How a city chick left the rat race to pursue her dream of a life in the hills. We will be following her journey over the coming months.
A ‘feeling’ buzzed through me at the start of this year. “Something hugely exciting is going to happen!”. I had absolutely no idea what this might be however, which made it all the more wonderful…
Swimming with snowshoes? Traverse of the Chablais, France
“Right!” said Fred. “Six days across the Chablais mountains in winter carrying all our kit and a dip in Lake Geneva at the end?” He’s not one to be overly demanding is Fred, as long as I can come up with a decent snowshoe hike of more than 725 m ascent, and around 10.5 km in length, plus a good hotel at the end of the day with a huge hot-tub with views to the mountains, excellent local food, a masseuse on tap, and a very good red wine then he’s pretty much happy!
The autumn months are when we explore new areas. So I have just returned from a fabulous 8 week trip to the Americas. First off was a 'rock & road' trip to the US where we drove through the mountains of Colorado and the deserts of Utah & Nevada. We rock climbed on what seemed like every sort of rock type, mountain biked amazing single-track trails in Moab & trekked famous 14,000ft peaks.
48 hours of wild weather, 2,400 mountain athletes, add a very wet BBC film crew and you have the ingredients for this years OMM - The Original Mountain Marathon! I am just in from the hills of Highland Perthshire having spent a wild weather weekend Producing, The Adventure Show for BBC Scotland. Wet boots, wet trousers, wet rucksack, wet gloves, wet everything ! The OMM has the reputation of being the UK's toughest mountain marathon. Two days in the mountains with an overnight camp, with all competitors carrying absolutely everything they need to survive on the mountain and camp!
What a great week in Tuscany exploring the Apuane and Appenine Alps. This really is a wonderful area of deep beech and chestnut forests and rocky ridges of limestone.
10 Awards we give "Just a bit more" Jules....
1. Best Urban Guide - "Let me check on that...and that...and that..."
2. Best Ice Cream Sleuth - "Of course we have to have ice cream!"
3. Best Option Giver - "we could do this...or this...or this...."
4. Best Encourager - "come on team! You can do it! Only 12,000 metres of climbing left!"
5. Best Rest Break Monitor - "Five more minutes!"
6. Best Pacesetter - "We'll just take it slow"
7. Best Tim-handler - "yes Tim" " No Tim", "that's right Tim", "oh, Tim", "whatever you say Tim"
8. Beset Mountain Encyclopedia - " Let me tell you about ...marmots, flowers, pine cones, mountain peaks, glaciers, hut locations, cows, cheese making, trail running, off piste skiing, on piste skiing,. Scotland, Africa, Frenchies, Everest, Pantomimes, Swiss history and culture, British-speak, trees, hut etiquette, etc
9. Best Trail Angel - "step on the anchor rock! No problem, you can make it down" "No problem, my shoes dry quickly", "Just step over this electric fence while I hold it down for you". "Here let me take your poles" etc etc
10. Best Guide Ever !!!
Just a few "awards" to our great Jules, from her recent team on the Tour du Mont Blanc. Well done! Lindsay
A HAT TRICK! Lizzy Hawker won the women's 2011 Mont Blanc Ultra Trail for the 3rd time. An amazing run completing the course 13th overall in 25h02mins. Huge congratulations to her - what an acheivement. If you would like the chance to run with Lizzy gaining expert advice from a very humble approach come and join us on our trail running camp next summer and perhaps enter the 10k, half marathon or full marathon in the same week. We are also looking to get a mini Ultra Trail team together for 2012 aswell - we can offer bespoke or organised weekends to practice trail courses for those interested. Please get in touch for further details. What's going to be your next challenge?
Whilst on the walkers high level route this week I experienced another first. The 'Haute Route', as it's known, is normally a 12 day trek which crosses the high mountain passes between Chamonix, France to Zermatt in Switzerland. My clients were a team of four experienced hikers from America who have been planning this as part of a long trip to Europe for many years. So on Day 5, having completed some of our toughest sections and with our first views of the Matterhorn in sight, much to my surprise Tim drops on one knee on the Col de Reidmatten (2919m) and asks Thea to marry him! Thankfully she said yes as it could have been a long walk to Zermatt!!!
Whilst the summer's in full swing in the alps I am spending time slightly further a field this season. Earlier this month I met a group in the UK who traveled with me to Tanzania where we are spending a month on an expedition/holiday!
We flew via Nairobi and then took an internal flight to Kilimanjaro Airport - the heart of the National Park. From the plane the views of Kili and Mt Meru are stunning. Following a few days in Moshi to get organised, have an acclimitisation walk and meet our team of local guides/porters we set off for the mountain. Mount Kilimanjaro is the highest free standing mountain in the world which certainly adds to the appeal of climbing it. Kili, as it's known, is a volcano that last made any movements back in 1700 so the locals say.
We walked the Rongai Route, the north side, where the views look across to the mountains in Kenya. This route not only allows a reasonable amount of time to acclimatise but also enables you to see a lot of the mountain. You begin trekking at 1990m in the lush rain forests where colobus and blue monkeys can be spotted. Over the next 5 days before making your climb to the summit the journey takes you through many different vegetation changes from heath and moorland, alpine then sub-alpine zones. To the south the flat lands of Rift Valley go on as far as the eye can see. After a lovely relaxing night at Mawenzi Tarn camp we walked to Kibo Hut at 4703m to start our ascent. Our climb began at midnight - our team of 14 plus summit porters all with head torches made their way up the zig-zag trail towards Gilmans Point 5681m, which is the edge of the crater rim. We took plenty of rests and lots of water! The porters are your lifeline here - they carry the bags for those that are struggling with the altitude. Our team were lucky to acclimatise well for the whole trip. Only 4 needed to turn back after 5000m due to increasing headaches and fatigue. At 6.30am we made it to Gilman's for sunrise and drank the tea the porters took up for us. A further 2 hours walking along the crater rim is amazing, the views of Mt Meru, the clouds below in the Rift Valley and Kili's glaciers are amazing. Our now team of 10 reached Uhuru Peak, the Roof of Africa at 5895m!
Following a well earned rest after our climb and walk out we came back to the town of Moshi to rest by the pool and prepare for the next phase of our trip. Today we leave for Lambo village to a school. Where we are working as volunteers there for 10 days. The group have raised funds and will be working on a building project and teaching the children. Phase 3 of our trip is a safari and time to relax on the beach before a final stop in Dar es Salaam.
In my absence Lindsay's holding the fort and busy taking last minute bookings as we still have a few places left on summer trips. Soon you will have our full winter schedule online. You may have seen that we already have our new 'Jura Highlights' nordic ski weekends and will soon have online a Haute Savoie discovery week and pure Skate Ski weekends in Cogne, Italy. So plenty more to come!
In 2010 Tracks and Trails what selected and voted as one of 75 top 'green' travel companies for the Guardian Green Travel listing. In 2011 we have gained yet another stamp of approval from 'Much Better Adventures' - a website working to promote companies offering a genuine, sustainable approach to travel and adventures in the outdoors. Read on for more details on how we obtained such press and what we believe makes us naturally 'green'!