Adventures, Beaches

A beachy winter holiday to Western Australia

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In the great south-western tip of Australia, the beaches are vast with soft white sand and clear blue bays. Most days you’ll be there on your own, especially on a weekday in early December.

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Based in Denmark, WA, I spent a significant amount of time swimming in the protected natural Greenpool (like a saltwater swimming pool) and walking on the surfy Ocean Beach. Denmark had a bunch of markets and arts events on. Did you know hippies still exist? There was yoga a plenty, river kayaking in town, and coffee and cake stops throughout town. Raw chocolate cake anyone? Iced coffee with ice cream was a daily treat. A great little yarn shop and a bookshop are also there.

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The two long distance tracks from Perth to Albany go through Denmark: the Munda Biddi Mountain Bike Track and the Bibbulman Track, both approx 1,000km. There is also the long-distance Denmark to Nornalup track.

Despite the flies being in peak season and the snakes, I did a bit of walking. A tiger snake about as tall as me did cross my path at one point on the Bibbulman — the Denmark section has a lot of marshy reedy areas so prime habitat for this snake.

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The wildlife is everywhere — huge lizards, parrots, pelicans and birds everywhere, including the local Blue Wren, emus, and kangaroos. They find you as well. No need to go on a wildlife search.

There were a tonne more beaches and parks around Albany to explore. Only 30 minutes away.

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There are more nature reserves and national parks in the Southwest than private land or so it seems. No need to go anywhere else.

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St Paul’s in the winter sun

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Cycling

Get better riding holidays

The natural metropolitan is not just a hiker, she’s a cyclist, too. Way back in 2013 we travelled to Bourg d’Oisans for some riding and walking. Most cyclists down there come just to tackle the famous climb of Alpe d’Huez but we were forewarned about what a highway it is and took a route recommended by Cyclist magazine. Even our cellphone camera couldn’t make it ugly as we circled the valley! In fact, we liked the route so much that we thought we’d put all of Cyclist‘s great rides on RideWithGPS for you to browse and download to your Garmin. The page will be updated every month as the magazine comes out so bookmark it now!

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Adventures, Mountains, Tour du Mont Blanc

Tour du Mont Blanc: Day 1

TMB Day 1: Les Houches to Les Contamines

From Gite Michel Fagot to Chalet Contamines with a hot lunch stop at the restaurant in Bionassay. Six hours of walking including a few stops to wait out the rain, plus a one hour lunch stop.

Trail notes: gentle uphill to the col in the rain, lots of road walking, beautiful rivers and forested sections.

If rushed on time, I would recommend skipping this section — the easiest day of the Tour — and the scenery gets much better.

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Munros accessible via public transport

Originally posted on Wild about Scotland:

The Mamores from the Carn Mor Dearg arete The Mamores from the Carn Mor Dearg arete

Climbing Scotland’s munros by public transport is often not as difficult as you might imagine, and certainly adds to the sense of adventure.  Whether you’re keen to reduce your carbon footprint or simply don’t have a car there are many options available.

It’s estimated that 212 of the 282 munros can be climbed using public transport – that’s 75% – and I’ve found two very informative websites that catalogue the details of the access and walking routes:

Munros by public transport (Steve Rabone)

Scottish Hills by bus and train

Of course, using public transport normally takes longer – sometimes much longer.  Bus or train services may only run a few times a day or just a few a times a week.  This means you have to have time at your disposal  – not everyone does – and also need to be ultra organised so…

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Adventures, Europe, Mountains, Tour du Mont Blanc

Tour du Mont Blanc: my route via the mountain huts

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My route (aiming to sleep up high but on the main track): my skill level for hiking is fairly moderate (I don’t do ice axes or crampons and have very little snow/ice experience) and this hike is perfect for my level. The only new thing for me were two ladder sections, but the handholds were fine, and despite my fear of heights I made it up them.

 

The trails are very well groomed (even some of the variants) and the river crossings without bridges were easy to do without getting your feet wet. There was little scrambling or using hands. I think I only really used my hands on the last day on the steep and rocky downhill section (1,500m descent!). Hiking poles may have been useful at some points, but I was fine without them.

The terrain is either uphill or downhill, pretty much the whole way. The Swiss section is relatively level and is the easiest part of the walk, which is perfect since it sits about half-way.

I’m also quite slow and stopping to take pictures all the time doesn’t help with that. My comfort level is to hike 4 1/2 to 5 hours a day (solid walking!). With food and picture stops it usually means a seven hour day. If you use the Kev Reynolds book (most popular), its times are for solid walking and we added a few hours onto a 5 hour day to account for our 1 1/2 hour hot lunches (you cannot pass up pasta in Italy for lunch!).

I wasn’t very fit for the walk with only a handful of day walks under my belt from the start of summer. It was planned only a month out so little opportunity for training. However, most summers I do about 3-4 backpacking/tramping hikes of usually only three to four days length. The first trip of the season is always the hardest!

This schedule was perfect. I started off with longer days and eased off significantly as the walk progressed. Some days I wanted to do more and others I was very grateful for a short walk.

*Walk times given below exclude lunch breaks. Any deviations from the main route are indicated.

  • Day one: Les Houches (official start location) to Chalet Contamines in the valley village, 6 hour walk
  • Day two: Les Contamines to Refuge Bonhomme (CAF) at 2,400m, 5 hour walk
  • Day three: Refuge Bonhomme to Refuge Elisabetta at 2,195m, 7 hour walk
  • Day four: Refuge Elisabetta to Refuge Bertone at 2,000m, 7 hour walk
  • Day five: Refuge Bertone to Refuge Bonatti at 2,025m, 2.5 hour walk (rest day),
  • Day six: Refuge Bonatti to Hotel Edelweiss, La Fouly, 6 hour walk
  • Day seven: La Fouly to Au Club-Alpin, Champex Lac, 4 hour walk
  • Day eight: Champex Lac to Hotel du Col de la Forclaz, 5 hour walk
  • Day nine: Col de la Forclaz to Refuge Col de Balme, 4 hour walk
  • Day ten: Col de Balme to Gite Auberge la Boerne, Tre Le Champ, (detour via Argentiere for lunch), 2 hour walk excluding the detour (rest day)
  • Day eleven: Tre le Champ to Refuge de la Flagere (via the short Lac Blanc variant for lunch), 4 hour walk excluding the variant
  • Day twelve: Refuge de la Flagere to Les Houches (Gite Michel Fagot), 7 hour walk.

This was a great route for sleeping up high. Although, if I were to walk it again, I would avoid staying at Col de Balme (terrible food, unwelcoming, hard to make reservation) and walk straight down to Tre le Champ (easy two hour walk down, although the higher-level variant did look great for good weather, which we didn’t have). I would also try to stay at Lac Blanc Refuge because the view was incredible and it would be nice to experience it when the hordes of day walkers have left. From there I would walk to Refuge de Bellachat (excellent view, small hut, make sure to reserve early as it was full a month out). This way would also break up the brutal descent on the last day.

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Adventures, Cycling

Isle of Wight Cycle Tour

 

 

 

Two days. Two bikes. Bank Holiday Weekend. Last adventure of the summer?

Two small Ortlieb panniers (made for the front, but I use them on the rear) fit all my gear with plenty of space to spare. Stayed in a great loft room with friendly hosts and delicious breakfast (AirBnB) in Totland Bay (near Freshwater) and about half-way around the island. Very scenic part of the island with tall chalky cliffs.

Signposted route around the island for bikes so easy navigation. Gently rolling terrain with a few steeper climbs. 50-65km/day of cycling each day.

First cycle tour. Great fun.

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