Saturday 19 December 2015

About This Blog

This blog not only contains brief updates of a special trip across the Alps, but also details of the trip including video clips, an online photo book and background information.  The journey lasted 63 days and was made solo and largely unsupported, taking a high level route from Slovenia to Monaco.  It is my own route mixing walking, via ferrata, scrambling and mountaineering.  I'm raising money for a local charity working with recovering addicts and homeless persons, by giving talks on the journey.  If you'd like to arrange a talk please get in touch by clicking on the poster image on the left. Enjoy!

Online Photo Book - click on the image to view (best in full screen)

Friday 14 August 2015

the finish

At 1:50 I finished my journey in the sea at menton.  The water was warm and soothing after my long days.  I felt slightly numb and I suspect it will take some time for it to sink in.  I'm utterly exhausted after having to do those 40 km with little sleep and stomach cramps and after two very hard day's before. It was bizarre to join the throngs of holiday makers on the beach.such a different environment from the lonely places. I'll miss the rhythm of the days, the mountains and the wildlife, but I relish having a less intensive schedule. It's been one heck of a trip and I'll write it up properly and post pictures in the days ahead. Thanks especially to my dad for doing most of the blog posts and to Andy for the early ones, and to the incomparable Lawson family for their support in the valley at the end and in the dolomites. I've made it!

Thursday 13 August 2015

The final mountains

My alpine journey is nearly ended, but not before two very hard days.  After completing the traverse of the Mercantour mountains and a last night in a hut, I climbed Monte Argentera (3,297m).  There was a nice scramble to the top, but then a very difficult descent taking two and a half hours, during which my water bottle fell from my rucksack and fell tinkling down the mountainside (glad it wasn't me!).  After a meal I got the poles out and generated a good pace uphill, but it was a tough day, 30 km and 2,500m of ascent in great heat.  At 6.30pm I rather lost it, felt queasy and sick and my stomach rebelled against a mountain of pasta.  So in the shelter of a wall I found a good bivvy spot and had a last night under the stars.  But I was too tired to enjoy it, yet didn't sleep much.  I thought of getting up at 3am, but negotiating a pathless boulder field and glaciated slabs in the dark wasn't appealing, so I set off at 6am, still feeling wretched.  After another pass and following a better path, I met up with Pam at 12 and with a smaller and lighter sack felt a little better, finally reaching the campsite at 4.30, having walked 40 km.  Coming down from the mountains was like entering a heat bowl and, with an easy 20 km tomorrow, I'm really looking forward to finishing.  Menton, here I come!

Monday 10 August 2015

very soggy on the border

I should have done my half day yesterday.  Today was very wet.  I retraced my steps for two km and went up to the French Italian border. Despite the heavy rain I climbed the cime de laufer and then followed the border to the col lombarde. You can walk over stones marked france/Italy which feels a little odd. Half way I was in danger of getting hypothermic so I sheltered in the overhang of an abandonned hut and stripped off my t shirt for a long sleeved shirt and jumper.  By the time I reached the pass everything was wringing wet so I was glad of being met for the comforts of isola.

Two big days coming up.  I hope to do the argentera tomorrow from the Lombarde pass and then the cime de gelas the next day.  We'll see. The poor weather today makes me appreciate the wonderful days I've had.

No pictures today but a few more from previously.

Sunday 9 August 2015

rest day number 2 and photos

with an unpromising forecast of rain and storms I've opted for a rest day in Isola, or more accurately, a day to match good forecasted weather with the peak I want to do.  In reality its stayed dry, so I hope tomorrow isn't much worse!  I've felt fit and have moved much faster over the past few days but last night I was kept awake by 2 families until 12:30 at night at the camp site and then woke up before 5am.  Not so restful!  I've plenty of time in hand so plan a short day tomorrow when the weather is predicted to be bad in the afternoon and then 2 long days with bivvies when its supposed to be good, followed by the walk out to Menton over the next 2 days.

I've mixed feelings about finishing.  I'm glad not to have a schedule and the continual physical and mental effort but I'll miss the journeying on and the rhythm of the journey.

Yesterday I got caught in a big storm at the wrong time.  I was right at the top of a notch in a rocky ridge with lightening all around.  the thunder was so loud I stuck my fingers in my ears.  The gap between lightening and thunder was less than a second.  the hail came down like a power shower had been turned on full and the sky was pitch black.  I went down after crossing another pass in the same conditions.  I didn't fancy a repeat today.

Finally I've managed to download some of my 1134 photos.  So here's some for starters:

Saturday 8 August 2015

A district of lakes

Despite threatened storms, the good weather persists, so I've continued to make good progress - 32 km yesterday, a similar distance the day before, and probably the same today.  After Larche, yesterday I slogged up a hill, passing probably 150 people (on a trail near a car park!), then after 4.00 pm I saw no-one.  Among the many lakes which are such a feature of this district, Lac Lauzanier was particularly beautiful.  Then after another pass, I walked off-trail in a very wild area of moraine, variously coloured rocks and grass, not unlike Scotland - except that it was hot!  Threatened thunder held off, so I again bivvied near a little lake amidst glacial slabs.  These bivouacs have been the highlight of my journey: choosing a perfect spot with grand scenery, watching the sun set and the afterglow illumine the mountain tops and then falling asleep under the stars.  Then, of course, an early start - this morning it was at 5.15 and still dark, but soon the sun rose into a perfect blue sky and once again it has become hot.  This morning I've passed ten lakes on an amazing path traversing the mountains of the Mercanton range.  If the weather holds, I shall bivvy again tonight.

Postscript.  Well, I did manage 35 km today, but the weather didn't hold!  This afternoon there was a massive thunderstorm: it became black as night, hail lashed down, lightning struck as close as 150m away from me, and the thunder was so loud I had to put my fingers in my ears.  Pretty scary.  I'm now down to the road and waiting for Pam and Martin to pick me up - the storm has cleared away but it's camping and drying out for me tonight, no bivvy!

Friday 7 August 2015

Aiguille de Chambeyron

Yesterday I stormed along for 30 km through a wonderful area of wild rocky peaks around the Aiguilles de Chambeyron, taking in a 3,000m peak and four mountain passes en route.  In between the passes were paths being walked by lots of people, probably following their guidebooks, and with good reason, for the paths skirted some very pretty lakes.  Then, after a series of tremendous rocky peaks, I came to my bivouac hut in a dramatic location, basically a small tin hut just about able to accommodate two Italians, three French and me.  A good bunch of people, good to talk to.  I rose at sunrise to climb a 3,000m peak overlooking the Aiguille de Chambeyron, the colour of the red rock intensified by the early sunlight.  Then back to the hut and a hot and sunny 14 km walk to Larche, where I'm now sitting having a well earned ice cream.  This is a great area, though it doesn't get easier - still many tiring ascents and I have in front of me a long and rough traverse of the Mercantour range.  That though is the last mountain range in my journey, and there are just seven days left.