Picos de Europa: Counting Down

It’s less than a month now until Steffi, Hazel and I head off to Northern Spain for Exodus’ Picos de Europa walking holiday, challenging version.

The final departure info arrived over the weekend, and I’ve done EasyJet online check-in for both flights (there and back) this morning. We’ve got adjacent seats, which is nice. I’ve also worked out what time we’ll need to get the Stansted Express (09.10) to allow plenty of time for some delay and airport queues.

On the money side I’m allowing EUR 300 to cover tips, a spare day in Bilbao, spends (I want to buy the Adrados Ediciones – Picos de Europa Central and East: Massifs Los Urrieles and Andara Adrados (1:25,000) map in Arenas de Cabrales) and “treats” (you can buy wine and beer at the hotel…). There’s an ATM in Arenas de Cabrales if I do find I need any more.

I’ve checked the personal BUPA travel insurance I’ve bought through work will cover this type of trip (tick), so all I need to do is to get my euros from Thomas Exchange Global, print everything off and pack!

Mera Peak – Amphu Lapsta Pass – Imja Tse: Gear Update

The LED fundraising weekend in the North Lakes last month was a prompt to sort out a few more pieces of November’s Nepal Plan, principally BOOTS!

We did have a chance to go through Val’s “6000m Gear List” with her, the main outcome of which is that I’m borrowing her down jacket from last year, and a sleeping bag (but not the one from last year). She also recommended taking some of the disposable self-heating hand and foot warmers for the summit days (pre-dawn starts). Bim in KTM can provide most of the technical gear, and we arranged another trip to the North Lakes for some training with ropes etc in September.

Boots surfaced as Nicola was heading to Adventure Peaks to try on the boots she’s hiring from them, and Steffi decided to go with her to get a boot fitting, and as it transpired, to hire a pair of Boreal G1s…. in a size 44, as advised by the thorough chap in Snow & Rock when we made an initial fact finding foray into Covent Garden a few months back.

After an abortive attempt to hire from Adventure Peaks (very, very busy), I focused on the La Sportiva G2 and the Scarpa Phantom 6000 and learned the following:

  • Boreal boots are a wide fit, so not a good option for me
  • La Sportiva are warmer and a narrower boot, Scarpa have a more durable sole
  • with a long, slim foot and a long big toe, I can wear shoes / boots “shorter”
  • trying out boots, especially with narrow feet, there will be some “slip” but provided this is the inner boot slipping against the outer you’re OK
  • it can be impossible to find boots that are a good fit according to all the rules, and padding / heel lifts  insoles can help.

Having decided that I needed La Sportiva G2 in a size 42, I emailed Expedition Kit Hire who I’d earmarked earlier on. Same day reply from Stuart, confirming they had a pair available for my dates and attaching the hire form. A couple of exchanges and less than 24 hours later, I’d hired the boots plus goggles and balaclava and bought 5 pairs each of hand and foot warmers. All paid up, delivery due the week before we go, and the hire includes prepaid return. Very efficient, very friendly. I can see why The Mountain Company recommend them.

(As an aside, what was interesting about doing the foot outlines was realising that my feet are pretty much the same length, but my left foot is slightly wider at the ball. And shoes / boots are always tighter on that foot. I’d always thought it was because it was longer, but no – wider!)

So that just leaves travel insurance that will cover me to 6,500m and using ropes, crampons and ice axes, which I think means it will be the BMC. The Austrian Alpine Club (UK) standard AWS policy doesn’t cover you above 6,000m and the Alpenverein Premium Single Trip Cover you have to get then is a lot more expensive. I’ve yet to find a ‘normal’ policy that covers you above 6,000m, (although Nicola’s just flagged that Trailfinders’ goes up to 7,000m).

And last, but not least, Nicola has managed to wangle 4 weeks off work, so she’s coming for the whole thing.

But for now M-ALP-I is on the back burner – our week in Picos de Europa is only a month away!

The Female Persuasion – Meg Wolitzer

The Female Persuasion - Meg Wolitzer
The Female Persuasion – Meg Wolitzer

Another slow start. The Germaine Greer parallels felt a little too blunt.

Once I got past Greer Kadetsky’s first name and Faith Frank’s character, this novel about women, friendship and feminism through the late 19th and early 20th century was a speedy and timely read.

Publisher page: The Female Persuasion – Meg Wolitzer

In The Distance – Hernán Díaz

In The Distance - Hernán Díaz
In The Distance – Hernán Díaz

Håkan Söderström becomes separated from his brother Linus in the hustle and bustle of Portsmouth on their journey to New York to start a new life in the New World.

After mistakenly boarding a ship for San Francisco by way of Cape Horn, he finds himself in the West that is starting, slowly, to become sparsely populated with shanty towns and wagon trains, emigrants, prospectors and miners – and those who prey on them.

We follow in Håkan’s footsteps, and occasional travels on horseback, as he traverses the deserts the plains and the prairies, determined to get to New York to find his brother.

We see how few key encounters and experiences impact his life, and take our leave of The Hawk as he takes his of an ice bound ship en route to Alaska.

Beautiful.

Publisher page: In The Distance – Hernán Díaz