Tuesday, 17 September 2013

My last "challenge" of the year!!!

Thursday, 5 September 2013


For many a year I have wanted to visit the City of Strasbourg ( a UNESCO World Heritage Site) and in July this year I finally made a short visit which I so enjoyed.

The history of the city bouncing back and fore between France and Germany has blended German down-to-earthiness with French finesse and with its unspoilt beauty, charm and “laid-back” feel I was immediately relaxed as I wondered round cobbled squares, winding narrow streets and by canals.  I found Petite France particularly interesting with so many lovely buildings to look at (a lot of half timbered houses).  Notre-Dame Cathedral was ever so fascinating, you just had to stop and stare at it with so many skinny spires, buttresses and gargoyles – just a Gothic giant. 

The receptionist at our hotel had recommended the Maison Kammerzell by the cathedral to eat and we had a wonderful dinner there and at the same time watched with delight the lighting display to a classical soundtrack on this unique cathedral building.  There are lots of canalised cafes, restaurants and traditional winstubs (wine taverns).

By bike, boat and trams are a good way of seeing round this vibrant University City.

Further afield you have the Alsace and Lorraine Regions to discover and also the Vosges mountains where The Grand Ballon is the highest at 1424m.

14th July 2013  

Oggie 8 Challenge – 8350ft of ascent – 17 miles of walking! – 3rd August 2013

Registration/rucksack inspection commenced at 6.30am with a 7am start to pit your strength, stamina and endurance against eight 3000ft+ Peaks that surround the Ogwen Valley in Wales.

This was Ogwen Valley Mountain Rescue Organisation’s (“OVMRO”) 6th year of running the event with a target of £10,000 of funding to be raised.

In early April Paul Hodges had issued invites to walking friends to join “Team Siabod” in the challenge.  On the morning all six turned up to help OVMRO achieve their fund raising target and to help them to help others!

We were one of 19 teams from across the country entering the event.

The Route
The route took in the following mountains:
  • Yr Elen 962m
  • Carnedd Llewelyn 1064m
  • Carnedd Dafydd 1044m
  • Pen yr Ole Wen 978m
  • Y Garn 947m
  • Glyder Fawr 1001m
  • Glyder Fach 994m
  • Tryfan 917m.

Our performance/times
We were on the first mountain at 8.30am, Carnedd Llewelyn at 9am and Carnedd Dafydd at 9.30am where we had a short break to eat and drink.  While it was a great day weather wise for walking it was cold on the Carneddau as it normally is and I put on my shell, cap and a pair of gloves.  We were on Pen yr Ole Wen at 10am and then it was a steady descent to the Ogwen Valley below and along by the lake side to Idwal Cottage which was a feeding stop with food and a selection of welcomed drinks.  Here you could also fill up your water bottles.  We were in 5th place and the team in 4th place, not that far ahead of us.

Next was the ascent of Y Garn which is a very demanding ask and I got there at 12.47pm!  This took me 1hr 12mins to get to the top.  My best time here is 1hr 6mins so I was pleased with my performance considering I had done four large mountains earlier in the day.   A team member was struggling with blisters and cramp so while the rest of the team waited his arrival I pushed on with my next target of Glyder Fawr firmly fixed in my mind.  As I was reaching the top I could see four of the team coming behind me (one had taken the escape route down Devil’s Kitchen which was so wise) and it was good for us to reach the top at 2pm.  It was then an almost level walk with a bit of scrambling onto the top of Glyder Fach at 2.35pm.  It was then down the Miners Track to Bwlch Tryfan which for me proved difficult and seemed a lot longer with tiring legs.  The scramble to the top of Tryfan was enjoyable and here we all got to the top at 4pm as the 4th place team commenced their decent.

Going down again proved hard as we had once again to descend to Bwlch Tryfan and then it was a bit of debate as to which path we should take but after discussion it was seen to be “Heather Terrace”.  Having done this demanding route (never again I hope!) in error we surrendered our opportunity of catching the team in front of us and permitted the team behind us, who rightly descended via Cwm Tryfan, to cross the finishing line ten minutes before us.

At 5.24pm we crossed the finishing line in 6th position in 10hrs 24mins.  This was a challenging event but ever so enjoyable with excellent team spirit.  We had kept together as a team for most of the day.  The winning team came in with a fantastic time of 7hrs 48mins.

Thank You
Organisation of the event can only be described as excellent and a massive thank you to all the helpers that were involved in making this a very special day for all the teams who took part.

Alas we could not wait to take part in the party afterwards and as we were driving we left after enjoying a plate of fish, chips and mushy peas from the catering van and alas having to leave behind all the beer that had also been laid on!

Talk was that we would participate again next year with two teams of four.

Further Information
Photographs of the event can be seen on www.flickr.com and see links on www.ogwen-rescue.org.uk/oggie_8/

13th August 2013

Le Marche, Italy 17th - 24th May 2008

“A harmonious blend of history, art and enchanting landscape.
A land of condottieri, Popes, artists.”

An advert for the sale of a Town House in Rotella at around £60k (currently not habitable) in The Marche Region of Italy saw us on a Ryan Air flight (FR 124) out of London Stansted at 9.55am on 17th May bound for Ancona, to arrive at 13.10pm (the flight was approx. 35minutes late in departing but made up time on the flight).

It was a 2.45hr journey (189 miles) from Sandiway, Cheshire leaving at 4am for London Stansted and with car parking pre-booked (£44.80) we jumped on a bus that took us to the airport.  After an enjoyable breakfast we booked our bags in and went through customs which did prove an effortless task.  The total cost of the flights was £156.22 made up as follows:-
·       Total Fare                          39.98
·       Taxes, Fees & Charges    76.24
·       Bags                                  24.00
·       Airport Check In                12.00
·       Debit Card Fee                   4.00.

We had pre-booked car hire through Holiday Autos (Europcar Italy) ref GBR 1178977 (tel 0039 071 9162240).  This was a new compact 4 door Fiat which proved very good.  Armed with “sat. nav.” (just a god send) we had no problems in getting from A to B each day.  At around 4pm (the expected time) we arrived at our B&B ;( Casa Rusticana, Falerone) our hosts Angie and Ralph Emery, were amazed!!

We were staying at Casa Rusticana, which was an old farmhouse purchased by Angie & Ralph (tel 0039 388 476 1710) www.ownersdirect.co.uk/italy/IT1353.htm  ralph@casarusticana.co.uk
52 Via Faleriense A Monte, Falerone, 63020 (Ascoli Piceno) Le Marche – Italy.  They were renovating the property with Ralph doing all the work himself.  We had the exclusive use of the B&B which was two double bedrooms and a lounge and dining area for the total cost of £243.75 which included a light meal on arrival.  We had a fridge, plasma TV, CDs and DVDs all of which we did put to use.  Fresh flowers were also in our rooms.  Our hosts proved to be lovely people and helped us with property viewings and books/maps for our walking in the Sibillini Mountains.  It was quality accommodation and food.  Views all around from the farmhouse were stunning.  Falerone the hill top town 2kms. away was a lovely place and we ate in The Loggette, restaurant on three occasions, all times being very enjoyable.  A couple of kms. further on was Piane di Falerone and here the supermarket Coal was located with a good choice of beers, wines and food.

Our time was split between looking at properties and in walking in the Sibillini Mountains some 1/1.5hrs by car from the farmhouse. 
On Sunday we parked on the edge of Foce 945m at 12 noon and we were bound for The Lake of Pilato.  A good track through high pasture and trees very soon got very steep as we ascended through a gorge.  After an hour we reached the top and then a gradual ascending narrow path took us beyond the tree line and into snow.  A further hour of walking saw us stop for a quick lunch.  By now the path had vanished under the deep snow. High mountains capped in cloud and covered in deep snow were all around us as we made our way up the valley.  At the meeting point of routes 151 and 153 at 1,800m and 1km away from our planned destination we decided to call it a day (at 2.45pm) as we were in deep snow and temperatures were getting extremely cold. It was an enjoyable walk back to the car, arriving there at 4.15pm.  We walked approximately 11miles.  The very interesting sight we saw high up in the hills below the snow line was a massive dog all on its own herding sheep.  As the herd constantly moved as they ate  grass this intelligent animal was watching their every move and keeping them moving as a complete herd.  Any individuals falling behind or seen wandering were soon rounded up – it was just fascinating to watch.

On Monday we were meeting the owners of the town house in Rotella but the property was in a very poor condition and the risks involved in renovating it were far too high.  A lot of property in the village was in a poor state of repair.  After a walk round the village and a second viewing of the property we were on our way bound for the Adriatic coastal town of Pedaso.  Here we were lucky enough to find a fish restaurant – Risterante Tilt 2 tel 0734 931916 – and we enjoyed a great lunch with the food recommendations made by the owners.

On Tuesday (there had been an early morning thunder storm with heavy rain) we were walking once again at 10.30am having taken the car up a very steep and winding track to Rifugio M. Sibilla at 1,540m.  It took 1hr 15mins to drive.  It was wet with low cloud as we made our way to the top of Mt. Zampa at 1,791m at 11.10am.  Rather than walk along the cloud covered narrow ridge to Mt. Sibilla we decided to come back down to where our car was parked and take a winding lower track to the col below Mt. Cima Vallelunga arriving there at 1.30pm.  Views all around were just stunning.  We had a short lunch break and then it was up to the top of Casale della Sibilla at 2,178m in deep snow.  A short distance away was Mt. Cima Vallelunga at 2,221m. (2.15pm).  Both were ascended in cloud before coming back to the col and then tackling the narrow ridge that took you to the top of Mt. Sibilla at 2,175m.  By now the cloud had lifted and Mt. Sibilla (the mountain has two tops) was reached at 3pm.  From here it was a continuation along the snow covered ridge to the point we had ascended earlier in the morning and down to the car at 4pm.  A great day indeed and three large mountains bagged.  We were back at the B&B for 5pm.

On Wednesday we were picked up by Vincent Sandford (of MarcheRustico, Via E. Divini 28, 62027 San Severino, Marche (MC), Italy Telephone: +39 0733 645233.  MarcheRustico provides turnkey solutions and property sales in the heart of Le Marche, Italy.) and his wife and taken on a tour to view three properties in the region.  We stopped for lunch at Il Giardino Degli Ulivi (Agriturismo) in Castelraimondo tel 0737 642121.  Here we met the owners.  Ever so enjoyable.

Thursday saw us visit another three properties around Falerone.  Then we visited the regional capital of Ascoli Piceno and did get caught in a thunder storm with the streets soon turning into rivers with the fierceness of the rain.  This fascinating town has beautifully preserved piazzas, narrow streets and churches.  Enjoying a cappuccino in one of the fine piazzas- is Italy at its best.

Our target for Friday was to walk from the village of Rocca to Mt. Torrone at 2,117m and if it was a clear day then perhaps along the ridge to Mt. Vettore at 2,476m the highest mountain in the immediate area.  We had a clear view of this ridge from Mt. Sibilla on Tuesday and what we thought appeared to be good tracks.  Our attempts to find a path to the ridge proved fruitless as we started our walk at 10.30am.  From the centre of the village of Rocco we crossed a bridge and we were on the path (the route is marked with white ribbons) from Rocco to Altino and on a couple of occasions we were drawn of this path by tracks leading to areas of high green pastures amongst the trees, thus wasting
valuable time.  We reached the village of Altino (we should have parked our car at this point) at 11.15am and then it was up to the mountain hut at Prati di Altino at 12.45pm.

From here it was very steep and the path vanished due to fallen trees (all around) and we did expect an avalanche had occurred here earlier in the year.  At 1.30pm we had at last got above the tree line (we had been in this extensive forest for 3 hours).  We did walk across the steep side of the mountain but did not find a path.  These paths are clearly marked on the map we had.  At 2pm at a height of approx. 1,600m we decided to call it a day as we were clearly not going to get to the top of Cama Della Prata at 1,850m far less Mt. Torrone.  We stopped for a quick lunch and retraced our route back to the car at 3.30pm.  On the way back to our B&B we did stop for a coffee in Amandola (perhaps the base for our next visit?).  Ralph had organised a viewing of a town house in Matelica (here I could have the wrong name!) a small town that we found very attractive as was the property we were shown round.  On our return to Falerone we were to have a beer with Angie and Ralph in their local bar and then on for a meal at The Loggette.  This proved a very enjoyable evening.  Here we had a very large bottle of red wine between the four of us.  Their daughter also joined us.

The Loggette (Closed Monday) 2km from B&B – Le Marche Cuisine
Pippo & Gabriella – Pontano – Le Marche Cuisine
Bar Vittoria – Falerone – Light Snacks
Del Corso - Ascoli Piceno
Da Vittorid -  San Benedetto del Tronto (Bass Ravioli)
Locanda Rocco – Sirolo.

Key Attractions
Sibillini Mountains – Mt Vettore highest point at 2,476m
                               - Mt Sibilla – 2,175m
                               - The Lake of Pilato.                                            
Frasassi caves
The Conero & Scrubland
  • Gabicce
  • Senigallia
  • Sirolo (Picturesque)
  • San Benedetto Del Tronto
Fortified Towns:
  • San Leo
  • Gradara (dominated by its castle)
  • Corinaldo
Historic Squares:
  • Ascoli Piceno & Fermo

Reading Material & Internet
The Marche – Touring Club of Italy (Portfolio Books)
Kompass Monti Sibillini - map

We found the region extremely picturesque and so relaxing.  Good food, wines and beers in such relaxing atmospheres added to our enjoyment.  We had effortlessly travelled across the whole region and enjoyed every minute of it.  It reminded us of the UK some twenty years ago where people left their properties and cars unlocked.  There is little or no crime.  We heard cuckoos making their calls everywhere we visited and we woke to hear their “cuckoos…..” every morning.  Alas Saturday 24th May came far too quickly and at 10am we were bound for flight FR 125 departing Ancona at 13.35pm and arrived in London Stansted at 14.55pm.  It took us an hour to get to Ancona airport.  We were back in Sandiway for 7pm after a good journey.  A holiday organised at short notice and all done over the internet.  Memories will always last of our short time here.

August 2008.


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