crook Hill

Pride comes before a fall.  I proudly shot past Richard on the 30mph descent from Crookhill Farm.  I can’t actually recall having had a ‘proper crash’ on this bike in all its years of ownership, whereas Richard assured me that “I fall off at least once on every outing – you have to challenge the limits”.

You can guess what’s coming.  Richard stayed sedately and securely on his hi-tech stallion all day, and watched as I attempted to brake from 30mph for a right angle bend just above the road beside the reservoir.  It was gravelly.  I did avoid crashing down onto the road, but judging by the expression of the car driver below me it may have been a close thing.  At first I thought I’d just a few nettle stings, but when I noticed blood spurting out of a gash in my knee I decided against just jumping back onto the bike as if nothing had happened.

Anyway, Richard’s first aid kit proved useful.  The hole in the knee was patched up and no lasting damage has been done.

I later discovered that I’d been ‘fingered’ by a local witch who at that very moment was with Sue, saying to her “wouldn’t it be funny if Martin had a crash and couldn’t go on the next trip – I could come with you instead”.  Luckily it was my bionic knee that took the impact, so the witchery failed.  Good try though!

After this incident the rest of the route was uneventful, mainly along minor roads and gentle tracks, passing through the village of Hope, where the annual well dressing was on proud display.

Well Dressing at Hope

A narrow lane led out of Hope, up the final hill, on which noisy quad bikes tried to scare us.  The views continued to be superb, with Mam Tor, Lose Hill (pictured below) and Win Hill strewn across the skyline to our right.

Lose Hill, from the south of Castleton

We got back to Castleton in plenty of time for ice cream in just over 4 hours for the 33-34km ride, with around 800-1100 metres ascent, depending on which gadget you use for measurement.  Garmin says 34km, 820m ascent, whereas Anquet claims 33km and 1120m ascent.

The route plotted on Anquet is shown below.

Our route - 33km, 1100 metres ascent, just over 4 hours

Here’s the Garmin version:

Thanks, Richard, for an excellent and entertaining (I hope my crash entertained you as much as it did me!) ride, and for the choice of a very good route on which no pushing is required - to me that, together with a high off-road percentage, is a feature of a good route.

There’s a very small slide show with just a few more pictures here.