Wednesday, 16 November 2011

Classic dog runs. Part 1

If I remember then this post will be the start of an irregular series.... Anyway a few years back my beloved missus and daughter decided we were going to have a dog. I didn't want a dog. It's not that I don't like dogs, in fact I do like dogs, but they need lots of exercise, attention, feeding, holiday care....... Cutting to the chase I lost the argument and shortly after christmas 2009 a dog home near Bridgend had one less dog to worry about.

Cindy (the name the kennel gave her!) is a hybrid hound of barrel body, short legs and collie colours. she has an affinity for stinking boggy holes and hence I've decided this is a breed of 'swamp dog'. She soon learned that me clad in running kit meant a decent 'walk' which now means if I want to leave the house for a run without the dog I have to sneak out without her noticing!

Saying that, and despite the short legs she has become a regular running companion. Not an ideal one I may add. Her ability to come when called depends on;
a) Number of squirrles around
b) Number of rabbits around
c) Anyother small furry things around
d) any foxcrap available to roll in
e) any quality smelly swampy places to squallar around....

Livestock is also a problem. Sheep run so the dog has to run after them (the collie part comes out). Thankfully shes not a danger to them just a pain and I have to thank at least two farmers for being understanding when she has caught me out. So anywhere with sheep about she has to be on the old bit of climbing rope used as a lead.

Despite all this she can be used as an excuse to go hill running. In the summer I introduced her to Munros whilst up in the Oban area. The dogs first Munro was a classic run taking the standard route up Ben Cruachan whilst the family did the hydro electricity station tour. The first bit of fun was on reaching the top storage reservoir for the hydro station. My route took me to the left of the dam and I suddenly realised the path involved a 20 - 30ft ladder up onto the left edge of the dam! So I grab the dog, sling her under my arm and romp up the laddder one handed much to the amusement of several walkers I had just passed! Fortunately the dog is quite used to such silliness and doesn't wriggle too much.

Views from the top.
The route then follows the track along the dam for a while before turning left to ascend a path following a stream line up to a col on the flanks of the mountain. I have to admit I cut off before his on the way up. Not having a decent map (only an old 1:50 of the first series converted from the old 1 inch) I was following my nose and thought I'd missed the route up so had direct lined up to the ridge on my left before reaching this path. This plonked me on a hill top overlooking the col the path comes up on so I quickly dropped down to the col before attempting to follow the path through the boulder fields up to the summit of Ben Cruachen. A final grind through the rocks and boulders saw our arrival on the summit. I have a quick scoff of a few cereal bars and some water, whilst the dog successfully scavenged some sandwich titbits from two walkers feasting on the summit, and then it was back down.

The run back down through the boulders was pretty tough for the hound and her short legs, but we had a good descent once we hit the proper path off the col, skidding the loose sections whilst avoiding pushing rocks onto walkers coming up. Not relishing down climbing the ladder on the dam with the dog I crossed to the other side and used the path off from here, before enjoying the final fly down the narrow path back to the road. A great run and a knackered dog!

Monday, 14 November 2011

Deeper on down.......

Pwll Dwfn is the only 'proper' pothole in South Wales. A series of around 5 pitches drops down around 80m with the cave finishing at a pool. Many divers have splurged around in this pool hoping to spot a potential way on, and many plans hatched on how to dig it. Recently a team of divers, spurred by enthusiasm from Gareth Davies, have gone to considerable effort to set an airlift system to excavate a way through the silt and gravel in the pool. Sunday I joined in the fun but primarily to try and take a few pictures of the dig front action but also to offer to drag some of the empty cyclinders back out!

Gareth begins the first dive inspecting progress before the visibility is lost.

Return from the first inspection - more digging required!

Visibility in the pool soon deteriorates especially once the airlift gets going.

Chris Minton at the base of he last pitch.

Mike Barnes coming to join the fun after starting the airlift compressor.

Chris Minton in the short section of passage between the final pitch chamber and the pool on his way to take his turn diving.

Chris and Malcolm Stewart at work.

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

A fettle in Cwm Dwr Quarry Cave

A bit of a tough weekend has just past. Not from physical challenge but from fighting some damned bug (well virus). Whilst not bed ridden, the original plan for a run on the hills with my good caving mate Martin Groves and our dogs was out of the window. It didn't help being at the South Wales Caving club for the weekend for fireworks and fine ale......... the subsequent late night and beer didn't help with a cure!

Desperate to do something 'useful' I quietly slip on caving kit and disappear for a couple hours on my own into the entrance area of Cwm Dwr Qaurry Cave. Part of the plan was to do some 'beastie hunting' - basically looking for small miserable spiders living in the entrance zones of caves (something I do some research on). The other was to spend some time getting my cave photography head back on and sorting the reliability of the photo kit, particular to properly trial some cheap radio slaves I recently bought.

I settle on a nice calcite column in a section of passage on the main route through the cave as a the subject matter of my testing. The images on the right show some of the attempts messing with flash positions and getting to grips with setting up for solo cave photography. However I do need to invest in some micro tripods for the flashes as positioning these where you actually want them is the key problem when you are on your own.

Whilst not the greatest of cave shots it was a useful hour fettling with the kit, plus I didn't have to worry about other people hanging around getting cold!

Tuesday, 1 November 2011

Teifi Tour 2011

Warm up!
The Teifi Tour is a weekend festival centred on canoeing the Afon Teifi. Normally this is a weekend spent competeing in the OMM mountain marathon, but this years event was in Scotland - I didn't fancy the trek up north and nobody had asked me to partner them! Thus I went for a day of the Tour, joining my fellow Glam Boaters.

Laura in 'action' shot!
The event is well organised with shuttle buses taking you to various drop off points on the River. saturday saw a mixed bag group of 15 of us doing the Grade 2 section back to Llandysul.  A slow but steady journey was had as we quitely floated downstream and introducing our newer faces to the joys of moving water.

After a chilly and damp lunch stop back at the camp, some nine of use continued with the grade3 section through Llandysul, whilst others in the group got the raft out. The whitewater course section through the village is great fun, but we had a few swimmers on the way. Eventually we arrived at 'the Cauldron'. Here we stopped to watch a steady stream of canoeists paddle this 3+ rapis with about a 20% swim rate, but with good bank cover on hand! Most of the group went for an attempt at the rapid, and most made it! All came out smiling.

Pete learning fast....
Time was now against us - we didn't have time to get to the next pick out point about 3 miles downstream so opted to carry the boats back to base. However the river was now quite and we counldn't resist a final run down the course, enjoying a good play on the way :-)

Big rubber fun ?!
By now the weather had become really crap again. For the rest it was a night of feasting and drinking and attempting to sleep in a sodden tent amongst many drunken students... for me it was a pretty horrendous drive back to Cardiff.

Almost lost.......

A chance meeting on the Taff Trail with the evergreen Nick Dallimore reminded me that some orienteering was to had over the 22/23rd October weekend. It had been a good year or two since I'd done a 'proper' event, so sunday saw some venturing up the old 'heads of the vallies' road to Clydach Terraces. This area was mapped only a few years ago and is a technical navigators dream, being a chaotic rambling mass of contour lines set amongst an area of old tips and open moorland.

I went for the 'Brown' course to get maximum value out of the days fun. Needless to say my lacl of recent orienteering showed, and whilst I navigated ok I wasn't very sharp, and ended up in the lower quarter of the field... but it was great! As ever very well organised and very friendly. If interested visit SWOC's website.