Friday, 27 August 2010

Review: Salomon Exit Aero 2 shoes

Earlier in the year I accepted an invitation from Fitness Footwear to become a Product Tester and so they recently provided me with a pair of Salomon walking shoes to have a look at. Having walked as well as run in fell shoes for a few years I haven’t been a great fan of walking shoes although I always think Salomon trainers look the business.

Salomon Exit Aero - Autobahn, Detroit and Bleu Gris

The Salomon Exit range consists of Salomon Exit Peak shoes and Salomon Exit Aero trainers. Both are designed around the classic Salomon Exit, which introduced multi-sport shoes to the UK before evolving into the a lighter, snugger and faster Salomon Exit Peak 2 and Salomon Exit Aero 2 shoes we have today. The Exit Peak has more material, making it warmer and more weather resistant while the Exit Aero replaces parts of the Salomon Exit upper for breathable mesh in order to provide added ventilation and fast cooling comfort

My initial impression was of a comfortable shoe with a supportive upper and heel box. The heel strap and foam in the heel cup combine well to provide a reassuring fit without undue pressure. The spacious toe-box with a good (high) arch support confirms this is a well designed shoe. With a big protective rand around the toes one to look after your feet everything says this shoe knows what it is doing. The upper is light and comfortable and even laced very tight the Exit Aero remains comfortable and reassuring.

The sole seemed to be stiffer than I would have preferred (before wearing them) but it is more comfortable to walk in than I anticipated. In "Autobahn, Detroit and Bleu Gris" they are more subdued than many Salomon shoes and the mesh upper is very breathable and, consequently, not waterproof.

First time on is at the end of a long hot day with hot, tired feet wearing thin socks – I want to see if I can find any uncomfortable pressure points that might not otherwise be apparent. Were there any? No, these are comfortable, highly breathable, supportive shoes. With slightly thicker socks, the ones I would normally run or walk in these shoes will be a snug fit - just right.

It is a long time since I have worn walking shoes mainly because the last time wasn't a very happy experience - the shoes then seemed a poor compromise between light walking boot and trainers. I was half expecting a repeat of that unhappy experience with the Exit Aeros but I was pleasantly surprised - they are comfortable to wear and to walk in. The sole is sufficiently flexible for comfortable walking and more than sufficiently robust for tackling rough, rocky, stony ground.

These are going to be at their best in warm, dry conditions and if you hadn’t guessed already, I am converted. I would have taken them on our recent trip to the Canadian Rockies where they would have been perfect - more protective and more supportive than the running shoes I did walk in.They will be very good in Mallorca later this year for walking on the high, rough limestone ridges and before then I'll be using them at every opportunity.

Smithills Reservoir Swim – 26 Aug

More madness is probably a better description than a tri-training session would be but it was, nevertheless, my first open water swim for many years and, in fact, probably my first swim for almost as long. I am unsure where I last swam in open water but it may have been on the Great Barrier Reef and it is difficult to imagine a much greater contrast than a reservoir high on the side of Winter Hill. For some time I have been trying to resist this and thought I had an alternative – an open water swim at Salford Quays with Ray. He, however, preferred Winter Hill but was noticeable by his absence last night – just a coincidence?

SR_Swim-001  Nicole, Ed (main perpetrator), self and Mary

SR_Swim-002Almost a quarter of a mile later 

Neither the water nor the wind were as cold as they might have been and not as cold as I expected so we probably got off quite lightly. If nothing else it was a timely reminder how much work I am going to have to do over the winter if I am to give myself a chance of finishing a triathlon. Thanks to Pauline for the photos.

Wednesday, 25 August 2010

Bill Williamson CRR Leg 2 – 21 Aug

Earlier this year (03 July) Bill attempted the Charlie Ramsay Round to complete the third of the ‘big three’ rounds in the UK. Thwarted on that occasion by dreadful weather on the last leg Bill was back last weekend for another attempt. Unsettled weather and strong winds were forecast to blow through Lochaber before dusk with a calm, dry, cloudless night to follow. With the wind behind him on the outward first leg this looked like a fairly promising forecast.

BW_CRR_20100821-001 sunbeams in Glen Nevis

BW_CRR_20100821-002 final preparations in Glen Nevis

BW_CRR_20100821-003Charlie Ramsay (left) with Yiannis Tridimis who will help on the last leg

The weather through the day was better than expected; windy but warm and dry. By the end of the first leg there were no signs of the wind dying down which wasn’t as forecast but things were still looking good at Loch Trieg for the start of Leg 2.

BW_CRR_20100821-004 Bill changing shoes & socks helped by Pat and his wife Jean (also in blue) while Andy Kitchen recovers from the first leg

BW_CRR_20100821-005 Climbing high above Lock Treig with Rhiannon

The weather started to deteriorate not long after we left Loch Trieg and long before the halfway point we were all wearing full waterproofs and our cameras were stuffed deep into rucksacks. The second half of the leg is along low level paths and tracks and still the headwind was troublesome, driving pulses of heavy rain throughout the evening. By the end of the leg Bill was still running strongly and we were all optimistic about a sub 24 hour completion as he and his Leg 3 team set off for Beinn Elide Mor summit. Before we reached Mamore Lodge some 3 hours later it was becoming obvious that the improvement in the weather was going to be very late arriving, if it arrived at all.

BW_CRR_20100821-006 Ian & Will in Glen Nevis waiting on Bill finishing

BW_CRR_20100821-007 After battling the weather through the night Bill completed the round but not in under 24 hours

The end wasn’t quite as dramatic as the picture, perhaps, suggests. Bill was only minutes behind a 24 hour schedule with only two of the twenty four summits left to do but was close to exhaustion and unable to push on when he wanted to. As the sub 24 hour completion slipped away grim determination stepped in to ensure the round was completed, no matter what. Waiting in Glen Nevis and watching the minutes and seconds slip away is not a pleasant experience. Not knowing why the team are overdue is dreadful; everyone tells each other we would have heard from someone if anything had gone wrong and we all try to believe each other. Eventually, a couple of runners come down to say that Bill is OK but slowing down and anxiety is replaced by disappointment as the clock hands slip beyond 24 hours. Disappointment is replaced by relief as the rest of the team appear out of the forest with Bill but finally gloom replaces everything else as we begin to come to terms with the final outcome.

Wednesday, 18 August 2010

Alberta Miscellany

A final selection of photos from Alberta

Canada 2010 092 Just to prove we were both there, on Mount Fairview with Mount Aberdeen and its glacier behind

 Canada 2010 074 Lake Louise from inside Chateau Louise

Canada 2010 041 Eisenhower Peak at the end of Castle Rock above Rockbound Lake


Canada 2010 018Bow Lake with Bow Glacier in the distance


Canada 2010 023Bow Lake with Bow Glacier in the distance 


Canada 2010 024 Bow Lake looking south

Canada 2010 024-2 The gargoyles of Gargoyle Valley

Canada 2010 029 Mount Louis above Gargoyle Valley

Tuesday, 17 August 2010

Cirque Peak (9819 ft / 2993 m)

Cirque Peak is on the north east side of the Columbia Icefield Parkway in Banff National Park and is so named because of a large cirque lying below its northern cliffs where a small glacier and bergshrund are also to be found. The route starts at the Helen Lake trail head over looking Bow Lake and across the highway from Crowfoot Mountain and its glacier.

Canada 2010 028 Wild flowers on the car park verge

Canada 2010 031 summits above Bow Lake

Once above the tree line the views are, as ever, spectacular and on the way to Helen Lake (between Cirque Peak and Dolomites Peaks) green grassy meadows teeming with wild flowers and wild life are crossed. The climb is a slog up loose scree below a short scramble to the (false) summit – the true summit remains out of sight until the false one is reached.

Canada 2010 069 Cirque Peak with true summit second from left

Canada 2010 074 Looking back from Cirque Peak to Dolomite Peaks (centre of picture)

Canada 2010 078 Pauline on the false summit with Bow Glacier behind

Canada 2010 093 Bow Lake with Bow Glacier in the distance

Canada 2010 105 Dolomite Peaks

Canada 2010 110 another ubiquitous Marmot

Canada 2010 125 Ptarmigan with chick

Canada 2010 122 Crowsfoot Glacier

Monday, 16 August 2010

Sentinel Pass

Lying between Morraine Lake in the Valley of Ten Peaks and Paradise Valley, Sentinel Pass provides one of the classic walks in the Canadian Rockies.

Canada 2010 009 Red Squirrel

Canada 2010 040 Sentinel Pass above Minestimma Lake

Bear activity in the area means “special instructions” from a park warden and reminder that we are legally required to remain in tight groups of at least four people in this area. Larch Valley and its Larches provide shade from the morning sun along the long zigzags up to Minestimma Lake from where Sentinel Pass is first seen.

Canada 2010 041 from Minestimmo Lake looking back the Valley of the 10 Peaks

The views behind of the 10 Peaks above Morraine Lake are equally impressive. The trail continues zigzagging up the scree slopes beyond Minestimmo Lake to reach pass and the start of the scrambling route up Mount Temple.

Canada 2010 044

The Grand Sentinel on the Paradise Valley side of the pass

The pass is a favourite lunch spot and not just for the tourists.

Canada 2010 103 Chipmunk trying to get at some trail mix in a rucksack

Canada 2010 065 looking back to Sentinel Pass from Paradise Valley

Beyond the pass we dropped down over a boulder field below the Sentinels for the walk out down Paradise Valley. Although not quite living up to its name it did provide some excitement. We reached the valley floor at about the same time as a rescue helicopter which was dropping a medic too deal with a hiker who had broken her ankle. Almost immediately afterwards we met the other half of the group with the casualty and learned that another of their number had wandered off alone and not been seen for over an hour – we later found him further down the valley, sitting enjoying the sunshine.

Canada 2010 106 The Sentinels

Further down we saw a porcupine scurry off through the undergrowth too fast to allow any worthwhile photographs to be taken and finally whilst paddling in a near ice cold lake we met a group “hiking on horseback” on local mountain horses. They are slightly smaller than normal horses and particularly sure footed – one of the riders tried, unsuccessfully, to persuade us it was harder work on the horse than it would have been on foot.

Friday, 13 August 2010

Farewell Waterton, Hello Canmore

After a couple of days we headed north to Canmore which lies a little to the south and east of Banff in the Bow Valley.

Canada 2010 002A Waterton local watches us depart for Canmore 


Canada 2010 023 The “Three Sisters” above Canmore

Late in the afternoon we climbed Ha Ling Peak above Canmore, almost literally racing storms to the summit – fortunately we won. According to Wikipedia the name of the peak is controversial – originally it was referred to as “The Beehive” until, in 1896, a Chinese cook won a bet of $50 by climbing the peak and placing a flag on its summit in less than 10 hours. This he did but nobody believed him so he took a party of doubters to the summit the following day to plant a larger flag beside his original. In his honour the peak was thereafter referred to as Chinaman’s Peak but by 1997 when “Chinaman” was viewed as derogatory it was renamed “Ha Ling Peak”.

Canada 2010 004

from Ha Ling summit north west towards Banff and an approaching storm

 Canada 2010 007

from Ha Ling summit looking south west to another storm

 Canada 2010 011 Miners Peak (adjacent to Ha Ling Peak)

Mount Allan via the Centennial Trail provided a complete contrast to the barren rocky summits of Ha Ling and Miners Peaks. The Centennial Trail zigzags its way through wild flower meadows before climbing out on to a wide stony ridge with grass and flowers right to the summit of Mount Allan. As it often the case, it isn’t the highest peaks that provide the best views and so it is with Mount Allan (9252 ft), dwarfed by nearby peaks it nevertheless provides spectacular views of the surrounding Rockies.

Canada 2010 049Indian Paintbrush

  Canada 2010 058 Gentian with meadow beyond

Canada 2010 067 looking south from below Mount Allan


Canada 2010 076

Mount Allan summit (brownish colour on the right)

 Canada 2010 093looking back down the Centennial Trail from the summit

 Canada 2010 102north west from Mount Allan

 Canada 2010 106north east towards Canmore and the Bow Valley


 Canada 2010 108flowers on the summit

 Canada 2010 122 across Bow Valley beyond Canmore

Wednesday, 11 August 2010

Waterton Lakes, Alberta

After an overnight stay in Calgary with its endlessly reflecting skyscrapers and a tranquil park almost in the heart of downtown we loaded the minibus and trailer that would be our base of the next 14 days and headed south to Waterton Lakes National Park.

Canada 01-001 Reflections of Calgary skyscrapers

Canada 01-002 Princes Island Park

Canada 01-003 above Waterton looking south towards USA

Canada 01-004 across Upper Waterton Lake to Vimy Peak (2379m 7805 ft)

After travelling almost all day we took a drive up Red Rock Canyon, tempted by the prospect of seeing some local wildlife at close quarters and to get a better feel for the area we would be walking in for the next couple of days. The wildlife didn’t disappoint -

Canada 01-005 Black Bear feeding by the roadside

The light coloured Black Bear wandered down the valley eating berries as it went, quite unconcerned by the two or three cars that stopped to watch and photograph it. So unconcerned and tranquil was this bear that it was difficult to appreciate that bears could be a serious threat to any or all of us.


The next day we walked from Cameron Lake over the Carthew-Anderson Trail back to Waterton with spectacular views of the south eastern Rockies.

Canada 01-006 Cameron Lake

Canada 01-007Summit Lake 

Canada 01-008some of our group descending towards Carthew Lakes

Canada 01-009outflow from Upper Carthew Lake

Canada 01-010  one of the many Marmots

The second day’s hike from Waterton took us up and along the Akamina Ridge in British Columbia with equally spectacular views south into Glacier National Park in Montana as well as east towards Carthew Lakes and north into the rest of Waterton Lakes National Park

Canada 01-011 Bear Grass

Canada 01-012looking east towards Carthew Lakes 

Canada 01-013 approaching the Akamina Ridge from the west

Canada 01-014 remains of a cornice on the ridge 

Canada 01-015looking back to Akamina Ridge above Wall Lake