Thursday, 28 February 2013

Ain't No Mountain High Enough (until you have to run back down it)

Oh Oh it's all going a bit Motown!

It was a mild -5C when I set off on Sunday. I ran passed the guard hut where we had been detained the day before, but this time on the road not the wrong side of the armco "fence", and instead of going out onto the river (which would have meant stopping to add the spikes to my shoes) I went along the dyke and through the construction sites. Having dodged the small pack of ferral dogs I slowed to a yomp up towards the mountain. I was aware that it was not perhaps the wisest thing was was 'warm'...the pollution...well ok it hung in the valley making everything look a little foggy but I went anyway. After all Sarah and I did this as a walk and as a run last September - and it was a small compared to the distance and elevation I was running in Japan -what could go wrong?

It was beautiful! The Ger camp at the base of the hill (7km into the run) was busy, the car park was full. I jogged down the road and up passed the gers feeling great, despite the heavy pack (5kg of 'what if it all goes wrong clothes' snow pants, down jacket, extra hat, gloves, polar buff, socks, food, a survival bag -you get the picture) and then began the yomp up the hill, and out onto 'White Circle' the clearing at the top. The track was in great shape, slightly softening  packed snow making for great grip and the clothing layers just about right. The path was busy with everything from young ladies carrying bags full of bottles, to men pushing 'off road' pushchairs, to fully equipped hikers and boys in jeans and 'sneakers'. I enjoyed the climb- not my fastest ascent but it was steady, the people were out, the sun was shining, the air was clean and I was pleased to be out there, "ain't no mountain high enough..."

Looking back at the Ger Camp

I heard them before I got anywhere near the top. The laughing and cheering of the crowds. There were a couple of small groups and a couple of larger groups some playing Red Rover others sitting and drinking or cooking up some grub.

The trail I usually take was not obvious at all, it's indistinct at the best of times but in this case the myriad footprints disappeared into un-trodden snow which ever way I went. There were a few clear trails but non heading the way I wanted to go so it was back the way I'd come. Apparently the well worn trail leads down and then back up to Tsetsegun, the nominal peak of the Boghd Khan range. It looked good but I was conscious of the time so I saved it for another day - "ain't no mountain high enough"

I count running down hill as a strength, even on steep technical terrain I generally move pretty quickly and 'brake' lightly, but on this day, by half way I was completely done. My quads were screaming! I was enjoying myself but knew the consequences were going to be severe.

The rest of the journey down and the trip home was a painful run, jog, walk. I knew I was in trouble when, on the roadside, as I passed the guards hut, a chubby old local in multiple jog pants and a pair of 1980's trainers shuffled passed me. Four days later and I still can't walk down stairs without wincing. It's better today (Thursday) at least I only look like an old man for the first couple of steps then the pain levels out and I move a bit more freely but my right quad still won't fire properly allowing my knee to overextend occasionally with comical partial falls as a result.

"Ain't no mountain high enough"...huh?   In the sage words of B.A. Baracus "What you talking about fool?"

Perhaps a long run of 25km and 750m vertical was not the wisest after 6 months when  10km and 3m vertical constituted a big day.

I might be fit to do it again by next weekend.

Saturday, 23 February 2013

A little detained (by a man with a gun) on a wonderful winter walk

It was a mild day, but with a cutting 10km wind dropping the -19C to around -30C. That said after walking through the park over the 'waste' ground and up the road to the river we turned into the wind and headed east for the first time. It was fun, there were a bunch of kids playing what we used to be call 'murder ball' on the ice. A kind of no rules rugby, they were having fun but it looked  both tough and cold.
We passed groups of men pruning/coppicing trees at the side of the river - probably collecting the sticks for something, but for what I have no idea. Further down the river the ice was regularly lying on the surface in glistening chunks, far prettier than the glistening vodka bottles that will replace them in the summer.

Now that's what I call an ice 'cube'

The stroll was pleasant despite the wind in the face. It was interesting to see the tracks cut into the snow both on the actual river and on the hillside to the south. Clearly the weather does not effect our Mongolian hosts as they continue to walk, play, ride and drive just about anywhere.

I wonder if the ice cracked before after or while the cars were using it...

The walk home was warmer and with the wind at our backs positively pleasant. However as we cut across the waste ground and back into the park we heard a shout from behind us and were eventually caught by a young man in uniform. He chirped away in Mongolian and was not for letting us go on our way. A quick phone call to a Mongolian speaker, and we handed over Sarah's phone and there was a lot more chirping. Then his tubby little mate turned up sporting a much more assured air and a holster containing something, might have been a pistol or he might just have been pleased to see us.  There was more chirping over Sarah's phone and we were marched back to the road. Our ID's were photographed, our bags searched and after yet more phone calls and translations we were sent on our way down the road. Apparently we had entered the land 'inappropriately' and had crossed protected land. The fact that I had been doing this at least twice a week since August and that we were quite literally walking in the footprints of  many many others seems to have escaped this particular 'guard'. At one point in our proxy communication it seems our translator threatened to have him reported to the human rights commission for detaining and searching us for no good reason. It was at this point that he said he would apologise for the inconvenience caused if we apologised for...well... being there.  Another expat was watching all this from across the road with a smile on his face and a beagle at his feet. Apparently this particular guard seems to like rousting expats and had 'detained' him  previously. Apparently the waste land is protected land and despite the fact it is scheduled to become part of the park within the next 10 years, it is at present under the protection of the military and this particular member of the military takes his 'protection' duties very seriously. It is after all his job so why not, I take my job seriously. Oh well it's all experience.  Personally I think our detention may have been something to do with a show of power to the largest group I have ever seen walking up the road - at least 30 young ladies were strolling at the side of the road and I think maybe these two young soldiers just wanted to be noticed. Sadly for our new soldier friends the girls had gone by the time they got us back to their hut at the roadside.

Sunday, 10 February 2013

UB Drifting

That's the river that is!
The pictures say it all.
So in 2 days I've run on the frozen river, dog sledded on the frozen river and watched as some blokes played in cars on the river, haven't seen the guys playing skittles but I'm told there is a tournament tomorrow.
These frozen rivers seem to be pretty social places. I bet they miss them when the water is flowing.
Silly me - when the river is flowing they sit, chat, picnic and drink - why would they miss the ice - unless you have a high performance car you like to send sideways?

ok so a bit more dog sledding

The day started at 8:00am with a trip out to Terelj via a place to collect the food for the dogs. Large chunks of  meat were simply stacked outside and several sacks of solid meat were loaded into the van.

Then with our precious cargo intact we headed off to the National Park. The snow was drifting off the fields and across the road in places and with the snow so fine it looked like smoke wafting across the tarmac.

We arrived at the camp about 10:30 and were shown to a ger for tea and a gear check, as well as some instructions about what to do if there was water, and what to do if the sled tipped. They were also short of a couple of dogs so there were only 2 sleds. Sarah opted to ride in the sled of the French guide while I was given 4 dogs and my own sled.

We headed down the Terelj river, it was beautiful, so nice to be out of the city and great to be in and around dogs again. 

Roxanne was funny she was interested in everything and most unhappy when we stopped. There were moments when we came along side ger dogs, herders on horseback, camels, young cows and followed the footprints of either a very big lone dog or a lone wolf. Roxanne was interested in all of it but kept pulling and yelping whenever we stopped. The lead dog on the team pulling Sarah was new and had not quite got her left and right sorted (or her gauche and droit) so there were regular stops as the sled had to pointed in the right direction.

After about an hour and half we stopped the guide built a fire and produced some hot buuz from his bag and made some tea.

buuz and sauce

about the only time Roxanne was quiet and stationary 
After lunch it was time to head back down the river and the rather unnerving experience of being out at around -20C stood on the back of a sled being pulled by dogs along a frozen river with a significant amount of water on the surface. I still don't know how that works but 

great day out, great dogs, great fun. 

Saturday, 9 February 2013

Dog sledding in Terelj

On the Terelj river in Terelj National park.

About 27km in all.

Nice to be around and about dogs again, I miss my mutts.

Roxanne (back left) only on her second outing with clients was so much fun, and just wanted to run and run and run.

I had a blast 'nuff said!