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Triumph & Tragedy in a Year of Adventure.

Firstly I’d like to wish everyone a Happy New Year, family, friends, and readers alike; and say Thank You for your support over the last year.
Secondly I want to apologise for my lack of activity on here over the last few months, I’m going to put that right over the next few weeks with a number of work-in-progress blog posts.
I’ve had a fantastic year of travel and adventuring but it has been tinged with sadness recently, hence my lack of activity; to a certain extent. 
Our trip to Nepal was the pinnacle of a great year. Trekking, kayaking, and mountain biking, in the greatest mountain range on Earth is pretty hard to beat, and an experience I will treasure forever. The company of my great friends Dave Slater & Wilco Voulon made it all the more special, along with the new friendships forged along the way. I’ve also visited Wilco in The Netherlands a couple of times since our return and I enjoyed Amsterdam and his home town of Zwolle a great deal. Trips to Scotland, The Lake District, and Wales, have made for some great memories; along with regular sorties in to my local Peak District National Park with friends.

Dave and his partner Lyndsey bought a new addition in to the world a few months ago, baby Katelyn. She was born 12 weeks prematurely and, despite giving us a few scares, continues to grow stronger with each passing day and delights us all. She is beautiful. I’m looking forward to taking her on a few adventures one day!
As many of you will know I am returning to Nepal again this year. Firstly in February/March to take part in my second Yak Attack, and then again in May with Wilco to trek The Old Expedition Route to Everest Base Camp before having a go at my first (and probably only) Marathon; The Tenzing-Hillary Mount Everest Marathon. In a nice coincidence it will be run on the 60th anniversary of Hillary & Tenzing’s first ascent of the worlds highest peak. That’s pretty cool.
As for where else I will end up visiting? Who know’s? But I won’t be saying No to any opportunities that present themselves that’s for sure!

My son Daniel is currently saving up to go off travelling and he hopes to be away by the Autumn. Australia and a return to South-East Asia are at the top of his wishlist. In the words of Foghorn Leghorn – “That’s my boy!” 🙂 I’ll be doing all I can to help him realise his dream.
My Brother Mark recently moved to a beautiful spot in Wales, nestled in the southern half of The Snowdonia National Park, and I’ve payed him a visit already! His Welsh Longhouse sits high up and commands a beautiful view of the magnificent Cader Idris mountain. I found some great trails around the area and I will be returning to explore some more of them throughout the year. Mark is in the process of renovating his property and will eventually have Barn Conversions and some posh camping facilities available for hire. I’ll be keeping you posted as to how it develops. I may even end up offering Guided Riding and Hiking Packages eventually; who know’s?

The beautiful location of my Brothers lovely Welsh Longhouse.
A change of shift pattern at work, in the Spring, seriously curtailed my spontaneous adventuring and I had to start planning my trips more carefully around my reduced time off. It hasn’t been so bad though and I’ve managed plenty of short UK trips. I toured some of the stunning 7Stanes trail centres in the Dumfries & Galloway region of Southern Scotland in September; and I also managed to spend a few days in The Lake District National Park on the same trip. I rode at the forest parks of Ae, Mabie, Dalbeattie, and Kirroughtree in Scotland, and Whinlatter in The Lake District. All are well worth visiting, I had a lot of fun and met some really nice people along the way. Kirroughtree was the stand-out venue for me, certainly the best trail centre riding that I have experienced in the UK.

The famous “McMoab” slab at Kirroughtree, Scotland.
Several trips to Wales saw me riding “The Beast” at Coed-Y-Brenin a couple of times, plus visits to Penmachno, Nant-Y-Arian, and the amazing Antur Stiniog Downhill Park at Blaenau Ffestiniog; it’s a bomber of a place! The uplift cost’s £26 per day as is worth every penny. Go there now!
Highlight of my “Welsh Year” though was riding The Ranger Path at Snowdon. Mitch and I headed over there in early October. We took The Llanberis Path to the summit; a hard slog, mostly ridable, with a short Hike-a-bike section near the top, close to the second underpass. It’s the ride back down that makes it such a great route. Forking off from the summit lies The Ranger Path and it is epic! Huge carving turns, steep rocky chutes and a fast & flowy lower section combine to make it one of the classics of natural British trail riding. A full suspension bike and knee pads really are the minimum requirement, along with a decent level of riding experience to really get the best from it. Certainly not a place for the novice rider. Something like 3.5 miles of awesome technical descent. Officially the best descent I have ridden in the UK.

At the summit cairn on Mount Snowdon.

As many of you will know I’ve also had a lot of fun running  “Mud Races” this year; three of the X-Runner events held in Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire plus The Men’s Health “Survival of the Fittest” race in Nottingham – all 10km events. These types of race are an absolute load of fun and I’ve really enjoyed taking part in them. I’ll be trying to squeeze a couple of them in to 2013. If anyone is thinking of getting in to running they are a great introduction, not too serious and most can be run as 5km or 10km challenges. Give them a go, you’ll enjoy them.
I’m also fancying a go at some “proper” Fell running too this year and I’m going to enter one or two of the shorter novice events; starting January 6th at an event local to me. The Peats Pit Woods Fell Race is a 7km run around Ambergate Woods; which just happens to be one of my favourite places to ride my Mountain Bike! All good training for the Marathon.

Enjoying the mud at X-Runner’s Water Wipeout 10km race.
Darren Holloway

On a lazy Sunday afternoon in early October I received a phone call that left me reeling. It was my Mum and through floods of tears she told me that my cousin Darren had died.
I was devastated.

Darren and I were the same age, born just a few months apart. We grew up together and along with my brother Mark, sister Helen, and Daz’s sister Nicola we all spent many a happy Summer together.
He was a very accomplished Fell Runner in what is a very demanding sport. He had been taking part in The Ian Hodgson Fell Relays in The Lake District and had collapsed and died on The Fairfield Horseshoe, between Hart Crag and St Sunday Crag. Fellow runners and marshalls all rallied to his aid, until the arrival of the Air Ambulance, but were unable to revive him. He had suffered a heart attack of the type common amongst very fit athlete’s – A Left Ventricular Hypertrophic Obstructive Cardiomyopathy – and died almost instantly.
As you can imagine it has been a very difficult period for the family and especially for his wife Amanda, son Josh, and his Mum & Dad. We are still grieving the loss and it will take a long time to come to terms with it.
The funeral was attended by Hundreds and hundreds of mourners, so many in fact that most had to view the service on a screen outside. It was humbling to know that so many people thought so highly of him. Many had travelled very long distances just to pay their final respects. Testament to that was the JustGiving page set up specially for donations in lieu of flowers. It stands at in excess of £10,000. An amazing amount of money that will help to fund both The Air Ambulance and Woodhead Mountain Rescue. Both organisations were close to Darren’s heart and he had supported them for a long time.
To see what a truly special person he was please take a look at the links below. The first is a collection of tributes posted on the fellrunner forum in the days after his death.
The second is a link to his very popular blog. He writes candidly, and with affection, about many subjects close to his heart, but particularly on his fell running adventures.
The third is a link to the JustGiving page. Please feel free to contribute if you wish.
He was a very wonderful guy and will be sadly, and fondly, missed forever. Our hearts are broken.

I had asked Darren to accompany us on our Himalaya Quest 2012 to Everest Base Camp and it is to my great sadness that we was unable to come with us at the time.
Darren was a member of The Penine Fellrunners and they have kindly agreed to let me run The Everest Marathon in their club colours as a mark of respect to Daz. It’s going to be very difficult for me, when the time comes, to pull on that vest, but I will try my very best to do him proud and “dig in” as he liked to say.
The picture below is my favourite image of Daz; in full flight during a fell race. I hope that the original owner of the copyright won’t mind me using the image. I can’t imagine a better picture to sum him up.

Darren Holloway. August 10th 1970 – October 7th 2012. 

About The Author

Neil Cottam

Neil is the founder of Chase The Rainbow. He has spent a lifetime exploring the outdoors, from a childhood climbing trees and scrambling his bike around old pit heads to hiking in the Himalaya and backpacking around Europe and Asia.

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