Archives for December 2015

Ben Nevis via the Caern Mor Dearg Arete

Ben Nevis

Ben Nevis

In Oct 2013 I did the most awesome walk of my life. Ever since taking 4 hours to climb Ben Nevis via the tourist route as my first Munro in around 2003 I wanted to go back. I wanted to climb it via the Caern Mor Dearg Arete, pack light and have some fun. I’m a very different hill walker compared to what I was then and even now it stands as the most amazing and beautiful walk that I’ve done. I say walk, I treat mountaineering like an ultra marathon. This means I walk hard on the ups, and run the flats and downs. It crunches the miles very effectively. As I sit here on Christmas day 2015 a lot of water has passed under the bridge, and with my Ivybridge Everest attempt looming I felt that the time was right to reflect on the best walk of my life.

I had been waiting to do this walk for some time, checking the weather when I was working in Scotland and waiting for it to be just right. The weather around Glen Coe is notoriously fickle so I couldn’t believe it when the Mountain Weather forecast showed negligible winds, clear skies and warm weather (for October!) for the single day I had available. The 12th October 2013. I packed the car the night before, and set off before dawn.

I was driving across from Moray and didn’t want to leave super early in case the roads were icy. I ended up starting on the hill at 09.27 and returning to the car five hours and thirteen minutes later with my mind well and truly blown. You can see my route and all my data at Training Peaks if you like geeking out on the stats: http://tpks.ws/urhrO

I set off on the tourist route apace and had to excuse myself to get past a few walkers as the terrain rolled along the approach. Once I got onto the hillside proper the path widened a touch and I was able to climb past people easily. I was walking, but pushing, and it is relentlessly steep once the ground pitches upwards. I was being very careful with my foot placement, trying to use flat ground or the back of rocks where possible to keep the tension down on my achilles tendons and calf muscles. This would be a long climb, and I needed to be clever about it.

After an hour I crested the pass by Lochan Meall an t suidhe and forked off of the tourist track towards Caern Mor Dearg. The path narrowed, being much less used, and as I traversed across towards the BMC hut and the North Face of the Ben there was frequently snow and ice underfoot. This stretch was slightly downhill until I crossed the Allt a Mhuilinn where I began the steep scramble over loose scree and the occasional big rock up the side of Carn Mor Dearg. I had been watching a group of people in front of me and loosely followed their route up. They turned out to be a large group of American students whom I greeted as I went past. I really enjoyed getting on the big rocks as I could use the strength in my legs to effectively run up their steep sides. One girl looked over, laughed and proclaimed “you’re an animal.” I had no answer other then to blush and move on.

I caught the last of the students just before cresting Caern Mor Dearg. It is a funny hill as the gradient doesn’t change, but you suddenly run out of ground as it drops away from you at the top. I paused to soak it in, turned right and started to scamper along the arete. I almost bottled it, following the track below the knife edge, before reminding myself that I was here to run the ridge, not next to it. I didn’t go fast, placing each step carefully, but I didn’t slow either and kept on moving forward. It was breathtaking. In places a little exposed, and a bit scrambly but beautiful and so much fun. There was a little cross wind which blew me off balance once, causing my foot to drop in a hole. My ankle twisted and I wobbled left, off balance and teetering. I did the sensible thing and sat down very quickly. Anybody watching from the top of Ben Nevis would have seen me wobble and vanish from view. I laughed, called myself something rude and stood back up, carefully.

As I finished the arete I turned back and looked along its length, relishing it and the beauty of Scotland in front of me. I then turned one hundred and eighty degrees and started the scramble up the back of Ben Nevis proper. I was pretty pooped by the time I got to the top, but I pushed the smug feeling of accomplishment aside and started to think about the descent. A hill isn’t over until you are back home and sipping a glass of wine!

I am very cautious when it comes to descending after breaking my ankle in 2007. This caution was reinforced on a separate occasion when I did an amazing Superman impression at the top of Braeriach. I was very lucky not to seriously hurt myself. I have one cardinal rule now when it comes to running downhill: If you want to look at the view slow down and walk!

Descending Ben Nevis has to be the longest and steepest downhill in the country. After all, you are on the UK’s highest peak and the car park is almost at sea level. You are descending uneven terrain for several miles and even the toughest runner has burning quads by the bottom.

View soaked in, pictures taken and with a suitable period of time stood at the top of the north face, I started my descent. It’s a bit of a blur, but it took a while. 5 miles and about 80 minutes later I was back at the car. Tired, elated and extremely happy. I had just completed one of the most amazing routes in the UK in absolutely perfect conditions and on a day when the hill wasn’t overly crowded. As I write this two years later it is all coming back to me, and it still stands out as an amazing route.

Would I do it again? You bet, but if the weather is that good again when I am in the area then I have a few other routes to get to first 😀

Don’t forget to check out my Ivybridge Everest. It’s for a good cause and is going to be the toughest challenge of my life: www.justgiving.com/ivybridgeeverest

Ben Nevis Oct 2013

Ivybridge Everest for St Luke’s – Update

I have been overwhelmed so far by the support I am seeing for my Ivybridge Everest attempt. The Dartmoor Mountain Rescue Team (Plymouth branch) are coming along to help out through the night, and quite a few folks from the Erme Valley Harriers and Plymouth Tri Club have expressed an interest in joining me for a lap or two. Any help, or company on the day is greatly appreciated. A couple of days ago I did a phone interview with Ivybridge Today and when I read the result this bit stood out as something worth repeating (if I do say so myself!)

Richard, a keen and experienced walker and trail runner, admits the challenge will be incredibly hard.

He said: ‘The more I think about it the dafter it becomes. But it’s quite hard to find something to do that really feels worthy of asking people for money.

‘So I thought I’d try and do something that I might not actually be able to do. Western Beacon is a hill I’ve been travelling up and down for years, and the views from the top are amazing.

‘I thought I’d keep it local, and keep it incredibly daft.’

Please don’t forget that regardless of what I am doing the main aim of this is to highlight what an awesome job St Luke’s Hospice in Plymouth does, and to raise some much needed funds to help them to carry on doing it! You can donate here: www.justgiving.com/ivybridgeeverest or you can throw cash in the collection bucket that will be around on the day.

If you have anywhere that you could throw a poster for the event then what do you think of this? I think it covers the basics even if, with my limited design skills, it looks a bit rubbish.

Poster 1

Thanks to South Hams Newspapers who yesterday made my day with this tweet:

‪#‎Ivybridge‬adventurer Richard Lander Stow @BikeRunSwimUK plans to scale ‪#‎Everest‬in ‪#‎Devon‬for @StLukesPlymouth

I may have to get a T-Shirt made up with “The Ivybridge Adventurer” written on it 😉

Anyway, what ARE you doing on the 2nd Jan? The correct answer is taking part in Richard’s Ivybridge Everest 😀

Ivybridge Everest

The top of Western Beacon

The top of Western Beacon

On January 10th 2015 my Dad passed away from a brain tumour in St Luke’s Hospice. At the time my wife was in hospital fighting pneumonia as a complication of a weakened immune system from her stem cell transplant while fighting acute myeloid leukaemia.

This Christmas (2015) we are going to  do things differently. We are going turn things around, do something good and raise some money for charity. Not to mention getting loads of presents, eating mince pies and consuming a fair amount of booze and chocolate. Hardly good preparation for what I have in mind for the 2nd January 2016: My Ivybridge Everest!

At 6am on the 2nd January 2016 I will set off from Davey’s Cross, just East of Ivybridge on the B3213 and I will run (walk!) straight to the top of Western Beacon and run back down again. You can see the view from the top in the picture above, with my kids doing Titanic poses. I am then going to repeat this a total of 41 times, so that I have travelled over 75 miles and climbed over 9000m (Everest is a mere 8848m!) It will take me between 20 and 30 hours, the weather will be unpredictable and the daylight hours limited. Even with my bonkers love of all things mountainous this is going to be one hell of a challenge.

I am asking anyone that reads this to do one or more of four things to support me:

  1. Share this post. Get this out to as many people as possible. Let me assuage your Christmas guilt and burn off some calories on your behalf.
  2. Come along on the day for just a few minutes, see me go past and give me a shout. My route for each leg will be the same. Davey’s Cross to the top and back in as straight a line as possible.
  3. Come along on the day and walk with me to the top and run back down again. Just the once, or maybe twice. I wont be going fast 🙂
  4. Donate. Even if it is only £1. You can do so at www.justgiving.com/ivybridgeeverest

That is it. The 2nd January is a Saturday and I would love to see you. Help keep me moving forward, support St Luke’s and start of your new year by doing something really positive.

Here is a picture of Dad, taken just a few years ago when he rode a Ural Motorbike and sidecar outfit to Mongolia and back. He was an amazing man.

Dad

Dad

Thanks to everyone that has supported me so far, friends, family, colleagues and everyone else. Finally thanks to McCaulays who have supported me for the last few years and through all of my fundraising, hence their logo having a spot at the top of the page 🙂