Since doing my first, first ascent a while back I have started looking at the rocks nearby a bit differently. The Peak is definitely not climbed out. Over the winter I have been running to work a fair bit and along the way spied this small block off the Houndkirk 4x4 road. It looked good, if rather dirty, but surely its been done? Its so obvious! My internet research says it's possibly unclimbed, certainly unclaimed. I've been meaning to check it out for ages but yesterday I went for a walk with my wife Danni. It also happened to be the due date for our first child and we thought the walk might help. So we checked it out.
It's a great place for a picnic! Danni could sit in the sun with the rock in the shade, plus a flat landing so one pad is fine. The problem took some cleaning, but otherwise it's great climbing on cool holds. Just don't allow the side walls for your feet (you wouldn't anyway) and its great fun. The only issue is it was easier than I hoped, choosing the name was too! Due Date font 6B.
I made the most of the rock and also climbed the arête to the left from the same start. Around the same grade, Late Arrival? (question mark is intended as at the time the day wasn't over!) Font 6B. Both problems are fun and worth the short walk, however both may feel harder if your feet have to come of the back wall sooner than mine. If you want to find them, they're around grid ref 278 821, just off the Houndkirk Road.
Climbing (and anything to blog about) will be slow for me for a while now as I patiently wait (gulp) for my biggest adventure yet!
That's it, winter is officially over, and what a grand way to mark it, with spectacular Aurora Borealis visible over the Peak District and a 90% complete solar eclipse on the vernal equinox. Alright, so the really keen will still be enjoying some late season ice up in Scotland (and judging by the amount of snow they've had that could continue right through April!)
Solar Eclipse 2015 - photo by Rob Turnbull
Here in the Peak the Grit has been a bit tricky over the winter, with just a handful of really good days out, but the real highlight for us had to be that huge dump of snow back in February. Skiing across the Kinder plateau and climbing the Downfall was an opportunity not to be missed.
So...roll on summer I say! Is the Cornice dry yet?
It all began with the annual Outside 9 Edges run. Every year the shop staff do a night run of the 21 mile Nine Edges race route and this year I was curious. “I can do that,” I thought. Then I realised I’d said it out loud, so ok Paul, you're in.
On a beautiful clear March night we set off after work. The ‘run’ involved plenty of walking, and eating of Clif bars and shots. An amazingly bright full moon provided all the light we needed and our headtorches were quickly switched off. It was a great experience and I felt inspired to take it a step further.
Along the way I'll be blogging about my training efforts - there's a way to go before I'm ready for this trail marathon.
It involves a 20 mile circuit around the base of Snowdon, then a climb up, and down the other side to finish. The ascent is 1685m over 26 miles.
They reckon marathon runners hit the ‘wall’ at 18 – 20 miles – in my case it won’t be a wall, it’ll be a mountain.
I've never run this far before so we can expect a roller coaster ride along the way – I might even review some sparkling new kit as well as my own progress. I think Compeed blister kits may feature a lot.
I’m still looking for a good training plan as my old ones from the 70s are a bit dated. All suggestions welcome. In the meantime I’m starting slowly – this week I began with a run up Parkin Clough.
For anyone not familiar with our local training favourite, Parkin Clough is a well-known climb up to Win Hill Pike which rises about 300m in ¾ mile. This time it was more of a brisk walk but I was pleased with my sub 20 minute time to the trig point. It was completely knackering but I think it will be useful as a gauge to see how my fitness levels are improving. Next up is a run to work on Saturday. I’m not sure how far it is – maybe about five miles – and I reckon it’ll take about an hour.
By the way I didn't finish the full 9 Edges run. But 14 miles was a solid start.
Over the last few months Mina Holder has been running the length of New Zealand, starting at Cape Reinga, the northernmost tip, following the windy, rugged terrain of the Te Araroa Trail, all the way down to Bluff in the South Island. A total distance of over 3000km. We got a chance to chat with her shortly after her epic run.
I hear you were pretty nesh as a youth, and running's a fairly recent discovery for you. How did you get into it in the first place? And what drew you to ultra-distance endurance running?
You heard right! Although I've always loved nature and the outdoors, I would have chosen to sit still in it up until my mid twenties! When I was 25 James (my now husband) signed me up for a half marathon with 3 months to go! My first 2km training run was one of my least favourite things I have ever done! Due to my stubbornness I stuck with it and completed the half - this is where my love of running started! Not long after this event I discovered trail running and soon signed up for the Marathon des Sables with 3 years to train (I do have a tendency to aim high above my station!!). With this epic event on the horizon my training schedule included trail marathons, an iron-man and a 45 mile ultra in the Brecon Beacons. I'm a super slow runner and love to chat as I go, eat food, explore beautiful places and meet interesting people - this makes ultra-distance running perfect for me! I also come up with some of my best ideas (like running the Te Araroa!) and have a sense of freedom and happiness when running on trails.
What other big runs have you done? Is this the longest? How did it compare to the Marathon de Sable?
The MdS is the longest event I had completed prior to coming to New Zealand. Whilst training for this I also completed the Pilgrims challenge which is 66 miles in 2 days, an awesome event in lots of snow the year I did it - perfect training for the Sahara!! The Te Araroa is by far the longest run I've ever done! MdS and TA are hard to compare really - it seemed more viable to push your limits for a week than 77 and a bit days! The MdS had regular check points where you re-filled with water, on TA we generally carried 3 litres with us at a time. Although MdS had searing heat, sand and rock there were no real difficulties with navigation or extreme ascent. The Te Araroa has a vast mix of incredibly challenging terrain with a lot of need to navigate and a huge amount of elevation gain. Te Araroa trail is the hardest physical and mental challenge I have ever done, and can ever imagine doing!
How did you prepare for this? Was there a specific training plan, or did you just run about a bit?
I had pretty much a year to train for the challenge. I started by making the decision to run every day as I felt this would help mentally and physically prepare me for the fact I have to run, no opt-outs allowed. I fitted this around teaching. With 5 months to go I had a training plan written for me based on Arthur Lydiard principals, I also incorporated an hours strength work class in each week. If anyone is interested my training diary is on my website www.runnz.org.
What kind of support did you have for the run?
My husband James and brother-in-law Adam were my invaluable support crew. They are both long-distance runners and all round athletic people with a huge love of the outdoors. They took it in turns to either run with me or drive the support campervan (loaned to us by my mum and step-dad). My original plan (before Ad came on-board) was to do a lot of the trail solo, meeting James in the evenings. We had planned that he would join me for the more isolated multi-day mountain stages. Once Ad joined us it meant I could always have someone with me, which made the whole thing a lot safer and, for me, way more manageable. I can't imagine how much harder the low times would have been out there on my own. I have a huge respect for all the solo trampers we met along the way.
On the North Island we pretty much were able to meet back at the van every evening (although we did 2 over-nighters in the Pureora Forest and the Tararua Ranges). This meant a big cooked meal and a comfy bed out of the elements. The South Island proved much more of a logistical challenge! It was a whole string of multi-day mountain stages where van access was impossible. We then had to carry everything we needed for these sections ranging from 2-5 days, including a tent. The boys carried a lot of the weight, their bags being around 20kg on the longer stages and mine 15kg. This was tough, especially with the amount of elevation we had to climb over such gnarly terrain! I loved being able to get to the van at the end of the day and only have to carry a light pack with water, food, water-proofs and some safety equipment.
When James or Ad were on their van support day they would be non-stop with things like; food shopping, getting kit supplies, laundry, planning the next days run, looking at weather and any track changes, making up overnight meals, cooking, leg massages, finding a campground and sorting the van waste and water. The thought of all this exhausts me. Without their immense support I could not imagine surviving the relentlessness that this challenge involved. I am eternally grateful to them both!
Nutrition-wise, what goes down during the day? Are you scientific about your calorie intake, with lots of gels and energy bars, or do you take a more natural approach?
Gels and sports energy bars don't work for me - they make me feel sick! The general rule was: the more calories the better! For breakfast I ate 3x bread & butter and an avocado, or sometimes porridge. On the trail I had 5x cereal bars, a handful of licorice, nuts, dried fruits, cheese sandwiches/tortilla wraps with nutella, savory biscuits, salt & vinegar crisps and some jellybeans/skittles. In the evenings I grazed on chocolate whilst James or Ad prepared a huge, amazing, balanced meal - always delicious! This was followed by pudding - custard with a variety of things - fresh fruit, dried fruit, tinned fruit, christmas pudding, or just on its own!
I started losing weight after the first couple of days so we added in a couple of build-up drinks a day too. We managed to stabilise it for most of the North Island but once we hit the South, with all of the multi-day sections away from the van, it was harder. I lost just under 6kg over the whole run - I'm now working on putting that back on!
Are you still a committed vegetarian? How do you find recovery day after day without meat?
Yes I am! Is meat important for recovery?! I find beans, eggs, chocolate and milk powder with everything does the trick!
Your route covers a huge variety of terrain, from sandy beaches to muddy forest to rocky mountain track. What's your favourite terrain to run on? And the worst? I can't imagine sand to be much fun.
I loved the variety - I would have gone mad if it had all been the same! I really enjoy open beech forests, especially technical descents, but not too many roots/obstacles!! The worst has to be giant tussocks (bigger than Adam) with hidden spear grass that slices your legs as you try to bash through!! There were lots of these sections where you push so hard you are sweating but only making 1.5km per hour!!! The nightmares are still occurring!
Jez Bragg (the current record holder) famously caught giardia and got swept away by a swollen river. Did you have any close shaves or mishaps or did everything go to plan?
Hmmm. Well, we did have a capsize on the Wanganui River - thankfully James & a friend Greg managed to retrieve my kayak, paddle and kit as it went sailing off down the rapids! Ad managed to hold onto his! At one point in the Redhills I thought Ad might have fallen from a ledge we were sidling along, high above the river....thankfully he had just got further ahead of me than realised so my panic only lasted 5 minutes! There were so many river crossings, the biggest was the Ahuriri which, after scouting out the best place for around 40 minutes as the sun was going down, we attempted. After getting 3/4 of the way across realised the final section was way too fast and deep to safely cross, so we had to back-track. We were then freezing and it started to rain so put on all our layers and started the long 7km detour towards the bridge in order to make it to the van - we had been going since 5am and had already done 64km! We navigated in the dark, managed to avoid a powerline that was down across the path and make it to the van for 11pm! An example of one of the many insane days on this trail!
Tell us a bit about the charities you’re raising money for and why you choose them?
New Hope Rural Community Trust is an incredible organisation that tirelessly works to better the lives of so many people in India. The scope of their work is wide, with a developing focus on supporting children affected by HIV. James and I visited New Hope back in 2011 and have had the honour of being trustees since then. I am raising money specifically to support the young adults New Hope care for, through their further education/apprenticeships. By having a good level or education these children will go on to have a much greater chance of securing quality employment. This in turn provides them with financial independence and the chance of a bright future. I would love to raise 5,000 GBP which would secure 22 young adults through a year of further education. So far I have raised 3,515 GBP.
Starship Children's Hospital is an amazing organisation that provide invaluable healthcare for children within New Zealand and from the surrounding Pacific Islands. When I first moved to Auckland I started volunteering in the school at Starship where I saw first-hand how amazing it is. I am specifically raising money to secure the purchase of a 3D transthoracic scope which will be used to diagnose children with heart conditions. The current 2D scope requires the child to have an anesthetic, this new scope alleviates the need for this and so is far better for the child. The scope costs $10,000. So far I have raised $7061.
How are your feet and legs today? Is that an epic sun tan or just dirt?
The swelling in my feet is finally going down - which means I can fit into more than 1 pair of shoes! The skin on my feet is super dry and cracks if I don't smother it is cream several times a day! The lichen-type texture that was growing on my souls has largely come off with a jolly good scrub! Only my big toe-nails are black and I have lost feeling in the end of 1 big toe - not too bad for all those Kms I'd say!
As for the sun tan - it was largely dirt!
What’s next? Once your legs have recovered, have you got any more big runs on the horizon?
Haha, we will see! I will keep running! I would love to have children next so may wait till my 50's before planning my next big one!
You can find out more about these incredible organisations, or make a donation, on Mina's website www.runnz.org
My friend Mike (the UK rep for Boreal) came to join me in Scotland last week while I was on a family holiday. I had been granted a couple passes out to make the most of the amazing winter conditions that Scotland had been having. Having heard reports of great ice even to low levels, I got excited as I had always wanted to climb Quartzvein Scoop at Ben Udlaidh, and it is only 30 mins from where we were staying. However, as we arrived in Scotland the temperatures were on the rise, so I suggested Mike came up earlier than planned. Once he arrived we made an early start the next morning and decided to gamble that even though it was quite mild the “fat” ice that people had been climbing on Sunday would still be there on the Tuesday, especially if we were there at sunrise.
We walked in through mist and drizzle but it was 5 degrees in Glen Orchy. We should have called it a day there and then really but we plodded up into the Corrie to find the ice there but loads of black rock, running water and crashing down ice all around us!
We optimistically went to the bottom of the route and quickly decided it was no good. Frustrated but not surprised we took some easy ground to the top and walked off in the cloud and went home for bacon sarnies at the cottage.
Our second chance to get out was the Thursday and the forecast was still mild at low levels but reading up on UKC and speaking to the conditions geek that is my my brother James he suggested that the only place to go is the Ben, and he was right, It didn't disappoint. We thought that to avoid any chance of being let down we would go high and made our way to Glover’s Chimney (III, 4), which is a Cold Climbs classic that I had had my eye on for a while.
As we got to the CIC hut it was clear that the conditions were great all round. Plenty of people were there but luckily there was only one other party on our route. After an initial ice pitch there are quite a few steep snow/ice pitches before the ground steepens and turns into the rocky mixed chimney that takes you right onto Tower Gap.
Mike had the lead for this pitch and he cruised it with style, I followed him up and then made my way out along the remainder of Tower Ridge (tricky move getting out of the gap!) to the summit all in very thick cloud by this point. We had a celebratory Mini Babybel before getting the compass out to make our way out of the cloud and down the Red Burn.
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