Sunday, August 23, 2009

WOC 2009

I can't see Chris getting round to updating my blog with a WOC post any time soon, so I have decided to do a wee one for him, even though I have been watching all the way from my comfy couch in Trondheim! It has been very exciting to follow this year's World Orienteering Champs in Miskloc, Hungary.

Being in the same time zone has made it possible to watch the races live, even though I have mostly seen it via the silly 'live commentary' and 'live results' thing available on the event website.
I have had some regular skype sessions with Chris, so I have been able to catch up on the latest gossip. Overall Chris has been stoked with how he has gone - managing to qualify for the finals in all three

He was 34th in the middle final, which he has never run before. The middle was technically challenging, and temperatures were pretty warm! The team had a rest day, then Chris and Ross both qualified for the sprint final.

Jam up on the last control

They had to run through a zoo with tricky paths everywhere. The sprint was mostly in the forest, and Chris was really pleased with his 20th placing, the best for a NZ male in a WOC final! Then Ross came in 30th place, also a very strong result (I am excited about how fast Ross will run in Trondheim next year when he even has the luxury of his very own shoes! (-: )

Speedy Ross

The next day was the relay - some crazy things went on at the front of the men's field from the sounds of it! The top 3 runners stopped and lost their positions to help an injured fellow competitor. So the results for the men's relay were a bit meaningless in the end - still NZ came in a respectable 19th. The Norwegian women won the relay, so that was quite exciting.

Greg starting off the first leg of the relay

I talked to Chris last night before the long final and he was feeling like his legs were getting pretty tired. However, when I read the race reports this morning that is was raining, muddy and cool conditions for running I knew Chris would be loving it!

Hot temperatures again (photo is actually from Qualification)

Sure enough, sounds like he had a fantastic race finishing in 17th equal place...which is awesome!!!!!!! I am sure he will be so pleased and (I have just been reading all the comments on Maptalk) he will have appreciated all the great Kiwi support he has had on there too.

I am sure he was giggling all the way (-;

All and all it has been a great sporting week from my couch - I also have been following Team Orion Health make their way to victory in the Ecoprimal Quest, well done guys!

Thanks for the photos from:
World of O and World of O Runners

Friday, August 14, 2009

Swiss O Week

Our time in Slovenia was over, so we caught the awful 'Euronights' train (that was absolutely jam packed) across the border through Austria and on the Switzerland. Apparently it was Swiss National Day, which seemed to mean the Austrians were all having a crazy big party too!

We arrived in the town of Schwyz after changing trains in Zurich. Schwyz is a very pretty old town with the original Victorinox factory, and evidently was actually the place where Switzerland as a country was conceptualized (Schwyzerland...).

We were so tired we pitched our tent on the lawns and fell asleep. A few hours later we were awakened by the crashing of thunder and pouring rain - just great for a sprint event! So we took to the streets and had an enjoyable dash around the old town. My brain was still half asleep so that made the orienteering even a little more challenging than usual.

Emily in usual orienteering pose

Chris, Emily and Seline at the finish

After the short prize giving in the town centre we caught a ride up to our campground in the Muotathal Valley. The campground was an amazing tent city in a big grassy paddock. I'm not sure about this whole mass camping thing!

It was nice to meet up with Keith who is living in Bristol at the moment and he was the proud owner of our camp spot (we parked up on a section of his 'designated land'). The night was misty and by morning the rain had really set in.

Tent city by night

We had to catch a bus, then a unimog to get to the start. The precise 'Swiss' organization made us laugh and of course Chris and I found it hard to stick to the 'rules' too exactly. The start was around 1800 m, with a 35 minute climb to get there by foot even after the unimog trip.

The terrain was steep open farmland, that had turned into steep open mud land. Thousands of orienteers and lots of rain turned the course into a mud slide which some enjoyed more than others. Not really so surprising that Chris loved it!

Soaked and muddy, we caught the unimog and bus back down to the warm dry event centre and had hot showers. The rain continued and soon the campground was also turning into a muddy wash out zone. Unfortunately we only bought our light weight single skin tent and it really wasn't holding up to the weather.

Inside refuge from all the rain!

Poor Chris was disappointed to find out that his course for that day had been canceled due to one control disappearing off the course for some time - he would have come third and won a little prize! On the bright side the organisers let everyone who had wet tents sleep in the warm dry gym and we got a complimentary breakfast.

Chris is really 'rearing to go'!

The following day's orienteering was an exciting one. We had to walk 4km with 700m climb to get to the start area on Glattalp which is over 2000 m! It was a beautiful spot up high by an alpine lake, with traces of winter snow still sitting in pockets amongst the rocks.

What a cool place to orienteer! That was more my cup of tea! We ran amongst grassy fields and a moraine boulder field, plus some good Swiss cows with jingly bells to add to the atmosphere. Mist was swirling about the tops. Both Chris and I had a good run - Chris managed 3rd again!

When I was half way round my course and concentrating hard on a control I couldn't quite find Chris's head popped out from a boulder with a camera! He decided on an 'on course' photo session. He disappeared while I ran wildly to my next to control, only to have him reappear at that one!
After the excitement out on the course we went up to the little hut at the top of where the gondola came to and ordered two hot chocolates. That way we could sit and watch the people orienteering on the Glattalp from the comfort of the warm little hut. That was great!

Then we wandered our way back down the hill, then onto the mass bus transport back to the campground. My legs were pretty tired by now, so I was very excited that the next day was a rest day - and Ed and Abbie were coming to stay. They have been traveling all around Europe in their little red car and managed to coincide their travels to meet up with us in Muotathal.
Dinner with the ever present Lidl bags, or what we came to affectionately know as our 'hobo' bags

We headed down to Brennan beside Lake Luzern. It was a rather amusing trip, with 6 Kiwis squished into Abbie and Ed's car, all sporting wonderful red polka dot Tour de France caps that they got when watching the race a few week's earlier. It was a beautiful sunny day, so we easily filled in the afternoon jumping in the cold blue lake and lounging in the sun.
Some Kiwis plus a car

Blue lake Luzern

We had a nice picnic dinner further up the valley before heading back to our camping spot - which by now was becoming quite crowded! The next day 's orienteering event was another high altitude one starting around 2000 m, then descending many hundred back down to the valley.

Once again it was a long haul to get there - bus transport, a walk, then unimog transport, then another walk, plus lots of mucking around in queues. I only just made it to my start time despite leaving a good two hours in advance to get there.

The orienteering was cool though, heaps of down hill running in alpine meadows and boulder fields. When I made it to the finish my legs felt completely like jelly! Chris had the same feeling when he finished his massive course. It was very hot, so Chris discovered a cow water trough to swim in (-:

That night we hung on a grassy terrace by the river with all our New Zealand company. Ed and Abbie and Cris were all parting ways with us the following day - they were heading to Freiburg where I would join them in a few days. In the meantime Keith, Chris and I had two more day's of orienteering to complete.
Day 5 of the orienteering was back down in the forest. The forest was filled with pits and rocks, and was very slow and tough to run through so it proved some tricky times. I was amazed when I made it round my reasonably short course with no big disasters. Chris sprinted across the green paddock to the finish in a very short time and had managed to come second!

That evening we enjoyed a free meal at the event centre thanks to the kind Kathryn and Reinard (our friends from PAPO). Chris won himself some backpack booty and glory points at the prize giving.
Finally the last day of the competition had arrived. I was very sad because they canceled the final alpine day because of the danger of slips after so much rain earlier in the week. Instead we were back in the rough forest terrain from the day before. Chris had a fantastic run and came out on top for the last day, he was very excited.

The weather is coming in again!

We headed back to the campground as the first spots of rain fell from the deteriorating weather that was predicted to arrive. Keith managed to see a flash flood swosh down the Muotathal Valley from all the rain that was falling in the mountains.

We packed up our gear and had a quick cook up on the MSR before getting on the bus down to Schwyz. It was time for Chris and I to part ways - he was heading on the overnight train to Hungary one week in advance of the World Orienteering Champs, while I was spending a couple of days at Julian and Jana's in Frieburg before heading back to Trondheim for work.

We took the same train as far as Arth Goldau, then I hopped off and watched Chris whisk away into the distance. I trotted over to platform 2 to find Cris n (no. 2) waiting to catch the train further with me to Freiburg. The Swiss adventure was over.

If we are lucky there might be a 'Chris addition' added to this post in a while, keep your eyes peeled!

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Triglav National Park, Slovenia

Attention: this is a long post. I thought about this a bit. Should my posts be shorter? Then I decided, who cares! I am writing them for my own record anyway, so I will just do what I like. If you want a bigger selection of pictures without a brilliant story visit my web album, otherwise happy reading (-:

The OO Cup was over and it was time for some real adventure. We took down our tents from Graiski Park campground and boarded the bus to Ljubljana, the capital of Slovenia. Unfortunately we had no time for a wander (it is supposed to be very pretty) as we had a further train to catch up to Jesenice.
Cris tried very hard to catch us some dinner!

From Jesenice we caught a connecting train around the famous shores of Lake Bled (a beautiful lake with a wee island with a church on top of it), up to Lake Bohinj. A Slovenian kindly drove us from the station to the campground, which was so chocka blocka we opted for the free forest instead.

In the morning Chris had to run back to the town to buy a bit more food while Chris and I lounged on the pretty lakeshore and sorted out a place to leave the gear we didn't want to tramp with.

Large medium small!
When Chris returned we were finally ready to set off. The place was buzzing with tourists, and the first part of the trail was jammed with people. We stopped at the most delicously green river. Noone was swimming. Why not when it was so hot and the water so green we asked?

On second thoughts, after we threw ourselves into the ice cold water and came out squeeling, we could see why.

After that malachy we faced the serious buisiness of a 500m climb straight out of the valley up a wide ledge on the cliff face. This was rather a grunt given our very heavy packs....luckily mine seemed to grow some little wings and waft up the cliff right beside Chris.

At the lake I put my immense pack back on! Or was it mine???

Up up up through the forest

We reached a green lake in the valley above just before a great downpour and thunderstorm reached us. We continued on for a few more hours, past the hut, till we found a rather rocky spot to camp amongst the limestone. The dinner that night - rice with chilli and way way too much cumin - was pretty much the grossest tramping meal we have ever made (-:

The scenery was beautiful

In the morning we slinked back onto the track and continued up valley to a high lake and very pretty hut (Zasavska Koca). Cris was miserable because of the situation with food - not enough! Chris came bounding out of the hut jumping for joy, he had a delicious apple strudel and home baked bread. Sometimes these fancy huts are good!

From the hut we climbed off the beaten track to a saddle, then descended and made our way along the first 'via ferrata' section of our route.

We sidled along a tiny ledge on a huge cliff face, with loose rock and no protection. The 'via ferrata' element of the route was kind of missing, but the scary factor and the massive drops were there....hmmmm?

Exciting stuff

We loved it though. After a few hours we whooped our way down a final snow slope and back onto the easy trail. Looking back towards the cliff face we had sidled was impressive, it was hard to see how on earth you could walk along that.

Back to the easier path at last!

We descended, then reascended yet another saddle. We took a break, it was now 7pm and it had been a very long day. Beneath us was a foresty valley and a bivouac (Bivak pod Luknjo). We wandered past the bivouac in the vague offchance we could stay there - only to discover a very friendly large group of dutch people who said there was plenty of space and it was free! Sweet!

Note the cabbage that we had carried this far... the other group were highly amused at our practical light weight tramping food (2 large cabbages, 6 onions, 1 eggplant, 3 capsicums, 1 zucchini)

The following day's peak

The next morning we got up early - we wanted to climb Triglav (2864) - the highest mountain in Slovenia. We planned to go up the trail that rose straight out of the valley, then descend via the ridge which was supposed to be the trickiest route.

The ascent was super speedy, I was trying to keep up with those boys and the route climbed very steeply up easy rocks, so you could ascend very rapidly like a monkey using arms and legs. Up up up we went, passing some people along the way, till we crested the ridge and were in the morning sun.
A nice airy ascent!
We continued on past the Triglavski Dom, then up the very busy and exposed track to the peak. The drops were impressive, but it was very straightforward. By 11 o'clock we were on the summit. Chris got in some trouble from a grumpy Slovenian for climbing on the trig on the top.

The three giraffes
The descent proved a lot more exciting. It started off as a relatively broad ridge, but got progressively steeper and more knife like as you descended. The most difficult part was large sections with no via ferrata bolts, but loose rock and a massive drop, so you had to be very careful down climbing!

Examining the way down

Enjoying the flat ground while it lasts

Those little dots are people. The intersection of tracks is the saddle point we visited three times.


After quite a few hours of sweating our way down the ridge we made it to the saddle point from where it was a very easy descent back to our happy little bivouac. We perfected the art of the 'bottle shower' that afternoon.

This photo probably implicates us.....

Our last day had arrived and the weather had deteriorated a bit. Feeling a bit knackered we climbed back to the saddle for the final time, then climbed over Bomski Gamsovec (2392) via a very easy section of via ferrata. We had a cook up on a scree slope and spotted a great flock of ibex who trotted across the cliffs like they were flat!

Pretty alpine flowers dotted the path

Silly boys!

After a final climb we descended a very steep bolted section into a lower valley. With heavy packs it was exciting, especially when I nearly killed Cris by sending a rock hurtling towards him. Just as well I had my super duper yellow helmet! (And that he had his pukey green one too I suppose).

Finally we head down to the green forest

Tired, we wandered back into the green forest. We reached some farms and the main river, before finding a secluded spot in the forest to pitch our tents. A quick dip in the river was wonderful, followed by a yummy dinner and comfy bed.

We woke in the morning to another sunny day, and walked the pleasant hour further out to Kranjska Gora. Near the town we discovered some crystal clear lakes and did what we always do - jumped in!

Kranjska Gora is a very touristy, but very pretty town. Cris realized he biked through there in 2007 on his cycle touring trip. A local patisserie provided us with some delicious cakes and breads which we howed into before climbing on the bus which would take us back to Jesenice where we had started our journey 6 days earlier.

In Jesenice Chris made an impressivly connected hitch hiking trip back to Bohinj to get the gear we had left there. Afterwards we ate out at a restaurant in Jesenice, which really is a pretty horrible boy racer town.

At 10pm we caught the overnight train that would take us to Schwyz in Swizerland for the next phase of our adventure - the Swiss Orienteering Week. We left Slovenia sadly, it really is a beautiful and friendly country with some fantastic dolmite style mountains and it has nice cheap beer!