Where Ravens Dare
One of two photos I had time to take on Where Ravens Dare 2014
Andrew, one of our trustees, completed a challenge walk called "Where Ravens Dare" on 4 October 2014. It was a 26.6-mile course with a total climb of 5708 feet, all to be completed in 10 hours. For a report on the outcome please see the news section below.
The appeal was set to close on 25 October, but money is still coming in and we haven't quite met our target yet. So if you would like to contribute there is still the opportunity to do so - the button below will take you to our Donate page, which details all the ways you can give.
These shots were taken while training for a challenge walk in 2012 - more details under news item below of 19 June.
The LORD upholds the cause of the oppressed. (Psalm 146:7)
Was I Raven Mad?
21 October 2014
One potential sponsor has asked me how far I climbed, in that we took a shorter route at the end. That got me doing some sums, and the official answer is that we climbed 5544 feet instead of the full 5708 feet. However, if we take into account the additional distance and climb resulting from the navigation error and also my having to retrieve my walking poles which I'd left behind some way down a fairly steep incline, the estimated climb becomes 5900 feet, and the distance 25.3 miles.
This photo was taken at the same point as the one at the top of this page, and shows the last stretch of the long climb from Risca [230 feet] up to Twmbarlwm [1375 feet].
What It's All For
11 October 2014
I now have some stories of the refugees we're aiming to help. Please see here.
And here is a photo of Paul helping a student beginner. With the musical instruments we'll be helping him buy, it will not just be one student at a time.
Where Ravens get Timed Out!
4 October 2014
Here is my certificate. I forgive them for spelling my name wrong! I didn’t quite complete the full 26.6 miles – I got timed out at the last section and achieved 24.3 miles, in 11 hours 24 minutes. What that means is that at the last manned checkpoint it was getting too late for me to attempt the normal route back but, to enable completion before nightfall, I was allowed to take a shorter route.
The main reason for my lateness was that, along with Erik, my travelling companion, I took the wrong route and lost about 40 minutes in dithering and having to retrace steps. (It was here we met Dave, who had gone wrong at the same point, and he walked with us the rest of the way, his experience, sacrifice and encouragement spurring us on to completion.) Also, for the last 8 miles I was suffering from a painful knee and generally slowing down. Knowing that completion in time was always going to be an issue, the loss of 40 minutes only put us under further pressure. I felt unable to put any time into navigation, did not stop to eat, took only two photos, and could not adjust my kit to make things more comfortable.
At times during the last miles I thought about the people I was raising money for – the refugees displaced from one country to another in Africa. Although I regretted the pain and time pressure, I was grateful that I was only “playing” – I was not travelling out of grim necessity or in deadly earnest. Whilst I do not yet know any stories that these refugees could tell, I can only imagine the physical and emotional pain they suffered, and the stress they were under, when they undertook their journeys of hundreds of miles, leaving behind their homes and travelling to an uncertain destination, not knowing how they would be received. By contrast, on arriving at the finish we expected a welcome, and received applause and congratulations as well. All of the officials we encountered were friendly and helpful. I wonder how friendly and helpful were any officials those refugees encountered.
Click this button to read Erik's own account of the challenge, with more photos and detail.
A Little Bird Told Me?
26 September 2014
Since July, as part of my training, I have been walking 2-3 times a week up and down the hills of Undy, near where I live. While doing so I have been handing to those I meet little cards explaining what I'm doing and why, and stopping for a chat if they have time. My last walk before the event was this morning. This afternoon I received a text telling me I had managed to hand one of these cards to the wife of the event organiser!!!! He has offered, very kindly, to mention Natalya's Fund at his talk at the start of the event.
I was 8 miles to the East of Newport and the event is based 7 miles to the West of Newport. Amazing, or what?
My Back - and the Pack against it
24 September 2014
Just bought a new rucksack, the main reason being to speed up access to my gear during the walk. One of the main challenges will be to complete the walk in the allotted time, so anything that can reduce delay is worth considering. Where Ravens Dare will be the red pack's first serious outing, so I think I'll travel light, while I get used to it. My 35-year-old blue rucksack will not be pensioned off, as it is somewhat larger, and should still come in useful.
The Cat's Back
18 September 2014
With some friends I climbed up on the Cat's Back in thick mist. (Not cruelty to an animal, but a walk on the easternmost ridge of the Black Mountains!) We could see how narrow it was but not what was below or around. Arriving at Hay Bluff and on reaching the edge, we suddenly got our first, misty vista of what was below us. As the mist was gradually clearing we decided to retrace our steps rather than return via the valley. We were rewarded with astounding views of the ridge with its top forming a rocky, well-trodden footpath, and its steep sides descending into the vague views of what was beyond.
Valleys Traverse, and What's Left to Do
1 September 2014
Serious walking this time, and not without its problems. The route I chose to simulate the distance and climb of Where Ravens Dare was in the South Wales valley system. It was to take me across two valleys and into a third before returning a different way across the same valleys. However, by mid-morning I was labouring over very rough ground and through long undergrowth where tracks and paths had disappeared with disuse. With the resulting loss of pace and lost time in navigation, by lunchtime I was a long way off the halfway point. After lunch I pushed on but, to avoid being benighted, I shortened the walk by not descending into the last valley, and adjusted the route to take in lanes and cycle paths, which would enable me to walk fast. The stats in the end were: 24 miles and 4890 feet climb, in 13 hours. The biggest potential pitfall was that on the last descent my knees began to hurt, and I sense they were weakened by the experience and therefore need to have been fully healed by the big day. I have an action plan which aims to overcome all these and other problems.
The Wye Valley Walk is Not Flat!
15 August 2014
Chosen for its undulations, which are good for endurance training, the Wye Valley walk is picturesque, and eerily quiet in places, as it meanders up and down above the cliffs and steep sides between Chepstow and Brockweir. This time, with Erik, and Max the dog, I was out for 8 hours, although we were held up on the way back by a tea shop at Tintern. Stats: about 14 miles, 3000 feet ascent. Still some way to go, but had energy left at the end and no ill effects afterwards. Serious training next!
28 July 2014
Spent about 6 hours walking on and around the Cotswold Way, from Toddington to Belas Knapp and back down to Winchcombe. Weather hot and sunny. Forgot sun screen but "the sun did not smite me by day" (Psalm 121). Also forgot camera. I see I need a list! Stats: about 12.5 miles, 1590 feet ascent. Some way to go but had energy left when I had to stop for a rendezvous with afternoon tea, and that was it for the day!
Training in Earnest
5 July 2014
Today I walked up and down for an hour around the central peak of the Gower Peninsula, South Wales, while on a weekend retreat (see http://www.breakfastonthebeach.info/). This was my first serious bit of training.
19 June 2014
My registration for the challenge walk has been accepted. In 2012, while training for the South Wales Three Peaks Trial, I did a replica walk - one having the same distance and climb - to check how well my training had gone up to that point. As it happens, the walk took in some of the paths of Where Ravens Dare. The photo was taken on the replica walk, and I think I'll be passing that way on the day.
Cross-Atlantic Rower Engaged as Training Advisor!
22 May 2014
My training advisor, Norman Beech, sends me encouraging emails and gives me invaluable advice over the phone. It's so much easier when you know what you're doing!
Norman, with his son James, has rowed the Atlantic, and reached 52 mph on a tandem!