Thursday, 15 June 2017

Mountains, Mud & Marathons | Climbing Ben Nevis

We did it! We climbed the highest mountain in the UK and completed my first Mountains, Mud and (Half) Marathons challenge!

Ben Nevis is now the third munro we've bagged. Three out of 282 isn't many but at least we can say we've done the highest one. Despite it's height status, Ben Nevis isn't one of the most difficult mountains to conquer in Scotland. This isn't to say you shouldn't go prepared. It has a path all the way, which is well maintained, but steep and long, and slightly unstable in certain parts.


The views along the entire 7 hour walk were incredible. We parked at the visitor centre car park (there is a small charge which goes towards maintenance and the centre itself was closed for refurbishment) and made our way up the mountain route, or "tourist path" as it's often called. Walk Highlands has a great walk description as usual.


Eventually we reached the "halfway lochan" Loch Meall an t-Suidhe. I was pleased to see this as it gave us an idea of how far we still had to go! We'd set off early at 8am with only 4 other people starting at the same time. However, we started to catch up with people at this point who must of started earlier, and even passed a few keen beans on their way back down already! The path was growing steadily busier behind us as well. They don't call it the tourist route for nothing.


The zig-zagging path becomes more unsteady underfoot as you climb higher. It was at this point we stopped for lunch and suddenly felt how cold the air was. We chucked on a few layers, snapped some photos and carried on. We were blessed with epic views in between cloud cover.


Eventually we reached the summit plateau, but Lochnagar the week before had taught us not to expect the actual summit to be in sight! Instead we were met with patches of snow and cairns marking the path for us to continue our walk. Soon the cliffs of the north face came into view and I kept my distance from the edge!


At last the war memorial appeared, swiftly followed by the sight of the old observatory and the trig point marking the official summit! It was misty as hell but we took the chance to rest, refuel, take photos and celebrate with a nip of whisky - him, not me! Check us out standing on the highest point of Britain...


It was busy up there with everyone celebrating their feat but it made for a great atmosphere. One thing that did annoy me though was the water bottles and rubbish people had left. There wasn't a lot, but if you can carry it up there you can surely carry it back down! I decided I'm going to take a plastic bag on future walks and collect rubbish on my descent. Keep Scotland beautiful people!


A few tips if you're planning to climb Ben Nevis or any other munro...

1. Pack plenty water and carby supplies. Hiking is bloody hard work, you will be tired and hungry, and need to rehydrate due to all the water you lose through sweat. We took 2 litres of water each, sandwiches, a pasta pot, Grenade bars and chocolate.

2. Layer up! It was beautifully sunny day back down on earth, but at the summit I needed my tshirt, jumper and North Face jacket, a hat, thermal gloves, a Beast Race buff around my neck and sunglasses. We also packed waterproof trousers just in case.


3. Invest in sturdy walking boots! As I said, the ground is rocky and unstable with scree near the top and you'll definitely appreciate the ankle support on the stone steps climbing back down. My Scarpas did the trick and I highly recommend 1000 mile socks!

4. Speaking of stone steps... bring a first aid kit! I slipped and fell on my back side on the way down, grazing my hand and bruising my ass. It was all Gordon's fault of course. Buy a first aid kit specifically for hillwalking, like this one, and make sure it includes blister plasters!


5. Learn to use a map & compass. I will confess, I don't know how to read maps but Gordon does. I'm on the lookout for a course locally if you know of any? Second confession - we forgot our map. Our amazing B&B host had given us one with waterproof cover and all but we stupidly left it in the car by mistake. In worse visibility, or snow cover, the path wouldn't be clear enough to follow and it'd be far too easy to take a wrong turn towards the scary north face.

6. Safety first! Carry a torch and a whistle in case of emergency. And always let someone know where you're going, what route you're taking and when you expect to return. If you get into any difficulty or aren't sure of your capabilities, just turn back. The mountain will still be there for another day.


7. Toast your success! The Ben Nevis Inn features as one of the Wild Pub Walks in CAMRA's latest book and there's a good reason for that. This cosy little pub provides hot food, cold pints and a place to rest your weary feet. Gordon enjoyed a pint of Skye Red while I sipped my OJ as designated driver. Everybody is there for the same reason and it's great to celebrate with fellow hillwalkers!


Have you ever climbed Ben Nevis? What advice would you give?

Sunday, 11 June 2017

A Month in my Shoes: May 2017

Training

In an effort to find my mojo I've rewritten my strength training programme - it's now 3 shorter push, pull & leg splits, which should make it easier to fit in as I'm less likely to use the "I don't have time/enough energy" excuse. So far it's working.

I'm mixing my cardio up a bit and have started going to classes again. The social aspect of classes helps and I'm enjoying training with friends again! Metapower is my absolute favourite class at the moment. A 20-30 minute HIIT circuit using a mixture of kettlebells, sandbags, medicine balls, battle ropes and body weight exercises. It might only be 20 minutes, but it's 20 brutal minutes. My face turns bright red, I'm dripping in sweat and at one class I thought I might actually spew mid plank.


Earlier in the month I went along to a Military Fitness class at Balmedie Beach for a brutal hour and a half of running up and down sand dunes, doing push ups, burpees, sit ups and piggy backs in the north sea! It's fab training for obstacle races and I'll definitely be back for one of their Sunday morning sessions again!

End of May Stats: 33.3% body fat, 6.12.0st muscle
(I've only just realised my stats are better, I felt like I'd done rubbish!)

Beach Ballistic

Watching

Vikings - Gordon started watching this but it took me a while to get into it. Eventually I caught up on who was who (how many kids Ragnar had and who to!) and what was going on, and by season three I was addicted!

The Handmaid's Tale - I'd never heard of it until it started on channel 4 and to be honest, I'm still just figuring out what's going on. It seems the US has been taken over by Christian terrorists, with women being forced to become maids/child bearers for richer couples who can't have children? It's all a bit odd yet gripping.


Reading

I Am Malala by Malala Yousafzai - The girl who was shot in the head by the Taliban. I vaguely remember this story in the news but didn't know much about it. Malala's story starts as a very normal childhood in Swat, Pakistan and follows her journey as the Taliban takes over their village and she continues to fight for the right to education despite the threat against her life. It's a fascinating read and helped me understand more about the war, and how the Taliban came about.

CAMRA's Wild Pub Walks by Daniel Nielson - I was kindly sent this book by the folks at CAMRA - Campaign for Real Ale. It features 22 beautiful walks all across the UK, that end in a good pub with a great beer selection. The timing couldn't have been better as it arrived just in time for our trip to the highlands and we managed to tick off one walk (Ben Nevis & the Ben Nevis Inn!) plus visit another of the featured pubs for dinner the night before. You can find the book on Amazon - I highly recommend to any beer-loving walkers out there!

Listening

The Body & The Beast - A podcast by fitness pro Jamie Alderton and business guru Dan Meredith. Basically just two lads (ladding it up) putting the world to rights, offering advice on body, business and brains, and having a good laugh while they're at it. A particular highlight was their Baked Bean Giggles episode which saw me giggling my way through a 7k run. If you're into self improvement and enjoy a good laugh, this is the podcast for you.


Where I've Been

It's been another busy month of adventures. We started May with a trip to Slains Castle, just a 15 minute drive from us in Cruden Bay. It's where Bram Stoker apparently got the inspiration to write Dracula! We continued our alphabet dating with G for Go Ape & a walk up Scolty Hill. Walking was a common event this month - we climbed Bennachie & completed our second munro, tackling Lochnagar in the fog, and I was lucky enough to attend Reyka Vodka's Wild Booze Walk with Drink Aberdeen!

Wednesday, 31 May 2017

DW Sports | Hiking in my Active Wear

I really hope you've seen the active wear video or this title is wasted!


I don't know about you, but I find most of my local sports shops only stock a small selection of women's active wear. While menswear and even kids ranges dominate the store, there's usually just a sad little token corner of ladies wear, next to the footwear department. This isn't the case at DW Sports


In Aberdeen it's the best place, in my opinion, to shop for gym gear. They have a huge selection from the top brands in the industry - Nike, Adidas (including Stella McCartney), Reebok, Puma, Under Armour etc. When DW asked if I'd like to review some active wear from their website I jumped at the chance! I can confirm their online offering is just as impressive as in store.


After scouring through the pages I eventually decided to order these stylish marble print Adidas leggings. The cropped length is ideal for training now we're getting into the warmer months. Full length leggings are just too warm and I'm not brave enough to squat in short shorts!


These babies have officially passed the squat proof test! (We all squat and lunge in front of the mirror when we buy new leggings, right?) So far I've worn them at a Metapower HIIT class, training legs in the gym and now for hiking up Bennachie.


The supportive high waist band is flattering and ideal for lifting weights as the stretchy material moves with you. Not only are the mesh panels stylish, they help keep you cool along with the climalite sweat wicking fabric - perfect for hiking on a hot summers day! I love the marble print but appreciate the better coverage from the plain design at the back.


I wore them with a classic Nike running vest (an old favourite, also from DW) and my brand new Nike Air Max's. The flyknit "sock" design of these trainers is unusual but surprisingly comfortable when worn with a longer sock underneath.


I'm usually a Nike girl so I wasn't sure about my sizing with Adidas, but I was safe in the knowledge that my order could easily be returned or exchanged in store. Luckily the medium fit just fine!


This hiking thing is thirsty work! The dogs couldn't wait to find a cool spot to hide in half way up the hill.


Whatever activities you get up to - be it weight lifting, hiking, yoga, running, or even just having coffee with your friends in your active wear! - you're bound to find what you need at DW Sports.


*I was gifted these leggings by DW Sports in exchange for an honest review. As usual all thoughts are my own and 100% genuine.

Saturday, 27 May 2017

Drink Aberdeen | Wild Booze Walk


What could possibly be better than spending a Wednesday afternoon in the park, soaking up the sun (and booze) with a bunch of local bartenders and an expert forager? That's exactly what happened this week when I was invited along to Drink Aberdeen's Wild Booze Walk.


Drink Aberdeen is a week long celebration of all things booze in the Granite City. Organised by 10 Dollar Shake's Adrian Gomes, the line-up included gin dinners at both Rye & Soda and Moonfish Cafe, a rum and chocolate tasting at Cocoa Ooze, a pop up Drygate bar at Melt, a Tiki takeover at 99 and so much more!


I was kindly invited along on the second foraging walk of the day in Seaton Park with Mark Williams of Galloway Wild Foods, and Fabiano of Reyka Vodka. Mark is a fountain of knowledge when it comes to plants and had us munching away on ice plants like hungry little bunnies.

Admittedly I wasn't keen on the leaves - beech trees, lime trees, whatever kind of tree it comes from, they all just taste like salad leaves to me. I don't like salad! The rowan tree on the other hand, has little flower buds that taste just like almonds, but I'd still much rather catch those little yellow bramble hybrid berries all day.


It wasn't all plucking leaves off trees though. Mark had brought along an array of syrups, shrubs, tinctures and infusions that showed just how well you can make use of what you find in your own backyard! I was surprised by the taste of many of the plants he showed us.


We were introduced to sweet cicily, which reminded me of Sambuca with it's aniseed flavour. The plant belongs to the carrot family which includes other well known herbs like dill and coriander, as well as the dangerously poisonous hemlock plant. Sweet cicily looks very similar to hemlock so it's a good idea to know how to spot the difference before you go foraging the wrong thing! Look out for the aniseed scent and white spots that look like bird crap (but aren't!) and you've got sweet cicily.


Some say weeds, Mark says tonic. Smash dandelions and mix with water and sweetener to create your own dandelion tonic water and serve with a decent gin - like this one, or maybe even this!


A few of our bartender friends were in need of a hangover cure and Mark found just the thing. Meadowsweet contains the same compound used in aspirin and is apparently a great cure if you dehydrate and smoke it! Look out for the creamy, yellow candyfloss flowers. Luckily Mark had come prepared and we sampled his homemade meadowsweet syrup, as well as one made from Japanese knotweed.



Japanese knotweed is an invasive plant, and UK law classes it as a controlled waste. In other words, if you take some you have to dispose of it in a way that it won't grow roots and take over the place you left it! The best way to do this is to burn, or eat it! Mark recommends getting your hands on the asparagus-like shoots while they're young and pulping them to a sour juice.

Of all the concoctions we tasted along the way, the wild sour was my favourite. Made with sea buckthorn juice, sweetener and bitters! Even better than the sour though, was the cake.


Common hogweed is known to taste like ginger and I can confirm this hogweed flavoured cake was divine! If only there'd been less of us on the walk I could have eaten the whole lot. Another use for this plant is to simply eat it as a vegetable - the young shoots are apparently delicious fried in butter. Avoid the older shoots and again make sure you know how to identify the plant. You don't want to confuse it for the toxic giant hogweed!

While lots of Mark's tales were aimed towards those in the drinks industry, I still found it informative and fun with great company! He showed us so many different flowers, pods, leaves, shoots and roots that I couldn't possibly remember each plant and all it's uses. I at least remember the important stuff: buttercups are toxic, the roots of wood avens taste like cloves (yuck!) and foraging rule number one - never, ever eat a yew tree!


To finish off our ramble round the park, we were treated to another drink or two. Reyka vodka ambassador Fabiano had been enthusiastically stuffing greenery into a bottle throughout our forage which was then blended with Reyka to create our "taste of the walk" cocktail.


Mark was also prepared with his expertly crafted "Copse Reviver No. Tree"! A cleverly named take on the classic cocktail, combining clarified Japanese Knotweed juice with sweet cicily infused Reyka, a homemade vermouth (which got the seal of approval from our award winning bartenders!) and triple wormwood triple sec. The perfect way to celebrate Drink Aberdeen. Slainte!


*I was invited along to the Wild Booze Walk as a guest of 10 Dollar Shake. As usual, all views are my own and 100% genuine.
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