Nov 28

Dhaulagiri Circuit Trip Report – over the French Col

This report is split into 3 posts

Italian Base Camp to Glacier Camp

  • 4.6 miles
  • 4.25 hours elapsed
  • 800m total ascent (with 210m descent)
  • Max elevation:  4185m  (+575m)
  • Toilet tent/hole in ice
  • Dinner: Soup, rice/potato/tomato sauce, pineapple
Rocky valley with some grass. Sides have a lot of rockfall
Vegetation recedes

We’re into the sharp end of the trek today. We had an early call at 05:30, the intent is to get started early before the sun hits the slope in the valley and starts letting loose the rocks. In previous years, the route went up from the camp and across the glacier at a higher level, before crossing the river to the left hand of the valley. This has no change and we head down to the bottom and cross just above the end of the glacier and then climb directly up the side of the valley. This was not a great walk, landslides meant that the path was precarious and a lot of steps had to be kicked into place; there were a number of places where the exposure was high and a lot of care was needed.  It was bad enough for us – the porters needed additional help in places as they had to carry their loads across the route. It got a lot better once we were into the valley; there were still bits of up and down as we went over the debris from rockfall and landslides, but it was a more gentle ascent, with a few river crossings needed. We had one very near miss, when a football sized rock came rolling down the hill between the team, missing by about 10m.

The team walking across a set of rocks in a river
River crossing

We eventually got to camp around 11am; a very different place, lots of rocks, with some snow in between. The tents were placed in cleared flattened spots, not really close together. Luckily there were enough spots and no new ones needed to be cleared. The tents were finally installed after lunch, as the some of the porters were behind us. I spent most of the day in the tent reading – it was the warmest places as you definitely needed layers to be out and about

rocky campsite with porters and bags. Only kitchen tent is set up, befind are snowy slopes
Setting up at Glacier Camp

Glacier Camp to Dhaulagiri Base Camp

  • 4 miles
  • 4.75 hours elapsed
  • 520m total ascent (with 40m descent)
  • Max elevation:  4675m  (+490m)
  • Toilet tent/hole in ice
  • Dinner: Soup, rice/dal/beef jerky curry, mixed fruit
snow over glacial morrain, rocky slopes of mountains on both sides of the narrow valley
Looking down the valley

Back to our usual 6am call and then out marching off for 07:30. Today was a steady trudge up, with snow underfoot from the beginning. Easy to deal with at the start of the day when frozen, but harder going as it warmed up later. It was a very steady pace for me, the breathing was fine but the limiting factor was my legs, they had definitely reached a limit of up today, with the hips/glutes feeling really tired. There was no need to stop and rest them, I just kept plodding, but it was just tiring.

team sitting on bags on the snow, snowy valley in front with mountains behind
Lunch in the snow

When we got to base camp, it was a mess. Around 2m of snow in places, much of it covered abandoned kit from the mountain expeditions. The guides and porters managed to dig out a few useful things and I got a total bonus – a TENT MATTRESS!!  It was on top of the snow (I assumed one of the other trekking groups had left it there) and I grabbed it and dried it out before bringing it into my tent for the 2 nights we were staying. Oh, it made such a different, about 2 inches of foam providing insulation making it a very comfortable residence, even if it never quite reached lovely tent sauna temps as it was generally cold and windy, and every now again a bank of clouds rolled over camp, just blotting out the sun.

snowy camp, with paths though the snow showing depth of 1m+  One tent set up only
Base Camp. Under that snow there’s a lot of camping equipment

On day 2, I decided not to do the acclimatisation walk and rest my legs – just stretching. I was not intending to do the mountain, so it was less important for me to go higher in prep.  It was warmer, with less wind and less cloud later on.

Dhaulagiri Base Camp to Hidden Valley

  • 5.25 miles
  • 8.5 hours elapsed
  • 605m total ascent (with 250m descent)
  • Max elevation:  5380m  (+705m)
  • hole in ice (no tent today…just a tiny snow wall)
  • Dinner: Soup, spaghetti bolognaise, pineapple
snow and more snow. People in distance plodding over the snow
Up to the French Col

Today was the biggest planned day – up over the French Col, the highest point for me – and then down to the Hidden Valley. Overnight, we’d got down to about -13c, so it was a chilly start. A quick breakfast, a camp breakdown and away we went. We were walking on deep snow, on a very narrow route that had been compacted by previous trekkers, only about 6 inches wide in general. Any steps too far off the path and down you went, to your knees or your hips. It made for very slow going.

First stage was to head out of camp, on the opposite side of the valley to Dhaulagiri, away from the avalanche zone. After about 2 hours, we headed up the wall of the moraine away from the glacier, but still on deep snow. First steep climb done, we could see our “summit”, the top of the French col but still a bit to go along the crest of the moraine and then up to the top of the Col. This took another 4 hours for the 2 miles  (with breaks).  A this point we cam across the donkeys – 2 live ones and quite a few dead. They’d been used to get kit up to base camp for the expeditions but had been abandoned with the heavy snow 2 weeks before, there was no way to get them back down apparently. So they died – I had no idea how 2 were still alive but there was nothing we could do

Me on the top of the Frnech col. Behind me the long glacial valley and Dhaulagiri 1 mountain
Posing at my summit

Now it was supposed to be an easy stroll to camp, taking about an hour, down from the coll and through the valley. Easy to was not, it felt like a  never ending trudge through slushy snow – although looking at the times it was only about 2 hours, it just felt a lot longer. The relentless sun meant everything was just bright and undifferentiated and at this point, my mind was definitely not having fun, it was like I was in perpetual déjà vu, saying something and then not sure if I had said it or repeated it. We made stops for food and drink and I was fine then, just the endless trudging, looking at nothing but the feet to judge where to go meant my mind felt like I was disassociating. When I did see the tents, I wasn’t 100% sure we were actually there, given how many times I’d hoped to see them.

Snow, snow, heading down. People plodding in the distance
Heading down from the Col. We had a long way to hit camp

I made my way to the dining tent and immediately burst into tears.  Five minutes later I was fine, but this was a huge emotional release of making it after what had been a horrible few hours but felt a lot longer. I wasn’t the only one upset, there had been a lot of effort by all in getting to this place. 

At this point, we had no sleeping tents, no gear and the kitchen had only just got water – they had to travel 300m to get water supply. Porters were still spread out over the mountain and slowly trickling in. They were doing an amazing job but almost everyone was having a bad day.

The kitchen team pulled out a miracle and we got fed and watered. They continuously managed to create amazing meals in challenging circumstances. Over dinner, we discussed the next day. The other 7 of the team were due to climb Dhampus, but at this stage, 4 decided it was not for them, they had enough, especially given the expected conditions of deep snow. Phil, Tommy and Kathryn were ready to go for it – so they planned a 4am start. 

The other decision made was that we would skip the next camp, which was only a few hours away, and pull out a really long day to head towards where we would have lunched the following day, which was a lot further down and below the snowline

Everything was late running today, but we got to bed rapidly after dinner. Unfortunately for me, my bad times had not ended – my airbed had developed a leak. More miracles – Phil came to the rescue and managed to find the puncture so was not going to be sleeping without insulation on the snow. I was very happy with this given it was -21c overnight.   One final issue – I’d not renewed my suncream and overnight, the sunburn came out, which made it an uncomfortable last few days.

Hidden Valley to Yak Karkha

  • 11.25 miles
  • 12.5 hours elapsed (approx., no watch for last time)
  • 1100m Descent, to 4300
  • A stretch of dirt – not even a hole dug!
  • Dinner: Soup, pasta/sausage/veg/, peaches

I could hear the peak team leaving around 5, the rest of us had an 6am call. Everything was slower today, with breakfast not quite there.  It was very cold, but the team leads were also not there and you could tell. Breakfast become quite funny, when everything frozen. First the spoons froze to the bowls; then the toasted bread literally froze on the plate, it was still about -15c. That was not finished!

Normally, we’d be finishing breakfast and things would have been packed around us, but again, a lot slower. But this could be expected given a lot of the porters gear was still frozen – as the sun came up, they were trying to defrost their boots.  Things went a lot quicker once the cook team had lit a fire, they could defrost their boots there. I knew how long a day it was going to be, so wanted to get moving, we were all ready. But plans had obviously changed, instead of going with the guide, we were waiting.  Two figures appeared over the horizon, trekking towards us. Chris and Dawa had come back, ready to lead us on. Pasang, Phil, Kathyrn and Tommy were carrying on up the mountain.  Now we saw some action and finally started.  The first 2 hours were gently (and then steeply) uphill, over Dhampus pass. Every now and again we’d get a glimpse of the 4 figures up the hill. Over the pass and we headed down for a bit, passing where we would have been camping on the original schedule.  We were still trudging along the very narrow passable “solid” snow with constant sinkings to either side, which meant continuously concentrating on where the feet were placed.  I’d borrowed a paid of mini-crampons and they helped a lot – I need to get my own pair for the next time I’m in these conditions.

Looking up, we could see the team had split; 2 were sitting waiting, 2 heading on up further. But they could not get all the way up in the agreed time; they needed to turn around and come back down. Phil had made the attempt, with Pasang, but it was not to be.  They caught up with us around 12:30.

At this point, I thought we would have been heading down more, as we knew we had a lot of descent to do. But not on this path, we spent a lot – A LOT – of time traversing slopes, around the ridges and outcrops. This was supposed to be a not too bad path, but the snow just made it worse. There was a lot of having to kick in steps, to keep your footing, just to find somewhere to step. It was hard work; I slipped a few times, but arrested myself quick enough, even if I ended up bending the walking pole enough not to be fixable!  Only a few places were objectively dangerous where you would not want to slip, most of the time it was a fairly gentle slope. This is where my lack of speed did cause an issue. It was a long trek, I was tired and I was slowing down. As the day wore on, we started walking through clouds and at this point my ability to assess footing was severely reduced, the flat light meant I couldn’t tell whether a foot placement was level or sloping, it was just flat white. There was some of this in the bright light, but it was a lot easier.  I was also getting some of the same weird brain dissociation as the day before.   It was also obvious some of the porters were in difficulty on the slopes with their luggage and the guides were back and forth helping them on some slopes.  After 9.5 miles we finally got to a place where we could see down into the next valley – we had made it. Nearly.  There was another 1.75miles, 90 mins or so and 800m of descent to go, down a dirt path. The sun was setting as I got to the top of the hill and it was dark when I got to the campsite. A reason to always carry a head torch.  I was now only with Dawa, who had given his headtorch to one the guide who was heading back up the hill to find the rest of the porters – we were still 3 down at this point.   Mentally I was in a lot better place than yesterday, physically I was a lot more tired, it had been at least 12 hours on my feet.

Dawa, head sherpa, standing, with sun glowed Annapurnas in the background
One of the few photos taken by me on this day. Dawa the head guide, with the Annapurnas in the background.

The camp was still being set up, the dining tent just a shelter, with no seats and our personal tents were not ready, some were still up the hill. Finally, everyone arrived and things slowly got sorted. Food arrived but for the first time none of us could really finish it. The cook team had done a miracle again and we all felt really bad that none of us were quite able to eat it all, we were all tired.

We eventually got to bed after 9, all of us carefully walking around the campsite to avoid the mix of animal and human faeces – it was not a nice clean campsite. Our group added some to it – there was no toilet tent or hole in the ground today.  But a better night sleep was promised, we were warmer and lower down.

Yak Karkha to Marpha

  • 5 miles
  • 3.25 hours elapsed
  • 1600m Descent, to 2650
  • Nepali toilet
  • Dinner: Soup, pasta/greens/sauce,  Pineapple. BEER!

Yesterday was horrible but it was definitely the right decision. We had a late call (8am), a most magnificent breakfast view and only a half day walk ahead. Although it was not going to be the easiest for me, it was all about the down, 1600m is a long descent. I took it easy as the path was rough and I needed to take care to avoid missing steps.  My challenge is I know I can improve my up and traverse speed, but down speed is going to be a problem as I literally can’t tell the state of where I am stepping, the distance of the down step or the level of the slope.

Narrow street, whitewashed buildings, prayer flags. The Marpha Apple sign on hill in background
Marpha and the apple sign

We hit Marpha around noon and it was lovely! A very tourist friendly main street, with shops and cafes and flags. We wandered along it, eventually heading out a little for our lodgings for the night. We were camping in the garden of a tea house, still using our kitchen team.  Tents took a while – the porters were obviously having an easy day and I can’t blame them after yesterday. After lunch, some headed into town. I decided a hot shower was worth the 200 rupees, although I think I was the only one.

Things were laid out to dry and we sorted out the money for the tips, tonight was the last night for the porters.  We all gave a little extra – they had worked very, very hard under challenging conditions.  After dinner, they came in (well, nearly all, one had obviously had a little too much local drink). There was a speech by Chris and Kathryn added a few words in Nepali and then we were done.

Full team and guides, posing for group photo.
The full team on the last day

Getting back to Kathmandu

The last few days provided a whole lot of interesting travel setbacks. The original plan was to leave Marpha early and head up the prad to Jomsom, check into a lodge and then fly out the following day, to Pokhara. But the first problem was accommodation in Jomson; whatever the original plans were, this was not happening and they could not find somewhere where we could do our own cooking (or rather, have the team cook). So no morning walk, we stayed around Marpha for the morning and then had the lunch back at the accommodation. We had a great treat for lunch – fried chicken and greens!   We said goodbye to the cook team now and headed out; unlike Chris’s previous visit this was not a trekking track, but a road all the way up. Not that pleasant a walk and when we got to Jomson, the immediate reaction was not as nice as Marpha. 

Next issue came with a phone call – there was no plane! The one we were booked on was grounded and the flight would not be happening. We were installed in a teahouse for a drink whilst Dawa worked his magic and sorted out two 4WD vehicles, after lots of calls. No easy afternoon for us. The bags (which had been delivered to Jomsom in a truck) were loaded up on top of the vehicles and we split between them. It was after 4 by the time we were leaving Marpha again and we had at least 3 hours drive ahead of us to get to Beni, our planned stop. The trip was not too bad at the start, a mix of paved sections with some slightly rougher bits. But as we went further, and it got darker, the road got worse. And worse. And a bit more worse. Almost all unpaved but also hit with a lot of landslides. The drivers did an amazing job of getting us there, but it was not the most comfortable of drives. I’m not sure whether it was better in the light (where I could see the drops to the river) or the dark, when I couldn’t). Every now and again we met a bus coming the opposite way, often requiring some gentle manoeuvring to get past safely.

We got to Beni and our hotel for the night; the restaurant was a little Fawlty Towers like, with many, many mistakes in the orders, but we all got fed in the end. Up early the following day for about another 3+ hours on the road. Only the first hour or so was poor, then we got onto better roads.   We had lunch next to the airport and said goodbye to Tommy and Kathryn who were staying in Pokhara. Finally, we got on a plane to Kathmandu, getting to our hotel for about 19:30.

We had one full day left, so I booked a massage and a facial and then went out for a lovely Japanese lunch. For dinner that evening, we headed out to Dawa’s restaurant, which was not yet officially open but was in soft launch. An excellent local meal with local beer 😊 

Overall, I loved this trip. There were a few moments of terror, but nothing really that made me question why I was doing it, as there had been on previous trips.  You absolutely needed to have had some experience of similar trips and environments I think to get the most of it – I would not recommended it if this is your first time in the mountains without any trekking or campaign experience. 

Reflecting on the trip.

I went on this trip to continue to get experience in mountain environments and of multi-day campaign trips. I got both of them in spades so it hit all of those needs.  But I also have more work to do

Fitness!  I’d worked hard over the summer on uphills, especially after some issues on the mountaineering course early this year. I was a lot better than then but there is still so much more to do. I am not fast and I have to build more speed into my uphill walking.

  • The training plan has been roughly mapped out for the year
  • I have weekends booked every month in Wales to get more hills
  • I am trying to be more accountable in doing ALL the planned sessions

Agility. This is a downhill issue. I will always have issues given eyes and lack of depth perception but I think I can improve my speed by working on balance and flexibility, so that when I do miss my step I am better prepared to deal with the instability

  • I am adding yoga to my plan
  • I am working on balance exercises

Self-Reliance and kit. A stupid mistake not to have the airbed repair kit with me.

  • More thinking and planning about what is needed – making sure I have all the spares built in. It’s a lesson learnt and won’t happen again
  • Micro-crampons. I had never seen or heard of these. I’m getting a set and taking a deeper look at various kit that can be used.

Mountain Skills. There were things I had never done before

  • Traversing.  I have very little done of this so the skill of kicking out steps had to be learnt in the walk – which given the situation we were in was not the easiest. I need to look for opportunities to build these skills.
  • Climbing was not needed for this, but will be for future trips. I am adding this to the plan, having started indoor sessions and looking to add some outdoor stuff next year.

For the full set of pictures, see Flickr

Nov 28

Dhaulagiri Circuit Trip Report – up to Italian Base Camp

This part was relatively straight forward. We slowly made our way north and upwards, travelling along valleys. There was a lot of up and down and a few diversions, but nothing was too difficult. Apart from me falling into a river!

This report is split into 3 posts

Darbang to Sibang

  • 7.7 miles
  • 6.5 hours elapsed
  • 1000m total ascent (with 331m descent)
  • Max elevation:  1075m
  • Toilet:  Toilet tent/hole in ground
  • Dinner: Soup, Chicken curry and mixed fruit.
view of dirt school playground, with group of children being drilled in backlground and our tents by the side
Camping at Darbang – a dusty school playground

An early start today, I think the earliest we had across the whole trip. A 0530 knock on the tent with a cup of tea and a washing bowl of warm water.  We got tea and water across the whole trip when we were in the tents. We were needing to head off early as the playground was going to be used for more drilling – and this was our first morning, so they were allowing more time to sort ourselves out.

We rolled out of camp around 0720 and took the road. It was a road a the start, we had to keep out the way of buses, 4WD and lots and lots of bikes. It was a steady climb; with occasional steeper bits as we took a shortcut up a slope when the road took the longer more gradual route. At the top of every climb, around every mile, we stopped for drink and rest.  Looking at the later days, they were easing us into the walking, not doing too much too early.

Green covered mountains, with a farm and village in the centre, with layered fields for rice
Hills, valleys and farms

Lunch was had around half way – about 1030! A regular occurrence on the early days, an early lunch, only a few hours after breakfast, before dinner at 6.    Across the trek, lunch was definitely the most eclectic of the meals, a mix of stuff that you may never expect. This one was quite mild – potatoes and Cheese/Onion toasties. This also established the theme for most meals – carbs and more carbs.

We arrived at camp just before 2, another school playing field, with a football match being planned. They were painting the goalposts and checking the pitch.   Tents were put up, kit reviewed. I decided to do some washing, which obviously caused it to rain torrentially for a couple of hours. We discovered the minor issue of tents not being quite right and some leaking, something we made sure would not happen again as we always checked in the future. Although it did not rain again, it was good practice.  Post dinner, taking advantage of the “warmth” we played a lot of cards before retiring around 9ish

The team sitting around at the end of day 1 trek. No tents yet
Waiting for things to happen

Sibang to Jugapandi

  • 8.8 miles
  • 8 hours elapsed
  • 1115m total ascent (with 1369m descent)
  • Max elevation:  1872m (+797m)
  • Toilet:  Fixed toilet hut + tent/hole in the ground
  • Dinner: Soup, Pasta/sauce/veg
mountains and valleys, still with vegetation. You can see the path across the valley
Looking ahead on the path. We go down before back up to that path

The wakeup knock was at 6, with breakfast al fresco – they’d taken down the dining tent early. Today we were going to be following a river, with a lot of up and then down in order to get over the various tributary streams. You could see the impact of the monsoon, with landslides etc. In one case, we needed to make a detour, on a different path which ended up crossing a river via some boulders. This is where disaster struck, at least for me. Long step, slippy stones and in I went. I was fine. The phone not so – cracked and soaked. Turn it off, get in in rice as soon as I could and I waited a few days to see how it was.  End result – no camera (and it’s a phone sold on camera quality) and a touch screen that does not work well. It also screwed up the SIM..so needed to get that replaced when back. We carried on from this stream, up and then down. Looking ahead to the next uphill, another problem was spotted – there was no path. It had all been swept away by another landslide. Pasang was sent ahead to see if it was passable, but the answer was no. The detour was not as obvious this time, but just visible – we’d head straight up the hill where there was just about an emerging path that was developing. This took us, after a steep walking climb, up to the road, which we followed for a while before getting to the next “shortcut” path which led us over the next ridge. I did have a “tingly” moment on this hill – which meant I was not taking care of myself. Lessons learnt, it did not happen again as I made sure I was topping up food and water at each minor stop. The ankle was also playing up today (I sprained it badly in July). So bad legs, bruises, wet, boking out and a broken phone. This was just a very messy and uncomfortable day.

An early stop for lunch, but not for long, today was a pretty long day for the trek. We got to our night stop, which was a tea house, as things were being organised.  There was a “proper” toilet here, it a hut with a squat toilet arrangement, but the tent was also put up for our use as the fixed facility was OK, but not brilliant.  Tea and biscuits, general tent faffage (finally feeling I have the system OK) before dinner and games. Bed was around 8

Jugapandi to Boghara

  • 3.75 miles
  • 4 hours elapsed
  • 1040m total ascent (with 676m descent)
  • Max elevation:  2048m (+176m)
  • Toilet:  Fixed toilet hut
  • Dinner: Soup, noodles/tofu/green beans/peanut sauce , peaches

The regular 6am start before heading out around 7:30. My notes say lots of uphill and lots of steps, the trails are “managed” to a certain extent and steps help us going up and down. This was a very short day, we stopped at 11:30, at a tiny village with a couple of houses and a tiny tea house. They put out a bowl of beer and Coke bottles, but I don’t think anyone bought. I spent nothing between leaving Pokhara and arriving in Marpha.

Sitting by path Two of the team overlook the valley
Break for drinks

Our tents were set up on some terraces and we then had the rest of the day to relax and do chores.  The first priority was to dry things, as much was still damp, including my shoes from the day before. Tents, sleeping bag and clothes were all laid out in the sun to dry off. We also had the opportunity to wash clothes and dry on a line, with running water from a hose plugged into a stream.   Most importantly, I washed my hair! Cold water, but it was good to get it cleaner. It was more than warm enough to dry quickly. This started a trend and the other women did the same as did some of the men, who took the opportunity to strip for a full wash. Reading and resting for the afternoon before dinner and games. Early to bed for some more reading.

Terraces and tents, mountains in the background. Team members standing around
Sorting out the tents

Boghara to Dobang

  • 6.35 miles
  • 6.5 hours elapsed
  • 1878m total ascent (with 1261m descent)
  • Max elevation:  2506m (+458m)
  • Toilet:  Toilet tent/hole in ground
  • Dinner: Soup, cabbage/pasta/sauce, pineapple

Our largest climbing day so far, with a fair bit of down recorded. These ups and downs are what the watch recorded, so every up and down, but overall the day was up, ending up 458m higher.   Usual morning timings, up at 6, head out at 7:30. There was a lot of forest walking today, which reminded my of UK forests, with rough paths and lots of routes. There were far more steps though, up and down – the last few days have pushed my calfs and they’re a little sore today.  We kept an eye out for monkeys – they were “promised” in the trip itinerary – but nothing was seen.  I was at the head of the walk today, they were moving at my pace.  Although probably slower than some would have preferred, we were still hitting the days targets for getting where we needed to be. Three hours to the early lunch spot and then another 2.5 hours , arriving about 2 in the afternoon. There was no warm sun this afternoon at camp, we were in the wrong part of the valley and the sun had moved behind the mountains. We were all feeling the chill in the air, with more layers being put on for hanging around the camp.

Busy campsite, bags all out of tents, tents being taken down
Taking down the tents

There are two other groups in the camp, both French. One had been at the same place as us yesterday but the other group were coming down. It may have been lost in trnaslations, but the information we got was that they had been stuck at Italian Base Camp with 1m+ of snow and could not go any further. That was not what we had heard so far, as we’d understood we could pass further.  This news made no impact on our plans, we were still heading up.  Dinner and bed for 8 tonight.

Dobang to Soligari

  • 4.6 miles
  • 4.5 hours elapsed
  • 1410m total ascent (with 725m descent)
  • Max elevation:  3160m (+654m)
  • Toilet:  Toilet tent/hole in ground
  • Dinner: Soup, pizza (with cabbage!)/pasta/veg +peanut sauce, pineapple

The usual start to the morning, out for 7:30. It was a lot colder last night, was considering an extra layer but I did warm up in the end. We walked through a lot more forest today, starting off with broad leaves and ending with conifers; we had bamboo all the way up. It was relatively stead up with no real downs, but more undulating.  Today, the group split into those that wanted to go faster – I was with the more relaxed team

We had 3 river crossing today and understandably I was apprehensive. For one I handed over my pack – we were using stones; the others had “bridges” although one was basically a narrow truck. I edged across them with care.  I really need to add more balance and walking across narrow things to my training!

tents, with team member lying in son. Small green toilet tent in background
Waiting out the afternoon. You can see toilet tent in the background

It was only a half day today, lunch was served at our campsite instead of partway. We had a nice terraced campsite, quite small, with just enough room for us and the French team heading up. A lovely sunny afternoon was spent relaxing, with everything dragged out for drying.  Partook in a bit of yoga with Anne, stretching out the legs and back.  

Soligari to Italian Base Camp

  • 2.5 miles
  • 2.25 hours elapsed
  • 500m total ascent (with 41m descent)
  • Max elevation:  3610m  (+450m)
  • Nepali toilet
  • Dinner: Soup, beef jerky/pasta/veg +peanut sauce, pineapple and momos, potato cakes and greens on day 2.

It was a late start today, as we only had a short walk. Again, there was a split, with myself and Gordon taking the relaxed way.   More uphill, more woods, more stream crossing, a really lovely morning stroll. Italian Base camp is situated perfectly, in a bowl, with Dhaulagiri 1 behind and on the right and other smaller mountains on the left.  It’s got a “lodge” and a permanent residence (which had satellite tv and solar electricity) and with sleeping rooms and terraces for camping. It also has a few toilets, so we had a brick building instead of a tent at this camp, that was going to be our home for the next two days.

View to small collection of buildings that is Italian Base Camp. Behind are the lower slopes of Dhaulagiri 1
Italian Base Camp, in front of Dhaulagiri 1

Our donkeys caught up with us today, bringing more provisions and the heavier mountaineering gear we’d left behind.  Lunch, stretching and gear drying were the first things to happen, before Anne and I went for a small walk out along our route to the next camp. Down the slope behind the camp – and at the bottom we had a really hard time working out how we would get to the next part of the walk, given there was no obvious path across the glacier and a lot of the paths/steps on the other side of the river appeared to be covered by landslides. We’d find out in a couple of days.

Not the best night’s sleep, combination of altitude hitting and the donkeys sounding like they were wandering around all night very close to the tents! We had a planned lie in on the morning, but I was awake and up around 6:15, so sat and watched the light, as the sun hits the top of the mountains.  The French team and a sole Spanish trekker headed out this morning, after only one night at camp, obviously on a far tighter schedule.  We had a guide and 2 porters head out too, to make a drop of food and equipment at the next camp and to see what the conditions were like so we could make a go/no decision to carry on.

Our acclimatisation walk today was supposed to be a “gentle stroll” which basically consisted of heading straight up the side of Dhaulagiri to get a lot more altitude. An additional 350m added, up to 3960m.

In the afternoon, there was kit check for the rest of the group who were planning on tackling Dhampus and also a chat about the emergency kit and altitude. I volunteered to be the test subject for a demonstration of the Portable Altitude Chamber, which was definitely an interesting experience.  You get zipped inside and they start inflating it until it becomes a hard, rigid shell. We used a barometric altitude watch which showed I’d dropped down the equivalent of 2100m. You have to keep pushing air into the PAC, because otherwise you’re in danger of asphyxiating from CO2 – I could definitely feel the impact as I started to yawn a lot. 

One final dinner and off to sleep. it was about to get a lot harder from now one. We were heading through the pass.

narrow valley, with glacier and lots of rockfall. No obvious path through
The next day’s route

You can find the full set of pictures on Flickr

Nov 28

Dhaulagiri Circuit Trip Report – getting to the start

This trip was originally booked for October 2020. But we all know what happened that year!  It moved first to 2021 and then finally to 2022. We were a go.

2 kit bags on the snow, with a background of mountains and blue sky
Bags at Dhaulagiri Base Camp

The trip was picked based on providing skills needed to get to my long term ambitions. I don’t know if I will end up climbing a big mountain, but on the journey, there’s lots of things I need to learn. For this one, the key skills were around tent and kit management, combined with weather extremes and varied terrain. The circuit definitely provides that!  It’s not a well-travelled route; there are minimal tea houses as in other parts of Nepal and for a week or so, there is nothing but the landscape.  So you need to be self-supported for a large part of the trip. For this group, organised through Jagged Globe, this was with a full team of porters, sherpas and a cook team, carrying all the tents, food and equipment we would need. Some stuff was sent up the trail on donkeys for a resupply, but everything we needed had to be carried in one way or the other. It is also not a popular route with porters, as it is hard work and the weather/underfoot surfaces are not the best.  On asking if any of our porters would want to do it again, the answer was NO!

Mid October arrived and I was all set to go. Everything was checked and packed. Then came the email…a late monsoon and heavy snowfall meant that the trek may not be viable. Looking at news stories, I could see why. The Dhaulagiri climbing teams had abandoned the mountains, with reports of avalanches and deaths; a trekker had allegedly being killed in the pass by an avalanche (although reports on this were sketchy). We’d be going to Nepal, but we may end up doing a different trek – the decision would be made by the time I got there.

The travel gods were not on my side though…the getting there proved problematic.  We were flying Qatar, via Doha, and I was on the afternoon flight (there were others on the team on the earlier flight). Arriving at checkin, my app was telling me I was on the next morning’s flight. The incoming flight was delayed about 3 hours, which meant I would not make my connection, which meant they autobooked me to the following day. There were plenty of other Jagged Globe clients in the same position; some got on the original and waited at Doha for next, others were put on different flights. We all got there in the end, but with a far reduced time in Kathmandu. I ended up getting lucky – got an upgrade from the Doha – Kathmandu flight, so at least I managed to get some flat sleep before getting in at 0230 on the Monday morning. It was only a short stay though, we left the hotel at noon on Monday, heading back to the airport, this time the domestic flight to Pokhara. 

carpark and road, with bus parked up before the shops
A blingy bus waiting outside the hotel

A couple of hours delay on the flight (not unusual) but we made the quick hop of about 25 mins. Now we were delivered to a really nice hotel for the night, finding time for a good meal and a couple of beers.   Not too early start the next day as we changed to our next mode of transport – a blingy bus.  Heading out, we passed what appeared to be the marathon for the National Games of Nepal  – not on a closed road, but running along the main highway. Pretty soon the “highway” description started to not be true, tarmac sections began to be interspersed with unpaved roads and eventually all we had was unpaved, the width of which varied depending on the landslides.  It has been a bad monsoon session, there were quite a few landslides.  Having replaced a punctured tyre, we arrived at Beni for lunch and then back in the bus for the last stage in a vehicle. Finally we turned up at Darbang, where we found the team and the tents pitched on a school playing ground, which was playing host to groups of teens being drilled by the authorities. We got ourselves sorted, picked out the heavier gear (boots, axes etc) to be loaded on the donkeys that would meet us up the trail and then settled down for our first camp meal.

Picture of bus at side of road, man under neath trying to change tyre. Hills and mountains in the background
Changing the tyres

We had a cook and 3 kitchen boys who turned out the food for the trekking group and all the porters.  The general consensus was it was amazing food for the conditions and we almost always finished off all the food, with little appetite loss seen, which is quite unusual. Off to be under canvas for the first time and we were ready to go.

So who were the trekkers?  There were 8 of us, one who had only booked the week before.

  • Anne and Phil. The youngest on the trip, from Stourbridge. I’d met Anne at the pre-trip weekend, the only other one who had made it from the team. This was their honeymoon  – they’d married in March. They had a lot of outdoor experience in the UK, Alps etc but had never been to Nepal
  • Tommy and Kathryn. A semi-retired couple, who were in their 2nd month in Nepal. Making the most of their travel time
  • Then we had the three single travellers. Jesper, from Denmark; Donald, who’d worked all over the world but was now retired; Steve, who’d booked last minute.  All three had done a lot of trekking and mountains, a very experienced group

Our guide was Chris Groves, whose role was to act as liaison with the local team and to keep us all safe (and enthusiastic)

I’ve split this into 3 posts, so click through to read the next ones, which are far more about the trekking

You can find the full set of pictures on Flickr

Sep 30

Quarter Notes 3 2022

Another episode of the quarter notes, written purely for my benefit so I can remember what I was up to!

A bowler throws to the batter; behind them the Media Stand
T20 Cricket at Lords
  • I started the quarter with another trip to London, this time to go to my first cricket match, a T20 country game at Lords. I’d been invited along by a Twitter Friend to learn about the game as I had never watched it and my placement at the Commonwealth Games was at the Cricket. Excellent time was had a Lords – even if my first impression of the Pavillion was a sea of men in blazers, with the only women being staff members.
  • I added another Michelin restaurant to the list, this time Wild Honey.  An excellent lunch.
Leather Glad men marching at Pride
Pride Parade, London
  • The Saturday was Pride in London, not something I knew when I booked the weekend. So I had a great time making my way slowly back to the hotel along the route of the parade. I was all in black so very, very underdressed for the colourful crowd, but did have a great time (link to pictures)
view down a hill to a river swimming pool, with children and parents all swimming
The Swimming river at Youlgreve
  • Two days later…tested positive for Covid, my first exposure. Luckily I had a mild case, so minimal impact. I’m not sure when I was exposed, possibly in the travel down to London, but it could have been earlier.  The timing was not good – I was due to be house sitting in Youlgreve for a week – back to the Peaks. A few messages later, the house sitting was still on but my plan to do a lot of walking that week was not happening. I did manage some at the weekend, but before that was not leaving the house and exposing people
view from balcony at Chatsworth. Floor is black and white tiles. walls are covered in classic paintings.
Main Gallery at Chatsworth
  •  I took the opportunity to visit Chatsworth, which was absolutely amazing. I loved how they are still collecting art and mixing this up with the older stuff.
A view looking up at Pen Y Fan and Corn Du mountains. Blue skies so you can actually see them.
Corn Du and Pen Y Fan
  • A week later, I was out walking back into the Brecons. I was staying in a different YHA, this one with a lovely direct route up to Pen Y Fan, that was extremely quiet until the last mile or so. So more distance and elevation achieved.
  • A quiet weekend was had before the Commonwealth Games started. Except for the running accident – I  put my foot in a hole and really strained the ankle. Cue a few days with limited mobility but luckily I had crutches at home.  I kept using them for the next 2 weeks at the Games, as lots of pain. Only nearly 3 weeks later did I feel OK going without them and there was still bruising.
View looking down at the playing field at Coventry stadium, with coloured smoke and fireworks
Smoke and Fireworks at the Rugby
  • You can read my Games  experience here . In addition, I had tickets to see the finals of the Rugby 7s in Coventry on the Sunday, which was an excellent event. 
A view of Fan Y Big, Cribyn, Pen Y Fan and Corn Du. Green hills and blue sky
A view of Fan Y Big, Cribyn, Pen Y Fan and Corn Du
  • Headed back to the Brecons in August, deciding to do the Pen Y Fan Horseshoe The original plan was to walk from the YHA Danyenwalt, making a 18m loop. Two things stopped that, the temperatures and my sore ankle. Next plan was to drive closer to a car park, so I was out the hostel by 700 and parked up ready to go at 730. I headed up to the Gwaun Cerrig Llwydion plateau and made my way to Fan Y Big and Cribyn. At this point the ankle was not happy so I bailed out before Pen Y Fan and headed back. It was still 9.5 miles! And one swollen ankle.
Selfie with the Snowdon Peak marker behind me in the mist
On Top of Snowdon. The peak marker is behind me
  • Next weekend was Snowdon. Again I parked down in Nant Peris, staying in the Pen Y Pass Hostel. At least this time the hostel was doing its own food, unlike the first stay in June. Following morning, off to catch the bus, going down to pick up the start of the Watkins trail, for a steady 1000m of ascent. The bus driver was ready to warn his passengers it was a longer walk, but we were all ready for it.  It started off in good weather, but all you could see ahead was the clouds over the summit. Upwards, most of it a fairly straightforward ascent up clear paths. The last 200m or so was more a slight scramble, with no absolute clear path, made worse by low visibility and a high wind, that fortunately was blowing onto the mountain. Finally got to the top, with a gale and cloud cover – also a queue for the summit marker. I did not wait for it, I’d done the training walk and it was now time to travel back down. I headed down the Miners’ track, straight back to the hostel.  My ankle is still sore, but it’s getting better every day.
  • Another weekend, another hiking trip, but this one was a lot more low key. Up to Bollington to meet a past colleague, with a trip along the Gritstone way and a great night out. With a fair bit of wine. One more small walk in the morning before heading back
  • Next weekend – back to the Brecons. This Horseshoe walk was not beating me!  This time managed the full circuit all the way round, including Pen Y Fan
A group of people in hiking gear, listening to group lead talking about Nepal and Hiking
Taking a break
  • The holiday is getting closer and I headed up to Sheffield on a pre-trip weekend with Jagged Globe. This was for all the groups heading out to Nepal, so there were about 45 people there across about 10 trips.  There was only 1 other person from my trip there – turns out she lives about 3 miles from me 😊  The trip has 7 people listed, let’s hope we all make it out there.
  • I went along to the Wolverhampton Mountaineering club for a couple of indoor climbing sessions In September; the intention is to carry on after Nepal, building up skills for next year.
View of a tree, with college in the background, with light and tree reflected in the windows
Catz Quad
  • I went back to college for a Gaudy again – the last one was in 2016.  A very good turn out of people across the years 83-92.  I was in one of the old rooms, which have magically being turned into en-suite rooms – when I was there, only 3rd years had sinks, now it looks like all have a full bathroom squeezed in.
  • The last outing of the quarter was down to London to speak at a conference about the metaverse (or lack of it). I treated myself to a tasting menu at the Ritz – gorgeous meal.  I particularly liked the at-table preparation of the pigeon and sauce!
Aug 11

Quarter Notes 2 2022

Selfie of me, with trig marker behind me
Me on Wolfescote Hill
  • I started April with a trip to the Peaks. It was supposed to be a walking weekend with my Wine Club weekend, but covid intervened. I ended up visiting on my own for a few walks.
  • The rest of April was very quiet, little done. I carried on with fitness, getting progressively fiter and stronger. I have a weekly session with the PT for strength training and the rest of the time is mainly spent on walking and running, getting in as much elevation as possible
  • At the end of the month, I made a trip down to London for a conference.  I was on one panel and moderated another
Carrots in various form on a black dish
Carrot Dish at the Restaurant Home
  • The following week I headed up to Leeds for another conference, this just listening. It was supposed to be on “the metaverse” (which does not exist) but had morphed to general digital marketing stuff. So not quite what I expected.  Whilst there, I added another fine dining experience, at HOME. I had the tasting menu; there were a few outstanding courses, but in general, was a bit underwhelmed by this.
Image through a pair of iron railing gates of a house
Birks House
  • Whilst I was in the area, I took the opportunity of visit a number of locations associated with my ancestors. A few churches and also Birks House, where John Harpin died after falling on his own sword.
  • The next 2 weekends were spent in the Peak District. The first at Eyam, the second a replay of the Wine Club weekend.   Lots of walking, talking and not quite as much wine as we would have had in the earlier years.
Very bad selfie with only half a face showing; me on the cobbled street of the Royal mile with runners heading down the hill
On the royal mile
  • My Weekends away continued with a trip up to Edinburgh, to take part in the delayed Edinburgh Half Marathon. I’d originally booked it do the full in 2020, but dropped down a level given my current fitness levels.
  • Next I headed to Snowdon for the long Jubilee weekend. For this, I’d booked a guide and we did scrambling and skills weekend. We did not make it to the top of Snowdon but that was never the plan – there’s another weekend for that.
  • June then got busy – I actually got on a plane again. First of all to Amsterdam, for a conference about the Metaverse (which does not exist 😊) and then to Cannes with the work team for the Festival of Creativity. That was a lot of fun and a lot of hard work. We have some work from it, which is excellent, as well as a great list of new contacts.  I also managed to get a great hill walk in at the end of the week, heading up to Grasse and the mountains behind the town.
taken from hotel upper floor, a view of the Cannes beach and bay
A view of the Cannes
Aug 11

Quarter Notes 1 2022

I missed 2 years, but then again, so did a lot of the world.  Now back to usual service of boring blogging.

The big news is I sold the London flat and moved back up to the Midlands, which meant buying a car. Still not bought a new place but working on it

Crouching at the summit marker on Pen Y Fan, 886m high
At top of Pen Y Fan

I started the year with a trip to The Brecons. My trip to Nepal has been postponed twice and is now on for October 2022. But lockdowns and covid messed with my head and I let all the fitness go. So I have employed a personal trainer and making the most of being closer to Wales to get some hills in. The first weekend continues my tradition of going away for New Years, with a trip to Crickhowell for some cold, wet hill walking.

Indoor ice walls, with people holding ropes and climbing the walls
Ice climbing

In February, I finally did my Winter Mountaineering Course. This was cancelled ion 2019 at the last moment – I was actually in Glasgow ready to get on a bus up to Fort William.  Then I was fit, now I was not. I should have delayed, but still made sure I went up, did the skills and made the most of the walking I could get it, even if did not do all the hills with the course.  I also got a great day doing indoor climbing.

people in running gear on the closed roads of London
Winterrun 2022

Immediately after that week, I headed to London for a weekend tourism.  I went to the Theatre to see James McAvoy in Cyrano de Bergerac and then took part on the London Winter Run 10k, maintaining my streak of competing in all these races.  I finished off the weekend with a Sunday lunch at Rules, the “oldest restaurant in London”

selfie with me in a wooly hat with a hill ridge behind me
On a hill top,

At the beginning of March, I was back in Wales, the first of a number of weekends booked at hostels in great walking areas.  This one was at Danywenalt, in the Brecons

Myself and sister stanning in front of the Wolves football pitch with medals after our 10k run
We have our medals
  • The final trip of the quarter was down to the South Coast, to meet up with a work colleague for a few days actually working together.
  • And wrapped everything up with the Wolverhampton 10k, run with my sister.
Aug 11

The Commonwealth Collective

Selfie of me in volunteer uniform with Edgbaston Cricket pitch in background
On duty at Edgbaston

Ah, my time is done, the Games are over and now to reflect on the time I spent as a volunteer as part of the Commonwealth Collective.    After failing for 2012 but getting in for 2017, (You can read all about my experience at the World Athletics in 2017) I decided to try and be part of another multi-sports event – the 2022 Commonwealth Games held in my local city Birmingham.  

Recruitment

I registered as a volunteer in September 2020, when covid was hitting everything and this was hope for the future, that things would change. I got invited to an interview in October 2021, over a year later, with a role confirmed in Feb 2022. These things take time – there were over 500 volunteer interviewers talking to over 20000 applicants from a pool of around 40000 people.

The Role

Unlike 2017, this time the role I was offered stuck all the way through – I was invited to be part of the Protocol Team based at Edgbaston (for the Women’s T20 cricket) – they’d selected “confident and culturally aware candidates with excellent communication and interpersonal skills” which is a nice piece of feedback on how I came across the interview.

Chatting in the various Facebook groups later, it turned out that few who were selected for this role knew exactly what we were in for but all was to become clear in our training in April.  In essence we were there to help out in the Games Family Lounges, which were basically hospitality lounges for the team staff and guests, Commonwealth governance, politicians and designated VIPs. This involved greeting them in the drop off zones, directing them to the lounge, helping with transports back and answering any questions they had. There was a bit of door opening and sorting out coffees, but most of it was to be present and supportive as needed. So similar to what I finally ended up doing in 2017 (just interacting with guests), but indoors with a smaller, select bunch of people.

The Team

Having talked to quite a few volunteers, our team were very lucky across the board.  We had relatively short shifts of 6 hours, either afternoon or evening. We had a purpose built room at Edgbaston, with a catering crew that did this all the time at the event, we had air conditioning (very nice with these temps). We were also never overly busy, as cricket was not seen as a hot ticket, the max attendance was 111.  A better experience for me than 2017 in general, but with some of the same considerations

  • I come across as having great interpersonal skills but exercising them is hard!  I was exhausted after every shift and had to have quiet time. People-ing is just hard work. In contrast, I watched team members totally feed off the energy, chatting to people, working from group to group checking all was OK. In contrast, they could not be put on a post on their own and be expected to stay there, 😊  So a mixed team was always going to be needed.  I do think that if I am lucky enough in the future, I would prefer a more task based role than a general people based one.
  • These games appear to have far better volunteer organisation than 2017. There were very few stories of roles being dropped, massive changes being made or people being unhappy. There were definitely some issues, with some of the (paid) Team Managers not necessarily doing what they needed to do and some volunteers having a hard time, but overall, it seemed to be a lot happier and more organised.  The general feedback and tone of comments in the “back channels” were very positive. It also helped that these channels were also positive when it came to the balance of experienced vs novices. I understand the selection process looked hard to give new volunteers a chance, combining them with old hands, so this mix worked well.
From the balcony,the medal ceremony at the podium for the T20 cricket, with New Zealand, India and Australia in Bronze, Silver and Gold.
The Medal Ceremony

The Experience

Overall I loved it. There were frustrating moments, but I’d made the decision to just go with the flow, to not get annoyed at anything and focus on what I needed to do; by doing that I made sure I had a good time and presented my best face to our guests.   The team was great, pulling together to make sure we delivered the best experience possible.

I am honoured to have the chance to be part of this, of being able to showcase Birmingham to the world. As always, the energy and enthusiasm shines through, and guests, teams, athletes and media were all positive about it. 

We had some really interesting guests in the lounge, from regulars such as the Anguilla delegates through to the VIPS such as Malala and Theresa May. We even got a royal visit from Prince Edward, but that was not on my shift. 

The Aftermath

There’s always a thread across the social groups about how events like this will be the best experience ever, you’ll never have done anything like it and you’ll make friends for life. For some, that is the reality. For people like me, it’s never quite like that, because we all have different approaches to people and events. It was an amazing time, I really enjoyed it, but I never quite get the transformational experience that some others have.  I have no regrets in doing it, but also no post event blues that many in the groups are talking about. On to the next thing I say!

Crowd of people all in the orange and blue voluteer uniform at the after-party
The Volunteer After-Party
Oct 03

A History: Florence Pashley

Florence Pashley, 2nd from Left. 1st from left is her monther-in-law, Jemima Robinson (formerly Hickman)

Florence Pashley was my great-grandmother and was one of the first relatives we started to gather information on way back in the 80’s when all of this research was done by occasional trips to London to the records office (in Islington at that point) and trips to local records.  A slow build-up of information that often left more questions than answers, especially when we could not find the next link in the chain.

As I recall, it started off because granddad was never 100% sure of her surname, or rather the surnames of his maternal grandparents, (he was also not 100% sure of his birthday until he had to get a passport, celebrating it on one day then finding out his birth certificate was another date).  Her surname was known to be Pashley, but other names that were possible were Fletcher or Tolley. So what was happening here?  Our starting point was the birth certificate.

Florence Elizabeth Pashley was born 6 November 1899, to Kate Malia and Samuel Pashley, who was listed as a Curtain Maker. What surprised us was the location of the birth – Wolverhampton Workhouse. What was Kate doing there?  Where was Samuel? And what were they doing in Wolverhampton?

Kate and Samuel were married 18 months earlier, 21 May 1898, in Nottingham. Samuel was listed as as Lacemaker, born in Chesterfield, Derbyshire but now resident at 127 Waterway St, Nottingham.  His father, Frank, was also a Lacemaker and came from a family in the same industry, all from the area around Chesterfield but starting to appear in Nottingham, which had a thriving international lace industry.

Kate was listed as resident at the same address, and her father named as John Malia, a cycle maker. And that is all we know, that is the only record I have managed to find that references John – or at least confirmed as him. I have no birth record for Kate, nor any mother’s name.  From later evidence, there was about 11 years age difference between them, although on the marriage certificate they were listed as Samuel being 28 (correct) and Kate being 21 (about 4 years older than we think she was). If they married for pregnancy reasons, there is no record of another birth around that time, Florence appears to be their first child.

The only route we had to explore was the Pashleys, and we started with the parents marriage certificate (Enoch Pashley married Elizabeth Clayworth,  20 Apr 1861, both were living in Brampton , DBY) and slowly, through message boards and personal genealogical sites connected that line to research that had been done elsewhere. This family is the one that has connected with my oldest known ancestor, the Del Rodes from Sowerby in the 14th century.

The next breakthrough into Florence’s life came with the release of the 1901 census. Here she was  -Florence Pashley, 1 year old, born Wolverhampton and living at 51 Park St, Wolverhampton. But not with Kate and Samuel, instead she is listed as an Adopted Child, living with Sarah Ann and Frederick Fletcher, along with Sarah’s brother, Frederick Tolley. So that’s where the other surnames come from!  Sarah and Frederick were 23 and 26 respectively and had married at the end of 1898.

There was no formal need to register adoptions in England until 1927 ; many were private, found through networks, or even through newspaper ads. Charities were often involved. But in this case, there was a high probability it was Poor Law adoption; where Poor Law Guardians were appointed to take over the parental rights of children who had been deserted, or orphaned or judged unfit to look after them. The Guardians found families for them, often for long term fostering as the guardians were still responsible; this was also known as Boarding out.

There was no record of a Samuel and Kate Pashley in the 1901 census, so my initial guess was that they had died; Samuel first, leading to Kate being in the Workhouse, and then Kate. Entering into a workhouse was generally voluntary because there was no other choice. With no local family, perhaps that was the only place where Kate could get the care needed for childbirth?  The Workhouse provided lodging and food, so may have been a better choice than trying to head back  up to Nottingham for family.  But as time went by, it appears the story was stranger than that.

Let’s take a short side trip to look at the Workhouse

The first workhouse in Wolverhampton was built in 1700; this was closed with the building of the  Wolverhampton Union Workhouse in 1836-38, with space for 750 inmates. (which is about 3% of the population of Woverhampton at the time). Over the next few decades it grew to house around 1000 people, but even so, in 1885, the Guardians were sending people elsewhere as they ran out of room. Workhouses were seen as a solution to some of society’s problems, but created even more. Conditions were bad, children were being exploited through sending them out to work and overcrowding common. Wolverhampton Workhouse was reviewed by The Lancet   as part of their investigation of Workshouse Infirmaries in 1867 (extract here ) This was just after new wards had been opened and the inspectors were quite pleased with the new areas, even if the rest of the place was not the same, with this description of the elderly men’s ward:

Their life is practically one of perpetual confinement, with the sole prospect of being released by death. But, further than the mere confinement, their generally dirty aspect struck us with peculiar pain. We never saw criminal prisoners in such dirty clothes, or with such filthy persons. There are no baths, and, with one exception, the lavatories are insufficient. The fifty inmates of the ward already noticed wash in a kind of sink, and only two towels are given out daily for their use.

This was 30 years before Florence’s birth, but overcrowding did not ease, leading to the development of a new Workhouse in 1900. This is now New Cross Hospital in Woverhampton. But Florence was born in the old, dirty, cramped workhouse and conditions must have been poor.

But, back to Florence. I have no ideas where she was in 1911. I’ve tried all sorts of combinations for the census search, but nothing can be found for Florence or her adopted family.  The next data point I have is her marriage to James Robinson, on Valentines Day 1925. One of the witnesses was an Annie Tolley, who appears to be the wife of her adopted brother; we knew the family stayed connected from granddad’s recollections, but here it was in writing.

James was a Pipe-Moulder, from Brierley Hill. His parents were Charles Robinson and Jemima Hickman.  Charles was listed as a Labourer on the wedding certificate and on the 1911 census, but before then he’d been a brickmaker and by 1939 he was listed as a Steel Worker. Typical of many men in the area, his whole life working was in the heavy industries. Jemima was not a stranger to outside work, she was working as a Claymaker in 1891 at the age of 16 and even after marriage and two children she was listed as a Brick Finisher in the 1901 census.

Both Florence and James were listed as resident at 7 North St, Brierley Hill. Taking a look at Streetview, whatever house they lived in has been demolished, it’s all newer houses or empty land. James has been born in 10 North St in 1900. He’d also end up dying there in 1958, this time at 1 North St.  James had not stayed in North St all the time though; in 1911 his family were in Wordsley and in 1939 James and Florence were living in Church St – which was the road perpendicular to North St! They did not move far at all; I recall visiting Florence in the same road as a child in the 70s

Florence and James had 3 children and by the time James died, they had all married and started their own families.  Florence did not marry again, living alone in Brierley Hill, until her death in 1983. At this point, it was never clear what had happened to her birth parents. 

But I mentioned the story got stranger?  it turns out, Samuel and Kate Pashley had not died but had in fact emigrated!

We haven’t been able to track all the movements, but this is what we know so far

  • in 1890, Samuel H Pashley, a single Lacemaker aged 21, travelled from Liverpool to New York on the Etruria. How long he stayed there we don’t know
  • But his father visited in 1892. A Frank Pashley, 50 years old, a lacemaker from Nottingham, travelled over from Liverpool to New York in the Etruria
  • At some point, he travelled back, as in May 1898, Samuel married Kate at the Registry Office in Nottingham
  • 18 months later, in November 1899, Kate gave birth to Florence in Wolverhampton Workshop
  • Sometime in 1899, Samuel moved to the US, as recorded in his 1910 census results. Although I can’t find a passenger record
  • In June 1900, Samuel Pashley was registered in the US Census, a boarder in Philadephia
  • On 24th Oct 1900, Kate Pashley travelled on her own from Liverpool to Philadelphia
  • A son, Frank Samuel Pashley, was born 20 Mar 1902 in Philadelphia
  • In 1904, Kate and Frank had travelled back to the UK, as there was a record of them entering the US on 24th Oct 1904, to return home having being visting Nottingham

So we know that Samuel had moved back the US in 1899, probably while Kate was pregnant ans was living in Philadelphia. Kate joined him on 1900, leaving Florence behind. This may have been in the workhouse or with the Fletchers. They had another child, Frank, and visited to the family in Nottingham before coming back the the US. Did Kate visit Florence?  Or was the decision made to leave her there without a visit. We will never know.

As far as I can see, that’s the last time they visited the UK, there are no other passenger records seen.  We can track them in the US census, finding them in Newburgh, Orange County, NY in 1910 and they were still there in 1925.  Sometime in the next 5 years, Kate died as Samuel was living with son Frank in the 1930 census, having moved to Beacon.

Frank married Elizabeth Greene sometime before 1925 and moved to Beacon, staying there until his death in 1969. They had one daughter, Jane, in 1923. From lowly beginnings, the family were moving up in the world, with Elizabeth and Jane both being left 1/3rd of a $10k estate, which could be seen as the equivalent of $60k each today. Jane married Henry Rogers in 1943 and died, in New Windsor, in 2003. Through Elizabeth, Jane was a member of the Daughters of the American Revolution and from the death notice was a fine, church-going member of society. I’ve always wondered if I could have met her and if she had known of the aunt left behind in England after having been born in a workhouse.

May 12

Home testing for Covid-19

Covid test components – bags, vials and swabs

As part of this long lockdown I’ve been tracking my health through the app developed by the Covid Sympton Study I try and go in and record symptons (or lack of them) daily.

During the nearly 2 months I’ve been doing this (I think it’s 2 months, time gets a bit concatenated) I’ve had 2 sets of not quite right; the first in the middle of March with a heavy chest and breathing, the second this last week with itchy, weeping eyes and again a heavy chest. No other symptons apart from those – which could be a chest infection and then later hayfever. I’ve also not been out the house for 6 weeks – so if I am positive now, it’s been a long, slow burn or I’ve caught it off a delivery. (very unlikely)

On Friday, I received an email from the study, asking me to take a test, either because my symptoms have triggered something, or I’m in a control group.

“As you know, we are using data from millions of people to determine who may have COVID-19 based on their symptoms. You’ve recently reported feeling unwell with a particular combination of symptoms. We would like to test you to understand if you have the virus right now. This does not necessarily mean you have COVID-19 as we are also inviting some people we believe do not have the virus.”

(email from Covid 19 sudy)

So here is my experience to date, to compare with the account of a drive in test from Nick

  • Email came in during the evening. Clicked through to Government test site and saw I had options for booking a drive through or to order a test. Trying to find out WHERE the drive through test would be and if I could walk to it failed – there is no real information, so it meant I needed a home test. None available, as not bookable until the morning.
  • Logged on at 8am and home test available. Filled in form, following the instructions in the email to make sure categories were correct. Disconnect 1: Instructions and form fields to complete were not aligned between email and actual form
  • 1230 am Sunday – so 16.5 hours after booking – got an email that test had been despatched and was due that day. It is delivered by Amazon
  • Sunday afternoon – test arrives. I wiped it down; by the time I opened it, it was too late to book a courier. The courier has to be booked BEFORE taking test and you can only book until 4pm
  • Monday, fully read the 12 page booklet, which covers the 5 steps. They have done their best to make something quite complicated simple to follow, but it is still complicated. I would guess there are going to be many wrongly done tests, or wrongly labelled tests. Booked courier. It is collected by eCourier (or Royal Mail)
  • Monday evening; registered test and then took test. You need to do it between 9pm and 7am before the courier. Red the instructions, laid everything out. Slowly followed the instructions and still got one step wrong! (missed a label, managed to get it sorted)
    • wash hands.
    • take swab and swirl it on tonsils (or where tonsils were in my case) for 15 seconds, not touching tongue, teeth or rest of mouth.
    • put same swab up nose about an inch. swirl it for 15 seconds. (get this the right way round throat before nose!)
    • Put swab in vial (and remember to loosen it first, as you can’t put swab down to open it
    • Label (or do this before), but in plastic bag one, put in plastic bag 2 and seal; label again, put it in the packaging box (not the easiest to build), security seal it, put address label on.
  • At this point, i think about the account of the drive through study who needed to do the testing in a car. HOW!! you need room, you need to be able to lay things out. A hard job there.
  • Wait. The courier is due between 8am and 4pm on Tuesday
  • 4:15pm Tuesday. No courier. Follow instructions on email (and instruction booklet) and call the service centre (because there’s a time limit on test liability. Disconnect 2: Service Centre has time for collection until 6pm, unlike email, booklet and courier booking website. Disconnect 3: the service centre can’t do anything and gives me a number to call the courier.
  • Call courier. Wait. Disconnect 4: I shouldn’t call the courier, I need to email. He gives me an email address. A PERSONAL email address. I wonder how many emails poor Charlie is getting. Disconnect 5: You book the courier before the test as there is 48 hours from the swab before expiring (according to the booklet) – so it needs to be TESTED before 48 hours. If you delay the courier to the next day, then unlikely to be tested. Courier companyseems to think 48 hours for collecting.
  • 4:45pm. Courier turns up
  • 4:50 pm I get an email thanking me for ordering my Covid test. Wondering if this is a mistake, or if one of the calls I made just triggered a new order. (and I assume added the wrong order to the daily stats?)

Now I wait for results, which should come by test in the next 2-3 days. It’s a complex series of steps to get right; it’s not an easy test to self-adminster. Having a simpler blood antigen test can’t come soon enough!

Apr 07

Quarter Notes 4 2019

Hah. blogging – what’s that?  I see more daily notes happening in these time of lockdowns..so finally documenting what I did in the last quarter of 2019, when the future was rosy, seems a good idea. Remember those times!

View of sea cliffs and sea, with climbers in the back ground
South coast cliffs
  • Bournemouth Half Marathon: I’d originally signed up to the do the full, but with a summer training for a mountain, I decided that switching to the half would be better. A lovely event, although with a route that was a lot of back and forth – and going through the finish line multiple times was a bit weird (weirder for the  full runners I think). I did a coastal walk on the Saturday to get my hill work in.
Two runners heading towards finish with ferris wheel in background.
Runners at Bournmouth Running Festival
  • Pre-Trip weekend: As part of the prep for my trip to Aconcagua, there was a weekend up in Sheffield with Jagged Globe in preparation. Members of all 3 of their expeditions were there, to get an advice and information about the trip. We also did a couple of walks in the peaks to get some time in the hills.  An excellent weekend, although unfortunately I picked up what appeared to be a stress facture that plagued me for the next few months. It didn’t finally clear up until Feb (so I didn’t do the remaining races of the year)
The team lined up with their alpacas
The team and the alpacas
  • Company Meeting:  we had a 2 day company meeting down on the Isle of Wight. All was looking good in our future plans (hah, no one expected a global pandemic). And then we went and walked alpacas
  • Hansard: An actual theatre trip, this time to the national, to see Hansard. This was a 2 parter with Lindsay Duncan and Alex Jennings. Set in the late 80s, a fascinating reminder of the political (and social) attitudes of the time, many (though not all) have moved forward. This kept me focused for the full (interval-less) 90 minutes of the play. Although left with the feeling that white, public school educated men are still in charge and still screwing things up
Mom and Dad posing at their wedding aniversary
Mom and Dad at their wedding anniversary party
  • Mom and Dad Wedding anniversary: the big surprise!. We’d (my sisters and I) had been working on this for at least 6 months.  I’d devised a reason to visit (as I wouldn’t be there for Christmas, I’d come up now for dinner) and the surprise was set. We had organised to have a meal out and wouldn’t give all the details, turns out Mom though we’d set up a small meal with rest of family. She hadn’t realised we’d set up an afternoon tea party with friends and family from the last 50+ years. There were tears of surprise and lots of fun
  • Trip Prep: most of the other ‘events’ in this quarter were about prepping for the Aconcagua trip. Doctors’ visits for vaccinations (Rabies is a very expensive set of injections! Well, expensive for the UK), buying the final bits of kit, getting prescription sunglasses for the mountain). Got all of these fitted in between regular visits to Germany.
  • Aconcagua:  finally, the trip I’d been working for all year. There’ll be a write up at some point, but in general, an excellent trip
Orange and white tent set up at edge of cliff with more tents on plateau below. Mountains in the distance
My tent at camp 3

And that’s it for the year. The business travel has tended to mean my activities are reduced from years before, but the business gives me far more opportunities for expeditions and travel, even if the smaller weekly and weekend events are curtailed.

Oct 08

Quarter Notes 3 2019

Summer is a memory, the leaves are falling and it’s time for quarter notes number 3 of the year.  So what have I been up to?

Henley regatta - dressed up crowds facing the river
  • First up in this quarter was Henley Regatta.  I went on both the Friday and the Sunday this year, catching up with a friend from New Zealand and various army rowing connections.   The weather was excellent, the rowing was great and a really good time was had. 
  • An actual social event with friends! It was a supposed to be a follow up to the earlier walk around Richmond, but with a BBQ at Juliet’s house instead of a pub lunch.  But this time, the others declined to do the walking bit, so I got my training in around Box Hill before joining them for wine and grilled stuff.
  • Quite a few training and running events this quarter. There was a 5k around the Olympic park, a couple of half marathons, an ultra, another 25 walk. There were 3 days along the North Downs Way and plenty of trips to Box Hill.   It is all adding up.  I also had another trip to Chamonix, for an ultra running and yoga retreat. 
  • I had a follow-up MRI scan for the research group I’m part of.  They’d not found any “sinister” issues in the first scan (and that is a terrible word to use in a report!). There will be second follow-up n 6 months time
Oct 08

Operation Fitter Rachel: Sept

Yes, another month with improved motivation.  Not perfect, but getting there.

A group of runners posed, in the mountains

The numbers

  • 23 activities.  (+3, some great quality sessions)
  • 37 hrs (- 11. back to more normal parameters in events, no 12 hour walk in there, up 10 on Jul)
  • 101 miles.  (-27, again not skewed by a 35m event, so therefore in line with plan, up 30 from AUg)

This month was topped and tailed by events.  At the start of the month I did a 25km walk, called the Thames Bridges Trek.  Organised by the same team who organise the ultra’s I do, this was a walk from Putney to Bermondsey, crossing over all the bridges.  All on pavement, so not the best for the feet, it was still an excellent event.

The month ended with Ealing Half Marathon.  definitely not raced!  Used this as part of a heavy training weekend, with 10 miles done the day before.  As ever, amazing organisation for the closed road event and massive local turnout of support. I really do love this race

I returned to Chamonix for a running and yoga weekend, organised by Adharanand Finn, Tom and Rachel Bonn Payn. I was concerned about this, as “beginners welcome” and “need to be able to complete a half marathon” are conflicting messages in the sales bumpf!  I was both right and wrong with my concerns.  I was, by far, the slowest. My fitness training has not been targeted at running up hills but at slowly slogging up them carrying weights!  But the team were amazing and made it work. I had some great runs and walks in the mountains. The yoga was also enlightening, being specifically designed for runners. This meant I enjoyed it rather then spending the session not being able to do a lot, which is my usual state.

I have finally purchased my weight vest. Now I’m wondering if I can get it on a plane so I can do weighted walks in Germany

Sep 02

Operation Fitter Rachel: August

a view of the Seven Sisters chalk cliffs, looking west across the coast,
Seven Sisters cliffs

August was better than July, definitely in motivation.  Felt I was back on the plan and starting to see results of training coming through.

The numbers

  • 20 activities (-2 but all quality, not just to and from gym/work)
  • 46 hours activity (+19 hours (although slightly exaggerated due to one event)
  • 128 miles (+57)

Not every session was completed but overall, I think a good month of training.  My strength training went up a level, I’ve now started step ups/down with the mountain boots, whilst carrying weights. I’m going to be getting a weight vest to add to this – and makes it slightly more aligned with actual mountain work, as I’ll be carrying weight in pack, not in hands. One of the most boring sessions was the hour I spent running up and down the Chiswick Bridge steps, in the rain.  My calves ached for 3 days!  I am going to be adding calf raises to the routines.

The month included a half marathon (which was my slowest ever, as not doing any speed work obviously means you have no speed.  I spent 3 days on the North Downs Way, carrying kit but stopping in hotels.  This was a good training event, although hills could have been more.

I wrapped the month up with an ultra – 35 miles walked along the South Coast, from Eastbourne, out along the Seven Sisters, cutting inland up to the South Downs and then down to Brighton and Hove.  14 hours total, 12 walking, I cut 2 hours off my last 55km from last year, so a good result.  More importantly, it’s 2 days after and I’m feeling pretty good, so the training is definitely working.

14 weeks left for training and it intensifies again in September. Onwards!

Looking down across the vineyards to Denbies hotel, with the chalk cliffs of Box Hill behind
Denbies Vineyard and Box Hill
Aug 16

Operation Fitter Rachel: July

looking down a mountain, covered in pine trees, to the valley and the town of Chamonix
Chamonix from above

July was basically a disaster when it came to training. And I think that is obvious as I’m only now just writing about it. Travel, illness, trainer being on holiday, all conspired to drive away any mojo and determination I had.. And that’s just not good enough. Thankfully August is turning out better, but that’s for the next report

The Numbers

  • 22 Activities (-8)
  • 27 hours of activity (-)
  • 71 miles (+8)

But you look at the number and it does not appear too bad.  Fewer activities, but I was recording less of the short walks/runs to office or trainer. Slightly more miles and the same time spent in training.  But it should have been higher, I missed a lot of planned sessions and the tracking I do on fitness markers did not show much progress. So I held steady, but did not improve.

During the month I did 3 trips to Box Hill, trying out different routes each time, but practicing steady uphill walking and then running flats and the safe downhills.

A selfie of me in the Olympic Stadium, on the track
On the Track

I took part in a free women’s 5k race around the Olympic Stadium,, run jointly by BBC Get Inspired and UK Athletics. The lovely thing about that was the start and finish were in the stadium and it was great to run around the track.

The last week of the month involved a trip to Chamonix, where the plan was to do a mix of working and walking.  Unfortunately, a stomach bug put paid to that and I only managed 1 walk, but it was excellent. 5.5 hours of walking, 1500m elevation and then 8 minutes down in the cable. I’ll be going back as it’s an excellent place for walking.

View up into the mountains from apartment in Chamonix
View from Chamonix apartment
Jul 14

Quarter Notes 2 2019

Isn’t this year going quickly?  That’s what it feels like – I quite like the theory that years go quicker as you grow older, because they become a smaller fraction of your life.  So, what have I been up to?  Honestly, not a lot.  training, working. But not much else.

Canal in Amsterdam.
Amsterdam canals
  • First up was https://blog.bibrik.com/archives/2019/04/race_report_-_manchester_marathon_2019.htmlManchester Marathon.  And then later on the month was London Marathon. You can read the full reports of those in my earlier posts.
  • Still doing half my time (not quite, but that’s what it feels like) in Germany, so mid-week activities are quite reduced.  Although this quarter, I had a couple of trip to Amsterdam instead, which was a nice change. A couple of meals with friends in the quarter, but not that many.
Yellow Irises bordering a pond, Isabella Plantation.
Isabella Plantation, Richmond Park
  • I tried something a bit different in May, spending a week in the Lake District on a “work from home” week. 
  • Moving into June, I started to up my weekend walking as part of the training plan. My first outing was with a friend to Box Hill, just to get into the groove.  it was definitely a light walk, with me walking ahead on the hills and then back to her, but it was fun to have someone to chat with rather than my usual head down and push approach.   
  • I did a couple of sessions volunteering at #parkrun – but did not manage to actually run a parkrun this quarter except for 1 session at Easter, when I visited family for Easter.
  • I went to a social evening at the London Mountaineering Club, where there was a talk about Aconcagua. Planning on joining this group, to get some walking partners, hopefully.
  • Finally, at the end of the Month, I head to Yestival.

And that was it. Now I feel like I’m missing out!!!

Jul 01

Operation Fitter Rachel – Month 2

Say Yes More sign
SAY YES MORE sign at Yestival

Definitely not the best of months.  A number of routine changes through me off my plan..something I need to work through, as I can’t have that happening again.

The Numbers

  • 30 recorded activities (+1).  9 walks, 14 runs, 6 strength sessions
  • 27 hours of activity (-1)
  • 63 miles (-7)

The month started well, with a local run and then a trip down to Box Hill, with a friend, to get to know the place and do some initial walks.  This was kept slow as my friend was not that fit, but it game me a chance to check out some hills for later use

View from Box Hill over Dorking
View from Box Hill

The next week was a Germany week. I tested out my ability to do routines in hotel rooms – so yes to that, but only managed one small run. Back to Box Hill the end of the week, to find some more hills.  I’m happy now with the options I have, if this is going to be my usual place.

Stag facing me, large antlers, in Richmond Park
A stag in Richmond Park

The following week was also Germany, and this was far better for getting out for sessions.  I had a good session with Trainer, then a hotel strength session, instead of going to the beer festival! I also went for a run with colleagues there, something I’m going to try and do everytime I visit. A run home from park run then a longer run round Richmond Park finished off the week.

View from Beacon Hill, with green fields and blue skies
View from Beacon Hill

The next 2 weeks were where it all went wrong.  I had some days in a clients office in London – and I’d forgotten how tiring the commute is!  Then I sent the week in Amsterdam and had meetings and meals out, so did not manage to put in the time I needed for sessions.  This is all a mental battle, I do have the time available, but my brain plays tricks with me and I end up not doing anything – even though I have kit with me.  This is what I need to focus on for this month – hitting all the planned sessions. I did manage to get out to the Chilterns for a different walk route. Nice to go, but Box Hill wins for closeness.

The last weekend in June, I went to Yestival, so again, no longer walks done.  However, I was inspired by lots of great talks, including one by Jo Bradshaw, about her challenge to do the 7 Summits.  I chatted with her about Aconcagua and it reinforced the need to get the training done…unlike Kili or EBC, you can’t get by with just general fitness.

Trainer sessions seem to be going well, the weights are slowly going up and then I’m taking some of exercises and adding them to my sessions at home.

So mixed month, with some things to think about.  My official 6 months plan started on 24th June, so I am slightly ahead of that, but this month has shown that it can easily slip away if I don’t keep on top of it.

Jun 01

Operation Fitter Rachel – the road to Aconcagua

a picture of me, with Scafell Pike trip point behind
Scafell Pike Summit

My first report on OFR.  I started off calling this Operation Fit Rachel…until it was pointed out as I’d just ran a marathon I wasn’t exactly unfit, so Fitter it is.  But it’s all relative. I may have had the stamina and the mental stubbornness to plod around 26.2 miles, but I was still getting out of breath running up a flight of stairs and I had absolutely no strength or toning in most of the muscles, especially the core.  That’s not good enough for my end of year target, so I need to make a massive step change in what I do.

Why am I doing this?  Because I have booked a trip to “climb” a seriously large mountain in December and I need to be fitter than I have ever been to give me the best chance to do this. There’s no actual climbing involved, as it rock faces or ice walls, it can be “walked” up but it is a serious undertaking at altitude that I need to have the right foundations for.

Setting Up

The first month therefore was all about setting things up the right way to give me a chance to succeed, which meant 3 things:

  • sorting out a training plan
  • finding a personal trainer
  • getting the right equipment at home

The first part was relatively straightforward.  The expedition company recommends a book called Training for the New Alpinism as a starting point.  This is an excellent read about how to go about training for mountains. Having read that, I could have attempted crafting my own plan, but I went the easy way and purchased a plan.  So I now have a daily plan for the rest of the year, which suits how I work – it’s in the spreadsheet, I need to do it.  This usually works, especially when I keep the goal in mind. We’ll see how it goes.

To help focus, I’ve also booked a number of events during the year:

  • Aug: Half Marathon
  • Aug: 55km ultra along a hilly coast
  • Sept: Half Marathon
  • Oct: Marathon

I made the decision to find a local personal trainer, mainly to keep me accountable.  I’ve tried remote training before, which has worked, but this time I felt I needed the requirement for regular face to face meetings.  A fair bit of research into local trainers and I found a couple of possibilities.  One intro meeting later, where we discussed requirements and I’ve signed up with a local guy with access to a private gym a mile or so away.   The focus of these sessions will be building up the strength in the body, so one session week with him and one at home.

Finally, I’ve added a couple more pieces of equipment for home training. I already have weights, kettle bell and resistance bands. I’ve now added a pull up bar and, most important of all, a step.  It took me a while to find the right step, as I needed one that could be set quite high and most of the ones available only go up to 15cm. I needed one that I could raise to 30cm, or 1ft in height. A lot of my training requires uphills and steps and living in London, there’s not a lot of that around so it’s hard to do any hills in the midweek.  But a step will help that, especially as I slowly start to add equipment and weights to the workout. At some point I will be doing sessions in the mountaineering boots and a weighted pack.

In general, I have had a good start to the month, hitting all of the planned sessions over the last few weeks, even if not completed fully to plan.

Looking at my records I have recorded:

  • 28 hours
  • 70 miles
  • 29 activities – 15 runs (which includes short runs to and from the gym), 7 walks, 7 strength sessions, 3 of those with the trainer.

I spent 1 week in the Lake district, getting in a few walks and still working.  This did not go quite to plan, due to a cold (the first one in over a year) and bad weather, but I did manage to walk up Scafell Pike).

The challenge is definitely going to be getting in enough hills; I see myself taking a lot of weekend trips to various places, although probably a lot of Box Hill and the downs.

Apr 29

Race Report – London Marathon 2019

Holding up medal a tthe end of London Marathon
Got the medal!

After a few years failing at the public ballot and instead marshalling on the course, this year I got into the London Marathon through the marshalls ballot – a number of places are offered to the groups that volunteer.  As the decisions were not known until January, it’s not for everyone, but as I was training for Manchester, I thought it would be great to do another race 3 weeks later.

Runners in fancy dress
Fancy dress

As I was in the last pen at my start, there was no need to get their too early; the 7:47 train meant I got there just after 9, plenty of time until my planned start of 10:48.  I started from the Green start, which is the middle one – so you definitely needed to be there in time to cross the course before the running started.  This start was where all the Guinness World Record attempts were starting from, so there were some impressive costumes on display.   Looking at these, along with watching the screens meant that time ticked along nicely. I was cosy in my trial cape – something the marathon was doing in an attempt to cut down on plastic waste. Before I knew it, it was time for a last minute loo visit (nobody queuing at that point) and time to get into the pen.

Before the marathon, in front of the start line. wrapped in cape
My cozy cape

We were a few minutes later starting than scheduled, but it was not too bad.  It was a very smalls tart, so little pushing or moving around to get some space.  I had no ambitions for this race, in fact, I planned to be slower than last time! As my first London was such a blur, this one I intended to slow down, enjoy the sites and the crowd and take lots of photos.  As I slowly went past the 6 hour pacer, I had a chat, he was running on his own, planning to pick up a few people on the way as they slowed down.  I intended to do my best to stay in front of him, but not too hard!

The first few miles were pretty quiet, heading east, not too many runners and not too many spectators.  We first of all joined up with the Blue start runners and then later the Red start, when it got really busy – and the crowds picked up.  The main joining point tends to be full of runners waiting for friends and family so they can join up with them. The main joining point is also when you turn the corner and start to run west, heading into town for the first time.  Slowly the crowds pick up, but there are still sections when there are just a few outside their houses.  The first big spectator session is in Greenwich, especially around the Cutty Sark. Loud and raucous, they definitely give you a boost and speed you up!

Me in front of the Cutty Sark
Cutty sark

The miles tick by, Deptford and Lewisham and Rotherhithe, all with their own local ambience. Sometimes there’s a church congregration out, sometimes a set of pubgoers, dancing along to the music.   I’d run consistently up to this point, now was the time to switch to run walk…generally a 5:2 run walk patter, with extra time for sites, slopes (not too many of those) and water stations.

Bermondsey Tube station comes into view and I know it can’t be far until the turn across the river. You follow the main road, the crowds getting heavier and louder and you take the right turn and there it is, Tower Bridge.  The first time I ran London, I shed a few tears..I’d made it this far, the famous crossing but I kept going.  This time, I walked and just soaked up the atmosphere.  Amazing!

Me on TowerBridge

Over the Bridge and another right turn, away from town again, heading out to the Isle of Dogs and Caray Wharf.  It’s a dual carriage way here and you can see the runners, 8 miles ahead of you, heading back into town on the final stretch. I’d run pretty much

In Limehouse, another right turn and into narrow streets.  The crowds press in, all good natured, but you need to take care.  A big ushaped loop and back through into dockloads. This is where your gps system goes haywire, with all the buildings, the trace zigzagging to either side of the road, with all the tall buildings.  Your final mileage will always read higher because of this stretch (mine read 26.83 at the end, with a lot of extra feet recorded in this section)

Finally you turn and head back, back to the highway.  I saw no-one on it when running back.  The sweeper bus had passed by and people had joined or given up. The pack up lorries and crew were there.. Sweeping up the rubbish, taking down the mile markers, cleaning the paint off the road.  It’s a huge job to set up and take down the event, but they always seem to manage it, although I’m guessing there will be bottles and gel packets still out there.

22 miles, 23 miles. A few people I know were marshalling along this section, so a bit of chat was had. The crowds were still strong even now, so high fives and jelly babies taken on board. I still (mainly had a grin on my face) but it was hurting now. The mind was still having fun, the body less so. Every other walk break I was chatting with family on whatsapp and sending the occasional photos, looking at social and just letting them know what was going on.   Here’s the Tower, not long now

The Blackfriars underpass – not as long or as steep as I remembered. But still as sticky from the Lucozade on the floor. Mile 24 and the embankment. The final stretch!  So many people, I just couldn’t help but grin and keep looking around. As I said to one of the water station helpers, it was absolutely amazing.

Me on the Embankment, in fron of Big Ben/Elizabeth tower
Nearly there

The embankment is packed, with lots of charity cheering stations.  I spotted my favourite sign again – Go Rachel – not for me, but I’d seen it at least 4 times and it definitely applied.  Round the river bend and there’s Elizabeth Tower, in scaffolding but the clock face visible.

A turn next to Parliament and police rather than marshalls watching the crowd. A deep crowd but surprisingly quiet, the reason becoming obvious as I passed a guy in hand cuffs next to a bike. Had he made a wrong turn or just decided to do something stupid.

Me just before the last 200m to go on the Mall

Westminster Square, a glance over to the Churchill. Less than a mile to go, lets keep pushing on, run walk still in action.  800m sign, 600m, I see people from my local park run with a big sign, they were waiting for me (excellent photo!).  400m and the last but one turn. There’s the sign for 385yards…so that means 26miles is done! Buckingham Palace ticked off my photo list and then onto the red pavement of the mall to the finish line. Quieter than I expected here, the grandstands fairly empty and not replaced by the general crowds, but all eyes were on the finish.  One final push and there I was. A marathon finisher again!

Medal handed out, new cape obtained, photos got, then the goody bag – why wasn’t there chocolate?  Even better, chocolate covered slated peanuts would have been heaven!  No stopping to be done, had to keep moving. The brain had switched off and I felt every step, no running possible now, just foot in front of foot, heading out, time to get to the train station. Why are all these people in medals looking fresh and walking so fast (yep, fitter people who finished a while ago!)

Station, train, one final effort. A shower, washing off the salt crystals and finding the painful chafed bits. A glass of wine, some takeaway Indian and the day was done.

Apr 13

Race Report – Manchester Marathon 2019

Me outside Old Trafford, holding up my Manchester Marathon medal

Last May, when it was getting close to my London to Brighton ultra, I was planning my 2019 run and decided to put a marathon in the programme. I’d failed to start Birmingham the year before – too much going on, not enough headspace for training – so needed to have another in the plan.  Having read a lot of good things about Manchester (after they’d sorted out a couple of years with difficulties) I decided that this would be my target.  (I had entered the London ballot, but never expected to get in again – and I was right, at least through that method).

I booked the marathon, I booked the hotel near to the start and then put it to the back of my mind.  I had a half booked in for October, so the plan was to train for that, and then switch to a marathon programme. The brain decided otherwise, not having anything to do with running or walking for 2 months after London-Brighton and even after that, playing games with me and making it really hard to get stuck in to some serious miles. The travel also made things more difficult, especially as it got into the darker nights, as I didn’t know the routes in the same way. Then I also booked the Kili trip for Februaryand was on holiday for most of November.

All of this meant that in the 6 months before the marathon, I had run a total of 173 miles (and walked another 164 miles). In contrast, for my first marathon I had run 568 miles in the 6 months training.  So I was undertrained, to put it mildly!  Never mind…I’m generally stubborn, I know the effort it will need, I decided to go for it.

I travelled up to Manchester on the Saturday and made my way to the hotel.  The first thing to check was the distance to my start pen, so back out I went and timed the walk as 8 minutes.  Lovely, plenty of time to sort myself out in the morning.  The a meal of pasta before an early night.

Breakfast was from 6 – usually, it only started at 7:30 at the weekends, but given the number of runners staying, they’d made provision.  Coffee and food sorted, it was back to the room to rest for a couple of hours before I needed to move.

One short walk later, I joined the crowds.  This was probably the worst organised start I’d experiences.  Although the information sent out beforehand had clear maps and the pens were clearly marked at the front, there was other structure to the pen apart from a lead barrier to separate then for the different start times. There were no barriers around the groups and no checking you were in the right groups, although the instructions had implied there would be and the pens would close 20 mins before the start time.  I could have stayed in the hotel an extra 30 mins and just wandered up for the start!

Eventually, the horn went, the elites started off and the pens slowly made their way to the front I was in pen G, so by the time we started moving, the first group where heading back towards us to start their mile 3.

I’d finally decided on my race plan. My initial plans were to do a run-walk race, but I knew I could do a half marathon steadily without stopping, and I knew there were plenty of water stations I’d want to walk through to make sure I got gels and water onboard.  So I decided on a mixed strategy of running at least the 1st half and then switch to run walk after that; I though this would be the best strategy. The 5:30 pacer later passed me, having obviously done run walk from the start, however I think the run pace would have been just over what I was comfortable with, having done almost no speed training.  The target was 5:45, which meant I had to average 13:10 per mile – giving a pretty good buffer for the massive slowdown I knew I would get in the latter stages.

Off I went, slow and steady at my “usual” pace, which is just under 12 minute miles.  We first head north east into the city along a dual carriageway before swinging round a loop back to the start area in mile 3. The weather was perfect, overcast, cool, with a breeze, and the course was flat. it was easy to get into a rhythm. Now heading out of the city, I passed by the first water station – nothing needed yet, but took the first gel at 4 miles. By this point, the relay racers were starting to catch us up. In teams of 2 or 4, they were a lot faster than many, especially later in the race, but luckily all had Relay notices on their back so you didn’t feel too bad when they passed you! 

My pace was being maintained, even with a very quick walk break at mile 6. We were now in Sale, continuing to head out into to the suburbs and then onto the country.  Every “centre” had a good crowd, often with music. Timperley, at mile 10 was particularly memorable, a lot of people, a commentator outside a pub and music.  Everytime you passed these groupings, you definitely sped up! I carried on, reaching Altrincham, the turn round point.   Mile 12 was my first slower one, with a water break and the only real hill on the course in the town centre.

The turn round point and we headed back into town, first the way we came and then swinging west to head further out. So far, I was keeping a steady pace, miles 13, 14 and 15 were all at the quicker pace – I’d managed more than the target 13 miles at my “race” pace, now it started to hurt, dropping into 13+ minute miles. My legs felt not too bad, just tired, except for hips, which had been giving a lot of trouble in the weeks before the race, feeling tight.  They started to give me a little pain, but not enough to interrupt the slide. 

Miles 18 to 23 definitely felt they were out in the country. There was support, but not consistent, often large stretches without any one (it was also late in the race, so there are never as many).  I’d now settled into a new run-walk routine.  From each mile marker, walk 0.1 of a mile, run half a mile, walk 0.1 of a mile, run to the next mile marker. If the signs to the water station were showing it was close to my next walk break, (they were signposted 400m out) then just keep running until then and walk through the water station to take on the drink.  This routine kept me going, and gave my mind something to do.

Finally, there was just a parkrun to do (I looked for a sign, there is often one, but did not see anything). Everything was slowing down further and my hips were getting worse, mainly the right side (the usual bad one). More and more people were stopping to stretch out, but luckily, I was not hit by cramp and could keep moving forward, it was just uncomfortable.  There was no speed in the legs now and I wasn’t even tempted to try and keep up with the 5:30 pacer.  I knew I could finish, and it was just a matter of keeping going – which means the brain slightly switched off and I spent a little longer walking, especially up any slight rise!

Turning the last corner, you could see the finish – about half a mile ahead.  A bit more at a walk and then time to gather everything together and head for the line.  The crowd was still massive around this section and there were plenty of cheers and encouragement, especially helpful as the finish took a long time to get to! 

And I was done!  With a time of 5:36, my 2nd fastest time out of the 4 I have done, which was really pleasing. Overall, I felt not too bad, far better than the previous two. Although I had no speed, the walk training and the mountain training had definitely helped my overall stamina, so I knew that the distance was doable.  Time to pick up the medal, the maltloaf and the beer!  Well, Erdinger Alkoholfrei, which appears to be marketed as an isotonic drink therefore should be perfect for after a marathon!!!  It was fine for sipping as I wandered back to the hotel.  25 minutes after finishing, I was in the shower, stretching, before food and a welcome glass of wine.  Definitely good having a hotel so close.

Manchester marathon is a great marathon. Well supported, a good course, great marshalls and well organised (except for the start pens).  I full recommend having a go – especially if you’re a fast one as it’s actually pretty flat.  They’d upped the numbers this year to 20k, so it’s one of the largest in Europe and I think they’re going to keep seeing how they can grow it.

I don’t have to look far ahead for my next marathon – after 2 years without one, I now have 2 in 2 months. I got a marshall’s ballot place this year and so Manchester, at 3 weeks before London this year, has acted as the perfect last long run before London – so I’m now in taper!  See you there 😊

My Strava splits for Manchester Marathon
Apr 13

QuarterNotes 1 2019

Weeknotes, monthnotes, annual reviews. I’ve tried them all, depending on how bloggy I feel.  With its restoration, it’s time to try another favour of diary, so it’s time for QuarterNotes!

But! But! What have I actually done this quarter?  Not as much as I could have, I think. As has been my usual, I spent what felt like about half my time at clients in Germany, being in the UK every other week.

  • I finally got to go see Hamilton.  I’d being keeping an eye on the tickets for a while, tried the last minute lottery on occasion and was prepared to buy one of the expensive tickets if I could get one in my preferred row (the one with the extra legroom). In the end, another opportunity came up, a not so expensive ticket in the very front row.  So £75 only, plenty of leg room and really good views of most of the action.  You could see the stage and all the action, just not the footwork.  Excellent show, and much of the music still sticks in my head – especially as it is actually all available on YouTube.  My only disappointment was that it was a downbeat ending, which left you a little flat on leaving
A view from the stage from the front row of Hamilton, empty s it's before the show starts
My front row view
  • Another Michelin restaurant, my first for a while, I took in The Goring after my Hamilton visit.  I had to try the traditional Eggs Drumkilbo, (reportedly the Queen Mother’s favourite)
Glass bowl, with eggs, black caviar, aspic jelly and green leaves of herbs.
Start at the Goring
  • Back to Sheffield the second trip in 4 weeks after my New Year walking trip. this time it was the pre-trip weekend for my Kili trip.  Information about kit, the trip, a walk up in the Peaks and most importantly, a chance to meet all but 3 of my fellow adventurers. 
Sheer cliffs, a quarry in the Peak District. Blue sly and brown grass
Peak District Quarry
  • Another trip round London for the Winter Run 10k. Definitely my favourite race, this was my 5th time running it.
Me next to a Polar bear - a person in a polar bear outfit, after the Winter Run
  • A quick pop over to Barcelona for the F1 testing.  I missed last year, due to uncertainty about jobs, but took the chance this year to go over for a day, spending it in Red Bull hospitality. A most excellent day, I love just being able to watch cars all day, without it being a race.  The following day was spent in the city, having lunch down in the harbour.
Me, next to Max Verstappen, standing in front of a Red Bull back drop
  • The first trip to Kew this year was also accomplished. Taking advantage of a work from home day, with a quiet sunny afternoon available, I walked along the river to spend a couple of hours in the gardens.  I love having membership, it allows you to take advantage of spare hours like this.
Pyramid glasshouses in Kew Gardens. In front there is a sea of golden daffodils

An that’s it really for the first 3months of the year.   One theatre trip, one restaurant. A couple of trips abroad that weren’t work. And a few miles spent running and walking, as always.