Saturday, December 27, 2014

Christmas Cheer.

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year from Chase The Rainbow!

Hopefully you are all enjoying yourselves and making the most of the holidays. I've (Neil) had an unusual one but I'll spare you the details for now!

Please spare a thought for all of our wonderful Mountain Rescue Teams. Each team is crewed by volunteers who give up their precious time to, not only, help members of the public in distress, but also to support our Emergency Services.
Even on Christmas Day when everyone else is tucking in to turkey! 
They do an amazing job, day and night, 365 days a year; all for free!

Please consider donating a few pounds to support them, if you can spare it.

You can view the websites from the links below. Most of the teams also have a Facebook page that detail their day to day actions and call outs. Please give your local team a "like", you might be very surprised at some of the things they get called out for on a daily basis.

Friday, December 19, 2014

The Kathmandu Ultra Marathon 2015.

Here's a quick one for you. 

The Kathmandu Ultra Marathon takes place on January 3rd 2015.

It's worth looking up if you're in the area. I ran the inaugural event in 2014 and it was brilliant. Fantastic trails around The Shivapuri-Nagarjun National Park with breathtaking views of The High-Himalaya to distract you from the pain!

Richard Ball (a very nice man!) runs it through his organisation Trail Running Nepal and can be followed on

Facebook here: Trail Running Nepal
Twitter here: @TrailRunNepal
and via their website here: Trail Running Nepal

One of the views you can expect to distract you! From Chisapani. Stunning!

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Sri Lanka - Swerving the curve balls on the path to The Rumble in the Jungle.

The "Rumble in the Jungle" is the latest instalment of the newly formed Yak Attack World Challenge Series.
Regular readers will be fully aware of my compulsion for the original, and highly acclaimed, "Yak Attack" race held annually in Nepal; I have competed in the last three, and to be honest it's becoming something of an obsession! :D
The Sri Lankan chapter, however, wasn't entirely on my radar. I had taken a look at it out of interest but was undecided as to whether it was my thing or not. I enjoy the brutality of extreme events, I like the challenge of mastering the demons that shadow you and, perversely, I'm also fascinated by observing the way other racers cope (or not) with the mental and physical demands that such events throw at you and the way that preconceptions can completely disintegrate over the course of a few hard days.
I just wasn't sure if it was extreme enough.
The stages certainly looked tough enough, lots of hard climbing, some great looking descents, river crossings & jungle to be negotiated, a couple of 80km+ days, and my personal nemesis - heat & humidity. I just thought that four stages wouldn't be quite enough; from personal experience the breakdown process for most people starts at around 3 - 4 days and gets interesting from there onwards.
There was also the spectre of minimal preparation; I broke my elbow and several ribs in August which would mean that I would only have a few weeks back on the bike before racing!
However with the thought of a reunion with friends from around the world, some less than subtle persuasion from Team Yak Attack (Phil Evans & Kate Hobson), and the offer of a reduced entry fee (or a reward, as Phil put it, for my support, championing, and promotion of Yak Attack over the last couple of years) finally saw me click on the entry button. Thank you for that Phil & Kate, it is much appreciated.
It was then that things started to unravel...!

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Cyclone Hudhud: The 2014 Annapurna Disaster, Nepal.

I've been considering writing something on this since the news broke. Fortunately experienced Mountain Guide and Author Jamie McGuinness has taken up the mantle and has said what needed to be said in a much better way than I ever could (see the link below).
Jamie McGuinness wrote the Trailblazer guide book "Trekking in the Everest Region". We used it extensively on our first unsupported trip in 2012 and found it to be invaluable; referencing it on a daily basis.

It is a tragedy that really could have been prevented for the most part. Nepal is a staggeringly beautiful country, but it is a country that is also chaotic and suffers from many social and political problems that will take a long time to be fully addressed, if ever. Don't let that put you off from visiting though; it is one of the most rewarding places in the world in which to travel.

I would personally add to Jamie's comments that there is a worrying lack of genuine mountain experience amongst the majority of trekkers. Hiring a reputable guiding company is a good start but there is no substitute for personal experience. The ability to route find, read a map & compass, and make simple safety decisions, should be something most people entering The Himalaya should probably consider before embarking on an arduous trek in a remote, and potentially hostile, region.

My heart goes out to all the families that have been affected by this unfortunate tragedy; I know from personal experience the pain that you are suffering. Rest In Peace.

You can read Jamie's viewpoint using the link below to his website Project Himalaya.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Alpkit. A great brand and a cool place to visit.

Alpkit have a great showroom.

Alpkit are a brand that many of you may not be familiar with. A lot of climbers and mountain-bikers (particularly Bikepackers) certainly will be.
They are based in Newthorpe, close to the town of Eastwood, on the Nottinghamshire/Derbyshire border.
They have a great reputation for producing quality kit and because they sell direct, either from their website or from the factory showroom, they are able to keep their prices very competitive. And I mean competitive. 
I'm a great believer in buying the best that you can afford, it always pays off in the long term; and believe me I've made the mistake of buying cheap! Alpkit, however, seem to have pulled off the coup de gras of making quality kit and keeping prices attractive.
I've visited their showroom a few times and I own a few items of their kit. After today's visit I own quite a few more.
I went particularly for some of their Bikepacking kit. (Bikepacking is simply the lightweight mountainbiking alternative to bicycle touring with pannier racks etc.)

I have been drooling over it for a while but with my current plan to take on The Tour Divide in America I thought it was time to take the plunge and get myself kitted out.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Review: Rab Ascent 700 Sleeping Bag

A grumpy Dave Slater demonstrating "The Rab Ascent 700" in Bupsa, Nepal, during our first trek in that region.

I first acquired this bag, from Rab, in early 2012 and it has since been on four high-altitude trips to The Himalaya. I think I can now give it a fair assessment.
Firstly it's squarely a 3 to 4 season sleeping bag, and from a UK perspective you are unlikely to use it outside of the November to February Winter period. Internationally, of course, you might well use it much more than that.
It is manufactured from the excellent Pertex Microlight fabric and is filled with 700gms of 650 fill power European duck down.
Which means that is reasonably light and very warm.
I have the (now) older version of this bag and it weighs about 1400gms when packed into the stuff sack.
(The information from Rab, provided below, is for the current model).

Monday, July 28, 2014

The Yak Attack World-Series!

The Yak Attack goes global!

Regular readers will be very familiar with my Yak Attack exploits in Nepal. Over the last twelve months, Founder & Race Director, Phil Evans has been a busy man, travelling the world and reconnoitring new trails & venues for a World-Series!
In recent months all of that "hard work" has to come to spectacular fruition.

"The Yak Attack World Challenge Series" has been born!

"The Yak Attack World Challenge Series will see a proliferation of Yak Attack formulated events in some of the world's most inaccessible and least developed regions over the coming years. Each race will be a multi-day, stage race that pushes its riders to the limit, both physically and emotionally, through hostile terrain and climate in unfamiliar and challenging settings, which will result in the experience of a lifetime for modern-day adventurers."

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Musings from the couch (potato).

Given the title of this piece you might well be thinking that I've been sprawled out on the psychiatrists couch, and to be fair that wouldn't be an unreasonable assumption. Although, let's be honest, your common or garden psychiatrist would probably have a complete meltdown, and require the services of one of their own practitioners, if they spent half-an-hour trying to psychoanalyse some of the stuff that floats around inside my head! 
Nope, the fact is I have become a couch-potato. There, I said it. It's out in the open.
It isn't entirely self-enforced, well, I say not entirely, what I mean to say is that it wasn't a concious decision; I fell off my bike. And broke my elbow. And two ribs. And my iPhone. Luckily the bike is OK, which is good, because they are expensive to repair. Ribs heal by themselves, for free.
Soooo, given that I have time on my hands, I thought I ought to do some catching up.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Trail Running Nepal: Campaign to support Nepali athlete's in European races.

Upendra and Phudorjee

My friend Richard Ball at Trail Running Nepal is once again trying to support Nepali athlete's to race on the International Trail Running Circuit; including The Skyrunning World Championships!

Whenever Nepalese athletes get a chance to race at oversea's events they usually surprise a lot of people!
These guys are awesome and their performances, and particularly their endurance, is the envy of many.
Sadly it can prove almost impossible for them to travel without the assistance of generous benefactors.

Please click on the link below and take a look at Richard's campaign to secure funds for Upendra and Phu on his website.
Richard is a great guy and he also organisers a number of excellent races in Nepal. I took part in one of his "Kathmandu Trail Race's" earlier this year and it was a fantastic event. His events give the Nepali athlete's a chance to gain valuable race experience and to run against international competition on their home soil.
People, like Richard, who support and nurture others with real potential deserve our support!
Even if you can't afford to donate a few Dollars please share his page on your social networking sites and help spread a little love.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Review: Osprey Talon Lumbar Pack.

Osprey Talon 8 being put to good use during The 2014 Yak Attack in Nepal.

Regular readers will know that I am a big fan of Osprey Packs, I have used their products consistently for a number of years, and with good reason; they are outstanding!
I purchased The Talon 8 Lumbar Pack in February 2013; after borrowing a Talon 4 from my friend Mitchell Bryan to use in The Strathpuffer 24hr Mountain Bike Race.
Mitch had been singing it's praises and I was keen to see if it would be suitable for me to use in The 2013 Yak Attack and The Everest Marathon in Nepal. It was, and I did.

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Jogging on. An Interlude in The Lake District.

Great shot of me climbing on Helvellyn courtesy of Graham Kelly.
Not so long ago I was browsing Facebook, as you do, and I came across an interesting link to a page calling itself The Trail Running Team. They were recruiting for applicants to attend a weekend for their 2014 team selection. A weekend running in The Lake District with like minded folks and the potential, if successful, to win a three day training camp in The Alps and a bunch of kit from the team sponsors, Berghaus, LED Lenser, and Torq Performance, was an opportunity not to be sniffed at! So I sent in an application.
And guess what? I got in! My confirmation email arrived on April 4th and the realisation set in that I was actually going and would be found out as an impostor forthwith!

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Earthing the current.

Earthing the Current.

I've been on an awfully big adventure!
The real problem with long trips and big adventures is coming home!
Now don't get me wrong with that statement, it's not that I don't like coming home, because I do, and I always look forward to the warm familiarity of family, friends, my own bed, my real life, even a little bit of routine; and I'm not the biggest fan of routine at the best of times! But it's oddly reassuring and it gets my feet back on the ground. And aside from all that I like to see my Son, and my Mum & Dad.
Most people, it seems to me, suffer from a touch of the "holiday blues"; I hear it all the time. Guy's I work with go away for their annual fortnight in the sun and then come back to work, regale us with their tales of lying around the pool, relaxing, getting sun burnt, drinking beer, and generally letting off a little steam, before they start to mope around for a few days and come out with the age-old statement "I hate this country, I wish I was still in "... (add destination of choice)..." and the timeless classic "I need another holiday, to get over that holiday!".
After longer trips, and especially those involving a challenge like the Yak Attack, the physical and psychological dynamic is slightly different.
The problem, as the title suggests, is earthing the current. Let me try and explain.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

It's Time to Burn!

Nepal and The Yak Attack 2014

The Yak Attack Circus comes to town!
It's raining today in Kathmandu!
That's only the fourth time in the two months since I arrived here, so I can't really compain!
My source of all things Nepali, Jenny Caunt from Himalayan Singletrack, tells me that after today the Nepali Summer arrives.
Apparently it rains for three days towards the end of February (which it did) and then once more on Shivaratri, the day that Hindu's celebrate Lord Shiva. She was pretty much spot on with her prediction, except that it's two days late; Lord Shiva's "Birthday" was on Thursday. (Today is Saturday, but hey, who's counting!)
And tomorrow brings's the registration for The NorthFace Yak Attack 2014. The sun will surely shine on us for that :)

Friday, February 14, 2014

Yak Attack - Last minute tips for Nepal, and surviving Kathmandu! (and some inspiration!).


If your idea of idyll is a tourist brochure paradise with all the comforts of a developed society it's probably for the best if you don't come! :D
However if you have a sense of adventure and wonder for the world, and you can leave a few of your "necessary" comforts on the doorstep, then this could be just the place for you!

Colours of Kathmandu.

For newcomers to Nepal, and particularly Kathmandu, the culture shock can be overwhelming.
Hopefully I can prepare you a little for what's in store.
Kathmandu can be a beautiful place to visit but it also has some environmental and social problems to which unprepared Western visitors might find hard to adjust.

The first thing to remember above all is that Nepali people are trustworthy and friendly. It is unlikely that you will be ripped off, scammed, or robbed. In fact it is more likely that you will get the better end of any deal! I have been followed down the road after leaving expensive items in cafe's and restaurants.
And, of course, a smile earns a smile :)

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

In the shade of the Banyan Tree.

In the shade of the Banyan tree.
An unmitigated disaster? Or a mini-adventure!

The start of a mini-adventure. The teashop at Mudkhu.

If you have no real grasp of irony, satire, or downright sarcasm this piece may not be worth continuing with. If however you are blessed with a certain sense of humour then feel free to enjoy.

Much of it was written "on the fly" and some of it was written post-ride each day so I apologise in advance for the mix of past and present tense. I've cleaned it up as best I can. And also for the mix of imperial (miles) and metric (kilometres) here and there, in Nepal they use kilometres but my Garmin GPS is set to record miles and I haven't bothered to change it over.

Day 1 - Monday 3rd February.

I left Kathmandu at 11.30am, bound ultimately for Manang, a beautiful town in the shadow of The Annapurna's.
The four mile ride to Mudkhu was harder than the usual easy spin carrying an extra 14 or 15kgs of backpack! I stopped for tea at Mudkhu knowing I had some big climbs ahead. It was going to be good strength training for the old legs.

The climb to Kakani was long but actually pretty steady as it turned out (on mostly sealed road). I was starting to enjoy the extra power I've developed over the last few weeks of long rides and huge hills. Faster would be even better!

The view from Kakani.

Friday, January 31, 2014

Let's go ride a bike (up to the highest height).

I've been riding my bike quite a lot lately.

Today I had a leisurely, and very early, ride around some Kathmandu Valley trails with my friend Jenny Caunt from Himalayan Singletrack, and some quality "urban" trails too given the condition of some of Kathmandu's roads & alleys (Jenny incidentally is also a first class KTM/Thamel restaurant/food/Thungba "guide" and has pointed me to all the hidden hotspots).

Jenny Caunt on our early jaunt!

In the last couple of weeks I've done around 600km of riding, some fun, some training. 
I've got a little regular training route now, starting in Thamel, heading out of the city on sealed road for about Four miles (6km) on the Trishuli Highway to Mudkhu (heading West and then North-West). From there I head off on a short steep climb up a small dirt road to the left of the National Park checkpoint. This "Jeep" trail winds its way around the perimeter of The Nagarjun National Park, undulating up & down for ten miles (16km) to a small pass at Bhimdhunga; and a perfectly located Teahouse. I can then drop down in to Swayambhu via little farm tracks back in to the city for a total of about 38km. What I normally do though is have a cup of tea, turn the bike around, and head straight back along the same trail. This adds another 10 miles (16km) to the ride and includes a testing climb of about 3.5 miles. I have also discovered a few alternative routes along the way, some by trial & error, some by mistake, and some with a little local help. I also found myself a really great bit of technical singletrack, some of which was so exposed that I had to push/carry the bike. The consequences of a mistake are a little too high! I'm not too proud to admit that nearly released a chocolate hostage a couple of times! Scary! I'll be riding it again soon.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

A Taste of Nepal.

A Taste of Nepal.

Kathmandu has some amazing sights around every corner.

Sights, sounds, smells, and tastes all make up the delicious, myriad, flavour of Nepal. Although not all of the smells are that delicious!
I arrived in the permanently chaotic Kathmandu a little under three weeks ago, and it's been a blast. So much so that I haven't yet extricated myself out to the high mountains for some much needed altitude acclimation. The trails around the Kathmandu Valley rim are perfect for training, and the hub-bub of Thamel has been perfect for relaxing and having fun. The weather is warm (although the locals seem to disagree with me on that; 16-20 degrees Celsius is considered Winter in KTM. That's what we call Summer in England!) and the trails are dry.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Prologue: Yak Attack 2014. Here we go again!

Yak Attack 2014

Once more unto the breach...

The Showdown in the Annapurna's!

Yak Attack; the worlds highest mountain bike race. 8 brutal stages, 400kms. 12000mts of climbing. Heat, Cold, Altitude, Punishing Climbs, Hike-a-bike, Dust, Sand, Rock, Mud, River Crossings, Snow, Ice, Extreme Winds, Yaks!, and the mighty Thorong La pass - 5416mts.
Rightly considered as one of the toughest mountain bike stage races on Earth.
Devised in 2007, by the the devilish (but very nice man) Phil Evans of Extreme World Challenges, to showcase the talents of Nepal's phenomenal mountain biking community, and to test the mettle of the worlds hardiest riders. On both of those counts he succeeded! It is an awesome experience that tests not just your ability to ride a mountain bike but to challenge your ability to survive everything that The Nepalese Himalaya can throw at you. This isn't your common or garden stage race. Deprived of western comforts international riders find themselves in a remote, but spectacular, region; with minimal luxury, basic foods & facilities, harsh - saddle sore inducing - trails, the likelihood of "stomach issues", and debilitating levels of oxygen deprivation in the higher stages. It is a true test for the adventurous rider.