Everest Trek Get Together No 12

A magic weekend in Pembrokeshire with a trip to Skomer for the long awaited Project Puffin!

Friday

The usual: Hazel, Charles and I met at Paddington at 3pm. Paddington to Newport by train. Newport to Steffi’s with Dave – and Gwyneth. LARGE G&Ts courtesy of Maurice and curries à la Steffi at Mayhem, then on to Newgale for a night in the caravan.

Saturday

An early start (7am) to allow time for coffee and croissants before Dave drove us over to Martin’s Haven, arriving there at 9.30am and getting tickets for the 10am ferry to Skomer, the first of the day.

A gloomy, grey morning. Our main hope was to avoid rain.

A smooth crossing, with puffins skimming low over the water to join the rafts that floated just off the Skomer coastline. We had a great briefing from one of the wardens at the top of the steps up from the jetty at North Haven, and then we were free to explore until our 3pm return to the mainland. The volunteer wardens have a job getting people up the steps – not because they are tricky, but because there are puffins and razorbills almost within reach all the way up, and certainly within camera range….

We decided to follow the coastal footpath clockwise around Skomer – and within our first half hour on the island the morning started to brighten. We spent the rest of the day there in glorious sunshine, getting hundreds of photos of puffins, mainly at High Cliff and The Wick (including the Lonely White Puffin), and seals up at Garland Stone.

Puffins, The Wick, Skomer
Puffins, The Wick, Skomer
Puffin, The Wick, Skomer
Puffin, The Wick, Skomer
Puffin pair at The Wick, Skomer
Puffin pair at The Wick, Skomer
Puffins, North Haven, Skomer
Puffins, North Haven, Skomer

(For more puffin photos, take a look at my Flickr album: Pembrokeshire, April 2018)

We picnicked at Old Farm, and returned for our 3pm boat back to the mainland via the ruins of the Iron Age house that nestle below the rocks of the South Plateau, the High Cliff puffins and the megalith at Harold Stone.

Steffi, Hazel, Charles, Dave and Gwyneth on the rock outcrop above Harold Stone Skomer
Steffi, Hazel, Charles, Dave and Gwyneth on the rock outcrop above Harold Stone, Skomer

Excellent tea / coffee / cake at the Clock House Cafe in Marloes, and an afternoon pint at the Druidstone Inn, soaking up the sun and the view out over St Brides Bay. Fabulous.

An evening of wine, crisps, veggie spag bol, bread and cheese back at the caravan.

A superb day.

Sunday

Rain. Lots of rain. So no walk on the beach or in the woods back at Steffi’s.

Instead, a brief sojourn in Haverfordwest to tour the Aisles of Lidl and the Aisles of Aldi, then back to Mayhem for one of Maurice’s Marvellous Sunday lunches: pulled beef, a giant yorkshire pudding (veggie toad in the hole for me), gravy, creamed leeks, roast potatoes and sweet potatoes, corn on the cob, broccoli, green beans, peas and broad beans. With cherry bakewell tart and ice cream to follow.

Another slap up Sunday lunch from the marvellous Maurice
Another slap up Sunday lunch from the marvellous Maurice

Not surprisingly we three in the back seat snoozed for most of the drive back to Newport….

Home around 8.45pm after a slow journey back to London with GWR.

Snowshoeing in Italy / France: We’re back!

Back to London after a fab week snowshoeing in the Southern Alps where we had a *lot* of snow and Arctic conditions ….. and although this meant we didn’t get all the advertised views and snow conditions curtailed our routes somewhat, you don’t miss what you don’t know.

First day out in the snow - under Cima del Bosco
First day out in the snow – under Cima del Bosco

We still got out and about and had an amazing time – ploughing our way through larch forests knee deep in snow, being dazzled by the pristine white landscape of the peaks and plateaus and the sparkling alpine scenery, tobogganing down hillsides and crossing sunken streams.

Costa Via Veccia, above Rifugio Capanna Mautino
Costa Via Veccia, above Rifugio Capanna Mautino

The day we spent on a figure of eight around the Rifugio Capanna Mautino was just magical – Costa Via Vecchia, Costa la Luna and Cima Saurel in the morning, and up to the Col Begino in the afternoon.

Morning view from the Costa Via Vecchia
Morning view from the Costa Via Vecchia
Tobogganing down the slopes below the Cima Saurel
Tobogganing down the slopes below the Cima Saurel
Me and Steffi at the Col Begino
Me and Steffi at the Col Begino

We got lots of avalanche / snow assessment training too from Yves, our fantastic guide and accompagnateur en montagne. Amazingly knowledgeable and great company too – he really made the trip.

Thankfully not much sign of snow once we were out of the mountains and driving back towards Turin at the end of the week, and back in my bit of Blighty the snow has all gone – missing out on The Beast from the East feels a bit like being out of the country when Princess Di died.

So, all in all, a really great trip – I am planning to find another snowshoe holiday for next Feb. Hopefully that won’t mean we all get Arctic weather again….

And despite the cold (-25°C one morning at the Mautino Hut, -24°C the next) I didn’t need to use Hazel’s down jacket. It turns out dry cold is very different from the damp version we’re more familiar with! I have to say that I was very pleased to have my Mountain Equipment mittens (wool fleece lined and waterproof – VIP given how many times I fell over in the snow and needed to do a downward dog to get upright again) and my Rab gaiters (Latok Alpine) with me though. I wore both bits of kit daily. My standard outfit was Uniqlo Heattech base layer, Uniqlo fleece zip up jacket, Goretex jacket (wind and waterproof), Gelert walking trousers, Kathmandu “Mammut” waterpoof trousers, plus gaiters, with a fleece hat, mittens and buff completing as needed.

Here are some photos to whet the appetite: more to follow once I do the Photos & Notes [<– now done!].

 

 

Snowshoeing in Italy / France: Final Prep

On the downhill run for our Transalpine Snowshoe Week, with Exodus.

Insurance

… purchased – LV= again. Premier annual multi-trips policy, Worldwide excluding North and Central America, Caribbean and Bahamas. Premier level covers trekking up to 6000m (in anticipation of Tsum and Manaslu in November).

Update: Winter Sports cover added. LV= doesn’t list snowshoeing as one of the activities that requires Winter Sports cover, but it turns out that it is. Thanks to Steffi for the tip!

Travel jabs

… checked – I had a whole lot redone in advance of my 2016 Nepal trek (in line with TravelHealthPro’s recommendations for Nepal) so I am all up to date with Hep A, Typhoid, Hep B, Diphtheria–Tetanus-Polio and Rabies. Next top up jab will be Typhoid in August 2019. Not that I’ll need any of these for Italy/France.

Euros

… from Thomas Exchange Global / BestForeignExchange.com on Wormwood St.

Weather forecasts

…. monitored / monitoring – looking chilly thanks to the Polar Vortex. I’m borrowing Hazel’s superior down jacket and taking my Icebreaker thermals and wool fleece lined mittens.

Click though to the Long term forecast and scroll down to the 4-hour daily views on YR and you’ll see that the temperatures are forecast to be even lower during the day (-17C, -18C, -19C ….)

Looking chilly in Thures
YR weather forecast for Thures
Looking chilly in Cervières
YR weather forecast for Cervières

Additional details

…. obtained from Exodus / France Outdoors, their local partner operating the trip:

1. Luggage transport / access

We got clarification on when / where we’ll have access to our luggage, and confirmation that we aren’t expected to carry our main bags to the Mautino hut.

Day 1 + Day 2: the group will stay in the same gite in Fontana del Thures, so you will have access to your main luggage.
Day 3 (Monday): a taxi will take everyone’s luggage in the morning to Cervières. So you won’t have access to your main luggage for 2 nights – you’ll just have what you take in in your backpack.
Day 4: Luggage cannot be left behind in Mautino hut. [Not surprising as this was the day snowshoed on to Cervières]
Day 5 + 6 + 7: the group will be reunited with their main luggage in Cervières.

So you can leave your main luggage with what you don’t want/don’t need to carry for the Mautino hut on Monday morning to be transported to Cervières.

2. Lunch on transfer days

For most of the trip meals are provided. The gaps are lunch on the days we arrive and leave, when we’re on the transfer from / to Turin airport, and dinner on the way home too. Here’s what got back from Exodus:

Our local partner confirmed that on arrival there usually is a stop to buy some food on the way to the gite. On departure day, the transfer is planned around 2pm, so the group can eat at the gite or at another Auberge in the village. Additionally you could also buy a picnic at the gite to take away – there are no supermarkets there.

Steffi’s bringing Cardigan bread and cheese, and I’ve got a small pot of chutney to contribute to a picnic lunch on Saturday.

I have to say, our main contact at Exodus has been great at finding out these additional details for us, and very good at replying to our random questions.

Packing

….is about to commence!

Packing....
Packing…. is about to commence

Online Check-In

…. and we’re checked in for the flight to Turin too. Boarding passes printed.

Walking in Northern Albania: Mini Update

I’ve been busy sorting out some of the final logistics for June’s Walking in Northern Albania – Into The Accursed Mountains with Wild Frontiers.

Flights bought

We’re flying direct from Gatwick with BA – out on the Thursday before the Wild Frontiers tour starts on the Friday, back on the group flight a week later.

Hotel booked

We’ve booked a twin room at the Hotel Tafaj, which is where a WF group will be staying at the end of their Southern Albania tour.

Transfers sorted

We’ve booked a taxi to meet us when we land through Hotel Tafaj, and we’ll get the Rinas Express airport bus back out to the airport to meet the group flight. We got taxi estimates and airport bus info from Lonely Planet > Tirana in Detail > Flights & getting there.

Tirana plans

We land late on the Thursday and need to be back at the airport to meet the group flight that lands at 12.10pm on the Friday, so we’ve only really got Friday morning to go sightseeing in Tirana. The hotel is 15 mins walk from Sheshi Skënderbej aka Skanderbeg Square, which is where most of the main sights are. Perfect!