The training continues
We finally got started at 11am, just as the heavens opened. And did they open! Imagine the heaviest rainstorm in England and times by ten! The rocky paths were running like rivers in no time at all. The climb starts at 1800 metres and we would finish day one at Laban Rata at 3,300 metres. The first days climb would have us cover 6 kilometres and 1500 metres vertical. I didn’t think that sounded too bad, but Stuart reminded me that it would be like a 1:3 hill all the way! The climb was relentless. The beginning took us up a mixture of natural rocky steps and some man made steps but at about half way the route started to get considerably harder. Now all natural rocks to climb, it was relentless and we were stopping regularly to recover our breath. Let’s say it was the longest 5 hours of my life – well perhaps with the exception of having a baby!
I haven’t posted for a couple of weeks, partly because I finally caught up on my backlog of writings but also because I ran out of things to talk about.
I didn’t do much training the week before last. I had major ambitions but when it came to actually standing at the base of the hill with gear and backpack, I just couldn’t find the energy. After three laps I pulled the pin and called it a day. I gradually came to the realisation that I’m trying to do too much in too little time. Let’s face it, I’m not exactly a spring chicken now.
Still, there were a few positives to the break. I continued my regular laps of my training hill, but only a couple of laps at a time. That still amounted to climbing it nine times during the week (um, 1,800 metres and about 9 hours of hiking).
Last week I felt more ambitious. I planned a big session for Wednesday and took off at four AM. Unfortunately it turned out to be a beautiful day and quickly got too warm. After four laps I decided to finish up and wait for a cooler day. I took Friday off work and decided a change was in order. Instead doing the training hill I thought I’d do the ridge road instead. This involves hiking up the big hill from Quy Hoa valley, hitting the ridge road and following that for about five kilometres until I get to the radar station overlooking the city and following the sealed road down from there.
I started at first light, five AM, and started hiking up the hill in the early morning gloom. The first 500 metres or so are quite steep, more than a 30% slope, and got my blood circulating in short order. It’s been about eight months since I last came up this way and with all the rain we’ve had recently large parts of the trail were overgrown. Still, I forced my way through the foliage and eventually emerged onto clear trails. From there, it didn’t take long to reach the ridge. At this point I’d hiked three kilometres and reached 500 metres altitude, after starting at sea level. The weather was perfect, regular light showers to cool me down and a steady breeze.
I stopped for a brunch break when I hit the ridge road, sitting on a rock that marks the high point of the ridge, about 560 metres above sea level. By this time the weather started clearing but but the breeze strengthened – perfect hiking weather.
The ridge road was a new experience for me. I’ve hiked along here before but this was the first time I’d done it with trekking poles. It’s an undulating dirt road following the ridge line for about five kilometres before joining the sealed road leading down into Quy Nhon City. This is the first time that
I’ve done an extended stretch of open hiking trail with the poles and it made a huge difference. Not only was walking up inclines faster and easier but there was a fairly long downhill stretch on a slippery red clay surface where my boots just weren’t gripping. The sticks made it so much easier to keep my footing. There have been a lot of changes since my last hike along here. The trees have been cleared so it’s a lot more barren that before. I passed a dozen or so forestry workers busy planting seedlings so in another year or two it should be much improved.
Four more kilometres of reasonably brisk hiking brought me to the end of the ridge road and the peak of the hill overlooking Quy Nhon. A great spot for lunch, I thought to myself, so I stretched out on the grass under a tree, removed my boots, had my lunch and relaxed for a bit. Bliss. It was time to make a move when I caught myself dozing off. My legs had started to stiffen up. The trekking poles made it much easier to get to my feet (Chalk up yet another use for these handy items). From here it was downhill for about three kilometres along a concrete road. This road, by the way, dates from the days of the Vietnam War when Quy Nhon was a strategic supply base for the American military. If you check out the images on Google Earth, you’ll see that somebody has posted images of the outpost that used to be situated at the top of the hill.
By the time I got to the bottom I was feeling pretty good. I had covered about eleven kms but I wasn’t quite ready to head back to my motorbike at the start. Directly in front of me was the west face of my much smaller training hill, so I figured, why the hell not. I set off along the road until I reached a path heading upwards – a new one I’d never been on before. This trail, was narrow, winding and led up the steepest side of the hill. Once again, the trekking poles carried the day for me. Between the slippery, muddy trail and the steep slope it would have been a struggle without them. By the time I reached the top the climb had taken its toll on me. It was time to head back. I had another three kilometres to get back to the bike but at least it was downhill and on the level.
I got back to the bike about 45 minutes later, tired but satisfied. This would have to be one of the longest hikes I’ve ever done, certainly one with the greatest change in elevation. The Wikiloc figure tells the story. I think I’ll do a lot more of my training on the bigger mountain. It’s a lot more fun. First, however, I’ll need to spend a morning with my trusty jungle knife clearing a kilometre or so of trail.