Saturday, 31 December 2011

Run in the Carneddau

Well, thats what we'll be heading up in a bit
It seems that at the moment, its all the rage to go out on reccies for the Trigger, a Marsden to Edale race. The tricky bits are on our doorstep, and so it makes sense. I've been on a grand total of 1, and when an email came out at the beginning of the week about a potential run in Wales, with a route in the Carneddau being proposed I jumped at the chance to run somewhere I haven't really properly run. I can go out the back door and run round Kinder and Bleaklow any time, but Wales tends to need a little more planning.
The route was about 17 miles, and helpfully, spread between the 2 sides of the Snowdonia Explorer map. (Having now run around the route, I'm convinced that the reason for not running in the area before simply because of the map faff factor, but thats another thing).
So pick up from Glossop at 7:15, which ended up as being a little bit later, and we were eventually on the road by 8, arriving in the destination carpark at about 10ish- with some rather fine driving up some very dodgy roads by Andy in his Landrover. Getting there in a Rover or a Nissan Micra- the other 2 options, may not have worked quite so well.

At the carpark there were already a number of other cars, the weather was fairly overcast, but not (yet) raining), we put our stuff on, I performed my first trip of the day, getting my mudclaws caught in a bag and falling backwards out of the Landy, but no serious damage was done. Decisions on what items of clothing to wear and take were interesting. It wasn't all that cold, but it promised to be pretty chilly later on, and also wet. I ended up with Mudclaws, thick wooly teko socks, CW-X leggings, a merino helly and Rab Stretch Vaporize, with a buff, hat and lobster sealskin gloves on, just for good measure. Proshell gortex in the bag, with a pair of £10 Quechua waterproof trousers for emergencies.
Too hot on the way up the first hill
A brief discussion about the potential route and off we went. Nice and steady up a decent path. We rounded Clogwynyreyr at a low level, crossed the river, seeing a bird which I could not identify- which is the first time in a long time, and started the climb up toward Foel Fras. Walking mode engaged. After a while Andy and John started stripping layers, saying that they knew it wasn't going to be long before they were putting them back on. I was the only one without waterproof socks, but apparently, after the bog we had traipsed through, I was not the only one with cold, wet feet. Coming up, we hit the snow that was smattered across the hill, and continued up to the ridge, and then followed the wall to the top.

Foel fras Trig
Ice on a fence

A couple of photos of the ice, and off we went, also finding some rather spectacular ice formed on a fence- which actually fell off about 10 seconds after I took the photos. Across and onto the path, and through icy mud and bog water up to Garnedd Uchaf. The mist coming and going as we forged along, so that the view off to Foel Grach and the Carneddi was there, and suddenly obscured. On up to Foel Grach, and then a decision.
Bog-tastic running
The original plan was to drop from Foel Grach to Ffynnon Caseg and then go directly up the side of Yr Elen, probably involving 300metres of height loss and another 300 metres of height gain. Or, we could run along the ridge to Carrnedd Llewelyn, and then down West along to Yr Elen. The Descent/Ascent route was canned for future amusement as the route up Yr Elen looked a tad dodgy with a lot of snow and ice, and we ran across the ridge to a very snowy and icey Llewelyn. The wind was beginning to get up, and the rain was slowly making itself felt, but we forged on down and over to Yr Elen, stopping for a brief moment behind some stones in order to put on waterproofs as it was getting a tad wet and cold.
Icy descent
We got wetter and colder by standing still for a moment, before heading back out and warming up on the run down the scree path, and then up the hill to the peak of Yr Elen. Nothing like cycling- where if you get cold feet, they stay cold, with running, if my feet are cold, I just need to get moving, and they just seem to re-warm... as long as I am moving fast enough. My hands were still toasty in the seal skins, though with the constant taking my hand out and putting it back in for various things, the inners were getting a little wet.

From the peak of Yr Elen, in the wind, looking down at Ffynnon Caseg, and thinking what a lovely place it would be for a swim... in the summer, we picked our line off the hill to the South in preparation for going right down into the valley, and then climb back out up to Carnedd dafydd. There is a lovely grade 1 scramble up one of the ridges, but it was decided that with all the snow and ice up there at the moment, it might not have been the best idea in the world, so we instead decided to go up earlier, hit the ridge and head to the peak from there. The descent was excellent, we picked a great line that missed out 2 patches of scree, the hill was ridiculously steep, and as long as you didn't hit any stone patches, you could generally stay on your feet. Not even Mudclaws can grip on wet rock, and we all spend some time not necessarily on our feet.
Off Yr Elen

Hit the bottom, crossed the stream and straight up the other side. Hearts pounding we ascended a fair way, and just before getting to the top, recognising that this was going to be the most shelter we were going to get before well, almost the end of the run, we decided to stop and have lunch. John handed around coffee, sandwiches were broken out, and we looked at a rather delightful vista spread before us. I noticed a rock tumbling down from where we were stood. As it fell, I thought, hmmm. thats black, I didn't realise there was coal up here. We watched it go for a short while and John said. "Hang on. Thats the top to my flask". We waited for it to stop, and thankfully, it only went about 25 metres down, and he set off after it, with Andy and I chuckling and digging about for our cameras.
Retrieval of coffee top
John located it with our help- shouting left, right, up and down, and slowly came back up, with Andy helpfully commenting that John HAD mentioned he might do reps of the hill.

Up and onto the ridge, and the wind was really howling, the rain was driving, and we slogged up the hill, hoods up. The rain was pounding into the side of my hood, without that I suspect I'd have had rain driven right through my ear. The noise was almost so loud that I thought my ears were going to start ringing. The frozen turf was ok, but as soon as we reached bands of scree that we had to cross, each and every one of us started imitating Bambi on ice. No grip whatsoever. Wet rock and fellshoes do not mix in any way shape or form, and if anyone knows of a shoe that might grip on that kind of stuff, please start selling it. Average speed, already not all that fast was cut in half on the rock, and it was all we could do to find the fastest way across it to get back onto frozen grass again.
Toward the top, of course, its entirely wet, icy, frozen rock, so we teetered along, completely unsure of any footing, with wind and rain howling around us. Needless to say there was no photo stop as we gathered our thoughts and trotted off toward Carnedd Llewellyn. A lot of that track is also slick rock, so average speed across there wouldn't have broken many records either, and as we crossed the NE/SW ridge, the wind gathered speed and strength so that we could barely walk, let alone run... standing still involved comedic levels of lean into the wind, and footing was still pretty unstable and uncertain.

shelteres side of the ridge
Across there, and we decided to head to the top of the hill in order to gain the ridge going East towards Penywaur-wen. The trudge to the top of the hill was a bit of a slog, going over snow and ice, and looking off down nigh on sheer drops of snow covered ground. Route finding from the top in the thick mist was fairly amusing, but with a map and compass, it was all quite easy, and we turned down the snowy ridge. As we dropped onto the ridge the wind that had been battering us for the past few miles relented, and we ran along a very misty ridge line. Most of the time we could run unimpeded, though there were a couple of spectacular rock steps that needed to be negotiated on feet, hands and bum, steepness and worry about foot grip being the main issues. We eventually hit Helgi Du, with a great scramble tagged on the end of the run, and took a line off the hill which took us between 2 crags and and down some very steep ground. As we did this, the mist lifted and the valley which we were heading down to was spread out before us in glorious relief.
Andy looking for his camera
Camera out, photos.
Andy was a little slow with his camera, fishing about in his bag, and by the time he had it out, the cloud had come in again. Camera safely back in the bag, and it cleared... right. I'll send him some of mine then.
Off down the hill, again missing a couple of crags, opting for steep, (but not sheer) ground. Down and down, through bog and mush, round a few horses which Andy has a mighty aversion to, over a river, up a bog and back onto a path, which would lead us back to the car.
We were up there. In the mist.
The final run back to the car wasn't bad, and we held a decent pace all the way, making it back to the car park about 10 mins after sundown with the light just beginning to fail. Perfect timing.

A decent 26km day out in the hills, never mind reccying for races, THIS is what fell running is about.
And if you are interested, here is the Garmin track

Kit thoughts

Tall tales in the pub
Generic kit in the landy
I kept the Helly and the Vaporise top on all day, with my camera in the chest pocket. I didn't get too hot or sweaty (though I did get a little hot and sweaty... but thats running for you), and covering up with the Proshell, I was expecting to get quite uncomfortable, but despite keeping it on for the rest of the day, it was absolutely fine. The tights were excellent, as ever, slightly windproof, in fact, so windproof that I felt colder in the one place that I have managed to get a hole in the knee than anywhere else. The socks were wet through within about 5 mins, but as long as we were moving, feet stayed warm, the gloves, as ever, were excellent, my hands got wet eventually, but as long as the pace was kept up, they stayed warm. Shoes were great, except, as pointed out previously, on wet rock, but that was to be expected.

Friday, 23 December 2011

Glossopdale Solstice run

I realise that I am writing about one run after another here, and I really don't intent to write about every single run I do, however, recently we have had some interesting stuff going on, snowy runs, wet runs, and last night, the solstice run. Marking an end to the ever-shortening nights, and welcoming the (somewhat slow) return to longer daylight hours.
along Kinder edge with Manchester in the Background
My introduction to the solstice run was in the summer when we happened to be out on the Summer solstice, and halfway round, John got out some home-made rocket fuel and some shot glasses, and we toasted the longest day. This year, the Winter solstice also conveniently fell on a club run night as well, and a group of 9 of us gathered at Bowden Bridge carpark in order to head up to Kinder Downfall to toast the coming lightening of days.

At Bowden bridge there was another gaggle of runners- our Pennine Breathren were out in force, just off on their club run for the week. I never realised they had so many members... a fair few more of them on a fairly average club night than we had for the end of year social. Still- its great to be in a small and cosy club like Glossopdale. Lynne was also out this evening, but was off on her own for a slightly more sedate night run around the lower reaches of Kinder.
Pennine headed off up toward Sandy Heys, and there was a brief moment where we had to make sure we didn't lose any of our runners (or the dog) off with a different club (yes, it has happened before), and set off up to Kinder Low end. Halfway up I did a quick audit and we were one member down.
Hang on guys... where's Chris?! A short stop enabled him to catch up with ease- nothing about losing way, just faffage at the carpark, pure and simple.
After a ridiculously fast start we trundled up and over toward Low End, but with a bit of a breeze coming in, opted to run along the side, and then upward from there. We spread out quite considerably, from Julien out in front to John, who had already been in the pub earlier on in the day, and was carrying 500ml of sherry and a tub of mince pies...
I took the opportunity to take a few pictures (having been inspired by my attempts on the previous snowy run), but only took a point and shoot- SLRs being a bit too big and fragile to be taking night running- and besides, its not actually my camera to break...

mmmm. Mince pies. In bits.
After scrambling up and over through Red Brook, we regathered and forged along the top path, and across to the Downfall. The wind, by this point had changed direction, and we had a bit of an issue finding a sheltered area, and, in hindsight, probably chose the worst possible place to gather for the feast.
bilberry vodka
The mince pies came out, as did the sherry, and once that was all gone, (John insisted that he wasn't going to carry it down with him), Julien produced a bottle of home-made bilbery vodka- which smelled of aniseed and had quite a kick.
After a we had toasted various versions of days getting longer etc, we packed the bits and pieces away and headed off along the path and split at the top of Sandy Heys, one group coming straight down, and the others continuing along for a while before dropping down a rather delightful grassy descent.

I took the shorter route- partially because I was a little concerned for my Phantom Toe Injury, and partially because I was taking my new Inov8 Mudclaw 333's out for their first taste of mud. On the way down conversation inevitably turned to the subject of the coming decisions to be made about the club championships for 2012. There are a lot of opinions, and no matter what the final decision, some people will be happy, some will be annoyed, but you can't please everyone.
However it turns out, I suspect we will all be out for the races, enjoying the cameraderie and banter of being in a club, and although it does matter who wins, part of the pleasure of racing against your friends in the club is that you are having a good time while doing it. (or maybe not WHILE you're racing, its more likely to be afterward, but thats another thing...)

Post run we dropped into the Star in Glossop, where they had the locally brewed Dark Peak ale (thanks to Howard Town brewery). Excellent stuff, though quite strong at about 6.4%. Last to leave the pub and a bit of a stagger home. What a delightful evening.
My toe appears to be better, to a point, well, there were other bits of my foot that hurt more than my phantom toe due to hot spots from the shoes... but thats for another blog.

Tuesday, 20 December 2011

Inov8 Race elite 3 (preview)

I reviewed the Race Elite 2 a while back, and generally it turned out to be a very useful little bag. However, I found it just a tad too small for the longer runs I was setting out on. I didn't want to use a rucksack with a water bladder, something like the Osprey talon 5.5- which is great for ridiculously long runs- but something still bumbag sized so that I could get used to the feeling of one when running. The reason for this is so that when on a race with a small kit list, I can fit it all in a small bumbag and be used to running with the weight. I found that when I started running with the Elite 2, I was a little put off by the weight around my waist, and running with a rucksack wasn't getting me used to it.

What I needed was a bumbag with a bit more room than the Elite 2, and a water bottle- give me enough space for food, water and enough clothing to keep me warm should the weather turn nasty- and you need more of that in the winter than in the summer. The Elite 3 seemed like quite an obvious candidate. I have never really seen another fellrunner with the Elite 3, but I have seen a number with the OMM 4 litre bag. I was interested in that, however, I wanted a bag with the water bottle in the centre (or at least diagonally across it) so that it is stable. The OMM 4 has the bottle on one side, which, it seems to me would be a little unstable when the bottle was full.

So taking the plunge I was able to get hold of a Race Elite 3. (no, nothing spectacular. My sister bought it for me as a birthday gift).
The provided bottle

Immediate differences to the Elite 2 (apart from the obvious bottle, and 2 pockets instead of 1) is that the waist belt is a lot thicker and sturdier than the elite 2- to be more comfortable with the slightly heavier weight, one would guess. The wings are bigger to accommodate the extra storage space, with the pocket on the left being waterproof-y type material, and the one on the left, stretchy mesh- end result being that the bum bag ends up feeling a little like a comfortable rucksack hip belt. The bottle is held in the holder with elastic wrapped around the outside, and tightened across the top of the bottle. The reason for getting this particular model was because the diagonal fashion of the waterbottle.

the elasticated bottle holder
It fits a lot of stuff in it- unsurprisingly. The danger here is over stuffing it and carrying more than you really need. On a recent run (of about 36km) I had 3 bars, a waterproof top, spare gloves, compass, waterproof trousers, cut down map, and a waterproof bag with some odds and sods in it (mobile phone and the like). A lot more than I could have fit in the 2 litre one, and that kind of stuff would have been rattling around in a rucksack. The water bottle configuration was excellent, easy to get hold of as I was on the move (I am right handed, if you're a lefty, it might make things a little more difficult) and its a bit of a faff getting it back in, but it is brilliantly stable- not like a bottle on one end of a bag dragging you down on one footstep and not the other.
Over all, it seems a good size- and when I was out last time, I ended up wearing pretty much every single piece of clothing I took with me- I got a tad cold, (and didn't take enough food, but thats another story).

slightly sturdier right pocket
My one minor gripe with it at the moment, after a couple of runs is that the buckle clip thing is placed in such a way that it sits directly on top of my ASIS (anterior superior iliac spine- the nobbly bit on the front of the hip). The clippy bit of the buckle is the one that adjusts, but the solid part is sewn on and is unadjustable. Most probably a weight saving thing, but its in just the wrong place for me, and I have to move the entire bag around a bit in order to get it comfortable. Slightly annoying.

Mesh left pocket
Shame I don't have any pics of me actually out and wearing it in action, however, I haven't been out running with anyone to take pictures of me... ah well.

So- so far, it appears to be stable, carry enough stuff to be useful in the autumn/winter for a decent 5 hour jaunt,  has a decently thick waist belt, (but with a minor issue with the belt buckle) but it fills the gap between an emergency bumbag and a rucksack very well indeed.
If both buckles were adjustable it would be just about perfect. We'll have to see how it fares in the next few months, when I suspect it will get a fair amount of use and abuse.

Monday, 19 December 2011

A non-run run (Glossopdale annual Christmas Bash)

Yesterday was Glossopdale Harriers Christmas-do. The morning being taken up by a bit of a run up into the hills, and then the afternoon with a social occasion in someones house. We woke up to about 2-3 inches of snow on the ground outside the house, with snow still coming down. Not just a bit of snow, but full on decent heavy flakes. Fluffy stuff. Brilliant, it was going to be fantastic up the hill!
A group portrait of GDH
However, I had a minor issue. As you may have noticed from the past couple of posts, my phantom toe injury is still plaguing me, and I'm not really able to run around properly- despite the prognosis of a "hurty toe" and the introduction of double strength ibuprofen into my life.

As very flexible fellshoes are not particularly great for my toes specifically- propelling off the one that hurts for long periods of time- well, short periods actually- really hurts- I decided to go out in stiff soled boots. If the sole is very stiff, I can propel myself off the entire foot without putting undue pressure on the toe that hurts. Genius. I'm kind of resting it, while getting out and about. Great.

So I appointed myself photographer, borrowed Lynnes SLR, and dressed accordingly for a cold day out. As the runners were going to be taking minimal gear, I thought as I was taking up a rucksack, I might as well make it full of useful stuff, so included extra gloves, hats, a couple of insulative jackets, a bothy bag, first aid kit, flask of hot ribena, food, water, an ice axe, crampons and a small hip flask of Blackberry Vodka. With all of that, it was a relatively heavy bag, and I ended up with a pair of 3/4 running tights on under some Windstopper G2 trousers, a base layer with a fleece and my Dragon jacket over the top.
After walking over Shirehill with Lynne, the fleece came off. Far too hot for that, despite ankle deep snow on the ground.
What was interesting was that after a good few months with fell shoes being the footwear of choice around the hills, walking boots felt quite slippery with not a lot of grip. I took some walking poles as well, to help me along, and provide a bit of stability as well.

Everyone was gathering in the turning circle in Old Glossop, being amused by the few people who turned up in fancy dress. Juliens dog Brae ran around chasing snowballs and at 10:10 (or thereabouts) I took a few photos, worked out where they were going so that I could chase and put myself in a logical place for when they came down, and off they went.

Runners in the mist- you can just see them
I decided to follow at a decent pace, which I could do with the poles, despite the potential toe issue, and the heavy pack, and was able to get a few photos of them running through the snow up into the mist. To begin with, snow was all over the place, and there was really low visibility only a little higher up the hill- very low cloud ensured that- so the runners looked like they were heading off up into the mist. I carried on at a fair pace, and because there were so many of them, there were a few times when they must have stopped and had a group discussion, because by the time I got to Mossy Lea, I was certainly catching them up. I was also sweating like a demon.
weather clearing behind
Only one thing for it, trousers off, and just go for it in my running tights. The removal of clothing took a couple of minutes, and by the time I was ready to go again, they had completely disappeared into the mist up toward Lower Shelf. The mist, it has to be said, by this time was beginning to lift, and I could see blue sky behind me down over glossop (through the clouds). I could also see touches of blue above me, so by the time we got to the top, it was going to be pretty special.
Again, runners heading off into the mist

The tracks of 25 people and 3 dogs were pretty easy to follow, so I hared off up the track, fairly certain that I would catch them up before too long. It was tiring work, and I couldn't go as fast as I wanted because I needed to keep the camera bag relatively stable. If it started to swing around it got very uncomfortable, and hampered me even more so, that eventually I had to stop moving in order to sort it out.
Fairly obvious tracks
(another point, how do you run with a camera, especially an SLR so that it doesn't get in your way when running, but is relatively easy to get to when you really need to get to it quickly? I sense a bit of a challenge coming on)
As I forged my way up the hill, through the snow, I noticed my feet slipping even more, and thought I would probably need to put my crampons on pretty soon- I turned a corner, and saw figures up ahead, maybe 400 metres away, again, slipping slowly into the clouds. I redoubled my efforts knowing that they were not too far ahead, they were probably going to stop soon, and I didn't need to.
Up, and round a corner, they weren't there, and the foot steps carried on, follow, follow, follow, andother corner, and a brightly coloured assortment of runners were standing in the snow just about to set off.
Camera out, more photos.
Caught up with them all

You can just make out the A group in the mist
Off up the hill to the top of James Thorn where the A group continued East towards Higher Shelf Stones and the Trig point, and the B group turned North, across the snow covered moor toward Dowstone Clough and the descent. I was there to take a couple of photos of the B group floundering in the snow- though it was a shorted route, it certainly wasn't the "easier" route in any way shape or form, also managed to get a shot or 2 of the A group, again, disappearing up into the mist. I decided that now was a good time to try out my crampons, so stopped for a short while to clip them on and off I charged in the direction of the B group, remembering Ueli Stecks words "one rule of old school alpinists- Never. Never run in crampons." I decided to follow what he does, rather than what others have said in the past, and jogged across the snow covered moor, once again following footsteps in the snow.
The B group taking the "easy" option
The cloud began to lift from the moor as I went across it, so the B group came into view quite quickly. Forging my way across I soon caught up with them, more photos, and more running until we hit Dowstone. A quick stop for a sampling of the Blackberry Vodka and a look around the somewhat spectacular snowcovered, and now non-cloud-covered landscape, and back down the hill, past Dog rock as the sun came out, and onwards down the Shelf moor race route, with rocks occasionally causing slight stumbling blocks below the snow.

I was able to get some good shots of people running through the snow, but still wasn't able to move quite as fast as I would like- partially because of the camera bag issue. However, the crampons gave me as much confidence as I would have had with a pair of fellshoes on, I just had to be a little more careful of where I was putting my feet- thankfully, I finished the run with no blood anywhere on my legs.

Catching up with the B group again
The A group eventually caught us up at one of the stiles, so I took photos of them running in, and we all set off back down Lightside to the bottom. I played sweeper ensuring everyone got off the hill, though it would have been nice if there was someone else with me to encourage and help out the less experienced runners who got left waaaay behind.
So, a lot of pictures, and not "really" a run, but an excellent day out, nevertheless.
Well deserved fortification

The afternoon was excellent as well, Charlie very generously opened his house to the masses, we brought food (and took the comments previously made of "please, No mince pies", the only mince pies in the house were mince pie flavoured crisps....)
There was food and drink aplenty, and much fun was had by all.
It doesn't get much better than this
The club championships were awarded with Julien winning the overall Championship (by a whisker), Gwyn winning the mid-week championship (by a mile), Kirsty got the female championship, and Lindsay won the female mid-week championship.
There were also a few other prizes, Ian had accumulated most points across all races during the year, Nev got most improved runner, I won best newcomer (which surprised me somewhat), and Beryl was recognised for her continuing contributions and dedication to the club.

A lovely day, thanks to all involved, and especially thanks to Charlie and Annie for opening their house to us motley lot. Thankyou.

Kilted men in the snow. What more can I say?
GDH heading off the tops.
And someone did manage to get a picture of me as well, with the weather clearing behind me.

Saturday, 17 December 2011

Mountain Equipment Combin Pants

I have had my Mountain Equipment Combin pants for a few years now and thought its about time I got around to writing about them. I had been searching for the holy grail of trousers for walking in the hills for a good number of years, and it seems that I may have found it. Trousers have always been too hot, too cold, got too heavy and cold in the wet, were too hot when you put rain trousers on over the top, stuck to your legs and made you hypothermic, and in general nasty.

Combin Pants- are advertised as Mountain Equipments "lightest year-round mountaineering pant. Equally at home on a high alpine traverse as it is on the GR5." It took a while for me to get over the price of the Combin Pants, the current asking price of £120 is pretty steep, but I thought that to get something really good, you need to pay for it.
So I bit the bullet and found a garment that appears to work very very well indeed.

Combin Pants are made from a Schoeller fabric. That, on its own, should make your ears prick up. Schoeller are renowned for making groundbreaking materials in the outdoor industry, and Mountain Equipment have used it very well indeed here.
Bobbled after a LOT of use.
The material in use here is Schoeller Dryskin Extreme-  the claims are pretty out there. The Scholler website claims it to be"Wind and water repellent, breathable and hard-wearing stretch fabric with functional fibers on the inside for rapid moisture transfer." This is almost too good to be true, or at least, that's what I thought when I first looked at it. Still. If you're going to take the plunge, it may as well be for something you've not tried before as something you have tried and know doesn't work.

Initial thoughts of them were that, yes, they were very comfortable, and yes, definitely stretchy. They may well be a little heavy weight for summer walking, and maybe not warm enough for very cold winter days. However, comfort-wise, very nice. The belt is a flat webbing belt, so it doesn't get in the way if carrying a heavy pack with waist belt, the buckle, again, is designed as flatline as possible, with no protruding nobbly bits to make things uncomfortable, and the closure of the top of the trouser is a very simple and elegant 2 popper affair. They keep them up, and in the correct place for wearing. So the basics are covered.
2 of the zips. Really quite stealth like

It has 4 pockets, which also double as vents. one each on the left and right hip, a deeper one on the lower left thigh and one on the right buttock. They are all zipped (zippers having string attached to them to make for opening and closing easier with gloves etc)- also, as a side note, the zips are of excellent quality. We all know what its like trying to open a zip which has too much or too little friction for the fabric around it- not so here. Perfect functionality.
As mentioned, the pockets act as vents as well, and are very good at their job. You notice when they are open, especially when it is cold. If you are standing in the wind, and you notice that your leg appears to be slightly chilly, I can guarantee that you will have left one of the pockets open. Close it up and the leg instantly gets warm again. Equally, hacking up a hill and legs getting hot- open the pockets and they begin to cool down.
This along with the breathability of the fabric means that I don't think I've ever really had a day when they were too hot- even though they are Black.

In the rain, the cold and the snow of - well, autumn, winter and spring in the UK, again, the Combin Pant excelled. In all but the heaviest shower you can carry on wearing them- to a point, they will repel water, but once they get wet, they dry very quickly indeed. The fabric is windproof to a ridiculous degree- so much so that I prefer them to windstopper trousers simply as they are just as good in the wind, and more versatile as they can be worn when the weather gets warmer. As mentioned before, the only time I got a cold leg in the wind was when I inadvertantly left a pocket open... When it gets really cold, a pair of thermals underneath, and hey presto, they are fine for ridiculously cold temperatures.

The zips on the 4 pockets have never got stuck, the material is robust, its been climbed in, scrambled in, dragged across rocks, brambles, heather, cramponed, etc. and still it works well and has no holes to speak of.
Places to thread your bottom of trouser strings
There are no strings in the bottom of the legs, but there is a hem with holes in should you wish to attach your own. And as this is an all year round garment, there is no internal gaiter- which is perfect for wearing normal gaiters with. (internal gaiters and ANOTHER pair of gaiters on top are a nightmare of sweaty bottoms of legs)- again, the Scholler fabric comes into its own especially when wearing softshell gaiters. I think with that combination I had the most amazing experience of trousers and gaiters without getting hot and sweaty. Astonishing.
Washing is simple, just like any other garment, and when on a multiday hike, because they dry so fast, you can wash them on the go- as it were. Or, like me, just wear them everyday, I hate to say it, but even after a number of days continual wear (I've not counted the days, but it was pretty nasty), they never once became uncomfortable. 
The fit is excellent and the 4-way stretch make them so comfortable to wear its quite unbelievable.
I think the reason I haven't reviewed them before is because they work so well, it hardly seems necessary to review them.

I've used them in the UK across the whole gamut of weather, also multi day trekking in Canada (they were the only pair of trousers I took on a 3 week holiday), Colorado in February, and a whole number of other countries that don't come to mind right now. I've used them for climbing, walking, trekking, scrambling,  and on occasion running.
In Summer, in Winter, for pretty much anything outdoors, (unless it is absolutely throwing it down), this is my choice of pant. Hands down. No question. I suppose I am a bit spoiled now, and everything else I try on has to come up to the standard of the Combins.

I suspect that if Mountain Equipment tried to make these in another material, they really wouldn't work so well, so perhaps this isn't just a review of an item of clothing made by them, I suppose it is also a ringing endorsement of Schoeller and their fabric. I don't own anything else made by them, but if this is a typical example of what they do then I can fully understand why anything made with their fabric is so expensive. Its not a "waterproof membrane" that doesn't live up to expectations, but rather a stretch fabric that exceeds all possible imaginings.
Ignore the price.
Buy them.

(Apologies for the somewhat rave review. I re-read it and I sound like an evangalist for Mountain Equipment. I'm not really, but these trousers are excellent. I thoroughly recommend them- my girlfriend now has a pair, as does my sister, they love them too). No idea if they still make them as I can't find them on the current website, but if you can get a hold of them. Do.

Friday, 16 December 2011

Phantom Toe injury part 2

It hasn't been getting better. I'm finding that as I walk, I'm pulling up on the extensors on top pf my foot so as not to press the toe on the floor because its so painful when I catch it wrong. So I did the semi-intelligent thing and booked in to see a GP.
I thought that one of 2 things would happen, either it would clear up and I would be running down there saying, oh, well, it hurt, but I just want to check that its gone, or, the alternative, I'd need it amputated, or the like.

It was about 2 days ago when I booked the appointment so I figured it would give it time to play its cards, as it were. This morning, yes, the pain is certainly still there, I was hobbling all the way down to the doctors, ah well, amputation it is then.
The toe is ever so slightly more red than the others, but there appears to be nothing more wrong with it than that. Except that it REALLY hurts when I weight it.

Told all this to the doctor, who looked very serious, prodded it. I said OW! in the appropriate places, hmms, and haahs, and a quick look with the light thing, and a not so exciting outcome.
As the pain only really comes when prodded in a certain direction (as opposed to being all over the toe, hurting every which way you prod it)- infection is pretty much out. No pain when squeezed from the side- verucca is out, no marks of any kind (except where I tried stabbing it with a needle) means it certainly isn't a blister.

Hmmm. So it would appear that it is simply chronic inflammation. Either that or its gout. Which is pretty unlikely considering the food that we eat- also, the pain is under the fatty pad, not in the joint as gout would tend to be. So there you have it. Inflammationm, probably exacerbated by my needle stabbing. Go away and have 3x 400mg of ibuprofen per day for the next week and see how you go.

So no real diganosis, and direction to take ibuprofen. To be fair, if it is chronic inflammation the best thing to do is probably take ibuprofen and rest it. More non-running and non-cycling days. Still, it is the depths of winter, maybe putting on a bit of fat wouldn't hurt the core temperature!

Tuesday, 13 December 2011

Phantom toe injury

Not been out running since last week because I have a rather interesting and exciting thing going on with my second toe on the left foot.
Its been hurting under the distal phalange (the far end of the toe) since the beginning of last week. With a bit of massage and some arnica cream I hoped it would just take care of itself and disappear, but no.

It now REALLY hurts, and it is just under the portion of the toe that I use to "toe off" as I walk and run, so any kind of activity like that is pretty much rendered un-doable.
Any type of standing activity is ok, as long as I don't move around. It's bizarre to be limping about the place like an invalid, but the pain in the toe is significantly worse, and has affected my gait even more so than the achilles heel thing ever did (which was at the beginning of last month).

I have had something like this once before, and that was associated with the cycling shoes I was wearing. I still have the same cycling shoes now, but didn't have any issues with them for a while- at least, not when I was wearing them for a week in London.
All things considered, it was after the time in London that my heel flared up. It is now, after the ride with Ben in quite amusing and chilly conditions that my toe has decided that it doesn't like being stood on. The connection would appear to be the cycling shoes, which is very annoying as its what I am doing to take the strain off my knees instead of booting around bogs in fell shoes.

There doesn't seem to be much I can do about the toe, apart from stay off it as much as possible, give it arnica, and generally not be too active. Its really odd because there is no mark there, no bruising, only a small red patch which stays red (and is really quite painful) when I prod it.
I have since stopped prodding it.

It has been suggested that it could be a nerve issue- but I don't think so, as its more pain than tingly/pins and needles. I suspect that the pain will just evaporate into thin air, and just to ensure that happens, I have booked in to see a doctor about it. If anything cures it, it will be the fact that I'll walk in and say, my toe really hurts... and lo and behold, it probably won't.
I really dislike being injured. It looks like I might have to get fitted for some new cycling shoes as well. Aaaah, more expense, just what I don't need.

Tuesday, 6 December 2011

Snowy run with Glossopdale

Driving home from Manchester this afternoon, I couldn't help but be struck by the greenness of the lower ground, contrasted with the stark whiteness of everything above 500 metres or so- above Glossop on the hills.
Despite the rather exciting prospect of heading out into the snow this evening, I was a bit reluctant to actually get out. The blister I sustained the other day from the long nav run is still there, and I suspected it was going to hurt even more by the end of the run.

Ah well, the lure of the snow was a bit too much. I put on shorts, a slightly thicker base layer than normal and a gilet, with windproof etc in a bag, and went on out. It was good to see a few hardy souls out this evening, including Stevie K from Pennine, who came along for a trot.
We started out from Mossy Lea, up the track, wet and rocky underfoot. Not the nicest terrain in the world- which is why its a horrible ending to the Shelf moor race route- but thats another story. Soon enough we were going up Doctors gate, mud, coldness, and very cold running water. Running up the hill was good though as it kept us warm. Dom even took his top off because of the heat...

The snow started building up on the ground- it had been scattered around from the bottom, but now it was shoe height. We ascended, and the snow got deeper. Up to the top and a left along the top. At this point, the snow was too deep to run so we were reduced to walking- well, at points, wading, through the snow. It was rather delightful snow, soft and fluffy with no footprints in it. Deep, at points, but at other times very runnable.
We got down to the stream in Crooked clough, crossed over and went up toward the Trig. At some points I was on hands and knees to get up the slopes- still not all that cold, just as long as we kept moving.

The wind hit us as we got onto the top, so I donned a windproof as we cruised across the top of the moor. When I say cruised, I mean stumbled, fell, grovelled, rolled and generally dragged ourselves across. Anyone that hadn't already gone up to their thigh in a snow covered grough or fallen over in rather spectacular style had done so by the end of the leg.
Then down past Dog Rock, still lots and lots of snow, my feet were numb so I wasn't getting any gyp from them, then as we went down Lightside the snow started getting thinner, the rocks started coming up (as it were) and all of a sudden it became a bit more painful to run- not necessarily because of my blister, but because my Baregrips are so thin under the foot. Maybe my light was fading as well, so I started slowing down.
It was only about 12.5 km altogether, but it was a really good fun blast in the snow.

Sunday, 4 December 2011

Biting off more than you can chew

Been planning a road ride with someone from S&P gym for a couple of weeks and we managed to be free on the same day- today. So we picked a route, from Glossop over Snake, Strines, Holmfirth and back, got our stuff together and went off for a jolly.

The weather had been pretty shoddy for the preceding 24hours, rain, wind, that kind of thing, and there was allegedly going to be a bit of snow around and about the place, but probably not until Monday. Not too much of an issue, we'll just head along and see what happens.
Started up the Snake, all was good except for a couple of cars passing a bit close. It rained, and then the rain took on a bit of a whiter colour. Nah... thats got to be my fevered imagination taking over.
Sleet, maybe.
We wended our way to the top and there was definite snow on the ground. Maybe an inch or so on the moor, but nothing on the road. Stopped for a quick snack, and off into the descent. Uphill is fine, at least you are producing some heat, but going down, the wind just whips any semblence of warmth away from you. To begin with the brakes didn't work, so I hung on to them until they warmed up, and then carried on. As I don't own a pair of overshoes, my feet were already wet through, and pretty soon, like blocks of ice. Ah well, my hands were in a pair of Sealskinz lobster mitts, and I had armwarmers on, at least the top part of my body was warm.

We bombed down the snake, and went through graduations of snow, sleet and rain, also, incidentally, passing Derby MRT's landrover at Birchen Clough carpark. (waaaay out of their area...) but at the bottom, the sun was out and it was really quite pleasant. We headed down to the traffic lights at Ladybower, and with the sun out, felt pretty good. Hands fine, feet a bit chilled, but hey, we're ok, lets not turn left and go the short way, lets carry on.
Oh, what a fun plan.

Up and left onto the Strines road and a ridiculous crosswind immediately hit us, sapping energy and heat. However, the road conditions were good and we were cruising along at a good pace. Then it started raining again, lots of standing water on the road, and still that cross/headwind.
Then the hills started, steep downhill, which is cold, and steep uphills, which are hard work, at one point, going up a 25%er it started raining and I remember thinking "great, it can't get much worse than this".
Then it started hailing.

On and on, through a couple of villages, hang a left onto the A616 and its really getting to be not fun at this point. Driving rain, sleet, nastiness, really can't feel my feet, and gloves beginning to get sodden- and therefore cold. Over the roundabout and we aren't looking healthy, but we gamely carry on. I'm beginning to feel sick- slightly ill- maybe off colour and the shivers are setting in. After a few more km I can't feel my hands, and we pass a pub.
It smells of chips.
We carry on going, every pedal stroke an effort, my feet are now not attached to me, and my legs are numb from the knee down. I can't feel my fingers, so I can't brake, or steer and I can barely keep up with Ben, let alone take a turn at the front. Its miserable. We are miserable. I'm hanging.
At the next pub, we stop.
Walking inside, there are coal fires, and just the landlady and someone else. Shoes off, socks off. I can feel no appreciable difference- walking around barefoot on a stone floor... I could still have been wearing shoes for all I knew. Find phone, but shaking too much to get it out, let alone see what it says on it. Call Lynne.
Need a lift home.

It took 2 cups of tea and 15 mins before I stopped shivering, and about 25 before I gained feeling in my feet to the point that I could feel my hands on them.
Lynne came and picked us up. Cold, and beaten, but not hypothermic. Thankfully. The drive home over Holme Moss was interesting, with 2 inches of snow on the road. We were 20km from home ish- about 2/3 of the way through the ride. Humbled.

When you bite off more than you can chew, you get what you deserve.

out for a run

Long run on friday was pretty good- if rather longer than I originally intended. (Not through getting lost, I must hasten to add, more through getting excited and neglecting to actually look at how long the planned route actually was before setting out).

From home up the Shelf moor race route to 621 trig, trying to keep the heart rate lower than going eyeballs-out, I knew I had some way to go- possibly 15-20k or so... keeping it easy. From there to Herne clough, really nothing to report, except that I was using an Inov8 race elite 3- a rather wonderful birthday present from my sister- review to follow once I've worn it in a bit more and have formed a decent opinion.
Down into Herne clough for a bit, and then a small amount of nav to make the journey interesting. Down and up the clough to the south, following a grough line and onto the top- where it was a tad chilly, to find a small pond. No problem there.

Then a bearing leg in a southerly direction over bogland- what else?! to a rain gauge. In the process of getting to the rain gauge, I came across a weather station, which was rather snazzy, if a little out of place in the middle of nowhere. I was a bit surprised and felt like I was on a film set. Took a photo and carried on. I got to the shooting cabin next to the place where the rain gauge was meant to be, (on the bearing I was about 15 metres out) but couldn't find anything at all where the thing was meant to be. I know that they don't actually exist anymore, but I was expecting some kind of base or something... Stopped in the shooting cabin to put on a windproof and eat half a Torq bar. Yes, this one was pretty horrible too, and I couldn't have eaten it AND moved at the same time- it just clogs up the mouth.

Ah well, East to Alport trig, up the grough and across heather- scratched legs, a significant and severe downhill and then uphill leg, round the corner and up a clough, follow a trod that looked like it went in the right direction- boom. I landed right on top of it.

The Sheepfold
Excellent, bearing off to the sheepfold up north, and bash across some serious heather- I was still "running" at this point, but getting a bit tired from having to lift the legs up high, either that or wade my way through- there weren't any trods where I was going, so I had to improvise. Saw a few hares though- they are much easier to spot now they have their white coats on. Evolution doesn't seem to have kept pace with the fact that its not snowed yet...
Took the bearing and came out (eventually) slap bang on top of the sheepfold- which was nice. The next challenge was another rain gauge. Considering my last attempt, I wasn't confident, but I was hopeful. Taking the most direct line I shot off down the trod next to the stream, and then up a rather impressively steep clough, up to a small pond, and then a bearing for 300 metres. Could I find the thing? Could I heck.
I wandered around for a while in a heathery, boggy hell hole, and instead of getting cold, I went by dead reckoning to find another shooting cabin, and eventually came out- again, right on it.
I was more than impressed with myself, it has to be said.

The visitor book
I've not been to that cabin before, its really rather pleasant, and I signed into the book, noting a few names from DPFR that have been there recently. Another quick bite to eat and off down the track to the main path which would take me up over to Shepards meeting stones, somewhere else I've not been before. In thr process I managed to take the worst line off the hill possible and ended up dropping/falling/sliding down a near vertical hillside onto a riverbank, which although was fairly amusing, jarred my wrist a little.
Up and over the river and onto the path, this is about as far away from home as I could get, I had one geobar left and was getting a tad tired.
Shepherds Meeting Stones and then on through the bog into the teeth of the wind up to Swains head, following a vague trod that ended up in a bogfest. Great. Didn't even notice going past Swains head, put hunkered down at one point to change gloves for some dry ones- my hands were more than going numb- and also to put on all available clothing as well. Still, despite being cold and wet, I was on the return leg, and it was all fine.

Except the bog was big and sucking and horrible, running on/through it was more effort that I thought it was going to be, I'd been out for quite a few hours and things were looking interesting. I followed the "track" up to Far Bleaklow Stones- which took about a month and a half by my reckoning, and on the way up there I came across a bottle of Calsberg. Full. How bizarre. So I picked it up- can't have people littering on the moors like that- and carried on up. I had the last of mu chocolate here, figuring I was close to sugar-crashing and probably needed a bit of energy.
Finally I hit Bleaklow stones, and took the trod going to the south of it, (I hate running across Bleaklow at the best of times and wanted to find out where this trod went). I have a GPS track of it now, but I really didn't know where I was going at this point. Eventually made it to Forkstones and then took a bee-line back to the 621 trig, stumbling through groughs and bog and all kinds of amusement. I knew pretty much where I was as Herne stones were off to the right, and as long as I kept climbing, things would be fine.

Hit the top, cold, dreaming of haribo, toast with cheese and honey (yes, its actually a really good combination, don't knock it til you've tried it), and a cup of hot, sweet tea. Windchill must have been somewhere below zero, as it had been for the past hour or 2, and I wasn't always moving fast enough to keep up a decent temperature. I couldn't run uphill - or even up a slope, so I picked a line off Higher Shelf that took me downhill all the way to Mossy Lea without any hint of an uphill slant.
When I got back, I switched the GPS off, only to find I was turning it on. Damn. Where did that happen? Looking at the track, it seems to have been about 6km from home, just near Herne stones. Ah well, at least I got the lions share of the run on record.

36km in the end, with about 300 metres of it on road. A bit of an effort, but well worth it. I now have a blister the size of a 2p piece on my left 1st met head, courtesy of my Baregrips. Nice.

So it was a long day out, and I didn't take enough food, but I had just about enough fluids. (not including the beer, which, by the way appears to have a best before date of 20/12/2010) but I really need to remember to keep some spare emergency emergency haribo in my bag. Thats the second time I've come home from a 30km+ run and been dreaming of jelly based sweets....