What a brilliant few weeks of filming for the BBC. I've been busy working as Producer/Director on The Adventure Show which has been a roller coaster of adventure sports events. First, we were off to film the Islands Peaks Race which involves competitors sailing/running from Oban, to Mull, Jura, Arran then back to Troon for the finish. The weather was foul and I was amazed by the guts and determination of the sailors and runners. They had no respite from the weather and sailed/ran through the night taking in the three highest peaks on the three islands - totally amazing. I think it should make great TV - once we've wiped all the sea spray from the film!
Next it was off to the Mountain Bike World Cup event at Fort William which was held last weekend. 300 competitors from 30 different counties comping in the Downhill and 4x events. It was my first time at the event and the atmosphere was electric, a real buzz going down. I cant recommend it enough, even if you are not that into mountain biking, because of the incredible skill and guts of the riders - it's well worth seeing.
In between times I have been Directing the man often referred to as Britians best known hill-walker, Cameron McNeish. There are times when I am struggling up a mountain laden down by the camera tripod with my knees buckling that I wish I was somewhere else, but it doesnt last long. These 'shoots' are a joy to work on - how can I possibly complain about a day on the mountain, fresh air, views to die for and good company. Cameron is no stranger to controversy in the outdoor community and is a man who is quite happy to speak his mind. For me that makes his company all the more enjoyable - there's plenty of 'crack' and good conversation. When not filming we have time to compare notes on our various mountain experiences and adventures, and plan the next ones!
Anyway, just back last night from filming with Cameron and camera man Paul Diffley from Hot Aches Productions on Ben Lawers. A stunning day, but absolutely 'baltic' on the summit - isn't this supposed to be June?
Join us for this latest Wild Walk on The Adventure Show on BBC2 Scotland or Sky Channel 990 towards the end of June. I will try and let you know the exact date once we know for sure.
Team 'Tracks and Trails' have just returned to the Peak District following the 2 day Lowe Alpine Mountain Marathon (LAMM). My team mate, who's also my husband, was mountain guide Olly Allen. A recipe for success or disaster?
Following a sunny climbing road trip and final run preperations in Wales and Northumberland, Olly and I started to make our way north for the LAMM. The LAMM, known as the 'connoisseurs' mountain marathon, is a 2 day mountain competition, in pairs, navigating along the way with an overnight camp. This means you carry all your own sleeping equipment, food and stove etc for 2 days on the hill.
This was my 3rd LAMM and the reason i'll travel so far for a race is due to the stunning, remote locations, idyllic half-way camp and the friendly atmosphere from start to finish. To add intrigue to the event the organisers keep the final meeting location under wraps right up until the day before. All we knew until then was it was 3.5 hrs drive north of Glasgow and 2 hrs from Inverness.....The final event details email was sent out last Thursday along with a severe weather warning! 'Heavy rain due, 0 degrees, gales, rain and snow above 600m, be prepared for wintery conditions!' The final location was Morvich, Kintail. Home to famous Five Sisters of Kintail, above Glen Shiel. So on Friday we made our way, in heavy rain, to the event centre point!
Morvich is on the edge of Kintail Forrest and the Duich Loch and not far from the Isle of Skye bridge - perfect location. To add further interest to the event we were bused to our starting point where you mark your map up with the control points and where we set off into the wilds for the next two days. The course we ran took us 26 miles over 2400m of ascent...and much to our amazement we benefitted from breezy, mild temperatures to run in and barely felt a drop of rain all weekend. It was also enough to keep the adorable midge at bay! The chat at the overnight was great and morale high. The camp was in a remote setting, munros all around, with a river and Loch on tap to bathe sore feet and legs in - the sunshine kept us warm whilst cooking and bite free! Amazing!
Following a cool night the bagpipes woke us at 5am! Our result on day 1, 29th pair (56mins off the leader) put us into the 'chasing start'. This means we had to start day 2 exactly 56 mins behind the lead pair! Those in the chasing start wear a bib so that others also 'out there' know that you to be hunted down! So as the seconds ticked we waited inline for our next set of controls and were away - straight up hill - yet again! Just as we approached control 2 we saw our first team to be hunted....this proved to be a bit of a fight but finally took them on another long climb. Later on we came across a couple of other tired looking male teams who we soon left behind!
Day 2 seemed to be continuously uphill, great for us as that's where we seemed to benefit with overtakes. The climbs also reward you with 360 degree views, if you can take a second to look, including over to Skye. The killer for me is the contouring for long distances, travelling at one height without a path on awkward ankle/knee twisting ground. After a long spell of this we came over the last peak and could finally see the event centre below! Breathing a sigh of relief we started picking up speed for the final descent, passing teams from all different categories. It was a great finale all the way back into the sunny finish grounds.
Our score for day 2 was 17th team - putting us into 25th over the 2 days out of 164 teams, 6th mixed team which we were really pleased with. Recipe for success - following very few 'discussions' on navigation, speed or who carried what - Olly's already getting details of the newest, lightweight kit on the market for 'next years' LAMM. So watch this space as I may well have converted this climber into a runner
As we speak Lindsay's on home turf up in the Highlands of Scotland touring some of the north's most famous and wild peaks. Full details of her unique trip will be posted soon.
In the meantime I too have been in the UK but visiting much smaller hills of the Peak District. Well perhaps small in size but definately not in character! The Peak District is an ideal place to head for biking by road or trail, on foot and on rock! If you have a trip to the Alps planned and want to get some strength in the legs then the Peak is ideal terrain for gaining fitness for any trip to the Alps and is so easily accessible from London and the South.
So with only a few weeks left before my return to Cham i've been enjoying a little rock climbing but mainly have been getting the legs back into running. With the Chamonix Marathon fast approaching the undulated Peak fells are an ideal place to train and go on for miles!
The fells are also great for summer races. For the past two weeks I've met with mountain guide Jon Morgan to run in local short races....brutal 6 milers. Fast and furious....not my thing really but I did surprise myself and managed a 5th and 3rd placing!
Next week my husband & guide, Olly Allen, and I take part a two-day mountain marathon in Scotland known as the Lowe Alpine Mountain Marathon..watch this space to see how that goes!
What a truly glorious welcome back to the Highlands, bue skies, sunshine, dry rock and stunning views. It's always a treat when I arrive back from an Alpine winter to find Scotland bathed in sunshine. After my stint in Orkney, I headed straight for Creag Meagaidh in the Highlands for a days navigation tuition with two clients/friends. Laminated maps and pacing guides in hand we strode off into the beautiful Coire Ardair and up the snow slope to the 'Window' and on round the tops to the summit. With snow still lying on the plateau and thick mist high up the day went from navigation practice to navigation for real and full on at that. However, it proved to Scott and Carole that the techniques of pacing and timing on a bearing do work - thankfully! Next day it was off to Glencoe and the delights of a blue sky and stunning ridge walk. When Scotland serves up a day like that it really is the best place in the world to be. No one around, and views of empty mountains as far as the eye can see. It never ceases to amaze me that there are so many places in Scotland where you have views of a wilderness area. Anyway, for Scott and Carole it finished off a week of great walking in good weather, with only one claggy day on Creag Meagaidh and even that was perfect for a navigation day. I will soon be heading off for a 6 day Highlands Hiking trip with two American clients and look forward to showing them Scotland - let's hope the weather behaves.
Waves crashing on the beach driven by the force of the Atlantic, sunshine sparking off the water, and the sound of seabirds overhead. A far cry from the Alps but offering just another example of nature in the raw, and providing the same opportunity to commune with the great outdoors. I know spring has arrived when I arrive in Orkney for my annual pilgrimage. A few weeks working at the BBC radio station which serves the Northern Isles, as I stand-in for Robbie who's off to do his lambing. In Orkney no one is in a mad rush, the elements of wind, and water are all around, and I find I generally acquire a slower pace of life - no bad thing it has to be said. Today I made my first trip over the causeway to the famous Brough of Birsay an isolated island off the Orkney mainland. Normally its cut off by the sea but for a few hours each day the tides part and allow passage to an island where there has been settlement since Pictish times. One thing for sure in Orkney is you never escape from a sense of being surrounded by the remains of ancient peoples and their communities. Anyway, a few more days to chill out and deliver the BBC news to the good folk of Orkney, and then its back to the Highlands of Scotland to join clients Scott and Carole in the mountains.
We keep saying it I know, but we really have had a great season of snow. I first dusted off my 'skinny skis' in November & I can't believe it's now April and I'm still able to teach & train on my cross country (xc) skis.
Apart from various trips to the Jura mountains near Geneva (see last blog) I have also spent time xc skiing in one of my favorite locations close by, Val Ferret in the Italian Val d'Aosta.
Val Ferret features highly in a variety of our trips; from walking the Tour du Mont Blanc & Nordic Walking in the summer to snowshoeing upto the Bonnati Hut and cross country skiing in the winter. Apart from being a beautiful remote valley with views of the 'Italian side' of Mont Blanc (or Monte Bianco) and other 4,000m peaks, great Italian cuisine & sunshine!!!!! Val Ferret has some fantastic cross country ski tracks - so much so it was the obvious location to base our Italian Ski weekend.
This winter we have run two Italian Ski Weekends one 'with a twist'! The weekend, designed for beginners and improvers, consists of 3 days of skiing in the Aosta Valley, visiting a variety of locations, learning the skills and technique of both the classic and skating styles. Each day also features a little more than the skiing too, apres ski in Courmayeur, a visit to the thermal baths and the 'twist' for one of our weekends was to also snowshoe upto the Bonatti Hut!
Our Bonatti Hut 'expedition' consisted of us .....cross country skiing with our snowshoes strapped to our backpacks and then swapping our skis for snowshoes to make our way up to the hut. As the sunset we sat watching the 'alpine glow' on the peaks around us whilst sipping champagne in celebration my clients 25th wedding anniversary. What better way to spend such a special day!
The best part about my job - on quiet days getting away to explore a new area! NEW for winter 2010 - visit the Jura!
Sitting on the border of both France and Switzerland, the Jura, a limestone plateau, lies very close to Geneva. Steeped in history, geology and gastronomy it also has mountains that go on for miles but unlike the jagged peaks of the Alps it's of the 'Nordic rolling' variety. Therefore being ideal for so many activities; walking, Nordic walking, biking, snowshoeing and of course cross country skiing! Consider this….175km of cross country skiing as a continuous journey! In 1978 the Grandes Traversees du Jura, GTJ, was completed and is a long distance trail for all these sports! Along the way you can travel by which ever means from hotel to hotel or auberge with a small pack covering 20km per day or more!
Cross country ski enthusiasts will always quite rightly recommend the Scandinavian countries multi-day journeys. The Jura, however, also has a great deal of ski potential to offer. So much so you can easily ski for 30km or more without seeing another soul! It’s all track skiing for both skates and classic styles. The holiday potential for exploration is endless, with hundreds of km’s of other track skiing along the way not to mention the snowshoe potential.
In February I completed the ‘Tranjurasienne’ 54km skate race – a great way of seeing some of the route! And my Mum (very apt nearly being Mother’s Day!) needs to be congratulated on her first ever ski event finishing 1st in her age group in the 10km classic!
The GTJ will soon feature on our ski pages for 2010 as both a Scheduled Departure, traversing the region in 7 days, or as a Bespoke holiday.
The week long snowshoe trip in the Valais region of Switzerland is in full swing. We have had the best week of the winter so far in terms of weather; absolutely scorching sunshine, blue skies, and very little wind. Our team have had some great days in the mountains with trips so far this week to Vicheres, Swiss Val Ferret, Mont de l'Arpille, and the Grand St Bernard Monastery. The Monastery was, as always, a wonderful experience and a real haven of peace and reflection in the mountains. For nearly a thousand years the monks of the world famous hospice have offered hospitality and respite to weary travellers, and our team was no exception! The sweet tea served by Brother Frederick on arrival was especially welcome after the long climb and the heat of the day. I think the views we have had this week have been just incredible with some wonderful ascents of Cols and summits offering Mont Blanc, Mont Velan, the Grand Combin, the Grand Jorasses, and the Gran Paradiso to name just a few. With a day still to go the team are already looking to return next year. If you are interested in joining us get in touch!
Last week saw the successful completion of the 3rd ever Mont Blanc Snowshoe week, led by Tracks and Trails in association with KE Adventure Travel. So what makes a trip a success? Well, for me, it's a combination of several factors. For this week, in particular, the group dynamics has to rate highly on the list - a group of 5, 2 guys/3 girls - all with different and interesting careers, lifestyles, interests and different walking CV's and Rob Wymer, an Aspirant International Mountain Leader, out gaining snowshoe experience with groups in preparation for his leader assessment. Our common denominator - walking in the mountains in winter!
Secondly, as mentioned so many times on our blog to date, the SNOW! Snowshoeing does happen to work very well in snow, not to mention fresh powder and boy did we get our fare share. After our first day up at Chalet Loriaz we had continuous snow for 3 days - which was a perfect opportunity for everyone to have the chance to break trail, learn about essential avalanche safety, route choices and staying safe by reading and assessing the terrain on route. Then following the snowy days we had some blue sky days....all in a weeks work - it's a hard job to beat!
I would also like to mention, which was voted by our team as the best day of the week, our summit of Mont Arpille at 2085m which is actually on Swiss turf. And if that wasn't enough for one day it was followed by a (voluntary....) night-snowshoe to the rustic Savoyard restaurant and Auberge of La Boerne at the hamlet of Tre le Champs where we refueled with 'tarteflette', a local dish made with creamy Reblochon cheese! So if this type of week appeals to you we still have places on our March - Mont Blanc Snowshoe Week.
Catching up on admin is enough to drive anyone out the door! As a goal to get through the emails I organised an afternoon snowshoe with Lindsay, Mark and Cynthia. We saw yet more snow fall in the valley today and I guess some might decide that it's best to stay in on a cloudy/snowy day but in actual fact snowshoeing is an ideal way to enjoy those less than sunny days! Whilst the snow falls in exposed areas it can feel, gloomy and bleak but if you stick to the trees then you can enjoy nature at work and watch the snowfall whilst having the forest canopy as your umbrella.
Our route took us up to the Glacier des Bossons where we had close-up 'wintery views' of the tongue of blue ice that dominates the village of the same name, Les Bossons. The Bossons glacier is famous for several reasons, it descends a total of 3600m, which makes it the largest icefall in Europe, it advances at a rate of 1m each day plus it's margin reaches the lowest altitudes in Europe.
So we walked and talked our way through the woods to a viewpoint where we enjoyed coffee and chocolate. Our 2h30 round trip was enough to blow the cobwebs away and feel like you've got some exercise - not to mention catching up on the Chamonix gossip along the way.