Feckin' Trekkin'

Matt and Krista's Awesome Travel Blog

Month: June 2009

The Great TTC Expedition Route Map

I thought it would be cool to show graphically the route we took on our Great TTC Expedition. Here’s a Google map showing the stages of the hike, and the locations of the stations that we stopped at along the way.

Legend:

  • Stage 1 – Downsview to Eglinton West
  • Stage 2 – Eglinton West to Union
  • Stage 3 – Union to Lawrence
  • Stage 4 – Lawrence to Finch, plus Sheppard to Don Mills
  • Stage 5 – Kennedy to Pape
  • Stage 6 – Pape to Kipling

View The Great TTC Expedition in a larger map

The Great TTC Expedition Part 2

Last night we did the second stretch of our crazy TTC Expedition, from Eglinton West to Union Station. 10km, 10 stations, 2 hours 20 mins. We felt like we were moving quite a bit more quickly, and we didn’t stop for as long at each station, yet we only improved our pace to 14mins/km. Still, it’s all about endurance rather than pace, and there were a lot more stations to stop at. Check out the pics below. Can you tell we were starting to get a little weary by the end?

So we’ve now completed 19 of the 71 kilometres and 16 of the 61 stations which feels pretty good. The next leg will be from Union back up the Yonge leg of the U-shape. It’s going to be uphill for the first time which will make it more challenging, and we’re aiming to get at least 10 stations along the line to either Eglinton or Lawrence, depending on how energetic we feel.

An Email From Russell Brice

Russell BriceA couple of weeks back, I sent an e-mail to Himalayan Experience with respects to the Everest Base Camp trek along with questions on an attempt at a “small” peak call Lobuche East that sits in the Khumbu Region, about a days walk down from Everest Base Camp. Before you freak out, please note that Lobuche East is a beginner climb (in fact it’s often referred to as a trekking peak) and is nowhere near as difficult as Everest or the other Himalayan giants. Allow me to continue… It had been a number of weeks since sending the e-mail. I figured I may get a response from the Himex administrative staff or possibly not even receive a reply at all. Here I am this morning in the office at work, organizing my day, when this e-mail pops up from none other than the Big Boss* himself!

From: Himalayan Experience [mailto:info@himex.com]
Sent: June 17, 2009 8:22 AM
To: Krista Everson
Subject: Lobuche Peak

Dear Krista,

Sorry for the delay in reply, however I have just returned from this year’s Everest trip.

If you do a basic mountaineering course then this will hold you in good stead for a trip to Lobuche. We run suitable trips here in Chamonix, France. An ideal trip would be the 6 day Mount Blanc course which also gives you a little experience at altitude. You can check www.himex.com.

As we had very good success on Lobuche Peak this year, I suspect that these trips will fill quite quickly for next year, so I have attached an application form. And soon we will have some better pictures on the Himex website.

I trust that this is of some help.

Regards Russell Brice

Needless to say I am truly elated. Who knew a small email could do this to me? Not only have I been excited and pumped for next year, this has renewed and increased my focus and energy on training! I can speak for myself, although I am sure Matt can agree, that we are determined to prove to ourselves that we have the ability to do this and are looking forward to all the training, adventures and challenges that lie ahead in hopes of soon joining what I see as an awesome, experienced, professional team like Himex.

*Whilst most people have probably never heard of Russell Brice, in our awesome little world he’s pretty famous. He’s a well-known and well-respected mountaineer (check his climbing resume), has organised highly successful climbing expeditions all over the world, and has “starred” in two series of Everest: Beyond the Limit on the Discovery Channel.

The Great TTC Expedition Part 1

This week we’re officially starting our training for the Nepal trek. We both like to keep things fun so we’re starting with a multi-part urban expedition that should prove to be taxing but involving at the same time.

Our Mission: To hike the entire length of the Toronto subway system (excluding the Scarborough RT line), visiting all 64 (I think) stations along the way.

The total length of the Bloor-Danforth, Yonge-Spadina and Sheppard lines is about 71km by my reckoning, so it’s a decent challenge. Just to make it extra fun, we’re doing the whole thing carrying our day packs. Clearly we can’t hike 70km in one go, so we’re going to split it up into segments. Krista’s keen to get started on our training plan so we started tonight with 9 or so kilometers from Downsview station at the top of the Spadina line, down to Eglinton West. It was pretty interesting as we don’t know that part of town at all well and we can’t walk right along the subway route as it runs over Hwy 401 and down the middle of Allen Road.

The first kilometer was particularly good fun as we tried to cut across a field next to Downsview Station.

Matt: “Let’s cross through the field to get to those set of lights and continue onwards”
Krista: “I think it’s fenced in?”

**A few minutes later**

Krista: “We’re fenced in, why is there an ambulance in the field..?”
Krista: “And pylons..? … Hey look, barbed wire…”
Matt: “Let’s jump it!”

**Krista wriggles under the fence, Matt jumps it, Krista looks at the sign on the fence**

Krista: “We just walked through the Toronto EMS training facility…”.

Awesome start!

Our progress improved after that but we still had to take a bit of a detour along to Dufferin in order to negotiate the 401. Despite walking at a decent pace we only averaged 15 mins per km (=4km per hour) by the time you add in coffee breaks, photo stops and generally negotiating traffic. Still, we’re not in a rush and hiking through Yorkdale Mall with backpacks on was good for a chuckle. Pictures of our visits to the first six stations are below.

Next time out we’ll be picking it up at Eglinton West and heading downtown towards Union Station.

Memory Erasers and Lukla Airport

So… Another trip to MEC…. Glacier glasses, mountaineering book etc…
I spark up a conversation with the older gent who is discussing polarised glasses with the two of us. Very knowledgeable guy and has actually traveled up to Everest BC with his wife. He gave his own account about his experience. It sounded pretty amazing and the way he discussed it made it seem that the trek may not be so difficult after all.

What I *WISH* I didn’’t hear was his experience of the take-off from Lukla airport. Due to the fact the runway is short the pilots apparently rev up the engine with the brakes on, and basically haul mega *a*s* down the runway in very old, very small planes. The best part was how he described the take off.The plane itself after take off “drops” for a while, a long, long while…… and then starts to gain altitude at which point the plane slowly goes back up.

So let’s just pause for a second here and imagine what that would look/feel like? ……

OK. Now, add myself into that mix…. I’’ll give you a minute to allow that to sink in.

(Insert Krista going pale in the face. Blank stare… and Matt looking at the guy, shaking his head)

Matt then asked the guy if they sold the Men in Black memory erasers as he felt it should be done to my mind. Immediately.

Unfortunately they didn’’t have the product.

Awenda Provincial Park

We just got back from our first camping trip of the season. We figured spending the weekend on Georgian Bay, about 2 1/2 hours north of Toronto, would be a good opportunity to chill out, check all the camping equipment is in good condition and test out some of our new kit.

Conclusions:-

  • Krista and I can quite happily share a 6 foot x 7 foot nylon dome for a weekend. And if we couldn’t we had 3000 square kilometres to escape from each other.
  • Canadian mosquitoes find me far more tasty than European ones do (I barely ever get bitten in the UK, but got about 20 bites this weekend)
  • The weakest point on any piece of equipment is always the zip (witness Krista trying to close the tent up after going for a pee at 1am ).
  • Photographing chipmunks isn’t especially hard when there are dozens of them wandering around the place.
  • Petzl headlamps are brilliant bits of kit and kick the crap out of a handheld torch.
  • The layering approach to dressing really does work. Give me a decent base layer, fleece top and a windproof jacket and I can cope with anything an Ontario spring can throw at me, night or day, rain or shine.
  • Georgian Bay is a great place to practice photography, but beware of fat kids in the background.
  • Wearing the same underwear for 3 days isn’t that bad, so long as you’re not getting sweaty the whole time.
  • My new backpack is great, and once you’ve got it adjusted right you can walk for hours without really noticing it’s there.
  • Camping with a dog really is a lot of fun.

Here are a few of our favourite photos from the weekend.

Quotations

We’ve been reading a LOT recently, about Nepal, climbing, climbers, the mountains… Every now and again you come across a quotation that strikes a chord, or expresses your feelings more adequately than you can do it yourself. We’ve collected a few below.

This quote grabbed Krista’s attention and was the one that started the collection.

I find it fascinating that our planet still has areas where no modern technology can save you, where you are reduced to your most basic – and essential – self. This natural space creates demanding situations that can lead to suffering and death, but also generate a wild interior richness. Ultimately, there is no way of reconciling these contradictions. All I can do it try to live within their margins, in the narrow boundary between joy and horror. Everything on this earth is a balancing act.
Jean-Christophe Lafaille, French Mountaineer (March 31, 1965 – January 17, 2006 (presumed))

Whilst neither of us relish going to places where our welfare is solely in the hands of the gods, the phrase “wild interior richness” resonated utterly. Why do we enjoy getting out into the wilderness, going where other people go? How do you describe the feeling of satisfaction that you get from climbing a mountain, paddling a river or spending a night in the forest? I think that phrase describes it really well.

There have been joys too great to be described in words, and there have been griefs upon which I have not dared to dwell, and with these in mind I say, climb if you will, but remember that courage and strength are naught without prudence, and that a momentary negligence may destroy the happiness of a lifetime. Do nothing in haste, look well to each step, and from the beginning think what may be the end.
Edward Whymper, after the Matterhorn tragedy in 1861

Compare the above quote against the below…

The secret of reaping the greatest fruitfulness and the greatest enjoyment from life is to live dangerously.
Friedrich Nietzsche

I really love this quote from Ranulph Fiennes. It exemplifies the attitude of “stop complaining and find a way”, and I can imagine him delivering it with a classic British ex-military stiff-upper-lip.

There is no such thing as bad weather, only inappropriate clothing.
Sir Ranulph Fiennes

And a couple of funny ones to lighten the tone…

[In response to being asked what the hardest thing is about climbing Everest…]
Pissing through 6 inches of clothes with a 3 inch penis!
Anonymous Everest summiteer

And finally…

The three great levellers of human society are the fact that each of us needs to eat, shit and sleep and no amount of money, status or ego will ever change that.
Bill Forrester

The more you are sensitive to the ways of Nepal…

Tourist Information signThis afternoon I finally sat down to read “Trekking in Nepal – A Traveler’s Guide”. I got as far as the second paragraph of the Preface before I hit something that made me put the book down and think (and subsequently write this article).

The more you are sensitive to the ways of Nepal, the more intimate and wonderful your experience.

This simple sentence reminded me of something I read in a random traveler’s blog yesterday that made me cringe.

I watched a fire ceremony of some kind at the Monastery.  Wasn’t really all that exciting. The Monks put on funny hats and chanted and blew horns and then lit some wood on fire.  I’m not sure what was going on but it only happens once a year so I’m sure it was important to them.

(To be fair to the writer, she was on a tight itinerary, traveling without a local guide, and was visiting Nepal as part of a round the world trip so she hadn’t had as much time as she may have liked to research the local cultures.)

This highlights to me why I love travel so much (and perhaps why others find it harder work or less fulfilling). I am fully 100% aware that you get out what you put in. In order to appreciate the land you’re traveling in, you must learn to appreciate it’s people and society, and the issues, opportunities and pressures that shape it. This may be obvious to more seasoned travelers, or seem a little tree-hugging for others, but it’s important to me. I live in a consumer-driven culture, where people are motivated to cram as much food as possible into their faces, as many possessions as possible into their houses, and as many dollar bills into their bank accounts. Perhaps if people put a little onus on cramming truly fulfilling experiences into their lives the world would be a more tolerant, more interesting, more sustainable place.

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