Feckin' Trekkin'

Matt and Krista's Awesome Travel Blog

Month: October 2009

October ’09 Training Summary

October was a pretty decent month! Krista climbed the CN Tower in a thoroughly awesome time. Matt missed his flight home to the UK so missed the CN Tower climb but made up for it by climbing Mt Snowdon in North Wales. Let’s hope we can keep up this level of activity going into the colder months.

Matt:

  • 2 day cycle tour of Niagara Escarpment west of Toronto
  • Seaton Trail hike
  • 1 climbing session at Rock Oasis (2 hours)
  • Hike on Robinswood Hill
  • Climbed Mt Snowdon via the Watkins Path, +/- 3,100 feet in 4 hours round-trip.
  • 3 x 90 min volleyball matches
  • A couple of hundred km on the bikes (forgot to note it down).

full starfull starfull starfull starfull star

Krista:

  • 1300 steps at the Rugby field
  • 11 circuits of the Baldwin Steps
  • 7.7 km Run
  • Seaton Trail hike
  • CN Tower Climb completed in 20 minutes and 3 seconds. 1,776 steps. Elevation gain of 1,135 Feet

full starfull starfull starfull starfull star

An Unexpected Trip to Snowdon

Last Saturday I was supposed to be doing the Enbridge CN Tower Climb for United Way. Sadly, due to a combination of screw-ups I missed my flight back to Canada from the UK and hence missed the event completely. I’m not the type to accept defeat easily though (particularly when there’s hundred of dollars of sponsorship at stake), so I hatched a plan to do something equally challenging to make up for it. After consulting a map I figured that I just about had time to get to North Wales and back and still catch my rearranged flight home the following day.

So, early on Saturday morning, despite the weather man predicting gale force winds, thick fog and heavy rain, I found myself deep in Snowdonia National Park preparing to hike my way up Mount Snowdon via the Watkins Path. The Watkins route has an elevation gain of around 3,300 feet over 4 miles (so 3 times as much climbing as the CN Tower Climb) and ranges between good quality paths at the bottom and a near-scramble up a scree slope near the top. I was hoping the weather forecast was a bit pessimistic but in fact it was completely accurate. Above 1,000 feet the visibility was never more than 100 meters and there was so much rain running down the trail it felt like you were hiking up a small waterfall. The worst bit was the wind though. On the higher ground, the wind was gusting to 100km/h which made for a pretty exciting time. For one thing, the rain cover on my pack kept blowing off and turning into a small parachute. Next time I’ll just line my pack with a bin bag. Route finding also became pretty challenging particularly as my map wasn’t waterproof and visibility was poor. At one point I missed a turn in the path and ended up on a very exposed ridge that forms part of the Horseshoe route. I rapidly found myself switching from “enjoying the battle with the elements” mode into “somewhat concerned for my welfare” mode. I was on my own, slightly lost, on dangerous terrain, in really bad weather. I shouldn’t have been there and I quickly understood how people lose their lives on a mountain like this. One slip and… well I don’t want to think about it. I took a few deep breaths and backtracked carefully, with the intention of descending while I still could. Fortunately I picked up the trail within a few minutes and bumped into a guy who was on his way down. He told me I was only 15 or 20 minutes from the top so I decided to carry on up and “get ‘er done” as Krista would have said. The fact that there’s a cafe near the summit with hot coffee and pastries was a key factor in that decision. A short but very wet and fairly strenuous scramble brought me to the summit at just about 11:15am, the same time that Krista was stepping onto the observation deck of the CN Tower (taking into account the 5 hour timezone difference). The view from the summit was non-existent, and the weather was about as foul as I’ve ever known but I was still really glad to have made it. Seeing as there wasn’t much to see I took a couple of quick photos/videos, did my best to get some coffee down my throat before it blew out of the cup, and put on some dry socks before heading back down again.

I thought about taking a different route down but figured the chances of getting lost were too great and I didn’t fancy having a long hike back to the car when I got to the bottom. On the way down I met a bunch of people heading up, many of them looking seriously wet and unhappy, and a few who really didn’t look like they belonged on the side of a mountain in this sort of weather. As for the guy in jeans and trainers…  well, I just despair of some people!

Looking back on it, the weather provided an interesting challenge and didn’t slow me down a whole lot really. In fact it may have motivated me to keep going rather than sitting around admiring the view. It took me 2 hrs 15 to get up, and about 1 hr 40 to get back down so the round trip was under 4 hours. That’s not too shabby under the circumstances. More importantly, none of my sponsors demanded that I giveback their sponsorship money

You can read more about the Watkin Path on the Snowdonia National Park website.

Conquering the CN Tower

Imagine this:

Friday at work, … you’re plugging away, counting the hours down until the day is done and more importantly until your partner gets on a plane to come home after a week away on business. And then “pop”… an email window appears out of the bottom right hand of your screen entitled “Epic EPIC fail” with the e-mail starting off with “You’re not going to believe this… I missed my ****ing flight”.

At first, I thought Matt was joking. I soon realized that it was no joke and indeed he had missed his flight due to a whack load of stuff. Trying to find flights out that evening was difficult as nothing was flying anywhere near Toronto. So this meant a few things:

  1. I wouldn’t see him that evening (boo)
  2. Unfortunately this meant Matt wouldn’t be home until Sunday (mega boo)
  3. I was climbing the CN Tower on my own (WTF)

I wasn’t upset about this at all though. I laughed and shook my head over it and thought to myself that Matt and I would make the best of the situation. So not only was I motivated to reach the top of the CN Tower for myself and my sponsors but I now had an extra boost for it, to show Matt that I could conquer it.

I wanted to be at registration at 5am on Saturday to avoid any line ups or problems as these events tend to have them. So I figured a good meal and early to bed would do the trick. Matt called me up that evening with a plan. He asked me to hear him out on his suggestion. So I listened…. His suggestion was that he would climb Mt. Snowdon at the same time I was climbing the CN Tower; essentially planning for both of us to “summit” at the same time. We had planned for us to do Snowdon together one day, but things happen right? I thought this was an awesome idea!!!! No hesitation on my part. I told him to go for it.

So I was up bright and early at 4am. I got myself ready and together and left Matt a voicemail and a text before I headed out as the climb I was about to do was a “hands free” climb (no phones, water, ipods, etc..).  Registering for 5am was a breeze. I managed to hand in my sponsorship, check my jacket, and line up all before 5:30.. then the waiting started. I started to become nervous. I was hearing stories from other past participants, their time it took them to get to the top. Boy, did I ever feel like a novice. Such a rookie! A little after 6am, they let the barrier down and thus started the “trek” towards the tower. I felt nervous, excited, pumped, ready to do it!

A light jog down to the base of the tower and I was ready to go. As I entered the tower I was surprised to pass by my parents who made the trek down at a god awful hour to meet me at the top. Passed through security and there were two signs, one which pointed to the elevators, which I actually hesitated at. The other… to the stairs.

The stairs are nothing pretty really. One side is concrete, the other side is caged so you cant fall down. There are orange numbers on the wall in front of you marking each floor. The base of the tower that morning was cold. I started off at a great pace. I focused on the steps and made sure I wasn’t always looking up to see which floor I was on. By the 30th flight my thighs were feeling it. I was working up a sweat and all I could hear were other participants panting and the sound of sneakers squeaking on the floor. Melodic at times, other times plain annoying. I finally stopped at the 70th to catch my breath as I felt it was a little out of control.  The poster on the 70th floor stated “half way there!”.. I really wanted to curse at it. So I did 🙂 and kept going.

I made my way back into the crowd and off I went. The odd time I was getting a pat on the back or words of encouragement from other climbers. What a boost it gives you! A complete stranger telling me to “keep going” or “great job” was amazing. By the 100th or so floor I was done in. I was surprised at my consistency with my pace and I felt fecked up but good enough to keep going. At one point a few of us climbers told a lady off cause she was counting the floors.. that is a sure way to take the wind out of anyone’s sails.

I could hear the volunteers cheering which meant I was close. I must have been as every time I put my hand on the banister it would slide off due to other sweat left there by my fellow climbers. I tried to be a lady but had to spit at one point. I figured I would be discreet about it. Well, I did it.. but .. funny enough it landed on my pant leg. Typical and yet so classy. I was running out of energy and fast… when I heard people yelling “push it, you’re almost there, get up here, get your time card!” By this point I was actually starting to gag, I felt sick. I basically threw myself up to the top and grabbed onto a new time card.. MY FINISH TIME!  Then the volunteers said.. up the stairs to the observation deck.. You have got to be f*cking kidding me?

Another 10 or so FLIGHTS of stairs.. which I actually stopped on a few times cursing them up and down as I was so done with any types of steps. My legs were done, my feet felt like lead. It was almost like I was nailed to the floor. My body had, had enough. I wasn’t going anywhere. A security guard was at the top chuckling saying that this was it, no more steps! … I dragged myself out of the stairwell, through the sky pod exit and there I was, at the top of the CN TOWER. I had made it! And I had a camera crew filming me coming out of the door??!?! ha! My dad came through the crowd and greeted me. He gave me a huge hug and said how proud he was. I had a little emotional moment, although I am not sure whether it was due to my parents being there or due to the fact that my legs and lungs were ready to give out.

I was so pleased with myself. I did it! I had never felt so pumped! I think it really registered with me when I took the elevator down. I climbed all of this? Wow. I went back to the registration area to pick up my t-shirt, which was SO important to me. I handed the woman my time card. She calculated it and told me congratulations you completed the Tower in 20 minutes and 3 seconds. HUH? WHAAA? I almost started to tear up. Not only did I climb it, I completed it in a wicked time! I could not believe this! I got my shirt and immediately put it on. I have never felt so proud. Just before I left I bumped into some storm troopers and just had to take a photo with them 🙂

My parents treated me to a nice breakfast and then dropped me off at home. First thing I did was check my phone.. Matt had sent me a text, telling me he had made it to the top of Mt. Snowdon. We roughly made it to the top at the same time. It was an amazing feeling to know he had done it and I was proud of him. *Insert little emotional moment here* Later on in the day we managed to speak to each other. Both amazing and proud of one another for doing what we set out to do. Needless to say, I had a perma smile on for the remainder of my day. I spent my afternoon walking around the city with a friend and every so often I looked up and saw the wicked CN Tower and just sniggered to myself.. thinking “I got you good” 🙂

The experience of the climb and how we managed to turn a unfortunate event into an awesome one was.. well, awesome.

April is coming up.. the next CN Tower climb.. I will be making sure we both get to the top next go around, together. 😉

 

Robinswood Hill

I’m in the UK this week on business. I figured I should make the most of the opportunity and visit a few of my old stomping grounds. I also need to sneak in some last minute training for the CN Tower climb next Saturday. This morning I made the Gloucestershire equivalent of an alpine start, and hauled by butt out of bed at 5:45am. By 6:30am I was trudging my way up Robinswood Hill. In the dark. Despite planning to be there pre-sunrise, I didn’t think to bring a light so my route was a bit haphazard. Nonetheless, by 7am I was stood on the top in a 50km/h wind trying to take photos of the sunrise. Blustery conditions, low light and only a Gorillapod for a tripod made for fairly crumby photos, but it was nice to be up early looking down on the city, rather than driving bumper-to-bumper along the A417. After half an hour soaking up the views (and sheltering from the wind in my new OR Ethos jacket) I jogged back down the hill, called in at McDonalds for a well-earned breakfast, and was in the office by 8am.

Bike Tour to Rockwood

Last weekend I decided I deserved a bit of chill-out time, so I strapped my tent and sleeping bag onto the back of my new touring bike (a Masi Speciale CX) and headed out of the city. This was the first time I’d been on a really long ride on the new bike, as well as the first time I’d used a bunch of new camping kit so I wasn’t sure how well it would work out. I figure you may as well jump in with both feet though, right?

I set off about 8am on Sunday morning, so I had plenty of time to pedal the 80 or so kilometers to my overnight stop at Rockwood, near Guelph. I had a rough plan for where I was heading but generally I made up the route as I went, and used the GPS on my Blackberry when I needed to check my location. I headed out of the city via Clairville Conservation area, then stopped for a high calorie breakfast at Tim Horton’s in Brampton. By 11am I was clear of the city and into farmland west of Caledon. The weather started to go a bit sour just after noon, so I pulled into a gorgeous little cafe in Glen Williams just outside Halton Hills. Clearly it’s a popular spot with cyclists as 90% of the customers were wearing cycling gear and there were three times as many bikes in the parking lot as cars. There’s something deeply satisfying about sitting in a cafe, eating the most delicious turkey, brie and cranberry sandwich, watching the rain hammer down, knowing that you can stay there until the rain stops and it really doesn’t matter. Giving yourself plenty of time is key to a relaxing excursion.

In the afternoon, after the rain stopped, I cruised the rest of the way to Rockwood. Rockwood’s a small but very picturesque conservation area, run by the Grand River Conservation Authority. As I was literally the only camper there I had my pick of the campsites so got a lovely little spot next to the river in amongst the trees. Once I’d set up camp I went for a pedal round the conservation area to check out the lake, the old mill and the trails. Unfortunately I didn’t have a decent camera with me (cos I was travelling light) so the only pics I got were on my Blackberry. The new camping kit worked out really well. The tent went up in three minutes flat, the stove operated flawlessly and I got a pretty decent nights rest on the new sleeping pad.

On Monday morning I packed up early and headed back to Toronto. I took a different route home heading southeast to Kelso, up and over the escarpment (not easy with a heavily laden bike), through Milton, then through some of the wealthier neighbourhoods of Mississauga to Port Credit. After a well-deserved fish and chip lunch I followed the Waterfront Trail back to downtown Toronto.

The total roundtrip was a little over 200km, and I averaged just over 20km/h. Considering how much stuff I had with me, covering 160km/100miles in a day shouldn’t be too tough if I only needed to carry food and drink with me. That puts Niagara Falls just about within reach in a day….   😉

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