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  • August 2019

    Thu, 05 Dec 2019 18:22:27 GMT

    August was a quiet month this year, activity-wise. My parents visited the first weekend, I completed Sonic 2 (again) using an emulator to help me get all the chaos emeralds (save states only at each checkpoint), I fixed the gecko lamp from Laos, and had a seitan-based bake-off.

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  • July 2019

    Wed, 04 Dec 2019 22:13:30 GMT

    In July I climbed Pen Y Fan in the Brecon Beacons, despite several factors trying to stop me again! On the last weekend visited Al in London for his birthday, and took cookies which went down well. In between, I started a course of being shot in the face by lasers.

    The Curse of Pen Y Fan II: Tonsillitis at 886m

    I attempted to walk Pen Y Fan in October a couple of years ago and was thwarted by bad weather (though I had a lovely time curled up at the YHA Danywenallt) – I nicknamed this the Curse of Pen Y Fan. This time I took some time out a couple of months before PyCon UK, in the hope of better weather, which paid off.

    I had a couple of plans based on which day was going to be the better weather day, but once again the Brecon Mountain Railway thwarted those by, apparently arbitrarily this time, deciding not to run on one of the days despite previously advertising it, so that fixed my plans of taking the "bad weather day" on the better of the two days.

    I walked along a bit of the Taff Trail from the hotel to Cyfartha Park, along the river Taff. The park itself was a decent enough place to spend the middle of the day, and I read on a bench in the wood there, next to a pond, watching the wildlife while I read a book.

    In the afternoon I walked to the bus station and caught the bus to the YHA Brecon Beacons (which does have its own stop that isn't publicised anywhere but the driver knew about, rather than the otherwise nearest stop at the Storey Arms activity centre 2 miles away). By this point in the afternoon I was reasonably certain I had picked up a bug of some sort, no doubt on the plane back from Norway a couple of days prior.

    The YHA Brecon Beacons was comfortable, though less cozy than the Danywenallt one on the other side of the mountains, but at any rate I crashed immediately after dinner (I continue to be impressed at the YHA's in-house meals which are way better than they need to be) with my alarm set appropriately.

    Next morning I felt utterly atrocious and a look in the mirror confirmed my suspicion: full blown tonsillitis, which if you're like me and get it semi-regularly you'll know how exhausting it is.

    I desperately didn't want to abandon my plans though, so I dosed up with ibuprofen and immodium, and resolved to at least walk back to the bus stop at the Storey Arms, which was en route to the main trail up Pen Y Fan.

    The walk there across country was pretty lovely as it was, and having climbed a few Pen Y Fan-equivalents around Tromsø the week before, my fitness levels were a little above usual and at the bottom of the trail leading up from the Storey Arms I actually felt I could give it a go!

    So up I went.

    Pen Y Fan soon came into view – clouds just touching the peak!

    I reached the peak of Corn Du, which was just into the cloud, ("I thought there would at least be a sign!" declared a red-faced middle-aged guy who had perhaps mistaken it for Pen Y Fan itself) and otherwise deserted.

    Moving on, the mist really closed in and visibility got down to just a few metres. Then all of a sudden, there were people. So many people! I was at the peak and it seemed to be a busy day.

    Ghosts in the mist

    Between Corn Du and Pen Y Fan I'd taken the opportunity of a moment of phone signal to phone Brecon Mountain Railway and check they were still running today. They were, leaving the option of a 10km walk to Torpantau station, or 3km back to Storey Arms for the bus. I calculated that I would just miss a two-hourly bus if I returned, while I should comfortably make the afternoon BMR service, so onwards to Torpantau!

    As it happened, today was the day of the Breacon Beacon Fan Dance, an event organised by the SAS where people basically walked from the Storey Arms to Torpantau and back! So that explained why the car park had more cars than I thought there were people:

    so many cars at the Storey Arms.

    The event must have started before I had left the YHA, because the SAS's elite were only just making it back to the top from the opposite side, the one I was descending down, when I started my descent. It was a pretty nasty few vertical metres to the top from that side, and even the SAS looked like they were suffering.

    I was out of the clouds almost immediately on the way down, which was nice as the views were really quite impressive.

    Regrettably I didn't have time to do the detour to climb Cribyn too, despite it looming above me with its promise of more views. Maybe next time?


    Turning around, Pen Y Fan was still in cloud, and I very nearly got all the way to Torpantau while progressively slower Fan Dancers brought up the rear.

    I was the only person at the station waiting for the train, though, so well done to them all for not giving up half way along!

    I got the guard's cabin in the train on the way back, which I think is borne of necessity since the main carriages are often booked out, plus getting to ride in the roof compartment is a nice treat for a weary walker.

    Not quite a panoramic view, but a novelty at least!

    And that is how I beat Pen Y Fan, which defeated me two years ago.

    The curse had one last hurrah, though. I met up with [personal profile] sgsabbage for late lunch/early dinner on my return to Cardiff, and aimed to get the last train of the day home to Nottingham. Sean dropped me off at the station and just after he left the board came up with the train having been cancelled!

    I messaged him and he kindly came back for me and let me sit exhausted with them while he and Aled had sushi with a friend (really good sushi, at that! Thank youuuu) before crashing in his spare bed. I felt surprisingly better the next day, though with quite a runny nose, and got home fine later that morning.

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  • Midnight Sun 2019: Part 2

    Wed, 13 Nov 2019 20:45:08 GMT

    For a four-day weekend at the end of my trip to Norway, we left the country several times, in part thanks to running around Treriksrøysa several times, but also for a trip to Abisko and Kiruna in Sweden.

    (← Part 1)

    Friday - Treriksrøysa

    Treriksrøysa/Treriksröset/Kolmen valtakunnan rajapyykki is the Three-Country Cairn at the tripoint of Norway, Sweden and Finland, and the 12 kilometer walk from parking in Finland is really beautiful. We saw lots of reindeer roaming around, especially on the way back, and running around the concrete cairn, which is surrounded by a board walk on a lake, was good fun too.

    As the sun got lower (I nearly wrote "as the sun was setting" but that does not happen) we got some beautiful nacreous clouds with pastel colours around the edges that my camera couldn't really do justice to:

    Saturday - Rismålhøgda (Ringvassøya) and Trehørningen (Kvaløya)

    I wrote in my previous entry that I thought Kvaløya was the northernmost point I went to, but the walk we did on Ringvassøya beats it by a couple of hundred metres, having it looked it up.

    We drove through a tunnel from Kvaløya to Ringvassøya and took a steep walk up a shrubby hillside to the top where there was a small lake between some peaks. We had fantastic views of the fjords.

    Back through the eerie tunnel (and yes, I did remember to reset the setting afterwards this time!)

    South to one of the western arms of Kvaløya to climb Trehørningen, which started off with some beautiful rainbows but turned into quite a wet walk in the end, with the peak blasting us with wet winds coming straight from out at sea. It was a bracing final walk in Norway!

    Sunday - Abisko

    We had decided to take an overnight trip to Kiruna in northern Sweden, since Emily wanted to do the Midnattsol trail there, and I had unfinished business with the Kiruna Mine Tour, having narrowly missed being promoted from the reserve list when I last visited. (It worked out; instead I saw a stunning nacreous cloud which are apparently quite rare.

    It's a long drive to Kiruna from Tromsø, with a route skimming past Narvik and then running parallel to the LKAB railway line for most of the rest of the way. What I hadn't expected was how beautiful the mountain road that ran from Narvik to the Norway/Sweden border would be.

    Apparently mountain lodges are very common on the Norway side around here, and it's not difficult to see why.

    Soon we were driving alongside the lake Torneträsk, which we had seen (partly) frozen over from the top of the Abisko tourist cable car a few years before, and we saw the familiar Lapporten valley straight ahead of us.

    We decided to stop at Abisko to use the loo and see what the area was like in summer. It turned out to be absolutely stunning! We ended up staying longer than we intended, just wandering around the nature walks, looking out over the river, and hiking the tiniest amount of Kungsleden.

    Monday - Kiruna

    Eventually we drove on to Kiruna, which was a surreal experience because, as promised, some of the town had been relocated in the meantime! Of particular note was the old town hall was part-way demolished, with its steampunky clock tower relocated to the new, frankly, worse, building across town. The church was still around, as was LKAB's Gullriset accomodation, which we were staying in.

    Kiruna has a midnight sun walk which Emily had been wanting to do, so we set off on that in the late evening on Sunday. From the top of the hill we could see the satellite dish of the European Space Agency's Kiruna station, and the sun got noticeably lower in the sky than in Tromsø.

    The route was somewhat heavily interrupted by the construction works of the re-routed E10 motorway, which was being built as an overpass across the trail, and severely disrupted the second half of the walk back from the hilltop. We got quite lost, especially since Google Maps and even Openstreetmap were having trouble keeping up with all the changes here!

    We got back to Gullriset at around 2am on Monday. Gullriset is close enough to the mines to hear the nightly drill blasting, though we didn't hear any when we stayed in the same lodgings in 2017. However, exhausted as I was and falling asleep with my earplugs in (which don't block much bass anyway), I did indeed feel a rumble, and managed to remember it as I fell asleep. (Emily was still up and heard it too. The next day we were both a little nervous to mention it in case the other hadn't.) Pretty exciting to hear the ground being blasted out from nearly underneath you!

    The next day we were booked on the LKAB mine tour, and just about made it after struggling to find parking because, you know, Kiruna's being dug up, and the advertised parking was very not available. We got the coach down into the mines, and had a (very) short walk in the dark while seeing some huge machinery. It was a good enough tour, though a little heavy on the PR from the mining company. At the end we got to help ourselves to some iron pellets and a magnetic core section, which made it all worth it!

    So with Kiruna finally "done", we got back in the car and started the drive back to Tromsø. We stopped a few times to let one of the extremely long LKAB trains full of iron pellets pass, then drove back past them, as the speed limit was a little faster than the train tended to go, playing Flight of the Valkyries.

    And, gosh, aside from a few strolls along some mountain trails on the way back to the border, that was my last full day in the arctic. Emily drove me back to Tromsø airport the next day and I was back in the UK by evening of the 2 July, already looking forward to going back!

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