Dawn - Sometimes An Ultrarunner

Dawn - Sometimes An Ultrarunner

February 28, 2013

Adventure Racing Ball, 23-24 Feb 2013

For at least the second year in a row (I wasn't around before that to really know) the Adventure Racing social weekend event was held at the Thurston Outdoor Education Center in Coniston, Lake District.   Sarah had convinced me again that we had to go, and even came back early from her holiday in Spain to head up there for the weekend!  Now that's dedication.

Photo courtesy of Kate McKerrow
After what seemed like 9 continuous months of rain, we finally had a dry week leading up to the Ball.  Which meant that the trails were just normal muddy rather than in raging floods.   Rather suprisingly, I kept my feet dry on the Saturday social bike ride, where Sarah and I found ourselves at the slow end of the slow group while enjoying the scenery.   Or at least that's what we used as our excuse when the rest of the group had to wait up for us!  

Saturday evening was the traditional ceilidh (pronounced kaylee), it's a Gaelic social evening.   Between sets of the band Striding Edge, we had the yearly awards presentation, with the announcers keeping the crowd in stitches.  I think the the dancers were happy to get a break and cool off a little, too.   Even though all attempts to start a fire in the cold barn had failed, so it was pretty chilly in the building!

On Sunday morning everyone was feeling the effects of a late night, and after a slow breakfast, small groups of people heading out for walks, runs, rides or whatever took their fancy for the day.   Sarah and I headed off with Pete to take a nice hike up to the top of Old Man of Coniston.   I guess the snowy peak appealed to us.  It was a beautiful day.  Really, it was.  At least, until we hit the snow line and wondered if we would need crampons to get to the summit.   We even got a little off trail and found a cave with some pretty cool icicles...amazing how much they look like stalagtites just inside the cave.   The rest of the way wasn't too slippery or icy, so we made it to the summit ok, with good views of the hills around us and just the peaks covered in snow.   We did take a different descent route to avoid a particularily steep and slippery section.   It was nice to see snow again, although now I'll say, I'm officially ready for spring again!

February 17, 2013

Canary Islands Time Lapse and Video!

Wow, Rob has outdone himself artistically this time with his latest effort.   We brought a new camera and video camera on our journeys to Tenerife and La Palma last month to try them out.  So we've got some great footage, not to mention time lapse gems, hidden in this video.   We hope you love it!

February 8, 2013

Hoya de la Sima, La Palma

Our final few days in the La Palma were marked with high winds, episodes of rain (really), and a lot of clouds.  Our first attempt at this hike had us turning around while still on the drive up to the parking lot, discouraged by thick fog, cool temps, and strong winds.

Luckily for us, a little luck had us instead find a tucked away little beach where the sun kept shining and the strong northerly winds were blocked.  Instead of walking in blustery fog, we spent the afternoon catching a day of sunshine and swimming on the black beach of Puerto Tazacorte.  It seems that regardless of the weather elsewhere on the island, this corner at the bottom of Taburiente Crater manages to be sunny most of the time. 

As we were driving back to our hotel from the beach, we saw that the clouds had thinned a little bit on the ridge, but it was too late in the day to go for a hike.   The next day, we planned a little better.  Rainshowers still fell on us on the eastern side of the island, so we drove west to Puerto Tazacorte again for some midday sun.  Then when the clouds thinned a little, we finally geared up for our last hike.  It took a bit of mental fortitude to dress in several layers (after being in swimming clothes on the beach!).  And getting out of the car in strong winds and dense fog was even harder.  In fact, it looked like a blizzard of fog blowing across the road.  But once we turned a corner on the trail and walked a little ways, we came out of the fog again and had a pleasant walk through thick pines along a mostly level fire road.   We also crossed one of the most recent lava flows, from 1949.  The lava trail seemed to be heading right for a small town, then inexplicably diverted around it.

The far point of our walk was our destination.  A deep hole in the ground known as Hoya de la Sima.   The bottom was invisible in the black, and surely there must be caves leading out from it as well.  There is quite a system of caves on La Palma, volcanic and otherwise.   But we left speculation and the hole behind, and enjoyed the walk back even more, getting a last day's sniff of pine scent and blue skies, with just a tad of warmth.

Distance: 6 miles, 2 hrs, and 500 feet of elevation gain (and loss).

Walk #14 from the Walking on La Palma Cicerone Guide

February 7, 2013

Bivouac in Taburiente Crater, La Palma

Stashed in my luggage in hopes of night under the stars was a bivy bag, sleeping bag, and minimal sleeping mat.  A hike on La Palma that had eluded me the prior visit was a journey into the heart of Taburiente Crater.  It can be done an a day hike via the use of a taxi, but I wanted to spend a night in the bowels of the island, and perhaps explore extra trails deep in the crater.

Day trippers find the crater a fairly easy hike, since the taxi drives them up most of the elevation, and they are left with a long steady downhill and then a rocky river descent to the finish.   Why I decided to go the other way I'm not quite sure, but I do like to start and finish hikes under my own steam.  No taxis for me.  Rob dropped me off at the river bed and my pack felt much heavier than usual, loaded up with extra food and sleeping gear.  I could tell I was tired, too...the 2 weeks of steady long day hikes and beach walks were much more than even I was used to.  

But the river was an amazing place and the variety of rocks in the flowing river kept me searching for new colors.  It was another sunny, clear day, and I was lucky to be walking in such a place.   The river, flowing from springs deep in the crater, often colored the rocks orange from iron-ores.  In other places the trail brought me high above the water looking down into narrow gorges. 

A detour was a must to go up to see the Cascada de Colores, where the river bed got more and more orange from sediment until it was fairly glowing.  The cascada wasn't really much, though, just a man-made dam with orange and green stains from the water flow. 

From the riverbed up to the campground, the trail climbed steeply but was well groomed and smooth...probably the best maintained trail on the island, and that's saying a lot.   I was sweating but it felt great in the dry air by the time I arrived at the campground.  Which was a ghost town.  I dropped of my permit in a slot in the locked visitor center, then toured the area for the best locations.  I didn't see any sign of life aside from an empty tent.   The deeply shaded grounds were lined with tall pines, but I could hear another river gurgling nearby.   In short, it was paradise.  I found a spot where the sun shone down on a bed of pine needles, and proceeded to spend several hours reading and sunning, with the river a calming background trickle.

Near sunset, I moved out into the wide riverbed to catch a timelapse of shadows on the crater rim, and cooked supper on a rock. My bed for the night was on layers of thick pine needles which someone had helpfully gathered. As darkness settled in and I with it, I suddenly wondered where my walking pole was, as it was not near my sleeping bag. I found my flashlight and went looking for it in all the places I had visited, but saw no sign of it. I suddenly wondered if someone had taken it...unlikely given that I hadn't seen a single person all day, but the trees were thick. Could there be a thief? I couldn't believe it, yet where was my stick? (The short answer was no....I found my pole the next morning exactly where I had left it, somehow evading the dim light of my flashlight search the night before!) 

I struggled to get much sleep that night, for some reason, and found that the light of the moon in my eyes was keeping me awake.  Yet it was an absolutely perfect night, warm, calm, at times foggy and yet clear, with no hint of chill.  The moon and the stars waded through the trees above me, and there were no sounds aside from flowing water.  Well, aside from a really annoying rooster.  What's a rooster doing up in the crater, anyway?!

I had planned on doing an extra hike up to a large waterfall in the morning, but in the end, just didn't really feel like it when I woke up.  So I cooked breakfast in the warm air, and then slowly hiked up and out of the crater along another nicely graded path.   And I do mean slowly....I could tell that the endless days of hiking were catching up with my legs.  Fog shrouded the crater rim and it was kind of a grey day.  At the end of the hiking path was the road descent down to the river where Rob was waiting for me.  I suddenly realized that walking down the 10 miles of road switchbacks would take me forever (it seemed), so I took a few hiking trail shortcuts instead.  These were really steep, and made me want to get back on the road and flag down a taxi, I was feeling that tired.  The road went off somewhere else for a while, though, and I was stuck on the trail. 

It was on a graveled path where my tired legs lost their footing and I went down hard on the rocks.  Luckily the rocks were of the normal variety and not the sharp volcanic stuff.  After a few whimpers, I realized that I hadn't done much damage besides small scrapes and what would turn out to be a softball-sized bruise on my thigh.   I continued on hoping to hear the sounds of a vehicle...I really wanted a ride down now.  Nothing.  I continued on, more trail shortcuts, and soon the river started to look larger...I realized I was getting a lot closer to it than I expected.  I determined to finish the descent on my own steam (good choice...no vehicles ever did pass me), and soon I could see Rob at the river coming back from his own hike up into the barranco.  It wasn't the strong finish I was hoping for, but it was an absolutely beautiful night out and so peaceful that I will remember that, rather than my crash!
Distance: 13 miles, 8 hrs, and 3500 feet of elevation gain (and loss).

Walk #17 from the Walking on La Palma Cicerone Guide

Cascada de Colores...clearly not the best time of day for photos of this

February 5, 2013

March Open 5 secret location is revealed!

The next Haglofs Open 5 Adventure Race will take place in the Yorkshire Dales.  Specifically, it will start at the the Upper Wharfdale School in Threshfield, which is practically my backyard.   Ok, backyard for an American anyway, as it's 15 miles from my house! 

But anyway, this will be my last race in the UK, and almost my last day in the UK.  I'm moving back to the United States to pursue a career in nutrition, and will wave a tearful goodbye to all the good friends I've made in the three years that we've lived in England. 

So, it's my last race...but I'm not racing it.  It would be hard to do that without my bike and my gear, which has already been packed up and shipped over to the States.  :(   Next best thing?  I'm helping to plan it.  Mostly I just want to be there on the day, and see everyone for a last time.  So please come on out, we promise the scenery will delight you, the hills may taunt you, and the descents should be ace. 

Pico de La Nieve & Taburiente Crater Rim, La Palma

Another day and another chance to evade the clouds in the ring around La Palma!  This day we were looking for clouds and trying to capture some good photos of the fog by staying high.  We took the long, winding, switchback road up to the very rim of the crater at 8000 feet.   At such a height, the wind always seems to have a bite to it, even when it's warm enough to sunbathe down on the beach. 

At the road overlook, the clouds were dancing with the wind, the fog, and the rainbows, and it was suprisingly warm.  We stopped to capture a few time lapse sequences (hundreds of photos taken over 15-60 minutes with a camera on a tripod, then made into a fast-motion movie).  I'll be posting a collection of our time lapse creations from the Canary Islands soon. 

To get some hiking in, we drove to a lower part of the rim road to start a short hike up to Pico de la Nieve.   It was rather blustery in the open, but the side trail joined the GR131 rim trail on the southern side of the peak.  I wasn't feeling too energetic, so I paused on some warm rocks for another time lapse secquence while Rob headed up to the true peak.  He was soon back down complaining of the winds.   We stayed for a while in the sheltered spot enjoying the views of the crater rim, and contemplating walking more of the rim trail.  In the end, we didn't, and had a slow enjoyable walk through more pines (yay!) back to the car. 

Distance: 4 miles, 2 hrs, and 1000 feet of elevation gain (and loss).

Walk #30 from the Walk! La Palma Walking Guide

February 4, 2013

Hiking the GR 131 Volcano Trail, La Palma

Most of the Canary Islands are dry deserts.  La Palma is the only one with multiple natural springs and lots of flowing water.  Well, not lots, per se, but at least some.  I think it's because of the springs, that fog has a tendency to form around the spine of the island each day.  We could often see this ring of clouds on La Palma from Tenerife, even the sky was clear everywhere else.

So from day to day, you never really know what kind of weather you are going to get on La Palma.  This makes it hard to plan, but we stayed flexible and tried to go where the clouds weren't.   Our second day on La Palma saw us driving over to the western side of the island in search of a place to hike.  We saw that the clouds were staying really low, and immediately we thought of hiking the Volcano Route.  

The high spine of La Palma is shaped like a question mark, and the GR 131 trail runs the length of the spine.   We have hiked several sections of the trail and had our eyes on another part of it, the southern end of the high route above Los Canarios.   We drove up as far as possible on a gravel track, then parked the car and continued on foot.  It was a beautiful day, warm, clear, and calm.   The islands of Tenerife, El Hierro, and La Gomera were easily visible...not a normal occurance, I assure you. 

Thick pine trees lined the path for a few miles.  I love these huge Canary pines.  I've never seen such blue skies as the ones see from through a canvas of green needles.   Luckily these pine forests are thick on La Palma and I got lots of chances to walk in them.   In fog, in wind, in sun, and in shadow, the pines offer shelter and a calming boon to the soul.

Eventually the pines thinned out and we started climbing up on of the more recent volcanos in the islands history....the most recent being the ones farther down at the southern tip.   Volcanic grit seeped into our shoes but the path was easy going even in steepness.  Continuing a few more miles brought us to a nice view point, where we took some time lapse photos (more of these later) and paused for lunch. 

On the way back down (can you hear me saying "onward, back to the pines, mate!") we detoured over Volcan Martin, where there was a proper crater, and a view of the big caldera rim to the north.  The steep descent was on proper deep volcanic scree, which was fun to run down, although it filled my shoes with black sand.  And I almost biffed it on a hidden rock, and with the nasty feel of the sharp volcanic rocks, I was happy to narrowly avoid a tumble. 

The wind rose as we descended, and so did the clouds, but not too much.  We got back to the car before it got either cold, foggy, or too windy.  Lucky, too, as all our warm clothes were left in the car.    Not often that weather on La Palma allows for this...in our remaining days on the island, we never again saw the ridge so clear or warm. 

Distance: 10 miles, 5 hrs, and 3000 feet of elevation gain (and loss).

Bottom half of Walk #8 from the Walk! La Palma Walking Guide

February 2, 2013

Cubo de Galga Hike, La Palma

After a week on Tenerife, we took a short 20 min flight over to La Palma (where the stewardesses still managed to hand out cookies and drinks!), for another week of soaking in the sunshine.   Although sunshine on La Palma is a somewhat more varied commodity.

This was our second journey to La Palma and there were many trails left to explore here as well.   First up was the Cubo de Galga, a pleasant little hike up into a canyon and back down through local fields and orchards.   Geographically, Galga is near the wonderful tunnels and waterfalls of Los Tilos, but this trail has no adrenaline pumping moments, just nice views of the valley and the farmed terraces.  

The sun came out as we descended throug the fields near the end, warming us up and making the whole place look a little nicer (we were quickly used to constant sun in Tenerife, so the clouds and coolness were shocking).  There were all sorts of flowers blooming in yards, fields, and orchards, and we spent another pleasant hour smelling the roses and feeling up the avocado trees. 

Distance: 4 miles, 2 hrs, and 1300 feet of elevation gain (and loss).

Walk #26 from the Walk! La Palma Walking Guide


Avocado tree....yum!