Col de Pause

Planned to drive up to Col de Pause but the road was closed (boo) so had to walk up.

Parked up in Serre and met a really huge mountain dog (I got back in the car – still shook up by my fave terrible twosome across from the gite).

Ate some nice ham and salami baguettes (thanks Dan) and set off up the rocky road.

Didn’t particularly enjoy the hike upwards – not really sure why. It was very beautiful though!

Took some little paths that cut out some of the road. Much shorter but much steeper!

Then we arrived at a little plateau, and decided to climb a small (but again, steep) hill to get some really beautiful 360° views. Even saw some vultures up in the sky.

Took some dorky photographs of us. Sat down and enjoyed the natural sounds around us – birds, insects, the river / waterfall running down the mountain. It’s the kind of place you can stay for a really long time as there’s no end of cool things to look at. And a straight line distance of 4km from Spain. Definitely not crossing over this time!

Met some people who had also walked up with their cute snowy white dog (a nice one!)

On the way down we saw a snake and a lizard (I don’t think I’ve ever seen a wild snake before?). We got the beautiful views that had been behind us on the way up.

Lac de Bethmale

So we started our hike at Lac de Bethmale, after having a nice view of the mountains at col de la core.Took a steep hike up a road that made a pretty nice path. Complained a bit. Smiled a bit. Crossed a few bits of snow (snow!!) and took them very steadily.Found our path and up we went! It wasn’t bad to begin with, just the rocky paths we are used to. And then we reached the snowline.I’d never walked in this kind of snow before – the kind where you don’t know whether your foot will slide right in so you’re thigh deep in it.


It got really steep and then Dan actually ended up thigh deep in it, so we turned back. (Why is it always us?)Going back down was even trickier as snow was becoming slush. This time it was me that ended up on my backside, but hey, at least my leggings dried quickly (can’t say the same for my boots).

Had a break when we’d reached the end of the snow. Saw other people on their way down – not sure if they went up the same way or not. Ah well! Better safe than sorry.

Only when we came back down the road did I realise just how long this section was! Down is much easier than up though! Saw a cute dog on the way.Got back to the lake, had a few snacks. Took a short walk around the lake. Job well half done…well more than half. Got to 1600m ish which is higher than I’ve ever been!

Cascade d’Ars

So I’d heard about a waterfall and Dan found out where it was. He drove us down 5km of mountain roads, plus through some little villages and we parked up at Aulus-les-Bains.

Naturally, the entire way to even the base of the waterfall was steep and rocky. Naturally, my legs were in no shape to do it comfortably, as always the case.

There were bits of snow around which was pretty odd for me walking around in a t-shirt. The weather was perfect.

We finally got to the base of the waterfall and honestly it was so beautiful and relaxing. I sat for a while just listening as Dan tried out some new camera features.

We tried to climb higher but we had to cross a smaller waterfall that just wasn’t looking that safe so stopped where we had arrived to have a rest. (Why does this always happen to us??)

The way down was much easier. It’s always good the see the views from a different perspective.

Got to the bottom, found a shop to get more food. Had chocolate tarts because why not? And cold drinks! I tried this cold green tea and honey fizzy drink that tasted mildly of beer.

As we drove home we spotted the fearsome dogs from yesterday taking themselves for a walk down the road! It was nice to know we would be able to get out of the car with no bother hahaha.

Aulus-les-Bains is a gorgeous little village and I’m glad we visited. Now to decide what comes next.

We’re in the Pyrenees!

In complete argument with my inner planner, we booked a last minute holiday to the Pyrenees. After waiting a day to hear if we could stay in our chosen accommodation, and having to try a second company to hire a car, we were all set!

Having had a couple of occasions of trying to sleep in the airport, or leaving the house at 1.30am to get there in time, we did the unthinkable and slept in an airport hotel. Even though we still had to wake up at 3:30am, it was totally worth it. Extra sleep = happy me.

From there it was no nonsense. Park the car, get on the bus, drop bags off that combined didn’t break the weight limits, through security, 5:30am breakfast, flight to Toulouse! (Thanks Ryanair for giving me the whole emergency exit row to myself – would have been nice to have sat with Dan who also had a row to himself 12 rows in front of me).The hire car proved no problem once we landed. Except it’s huge compared to what we normally get given! It does have a huge sunroof and in built satellite navigation so we can at least find our way to places!

We stopped at a little supermarket on the way, not realising it was closing at 1pm because it’s Sunday. We had half an hour and got a few bits and bobs for dinner. And then, pretty much 3 hours early, we arrived in Anilac, Oust.We decided to take a walk to the next village, Cominac, and got some spectacular mountain views, even with the overcast sky.We arrived back at Anilac to discover we’d been upgraded to a bigger gite as another family had stayed there the week before and it made sense not to warm another house.It’s so cute with the most amazing shower and heated floor in the lounge.

We cooked and ate dinner, read some, then decided to walk up the road a bit to get some phone signal.After giving the owner’s dog a fuss, Canelle (Cinnamon), we saw another tiny grey dog, who decided to bark at us, and attract it’s pal, a giant alsatian, who decided to chase us up the road with snapping teeth.

Tiny grey dog snapped at Dan’s ankles too!They abandoned chase and we got a tiny bit of signal at the end of the road. Then we realised we had to get back. Big dog spotted us but stayed in the garden of his house and we made it back. Note to self: some dogs are terrifying and don’t want to be friends. And sprinting is never a good idea after dinner.

Had an excellent cup of pukka’s relax tea (the irony is not lost) and went to bed in the cosy upstairs room.Here’s to avoiding scary Alsatians and seeing some beautiful sites.

Fjallraven Classic 2018 -Day 1 and the return

Day 1:

So it’s Sunday, we’re in Start Group 8 which sets off at 1pm. I wake up in my nice bed in Kiruna, sort my pack out, and go to breakfast. I feel a little bit like a did before sitting exams. Nervous. Particularly the ones I hadn’t prepped for too well…

One last toilet break, check out, and we make our way to where the buses leave from.

I’m feeling pretty nervous at the check in – there are so many people here that will be on the walk with us.

The bus leaves in half an hour. The good thing is I can look at all the different Fjallraven trousers colours and make up my mind which ones I want when I finish this hike!

And the coach arrived in Nikkaluokta, and there are dogs! We need one so I can sleep next to it.

We have 90 minutes until start time.

Weighed my bag, at 17kg. What. The. ****.

We have done the first few kilometres of the hike! Doesn’t feel too bad at the moment. I’ve got my waterproof on over my midlayer and though it’s a bit sweaty my bag fits a bit better with it on.

So the first 11km or so were great. Then everything kinda started to hurt and it rained alot and it was pretty scary to think we were walking 19km into nowhere with 91 left to go.

But I’m here at the checkpoint now, and what more can I do except breathe, and put the tent up after a big rest, and sleep?

Dan looked up the weather, and every day for the rest of the trail was rain, snow, intense gale force winds and below freezing temperatures. Someone even said that this was the fourth time he’d done the trail and someone recommended he turn back for the first time. (Later found out this was the worst weather in all 14 Fjallraven classics – a lot of people got helicoptered out).

So our other option is turn around and go back. And given day 1 consisted of a nose bleed, hyperventilation and being soaked through to my pants, this is what we have chosen to do.

I’m gutted, honestly. With warmer weather and less rain I’d have probably made it. The thought of camping in below zero temperatures later on makes me feel ill. I think it’s sensible to turn back and for us to enjoy what is left of our holiday. Maybe we will get to explore the Lofoten Islands which we didn’t have time for before. Or nip across to Finland for another country! All I know is feeling like this isn’t worth it.

Some people will say they have unfinished business with the Fjallraven Classic, but that’s me done. It really is a challenge, with unpredictable weather and relentlessly rocky paths. Much respect to everyone in Start Group 8 who finishes this year.

Having walked back 2km in the dark pitched a tent just before a downpour, and having my freshly warmed legs warm up my sleeping bag, I feel much better.

Day 2: walking back

Well proud of mine and Dan’s tent putting up last night – it got really gusty even though our position is pretty sheltered!

I walked 21km yesterday after only starting at 1pm with almost a third of my body weight on my back. That’s my furthest distance in a day ever, even with a small pack. And I actually feel okay this morning! (Probably thanks to Dan lending me his sleeping mat which has a better rating than mine so my feet and legs didn’t get cold).

Took my first big bag tumble, fortunately didn’t hurt myself.

I mean, it happens to the best of us!

This terrain is awful and though my backpack feels lighter I’m making more footing errors. Can’t wait to get back to Nikkaluokta whether that’s to camp or to get the bus back to Kiruna.

The scenery is lovely though (now we can actually see it without clouds).

My poor boots aren’t up for all this rock! My feet hurt. Alot. We’ve got 7.2km left of today. It’s honestly a beast. Decided to stop rushing for the bus and just camp at Nikkaluokta.

Looking through my photos when we sit down for a break makes me happy! We’ve been lucky enough to see this place, experience it, and in my case, nose bleed all over it.

Back at the strange wobbly bridge with 3.5km to go. It has been better on less rocky paths and it is nice that it is wide enough for us to walk side by side and have chats.

Made it back! Had a good sing along to Let it Go and Country Roads and we made it! My feet hurt but that is two big walks with my backpack and I’m so happy to be done!!!

Nikkaluokta seems to be pretty much in a different weather system. The sun is out, putting up the tent was actually fun and there is a shower and sauna.

And that’s it for my Fjallraven classic. I’m disappointed not to finish, but sometimes you just have to be sensible. Given I sit in a winter cardigan in the office air conditioning, I think we made the right decision.

Now to enjoy a camp and work out what we can do with our remaining days in Scandinavia!

Dartmoor Take Two – Live Blog

Hey everyone!
So we tried Dartmoor again to see if we could do a bit more walking than last time (and potentially camp for three nights). I thought I’d try something different and make notes of how I was feeling along the way. You’ll probably notice that I was quite miserable, but then it got better. I’m hoping when we do Fjallraven Classic Sweden 2018, I’ll feel a bit better after day 2 as I get used to the weight in my pack. This is also a record of things I’ll learn whilst practising.

Friday night
22:30 In the car, listening to the sounds of the trail podcast, wishing that Dartmoor wasn’t still an hour and a half away .

Dan started listening to the sounds of the trail podcast and finds it funny – I like it because there are lots of women and some of it is so relatable even though I don’t thru-hike yet.

Saturday
00:23 The tent is up, the stars are gorgeous, just inflating the mat and there we go. It is so much warmer than last time and nice to not be freezing. There’s a horse outside though (or two) and they’re creepy.

0:37 In my sleeping bag, warm, much happier than last time.

8:21 Awake and it’s warm!! Did get a little cold in the night.

I did get a little cold during the night – sleeping in trousers would probably be better given I’m a bit of a wimp.

10:21 we’ve put away the tent and been walking for 15 minutes or so. It really hurts and I hate this so much. But the little lambs were cute.

The first half an hour is always absolutely horrible.

11:01 Climbed up Bellever tor, no energy. Whyyyyy?

I forgot to mention that the view was beautiful.

11:39 So I hadn’t tightened my shoulder straps enough (urghhh) so that’s why the bag felt worse than last time. Still can’t say I’m feeling it yet.

Hadn’t adjusted it for just one layer – I had three last time I used it!

12:15 it’s lunch time – we made it to Postbridge – a pretty little village. Feel loads better (might be because we went downhill).

13:31 had a long reading break looking over the river. Very tired. We’ve only walked about 5km. 7 or 8 left.

14.38 Hartland Tor. It’s so hot today and I’m not feeling it. Urghhh. I want to feel it.

15:38 This is very hard today. But the sun’s gone in and we’re not too far off the forest…I’m just really tired.

16:07 Walked through a bog – can’t tell if my foot is wet from bog water or sweat. Probably both. Having to work out good crossing points distracted me from the fact this is hard.

It was good to have to think about foot placement instead of how warm it was.

16:23 There is just sodding brown everywhere.

Moorland – what can I say?

16:45 We are in the forest and I feel a bit better. Change of scenery is excellent because damn the Moors were getting boring.

17:27 Made it to the camping spot.

It was in a little wood just outside a reservoir area.

18:49 Just used the shewee. Love this adventure.

I bought a shewee because sometimes your legs hurt too much to squat. Was good to practise using it.

19:25 Tent is up, life is instantly better.

19:39 Even better, Daniel cooked dinner (I mean he does every day to be fair).

19:40 Ooooh pasta and weird french grains.

Total distance: 14.2km

Sunday
9:02 Slept okay but why do my arms and shoulders hurt and why are my legs fine?

12:12 Just been for a quick walk along the reservoir (bagless). I miss bagless walking…it’s too hot so saving the walking for later in the afternoon.

13:19 Note to self don’t take sleeping mat outside there are Ticks everywhere.

Fortunately didn’t get any bites, Dan can’t say the same. Little buggers.

14.19 Off we go, I really don’t wanna put this bag on.

14:59 A public loo! Just at the right time. Walking feels better today – I didn’t distribute the weight well yesterday which is why one of my hips hurt more than the other.

I put my clothes bag upright on one side meaning one side was much heavier than the other. Must learn to pack better.

15:36 Late afternoon is nice. Have a little headache though.

16:57 Uphill hurts. Bag feels better but the heat is relentless.

18:19 Walked through a forest, had a break and a read – back on the moorland but it’s cooler now. Enjoying myself again. It’s kinda beautiful.

20:04 Back at Postbridge, had dinner by the river (tuna and bean pasta). The ‘I’m doing cool stuff feeling’ has kicked in and I’m like yeeeeesss outdoors (also I saw a foal and some lambs which was awesome). I learned how to filter water.

Water filtering is actually easy. You just fill up a bag in the stream, attach this nozzle thing and squeeze the bag so the water goes into the container. Oh you can also drink from the nozzle – how cool is that? (It’s called the Sawyer Squeeze).

20:56 This is amazing. Up on a hill as it’s going dark. It is COOL and I’m not aaaah hot. Just gonna find a good camping spot.

21:21 Blessed with another public toilet! Tonight feels good. So so good. I’m so so happy.

Thanks Bellever Forest for leaving your loos open at night.

22:05 Ah it’s beautiful. The stars are out (maybe a couple of planets). There is no wind. It’s cool. It’s silent. I can see the car (we are going to the car now because I am totally on it). And I am enjoying night hiking.

22:36 Back at the car – 16.6km done today. Walking at night was soooo awesome.

03:15 I am home. Felt a bit sick in the car but so happy to have a bed.

Monday
13:04 I love Dan, he made me cheese and marmite on toast. Felt amazing to have a shower and sleep in a bed and urghhhhhhh it’s Tuesday tomorrow.

And there we have it, my second wild-camping adventure. Over in a flash (or not, it was a bit too hot to be happy sometimes!).

On to the next one….

Rebecca.

My First Wildcamp – Dartmoor

Back on Easter Bank Holiday weekend, I did my first wildcamp on Dartmoor (which also happened to be the first time I’ve had to carry my big 65L Osprey Aura backpack).

It was always going to be daunting – I’m not very strong and the bag was quite heavy (though in reality, no more than about 10kg).

The first battle was packing. My sleeping bag just about fits in the bottom of the backpack. I also find it really difficult to roll up my mat tight enough to fit in its case – but Dan was on hand to do it properly. I also carried water, snacks, clothes, waterproofs, toiletries and I think Dan had the rest (he’s good like that).

We arrived at Hound Tor on Saturday afternoon (we’d avoided the morning rain). The biggest challenge was picking the backpack up and trying to get it onto my back. Fortunately, once in place, the hip belt made and tightening the shoulder straps made it reasonably comfortable. Poles were lengthened and off we went.

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I can’t remember most of the route (I remember passing Widecombe-on-the-Moor at some point). And we went up a really big hill in the freezing wind. There was also some sort of trail race going on, but rather them than me. It was exhausting, cold and I was honestly a little miserable. But late in the afternoon, we started to go downhill again (and in my ‘I hurt so much and I’m so tired and bleeeeh’ state, started singing John Denver’s Take Me Home, Country Roads).

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It felt good to take off my rucksack, but within a few minutes of stopping the walk I got really cold. I half-heartedly helped Dan put the tent up (it’s an easy tent to put up, but some of it is fiddly with thickish gloves on). By the time I could get inside, I was shivering and even more miserable and honestly had no desire to ever camp again. I think I even cried a little bit – yes, I’m a bit of a wimp. But Dan cooked us some pasta (mixed with John West packets of tuna or salmon and random cous-cous variations to add some flavour), and I ate it with my sleeping bag over my legs, with base layer, jumper, fleece and synthetic down jacket on. As I warmed up, I was lots happier.

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I slept reasonably well. Dan’s old inflatable mat was much more comfortable than the roll mat that I was using before. My sleeping bag was incredibly cosy. I slept in a hat. I woke up to the sound of sheep grazing. It was actually really peaceful.

Naturally, it was still cold in the morning. Naturally, I was too cold to change clothes (I did manage to change socks and wow it felt good). Naturally, I had to wee outside which was rather difficult with sore legs. But after that, we packed up and walked the last few kilometres back to Hound Tor. My collar bones ached a lot from the day before but everything felt better after the first half an hour or so. And it still hadn’t rained, which was awesome.

When we finished, we got celebratory cheeseburgers at the burger van, warmed up in the car, and drove home. And I actually felt really good. And I’d happily do it again (hopefully in slightly better weather). I’ve learned to put my thermals on before I get too cold to change clothes, to trust my sleeping bag which is warm even if it doesn’t look it, and that I can carry my big bag over a fair distance with hills in it.

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I can’t wait to give it a go again!

Rebecca.