Thursday, 29 May 2014

A few final words from Matt

I thought I should maybe add a few final comments about the final few days of Dan's challenge. I know that at some point Dan will add his own thoughts so maybe, if you are still checking the blog, keep looking over the next few days.

In the far north, an empty, bleak yet beautiful landscape Dan finally brought the whole thing together and got it done. It was a privelege to be there, and be a part of the dramatic finale.

Monday saw Dan ticking off the long bike ride up to Inchnadamph in a super quick time, led out by Astrid and Lou. Helen took the opportunity to show Emma and Ruby the little church on the loch where Si and Dawn Stainer were married, and the sun came out!

Dan was well supported yet again as he set off up Conival and Ben More Assynt; Mark, Tom, Martin Bagness, Sue Wood and Sam Hesling, all were there to lighten his load and lead the way. By 1.30pm he'd trudged his way over the fells and found a mountain bike hidden at the north end of Loch Shin (thanks again to Lou and Astrid) to ease his way north east, back to the road. He then set off south east, on his road bike, again with Astrid and Lou to pace him. An awkward ride in the wrong direction was completed in super quick time, Helen, Aled and I only made it to the right layby in the nick of time, and at this point Dan decided to tick off Ben Klibreck. So Mark and Tom redonned their trainers and led Dan out on his penultimate Munro. 2 and a half hours later they were back.

Tuesday was something else. After a night camping outside the Crask Inn (surely the only pub in the United Kingdom on the AA road map - only marked because there's nothing else there!), the entire team, including 2 very sleepy children rose at 5am. Dan, Aled and Lou made short work of the bike ride north to Ben Hope, as Helen, Dick, Ben, Christeen and myself tried our best to get the girls ahead of their Dad. We were caught about a third of the way up by Dan, Aled, Lou, Mark, Astrid and Tom, and Mayzi of course.

And the rest is history. Dan summited at 8.22am - 42 days, 23 hours and 52 minutes after he set out. A stunning achievement. Champagne (thanks Bilbo) and Talisker (thanks Uncle David) were sipped and the group of us drank in the view. North, south, east, west; a stunning day, a rarity over the last few weeks.

The rest of Tuesday was a blur. Many thanks to Mike and wife (sorry!!!) of the Crask Inn, and those staying there at the time for your hospitality (between 11am and about 8pm) and your patience and tolerance thereafter, there was much to celebrate.

And now everyone is home. I'll leave Dan to do the thankyous, but I'd just like to thank Helen and him, for dragging so many of us into something very special, something that isn't trumpeted about by the mainstream media (except Radio Cumbria and the Wezzy Gezzy that is), and something that by many is considered foolish or mad. It has been a delight to keep pace with Dan's experiences, adventures and achievements and in particular to be there at the end in a very special, remote place, far from the stresses of daily life.

Wednesday, 28 May 2014

Radio Interview

Share the news...Dan on BBC radio Cumbria for interview at 5.15pm today (Wednesday). Sorry for late notice. Rach

Tuesday, 27 May 2014

Confirmation - Mission Complete!

Rachel again...just had the confirmation phone call from the summit of Ben Hope, reached at 8.22am. Big Cheer!!!!!  Champagne and Whiskey in glasses (probably plastic) and a list of people (I asked them to cheer as proof). Dick, Aled, Mark and Lou Roberts, Tom and Astrid Gibbs, Ben Evans and Christeen Taylor, Mayzi the dog, the remarkably supportive wife Helen Duxbury, Emma Duxbury (7) and Ruby Duxbury (5) (didn't they do well to climb up there!), Matt Towe blogger extraordinaire and of course the main man, our man (aren't we proud) Mr Dan Duxbury. Mission Complete! Well done team. We look forward to newsy update from Matt or maybe Dan (about time we had an entry from that lazy so and so).

Looks like it's done!

Rachel here...Anyone else out there been watching that number 1 this morn will have cheered like me that it looks like the job is done. No official confirmation but looking good. Huge dot to dot complete and Ben Hope reached by that blue line before 8.30am. All those left at home like me, relieved to have the blog and tracker to keep us a part of this fab adventure can raise our orange juice glasses over breakfast this morn. Well done Lord Munro and your team of merry (exhausted) followers. We await the official update and blog entry to feel complete.

Monday, 26 May 2014

Final Sprint

No wifi for team Munro, so apologies but you have me tonight (Rach). Will just be giving you the basics though as not much of a writer! Matt rang through an update so here goes...

Dan was super quick today and even tagged on Ben Klibreck finishing at 6.30pm. Tomorrow is an early and enthusiastic start at 6am, to cycle first and then master the final Munro, Ben Hope, between 8-8.30am and make the Munro 2014 complete in 42 days. So get up early you tracker follows to see the final sprint for the finish and get those Champagne glasses ready!!

Sunday, 25 May 2014

Oy oy!

Another successful day as Dan gets nearer and nearer to his goal, in fact, now so close, he can almost touch it. Rumour has it that he's feeling bold enough to agree a start time of 8am tomorrow, quite a contrast from today's 6am start. Maybe he's after a few pints in the Oykel Bridge hotel?

The weather was certainly not as forecast. Dan, with Tom, Astrid, Sue Wood and Andrew Wilby set off up Ben Wyvis at 6am into wind and rain. At 8.30am he made it back down to a midge infested car park to then cycle back up to the west end of Loch Glascarnoch with the ever reliable Aled to lead the way. 11 miles and 40 minutes later Dan was back to where he landed yesterday at 5.30pm.

The team that headed out north into the hills at 10am included Ross of the clan Bannerman, David Wilby and Martin Bagness. Martin's navigation skills were essential as the clag was well down on the tops. Dan was well supported and delivered safely, and in good time, to the top of Seana Bhraigh.

Both Mark and Lou Roberts were on hand at Strath Mulzie to see Dan home but unfortunately both managed to miss him. Astrid and Tom also appeared to shadow Dan's descent and offer some moral support. And the day is done, in good time. And we're all sat, drinking beer, eating food and starting to accept the possibility that on Tuesday Dan's Munro round will be done.

In the morning he has a 25 mile chug on his bike up to Inchnadamph, followed by 5hrs of hill walking to tick off Conival and Ben More Assynt. He ends the day with an awkward 33 mile dog leg bike ride up to Altnaharra.

The talk tonight is of finishing, how to finish, and what to do next. Are we tempting fate? Is it still a little too early for Dan to relax and imagine he's done it. Let's hope not. The boy (and everyone he knows) need a rest from all this.

Saturday, 24 May 2014

We got it done

It's a bit weird this evening. I'm sat in the back of the Altguish Inn, a few miles west of Ben Wyvis, the Champions League final is on the one screen in this roadside pub. Opposite me, framed by a few of the hills through the pub windows, Dan is holding court as he avidly organises the next day of this enormous challenge. I laughed earlier, as Dan said to me, 'Tomorrow's a big day'. Where have I heard that before? And that is the point, even with the end in sight, every day is still a big day. A really big day.

The Fannichs are ticked off. Jim Lowden, saw Dan round the group in good time and the got them done with Dan appearing at the west end of Loch Glascarnoch at about 5pm. An emotional moment. Helen and the girls have travelled up through the day, and Dan was over the moon to see them. Helen and I will the share the driving of the van over the final few days of the challenge.

A massive thank you to Sue and Phil Clark for their amazing support and dedication over the last 11 days or so. They've been with Dan every step of the way, enduring his robotic morning routine and horrific foot damage management practices. On the drive up Sue rang through with a suggested shopping list; air freshener took priority. In a final hurrah, Phil even made it up a Munro today, much to his delight.

A whole host of others are 'in town' to support the final push over the next few days; Dan's parents (Dorothy and Jim), Aled Butler, Tom and Astrid and Martin Bagness (Bilbo). A few more are scheduled to arrive tomorrow.

An early start tomorrow as Dan pushes there and back up Ben Wyvis. The plan is for Aled to take the brunt of the cycle ride back up to the west end of Loch Glascarnoch, followed by a tricky route north ticking of 6 more hills up to Oykel Bridge. A mountain bike drop will see Dan with a short ride north to finish. The weather today was kind on the whole, with a little cloud on some of the summits. It looks like more of the same tomorrow, with maybe a drop of rain. Nothing like the weather encountered previously. But you know what they say, 'it ain't over 'til the fat lady sings' and she's not even here yet!

Friday, 23 May 2014

Wine???

I'm sorry to say, but Dan is clearly winding down. I don't know if it's the influence of the temptress Sue Clark but tonight he is celebrating a big day with a glass of vino. In fact he was on his second. The whole thing is starting to sound like a bit of a holiday. Ok, fair enough, he's tramped his way across 30 miles of wilderness and summited another big bunch of Munros on the way (8 in all - see yesterday's blog for the names) but I hope he doesn't take his foot off the gas. He even had the audacity to suggest that tomorrow is 'steady', only 11 hours at best. I don't know if Jim Louden will de disappointed or relieved.

Mind you, he did today in 14 after predicting 15 or 16. The weather was windy, wet and claggy but Alec Keith did a great job with Andy Cox, using his navigation skills and local knowledge to get Dan round all in one piece and in an impressive time.

As mentioned Dan is joined by Jim on the hill tomorrow, and by evening the north of Scotland will be filling up with friends and family intent on sharing the last few days of Dan's adventure. You can share in this by listening to BBC Radio Cumbria on Tuesday morning, there may even be a live interview at about 7.45am with the man himself. You can read about his adventure in Cumbria Life this month too. Oh, the fame!

A big thank you to James Thurlow for sorting out the tracker. Hopefully we'll replace the straight line from Kintail to Torridon with a more accurate line. Thanks also to Graham Patten and Chris Upson for looking into this.

And finally (again) a big thank you to all of you who answered Helen's plea and pledged some money to Dan's chosen causes. It looks like he might reach his fundraising targets as well as completing the challenge.

Thursday, 22 May 2014

Not such a torrid time

Firstly, apologies for stating that Dan would be heading up Ben Wyvis on Wednesday - madness. I've corrected the blog! Secondly, apologies, if like me, you were ready for the tracker to burst into life today on your screens. A replacement is now in Dan's possession but it has spent the day being recharged. Brace yourself, as tomorrow it will burst into life, and you will be able to monitor Dan as he completes one of the biggest days of the trip yet. More of that in a minute.

I spoke to Dan at 7pm, and unusually he'd just awoken from an afternoon nap. Yesterday went well, thanks to the support of Chris Upson on the hill and the rest of the crew working away behind the scenes. Today went even better, Andy Cox, amongst others, has answered the call and spent nine hours with Dan today ticking off the 6 big Munros that lie to the north of Upper Loch Torridan. A predicted finish time of 7pm got eroded down to 3.20pm. Not a bad day's work and maybe as a result of Sue's sandwiches (the best of all those made on the trip so far apparently - if you've been responsible for Dan's sandwiches on the trip at any point in the last 5 weeks please don't take offence, this is not a complaint).

So after the plea put out a few days ago, one or two faces have volunteered their support to Dan's efforts over the next few days. Tomorrow, as well as having Andy Cox on hand, Dan will be joined by Scottish fell running legend, Alec Keith, and Rob Beaumont for the day's efforts. This is a really good thing, as tomorrow is a monster. I know I've said this a few times, but anyone who knows this part of the world will understand what I'm talking about if they look at the schedule.

The boys will set out early to tackle Slioch ('a big old lump'), and then head 7 miles further north into the wilds to visit the Fisherfield 5. Way beyond them sit the two Munros of An Teallach, and hopefully, before dark, the team will drop down to Dundonnell.

Once done, if done (the forecast is grim), this achievement will very much herald the beginning of the end. There's still a few big days, but things are looking good for a finish on Ben Hope toward the middle of next week. Should I put the champagne on ice? (Not just yet Matt, steady on old boy!)

Cheeky Plea

Dan is now in his last week of this mad, crazy challenge and I'll be heading off with our girls up to meet him on Saturday.  Hopefully we'll see him through the last few days to complete the round on Tuesday.  Before I go up there I just want to make a request to all of you reading this.  It will be amazing to see Dan complete his challenge next week, but it would also be amazing to see the amount Dan has been able to make for his chosen charities creep up too - this is the bit you can help with. Please consider making a donation to one of Dan's chosen charities.  It will mean a lot to him.

The John Muir Trust is dedicated to protecting wild places.  They own and care for some of the UK's finest wild landscapes including Ben Nevis, Schiehallion, Sandwood Bay, Schiehallion, Sandwood Bay, part of the Cuillin Ridge on Sky and 3,000 acres on the remote Knoydart peninsular.

Cumbria Wildlife Trust is the only voluntary organisation dedicated to protecting the wildplaces and wildlife of our beloved home county.  They own and care for 43 nature reserves in Cumbria which include flower-rich meadows, extensive peatlands, wild coastal landscapes, semi-ancient woodlands, and limestone pavements. Cumbria has the greatest diversity of semi-natural habitat of any county in England and Cumbria Wildlife Trust works hard to protect it.

Please sponsor Dan if you can.  He gets a text message telling him of every donation made, which really spurs him on.  I also know that both charities appreciate every gift, large or small, and to Dan it would mean a great deal that his efforts on the mountains are matched by our collective efforts to make this journey as worthwhile for the charities, as it has been for him. 

If you have already given, you are amazing - THANK YOU.

Dan would never make this ask by the way, which is why I'm making it for him!

We are hoping the tracker will be up and running again tomorrow, so keep following.





Cheesecake with extra toppings

More photos

Just had 5 days scurrying around from Kintail to Torridon trying to keep up with the unstoppable Duxbury machine.

Biblical rain greeted us at Shiel Bridge on Saturday evening, as Dan, Simon and Chris were battling their way over the 12 Munros from Cluanie to Five Sisters. This unremitting deluge was the kiss of the death to the much-loved tracker. Water ingress put the light out on the tracker, but Dan was still fully charged. Sue and Phil were looking pretty tired and frazzled at the van on Shiel Bridge campground. Ellie, Benjamin and I took refuge at the Kintail Lodge Hotel for one night of comfort.

5am Sunday morning, I jogged the 6km up a sodden water-logged track from Morvich to Glenlicht bothy to find Dan, Chris Lumb and Simon Stainer gathering themselves for another battering on the hill in wind, rain, low cloud.  After a quick update on where Dan wanted the tent that evening, I jogged back out, had breakfast at Kintail Lodge, then drove in pouring rain back through Glen Shiel to Inverness for new wellies for Benjamin, before hitting the Cannich Campsite to rejoin Sue & Phil.  We packed overnight camp kit for Dan, I then headed up Glen Affric, and hiked in 8km to pitch the tent below Carn Eighe.

Monday morning we headed into the stunningly beautiful Glen Strathfarrar, and hung around in peace and tranquility waiting for our steely gazed hero to appear. After seeking him here, and seeking him there, Benjamin was delighted to finally meet Dan - "the man who climbs snowy mountains".

Now it was my turn to climb some hills. As Dan put it, the pacers start out bouncy on Day 1, are broken on Day 2, and ready to go home on Day 3.

So, I was feeling bouncy enough on Day 1, with an easy section over the 4 Strathfarrar Munros. As Graham mentioned in his Patten's Patter, all the Scottish hills have made up Gaelic names that nobody is likely to remember, so you have to call them things like "Stathfarrar 4" or "Fisherfield 5".  After an easy saunter over the 4, we arrived at the tents near Loch Monar, lovingly pitched by Phil and John. (Getting the tents back was a whole different story, given that the Strathfarrar gate is locked on Tuesday's, and the road is 16 miles)

Looking north from the Strathfarrar Munros (Carn nan Gobhar)

Tuesday, my Day 2, would be a whole different story.  We were away by 4.55am, and the pace was relentless from the word go.

Sunrise over Strathfarrar

Dan at the summit of Carn nan Gobhar, the first of today's 10 Munros

Dan romping across the Mullardoch Four 

The four Mullardoch Munros were ticked off before 9am, followed by a long crossing to Lurg Mhor.

The long crossing to Lurg Mhor

We reached the summit of Bidean a' Choire Sheasgaich (pron. Cheesecake) in time for a chat with Ian and friend, for Munro no.6. I was still feeling OK at this point, but there was quite a roller-coaster to come.

Summit of Bidean a' Choire Sheasgaich (aka Cheesecake)

The view from Bidean a' Choire Sheasgaich. Just 4 hills to go.

A fiddly route around Corbett Beinn Tarsuinn, then 3 more Munros, with a short sharp hailstorm on Maoile Lunndaidh. Then the real sting in the tail. A full-blown descent and re-ascent to Moruisg with nothing left in the tank. Dan stormed away from me up the stalkers' path zig-zags. A tiny red speck in the distance. I eventually found him at the summit cairn frantically making phone calls to sort the next few days. An overnight camp had originally been planned before Moruisg, so this was the first day of the trip where Dan bagged an extra top compared with his schedule.

We could see the van and car in Glen Carron as soon as we started descending, and it was a relief to finish after nearly 15 hours, with just over 4500m ascent, and around 30 miles (my Garmin packed in long before the end).

As predicted, Day 3, I was ready to go home. We awoke in Glen Carron to dismal torrential rain and low cloud, but Dan was soon on his bike and battling the spray on the A890 up to Achnasheen.

Sodden weather in Glen Carron
Bike ride up to Achnasheen for Fionn Bheinn
Heading up Fionn Bheinn - see the clean new Mudclaws
Shoe change after Fionn Bheinn and straight back on the bike

We plodded up Fionn Bheinn in squelchy sodden conditions. Then back on the bike, a quick bite to eat at the van, and another cycle to Achnashellach.  Alan Dawson and Chris Watson just happened to be waiting for us for a quick chat whilst Dan changed his shoes, and we headed off into the driech sodden wilderness en route to Torridon.

The going was pretty fast up into Coir Lair on a good stalkers path, before we broke off for a steep climb to Beinn Liath Mhor. We took a good line to Sgorr Ruadh in the mist, and enjoyed Sue's excellent sandwiches to get us up the final 200 metres.

The crossing to Maol Chean-dearg was a monster 750m drop, a wade across a deep fast flowing river, then a monster 750m climb, thankfully most of the way up a good stalkers' path.

We fiddled around trying to find a decent way down, before biting the bullet and thrashing down a nasty shattered-quartzite boulder slope to pick up the stalkers path all the way to Torridon, to reach the road in just over 6½ hours.

Some panic and exhaustion set in when we realised there was no car at the road, and neither of us had a mobile phone. To increase the chance of finding Phil, we split up - Dan walking north and me heading south towards the Torridon Hotel.  Luckily Phil soon appeared, and Dan had already jumped straight on the bike for the cycle to the foot of Beinn Alligin. In Dan's haste, he hadn't bothered changing shoes, so I've no idea how he managed to cycle up the killer zig-zags towards Inveralligin with wet Inov-8s on Look pedals.

A quick change, and we were all seated in the Kinlochewe Hotel for a fine meal and beers.

My work was done, but Dan has it all to do again tomorrow!

Tuesday, 20 May 2014

Back in the room

After a few days of radio silence, Dan and I have had an evening of sporadic updates and conversation, beginning as he summited Moruisg at about 7pm this evening. He's doing good, aware there's still much to do and that a belt of bad weather could still interfere with the success of his mission. Earlier in the week he'd got excited at the prospect of finishing, but that foolishness has since passed. He's obviously a little touched by everything he's endured, he shared the names of his favourite Munros with me tonight - Loony Bin and Cheescake.

Today he's climbed 10 Munros in 14 hours, starting at 5am, covering about 30 miles, with approximately 15,000 ft of ascent along the way. The weather has been reasonably settled, just starting to clag in as him and Chris Upson finished a brutal day, descending to the van. The plan was to camp tonight in the hills, but the longer day rewards Dan with a chance to shower, and give his shredded feet some much needed attention. I bet the crew in the van will be delighted to witness that spectacle.

It's worth mentioning the fun John and Phil had this morning when cycling up the locked estate road to collect Dan and Chris' camping kit. John's bike punctures, and punctures again after repair at about 8 miles in. This left Phil the rather uninspiring task of cycling the 35 miles alone to collect 2 full packs of camping kit. Phil is hurting tonight too.

Dan was keen to recollect a few key moments of the past few days. Skye was a dark time from the minute Aled and him crossed onto the island. Dark skies and lashing rain. The night alone in the bothy caused Dan, as unsuperstitious as Richard Dawkins, moments of irrational panic, with him admitting that at times, he struggled to stay calm, alone in the darkness. Cuillin was epic, and people know that Dan really appreciates everyone's help but Matt Reedy was the difference that day. Without Matt, Dan would probably still be up there now. Day 2 on Skye was also difficult. Simon and Chris had shared the moment when Dan slithered up a broken, craggy slab into the mist, in a howling damp wind, to summit Blabhein. He admits, he used up one of his nine lives in that moment. The boys would have been mad to follow him. On reflection Skye was awful, but also a special part of the trip, a defining experience

Tomorrow is a steadier day. Dan heads north east on his bike to then climb Fionn Bheinn, then heads back west, again on his bike, and begins his traverse of the Torridon hills, ticking off the south-west 3 in the afternoon. We are working on the tracker as I know many of you are now sat at work, twiddling your thumbs, wondering how you filled your time before Dan set out on this great adventure. I'll let you know as soon as it is back online.

A final thought. I've just managed to update Dan's pin map which kindly illuminates the 38 hills left to climb and in doing so I got a real taste of just how epic this challenge is. If you want, in some way, to experience the pain and hardship, the sheer physical endurance needed to somehow empathise with Dan and feel what it is like to do something very hard, both mentally and physically challenging and not give up, follow these simple instructions; choose 30 Munros at random and write each one of their names correctly. I've just had to do it, not learn them, just write them! And it's epic! My hand is killing me.

Monday, 19 May 2014

Locked down

Dan's had a short day today, maybe only 12 hours on the hill and in that time he's mopped up 6 Munros to the south of Loch Monar. A reasonable day weather wise, and by all accounts an amazing camp site at the reservoir head. Phil, Sue and John were able to drive part way up Glen Strathfarrar with plenty of supplies to make sure that Dan and Chris Upson have a comfortable night.

Unfortunately, as a consequence of Dan's idleness, falling behind schedule and all that, tomorrow the private road the support crew used is locked to vehicles. So in the morning Phil and Jon face a 35 mile bike ride back up the Glen to collect all the kit.

Tomorrow Dan faces another massive day.10 Munros spread over 30 miles, as he now plans to avoid another camp and journey all the way to the A890 for a night in the van. Apparently the weather is set to be fair, and Dan by all accounts is going strong. Good news all round.

Help!!!

It seems that Dan needs a little bit of additional support for Thursday. Is there anyone out there able to help? If so, please get in touch with Sue and Phil Clark or let Helen know through the Munro email address danmunro2014 at g mail dot com (obviously in the usual email formatting - trying to fox those trolls).

Sunday

Simon's face says it all. Another future destroyed by the mountain automaton Duxbury.


A big thank you to Chris Lumb for the photos.

Legend

When Phil and Dan met Hamish in the Cluane Inn. Hamish Brown completed the first Munro round back in 1974, the year of Dan's birth. Time for a party?

I think Dan is actually signing his autograph in a book that Hamish keeps to remind himself of every one he's beaten. Please, I'm only being silly. No offence meant.



Saturday

Dan below Am Basteir
About to climb Am Besteir
Oooooh rough, wild like the mountains!
Below Sgurr nan Conbhairean
Yes, it's definitely this way!
Mullach Fraoche-Choire
Ridge run to Mullach Fraoch-Choire
He's behind you!
Sgurr nan Cobhairean
Through the eye of the needle - Sgurr nan Gillean 
Top of the chimney on Sgurr nan Gillean
Traversing below Am Basteir
'I am what I am!'
Loch Sligachan
Just imagine if this was a scratch and sniff blog!
Moonrise over Cuillin


 

Sunday, 18 May 2014

More news from the north

Si Stainer has been in touch as him and Chris Lumb head south to the comfort of home and work with a bit of news about the last few days.

As you know these two joined Dan on Friday's jaunt over the fells. The day started well as they ticked off the last 3 peaks of Cuillin but the weather started to deteriorate as they romped towards Blabheinn. So much so that when Dan proposed a crazy scramble in strong wind up to the summit they left him to it and met him on the path at the other side. They did benefit from a tailwind as they rode east back onto the mainland which made the cycle a little easier.Saturday was a big day, with 12 Munros ticked in 12 hours. Again the day started with decent weather but by 1pm the wind and rain picked up. By 4pm things got really miserable and wet. That is possibly why the tracker has given up, too much water in the workings?

Despite a few missing slates the bothy afforded a reasonable nights sleep, with food (carried in by John Dunbabbin - who has apparently been a great help logistically over the last few days, so big thanks to him - buy him a pint if you know him!) and a decent fire. The rain lashed down through the night (and the roof) and by this morning the rivers were roaring. Fortunately as well as a bothy someone had built a bridge - very thoughtful. Not just for Dan you understand.

Today Si and Chris stuck with Dan for the first 5 hills. On the ridge they met a fella out for a walk, who asked, 'Are you Dan?'. He'd been following the blog and hoped to bump into him. Not many folk out there I suppose. In the pub the other night he also met Hamish Brown, the first person ever to complete a Munro round. As you can imagine Dan got very excited. He'll be even more excited when he finds out Hugh Symonds has also made a comment on the blog. Thanks to Hugh and Pauline.

Dan has presumably completed the 3 more he planned to do and is now snuggled up in the planned camp (again in a tent carried in by John). Over the next few days camping is a necessity as he journeys into even more inaccessible parts of the countryside to track down those hills. He's going strong according to Simon, and after these hills are ticked off it seems he might be on the home leg. No more camping, fewer hills (still big days).

Chris Upson is with Dan over the next few days, so don't be surprised if the schedule and pin chart don't get updated. As soon as I hear/as soon as I can I will update his position and progress here. In particular for folk who are hoping to meet up with him. I am in contact with Sue and Phil Clark in the motorhome. Again, definitely worth mentioing those two again as they are doing an amazing job of supporting his Lordship's every need.

And finally, can I categorically confirm that Dan definitely made it to the summit of Ben Avon. The tracker stops short of the summit because, as explained in previous blogs, Dan dumped his pack to lighten his load as he ran to the summit and came back the same way. The tracker was in the pack. We have witnesses to this event and even photographs.

My apologies

No update since Thursday evening and I'm very sorry. However, the good news is that Dan's made it safely back from Skye after completing Cuillin in 2 chunks.  The first section in abysmal weather which made the route even more dangerous than it usually is. The second on Friday morning followed by a slog over Blabheinn and the tortuous bike ride back onto the mainland with Simon this time taking the lead. Dan wanted to thank Aled in particular for leading out on the bikes when he headed over to Skye last Wednesday. Apparently the weather was hellish.

He phoned this morning to explain that for the next few days he's certainly going to be out of range and any updates will leak out of Scotland via the support team, picking up reception when and where they can. The tracker has also stopped, either from lack of juice or again the issue of not being able to communicate. Probably the former as for the next 3 nights Dan is camping out in the wilds without the facility to recharge it. Like I say, I'm sure we'll get info one way or the other.

Thanks to Chris Upson who emailed yesterday to confirm that Dan did in fact tick off the 12 Munros to the north of Glen Shiel and was spending the night in the Glenlicht bothy. Today he plans to summit 8 more hills on the north side of Glen Affric and then camp above Loch Uaine, below Carn Eighe - it looks like a fantastic place.

So Dan is counting down the Munros, the days, the miles, the hours until he's done. He suggested that once these few big days are done the finishing line will be in sight. I still look at that pin map in astonishment, all the blue, but still a lot of red, and each one of those another trudge in the mist and rain that is currently shrouding north west Scotland. Here in Kendal we're blessed with good weather; yesterday evening Phil and Sue sat in the van as the rain poured down. Can the weather Gods not give the lad a break or is it all part of the test, another layer to endure, just to make completion all the more sweet?

Thursday, 15 May 2014

Fresh meat

What a day!

Dan spent last night in the spookiest bothy in all Scotland - think Saw, think the Shining, think Blair Witch Project, but superimpose the deep stench of over cooked haggis. And he was alone. The night played tricks with his mind and before he knew it he was up, and awake, and romping west into the Cuillin hills.

Despite atrocious weather and impossibly named impassable peaks, Dan and Matt Reedy ticked off 8 of the Munros in that treacherous horseshoe. A descent before the day was done was inevitable.

Tonight fresh meat has arrived, lambs to the slaughter, innocents to be slammed against the walls of granite stealth. But they bring a fresh optimism and enthusiasm for the days ahead. Tomorrow Dan, with Si and Chris, will have to tick off the 3 missing peaks, and Blabbhein, and head east to Glen Shiel. A day is lost but the adventure is unrelenting.

Patten's patter

An insight into the life of a Munro bagged at first hand...

A Week on Dan's Munro Round, 6th - 14th May 2014

I'm sitting in a doctor's surgery waiting for my appointment. I can't walk properly anymore. Most of my toes are battered and bruised, the nails blackened, and my left big toe is horribly swollen and inflamed with infection.

Let me explain.

I've been up in Scotland for a week, helping my friend Dan achieve a life long ambition to complete a continuous Munro round climbing all 282 of them. For the uninitiated, Munros are all the mountains in Scotland over 3000ft, and the idea is that you do it all under your own steam : running and walking in the mountains, cycling or kayaking between them.

The proposition initially sounded quite simple – just come along to keep Dan company, maybe carry some extra gear for him, going nice and slow for a few hours each day, no worries...

The reality was a little different.

Dan Duxbury is a likeable primary school teacher from Kendal, renowned for his good humour and general bonhomie. Unfortunately for all his friends and family, 20 years ago, Dan read “Running High”, by Hugh Symonds. Hugh was an outdoor fitness fanatic who taught at a posh public school in Sedbergh and decided to take time off work for a personal challenge to complete all the Scottish Munros under his own steam. The momentum of his efforts, along with, I guess, a strong desire not to return back to work, made him extend the trip to Wales and then Ireland.

Dan read the book and wanted to follow in his footsteps.

There's nothing like a deadline to get a job done, and I guess Dan turning 40 this year has had the desired effect. A plan was made. A plea was made. The school governors met in secret in the Rifleman's pub in Kendal and after 7 pints agreed to let Dan take some unpaid leave to see if he could emulate Hugh.

It's not as though he'd be needed for an Offsted inspection or anything ...

So Dan set off on 14th April 2014, determined to stick to Stephen Pike, “Spike's” record schedule, mainly because it was easier to follow Spike's than to create a new schedule of his own. Spike completed his continuous Munro round in 2010 in 39 days, and Dan re-worked the schedule to his own requirements, making his own record attempt of 38 days.

Remarkably, Dan kept on Spike's schedule for the first 14 days until an unlucky twisted ankle forced him to take a day off. Instead of just enjoying a few weeks of freedom from work, he got the ankle strapped up, paid a visit to a pharmacy, and got stuck in.

I joined the team a week ago, as a weak excuse to get away from the responsibilities of having a young family and running a business, and to “enjoy” a week in the mountains of Bonnie Scotland with some good friends.

I travelled up to Scotland with Fred – aka Jon Deegan, a specialist optometrist who works three days a week preying on the rich, old and vulnerable who have come to the Lake District to live out their twilight years. The rest of the week he's out running in the hills or cycling on the lanes, skiing in the winter – he only stops for food and drink. Fred is 47 years old, but could outrun someone 20 years younger. His cheekbones stand out like a challenge, as if to say, “come and have a go if you think you're hard enough”.

Time keeping isn't one of Fred's strong points though, and we eventually set off from Kendal 3 or 4 hours later than planned. We called Ben at mission control with our new ETA. After a short detour to one of Fred's favourite Highland pubs for haggis, neeps, tatties, and a pint to quench our thirst, we finally joined Dan and the team an hour later than expected. We pitched the small two man tent in the pouring rain, crawled into our sleeping bags, and got rudely awoken only hours later at 3am by a cacophony of bird song.

We'd been assured by Dan that the first day was an “easy” day, with a late start, so we didn't need to get up until 6am and could have a lie in. By 7am we were on our way in Fred's car to our rendezvous point near Loch Laggan a few miles up the road. Dan would be cycling there – into the wind, into the rain. We'd been loaded up with all the food for the day, Dan's gear, ice axes, poles etc and headed off in good spirits into the heavy grey clouds where the hills must be. It even stopped raining briefly so we could get our bearings and admire the rainbows. Dan quickly caught us up – this time he was on a mountain bike, having exchanged the road bike at the rendezvous point. He rode as far as he could along the rough track, before discarding the bike. It would be picked up later by Ben & Christeen during a romantic walk in the rain.

So the three of us climbed into the clouds, following the compass bearing to the summit of Creag Pitridh, the first of the seven Munros on today's schedule. Most of the Munros have stupid, made up, Scottish names, a jumbled mix of vowels and consonants that no one can pronounce or even remember afterwards. This adds to the charm of the whole enterprise of Munro bagging, as you can only talk about them in sweeping, generalised terms. These next two days would in future be referred to as the Ben Alder Munros – it makes it sound easy, as though you've only been up one mountain, when in fact the real tally is fourteen.

On the penultimate snow capped summit, we were greeted by the distinctive lone figure of Mark Roberts, appearing like a Ghost runner out of the clouds. Mark had cycled more than 10 miles on a mountain bike, with Sam, to our overnight accommodation, both weighed down with more food, extra clothing and camping gear. Now he'd run up today's final two Munros to guide us safely back down the dangerously steep, narrow snow slope – the only way off the mountain.

When we reached the valley floor eight and a half hours after setting off, the bothy was closed, contaminated with asbestos. “Do not enter, serious health risk” said the signs. But it was raining hard, we were wet through and cold, the bothy was understandably empty and we would have it all to ourselves. It also had a wood burner with three damp pieces of wood and five soggy pieces of peat. The main selling point though was the door was unlocked, so we threw caution to the wind and made it our home for the night.

We got a miserable, smouldering fire going eventually. It didn't give off any heat, but the dense smoke masked the asbestos dust. We kidded ourselves that this was better than camping. We huddled around a “pocket rocket” gas stove boiling water to rehydrate dinner. To cook, you simply pour the boiling water into a bag of toxic looking dust, leave for 5 or 6 minutes, until the mess has turned into a sludge, then eat it all up trying to guess what the hell it is. It's survival food really, and Dan has been eating this filth since he started. He even had his favourite brand. Sad but true.

It's worth looking on at the scene inside, from the fly on the wall perspective. Not that there were any flies in this particular bothy anymore -  they'd all died long ago from asbestosis. This imaginary fly can see four grown men, grey stubble on the chins of three, and a silver beard on the chin of Dan, their “master”, all sitting close together in semi darkness, in thick smoke, wearing plastic shopping bags on their feet, stinking of stale goat, and steaming gently, telling stories and laughing. They are ENJOYING themselves! Their wives and children are all watching telly back home in the comfort of their warm living rooms, yet this quartet seem to PREFER the bothy after eight and a half hours of running over seven huge mountains in the rain.

We were woken abruptly early the next morning. The hammering rain on the roof of the bothy suddenly stopped, and an eerie silence shattered our slumber, making us all wake with a start, as if still in a dream. It really had stopped raining though, we could quite clearly hear Fred attending to a call of nature outside, against the back wall of the bothy.

Breakfast was more dehydrated filth, this time the sludge had a porridge like consistency, and it was some relief to find all the dried food had been consumed and we could get outside, get moving, and warm up again. The clock was ticking and it would soon be 6.30am. Dan assured us we were in for another easy day and we spent the first hour dreaming about having a good strong coffee in Fort William later that afternoon, after knocking off the seven Munros on today's list. The only one anyone can remember, is also the biggest of the lot, Ben Alder.

We left Mark behind to tidy everything up. There was no point in all four of us being exposed unnecessarily to the dangerous asbestos dust, and Mark was the oldest. He'd had a good life so far, and it would probably end soon anyway on the ten mile mountain bike ride back to his van parked at Dalwhinnie, weighed down by an impossibly heavy rucksac of wet, used running and camping gear, including Fred's four season sleeping bag.

With the weather looking good, the views were truly spectacular. Yet this also made things a shade harder for us, as today we could actually see where we were going. The mountains on our list looked enormous, and the distances between them appeared impossible.

You can tell the Scottish prefer a wee dram inside a warm pub to hill walking, as there are very few signs of the eroded paths we take for granted in the Lake District. This means you're pretty much on your own in the mountains and you have to find your own routes. Underfoot conditions varied from thigh deep peat bog to ankle deep peat bog, with some rock and snow near the summits. This meant you were literally wading through wet, cold, black bog all day long. It was a relief to cross the streams and rivers to briefly wash it all off before starting the process all over again. With no paths to follow, we simply took straight vertical lines up and down the Munros, and straight lines between them.

After seven hours, we were still some way off finishing, and still had three Munros to climb. We had a food amnesty and pooled our remaining meagre resources to divide up the final calories for the day. In an asbestosis fuelled fit of enthusiasm, Mark had suggested catching up with us for the final few Munros. Providing, of course, he'd survived the weighed down mountain bike ride back to his van. We knew he was out there somewhere too, because we'd passed his “spoor” some time ago - footprints of his size 4 ½ Mudclaws heading off in the opposite direction. Despite the good weather and good visibility, he'd not seen us.

We'd been banking on Mark to bring us much needed extra food, and we chatted amongst the three of us about how selfish some of these elite international athlete types can be. Going off on their own on long training runs when they really should be helping Dan.

After ten hours, there were still two Munros left and we were half way up a vertical incline when the silhouette of a stag appeared on the distant horizon behind us. We were hallucinating slightly as the stag was a small one and only had two legs with no antlers and seemed to be shouting. It was Mark. We were saved. There was still a long way of vertical ascent to go before we would meet in the middle of the col, and we guessed what goodies he may have brought for us. Fresh doughnuts with jam inside, dusted with sugar? Three mini pork pies each and a family sized packet of smoky bacon flavoured crisps to share between us? Sandwiches of avocado, bacon and mixed salad leaves with a light balsamic dressing on thick wholemeal bread plastered with REAL butter?

When we finally met with our saviour, we wolfed down the packet of Jaffa cakes on offer, and headed for the summit. Having saved us from starvation, Mark then jogged off on another long training run on his own and left us to get on with the day's final Munro – Stob Coire Sgriodain. That really is what it's called by the way, I'm not just making it up.

By the time cars and vans had been picked up from various rendezvous points, kit sorted, a quick meal wolfed down, it had gone dark, was well after 11pm and it had started raining again. Fred set off on the long drive back to Kendal throughout the night so he could be in time for his daughter's 10th birthday, arriving home around 4.30am.

Another restless night in a wet tent with damp sleeping bag and the improbable 3am dawn chorus, then into yesterday's wet and smelly gear, then off again at 6.30am with Dan and Mark for a long, long day ticking off the 10 Munros of the Grey Corries – Ben Nevis being the only one of the group that can be remembered, and that beast was the final one of the day. I dropped off Aonach Mor to hitch back to get Mark's van, but that's another story. As was the next day, with the 10 Munros of the Mamores.

So that covers the first few days and the week keeps going and going with the days on the hill getting longer and longer culminating in a mammoth 15 ½ hour day and 8 Munros on Knoydart. I could write a whole book about that experience.

The combination of trench foot conditions for 12-15 hours a day, kicking snow steps with Mudclaws, little sleep and poor hygiene finally reduced me to the damaged state I'm now in. Almost everyone coming back from Scotland is in a similar situation – broken and humbled by the sheer scale of this daily challenge.

Yet remarkably, one bearded, determined, strong, young man keeps going relentlessly and shows no signs of stopping. Despite the pain from his ankle, despite the impossible, monumental task he has set for himself, despite the lack of sleep, despite missing his family, Dan continues to make incredible progress, setting off at dawn and finishing at dusk, day after day after day.

It's been an amazing week in so many ways, yet there is an image that stays with me, of Dan rhythmically climbing yet another almost vertical slope, not stopping for a breather until he's reached the summit, then jogging off in search of the next one on his list.

Dan, you are an inspiration – thank you for letting me play a small part in your amazing Munro round. I'm already looking forward to sharing a celebratory pint with you on your successful return.

You never know how strong you are until being strong is the only choice you've got”


Wednesday, 14 May 2014

Crux

Tomorrow is a key day in this massive challenge. You'll see that the schedule has changed slightly. After a long morning ticking off that cheeky outlier, Beinn Sgritheall, that sits virtually on the shores of Loch Hourn, Dan has had an epic bike ride onto Skye. Fortunately he had Aled for company as he battled west. As a result of finishing late Blabheinn has been left for Friday. Long, tough days with little sleep.

Currently Dan is trekking the relatively short distance into the Camasunary bothy, with Phil Clark as his packhorse, for a night alone in the wilds. Phil will return in the morning to collect Dan's kit (another legend doing his bit to support this adventure).

Talking of legends, how about this one; Matt Reedy finished a day at work today, but instead of going home to see Jane and Tess, maybe have a run, watch a bit of TV, relax, cook some food or fix a bike (how should I know how he spends his free time??????) he's set off north in his car. At some point, later tonight (when we're sleeping) he'll arrive in the hamlet of Bualintur and hopefully Aled will be around to meet him. Early tomorrow (really early) he'll head up the sountern most peak of the Cuillin Ridge to rendezvous with Dan and subsequently support him as he makes it safely around the 11 Munros and various other precipitous crags that form that iconic ridge. After that, it's a steep descent off Knight's Peak down to Sligachan for a well deserved and much need rest massive, tortuous drive home through the night to Kendal and another early start on Friday back at work. Can somebody please mint this boy a medal?

I should just thank Graham Patten and Aled Butler again on Dan's behalf. It's worth noting that these boys have not just spent their days sitting in the van waiting for a flash of that platinum quiff as it bobs into site across the tussocks. Behing the scenes there is so much to be done, moving vehicles, finding/cooking food, keeping in contact, washing clothes, mud wrestling (only messin'), and then, where possible, actually supporting Dan on the hill and the road. Aled told me tonight that much as he has enjoyed being involved, he'll be glad to step away from the stress of it all for a while, he's at breaking point!

Reinforcements in the form of Si Stainer, Chris Lumb and later over the weekend Chris Upson arrive. At some point it might be worth totting up everyone who's been involved over the weeks of this challenge, each one of them should be proud to have contributed to this amazing effort. And if you're not one of them, but you've enjoyed following the tracker and spotting the mistakes in this blog, and looking at amazing pictures of wild places, you can contribute too (is this a bit too Children In Need?), by donating to Dan's chosen causes.

Tuesday, 13 May 2014

Bang, bang, bang

89 to go. 7 in 3 hours. Bang, bang, bang. The stats are just piling up. Makes it sound so easy. Let's have a few more; 15 and a half hours to tick off Knoydart with Graham, roughly 5 to 6 hours of sleep a night, another punishing schedule tomorrow; 10 miles on the hill, 40 miles on the bike, another stint up Blabheinn on Skye, then a night in a bothy. Maybe I'll reassess the easiness!

Graham has headed home now, but he messages me with a few words about the day in Knoydart...

Knoydart yesterday successfully completed in 15 1/2 hrs. Me & Dan set off at 04.45am and knocked off the 8 Munros in generally very good weather conditions. The weather gods treated us to a storm of hailstones and strong wind on the final summit, and we reached Aled at the Barrisdale Bothy at 8.15pm. Dan now has only 99 Munros left and that was me cream crackered.

Dan’s off on his own today hoovering up the South Glen Shiels ridge in glorious sunshine.

Back home to Kendal tomorrow - a great week, truly inspirational, although it won’t inspire me to do it. I’m not tough enough!!


Beard?








Just spoke to Dan as he met up with Aled on the A87. He had planned to camp on the ridge but descended instead, a decision he is currently regretting. However, that is the way of it. The drop to the road cost him an hour and a half this evening and another 2 tomorrow, just to pick up the trail.

The last summit of the day, Creag nan Damh, offered him a Birdseye view of his achievement to date, the hills to the south spread out and drenched in evening sunshine, and the challenge to come, looking north and west to the 89 Munros that remain. But there is still no let up in the challenge that every day presents.

Phil and Sue have arrived to look after Dan for the next few weeks, up until the school half term break. Matt Reedy will appear tomorrow, and if Cuillin looks tricky for Thursday, John Fleetwood is a plan B for an attempt on Friday.

Here's a link to a great big of blogging, including photos that cover the few days around Dan's sumit of Ben Avon.

http://www.walkhighlands.co.uk/Forum/viewtopic.php?f=9&t=41847



Monday, 12 May 2014

Gravity (in the dark)

I don't know if you've seen the film Gravity (or been into space yourself) but there's an amazing bit in the film when the astronauts lose contact with mission control for a period of time. This is possibly due to being on the wrong side of the earth or something. Regardless of the silence the astronauts talk away as if someone is listening, as a record of events, and maybe as a means to stay focused. So that's what I'm doing. Yes, it's all gone quiet. Dan said it would.

But he's out there somewhere in the wilderness, not quite outer space, but somewhere pretty remote. And he's not alone.  I assume Dan finished today, I assume the tracker ran out of juice. I assume we'll see that reassuring little No 1 flag pop up somewhere near Kinloch Hourn in the morning. I bet you can't wait?

The great news is that after yesterday's plea it seems we have some decent support for Dan on Cuillin.  Matt Reedy has made himself available for Thursday if Dan is on schedule (Matt and Jane Reedy were with Dan and Bilbo last time he did the ridge - it was Matt's birthday treat!). If necessary John Fleetwood might be able to make it north on Friday to Skye if Dan is running behind. Either way we know he'll be well looked after.

Tomorrow Sue and Phil Clark head north to take over as support crew in the motorhome. I'm assuming Aled is heading home and maybe Graham at some point soon. This is especially poignant as the Clarks were part of the team that supported Hugh some years ago now when he completed the trip. They even got their names in his book. In many ways that's the whole reason I'm busy writing this blog, to guarantee a name check, and even a payment for author's rights when they want to use sections of my eloquent prose to replace Dan's own incoherent ramblings. We'll see.

Simon Stainer and Chris Lumb head north on Thursday as well, let's hope they can find him. Houston, over and out.

Sunday, 11 May 2014

Into the Wild (and a plea!)

Dan phoned at around 2pm today in the midst of a bike ride up the north side of the Great Glen to Clunes. As you'll see he's set off up the last 2 hills of the day, which when complete, will result in another cycle ride up to Kinloch Hourn.

Tomorrow he sets out into the wilderness of Knoydart (I hope he doesn't find an abandoned bus to live in). It will be a super long day with tough terrain and little respite, and certainly no option in terms of cutting the day short if things are going well. He plans to set off at 5am to give him a good chance of getting everything done with a little time to rest in the evening. As posted yesterday all the days are big for a while!

A really serious day is Thursday (or maybe Friday) when he faces the Cuillin Ridge on Skye. At the moment he's in need of someone who can support him on the route. Many of you will know that Dan has done the Cuillin Ridge before, I think with Martin Bagness (Bilbo). He is a competent climber so it won't be a case of 'holding his hand' over the crags but he will need a rope on some sections to stay safe. If anyone can help around that time, or knows of someone else who would enjoy being involved, please can you get in touch with one of us. Even a post here would be great to set the ball rolling...

The shoe situation looks to be sorted (thanks Phil). Graham has sent over a few photos of yesterday and this morning for your enjoyment. See below.




Crikey, the campsite had a pool!

Take heed...




Saturday, 10 May 2014

Mammores are just a memory

Another long day done - it took Dan and Mark Roberts (with Graham Patten until lunchtime) about 11 hours to summit the 11 hills. At the end of a day of mixed weather the sun broke through the cloud to give the boys a real sense of achievement. As I write Mark Roberts is driving home to Kendal after completing 28 Munros in 3 days (!), and Dan accompanied by Aled Butler is cycling north to Glenfinnan.

Graham is motoring to meet them in the van and then today will be done. Food. (A pint?). Bed. And the Great Glen is crossed, a north/south divide, you might say, has been breached, another benchmark complete in this awesome challenge.

Tomorrow is a mixed day with only 5 hills but a significant amount of cycling, mainly on the road but some of it off it, to get between them. But ahead are more names and areas of country synonymous with adventure and the wilds of Scotland; Knoydart, Skye and the Cuillin Ridge.

All will be delighted to hear that the ankle is definitely on the mend and not really causing Dan much pain. He's still working hard to look after it, to make sure it sees him through. Interestingly, as Dan's body is starting to cope well with the daily punishment it's receiving, it's his equipment that is struggling with the unrelenting daily pounding; collapsed footwear is the latest niggle. Don't worry, Graham has a plan.

So, currently Dan has Graham and Aled with him for support on the hill and managing the logistics of moving the van from place to place. In the days ahead Si Stainer and Chris Lumb arrive, and both Sue and Phil Clark. I laughed as Graham explained that people are keen to help where they can, to get out on the hill, to carry Dan's pack, or to accompany him on a bike, or even cook a meal in the motorhome, and that part of the joy of being involved is knowing that you're not the one that's actually having to do it, day in, day out. Keep it up Dux!

Thursday, 8 May 2014

The journey so far

Mull to Spean Bridge - the first 150 Munros.
Follow Dan's progress at http://maps.opentracking.co.uk/vo2max.cfm?n=1

Mull to Spean Bridge - the first 150 Munros


150 down

150 down, 53% complete.  2  big days on either side of Glen Nevis, and then it's across the Great Glen for the push north through the North West Highlands.

Dan's Munro Map - Click for latest progress

Asbestos Sandwiches

A long day for Dan. He admits he underestimated the challenge he would face today, spending 11 hours out in the wild after leaving the Culra bothy this morning. He had a lovely surprise on arrival yesterday evening, John Hoosen had kindly left him a bottle of beer and a note to welcome him in on the end of a long day. And yes, they spent the night in the bothy; John Deegan, Mark Roberts and Graham Patten, feasting on a breakfast of asbestos sandwiches to set them up for the day. If anyone has been confused by the double tracker, don't be. Graham Patten is carrying a second in order to complete a little mountain research.

Big respect must go out to Aled Butler, who featured significantly at the start of Dan's challenge. This morning he cycled into the bothy to collect some kit. The boys may have taken advantage of his kindness as he navigated his way back to the van significantly overloaded. He's taken over at the helm of the motorhome now that Ben and Christeen have returned to Keswick. Many thanks go to them.

You'll have noticed, that much like Manchester, the map of Dan's completed Munros is slowly turning from red to blue. And the really good news is that Dan's ankle is starting to feel 'much, much better'. Dan can't believe it but, 'touch wood', slicing up the last few days or so into manageable chunks has really seemed to have helped.

However, tomorrow is a brute of a day. Massive hills and terrible weather forecast, it will be grim on the tops. Let's just hope Dan's recovery continues and in the days ahead he continues to navigate his way north. In 2 days time everything south of the Great Glen will be done.

Tuesday, 6 May 2014

A golden day

Dan's happy. A massive day done, around 35 miles with loads of ascent, and more running in it than there has been in the last five. A huge descent to finish the day caused quite a lot of pain in the injured ankle, but who knows maybe things are on the mend? The next few days are certainly a bit more straightforward.

The company of Sam Hesling has certainly spurred Dan on as well, quality support on the hill and much appreciated. But the last few weeks have been like that, over 15 different people giving their time, energy and enthusiasm to this challenge just for the joy of being involved. Again, much appreciated and clearly the difference between success and failure for Dan.

Something else that has spurred Dan on is messages of support - through twitter, the blog, Facebook, the Just Giving sites - the messages of support from friends, and also people Dan doesn't know at all well keep him going. He's been out of the loop for 5 days, without decent communication, but tonight  phones have been ringing and buzzing, profiles updated etc and Dan has been made up with the support that is out there. Please keep it coming.

Another ambition was also achieved today as Dan caught sight of a Golden Eagle.

More help has arrived today, Mark Roberts returns, and John Deegan and Graham Patten have arrived. Tomorrow if all goes to plan these boys will see Dan hurdle the 50% mark, over half of them done by the end of tomorrow followed by another (sleepless?) night in the hills at the end of it. In a tent as the Culra bothy is closed (thanks Barbara).


Monday, 5 May 2014

Tramadol Nights

A brief chat with Dan tonight - phone and 3G connection is pretty poor where he is at the moment so apologies to anyone trying to get in touch to sort out logistics; keep trying, you will get through eventually.

So another day done (and the Cairngorms to boot) and Dan is looking forward to a decent night's sleep after 2 pretty disturbed evenings in various Bothies. The blog title tonight is in honour of the very kind Scottich gentlemen who offered our hero some serious painkillers to ease the pain in his ankle. Did he succumb? Not for me to say.

Tonight sees Dan hooking up with Ben Evans and Christeen who are now in charge of the motorhome for the next few days. And as usual Dan has so many people to thank, and I struggle to remember the names - Jim, Matt, Bill, Mack, Darren, there must be more and I promise you will find your name in this blog at some stage as a thank you for looking after him (and also in the book he'll inevitably write and make us read - our own personal endurance challenge). An endless supply of photos are now doing the rounds as well and again I'll try and attach some highlights here and even a link or two if my IT skills allow me.

The pain in Dan's ankle remains - no worse, no better. Uphill fine; flat and downhill uncomfortable. Poles still fairly essential. However, you'll notice he has cracked on today and even tagged tomorrow's scheduled bike ride on to the end of the day. But tomorow is a beast; 4 Munros, followed by a long slog, a road crossing and then 4 more, 36 miles in all (gulp). A real test of Dan's resolve and the extent to which he can ignore the pain in his leg. Hobbling with poles over tussocks and uneven terrain, gritting his teeth, mainlining iburpofen, is he living the dream; a good question.






More great photos from the last few days...