Week 200. Blimey.
And I’m off to Nepal 🙂
So you’ll have to wait a while for these…..
Week 200. Blimey.
And I’m off to Nepal 🙂
So you’ll have to wait a while for these…..
A lot of rain. A lot of Nepal prep.
Admin on Tuesday morning, weeknotes, money stuff, a bit of Nepal prep – visa application, running through the itinerary (and getting extra detail from the Mountain Company one (Kinda wish I was doing their one that goes all the way to Makalu BC….), first pass at the kit list, putting together the Kangchenjunga & Lumba Sumba: Prep blogpost.
A speedy apple pick (a bucket of Laxton Superbs from the Orchard) and chopping / freezing the windfalls and pecked ones, washing the others and putting them into the apple racks. Almost full.
In spite of the sunshine, I got stuck into Nepal prep in the afternoon. I’d been itching to do it all morning. Started sleuthing weather forecasts for our route on yr.no – got a surprisingly large number using the map and the “places nearby” feature.
In the evening. Pilates followed by leftovers – Maurice’s Mexican Feast.
Also, not sure if it’s coincidence, but since I’ve got back from Italy my email spam has gone bananas.
Up early on Wednesday with a bit of time to start looking at my GVWC walks for 2024 before aerobics and calisthenics-not-stretch at the gym. Back for my physio stretches then an afternoon of Kangchenjunga & Lumba Sumba prep – fine tuning my kit list, finding the final few elusive locations on yr.no, finalising my itinerary spreadsheet, printing out that plus my insurance and the etickets for our flights, finishing off my Kangchenjunga & Lumba Sumba: Prep blogpost and publishing that.
Thursday featured more early morning musing on my GVWC walks for 2024 (I’ve only got to come up with the first 3!!) before LBT at the gym. Back for physio exercises and then a dry run packing my kitbag and using my new travel scales to weight it. So far, so good… 14kg, and that’s with a shoe box of donated eye glasses and two jars of damson jam….
I’d also finally plucked up the courage to unpack last week’s eBay purchase of a second hand Mountain Equipment Annapurna down jacket. Everything seems in working order. It’s Mens, size small, and it fits perfectly as does the stuff sack I bought in KTM for last year’s Rab down jacket purchase.
Tried to get back into Flickring and doing my “Photos & Notes” write up for the Pyrenees but I only managed 1 day. My mind is elsewhere…, and it seems a long time ago now what with Italy trip and the difference in the weather between those trips and this week’s relentless rain.
Made dinner (always worth a mention given it’s so infrequent).
Friday morning was another early start with time for a bit of computer admin before driving over to the gym for aerobics and stretch. Back for a bit more admin, an early lunch then into Hereford for food shopping, bird food reup, trek admin, picking up my mended chain from the super Andrew Lamputt, then over to dad and Jean’s for tea and pastries. Dad no longer yellow!
A very slow rainy rush hour drive home. Just enough time to get things ready for TJL’s arrival and a lovely early evening catch up over nachos and dips, wine and beer, with the log fire lit.
Still raining on Saturday. To Pontrilas: post office and weeknotes in the cafe for me, gym for P. Back at base we booked Premier Inn Clerkenwell for three nights in January for our anniversary, KMC dinner (honorary guest) and MMRR meet up.
Most of the afternoon and a chunk of the evening flickring my Pyrenees photos and (almost) finishing my Photos & Notes blogpost, listening to a lot of Everything But The Girl.
Sunday = giving the dining room table in the conservatory a second dose of lemon oil treatment, finishing off and publishing my Into the Pyrenees with Alfonso & Manu: Photos & Notes blogpost and apple picking in the orchard with Phil (Three buckets of Laxton Superbs). Then we walked to Ewyas via Abbey Dore and Dulas Mill for lunch with dad and Jean at The Temple Bar Inn. Lovely walk, lovely lunch.
Back to ours for coffee. Beautifully sunny. A stroll around the garden then a snooze on the corner sofa in the conservatory ….
Watched the first episode in the new series of Grand Designs – it was in Herefordshire, at Clifford near Hay on Wye!
Woke up with a bad case of the blues on Monday.
Did some computer admin, mainly finishing off my Pyrenees write up and photos and saving the blogposts as PDFs. Then doing the same for our Northern Italy holiday. Then creating my Pick of the Pics album to share my favourite photos from the Pyrenees. That took up all of the morning.
But Rach did send some lovely photos.
Mowed in the afternoon, with a quick trip to The Forge for petrol in the middle. I was only going to do the verge and the grass by the bins but ended up getting the ride on mower going to do the always-quick-growing-grass on the slope down into the Hollow and ended up doing the whole hollow, the orchard and the front lawn too.
Felt a bit better for having Done Something. But still 🙁
KMC Catch up in the evening.
We had a goldcrest bonk on one of the conservatory windows on Tuesday afternoon. They’re tiny. It sat on the outside chest looking a bit dazed but must have recovered enough to fly off. A good sign. Phil reminded me that he had two goldcrest casualties last November when I was away in Nepal. We’ve not had any at other times of the year.
Starlings materialised on the seed feeder on Wednesday, resplendent in their spotty winter plumage. I don’t think we’ve had them here before. Or if we have, it’s been a rare event.
On Sunday, a speedy sparrow hawk visit to the bird feeders and font. No casualties. And during Monday’s mow I counted 6 kites circling over Kiln Field / Quarrels Green (although Phil thinks 2 of them might have been buzzards).
Photos: Herefordshire week 199 on Flickr.
Phil: w/e 2023-10-22.
The Carros de Foc is in the beautiful Aigüestortes i Estany de Sant Maurici National Park, and it’s a gorgeous part of the Pyrenees with lots of alpine lakes and forests, and granite underfoot. We did a 6 day route (5 days, plus an hour or so getting to our starting refugio in the Park on the first day): Refugio Ernest Mallafrè / Estany de Sant Maurici – Refugio J.M. Blanc – Refugio Colomina – Refugio Estany Llong – Refugio Amitges – Estany de Sant Maurici.
La Ruta de las Golondrinas is further west and in a more developed area (roads, ski resorts) but beautiful deciduous forests and plenty of peaks plus limestone underfoot. Here we did the 4 day Golondrina Clásica: Refugio de Belagua – Refugio de Linza – Refuge de l’Abérouat – Refuge Jeandel – Refugio de Belagua.
We were on the Spanish side of the Pirineos for most of the time, but las Golondrinas took us into France – and thus the Pyrénées – for a couple of days and nights. The trekking was straightforward (we didn’t tackle the trickier sections of the Carros de Foc) although las Golondrinas included one very long day (day 2) and one short section of cable to help us down from Pas de l’Osque on day 3.
Both routes made use of the refugios / refuges for sleeping and food with dinner, bed, breakfast and packed lunch coming in at around €75 pppn. The Spanish refugios were all excellent, the French refuges so-so. On the Carros de Foc we slept in dorms whereas las Golondrinas provided rooms for 8 or 4.
For the Carros de Foc you book direct, for las Golondrinas, which is a relatively new route, you can book a package and you’re provided with a map (and a branded T-shirt, thermos and swag bag!) at the start of the trek.
Maps: Editorial Alpina publishes the Carros de Foc hiking map and guidebook (ISBN: 9788480908641) and they also print the 1:25,000 Ruta de las Golondrinas map that’s provided as part of the package.
Photos are in my Flickr Album: Into the Pyrenees with Alfonso & Manu, August / September 2023
And here are Alfonso ….
… and Manu:
and one of the many, many teenage selfies taken on the trip:
We had a brilliant time. Here’s what we did.
Tuesday, 29 August 2023: Hereford – London (Photos)
Wednesday, 30 August 2023: Fly London Stansted to Lourdes (Photos)
Overnight: Luxury Loft Lourdes
Thursday, 31 August 2023: Drive Lourdes to Parking de Prat Pierró. Walk to Refugio Ernest Mallafrè (1885m) (Photos)
Carros de Foc day 1: 3.7km +241m -16m
Meet Alfonso, Manu & Esther.
Drive Lourdes – Vielha – Esterri d’Àneu – Espot – Aigüestortes i Estany de Sant Maurici National Park / Parking de Prat Pierró.
Walk to Refugio Ernest Mallafrè via Els Encantats and Estany de Sant Maurici.
Overnight: Refugio Ernest Mallafrè.
Friday, 01 September 2023: Refugio Ernest Mallafrè (1885m) – Coll de Monestero (2715m) – Refugio J.M. Blanc (2310m) (Photos)
Carros de Foc day 2: 8.6km +850m -450m
Evergreen forests, alpine meadows with clear mountain streams, mirror pools and lake (Estany de Monestero), our first “elevenses” with a view back down into the valley of the Riu de Monestero, scree section up to the Coll de Monestero and magic views from the pass ….
… descending towards the lakes and a photo opp on the granite block perched over a no-name lake, Estany Negre de Peguera and its beautiful stepped dam …
… strolling through old pine forests, and getting our first sight of Refugio J.M. Blanc in its stunning setting on the Estany Tort de Peguera peninsula…..
… beers on arrival at the Refugio and, later, after dinner, relaxing on the sun deck at sundown and watching the lightening on the other side of the mountains.
Overnight: Refugio J.M. Blanc.
Saturday, 02 September 2023: Refugio J.M Blanc (2310m) – Coll de Saburó (2718m) – Pas de l’Ós (2542m) – Refugio Colomina (2395m) (Photos)
Carros de Foc day 3: 6.8km +400m -300m
A cool day, with rain clouds only just keeping above head height all the time we were out. And shortly after we arrived at lovely Refugio Colomina (my favourite), the clouds descended, the heavens opened and the wind picked up. Not nice walking for the family that arrived in dribs and drabs over the next hour or so. The Refugio team rallied round and provided hot drinks, towels, warm clothes, and asked us not to use the free, solar-heated, showers so that they could to warm up.
A lovely afternoon featuring Tea and Twix, Pochohontas and Ornitorrinco, and Tina’s Map – the one the professionals use.
It was also day where I discovered I’d not brought any spare charged camera batteries with me, and my one and only battery ran out at Refugio J.M. Blanc. Thank heavens for Manu’s Many Cables – and the Colomina’s bank of plug sockets. My batteries were back up to 100% in less than an hour.
Overnight: Refugio Colomina.
Sunday, 03 September 2023: Refugio Colomina (2395m) – Colladeta de Dellui (2557m) – Refugio Estany Llong (1985m) (Photos)
Carros de Foc day 4: 12.6km +400m -820m
A cloudy start developed into a very wet morning, but thankfully the rain (and wind) held off almost all the way to the Colladeta de Dellui.
The morning featured a section along a disused mine railway line that brought a trip (me) and two falls (me & Esther), and a lot more lakes: Estany de Colomina, Estany Tort, Estany de Mariolo, Estany de Cubieso and Estany Eixerola, and on the other side of the Colladeta de Dellui, Estany de Dellui and the beautifully named Estanyets de Dellui.
Grassland gave way to a rocky traverse with views down into the valley accompanied by Rachel’s emergency chocolate, followed by a descent through the Bosc de les Corticelles and the Bosc d’Estany Llong that brought chamoix, bilberries and juniper – and, as the rain started to ease off for good, Refugio Estany Llong.
Sodden boots off and wet stuff hung up to drip dry, we were welcomed in to picnic inside.
A sunny afternoon, just right for a stroll down into the valley of the Aigüestortes and a paddle in the Riu de Sant Nicolau – and pooh sticks.
The sunshine and the breeze made for perfect drying weather.
The night when the other English group agreed that “the bottom bunks ought to be reserved for the over 50s”. Ah, if only they knew ….
Overnight: Refugio Estany Llong.
Monday, 04 September 2023: Refugio Estany Llong (1985m) – Portarró d’Espot (2430m) – Refugio Amitges (2380m) (Photos)
Carros de Foc day 5: 8.1km +800m -500m
A fab day.
The day our route did a short cut between two section of the Carros de Foc proper. Lovely trail, lovely weather, time to loiter and linger.
Lots of opportunities to Do Something!
Franco’s Road, the Pi de Peixerani, Portarró d’Espot and its Mirador, smashing views of Estany de Sant Maurici and El Encantats …
… the Race to the Lone Pine ….
… raspberries, a paddle (for some) and a picnic at lunchtime, relaxing at Refugio Amitges, chanting on the shores of sparkling Estany dels Barbs, spotting Alfonso and Manu high up on their Agulles d’Amitges, and cold beers and cocktail snacks before dinner.
Overnight: Refugio Amitges.
Tuesday, 05 September 2023: Refugio Amitges (2380m) – Estany St. Maurici (1912m) – Parking de Prat Pierró (980m). Drive to Vielha (Photos)
Carros de Foc day 6: 9.3km +40m -740m
A leisurely last day on the Carros de Foc, dropping back down to Estany de Sant Maurici via the exhilarating Cascada de Ratera and learning / singing Arde Londres.
Back at Estany de Sant Maurici we found a quiet spot for elevenses and Instagram, flocks of small birds and ripples of jumping fish, before walking back to Parking de Prat Pierró where it was time to say a fond farewell to Parc Nacional d’Aigüestortes y Estany de Sant Maurici.
Another lovely lunch at Restaurant Vall d’Àneu in Esterri d’Àneu then back to Vielha and two lovely rooms (and showers and clean clothes) at Hotel Eth Pomèr.
No photos from the evening, so it must have been a good one… Oh, and Alfonso sent us a video of the three of them climbing back up to their Vielha base.
Overnight: Eth Pomèr, Vielha.
[20 October 2023: This is as far as I’d got when Phil and I headed off for our sunny week in Northern Italy. I’m flagging a bit having come back to finish off these photos & notes. So the daily descriptions may be a bit brief.]
Wednesday, 06 September 2023: Drive from Vielha to Refugio de Belagua (1428m) via Ainsa and Jaca (Photos)
A tasty breakfast buffet at Eth Pomèr, farewell to Esther, then the long drive west for our second short trek in the Pirineos, the Ruta de las Golondrinas.
En route we stopped at Ainsa (mediaeval hill town) and Jaca (canteen lunch, food shopping – Mini Magnums! – and perusing outdoor kit at Barrabés) but decided to skip Monasterio de San Juan de la Peña as we didn’t have enough time.
Refugio de Belagua (technically Refugio Ángel Oloron) was our base for the Golondrinas, and on a sunny September afternoon it was packed. Lovely views out over deciduous forests and back down the valley, and a super-well organised refugio with a really lovely team – who presented us with our surprise Golondrinas swag!
Overnight: Refugio de Belagua.
Thursday, 07 September 2023: Rincón de Belagua car park (~900m) – Collado de Maze (1540m) – Refugio de Linza (1340m) (Photos)
Ruta de las Golondrinas day 1: 14km +700m -350 m
Cathedral forests, meadows and sparkling spiders webs….
… a stiff climb, shady woods and a pincic … and showers, beers and Scrabble in Spanish at Refugio Linza
Overnight: Refugio de Linza.
Friday, 08 September 2023: Refugio de Linza (1340m) – Collado de Petrachema / Port d’Anso (2090m) – Refuge de l’Abérouat (France) (1442m) (Photos)
Ruta de las Golondrinas day 2: 21.6km +1300m -1200m
The longest day by a mile, in terms of both distance (~22km) and duration (we set off at 7.20am and finished at 6.30pm; 11 hours elapsed time). But really fab: startled chamois and whistling marmots; grassy valleys, limestone rocky plateau and scree descent; beech woods and streams, waterfalls and rivers; fab views from the Col de Pétragème, plus spiralling choughs and climbers at the base of the Petite Aiguille d’Ansabère, a novel-reading, red wine-drinking, hanging-chair-owning berger selling his goats cheese at the Plateau d’Ansabère …..
…. and at the end, beers, cold beers, 7% beers!
Oh, and Bonjour la France!
The hardest section was the 4km on the road in the Vallée d’Aspe, partly because it was the literal low point of the day and we knew we had a 700m climb up to the refuge and partly because it was on superheated, radiating, tarmac.
Overnight: Refuge de l’Abérouat. <– aka the one with the ridiculously low headroom for the top bunk. I couldn’t even sit up without hitting my head on the ceiling.
Saturday, 09 September 2023: Refuge de l’Abérouat (1442m) – Pas d’Azuns (1862m) – Pas de l’Osque (1922m) – Refuge Jeandel (1620m) (Photos)
Ruta de las Golondrinas day 3: 11.8km +600m -400m (plus a bit extra for the Les Tourelles (2041m))
One of the best days, beginning with a rendition of Cumpleaños Feliz to send to Australia and featuring a scramble up Les Tourelles and chain descent from Pas de l’Osque.
Jeandel was a bit of a let down, and La Pierre Saint Martin sans snow is truly ugly.
Overnight: Refuge Jeandel. <– aka the one with the worst food (quantity and quality)
Sunday, 10 September 2023: Refuge Jeandel (1620m) – Pic d’Arlas (2044m) – Refugio de Belagua (1428m) – Rincón de Belagua car park (~900m) (Photos)
Ruta de las Golondrinas day 4: 16.5km +600m -1230m
Up Pic d’Arlas, and back down into Spain.
Rolling grasslands and an occasional stretch of tarmac brought us back to Refugio de Belagua.
After a late lunch, for the completists it was a super steep descent from Refugio de Belagua to the Rincón de Belagua car park to retrieve the van. Lovely end to a lovely trek.
Overnight: Refugio de Belagua.
Monday, 11 September 2023: Refugio de Belagua – Lourdes – London (Photos)
Drive to airport. Fly Lourdes to London Stansted. Train and tube to Hazel’s.
Tuesday, 12 September 2023: London (Photos)
David Hockney: Bigger & Closer (not smaller & further away) at Lightroom in the Coal Drops Yard redevelopment north of Kings Cross.
A soft launch late lunch at Paro Indian (recommended!) followed by a tour of the outdoor kit shops of Southampton Street.
Wednesday, 13 September 2023: London – Hereford (Photos)
GWR train delay / termination at Great Malvern (grrr) made for a slow journey home – but Phil-the-taxi was waiting for me at Hereford.
Not long now until Steffi, Sonia and I head off to Nepal. Time for final prep, and the final prep post!
Having checked at the Surgery (and getting the info on my old vaccination log books added to their records), I’ve had a Typhoid top up and Japanese Encephalitis #1. J.E. is £100 per jab and annoyingly they didn’t mention that it is a two jab vaccination. Having read up about it, I’m sticking with #1 and a 40% protection, plus the usual “cover up / prevention is better than cure” approach.
Our “Kanch Trek” is 30 days KTM-KTM, plus 4-5 days either side in Kathmandu and we may spend a night or two at the Chhahari Retreat at the end (which may well entail “smarter stuff”), so I’ve had a look at my previous packing kitlists and photos for comparable treks – Mera Peak & Amphu Lapsta Pass 2019 (27 days KTM to KTM), Tsum & Manaslu 2018 (24 days KTM to POK) and Dolpo 2017 (25 days POK to POK + 6 days KTM & POK), and The Mountain Company’s Kanchenjunga BC to Tumlingtar GHT trek.
Packing is always a bit tricky as the itinerary is still a bit up in the air, which it usually is at this stage to be fair, partly due to UK-Nepal comms and partly due to the “known unknowns” of new roads and landslides / monsoon damage and how they all impact the trail.
The other factor is The Weather…
Links are to the same name locations on the map on yr.no (run by the Norwegian Meteorological Institute and NRK). Elevations are from our itinerary and then the yr.no place page. There is 100m – 300m difference for some of them which will make a big difference on the ground. Still, I imagine that we will be trekking through all the yr.no locations.
We need a 90 day Tourist Visa, and these days you complete the application online and take the acknowledgement with you to Kathmandu airport. It’s the same process for paying there (aka queue #1) but once you’re at immigration (aka queue #2) your visa gets printed out super quick and stuck into your passport. No hand written, lick ‘n’ stick ones any more…
Confusingly there are 3 different Official Online Locations to look at when doing the online visa….
There are, of course, any number of unofficial online locations too…..
I don’t usually write about the cost, but it’s $5000 for the trek, $350-$400 for tips, $TBC for Chhahari Retreat (depending how long we stay there) plus money for KTM meals and spends (never forget the felt animals!).
On trek we’ll need NPR to pay for fuel in lodges (if we want the stove lit) plus teas, treats and gompa offerings.
Flights and travel insurance have been purchased previously. Phew.
Right then: Time to pack!
Pembrokeshire for the Everest Trek Get Together No. 19.
My first full week back home = still catching up.
Tuesday comprised catching up on admin and weeknotes 196 and 197, walking to and from Ewyas Harold for my first in person Physio appointment at the surgery (VG. Assessment = Hip pain, right glute med tendinopathy + some ITB / Iliotibial Band Syndrome symptoms), Pembs Prep, another catch up with Val, more apple collecting, a great update from dad on his jaundice.
Pilates in the evening – getting back into the gym routine, even if it’s only for a couple of weeks.
Having failed to book onto the morning gym classes, Wednesday was more admin, mainly money – I’m still working out my “being retired cash flows” – and we had our catch up with Carol. Also some Nepal prep – working out paying, online tourist visa (bearing in mind the max 15 days in advance constraint) and checking eBay for Expedition grade down jackets….
Over to J’s for dinner in the evening. Lovely. On my way there, I spooked an owl down by Blackmoor Farm.
A very rainy day.
More gym on Friday morning, a petrol fill up at the Forge, more computing (I forget what), then off to Pembs for Everest Trek Get Together No. 19, picking up Hazel at Carmarthen en route to Mayhem where Steffi supplied a Greek Feast as a change from the usual Curries. Replete, Dave drove us to the van and we polished off a bottle of wine.
The heavy rain had cleared to sunshine on the drive west.
Steffi spotted Starlink low on the horizon. It was that or anti alien tracer fire….
Saturday’s walk was the Marloes Circular, with sunshine, seals and a super lunch at Runwayskiln.
Back at the van, a cup of tea then down to the beach for a gorgeous sunset.
Once darkness had descended, we relaxed in the van where wine and crisps were followed by cheese and biscuits, fruit and wine. And bed.
Mandatory Sunday morning stroll on Newgale Beach, then back to Mayhem for Mexican! Lovely sunny day. Cold and crisp overnight and in the shade. October has arrived.
Home by 6pm, got the log stove going – first time this year (well since the spring at any rate).
It had been cold overnight, so on Monday morning we put the heating on. First time…
A couple of hours prepping (these) weeknotes and updating already-flickred photos (Pembs and previous) and doing my new physio exercises, then out to bonfire.
Slow going, and very smoky, but over the next 6 hours or so I got through the three piles of hedge clippings and the older pile(s) of tree / shrub loppings. During the marathon session Phil brought my lunch out to me and laid on the 4pm tea and biscuit on the patio. I was done by 5pm-ish, give or take a few extra bramble cuttings.
In between times I trimmed the broken branches I could reach on our Wedding Plum, deconstructed the old, broken deck chair in the quarry and repurposed it as compost heap “fence” and refreshed the bait in the rodent trap – something had moved the box and dug a path to it; hopefully rats as the bait was all gone.
Listened to a lot of the Empire podcast episodes.
Got my Disney+ subscription up and running in the evening and started The Mandalorian.
The days are definitely drawing in. Dawn colours lingering over Grey Valley at 7.30am, and getting dark by 6pm.
TV: Fleabag, The Ghosts cast on the show’s final series | BFI Q&A (plus the Comic Relief Kylie Special and Bloopers on YouTube), This Farming Life, The Mandalorian.
Photos: Herefordshire week 198 on Flickr.
Phil: w/e 2023-10-15.