We, that is Janet and me, sneaked back to Kathmandu on 31st May on only one of two flights (16 seaters) out of the famous and notoriously cloud bound airstip at Lukla (2800m). Two days behind us were the other 130+ foreign and 90 Nepali runners from the Tenzing Hillary Everest Marathon and Ultra Marathon, all the support staff and all the personal gear and equipment. All were delayed by Moaist trade unionists highjacking the porters and luggage over a pay dispute and then by bad weather in Lukla. It was a scrappy end to a brilliant event, now 10 years old but designed this year to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the 1st ascent of Everest.
I finished about 50th out of the westerners in 8hrs something (I know it sounds slow but it was quite hard terrain). There were 130 westerners and in the end 90 Nepali. Some westerners didn't even make it to the start due to altitude.
The start was the final serac of the Khumbu Icefall and the first couple of kilometres were on snow covered ice.
When the whistle went (7am 29th May) about half the group stormed off jostling for position along the narrow ice trail. Needless to say I wasn't one of them!
The first three hours, with the exception of climbing over a 2km boulder covered glacier near Gorak Shep were mostly downhill. Then to get the distance at Dingboche at about 4200m we turned uphill for a grueling 6km loop below Ama Dablam. Lots of people fell over and there was blood from knees and hands on the rocks on the trail. Descending yaks loaded with gear from Everest expeditions added a horned hazard.
I tagged along with a Canadian woman for a while but eventually couldn't keep up. Soon afterwards I met up with my long time friend Phendan Sherpa (6 times Everest summit etc) who had been lured into the fast start but was fading and had sore knees, we ran together the rest of the way.
The next climb up to Tangboche Monastery at about 3700m was for me the toughest part. Phendan and I both walked up it like "a couple of first time trekkers". Energy gels and water at the top helped and Phendan "borrowed" a trekking pole from a passing yak herder.
It is a long descent from Tangboche to about 3300m, lower that the finish in Namche Bazaar, to the river at a place with the great name of Phunki Tenga. At the check point they said that there were only 30-40 foreigners ahead of me. Briefly inspired we then had to climb back up through pine forest to 3600m and run the final few kilometres traversing the hillside into Namche. Janet had walked the route in a shortened form the day before and was waiting a few kilometres out of Namche for a photo frenzy.
Throughout the weather had been just about OK. Cold and cloudy with only light flurries of snow and rain early on but just before the finish the cloud came in giving 20m visibility. Fortunately we still found it OK.
We were all presented with certificates, medals a track suit and a bottle of Coke! The last two being particularly appreciated.
The first, second and third places were taken by Nepali runners and the Nepali army took the top three places on the even more masochistic Ultra (60km in parallel). Some of the runners reached Namche at 10.30pm and one runner had to bivvy in the open and jogged in at 4am next day!
Phendan had never run in his life before and it was my first marathon. On the final stretch into Namche Phendan said "Tom Dai (literally means my older brother) next time we do this maybe we should train for three or four months". He is probably right.
At the end of the road on the Ross of Mull is the village of Fionnphort, a great place to be based for sea kayaking, climbing and a bit of culture. The kayaking possibilities are limitless and the climbing on the nearby isle of Erraid is in a stunning location. The village also has a pub, a shop and regular ferries to Iona and Staffa (of Fingal’s Cave fame).
This is One Dead Puffin on the Upper Tier of the main crag at Erraid. Have a look at the front cover of Gary Latter’s Scottish Rock: Volume 1 South for a comparison! The beach in the background is the same beach as the next photo.
We loaded the kayaks with camping and climbing kit (plus lots of food, beer & whisky) for an overnight stay at this idyllic wild camping spot. En route we had a very close encounter with two dolphins. I hope you’re just a little jealous.
Culture comes in the form of Iona, a small island just off Mull where a monastery was founded in the 6th century by St Columba. The well-preserved Abbey is well worth a visit.
Chris is Outside's 'Book Man'Tweet
Mount Everest has been in the public eye like never before in the last few weeks. People all over the world have been finding ways of celebrating the 60th anniversary of the first ascent of the world's highest mountain by Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay. Here at Outside we've been doing our own Everest themed activities, and as you might expect we've done things a bit differently.
To kick things off we had the idea of doing a '60 for 60' challenge, bravely climbing one ***, classic, quality, fun (maybe with the exception of The Vice) local gritstone route for every year since the first ascent. Sadly like a true Himalayan expedition a combination of: weather conditions, injuries and altitude sickness (aka laziness) meant they didn't quite all get done in time. But a special mention should go to James, to whom the ticklist was like a red rag to a bull. He ticked all 60 (VDiff to E5) with over a week to spare!
We tried to gather photographic evidence of every route being done, but sadly some ascents took place away from prying eyes and others have yet to be collected. A gallery of as many as can be mustered will be put together shortly. Watch this space!
|Stanage||The Vice||E1 5b||Alex|
|Stanage||Surgeon's Saunter||HVS 5b|
|Stanage||The Lamia||E2 5b, 5c||James, Alex|
|Stanage||Terazza Crack||HVS 5b|
|Stanage||Goosey Goosey Gander||E5 6a||James|
|Stanage||Right Hand Tower||HVS 5b||Steve|
|Stanage||Kelly's Overhang||HVS 5b|
|Stanage||High Neb Buttress||VS 4c||Hannah|
|Stanage||Count's Buttress||E2 5c|
|Stanage||Count's Crack||VS 4c||John W
|Stanage||Fern Crack||VS 5a|
|Stanage||Wall End Slab||VS 5a||Dick|
|Stanage||Goliath's Groove||HVS 5a||Dick|
|Stanage||Tower Crack||HVS 5a||Dick|
|Stanage||Tower Chimney||E1 5b||Dick|
|Stanage||Left Unconquerable||E1 5b||Steve|
|Stanage||Right Unconquerable||HVS 5a||Phil P|
|Stanage||B.A.W.'s Crawl||HVS 5a||Phil P|
|Stanage||The Scoop||HVS 5a||John|
|Stanage||Martello Buttress||HS 4b||Hannah|
|Stanage||Hell Crack||VS 4c||Paul|
|Stanage||The Link||E1 5b||John W
|Stanage||Mississippi Buttress Direct||VS 4c||Jez|
|Stanage||The Asp||E3 6a||Drew|
|Stanage||Inverted V||VS 4c||Hannah|
|Stanage||Hargreave's Original Route||VS 4c||Dan|
|Stanage||April Crack||HS 4b||Tim|
|Stanage||Flying Buttress Direct||E1 5b||Drew|
|Stanage||The Dangler||E2 5c||Alex|
|Stanage||The Tippler||E1 5b||Drew|
|Burbage North||The Knight's Move||HVS 5a||Rob|
|Burbage North||Amazon Crack||HS 4a||Paul|
|Burbage South||Brook's Crack||HVS 5a|
|Burbage South||Byne's Crack||VS 4b||Tim|
|Higgar Tor||The File||VS 4c||Paul|
|Higgar Tor||The Rasp||E2 5b||James|
|Millstone||Great North Road||HVS 5a||Rob|
|Millstone||Bond Street||HVS 5a||Rob|
|Millstone||Great Portland Street||HVS 5b||John W
|Millstone||Regent Street||E2 5c||James|
|Lawrencefield||Great Harry||VS 4c||Dan|
|Lawrencefield||Billy Whizz||E2 5c||Alex|
|Froggatt||Valkyrie||HVS 5a, 5a|
|Froggatt||Brown's Eliminate||E2 5b|
|Froggatt||The Big Crack||E2 5b|
|Froggatt||Chequer's Buttress||HVS 5b||Jez|
|Cratcliffe||Fern Hill||E2 5c||Gabriel|
|Cratcliffe||Five Finger Exercise||E2 5c||Gabriel|
|Cratcliffe||Suicide Wall||HVS 5b||Steve|
|Curbar||P.M.C. 1||HS 4a||Tim|
|Curbar||Elder Crack||E2 5b||Chris|
|Curbar||Green Crack||HVS 5b|
|Curbar||The Peapod||HVS 5b|
Then on the anniversary itself a cake of Himalayan proportions showed up at the shop. The monster chocolate sponge took the form of a topographical relief map of the Everest massif with enough ground covered to plot out the 1953 route. A mightily impressive 135 eggs went into its construction and a van belonging to a member of staff had to be requisitioned to transport it. Amazingly it was all the work of Emily who works at our Hathersage café, some of you may remeber her awesome gingerbread version of the Hathersage shop from Christmas.
The cake was intact for a matter of hours before it was demolished for the benefit of hungry shoppers (and staff). There may still be some left if you pop in any time in the next 9 months.
On the same day on the other side of the world, mountain renaissance man Tom Richardson was taking part in 'the world's highest marathon'. The full marathon distance takes the runners from Everest base camp down to Namche Bazaar. We've been eagerly refreshing the results page on the website to see how he got on, but no news yet unfortunately.Tweet
Fred Whitton, an innocuous, northern sounding name really, but one that strikes fear and dread into the heart of cyclists.
The Fred Whitton is one of the original UK Sportives, which are ostensibly non-competitive cycling challenges that can be undertaken by a broad spectrum of people. However, there are timing chips and results pages, so not everybody is entirely taken in by the non-competitive façade. The facts of this particular horror are simple: 1700 entrants, 112 miles, 4000m of climbing over 5 big passes and quite a few smaller ones.
There was no getting away from it, the weather forecast was poor, and due to get worse later on, which is how I found myself turning the pedals over the start line at the ungodly hour of 6.30am. The route pulls no punches, and after less than a mile rises steeply up over Hawkshead Hill. I am sure that many participants find it worrying that after such a short time they are already grovelling in their lowest gear, and on an unsung hill too. I had done the event a couple of times previously though, so I knew the score and was expecting the pain in my sleepy, porridge filled legs. As such I was also relatively sure about completing the course, but I was very, very keen to get round in under 7 hours having failed to do so previously.
Our little peloton of 8 Sheffield climbers-turned-roadies worked reasonably well together, over Kirkstone Pass, Matterdale End and along the perma-headwind of the A6 into Keswick. The first casualty dropped out here as Miles punctured, and in the true spirit of the road nobody even blinked as he forlornly pulled over and shouted ‘I’ll catch you up later…’.
Next out the back door was Waljit, snapping a chain on the evil start to Honister Pass (the very same chain that he snapped on the Etape du Dales last year apparently, what are the chances…?). Then Andy punctured on the steep, fast descent from the Honister Pass slate mine. Our numbers were dwindling fast and I had a sneaking suspicion that domestiques might be very useful in the coming miles, especially over Cold Fell, into the strong westerly that had been evident all day.
We skipped the first feed station entirely, knowing that about 100m after the sandwiches, tea and cake of Buttermere YHA the road turned right and steeply up over Newlands Pass, no place for a full belly. Next was Whinlatter, probably my least favourite of all the passes, maybe because of the gradient changes, or maybe just because on the Whitton it's the gateway to the forgotten section, the 30km or so to Calder Bridge. There are no named passes, but there are not many flat bits either, and the invitingly named Fang Brow and Cold Fell are bleak places at the best of times but now the rain was pouring out of the sky, and the wind was blasting it straight into our faces. By now there was only myself and Rich left out front, and his Mountain Guide manliness was of far more use in these conditions than my warm Majorcan training miles. We worked together, soaked to the skin, over the fell and down to the second feed. This time we did stop, albeit briefly, to grab a sandwich and refill a bottle before heading off to the finale of Hardknott and Wrynose. Looking at the timing sheets later it seems that many people either spent a long time at that feed station trying in vain to warm up and dry off, or simply abandoned all together.
By the time we reached the phone box and the rather intimidating 30% sign at the bottom of Hardknott Rich had pulled away from me a little, and we slogged, ground, fought and winched our way upward in our own cold, damp world. I was carefully measuring out the force I was pushing down on the pedals with; enough to keep moving but not enough to induce the cramp that was circling my legs ready to pounce at any moment. There was no relaxing on the rain slick, gravelly descent either and cold, tired hands worked over time on the brakes just to get down safely. This was to be the scene of many crashes later in the day apparently. Although I could see Rich up ahead all the way up the valley to Wrynose I only made small inroads into his lead and he topped out well ahead of me with about 6.30 hours showing on my computer. We knew that it was 30 minutes or so from the top of Wrynose to the finish, so sub 7 hours was a definite possibility. As I raced towards the finish line I kept looking down at the numbers on my Garmin, trying to guess exactly how long we had spent in the feed station, how much time I really had in hand.
The marshall at the finish line had to fumble under my wet sleeves to reach my timing chip, as I was in no state to do it myself, and in fact both legs cramped tight the moment I stopped pedalling, which along with the uncontrollable shivering no doubt made me a pretty pathetic sight. All was forgotten however as she handed me an innocuous little chit of paper. 6:59:48.
Tim works at OutsideTweet
As some of you may have noticed we are approaching a big anniversary of the first ascent of Everest and lots of people are celebrating in lots of different ways. So we have racked our brains to see how we could have some fun related to the 60 years that have passed, the 8848 metres/29,029 feet above sea level, or indeed any other tenuous statistic.
29,029 feet worth of routes climbed on Stanage? Too many belays to set up
8848 metre run? Too precise
1953 mile team run? Too late to start
60 minute run? Too short
60 mile run? Too far
60 routes in a day? Ron Fawcett doesn't work for Outside
60 routes as a team? Not too bad
60 routes on local grit crags as a team? Sounds good
60 classic routes on local grit crags as a team before May 29th? Perfect
So possibly with fun as more of a priority than epic suffering, a list has been drawn up of some of the best routes that our local crags have to offer. The 60 routes from VDiff to E5, taking in Stanage, Burbage North, Burbage South, Higgar Tor, Millstone, Lawrencefield, Froggatt, Curbar and Cratcliffe, have been divied up between everyone here.
We plan to get through them all before the anniversary, otherwise no one is allowed to get stuck into a very special topographically correct cake of the Everest massif. There will be more on the cake later, but it will be from the same creator as the amazing gingerbread Outside so we are expecting big (literally) things.
You can read more about Emily's amazing creation here
A special mention should be made about a certain member of staff who is aiming to have them all done himself before the anniversary. James is already steaming his way through them and will probably be done by next week, although he will have to wait for the cake like everyone else.
Another special mention should go to Tom Richardson who is running the Tenzing Hillary Everest Marathon, 'probably the most adventurous trail run in the world' in his 60th year. The race will take place on the day of the 60th anniversary and cover the standard 26.09 miles from Everest Base Camp down to Namche Bazaar, losing almost 2km of altitude along the way.
More updates coming soon!Tweet
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