Wednesday, 1 May 2013

Fun in the Hills

Marathon completed….what now?
Time for fun – so for me that involves relaxing, eating, drinking, catching up with friends, and on this occasion….playing in the hills!

The first weekend after Lochaber, I headed down to Wales to catch up with my friend John, who was over from Ireland getting some climbing in. He was preparing for assessments which (in part) involves teaching novice rock climbers and getting them up some rock faces.  It has been years since I donned my harness and shoes, and so I was the perfect guinea pig.
Cwm Idwal
 Saturday in Capel Curig was beautiful and sunny so we headed off to the Idwal Slabs (Cwm Idwal) in the Ogden valley. A brisk walk in to the base of the slab took us away from the sun and next to some snow, but we could see a couple of other pairs of climbers already on the face. I debated whether I would actually be able to squeeze my feet into my climbing shoes (they were tight in Australia when I wore them with no socks, and the cold was definitely making thick socks a requisite), so John suggested I start in my inov8s and carry my shoes up with me to change into between pitches if necessary.

John sorting out the gear
It seemed easy to start off with, though I wasn’t very confident without my climbing shoes on, but John encouraged me to trust my feet and push up even when I was using tiny little ledges with half a toe on them. I dredged up a memory of being told that it was all about the legs pushing up and not using your arms to pull, and got back into the flow of it. Between pitches, I found it interesting to hear how people would be taught to set up belays and started to find myself looking for good positions if I had to do that.
Idwal Slabs

As we moved further up the rock, the sun seemed to tease us mercilessly……we would be about to move into a sunny patch, but then the route would veer away again, so my hands did get rather cold. Still, I really enjoyed it and it was fun to be out doing a different type of sport. Several pitches later we were at the top of the climb and then had some short-rope scrambling to do to the top, and again down the neighbouring gully to descend.

Finally we found a patch of sun, and I was allowed to sit down and eat. Almost a personal record for the length of time without food, but I hadn’t even noticed as I was too busy concentrating on both the climb and the amazing views. Full marks to my “instructor” as I never once doubted my safety or that I would make it up OK.

This weekend involved hills in a different way, as it was our club “hill race championship”. We have usually incorporated this into a proper hill race, but this year it was decided to use a local hill for the competition. This is less of an actual hill race, as it is short, and much of it is on forest roads, but means that more people come and have a go, rather than it just being the hillrunners.

Drawing the lads out!

Lotus Hill is only a few miles from Dumfries, and reaches a height of 321m. I have run a club race on it before and so knew the course was only about 3.5miles long, with 2 miles of that being on forestry roads, so I thought I’d go and join in, without having to worry too much about causing myself an injury and affecting upcoming events.

It was a drizzly dreary day and rather chilly, and so full body cover was tempting. However I knew that the offroad section would be ankle deep bog, meaning we’d end up filthy so I opted for shorts in the end….brrrr!
Over the summit..
The lads seemed to be running along together quite comfortably with no-one wanting to push the pace on (saving themselves to battle it out on the hill) so I had to run round them to get up a good pace on the opening forest road. This pushed a couple of them on and the group then stretched out, with a few moving ahead. Unfortunately the course was wrongly marked and marshalled so we had an extra mile to run – some on a step uphill part of the forestry road, and some through grass and bog as we descended back to the original course. Having thought it would just be a short run with only one section where I’d take it easy to avoid ankle twists, I had a bit of a sense of humour failure about the detour and so decided to power walk some of the hill.

Seriously? White off-road shoes??

Giving myself a stern lecture I started to run again and caught the man in front by the summit, which was in open moorland. That was my goal achieved, as I knew everyone would power past on the downhill – men seem much better about disengaging brains and going for it on downhill technical sections, whereas women worry about damaging themselves. Back to a forest trail, and I knew it was only a mile to the finish with the worst of the mud over and done with. I could hear my clubmate breathing heavily right behind me, and so I decided that if he was going to get past me in that final mile then I’d make him work for it. I managed to keep away from him and was actually glad of the challenge to push me all the way back.

Great to catch up with everyone afterwards over flapjack and water in the carpark, and then pizza and drinks back at the club!
What a lovely couple of weekends!

No comments:

Post a Comment