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Welcome to Nepal, Solukhumbu Valley, Everest Region! I have just completed a fantastic 5 weeks leading treks to Everest Basecamp and up the famous Everest view point Kala Pattar (5550m). What with wonderful scenery, challenging climbs, beautiful people and culture I already know that I will soon be coming back!

But for now I am preparing for my own challenge – the Everest Marathon! Joined by fellow running friend, Janet Lefton, we are currently amongst 80 other runners from around the world, medics and support crew who will all walk in and acclimatise together to Basecamp (5200m) where we will begin our 42km race back to the Sherpa Village of Namche Bazaar (3450m). Ok so it’s mainly downhill but it still definitely has its’ challenges along the way. Apart from acclimatizing and staying healthy the race start point has temperatures as low as minus 20 and moving at 5200m can feel like you are literally crawling along the trail, not to mention the cold/dry & dusty air that’s pouring into you with every breath.

Today is an another acclimatisation walk to 4000m, to the Everest View Hotel which gives an amazing panorama of Everest, Nuptse, Lhotse and awe inspiring Ama Dablam. Tomorrow we set off for a training run and higher camp and begin our ascent to the start line….!

What a wonderful discovery - the Apuane Alps in Tuscany. Just been staying in the area for ten days with a view to perhaps offering trips there next year in 2010! The area is truly wild and beautiful with forests of beech trees covering the mountainsides with rocky limestone ridges rising high above the treeline. It was my first visit to this part of Italy and it did not disappoint me. There is some excellent walking to be found on paths which are not crowded, and have a great feeling of remoteness. For me it was particularly interesting to see that some of the walks resembled Scotland with juniper, and blaeberry scattered over the hillside. However, the food experience was very different to Scotland with plenty of opportunities to enjoy fresh local pasta, autumn fungi, and of course some incredible local cheeses!

I was based at Promiana which is only an hour or so from Pisa airport and is a great base to explore Florence and the stunning medieval walled city of Lucca - so excellent for combining walking, or mountain biking, with culture. A day in Florence meant a visit to see 'David' by Michelangelo, and the Duomo with its frescoes, and of course some retail therapy in the street markets. My Christmas shopping was done in 2 hours!! My base was the lovely farm and villa at Lavvachio which is run by two Scots, Jamie and Ailso. The accommodation is truly beautiful with lots of tasteful art and antique furnishings. The fact that Ailsa is a cordon bleu cook and professionally trained make meal times an extravaganza of taste! The villa sits high on the mountainside surrounded by olive groves and chestnut trees, with much of the fresh food coming from the herb and vegetable gardens, or the livestock - ducks, chickens, guinea fowl, goats and sheep. If you would like to join us in Tuscany, Italy in 2010 then do get in touch and we can either arrange a bespoke guided walking trip or we may even offer a scheduled departure if there is sufficient interest. The photo shows myself and Kathy Grindrod on our ascent of the Pania Della Croce, 1858m, the dominant limestone peak in the area above Promiana.

Ciao !!!

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