Saturday, October 7, 2017

Stop all the clocks...

Darren Holloway 1970-2012.
Why would one year be different to the next? Isn't it strange how we put significance to some numbers more than others, when, in fact, they are really just numbers?
Today doesn't feel like just a number.
The wind outside is howling through the trees. The sky, although not quite leaden, is brooding with the threat of rain; and yet, just occasionally, the sun pops through to briefly brighten the spirit.
It is five years today since Darren died.
It is one of those significant anniversaries, one of those significant numbers. Insignificant to all but those who knew and loved him, significant to me.
I'm being battered by that wind today, a hurricane of emotions cloud my every thought. A deluge of tears threaten to sweep me away at any moment. And yet, just occasionally, the sun pops through the clouds and saves me, a memory of Daz; a fleeting glimpse of a moment shared, to lift me up and remind me that, although he is lost to us, he is still with us every day in our hearts and minds.
Darren, my cousin, was a Fell Runner who fell, running, high upon the Fairfield Horsehoe on October 7th 2012.

You may have slipped the surly bonds of earth my brother, but the bond around our hearts grows stronger with each passing day. We love you DazH. Dig in.

-------------------------------------------------------------------------

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Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Less is more. Finding Nemo.


The Final Frontier.
Last year I awakened a whole new passion: singlespeed mountainbiking. I hadn't ridden a singlespeed bike for well over 20 years.
I brought a cheap, but good value, Vitus Dee 29er from Chain Reaction Cycles for commuting. it proved to be something of a personal revelation. I had been a bit of a sceptic when it came to singlespeed mountainbikes, partially dismissing them as ridiculous, and a hipster fashion accessory. I was wrong (well partially wrong, they're still a hipster fashion accessory).
After 15 months of regular use I decided to build myself something a bit more suitable to my all round needs, a bit more trail friendly if you like. Fortunately I have a shed full of components stuffed in boxes or just laying around so the actual build hasn't cost me an awful lot of money (well it cost me money once upon a time but not on this occasion).
Also considering the support I have had from Alpkit over the last few years I thought it was about time I stepped across one of their very highly regarded Sonder machines.
So my starting point was their new entry level hardtail frame & fork bundle - The Frontier - a bike they have designed as an all-rounder for everything from "campsite and crag" to "trail centre and bikepacking". It's sound like just the bike for me, plus I was particularly enamoured with the "Nemo" blue colour scheme, and the ability to run plus sized tyres should I wish to. 

Sunday, October 1, 2017

The Fungi Factor.


With my recent incapacitation I've been forced to enjoy my wood as a spectator for a change. 
Thankfully most of the work takes place in the winter months so I haven't got behind with my plans.
I have been popping down quite regularly to keep an eye on it, and to enjoy the changing of the seasons. It's very nice to just wander around rather than spend my time working away like a demented beaver.
Long gone are the tumultuous swathes of spring flowers. The soil is becoming damp underfoot, the woodland floor is carpeted with a million acorns, and the leaves are started to change & fall.
August and September have seen a proliferation of fungi blooms, some of which, as you will see from the photographs, have been spectacular. I like fungi, a lot. It's fundamentally important to the health of the wood, and I seem to have quite a variety. I am, however, hopeless at identifying individual species, but I do enjoy spotting new ones.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

The Peaks 200 - by Mitch Bryan & Pascal Lally




Rainbow Chasers Mitch Bryan, Martin Tansley, and Pascal Lally recently took on The Peak 200, an Individual Time Trial (ITT) that circumnavigates most of The Peak District National Park. This is their account of an epic days mountain biking. I really enjoyed reading it; I hope you enjoy it too.


Mitch takes up the first half of the story:

"What time do you reckon it is?"
"Erm... 22:30?"
"You what! Try 01:30"
"Oh"

Where had the time gone? As I lent against the fence trying to force down one more gel into my grumbling stomach I pondered how time had run away from me. It only seemed like an hour at the most since Pascal and Martin had switched on their lights as we began our final technical descent into Roych Clough. And yet now here we were taking a moment to refuel after pushing our not so laden bikes up the steep sided valley out of Chee Dale.

I could hardly believe that over twenty hours earlier the three of us had set off from the pub car park at Rowsley full of apprehension for what the rest of the day had in store for us as we attempted to complete the Peak 200 ITT in under twenty four hours, although I hadn't told Martin and Pascal this as it thought it might have put them off. 

Monday, August 21, 2017

On the Up.


My post-op recovery seems to be going OK. It's only been a week and a half admittedly, but the pain has receded considerably and is more like a nagging toothache now.
I've been out walking quite a bit and I've had a few sessions on the turbo-trainer just to try and keep some fitness (and relieve the intense boredom).
Today I decided it was time to try a tentative cross-country run, so I popped out for an hour and ran gently on some familiar local paths. It was good actually, I enjoyed myself, and I was able to keep my arm stable in the sling, and, importantly, strain and pain free. I planned to do about 5km but ended up doing 8.5km. I had fun with a feisty Alpaca (not generally native to Derbyshire), carefully avoided some grumpy looking cows who eyeballed me with considerable suspicion (they had young calves), and spotted some beautiful looking wild flowers in a small woodland.  It was quite eventful.


The next three months will likely be a slow build up back to normal mobility. The surgeon suggested I might be able to get out cycling (on road) after about six weeks; that's something I'm looking forward to. I won't however rush proceedings in any way, I want to recover fully and without incident.
This week I have my first consultation with the physiotherapist and also my first post-op assessment with the Consultant Surgeon. I'll keep you posted on the outcomes.
As a means of alleviating the intense boredom further I am off to the Isle of Wight for a few days to visit my twin sister Helen. It's high time I went really, she's been living there for four years :D

My grumpy face. I'm not a fan of sitting on a turbo-trainer.
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Alpkit announce their #ContinuumProject


Perfectly in line with their "Go Nice Places, Do Good Things" tagline the good folk at Alpkit have announced their latest social & environmental initiative through their Alpkit Foundation.
The Continuum Project is a partnership with several other organisations to donate, recycle, and redistribute, your old and unwanted outdoor gear to those people in society who are less fortunate.
Here at Chase The Rainbow we love things like this and we'll be digging out as much of our old kit as possible. If you have some stuff kicking around then why not donate it to a good cause; you'll feel good about it and so will the people who benefit from your generosity :)
You can read all about the project here:


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Thursday, August 17, 2017

Review: Osprey Stratos 34


I've been using and recommending an Osprey Atmos 35 litre rucksack for quite a long time; and with very good reason - It's the best pack I have used for travelling, full-stop.
Osprey have now discontinued the Atmos in its 35 litre guise and so I contacted them last year to discuss an up to date alternative. The Stratos 34 looked to fit the bill nicely.
To be honest it is virtually identical to the Atmos, which is a good start. 
If I am to replace my trusted Atmos it will need to be good.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Operation Factory Reset.


Four years ago, during Yak Attack 2013 in Nepal, I dislocated my shoulder in spectacular fashion.
A mere 5km out, on Stage Six from Chame to Manang, I was hammering down one of the few descents and took the inside line on a fast bend, as I exited the corner three trekkers were walking side by side and I had to sweep wide to avoid them. Unfortunately a large, and unavoidable, branch lay in my path, the rest is a blur. I clattered through the branch, hit the vertical wall on the right-hand side and then hit the deck. I was pretty messed up with cuts & abrasions, and my right arm was sat neatly in my armpit.
To cut a long story short I had to abandon racing and eventually relocate my dislocated limb back into its socket by my own devises. It was as painful as you are now imaging it to be.
Since then I have been putting up with the side effects - mostly due to travel and racing plans. Late last year I decided that it was time to get it sorted out and went through the process of getting it scanned and evaluated for surgery.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

The green light.


"No Gain Without Pain" it says near the top of Cramp Hill; the final, brutal, climb into Haputale at the end of "Rumble in the Jungle" Stage One. I doubt whoever painted it knew that it would eventually greet a plethora of international mountainbikers in the last throes of the pain train during their baptism of fire on the lush island of Sri Lanka.
It is also relevant to me this very week. My long awaited operation to repair my previously dislocated shoulder has the go ahead and I undergo keyhole surgery on Thursday afternoon. I'm looking forward to regaining normal mobility, but I can't say that I'm especially looking forward to three months of post-op recovery, or the immediate post-op discomfort come to think of it.
No Gain Without Pain. 

Talking, as we were, of Sri Lanka, I have written a two-part blog for the Daring Deeds section of Alpkit's website. If you fancy reading about my Asian adventure you can do so using the links below:



Talking, as we were, of Alpkit/Sri Lanka, I got an email from AlpCol recently, asking me if I would consider doing a talk in The Yurt at their end of season outdoor festival The Big Shakeout.
It's sold out now so if you're are fortunate enough to have secured a weekend ticket you will be able to listen in on my adventures.
I'm finding the thought of talking adventure to a big tent full of adventurers a bit scary. Fortunately I can talk the back legs of a donkey, so once I get over the initial stage-fright I think I should be OK.  If not then my potential public-speaking career will be over on the night it begins. Thankfully The Yurt only holds about sixty people so my humiliation could remain well contained... ahh... they film the talks and put them on YouTube. Oops. Potential global humiliation then... Ho-hum.

Given that I may have some time on my hands for a couple of weeks I'm going to attempt to finish off one or two pending posts and reviews, and also refresh and update one or two other bits of the blog that have been niggling at my tiny brain.
I'm sure that you are now struggling to contain your excitement. Watch this space :D

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Tuesday, July 11, 2017

News: Yak Attack announces re-branding.

The big news this week is the announcement from Yak Attack about an essential re-branding process.
Here's what Race Director Phil Evans had to say about it on the Facebook Page:

"Yak Attack was originally chosen as the name for the world's highest mountain bike race, which was founded way back in 2007.
Since then the name Yak Attack has become synonymous with mountain bike adventures and challenges and has been used as a collective name for all our other races, adventures, and challenges.
As the company is growing incrementally as each year passes, we felt it was time to give Yak Attack it's identity back as being the "to-do" high altitude mountain bike race not only in Nepal but worldwide.
For this reason all our races, including Yak Attack, Rumble in the Jungle, Pokhara IV and all our mountain bike tours will now go under the umbrella of Mountain Biking Worldwide.
Over the coming weeks/months there will be a little bit of re-branding, website updates, and a whole new simplified application system.
We're very excited about the future of Mountain Biking Worldwide and look forward to welcoming riders new and old to our ever growing calendar of races, challenges and adventures.
Hope you like the new logo  © A Friendly Web Dude"

So there you go, everything in a nutshell.
If you fancy the adventure of a lifetime then sign up for one of their truly great races or have a look at the amazing guided trips that are on offer.

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Saturday, July 8, 2017

Helping Paws


Helping Paws is a new charitable venture that all of us at Chase The Rainbow look forward to fully supporting into the future.
I will be adding a direct link to the website as soon as it available. It is the brainchild of Yak attack supremo Phil Evans, and Corinne Smith. Here's what they have to say about it on their Facebook page:

"During visits to Sri Lanka and Nepal, we have been moved by the plight of countless animals that are left to cope alone, and have been humbled by the endless work of the animal charities that we have been fortunate enough to have had contact with.
This has inspired us to also try and make a difference and hopefully play a small part in alleviating the suffering for many animals left without loving homes or care in times of need.
Through community and education programs, our aim is to bring about a progressive change in the way animals are perceived so that more people will consider helping and homing many of the strays. We also aim to instigate vaccination, neuter and care programs to ensure healthy animal communities and provide a community shelter with a trained local where animals can visit for food, or be taken for treatment.
Obviously, even with small and humble beginnings, we can't bring about these changes alone, and so in the near future will be calling on all our families, friends, associates, and associates of associates to help us in whatever way they can. In addition to fund raising, we will be looking for advice on education programs, volunteer vets, teachers, etc etc, so please keep us in mind and keep looking out for Helping Paws updates.
Thank you
Corinne Smith and Phil Evans."

You can follow their progress on Facebook here:


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Wednesday, June 28, 2017

News: The UK Singlespeed Championships.


Beer drinking, debauchery, tomfoolery, shenanigans, cycling?
That'll be The UK Singlespeed Champs then.

I've signed up even though the looming spectre of my shoulder operation is imminent. Hopefully I will be recovered enough to trundle around slowly. If not then I'll go along, drink beer, and cheer.

It's taking place in The Lake District on September 1st-3rd and is sponsored by a brewery; that's about all you need to know really.
However if you'd like to join in the fun then you can read all about it here: UK Singlespeed Champs
The entry fee for the whole weekend is a trifling £32.45 and all profits are donated to local charities.

If you'd like to enter then you can do so here at the Eventbrite website: Entries

There is also an Event page on Facebook here: SSUK17

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Sunday, June 25, 2017

A pebble in the pond. How young women are changing Nepal.

Al Seaton, Usha Kanal, Jenny Caunt, Roja KC.

Something is happening in Nepal. A wind of change is blowing, a gentle breeze that might yet become a tempest.
Sport, that great leveller of people, is beginning to make its mark. Tenacious young women like Ultrarunner Mira Rai and Mountainbiker Laxmi Magar have through their own efforts inspired other young women to dare to dream.
These dreams are then facilitated by people like Richard Ball from Trail Running Nepal, working tirelessly to promote running and running events, and helping and promoting the potential of Nepali athletes on the world stage. Richard, of course, makes a living from this, and rightly so, but he is also making dreams happen too.
Now we have Jenny Caunt, from Himalayan Singletrack, a mountainbike shop owner and tour provider based in the beating heart of Nepali tourism; Thamel, Kathmandu.
Jenny is also doing something remarkable. In the west we might call it progression, continuity, or something similar, we take equal opportunities for granted; in Nepal it is pioneering, it is the rejection of boundaries, prejudice, regression, in a deeply misogynistic society. She is empowering women to get involved in this completely male dominated industry, and she is giving them jobs - equal jobs.
And guess what? They're good at it.
Jenny is a very good friend of mine, and when she told me what they were doing I asked her to write me a little piece for the blog. I was proud of my friend and I wanted to help promote it.
What I got took me by surprise.
Jenny has written a very honest and open review of a transformation, and it isn't only affecting the girls.
She has thrown a pebble in the pond and the ripples are spreading.
I love this story, and I think you might love it too.

Jenny Caunt

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

An unwelcome return.


After spending a month in Sri Lanka I was looking forward to getting back down the wood and enjoying the beautiful late spring weather.
Unfortunately it seems that other people have been enjoying the wood in my absence.
My log store (full of seasoning logs) has been razed to the ground, several other fires have been lit, a lot of my timber for projects has been burnt, signs and boundary fences damaged, the compost toilet has been upended, beer cans, bottles, and litter, are strewn around the area.
I'm disappointed that people feel that this kind of behaviour is amusing to them. I have put in extraordinary amounts of work only to have most of it destroyed by morons. I'd estimate that the real-time cost of all of this damage is in excess of £2000.
Fortunately the police have taken an interest and will be collecting the bottles and cans for DNA and fingerprint analysis. I sincerely hope that they catch someone for this.
I have contacted a local newspaper and I'm hopeful that they might run the story, if only to shame the scumbags that did it.
Actually there's not much point in trying to analyse the behaviour, if someone is prepared to do this then they really don't give a shit. 
At considerable cost I have now ordered, and will be installing, motion sensing HD surveillance cameras; if they come back then I'll try to make them famous.


Damaged boundary fences.

Tarp ripped down.

The ladders etc were chained to the log store. The log store is ashes and the ladders have actually partially melted.

The compost toilet has been upended. It must have taken them a lot of effort do this.


The large cordwood pile of Oak logs has either been burnt or scattered.

A number of very large Birch logs that I put aside for a project have been burnt.


Yet another fire. The morons very kindly burnt a lot of my timber.

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Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Announcement: Laxmi is going to Sri Lanka.


We are very proud to be supporting, in partnership with The Yak Attack, Nepal National Champion Laxmi Magar's late entry in to this years "Rumble in the Jungle" mountainbike race in Sri Lanka.
Laxmi is a great friend to all of us and she is a truly inspiring role model to women in Nepal.
Laxmi was hoping to spend some time racing in The USA but for some inexplicable reason she has again been denied an entry visa despite a concerted effort by many supporters, in particular the wonderful ladies at the Soul Sister Cycling group.
Once we heard the news it was a simple decision - Let's get Laxmi out to Sri Lanka.

Laxmi racing at the 2016 "Rumble"
You can see more from Laxmi on her social media pages, please give her your support:


You will be able to follow her progress every day during the race from June 13th to 16th here:


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Wednesday, May 24, 2017

The times they are a-changing. Springing into Springtime.


It seems an age since my last woodland blog. A lot has happened in the last two months; the Lesser Celandine and Wood Anemones have flowered and withered, a vast carpet of Bluebells then sprouted, flowered, and are now also on the wain. They have been replaced by Ramsons (Wild Garlic, delicious), the enchanting Yellow Archangel, Greater Stitchwort, and now after a day or two of light rain the Ferns have burst forth all over the place. The Springtime is a wonderful time to be at the wood.
I completed the construction of my compost toilet (more of which later), cleared some large fallen tree's, and installed a gate and some small sections of boundary fencing (for insurance purposes).
And best of all I have had a few friendly visitors popping along to see what all the fuss is about.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

News: Yak Attack - Pokhara IV Stage Race.



Yak Attack has announced a new four day stage race that will be taking place on the trails around the lakeside city of Pokhara in Nepal. The Pokhara IV.
Pokhara is a great destination. Situated on the banks of Fewa Lake, and with magnificent views of the surrounding Annapurna Massif, it is Kathmandu-lite. Less people, less traffic, less pollution, and with a really laid back atmosphere. It's the kind of town you head to for a couple of days and end staying a couple of weeks.
The trails around the outskirts of the city have a great reputation and this could prove to be a fantastic race. It's also a great introduction to mountainbiking in Nepal and should be less intimidating and thus more attractive to many riders than the legendary Yak Attack itself.
The Pokhara IV stage race will be based for its entirety in the city and will comprise of a six night stay and four stages. This means that it is possible to fly in to Kathmandu, take part in the race, and fly out again in less than ten days days; although I'd advise a longer trip to take in some of the superb short treks around the area.

This is what Yak Attack have to say about it:
Pokhara IV is a 4 day mountain bike stage race based entirely around the lakeside city of Pokhara.
Each stage will take riders on a different loop out into the Himalayan foothills on trails rarely ridden, all of which give outstanding views of the surrounding mountains and lakes.
After completing each stage riders return to the same hotel and can enjoy all the luxuries on offer in the tourist enclave of Lakeside Pokhara.

  •  6 days / 5 nights
  •  February 10th to 15th 2018
  •  4 stages of approx 50km per stage
  •  5 nights accommodation in Pokhara
  •  Full race support, including water stations and route marking
  •  Coach transfer Kathmandu - Pokhara- Kathmandu
Best of all the entry fee for the inaugural race is a measly $395. That makes it one of the cheapest stage races on the calendar.

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Wednesday, May 17, 2017

A (silly) walk around Bluebell Wood.


A few days ago I decided to film an impromptu walk around the wood using Facebook Live so that people could see how beautiful it is. I was very excited and got a bit carried away :D
For those who haven't seen it on our FB page here it is for your amusement.



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Wherever the wind blows.



Life in the last year or so has been something of a whirlwind (slightly more than it normally is).
During last Summer I moved house. At the end of Summer I finished a contract that had lasted two and half years and took off on a trip, at very short notice, for almost three months in Nepal. The Nepal trip concluded unexpectedly with me being at the sharp end of helping to run the 2016 Yak Attack Mountainbike Race.
Two days after returning from Nepal I purchased a 6 acre wood with a friend, which then ended up being a solo purchase. Then my Uncle offered me a ten week contract rebuilding a fire damaged recycling plant in South-West London, which happened to start just five days after formally signing for the purchase of the wood, and ended up being a sixteen week contract.
During this time period I, unexpectedly again, ended up with a small shareholding in Yak Attack (due to the overwhelming generosity of others). Shortly before finishing my contract in London my friend Phil Evans (Yak Attack head honcho) asked me if I would like to help out with this years Rumble in the Jungle race in Sri Lanka which quickly escalated into a month long pre-race expedition to check the condition of the trails and to reconnoitre any potential new ones.
See what I mean? And breathe...

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Chalk & Cheese. The trials of a woodland hobbit.

Braap braap.

The last few weekends have proven to be quite diverse, and occasionally challenging.
One weekend was so vile that I opted to stay at home and get stuck into the construction of the compost toilet just so that I could escape the horizontal sleet and snow occasionally. I spent both days alternating between bouts of potential hypothermia and hiding out in the kitchen brewing coffee and simultaneously de-frosting my lifeless fingers.
I did eventually pop down to the wood for an hour or so when a glorious break in the weather materialised late in the day. I wandered around daydreaming and had a little session of bramble pulling (it's very therapeutic).
Amid all this darkness the Bluebells have begun to arrive.
I spotted one sprouting through the leaf mould whilst clearing an area of brambles (I currently do a lot of bramble clearance) and once I had my eye in, as it were, I began spotting them everywhere. I'm pleased to report that the springtime display should be wildly profuse, they are in every nook & cranny it seems. It's dead exciting (for me at least).
The Bluebells are beginning to make their presence felt on the ground.

Friday, February 3, 2017

A bridge over (un)troubled waters.



I've been building a few bridges lately (actual as opposed to metaphorical).
When I announced that I had bought the wood quite a few friends offered to come down and help out. Unfortunately the January weather seems to have put them off, I'm sure come the spring they'll be beating a path. I won't hold it against them, I have questioned my own sanity on more than one occasion recently. My parents have been regular visitors and have helped me out a lot. My old mucker and mountainbiking wingman Mitch Bryan called in to assist me in between his rigorous Strathpuffer training sessions and has promised further labour in the near future when his off-shifts coincide with mine. And my good friend Phil Evans (he of Yak Attack fame - the race organiser/director no less) lent me his considerable construction knowledge for the bridges. We spent the best part of a cold Sunday digging, sawing, and hammering to our hearts content. Phil has also pledged further assistance and I will happily take him up on it; particularly when it comes to laying a base for the shed and then constructing said shelter. I, in return, provided fresh coffee and Chocolate Hobnobs, a fair exchange if ever there was one.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Weekend (woodland) Warrior.

Bluebell Wood. 

After the agonising four week wait for the completion of the legal process for purchasing the wood I have now been able to get down there and get stuck in.
I managed a few days immediately after the completion date before I had to pack my bags and head to the big smoke for work (London. Noisy place).
I have been down and done a lot of work during the last two weekends. It's hard graft at the minute but it's a very rewarding process.
I'm slowly getting a feel for the place and finding my bearings.
The wood is triangular in shape with a 350m road frontage (not too noisy except for commuters using it as a rat run during rush hour) and about 150m at its widest point. It slopes gently upwards, in an east to west direction, from the pointy end to the wide part; and has a lovely little brook meandering throughout its length. The westerly end on the road side of the brook has a steeper gradient. The perfect spot, it seems, for rope swings (Unfortunately I've had to remove them for insurance purposes).

A crappy screenshot from Google maps but you get the general idea. 
Rather fortuitously the quiet corner furthest from the road is relatively flat and is the perfect spot for my HQ. This is where I'm currently focusing my time.