15 July 2009


No running this week but plenty of exercise, courtesy of a 6-day trip to the Pyrénées with a few of the Caius lot. We flew to Pau and made our way down to Gavarnie. We then started our trip, armed with little more than a couple of maps and several tons of trail mix, cheese and local sausage. Our little wander took us up to the Breche de Roland (in the background below), round into San Nicolás de Bujaruelo on the Spanish side before wandering along to the highest peak in the French Pyrénées, the 3,298m Vignemale. The view from the top, down across the glacier, is above.

The walking was tough-ish - we averaged just under 1,000m of ascent per day, generally with a c15kg pack on, so I don't feel like I've missed out on my training. The ascent up the glacier was particularly exciting for me, never having used crampons or an ice-axe before, and it felt liberating to be doing a trip like this independently - without a guide. The other real highlight was the flora and fauna - not usually my bag. Nevertheless, the fields of flowers were really stunning and the unexpected (for me anyway) and multiple sightings of marmots frolicking in the sunshine was a joy given the number of times I must have skied a run called 'Marmottes' (every resort seems to have one). Finally, I mustn't forget to mention Dix' inspired decision, not only to organise the trip, but also to buy us all berets at the start. It really helped us to make friends.
The trip was useful in other ways too. It really highlighted again how important hill training, cross-country and training with a pack will be in my prep for the MdS - much tougher than road-running. I also managed to pick up some kind of injury to the medial collateral ligament in my left knee, which I'm currently hoping will disappear of its own accord...

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