Capital Ring Walk – Day 3
Date: 12 December 2017
Walked From: Richmond
Walked To: South Kenton
Distance: 18 miles
Today’s stage of the Capital Ring took me from leafy Richmond to suburban South Kenton, via some beautiful waterside paths and a couple of spectacular viewpoints. All accompanied with a healthy wintertime dollop of ice, some snow – and even sunshine at times.
I had company on today’s walk – my friend Peter (bet he didn’t originally envisage spending his day off walking around west London), who kindly paid for my lunch at a ‘two mains for £9.99’ type pub in ‘glamorous’ Greenford before we pushed on through the final seven miles of our leg-stretching stroll around the Capital.
Today’s route covered sections 7-9 of the Capital Ring walk (all of which can be downloaded as very good PDFs from the TfL website) and it has some cracking sections: the watery bit alongside the Thames and the River Brent, the lovely grounds of Syon Park and Harrow School, and the views of London from Horsden Hill and Harrow on the Hill, a part of London dominated by the famous public school and the gentlemen’s outfitters (and other echoes of an imagined genteel past straight out of the Victorian era) that go with it. ‘‘Twas a good walk indeed!
Capital Ring Walk – Day 2
Date: 8 December 2017
Walked From: Crystal Palace Park
Walked To: Richmond
Distance: 19 miles
It was, by London standards, freezing today. But there was also a beautiful blue winter sky and some of the finest walking in London – including Europe’s largest urban park (nope, I didn’t know that about Richmond Park until today either).
Today’s start was the most convenient one I’ll get on the Capital Ring – Crystal Palace is just a 20 minute bus ride (I could have walked, but bearing in mind it would have been on top of an already long walking day I decided to splurge on the bus fare…) away from where I live.
The other good thing about Crystal Palace is that it’s one of the best places in London for fantastic views of the city – a nicer starting point than the Woolwich foot tunnel on a grey and murky day. Streatham Common was resplendent in the sunshine, Wandsworth Prison (where Ronnie Biggs escaped from two years after being sentenced for the 1960s Great Train Robbery) was as forbidding looking as ever, and the windmill on Wimbledon Common seemed as incongruous as always. However, for all the interesting things you pass on this section, it really is Richmond Park that wins all the awards; beautiful scenery, some ancient trees (over 700 years old) and lots and lots of deer. So many, in fact, that there were signs up at the entrance warning of the ongoing deer cull in the park to keep their numbers down. Can’t they go and work for Father Christmas instead? I know they aren’t ‘quite’ reindeer but their antlers really are VERY impressive!
Capital Ring Walk – Day 1
Date: 6 December 2017
Walked From: Woolwich Foot Tunnel
Walked To: Crystal Palace Park
Distance: 18 miles
How do you follow up an iconic pilgrimage walk across Spain and a high altitude trek up to Everest Base Camp? By redoing a 79 mile circular walk around London’s parks and green spaces, obviously.
The Capital Ring spends much of its first 18 miles winding through a remarkable amount of woodland in southeast London. On a dry, early winter’s day, the woods are still clinging on to some of their autumn colour, the pathways carpeted in (perfectly brittle sounding) leaves.
It also passes some fine architecture – including Eltham Palace (above), which has its very own moat, and Beckenham Place, a lovely Georgian building in grounds with sweeping views in parkland that wouldn’t be out of place in the countryside.
Everest Base Camp Trek – Day 12
Date: 23 November 2017
Walked to: Lukla
Distance: 8 miles
Altitude: Sleeping at 2,800m
As the old wallpaper advert of the 1980s proclaimed, ‘what goes up must come down’. And lo, so did I – even if a lot of today actually involved gaining height rather than losing it, as we made our way to the tea house by the side of the startlingly short and sloped airport runway at Lukla in readiness for catching our flight back to Kathmandu first thing tomorrow morning.
Today was blissfully easy walking as my lungs cruised along at under 3,000m. Climbing was almost fun again. I could move at a fair old clip. It was like walking normally is when you aren’t wandering along at altitudes higher than some planes fly at (like our flight tomorrow, for example…). The ‘highway’ was full of school children and donkeys today, as well as the porters carrying their unbearably heavy looking loads up the mountains. When there’s only one road up/down, and that road happens to be a rocky and precarious hillside path interspersed with swaying chain metal suspension bridges, it can get jam packed at times.
The final walk into Lukla was an assault on the senses, as we suddenly hit a concentration of housing, shops, so-called bars and even a pool hall clustered along the mountainside, the footpath full of recalcitrant yaks and donkeys… and people; what felt like lots of people. Time to end this adventure – and start plotting the next (half) gap year adventure. Watch this space!
Everest Base Camp Trek – Day 11
Date: 22 November 2017
Walked to: Monzo
Distance: 8 miles
Altitude: Sleeping at 2,850m
We finally left Sagarmatha National Park (home to Everest and many of the other awfully tall mountain things around this neck of the woods) this afternoon, shortly before getting to our penultimate tea house of the trip in Monzo.
I’m pleased to report that today’s walk actually was almost entirely downhill, as you would expect when you’re supposed to be losing altitude (and unlike yesterday!). The eight mile walk included a long lunch break back in Namche Bazaar – ‘capital’ of the Sherpas as well as a place where it’s possible to purchase a wide variety of slightly out of date confectionary, and some very expensive ‘real’ North Face gear (when you can buy knock off stuff at a fraction of the price – I know what I’d do, but I’m not telling anyone who works in the copyright industry).
The sign in the photo is at the entry point to the National Park and offers some sage advice about altitude. As a ‘communications professional’, the simplicity of the messaging appealed to me, so you get this instead of beautiful views today. You never know, it may save your life one day 😁
Everest Base Camp Trek – Day 10
Date: 21 November 2017
Walked to: Kyanjuma
Distance: 11.8 miles
Altitude: Sleeping at 3,600
Oh, the joy of losing altitude! Even though we actually climbed more today than we have for a week, we also lost a lot of height; it’s noticeably warmer (well, less freezing) back in Kyanjuma – to the extent that I’ve even had a shower. The bliss of clean hair – for me, and, no doubt, for everyone else. Oh, and that breathing thing is a while lot easier too!
Today was largely about retracing our footsteps, although the lovely walk through the rest of the Pheriche valley and the early part of the Imja Khola valley was a different route from the way up. We had a break in the village of Pangboche, where we had stopped before – not knowing at the time that the tea house was run by another Sherpa with a fine pedigree of climbing Everest, and whose cafe hosts a number of artefacts from the 1953 expedition. We had lunch in Thyangboche, home to one of Nepal’s famous monasteries (something I neglected to mention when I was moaning about the as the urine soaked toilet carpet I took such objection to in my blog from Day 5) before carrying on down – and then brutally back up, for ages, to get back to the tea house at Kyanjuma, where we originally stayed on the third night.
Coming back, the tea house seems incredibly posh. If my room were shown to me at almost any other time, I’d recoil in horror, but after ten days, a cold room with a mouldy ceiling, a bathroom and sheets that ‘almost’ look clean seems to be the height of class. The hosts played a documentary film about climbing Everest tonight. Safe to say, it didn’t inspire me to take up climbing at all. Those people are mad: I’ll settle for being mildly eccentric!
Everest Base Camp Trek – Day 9
Date: 20 November 2017
Walked to: Pheriche
Distance: 9 miles
Altitude: Sleeping at 4,243m
I was woken this morning by a helicopter, flying in to rescue a walker with altitude sickness from the tea house where we stayed last night. Shortly afterwards, another one flew in for the same reason. For those of us who are only mildly affected by altitude (manifesting itself in me in leaden legs and breathlessness at the slightest uphill) however, having made it to Base Camp in eight days, it’s a matter of heading back down in four.
There was an option this morning to wake up at 4am and walk up Kala Pattar, the ‘black rock’ peak that towers over Gorak Shep. Three of our band of nine heroically did the three hour walk before breakfast – I was not one of them, but I am looking forward to seeing the photos… all I want to do at this point in the walk is get back to lower altitudes, and, one almost unimaginable day, to wake up in a room where I can’t see my breath, where condensation hasn’t gathered in wet beads at the top of my sleeping bag and where there isn’t ice coating the window panes.
There were a few ‘up’ bits today, and they were hard, but it was largely downhill – we’ve ‘lost’ a glorious 940m at tonight’s tea house (you can just see the village of Pheriche at the far end of today’s photo, which is of the valley the village is in) compared to where we woke up this morning. That doesn’t mean it’s not cold though – there is no way I’m prepared to shower tonight, and even though I’m sitting in the dining room (the one place, apart from the kitchen, where there is ever any heat in a tea house) and it’s almost tea time (generally ‘peak’ warmth time), I’m wearing three layers of long-sleeved tops (including a thermal), my down jacket and my bobble hat. Oh, the glamour.