Tracks and Trails / Booking & Info / Blog and Chat

Our 2009 Alpine Trail Running camp took place in Chamonix last week. This annual event ties in with the Mont Blanc 10k, half and full marathon events – so if at the end of the week if you’d like a challenge it’s there with all the support you could ever imagine! Our runners all had different running backgrounds and ambitions which meant there was a lot of experience and stories to share.

Based in a luxury Yeti Lodge chalet our runners were able to enjoy a daily run along mountain trails, amongst pine trees and meadows, visit high villages with inspiring views around every corner – not to mention benefitting from fresh mountain air in their lungs! On our return we’d enjoy lunch, sunshine and hot tub all under the eyes of Mont Blanc!

One of the weeks highlights were the excellent tips and advice from World Champion runner, Lizzy Hawker who also gave a very inspiring talk of her worldwide running tales.

To round the week off several of our runners took part in the various races in Chamonix at the weekend with podium results! Sue Smith got 3rd in her category at her first ever mountain half marathon, Mara Larson scooped up two prizes with 3rd overall female and also 1st in her age category, and Janet Lefton completed the full marathon in an excellent time of 7h30 giving her the points required for the full Ultra Trail du Mont Blanc in 2010.

So what will your 2010 challenge be? To find out more about our running week check out the feature by journalist and runner Antonia Kanczula who joined us last week in the September issue of Health & Fitness Magazine.

Tuesday I arrived back to very sunny Alps - which was perfect because yesterday I was asked to be interviewed by BBC radio! The feature was about Chamonix's history & guiding culture for a piece on sustainable tourism in a mountain environment. The presenter Mark Stephen and I carried out the interview whilst 'on the move'. We spent the day walking along one of Chamonix's classic high mountain trails, the Grand Balcon Nord. Normally it's Lindsay that's in the limelight! So I wondered if i'd be stuck for words whilst my tales of the valley were being recorded.

Our walk began in Chamonix's town centre where we took the famous Aiguille du Midi cable car up to it's mid-station, the Plan de l'Aiguille at 2310m. Our morning took us along to the Montenvers Hotel for a traditional Savoyard lunch with views of the Mer de Glace glacier and numerous 4000m peaks all around us. Along the way Mark and I looked at and discussed the flora, glacial features and Chamonix making it's mark as the 'mountaineering capitail of the world' and how it's adapted over the centuries. Co-presenter Euan had been seeing Chamonix from a different angle - the air! As he'd taken a tandom flight paragliding from Le Brevent mountain! We finished up with a trip back to the valley floor via the historic Montenvers Railway. Another hard day in the office.

The piece will feature on BBC Scotlands 'Out of Doors' programme this coming weekend - and you can listen again on BBC iPlayer for up to a week later.

I've just spent two days working on a project to save one of our rarest mountain habitats. The aim is to produce a new DVD to be distributed by the charity, Action for Mountain Woodlands . Montane Scrub, which is made up of the likes of juniper, dwarf willow and birch, is disappearing fast from our mountain sides. Over-grazing by sheep and deer isn't helping the plight of a habitat which dates back 14,000 years. Action for Mountain Woodlands is hoping that creating a DVD explaining what Montane Scrub actually is, and why it should be protected, will encourage more people to help preserve it for the future. It's a habitat which all of us who visit the mountains will pass through but I bet most of us dont really notice as we head up the hill with our sights set on the summit. Next time you are out maybe take a few minutes to check whether these 'little gems' are underfoot.

Anyway, it was great to be asked to present the DVD and for Tracks and Trails to do something to protect this fragile environment. I had two great days working with the team from Blue Stone Film on both Ben Lawers, in Highland Perthshire, and also in the Cairngorms. It was a reminder of how special our mountain landscape is. One of the high points was seeing two Capercaillies deep in the beautiful Caledonian Pine Forest near Glenmore. I will let you know when it's published and hopefully you will want to view it to see what you can do to help our mountain environment.

What a brilliant few weeks of filming for the BBC. I've been busy working as Producer/Director on The Adventure Show which has been a roller coaster of adventure sports events. First, we were off to film the Islands Peaks Race which involves competitors sailing/running from Oban, to Mull, Jura, Arran then back to Troon for the finish. The weather was foul and I was amazed by the guts and determination of the sailors and runners. They had no respite from the weather and sailed/ran through the night taking in the three highest peaks on the three islands - totally amazing. I think it should make great TV - once we've wiped all the sea spray from the film!

Next it was off to the Mountain Bike World Cup event at Fort William which was held last weekend. 300 competitors from 30 different counties comping in the Downhill and 4x events. It was my first time at the event and the atmosphere was electric, a real buzz going down. I cant recommend it enough, even if you are not that into mountain biking, because of the incredible skill and guts of the riders - it's well worth seeing.

In between times I have been Directing the man often referred to as Britians best known hill-walker, Cameron McNeish. There are times when I am struggling up a mountain laden down by the camera tripod with my knees buckling that I wish I was somewhere else, but it doesnt last long. These 'shoots' are a joy to work on - how can I possibly complain about a day on the mountain, fresh air, views to die for and good company. Cameron is no stranger to controversy in the outdoor community and is a man who is quite happy to speak his mind. For me that makes his company all the more enjoyable - there's plenty of 'crack' and good conversation. When not filming we have time to compare notes on our various mountain experiences and adventures, and plan the next ones!

Anyway, just back last night from filming with Cameron and camera man Paul Diffley from Hot Aches Productions on Ben Lawers. A stunning day, but absolutely 'baltic' on the summit - isn't this supposed to be June?

Join us for this latest Wild Walk on The Adventure Show on BBC2 Scotland or Sky Channel 990 towards the end of June. I will try and let you know the exact date once we know for sure.

 

Team 'Tracks and Trails' have just returned to the Peak District following the 2 day Lowe Alpine Mountain Marathon (LAMM). My team mate, who's also my husband, was mountain guide Olly Allen. A recipe for success or disaster?

Following a sunny climbing road trip and final run preperations in Wales and Northumberland, Olly and I started to make our way north for the LAMM. The LAMM, known as the 'connoisseurs' mountain marathon, is a 2 day mountain competition, in pairs, navigating along the way with an overnight camp. This means you carry all your own sleeping equipment, food and stove etc for 2 days on the hill.

This was my 3rd LAMM and the reason i'll travel so far for a race is due to the stunning, remote locations, idyllic half-way camp and the friendly atmosphere from start to finish. To add intrigue to the event the organisers keep the final meeting location under wraps right up until the day before. All we knew until then was it was 3.5 hrs drive north of Glasgow and 2 hrs from Inverness.....The final event details email was sent out last Thursday along with a severe weather warning! 'Heavy rain due, 0 degrees, gales, rain and snow above 600m, be prepared for wintery conditions!' The final location was Morvich, Kintail. Home to famous Five Sisters of Kintail, above Glen Shiel. So on Friday we made our way, in heavy rain, to the event centre point!

Morvich is on the edge of Kintail Forrest and the Duich Loch and not far from the Isle of Skye bridge - perfect location. To add further interest to the event we were bused to our starting point where you mark your map up with the control points and where we set off into the wilds for the next two days. The course we ran took us 26 miles over 2400m of ascent...and much to our amazement we benefitted from breezy, mild temperatures to run in and barely felt a drop of rain all weekend. It was also enough to keep the adorable midge at bay! The chat at the overnight was great and morale high. The camp was in a remote setting, munros all around, with a river and Loch on tap to bathe sore feet and legs in - the sunshine kept us warm whilst cooking and bite free! Amazing!

Following a cool night the bagpipes woke us at 5am! Our result on day 1, 29th pair (56mins off the leader) put us into the 'chasing start'. This means we had to start day 2 exactly 56 mins behind the lead pair! Those in the chasing start wear a bib so that others also 'out there' know that you to be hunted down! So as the seconds ticked we waited inline for our next set of controls and were away - straight up hill - yet again! Just as we approached control 2 we saw our first team to be hunted....this proved to be a bit of a fight but finally took them on another long climb. Later on we came across a couple of other tired looking male teams who we soon left behind!

Day 2 seemed to be continuously uphill, great for us as that's where we seemed to benefit with overtakes. The climbs also reward you with 360 degree views, if you can take a second to look, including over to Skye. The killer for me is the contouring for long distances, travelling at one height without a path on awkward ankle/knee twisting ground. After a long spell of this we came over the last peak and could finally see the event centre below! Breathing a sigh of relief we started picking up speed for the final descent, passing teams from all different categories. It was a great finale all the way back into the sunny finish grounds.

Our score for day 2 was 17th team - putting us into 25th over the 2 days out of 164 teams, 6th mixed team which we were really pleased with. Recipe for success - following very few 'discussions' on navigation, speed or who carried what - Olly's already getting details of the newest, lightweight kit on the market for 'next years' LAMM. So watch this space as I may well have converted this climber into a runner!

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