Thursday, 22 December 2011

A Review of 2011 & Festive Greetings

The year is about to end and we are all preparing for the “Festive Season” and welcoming in a New Year – 2012. I hope it has been a good year for you.

For me the year has flown and has been crammed with activity. This month sees me 10 years retired from the Bank and with the continuing difficult economic conditions across the world I decided to shut down my own Company due to lack of business and continuing costs and any consultancy work I do in future will be in my own name.

Highlights of the year have been many and here I mention some of them:-
*3 Coast2Coast (“C2C”) bike rides:
-Runcorn 2 Hull
-St Bees 2 Robin Hood’s Bay
-Fort William 2 Inverness (Great Glen).
*A C2C walk from Ullapool in the west of Scotland 2 Ardgay on the east coast some 55kms and thoroughly enjoyable and challenging in one day.
*I got to the top of 134 mountains across the UK/Madeira and a special delight was to finish all the high mountains in Sutherland on the top of lonely Ben Hee in July.
*I competed in two long distance races in Isle of Man:
-Parish Walk – 85miles
-End2End Walk – 40 miles.
*I competed in the Welsh 1000m Mountain Race, finishing once again but alas half an hour outside the nine hour time window. My fellow walking friends Geoff and Paul finished within the time with Paul winning the Male Vet 40 Section in a splendid time of 7hrs 24mins.
*I put a lot of effort into the Welsh 3000s Challenge (15 mountains over 3,000ft) and did this demanding walk over two days on two occasions. Alas on the day of the challenge four of us pulled out but Paul finished the route in an excellent time of 13hrs 25mins. So well done by him and encouragement for me to try again in 2012!

I hope you have a lovely Festive Season, health, happiness and continued success in 2012.

Very best wishes, Fraser.

21st December 2011

Tuesday, 6 December 2011

Winter Fitness

With the cold weather that now abounds it is all too easy to let your daily exercise plan fall by the wayside as to a large extent happened to me last year. For some reason or other at the end of October I stopped going out on my bike? I continued with walking, the gym and swimming but the frequency of activity abated. This year, this is not going to be allowed to happen and my exercise plan follows four main fitness paths with also a careful watch on what I eat and drink:-
Cycling – continue to cycle once or twice a week with min of 20kms on each outing
Walking – continue to walk at least one a week
Walking – do a fast walk of 20kms+ once a week to prepare for 85 mile Parish Walk in Isle of Man next year
Gym/swimming – go to the gym and have workout/swim at least twice a week.

On Monday 28th November I went for a fast walk into Wales on a beautiful day. I reached Yvonne’s Café nr Connah’s Quay and called in for a bacon butty and coffee. Then it was back to my gym (Total Fitness) on a circular route by the River Dee and by the canal. I watched a large buzzard, saw two salmon jump and saw a flock of (unknown) birds going from tree to tree, as in a race with me. The winter colours all around were fantastic; silence prevailed.

Today Tuesday December 6th at 3.30pm I set of on the same route again but on my bike and while a very nice late afternoon with the sun about to say goodbye at the end of another day, it was extremely cold. I reached Yvonne’s Café at 4pm having done 12 kms but alas at that time it was closed so it was about turn and get back to Chester along the banks of the River Dee. The almost full moon was reflecting on the calm River Dee and the lights of the City could be seen in front of me in the distance. The same flock of birds were again racing me from tree to tree but they were difficult to see in the fast disappearing light. I was all on my own and my hands, especially both thumbs were freezing as I was peddling at around 20 kms+ per hour. I had flashing lights to the front and rear of my bike but I could also have done with my head torch but knowing the route I was okay. Getting back to Total Fitness at 4.45pm I had difficulty folding my bike etc and getting it into the car as my hands were ever so cold. Having camped at Gorak Shep at 5,140m/16,859ft.feet on my Everest Trek my hands had been warmer! Thus my winter mountain cloves will accompany me on my next trip. It was just magic to get into the warmth of the gym and into the steam room!

6th December 2011

Sunday, 4 December 2011

Kendal Mountain Festival - November 2011

We linked two days walking/scrambling with visiting the Kendal Mountain Festival for the first time. Kendal has the largest and most diverse lecture and live event programme of any mountain festival worldwide. It is a busy time in the town and you need to book your accommodation well in advance. We stayed in the lovely village of Staveley where you will find a few B&Bs, the Eagle and Child pub which has excellent beer and food and also Hawkshead Brewery with all its lovely beers.

On Thursday 17th November it was an early start from Chester and we commenced the Kentmere Horseshoe (one of the classic horseshoe walks of the Lake District) at 9.15am on a day with dense low cloud and this only clearing on lower ground around 2.30pm. We made good use of our map and compass to check that we were on the right route. At 12.45pm we safely reached High Street at 828 metres, which we also wished to take in – its summit being the highest point in the far eastern part of the National Park. The fell is named after the Roman Road which ran over the summit. We did ten summits before returning to our car at 4.30pm.

On Friday we started our walk from Rydal at 9am on a wet and windy cold morning, alas again with dense cloud. Not a day for scenery and perhaps just as well as the climb out of Rydal to Nab Scar is very steep. At 11.50am we reached Fairfield 873 metres our highest point for the two days and it was ever so wild. Getting our bearings correct we headed for Hart Crag 822 metres. Here in the dense cloud we some how or other came off the main Fairfield Round path and when the cloud cleared on the lower fells we found ourselves heading for Patterdale on a demanding and difficult route and arrived there at 3pm. We were able to get a local taxi to take us back to our car. The good thing was that we dealt with the situation in an organised way and we were able to do six mountains. Tonight it was Kendal Town Hall for 7pm as it was the Premiere of the film “Moonflower”; with Matt Helliker and Jon Bracey climbing and filming their ascent of the Moonflower Buttress on Alaska’s Mt. Hunter.

The Hall was packed and there was an “air” of excitement and anticipation as ace filmmaker Alastair Lee came on stage and gave an overview of the film and its making. The film itself I found totally inspiring with magic photography and sound effects and new technologies used to capture the amazing images of this most demanding climb. I was on the mountain every step of the way with the climbers. An interesting question and answer session was held after and I had the opportunity to meet with the climbers and the film crew. I have bought a DVD of the film and I have watched it on a couple of occasions since the event.

On Saturday !9th I had two events to attend. The first was by Nazir Sabir at 11am at The Box with the title – “Pilgrimage to the Higher Heavens.” Nazir is a renowned Pakistani mountaineer who over a climbing career that spans four decades has climbed four of the five 8,000m peaks in Pakistan, including K2 via a new route. In 2000 he stood on the top of Everest, the first Pakistani to scale the roof of the world. He described his up bringing and showed slides of the beauty of the valleys and mountains in Hunza where he was born. He was so humble and appreciative of the packed audience that listened to him. It was a great pleasure to say hello and shake his hand.

In the evening at the Brewery Theatre at 6pm Cameron McNeish and Richard Else were delivering a talk and unseen footage about a new long distance trail from the Scottish Borders to Cape Wrath in the North West corner of Scotland. I have walked on parts of this new national trail and I found the presentation very interesting and something I might try to undertake myself at a future date.

Kendal is a lovely town and I was totally impressed with the range of facilities available to facilitate such an enjoyable and diverse Mountain Festival over three and a half days. I very much enjoyed myself as did everyone I met. It is an annual event for like minded people to come together, have a great time and enjoy the wonder of wild places that the Festival shows you. To me an inspiration to do more in the years ahead.

20th November 2011

Saturday, 3 December 2011

Krakow, Zakopane and The Tatra Mountains, Poland - September 2007

One of the best short breaks I had was to Krakow in Poland. The City was just excellent with lovely buildings, squares, a large café culture, good food and drink at reasonable prices. We flew from Liverpool (LPL) with Ryanair to Krakow(KRK) out 6.15am arrival 9.55am back 21.10pm arrival 22.50pm. We booked our hotel through – Hotel Galicya 3* a short distance from City centre and near to a tram line.

We had the good fortune to be approached by a taxi driver who had a smattering of English. He was excellent value and we hired him for a full four days - contact details:
· Name: Andrzej (but call him Andy) Znanski
· Telephone numbers -
· Tel. kom: 662-982-844
· Tel. Dom: 012/270-3002.
I have recommended his services to friends and they have found him excellent.

Friday we mooched around Krakow, to get a lie of the land, and took in a good restaurant for lunch. Lunch is the main meal of the day and the soups are ACE (Restaurant NOSTALGIA, W. Karmelicka 10, tel 012 425 42 60, which is only a short walk from the main Square. We used it twice. Good food, service and wines.)
Saturday - we did the Auschwitz/Birkenhau/Schindler factory tour. Andy took us around and showed us more than we would have seen if we'd gone on public transport. It is a two hour journey by car. We had an English speaking guide for the tour costing us 30 zloty each. I found the experience very upsetting and will never forget it.
Sunday - we visited a flea market, supermarket and the salt mines - again Andy handled our collection etc, and made the trip so much easier as he showed us where to queue etc.
Monday - we did a strenuous, but not technically challenging walk in the High Tatra - a most magnificent mountain range. On the mountains for seven hours and we did four mountains above 2000 meters. Andy drove us to the start point of the walks near Zakopane - a good 1.5/2.0 hours from Krakow, and waited for us and took us back to the City each evening.
Tuesday - we did about the most challenging route in the Tatra - three mountains above 2200 metres, and lots of snow and ice - lots of danger too, so a wee bit unnerving. On the mountains for 8.5 hours and we got back knackered.

The Tatra Mountains are the highest mountain range in the Carpathian Mountains. Although considerably smaller than the Alps, they are classified as having an alpine landscape forming a natural border between Slovakia and Poland. They occupy an area of 750 km², the major part (600 km²) of which lies in Slovakia. The highest mountain is Gerlach at 2,655 m, located in Slovakia just north of Poprad. The north-western peak of Rysy (2,499 m) is the highest Polish mountain. I have done a separate blog on the two days spent in the mountains.

We had amazing weather (all sun, warmth and no wind) for all of the time we were there, but it did cloud over and cool down on our last day - Wednesday. The mountains can get cold if you are thinking of going there, but we were walking with just a thin top and shorts for most of the day as the sun was shinning. In Krakow, when the sun shines you can go about during the day with a short-sleeve shirt on, but take a jumper with you. In the evening, you will need a warm jacket.

The tram system is a breeze, all journeys cost 2.5 zloty and you should buy a book of tickets from the many little paper shops near the tram stops - if you buy on the tram it costs extra.

Krakow is a charming place, where you feel very relaxed and there was a good number of other things we could have done had we more time.

Food is tasty. You must try the soups - the dumplings and the pork dishes are great. There is a wide selection of restaurants to go to, and we never had a bad course.
Recommended restaurants are:
Pod Aniolami 35 ul Grodzka (Full the night we tried to get in.)
Szabla I Szklanka 22 ul Poselska.
For lunch try U Babei Maliny, 17 ul Slawkowska (opposite a church, through doors, a passage way and then round to the left and downstairs.

Shopping was about what you'd expect to pay in the UK so we didn't stuff our suitcases with goodies!

Recommend you only get a few zloty at the airport say 50/100 as the exchange rate is terrible. Then there are cash machines all around the main Square where you can use your Nationwide debit/credit card or other debit/credit cards.

Enjoy your trip.

High Tatras, Poland - (Land of wolf, bear and golden eagle)

The Tatras, situated on the border between Poland and Slovakia and with 25 summits above 2,500 metres, are the highest range of the Carpathian Mountains. This is a fantastic area for mountain walking. Your base could be Zakopane or the historic city of Krakow an hour away by car. This is a classic Alpine landscape with good trails. Rysy (2,499m) is Poland’s highest peak.

We only had two days walking/scrambling in the mountains in September 2007 but these were two full days with good weather and snow/ice on the tops from the previous winter. It was the rut so many stags were roaring in the woods on the mountain slopes. Wear a bell on your rucksack to make wild animals aware of your presence. On commencing your walk you will need to pay a small fee at a hut which is normally situated at the start of the marked trail.

Day 1 24-9-2007
Our first walk was to Suchy Wierch at 1,539m. We did not do Sarnia Skala 1,377m. We turned left at the col and then walked to Suchy Wierch and then went on to do another four mountains:
Giewant 1,894m
Maly Glewont 1,728m
Malolaczniak 2,096m
Krzesanica 2,122m.
You will see the Border marking posts.

At the col before reaching Kondracka Kopa 2,005m we turned to the left and took the path down to join the path we had taken in the morning and then back to the start of the trail.
o Left - Zakopane 10.10am
o Hut - 11.10am
o Col - 12.20pm
o 1st mountain – 1pm
o 2nd “ “ - 1.30pm
o 3rd “ “ - 1.50pm
o 4th “ “ - 2.15pm
o Col – 3pm
o Hut – 4pm
o Zakopane – 5pm
Thus seven hours on the mountains.

2nd Walk
We headed for Gzamy Staw Gasienicowy Lake, a beautiful location and went up to Skrajny 2,225m. This was very steep with a lot of snow and ice with chain grips in one section. You would not want to lose your footing and crampons are needed to be worn. We went along Eagle’s Ridge to Posredni Grana 2,234m and then to Zadni Grana 2,240m and then came back down to the Lake. I would recommend that Zadni Grana is done first with a walk along the ridge to Skrajny. Here you can make a decision, do you go down to the Lake or go back to Zadni Grana?
o Left Zakopane – 9.50am
o Hut – 11.20am
o Lake – 12.20pm
o 1st Mountain – 2.15pm
o 2nd “ “ - 3.00pm
o 3rd “ “ - 3.20pm
o Lake – 4.30pm
o Hut – 5pm
o Zakopane – 6.30pm

Thus eight hours forty minutes which was a long and hard day. We so enjoyed our two days in the Tatras.

Fraser Mackay

Asturian House

Remote Emergancy Care

Henry Garcia Tours Madeira

Henry Garcia Tours Madeira
Henry at your Service

Homestay at Evans Bay New Zealand

Rachid Imerhane

Rachid Imerhane
Guide & Organizer of Treks - Mountain - Coast - Desert & Imperial Cities

Clashview Kinlochbervie

Clashview Kinlochbervie
Clashview Kinlochbervie





Bayhead Self Catering, Isle of Harris

Bayhead Self Catering, Isle of Harris