Sunday, 18 August 2013

Joe and Sophie's wedding


Occasionally, there are things that are a lot more important than going to the top of a hill. This is one of those moments - the marriage of my son Joe, to Sophie.

Just a few pictures:
Signing on the dotted line

Arriving at the reception
The groom's parents - that's me not wearing Scarpa boots

The first dance

The morning after

Two Sues

Thursday, 15 August 2013

Back in the UK for a big hill


Arrived in Dover with brake problems, which took most of the day to sort. So whilst the garage waited for parts to be delivered I jumped on my bike and went looking for the nearest hill. That is, if you can count this as a hill? Looks more like a ploughed field to me.
Swinge Hill, 173m P62  

I eventually managed to get back on the road and head home re-learning how to drive on the left. My goal - whilst I was away someone had decided that Northamptonshire had an alternative County Top and that it was also a Hump=.

So, after all those European and African Majors and Ultras I was finally going to tackle a Big Hill (236m). No messing around with fancy names like Pic, Puig, Pico, Jebel, Mont, Torre or Tossa - in England we describe our hills as they are., not.
By the time I got to Daventry it was beginning to get dark. Never mind, I could still have a go at finding both the summit and the Staverton trigpoint 500 metres further on.

Big hill summit - bit less crowded than Sancy

Staverton trigpoint

Perseids? No, Boveids

Overnight in A45 layby, Daventry (142m)

Wednesday, 14 August 2013

Puy de Sancy on a sunny Sunday


Approaching the Le Monts Dore, Auvergne from the east it was difficult to believe that one of them could be an Ultra, it just didn’t look big enough. However, from the north in the large ski-resort of Mont-Dore it looked a bit more promising that extinct volcano Puy de Sancy 1885m at N45.52821 E2.81402 could be P1578 and hence making it an Ultra.
I parked just before the Station du Sancy at (1291m) N45.54356 E2.81784 to avoid having to pay for parking in the station car park. From the station I walked briskly up the ski piste, the Chemin du Sancy – I have driven along worse pistes – that zigzags quickly up the mountain side. At a col at about (1660m) N45.53254 E2.82122 I turned left to go to a higher col below the summit to its east. By now there was a constant stream of people coming the opposite way.

You may be pleased to know that I did not cheat by using the Telepherique skilift to ascend this hill – however, thousands of others did (and do). I will let my summit photo sum up what it was like up there. 

Puy de Sancy summit
Just below the summit

On the descent route to the west the path has been replaced by wooden steps with that really irritating thing of being unevenly spaced so that it is impossible to set up a rhythm, even if you could move faster because of the other people in the way. I avoided going to the upper skilift station because it would have been uneven wooden steps all the way.

The Telepherique top station - and below, the carpark

I carried on over the tops of Puy Redon and Puy de Cliergue – which I discovered have been given the dubious honour of having separate listings on Peakbagger, despite their limited prominence. Many of the people I met on this stretch were clearly wearing inappropriate footwear for the path – the following photos shows the consequence for one of them.

The  normal descent route on the west side
At Puy de Cliergue I decided to avoid backtracking to use an alternative descent route to the start by doing something obviously unorthodox and, possibly, heretical. I left the path and yomped down a steep vegetated slope that ended with a line of crags above the carpark area. I did not find the best way down from, I realised in retrospect – but I found a way down that was not too desperate and I did not end up cragfast. At least, it was more interesting than walking in line with a queue of people - and no-one saying 'Bonjour'

At the foot there were signs saying that rock climbing was ‘interdite’ and it could result in a fine of up to 750 Euros – my defence would have been:
1. I did not see the sign until afterwards (I know that ignorance is not a defence)
2. I wasn’t climbing, I was descending (mmm?)
3. I was trying to avoid the rock.

Good job I didn’t get caught really.

9.43km, 1042m total ascent.

I decided to give the Puy de Dome a miss because it too looked like it would be desperately crowded and I resisted the temptation of the amusingly named Puy de Peyre Arse. So, that's it Puy de Sancy turned out to be the final mountain of the trip - nice to finish on an Ultra - shame about the crowds.

New boots three months ago - need resoling, now
Overnight at L’Eclerc centre, Coulanges-Les-Nevers (211m – is that the sea I can hear lapping at the door?)

We need to talk about Cevennes national park


Mont Aigoual in the Parc National Des Cevennes appears to be a very popular destination for a drive. It is topped by a Meteo meteorological station (and exhibition centre) and an IGN trig hidden in a round circle of stones – and the large car park was full. 

The IGN trig hides the true summit behind

However, for the thousands who must visit daily in the summer – or ski there in the winter – I suspect that only a small handful bother to visit the true summit about 1.6km away.
1.20km, 105m ascent
For the true summit, even the marked path that starts at the roadside at (1521m) N44.12332 E3.57020 traverses rather than visits it – this is the only access from the west that does not involve getting over a barbed wire fence and ignoring signs about it being a tranquillity zone. 

However, there is a fainter path that follows the fence line to the summit marked by a small communications mast that looks a bit like a sailing boat. The view was far and wide, but there was not a lot to see, really.
2.31km, 160m total ascent

Overnight at Camping La Cascade, Meyrueis (743m – lowest I have slept for a long while)


Mont Lozere/Sommit de Finials is also in the Parc National des Cevennes – a Major, 1699m high and P649 at N44.42609 E3.73911.
There is a paved road up to the Col de Finiels which has plentiful parking space (1541m) N44.42428 E3.76858. 

There is a choice of walks from the col shown on a signboard – and they are all quite obvious on the ground. I ‘ascended’ the piste on the left which goes through pine trees before coming out on meadows/ski country  nearer the tops. 

The highest top is obvious and has a direct path to where it is marked by a cairn and stone shelter – there was a view all round of lesser hills.

For the descent, I wandered over some intervening tops before finding an alternative path back to the start.

5.95km, 388m total ascent

Overnight at Aire de Stationnement Camping cars, Pardines (486m – getting even lower)

Adios Espana


Puig Neulus/Pico de Neulos, Serra de l’Albera, has a Catalan name and was my final Spanish mountain, although I started in France and much of the short way walked on the French side of the border fence. It is 1257m high, P972, JMH35 at N42.48214 E2.94708.

Rocs de trois termes

The mast road from Le Perthus is barricaded 500 metres before you can reach the actual Col de Pou itself. However, there is room for several vehicles on a bend/junction at (1051m) N42.47958 E2.93455. It is possible to walk/cycle the rest of the way on the paved road. However, it is better to leave the road at the Col de Pou (1131m) N42.47501 E2.93395 and follow the border fence – I included a quick detour to the ermita at Pou de la Neu, however was not overwhelmed by it. 
The summit is marked by a Spanish trigpoint and a rather tall French pile of stones – and a communications mast. There was a clearish view all round including a cloud topped Canigou to the west and the Mediterranean to the south-east.
My descent route was back by the fence to the col and then the road to the bend.

4.68km, 532m total ascent

Everything you need to know about Pic de Nore

Overnight at the summit of Pic de Nore (1211m) – and this is a French Major, P752 at N43.42458 E2.46259 with a large communication mast and an OKish view whenever the mist cleared. It was also extremely breezy.