Sunday, August 25, 2013

Fanore Half Marathon, Once Again

I went back to Fanore with the irrepressible Kevin to run the Fanore Half Marathon once again. It gives me the opportunity to camp in the Burren and experience one of the most beautiful places in Ireland. Frank was off on his travels so he wasn't able to make the trip this year and Kevin whose wife is heavily pregnant with their second child was able to manage only the one nights camping so this year there would be no rock climbing involved. Still it is special to drive down the hill and round the bend in the road and all of a sudden you are by the sea shore and the most wonderful wild-camp spot I know hereabouts. We drove in and soon busied ourselves setting up camp. It is such a luxury to have the car nearby and we soon had our tents up and the barbecue was afire and we were sipping a beer. Life is good. After a tasty and very welcome dinner we strolled about and enjoyed our surroundings and chatted and relaxed. Darkness is coming earlier these days and we retired to bed fairly early to try and get a good nights sleep and rest before tomorrows run.

Wild shores

Rough Seas

Wash and spin...never dry
The stiff breeze of the previous evening had died down but the weather was a little more overcast and there was a promise of rain in the air. By the time we had had breakfast and had packed up our tents there was a rain-front approaching across the ocean. We headed up into Fanore with nearly two hours to spare but we went to look at the beach and explore the sand-dunes and just relaxed. We eventually returned and registered for the run and waited about. It was a bit disappointing to see that the numbers this year were down on last year and there wasn't really much of an atmosphere about. Still I was looking forward to it and soon enough we were off. Kevin (now that he had been released from the shackles of running with me) was soon into his stride and was off in the distance in front with the leaders. I was feeling good and was able to keep a good pace and was keeping to the seven minute mile mark for the first few miles. The ground then becomes more difficult and eventually there is a stiff climb onto the "green road" which leads delightfully around to the church from where another uphill road run leads to the toughest section where another off-road section climbs 600 ft. Now unfortunately the heavens had opened and where in other years the views were glorious all was now a leaden grey. I was still enjoying myself though and while understandably tired, once I was on the top of the hill I still had enough in the legs to run well all the way to the finish. I finished in sixth in 1 hour 46 mins which was a minute faster than last year so I was well happy. Kevin had finished in fourth in 1 hour 37 minutes and was also pleased with his day. We enjoyed the soup and sandwiches and after a lovely treat in the nearby Cafe we set off on the return home. Another short but great little adventure.
Perfect balance required

Friday, August 16, 2013

A Circuit of Lough Leane Killarney

Sometimes I wonder why I do it, especially on the last few miles when even walking hurts not to mind the shuffle that I try to pass off as running when I am near the end of a long outing. Yesterday was a case in point. I had run a six kilometer trail race the evening before and for some reason I when I got up in the dreary wet morning I reckoned it would be a good idea to head back on the train to Killarney and try to run around Lough Leane. There are plans afoot to make a walking route around the lake but this is still some way off but recently a long section that was impassable due to the proliferation of Rhododendron has had an old track reopened so I reckoned it would be worth a look.
The first objective was to get out of town and after I had left my bag in the station I set off in the rain, dodging cars and people and made my way to the start of the "Fossa Way" near the cathedral. From here a fine path leaves the hustle and bustle behind and you are running across open parkland, which on a better day would offer superb views towards the mountains. Today in the mist they were hardly visible but I was still enjoying myself as I actually like running in the rain. The path passes by a couple of golf courses and as I neared Fossa I had to join the busy road. Perhaps its my poor route finding or poor signage but whatever the reason I couldn't find the resumption of the path and I ended up running on the road all the way until Tomies Wood. I now had eleven kilometers done and had kept up a nice pace of about 12kph. Once I entered the wood I stopped for a drink and a bite to eat and then continued on. The trail is now a little undulating with lovely views both left and right and it continued in this vein for another five kilometers with the last kilometer having a steady climb to about 200 mtrs. Eventually the trail turns back on itself and here a very unpromising track leads off towards wild territory that looks totally impassible with rhododendron. I wasn't over confident but to my delight there was a passage through the bushes that while not runnable was an enchanting place to be. It was tough going but I was really enjoying myself and even the by now torrential rain couldn't dampen my spirits. In places it was like travelling through a green mossy tunnel but all the leaves and debris on the floor meant that great caution had to be taken to avoid a slip. This continues for about two kilometers and after a long drop you reach the lake shore and some ruins of a large old building. Now the trail is a bit convoluted and eventually you emerge at Glena and the impassible "Long Range" river.

Now comes the worst section and over the next kilometer I had to cross wild and terribly wet ground where walking and making any progress was difficult. Walking at times in knee deep water at least meant that when I emerged onto better ground at "Brickeen Bridge" my runners were nice and clean (well you have to try and see the bright side). All that now remains is the nine kilometers back into Killarney. This I have run many times and it spectacular as it goes between Muckross Lake and Lough Leane and then on through the Muckross estate before finally reaching the busy road back to town. I was quite tired on this stretch but it passed and when I finally arrived in town I had a good bite to eat and it was great to be able to change my clothes etc. In total it had taken me three hours twenty five minutes but there are several kilometers where progress is slow. The total distance was 29 kilometers and its fair to say that I felt as if I had done a marathon. Waiting for the train I had a long sit down and I must have made an interesting sight as I struggled to unlock my seizing legs. As I said earlier I sometimes wonder why I put myself through this, but I suppose I get a sense of achievement and satisfaction when I'm done. Of course I do actually enjoy the running as well but its fair to say that towards the end of big runs like this one enjoyment isn't a word that springs to mind. Now though at this remove I am glad I did it and I have no doubt that I will probably do it again in the not too distant future. Perhaps doing it in a clockwise direction would be preferable as it gets the roughest section of ground out of the way earlier. When the new trail is done it will be a superb outing for runners and walkers alike.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Cooling off in The Cappagh Glen

I had another great day out with Frank yesterday. We forsook the honey pots of the Reeks and headed to the quieter area of Crohane and the Cappagh Glen. We had our customary coffees in Killarney once I arrived but not from our usual place as it is closed due to an explosion that took place a few weeks ago in a neighboring laundry that had tragic consequences. It is all cordoned off and there is structural damage to the building so I guess it won't be reopening any time soon. I hope the beautiful Beata , who worked there and was a joy to meet when we went in, is ok and wasn't hurt by the blast.
The view across Lough Guitane


Infinity pool

Towards the Paps
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Wonderful light on Crohane

We set off in the horrid rough road that skirts Lough Guitane where the bottom of the car regularly hits the surface as you slowly pass the huge potholes and ruts on the road. The one good thing about this is that it allows you lots of time to enjoy the stunning view across the lake to the Crohane. Frank's fitness continues to improve and he didn't have to stop at all on the climb and was able to maintain a steady pace. We gained height rapidly and the views only got better as we were now able to see right into the gorgeous Cappagh Glen. Once we reached the shoulder we could see across towards the Paps and beyond. We turned and made the final climb to the summit of Crohane and rested a short while in the now chill breeze before we set off down across the wild ground towards the spur that leads to Bennaunmore. At the end of the spur we enjoyed a nice lunch before we descended steeply into the narrow valley by Lough Nabroda. In the valley it was quite warm and after the good weather in July the ground was nice and dry. We skirted around the lake and then climbed to the broad saddle of Bennaunmore and then descended into the delightful and magical Cappagh Glen.
Lough Nabroda

A future plungepool

Spectacular scenery

Interested spectator

It was really pleasant and warm now and as we made our way out of the glen we were trying to psych ourselves up into doing a plunge. Now I'm no water baby at the best of times and it was easy to think of reasons not to do it. It wasn't really that warm so the water would be cold, or it would be a bit of a chore to walk out to the car afterwards etc etc. As I said it was easy to lose the enthusiasm for it. As we walked alongside the river I was struck by how low it was. It hadn't filled up at all after the dry spell, however I soon spotted a likely spot for a dip and before I could think too much about it I set about removing my clothes and without too much ado I jumped in. It wasn't deep and I touched the bottom which was lovely sandy gravel. It wasn't cold either and all in all it was really refreshing. Frank followed me and entered the water in style. We got a great laugh about it and I guess we will not be so reticent to do others in the future. We were in great spirits for the remainder of the walk and as we neared the end we saw a lovely Roe deer, who pranced delightfully off into the scrub as we neared. Another lovely day, thanks Frank.

Sunday, August 4, 2013


Yesterday I went back to Kerry to climb Howling Ridge again. I met up with Frank and we met a Scotsman called Jim Crosthwaite who I had promised on UK climbing that during his maiden visit to these shores I would take him up the ridge if he was down this way. He jumped at the opportunity and we met up with him in Killarney and headed off to the start of the route.
Jim and Frank

Having fun

I must say I felt sorry for him as he couldn't have experienced worse weather during his trip so far. He had driven all the way down the west coast and really hadn't seen what this beautiful area has to offer but at least today was more promising as there were some clear skies about as well as ominous looking rain clouds. We got ourselves sorted and set off into the "Hags Glen". We chatted away amiably and we were all enjoying ourselves. It was nice to be able to show someone who had never been here before the delights of this lovely range of mountains. All the tops were to be seen and after the copious rain the air had a lovely clarity that allowed Jim to see everything in its best light. It was nice to hear the banter between himself and Frank in their slightly different Scottish accents. Up and around we went and eventually we arrived at the "Heavenly Gates" and the start of the route. We were lucky so far with the weather and while there was often the threat of rain it never materialized and I was hopeful that we might complete the route in dry conditions. Not being familiar with Jim's abilities I opted to bring our harness' and rope and hardware so it would be a technical outing.
Quite the drop

Heading up

Going well

Typical climbing

I led up the first easy pitch and once I was able to use a spike of rock for a friction belay I called the others up. It was soon evident that Jim was an able climber and wouldn't require much nursing or minding on the way up so thereafter I opted to forgo pitching the route in the conventional sense and instead I climbed unprotected and at appropriate and opportune places I I called on the others using body belays or friction belays for their security. In this way we were able to maintain a good rate of progress and with the ever threat of rain this was I think the best policy. The route isn't particularly difficult and I think lends itself to this method of climbing. It was however very gratifying to see the big smile on Jim's face and I think its fair to say he was really enjoying himself. I hope it was some consolation for the terrible weather that had marred his trip to date. Time flew by and eventually we reached the point where the ridge peters out and we slogged the remaining 150 mtrs to the very busy summit. A nice bite to eat was enjoyed and we left the mob behind and returned to our cars via Brother O' Shea's Gully. The track down here is now horribly eroded and loose but that is no surprise as by now the whole of the mountain's access routes are in the same condition. We chatted away for the entire return to the car and when we got there we said a very hurried goodbye as I was quite late for my train home. It was a pity to have to leave so quickly but it had been a pleasure to meet Jim and of course any day out with Frank is a good one. I think our outing provided Jim with some good memories to take home with him and I am sure we will stay in touch.

Friday, August 2, 2013

Pico de Aneto A Climb of The Pyrenees Highest Peak by Francis Jan Kluzniak

Pico de Aneto (3404m) July 19/20 2013

As I wasn’t going to the Alps this year, I was trying to find something overseas that could be done in a couple of days.  It was the beginning of March when Fraser (my niece’s man) gave me a call and said do you fancy doing Aneto.   Well Aneto wasn’t even on my radar, I had never heard of it.  He then explained to me that he wasn’t giving Mont Blanc a go this year and that Pico de Aneto was the highest mountain in the Pyrenees.  As I am easily led I said yes of course.
The training started in earnest, I was in the Reeks every weekend (mostly with Stephen who keeps me on a short rope) sometimes on my own, putting a little more in my ruck sack each time and before I knew it, it was July the 19th, I was feeling hill fit and I was on a plane heading to Barcelona.  I caught the train to Sitges and had a lovely evening with Kim and Fraser.  Rory, Fraser's pal turned up at 7pm and we soon had an early night.

We got up at around 9am the following morning, and had breakfast; the sun was splitting the skies.  We left Sitges at around 11am in a hired car heading for Hospital de Benasque.  The drive was rather pleasant through the dry and sun-bleached countryside and finally through the ravines and past dams, arriving at Benasque about 3 and a half hours later.  We had tapas for lunch and I bocht myself some sunglasses.
We drove the final 20 minutes or so to the car park just before Hospital de Benasque, kept going a bit and came to a barrier so turned around and went back to the car park.  (We weren't sure here if we could drive all the way to La Besurta as some of the books say you can).   We then got out of the car put our gear on and headed off.  At this point I noticed a lot of people waiting at a bus stop but took no notice.  A bus passed us about five minutes later carrying everyone along the road to La Besurta, but the valley we were in was beautiful and the wee walk would loosen our legs.
It was around a 6km walk into La Besurta and we covered it at a good pace.  There was a small hut selling some sort of food there but we just passed it by and headed up to the La Renclusa Hut, where we were booked in for 2 nights.  35 minutes later we arrived at the hut (2140m).
Dinner was from 5.30 onward so I decided to go and have a look at the path to the SW which we would be heading up the morns morn.  The red dots were well spaced out and easy to miss so I just followed the little cairns that folk had contributed to.  About an hour later (I got carried away) I was a fair bit above the hut and confident that I could find my way up the path in the dark, so headed back down for dinner.
The chef excelled himself, with a starter of warm pasta, then beef stew which was mainly bones and pudding was sort of semolina.  We then headed for the shower then sorted out our gear for the morning, taking only the essentials, then went to bed.   We didn't get much sleep as there were still people coming into the room with head torches on and sorting gear out.  It grew quiet but the guy above Fraser was the snoremeister and possibly the fartmeister, all night long.

We started moving with our alarms at 4am, got dressed grabbed our rucksacks, I had a can of Monster and an energy bar and we headed off into the dark.  At around 5am the sun just started coming over the horizon and we had some lovely views.  When we got to the first bit of steep snow Fraser put his crampons on as he was slipping.  Rory was going very fast, so I told him to head off if he wanted to, so he did.
About 3 hours after we had started we, met Rory again who had waited for us and presently we came to the ridge where we would find the Portillion Superior gap, where we would go down and start off on the glacier.  We had somehow come off the path and were about 15m too high but we could see where the path started on the Glacier so we climbed back down.  We got roped up here, put our crampons on and got our ice axes out   As it was a really sunny day you could see for miles in all directions and the top of Aneto about 3 km away.
We headed off.    There was a fair bit of snow on the glacier but it was still nicely iced up.  We were going fairly slowly, and every now and then we would come to some rocky patches which we had to take our time over with the crampons on but they proved easy enough.
Half way across the glacier Fraser started feeling ill (sore head and feeling dizzy) maybe altitude, so I said to Rory why don’t you head off with my flag and I will stay here with Fraser and if he doesn’t feel better in a while, we will head back to the hut.  Rory was off like a rat up a drainpipe; he headed off and was soon lost from view.  I said to Fraser take plenty to drink and rest here as long as you like, don’t feel you have to go on.  About half an hour later, Fraser was feeling better so we headed off again.
We were going slow but Fraser was determined to get to the top, soon we arrived at the steep bit of the glacier and I may have started sweating a bit, a German guy passed us and said, I am getting too old for this (he must have been all of 30 years old), less than an hour later we, met Rory coming down near the top.  He handed me back my flag and said the ridge at the top was fairly scary but he had taken pictures at the cross.   Soon we were off the glacier and ready to go over the bridge of Mohammed.  I took my rucksack off got the flag out and my diced beany and made short work of the ridge which was narrow and fell away nearly vertical at both sides but had good hand holds.  I was on top of the Pyrenees; here I got another German (maybe the same one) to take several pictures of me by the cross with my Falklands flag (I heard some mention of Malvinas here but let it ride).

I made my way back across, met Fraser on the other side and said go across it’s not as bad as it looks and went and had a wee rest and something to eat.  Fraser rejoined me and we started making our way back down.  By this time the snow was like wet sugar and the rain that was forecast was heading our way with thunder and lightning close behind.
By this time my feet were soaking, I was wearing the Meindl Matterhorns that I had bought for my ascent of Mont Blanc in 2007 and they are a wee bit worse for wear.  We navigated back across the glacier with no more incidents.  It was hailing off and on now and the thunder and lightning was still behind us.  We arrived just below Portillion Superior and I put the rope back in the bag but we left our harnesses on just in case.

We scrambled back up to the Superior gap and instead of going left along the track we had taken earlier we headed straight down another track in the snow.  This was marked on the map as a less defined track.  We were soon off the snow and onto a red spot track with cairns.  The red spots started appearing in different directions but we just followed the cairns.  We ended up in a large boulder field; these were the size of 1 ton grain sacks but great fun to scramble over.  We re-joined the track about 1km from the hut and it started pouring rain. We made it back to the hut in 12 and a half hours soaked but fair happy.  Rory had been back in the hut with his feet up for 4 hours…We congratulated each other on summiting, went for dinner and slept.  Up at 7.30am and off for 8, my toes were hurting so I said I was definitely getting the bus.  On arriving back down at La Besurta, Fraser had a look at the bus times and said the next bus wasn't until 10, so we just headed off down the valley.  5 minutes later we see the bus coming towards us (like déjà vu) we kept going and it was a pleasant, although sore walk back to the carpark.
An uneventful 4 hour drive took us back to Sitges, we showered, got changed, had a dinner of ½ pound home made burgers with salad and then headed out in to Sitges town.
As Rory is a Sailor, Fraser said we would walk down to the Marina, about 2 miles away.  On the way we passed a nudist beach on the front, I remember looking down seeing this German, naked, buttocks clenched, legs akimbo playing volleyball with his girlfriend who was wearing a bikini, made me chuckle.  A night of debauchery ensued.
Woke up with the normal headache from over indulgence, had breakfast and headed down to the beach, where we swam, floated and relaxed for a couple of hours.  All too soon I was back on the train heading towards Barcelona thinking of what I will get up to next…