I'm a woman

I'm a woman
Photos copyright Laurence Gouault
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Monday, 30 January 2012

Film stuff , North Face by Stevie Haston.

This film by Philipp Stolzl is so good I have watched it several times. Over the years I have been to a few film festivals and seen way to many bad films, this is the opposite. It is a little a propos, if you followed the last blog, this  film is about Alpinism and tragedy  The film is a superb rendition of Toni Kurz and Hinterstoisser attempt in 1936 on the celebrated Wall of  Death, AKA the Eiger. It is so well done you feel attached to the rope and can feel the cold and heartbreak. The stunt work on this film was also done by great climbers so its also the work of real climbers as apposed to celluloid ones. It is a love story between people and mountains at a time when events were rapidly overtaking the world and for once again climbing ceased to be sport and became used as propaganda.
The edition I watched was in French and was great but in is viewable in other Languages. I cant praise this film enough, accurate and wonderful, tragic with the majesty of the mountain, and the frailty of us little humans, scratching our little acts, and plays on the mighty stage of time. Maestri and Eggers tragic time on Cerro Torre  will have mirrored this in some aspects, so this might be useful for armchair critics and Web Wannabies to get a clear idea of old time Alpinism.

Saturday, 28 January 2012

American Alpine Imperialism, Stevie Royal Haston.

Cerro Torres South East arrĂȘte gets climbed in goodish  style and the ascenders chop some  bolts on maybe a different route, result internet mayhem! Shall we look at it for what it was, with that little gap that is so often necessary to make a more reasoned judgement, instead of the internet twitterings of the insane.
Lets start at the beginning, and believe me the start is not Maestri, or the so called Compressor route, the start is in what you think of  alpinism.  For this you will certainly not get a good, or an unbiased definition  anywhere, because stupidly alpinism like climbing, doesn’t have easily definable rules, and that is why there is so much shit going round. The Web now fans any, or even the slightest disagreement into an intolerable inferno, because it desperately wants clicks on its forums of ferment. Clicks mean money, doesn’t matter how you get them, so lets get them any old sly way we can eh!
The news was broadcast around the world when it had hardly happened. I read about the first free ascent before it had happened in fact, was the Net clairvoyant? No the web broadcast incorrect news, you could call them lies if you want. The first free ascent happened after the  so called atrocity of the American Alpine Imperialists by the Swiss Liberation Front.  But it turns out if you read closely, that it was series of variations on the Compressor route. Now then the Maestri route has always been a slight puzzle, but now the Web has solved it for me. This is Cognitive Imperial Conjecture of the first degree. What do I mean, well they stated in black and White that Maestri lied about his first ascent of this mountain. I have my own views on this ascent, private ones, because I am not God, and Maestri as far as I know, didn’t ever go to court. Not being Omnipotent I reserve judgement.
Back to Alpinism. What is it?  Even I am unclear and I have  been an alpine climber since age 16. I think Alpinism is a romantic ideal, its fighting without a victim, plus a view, its being a warrior without weapons, plus a view, its defiantly about seeking out the best, and it has something to do with mountains, I think.  The Maestri route has/had  an estimated 450 golos (bolts) drilled with a construction compressor,  and in finishing below the summit, was it a route, or was it a publicity stunt, and a future  Via Ferratta for Tourists? Is it really the best we can do to honour the iconic beauty of the Torre?  The Maestri obstacle course was always an odd thing, a bastard child, but there are many odd routes, aren’t there? The Japanese bolt route on the Eiger’s right flank. The American aid routes on the Dru, the French aid routes on the Dru, oh and quelle surprise, the Italian aid route on the Dru, It’s a free for all, without the free, wasn’t there one by a hippy and his guitar? Some of these went free, and then fell down, possibly due to all the ironmongery and fat aid climbers in situ. And then one more nationality added its via des Pitons, les Russes. The Eiger by the 1938 route, is not the route it was, it is much easier due to much more fixed protection, many routes have fixed ropes, cables and ladders on them to facilitate the tourist trade to bag summits. In fact there is a whole industry to help tourists to the top of mountains. Do Alpinists or climbers from different countries have a right to chop redundant bolts in others countries. Well I don’t know, I don’t know which law they broke. Can climbers chop bolts on a different route that they didn’t free climb, in their own country or any others for that matter? To me, having grown up through this period of the Compressor route, and having been exposed to the great and less than great Anglo American Alpine conspiracy, I don’t know if those American lads did the right thing. Bridwell showed what was possible on this route years ago, said it was an easyish route, and that it might go free given dry cracks to each side. He even did it in a wet suit, if I remember correctly, and took a huge rib crushing fall on a bungy like single 9mm rope. Today it is imperative that you should only work with websites, and have supporters lined up in advance, don’t risk it being put to a vote, because votes go any which way. Much has been made of a vote about this route, which said the bolts should stay in. Lets look at voting, shall we. When there is a show of hands, it’s always a risky process isn’t it? Most people don’t want to loose, they would rather win, or be on the winning side. When there are weird arguments on the climbers web, it’s the same. Lets look at how fair and just voting is. Bush was cheated in by an electoral scandal, this was not squashed by the Senate, and he seems to have  had the oil industry needs fairly high. In Britain we had Blair, and the weapons of Mass destruction false doctrine, he was voted in all fair and square, so that was Ok, right? Voting isn’t what you think, Clinton was voted in by women, who liked his smile, and he reduced women’s rights on abortion. The people who vote are called the public, years ago they were just called the Mob. Climbing is now ruled by the Mob, who are manipulated by …….god knows, but it’s possibly the Web masters in this case..
Two alpinist talking crack...Stevie consulting Nick the Guru Colton

My Alpine climbing has in large part been influenced by a huge number of American Alpinists, some French, and the idea of fair play was defiantly from the free climbing ethic that’s was pushed in America in the early seventies. However it was always clear that expediency took precedence over reality. ‘Alpine’ climbing needs defining, and solidifying, so that the standards of today can be used on the routes of the future. What the Maestri route did was rob the future. Cerro Torre is a great mountain and this route was ill conceived, but it has now been baptised, and was ultimately freed a few days later. If you think that both parties weren’t that strained to do their job, because of good conditions, and great expertise, and could climb harder, you must realise that Alpinism is the most open ended part of our great sport.
Far from thinking the two lads were Imperialist in their attitude, I see them as continuing a fine tradition of tidying up, which is going  out of favour by the politically correct pole dancers of today. But to agree we need to define. Kurt Albert did climbing a great service a few years ago, he defined the rules for Sport climbing and we are all better for it. Sadly Kurt is dead, because we need some one to do the same for Alpinism. Kurt did the Walker Spur when he was 17, I think! Alpinism was too ill defined for him, so if you freed something, the next party would still aid it. And claim the same route.
Alpine climbing’s very name will have to be changed soon, because to-days youth might finally understand that the big mountains aren’t just the Alps, or Patagooniacs, but are the Himals. Himalayists is a bit of a mouth-full, maybe good respectful climbers will suffice.
I would like to mention a few American Alpine Imperialista who really impressed me, Greg and Geof Lowe, Bouchard, the super religious Tobin Sorenson, Bridwell. Some Frog Republicans; Robert Chere, Turbo Renault, Fine. German/Austrian Ubermensh; Paul  Preuss, Heckmier. Italians Cavaliers; Gervasutti, Cassin. Out of all these, it has to be Preuss who seems so  Fundamentalist and wonderful. Preuss was the first Profit of Purism, the Iman of the Mountains.   And what a time, the Alps almost empty. And now that I think about it , yep he wrote it all down, he dictated from his high rocky pulpit, his six precepts, or regulations,  and verily they are very, very strict, and in their time they caused a storm, a storm that is worth opening the shutters for, to let in that fresh alpine air and let yourself think, instead of reacting. We all cheat according to Preuss, and of course the Maestro was right.
Is it an Alpine route, 5.12 in the Himalayas.
Paul Preuss advocated pull-ups and no aid climbing which I happen to agree with,  but I am not strong enough to follow his precepts. Preuss was half Jewish so  luckily he died before the Nazis really took over. However his thoughts and beliefs were expunged from German/Austrian  alpine thinking, and ironically were kept more alive in Italy. In Italy a young climber called Maestri took up  some of the thoughts of Chairman Preuss, but obviously not permanently. Isn’t life strange?
So what if Maestri and Egger (possibly Egger&Maestri,, as Egger was the ice Ace) actually did the great Torre in ’59! Very strange things have happened in climbing. I’ll just mention one. When Anker on Oxygen tried the first free ascent of the Chinese Ladder on Everest, it had somehow escaped his mind that this piece of mountain had already been free climbed before, by a bare footed Chinese man!
It's not in the Alps so is it an apine route?

What is clear to me after reading a lotta stuff, is that nothing is clear. The line of the Compressor route does not seem to be free, but very interesting variations  are, and they should become the accepted way.
Last thing, Laurent Grivel produced and sold the first climbing bolt kit in 1927, so you would  perhaps  think that  we might have a few solid guidelines to work with by now. But you would be wrong.

Friday, 27 January 2012

Grivel 360 ice screw, by Stevie Haston

Grivel's 360°, that's meduim and small
The Grivel 360 is my favorite screw, its not the only one I use, but it’s my favorite for nearly every situation.  All Grivel screws are good screws but they are all a little different, for slightly different end use. The tube and teeth of all the screws is the same, and its smoothness rigidity, and sharp teeth are all that Grivel can screw out of material and design. The efficiency of the tube and teeth are all affected by misuse and wear. If you want all your screws to work well, try and understand how a screw works and this might help you pamper your screws to lengthen their life and keep them working to their maximum efficiency. Ice screws are very expensive, sorry I wish they weren’t, but they are more than worth it when you trust your life to them.
Meduim good size for everything.

The 360 is my favorite because it is the fastest and can go where no other screw can! If you want to maximise speed of screw, always try to think about placement before you place it. Pick your spot to make it easier for yourself. You are looking for a foot ledge with a good bit of either flat or concave ice at about waist height. The easiest place for screwing (man I am laughing because I am thinking about an old joke) is where you can push the best from a good stance and exert  good pressure to start the thread on the cutting teeth. This is not above your head although it’s possible, its always really just above your hip. This position also makes clipping easy. Another tip is to look for a tiny groove or bubble to jam the end in, it’s not necessary but I always do this. Don’t angle your screw to far down or too far up, 90° to the slope or two degree up is good. Try not to place belay screws in the same square meter of ice if you can.
When you are placing a screw in anything apart from pure water ice, try and feel the screw going in. If the ice is thin as soon as you contact rock stop, don’t keep madly trying to screw it in, it wont screw into rock! If you are on alpine ice, the ice  will often have rocks, or gavel in it, so the same thing applies.

The screw comes with a clever cap (absent in photos) for the tread tips, keep it on when not in use. Take it off when you climb or ski so you are ready to use it.
Shorty very good for Scotland and mixed climbing in general.

As with everything practise makes perfect and the best place to practise screwing (laugh) is in a safe place, not your first major lead. Practise at the bottom of ice falls, make it difficult and fun, try funky placements above or at weird angles from your body. Notice how much less pressure you can apply away from the ideal sweat spot by your hip! I can do it with my eyes shut, at any angle (laughs) but I still practise (more laughs) and always will.  While your there practise your ice threads with your eyes shut, one day you will break your lamp, or your batteries will go dead, and dead is where you don’t get to practise a good screw!
check out www.grivel.com
What it's all about, 360° exposure.

Friday, 20 January 2012

Tommy Godwin Cycling super Man, by Stevie flat tire Haston.

I did 3001 pull-ups today, and some people might say wow, or Wow. But, and this ‘But’, is a Gargantuan one, you have to understand perspective, and real standards. Real standards of hard athletes, and true pros relocate my performance to  just what it was: a good, or very good session.  Tommy Godwin born 1912  probably did the most any athlete can ever  do in a year. Despite so called improvements in modern sports science it may never be equalled..
Tommy Godwin transcends what even great sportsmen think of as true work, and worth and it is probably time that the whole of British sport realized this and paid him homage.. You don’t know who Tommy was, and after reading this you will think his record is crazy, but  we should all know by now things are never right and its only the magically inspired who become great. Tommy Godwin is certainly the greatest Ultra athlete Britain has had, and lets say, because we are all turning into Milksops, Tommy is probably going to stay that way for ever. If I may make so bold, he may be the greatest ultra athlete of all time in the whole of the world, but that is a big claim, and I am not sure, because of course history is never accurate, or complete.
Tommy Godwins record is to have cycled the most miles kilometres leagues, or bottom blistering bumps in a year, and then to keep going to take the 100.000 mile mark. It is rarely acknowledged and little cared about but a tiny moments reflection will stun you. 205 miles average for a year. 200 mile average for the continuation for the 100.000 mile mark. Only one day off to hob nob with the Prince, probably the least interesting fact. An average of 200 a day hides the cruel fact that you have to go much higher to cover your low days, your sick days and days of atrocious weather. This record is astounding, reinvent the word Gob smacking please, was done in Britain just before the  Second World War. Tommys deferment to cannon fodder was delayed so he could succeed, perhaps they could have let him off altogether.. His bike, the best of the time was a good 28 lbs, but add on the extra few pounds for primitive light system and spares, and you arrive over 30. The roads weren’t that great, but were empty at least. He had to deal with blackout at the end of his record due to War regulations and seek out the best weather and avoid the wind. To this end he was constantly on the move traversing the UK.

I am a fan of athletes, especially the long events, but there are two athletes who do stand out over the course of time. Yannis Kouros the runner and Tommy Godwin the cyclist. They make all the achievements in mountaineering look pretty lame. When I train I have a couple of little tricks and they are of use when I am in trouble.  One is the number 303 which is the record km distance for 24hrs, and the other only called in at times of  desperate dire need, is 100.000 miles; its my secret mantra,  and they work.
Tommy Godwin was a vegetarian and good on him for becoming one. His decision was taken after working in a pork pie factory, I am ashamed to say I am not  a veg anymore having spent over twenty as one I switched back to being a carnivore when my body told me to do so. It might be time to become a lacto-veg again after having had a look at Tommy’s diet it might be possible to train hard and recover. The food was probably better then and Tommy was 27, so maybe yes he could recover but maybe not me.
Tommy’s later years were spent as a trainer coach for the ‘Stone Wheelers’ club of cyclists. There is a plaque somewhere in ‘the Potteries’, but it should be moved to Trafalgar square.
This last week I have looked for inspiration, cross Atlantic rows, Germany to Australia Kayak journeys; thinking about professional soldiers and postmen of ancient times, Rowers in the ancient Middle sea, the Kalahari Bushmen ‘eating the wind’ chasing animals and in all of this the image of Tommy holds firm. Keep on Rolling.
Tommy in layman’s times did a Tour de France, not for two weeks, but for over a year. I have talked to some of my mates who know more about cycling than I do, and they confirm the obvious, this record is gold. Most of the athletes I mention this record to just don’t want to believe it! The greatest distance ran over 365 days, was done by the great pedestrian Girad, who has run across all continents.  He averaged 74 km a day on his last Euro tour. Converting cycling to running miles is troublesome, but it is clear, 200 miles on a bike is more than 74 on yer feet. Indeed this kind of super long term event might only be possible on a bike due to its low impact nature.
What a diamond geezer Tommy was and still is such an inspiration for toughness,. keep on rolling. A very interesting  bit of sport, and more interesting for the fact it was done before cretins and creatine, composite bikes, steroids, fitness protocols dreamed up by also-rans, and all the rest of the Modern None-sense. Anyway think about Tommy’s prodigious fitness the next time you give up.

Some more facts for you, as this piece seems very popular.

There are two Tommy Godwin's who were cyclist, one born 1912, and one born 1920, both great athletes.

Why can we trust the record? Well it seems that the record was taken very seriously indeed, he was watched a great deal of the time, and he was supported by the cycling community of the time, this meant the cycling press and some news people kept track. He had a sealed mileomiter, and was often accompanied or he accompanied others for friendship. The record was a very big deal, probably more was made of it then, than would be made of it now.

Was he a good rider? Well the record for me speaks for itself, it is an Ultra record which although reflecting in some way the calibre of the man, it is more a measure of his metal. Tommy was very capable of riding over 20 miles an hour, for a half dozen hours. He won many races and a Century was obviously not a big deal for him.

Which was his biggest day? 21st June 1939 seems to be 361 miles, and was 19 hours. I think he had done big un the day before, up at 5, bed at 12, yes man, pass me the juice.

Vegetarian?  Tommy was a Lacto veg, relied on eggs and cheese, not much veg, but some fruit. The foods value may well have been very high, less processing and contamination. In those days

Roads? They were not very good to bad, often with a bad camber. The great advantage, and something which would obviously affect you now was the absence of traffic. This is important at all stages but particularly for fatigued riders at the end of the day. Even my mate’s memory doesn’t stretch that far back, think Cobblestones in towns, even the good surfaces would be rough by today’s standards.

More info? Some great info on the Web, well thought out and considered, better than this rehash by me. Most was based on an article in a cycling mag long ago. For me he was a mythical hero mentioned by my dad, my dad cycled from Edinburgh to London before the war, when he was 14, living off turnips. I think there was a joke doing the rounds, during the start of the war, about whether it was better to get your balls shot off during the war, or wear them off like Godwin before!


Bike? His bike was very good for the time, four gear hub, total around 30 lbs. Shows you ‘it wasn’t about the bike, it was about the egg butties’. Both my bikes are better, even my mountain bike weighs less! He may have carried spares, butties, and odds and ends, because of the long days. Reports say he wore Wellington boots (on rainy days) but this is the only bit I am at odds with, There were shoe coverings even then, and his kit would have worked very well. The seat was leather and not very nice, but he would have worn padding.

What are the two toy cyclists in the photos? I live in France and they are very common little figures, Tour de France riders, cycling is still big here, Come Sunday even the grand dads are out, even me.  


Monday, 16 January 2012

Jack Roberts has left us, by Stevie&Laurence Haston

Sad news today, Jack Roberts has left us, he died on Bridalveil Falls yesterday. He used to love his ice-climbing and big fishes, always smiling and ready for some adventures. We have fond memories of meeting him over the years in Boulder, Ouray... He will be missed, all our thoughts go to his wife Pam and his family.
Your smile will be enternal to us...

Thursday, 12 January 2012

On Failing, by Stevie the Failure Haston.

Stevie interviewing Adam Ondra for Gripped Magazine (c) Lorenzo Belfrond
Yesterday I read two great pieces on failing or more correctly about trying and not succeeding. One is from perhaps the greatest climber of this moment and the other from Scott Jurek one of the most able of the Ultra long distance runners. They are basically the same and to find them on the same day seems almost more than the coincidence it is. If you are like me and have an interest in both activities please read both they are very interesting. Failing is part of succeeding, up to the point you succeed or finish there is always doubt and the chance of falling or a DNF (did not finish in running), it’s never over till the fat lady sings. At the top of this page is a great climb I failed on, it’s there to remind me about many things, there is the always unanswered question, could I have done it if things were different? Will I ever go back? Do I need to? Read what young Adam says about his failings, or read about what Scot says about his. There are many ifs, buts, and perhaps, there are so many things that can go wrong or right, conditions, attitude, physical and mental condition. Sport is the metaphor for life, because without being able to try, and chance a bit many of us would not get out of bed. Thanks Adam  and thanks Scot. I got out of bed today inspired at five, and started to train aiming to finish at 12, did I finish, did I succeed, for sure I tried.

Planet Mountain for Adam Ondras interesting chat http://www.planetmountain.com/english/News/shownews1.lasso?l=2&keyid=39015&utm_source=dlvr.it&utm_medium=facebook
Scott Jurek's Blog for his long chat about the very long TMB.

I highly recommend both.

Wednesday, 11 January 2012

Plans, Scams, and this Blog, Stevie Gollb Haston.

The Med is full of plastic and chemicals, we eat plastic...

New year full of promise, but empty purse, replete with woe.  I want to do some good stuff this year, it doesn’t have to be earth shattering, but it either has to be magical, or majorly monstrous, but always memorial. Bearing this all in mind and the empty purse, one would at first think this is all impossible, but the first step was yesterday. Let me explain. Yesterday I had a little run, I mean little really, it was 5kms! I have been injured since last October, a bad tear in my calf, anyway I been trying to mend it, but it has resisted, so yesterday I decided to Kill it! I signed up for a very long, nasty run, with 13000 meters of up & down, to concentrate my mind, and try and put some routine in. However being an idiot I forgot that I am going to go swimming and climbing for a few months in Malta - hardly the most mountainous place in the world. Still I am not cancelling Malta, which would be the sensible thing to do, I need the simplicity of the sea and a bit of sea cliff climbing. I want to go caving, and I want to spend some time with my wife, I also want to climb in North Wales, I also  think I need to suffer more, and try for a good time in the Tor de Geants. Lastly I would love to climb a very great route; but it is unfortunately a bit hard, not super hard, but with the running, it’s probably too hard. Yep, tall order and as usual, no money Still……
This Blog has also become a problem. It was started off as a diary, a bit of fun, and be a counterpoint to a lot of the normal dross for my mates- all two of them. However it is more popular than intended, and it now doesn’t really serve most of you well. So what to do with it? Bin it? Make it more popular? Lower the Stevie content, and opinion? It should ideally become a web magazine, something I have thought about, but am unwilling to commit to. To serve really well you must be independent of pressure, but to get money you begin to serve a master, and here lies a big problem. A lot of you want good gear reviews but obviously these are hard to get. I work for good people whose product is good or very good, but it is ethically dubious of me to review competitor’s gear. I also don’t really have the time, still and all, there is a need. I will try to do something …..maybe a monthly round up of news, well actually how I see the news! And a few interviews of great athletes and practionners, climbers, cavers, runners, skiers, snowboarders….
There is only one paper mag that I know which is independent and has unbiased opinion in it, and they struggle really hard. This mag for instance had the temerity to criticise Messner for doing a plastic water bottle advert, they have a really valid point, there are plastic bottles everywhere, and the young in Europe think that water comes in plastic bottles. When I have swum in the Med, often you will see thousands of submerged slowly decaying bottles, even in the Indian Ocean…slowly becoming part of the food chain; slowly turning us into plastic subhuman vessels.

Anyway I want to run, I want to swim, and I want to climb and I have an itch to travel again. And I need money, so maybe I should advertise harmful things-oh shit I already do!

If I don't put my plastic into plastic I get fine and its not even recycled here...

Monday, 9 January 2012

Pete Minks is gone, by Stevie Haston

Peter Minks otherwise known as Minks, died of cancer on the 7th. He was one of the reasons I fell in love with the North Wales crew and had such a ball in the late 70’s. As a climber he had nimble feet and was Whillans like in his physique, he did the second solo of the Walker back in the day and was very proficient at all parts of the game. The game of course wasn’t just climbing it was about fun and carousing. I can think of alotta his mates dropping a tear into a pint or ten. He and I did a very memorable ascent of Central Ice Fall direct and he was straight off the couch, we shared a pair of sun glasses I think, cos we both had a black eye. We also had a chillum just to take the edge off ‘as you do’, before the last pitch, there is a photo somewhere. I have to say he got me in alotta trouble, but it was all worth it, don’t rest in peace mate reek Havoc. Many a tale and not enough ale.
Pete had another life in America where he settled in the Tahoe area, he had a family, and seemed more content. There is a memorial service at Alpine Meadows (I think in Tahoe) this is on Saturday the 14th, -please check this.
There are some great photos of the old crew and Pete on Supertopo, check them out.

The biggest mistake, by Stevie, the accident Haston.

Hydrophobia attack

You know every body thinks they are unique, but there is nothing unique about most of us. Do you have a tail? What you don’t! What makes you good at something? Is it hard work, or that special something? Let me tell ya, that special something is just hard work, it aint your inherent genius, cos you aint special. Hard work is actually the key, try planting a field, try harvesting, try ffing anything for that matter. I love running not because it is exciting, or ‘extreme man’, but because it is lovely, how do you get good, ffing simple-60 to 120 miles a week, and don’t get injured. When you start to think it’s you, you make ‘thee big mistake’. Yes climbing is skilful, (actually veeery skilful)  but at the end of the day, you don’t have to be Nureyev or Nijinsky, and didn’t Mr Nureyev and Mr Nijinsky who were so  so talented work really hard for years. Most climbers are prima-donnas, ego maniacs, take the big step, and love your sport and not yourself. The belief in yourself that is so important in sport, should be a belief in your training, the training that you have put in the bank! Take this ‘belief’, look at it, and relax, you will do well. Marcus Aurelius the great  Roman leader reportedly  had a servant whisper in his ear from time to time ‘you are only a man’, and this kept him in line. I used this line in Italy at a couple of lectures and they appreciated it, but only I think because they are so used to prima-donnas in their climbers The climbing media sells stuff thru adoration rather than thru worth, the industry sells stuff thru colour and specs, climbs and mountains, and mountain races, on the other hand just test your metal. They don’t care about the uniqueness of you, on a simple level they care how much force you can apply to a given hold, or in running your 10 km time!
I have made zee great mistake many times, but not for a long time.
It's grey and rainy, did 2000 pull ups yesterday

Friday, 6 January 2012

10 of the best Long runs, by Stevie Slow Haston.

Tor des GĂ©ants, (c)Lorenzo Belfrond

Got alotta letters asking about great runs, and rather than keep wasting my time replying, and changing my opinion, I thought I’d set it in stone. There are many great runs, but there is only one that rules them, but more of that later. First this planet of ours is still incredible in its beauty and diversity, so we should as citizens of the world, take notice, take part, and do our best to keep at least. some corners of it immaculate, as mountain runners I hope we do that, and don’t drop those little energy wrappers around like I’ave been seeing lately.
It didn’t all start in Britain it started everywhere, but the list is going to start here. It's starting here, because I started here, and my image of mountain running and runners started here, because of people like Bannister and Brasher. Before Banisters historic run, the lads where in Wales doing the tops, to get some extra quad training in, and perhaps to clear the cobwebs of incessant speed work training. Anyway it worked. For this reason the list starts with the Paddy Round, the North Wales mountain loop. It is terribly scenic, terribly rough, and you have the terrible time of 24hrs to get under, it’s about 100 km with 8000m up and down. There is no organised race, but you cross five quiet roads, and it is relatively easy to sort out if you have a couple, or better 6 mates.
The second long jog has to be the ultra famous Bob Graham Round in the Lakes. This is a similar run to the first, mountain, more lakes and mellower, richer scenery, it’s the UK classic, and the pinnacle of many runners involvement in the sport. About 100km, 8000m up+ down, about an hour, or two faster than the Paddy. It’s Wordsworth country, so you wander like a cloud or dash like a little whirlwind, and don’t forget that the poet himself probably did as many mountain miles as anyone. Oh and as a last point when is someone with balls going to come and try to beat the course record, 20+ years and counting. Third race is the Ramsey Round in Bonny Scotland, rough, tough, mean, more grandiose scenery, a bit shorter than the first two, but around the same time as the Buckley.
I have to take an aside now and mention Helen Diamantides, who was the first to do them all in one season!

If you think three are two to many for a tiny island you are probably right but it reflects how I think of mountains and running.
Fourth is the Mont Blanc round, totally classic, a well run race, the only thing I don’t like about it, is it varies year to year, and of course there are way too many people in it. These two things aside you cant go wrong with it, its majestic, and if you are of elite standard unavoidable, because it’s the big one in terms of quality of field.  160-180km, up to 9000m  of up and down.
Fifth is the Tor de Geants, this is the one that rules them all, and in the darkness binds them. It shares the Blanc with the last race but goes higher and stays higher for longer. In fact, length it has in plenty 330km, and 24000m of up and down. And it really is up and down. Many ascents and descents of 1000m +, its unbelievable. The contrast of different kinds of scenery gives breath to this race, as if it needs it! Wine and beer at rest stops, expect to see tears of pain and joy, very emotional, its Italy after all. This race is won in the dark watches of the night when others falter the brave strong and bold forge ahead.
Sixth is the Rond del Climes a mountain round in Andorra where I live, super rough, most of it is at over 2000m, true mountain running only just started it’s a cracker, small field, all good. Possibly the hardest 100 miler, go and try it and tell me.
The Spartathlon is Seventh, the oldest and for some the most important. 150miles only one big hill, all unfortunately tarmac. Jannis has run it on paths and small roads, and has done a there and back, but what would you expect of the worlds hardest runner. Its pedigree runs back to Classical times, and reminds us of the old Pros, the military couriers and postmen, of ancient, forgotten times. I like this one, because it always reminds me how soft we all are compared to old Infantry of less mechanical times, try a double march with full kit, and then a battle, as was common in Wellingtons time, or the time of the legion! No thanks, I’m a pacifist, just a little 10km for me, and no sharp swords!

Eight is the Diagonal de Fous on the French Island of Reunion, a combo of sea, Jungle and mountains. Its supposed to be unforgettable and I believe them. 160 km, rugged terrain, and fairly engaged as you can be along way from aid.
Ninth is the Sakuri Michi in the Land of the rising Sun, you will have to go with me on this one ; I know its all tarmac and probably boring, but it’s the spirit of who its dedicated to that wins it, and its on our way to the tenth. 150 miles,  and Cherry blossom and traffic. The other reason for its inclusion, is you have to have a couple of races where real speed freaks can stretch there legs, and show the mountain goats what its all about.
Tenth is the Hard Rock in Colorado, the best 100 miler in all of America, it’s tough, and similar to the British runs, but goes up to 14000 feet, altitude acclimatisation is compulsory for this, and unfortunately there is a ticket lottery to get in.
Ok there’s my list, I left out lots of really good ones, mainly in the Himalaya, which has the most gobsmacking ones of all. If any body completes these 10, I think they can call themselves a runner, as there are fast runs in it, not just plods, good luck. I have a few French mates who did the so-called three poles, the South pole, the North Pole and Everest. When I asked them what they where like, one replied, ‘White and boring’, so its kinda for that reason I have left the 300 miler out in Alaska, but you can have it if you want, I am not picky. The last sentence is for Beat who is going to do the Big White, good luck mate ,have a good one.
 If you want to make your own list subscribe to the French mag Ultrafondus it has the most comprehensive list of Mountain and road Ultras I have seen and it’s worth checking out.

Sunday, 1 January 2012

Happy New Year by Stevie Haston

Keep Real
Keep Safe
Happy New Year 2012