Almost En Route to Ecuador

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Florida has treated us to some spectacular lightning strikes the last few days – cloud to earth vertical forks so brilliant I was actually blinded when driving on I-4 the other day. I’m hoping they aren’t a portent for our upcoming trip to Ecuador’s Avenue of Volcanoes. It is true that Cotopaxi, which is the highest active volcano in the world, has started to show signs of activity. While I have read that an eruption is not considered imminent, the mountain is degassing, letting off five times the normal amount of sulphur. So, we can add that to the obstacles we’ll have to contend with. I suppose there’s a chance that the mountain could be dicey enough that it is closed to climbers – but there are plenty of other mountains in Ecuador – not to mention the highest peak, Chimborazo, which we are already scheduled to climb. And at least it is a dead volcano.

So when I’m not scouring the Internet with search terms like “latest volcanic activity on Cotopaxi,” husband J and I are in the throes of last minute gear assembly and packing for Saturday’s departure on Copa Air. Our to do list includes items such as “cut 60 feet of rope into two 30 feet lengths,” buy GUs (for me) and those square gel energy things (for J), and “locate long underwear” (it’s amazing how things can get lost in a not particularly large house).

I have also reached that blessed moment where I feel I can finally taper back on the training. I had my “PR” – to use a term of all you Crossfit people out there – on the stairs last week, 9 times up and down the building with a 25 pound pack.  I may do more stairs but without the weight, as the pack is soon to be filled with climbing gear. And any really long runs are coming to an end just in time – because I’ve discovered that running in 90 degree heat and 90 percent humidity is no fun and certainly does nothing good for your splits (times for each mile).

As these months of training draw to a close and the days of packing ensue – all I can hope is we’ve done what it will take. And equally important pray that the volcano and mountain gods will look kindly upon these poor mortals as they venture up.

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Things That Can Go Wrong on the Way From the Swamp to the Summit

Tempting fate - the untied shoelace
Tempting fate – the untied shoelace

It began yesterday. For those of you who are regular readers of this blog, I’m pretty sure I recounted our August 2012 climb up Mauna Kea, which only occurred because husband J managed to contract one of the few cases of out of season flu in the state of Hawaii, thus putting the kabosh on our plan to backpack the Mulawai trail.  I didn’t think something like that could possibly happen again. But yesterday, J announced to me that for a week he’s seen cobwebby things in his left eye, initially accompanied by a flash of light. Now, the only time I’ve heard of “floaters” (J keeps calling them floaties, like the water wings your kids wear when they’re four years old) involves detached retinas, laser surgery and possible blindness.

So, rather than google “floaters,” we – of course – researched retinal detachment, only to discover the surgical repair involved a healing period that would greatly cut into our 13 days from now departure for Ecuador and the Andes. Apparently high altitude is not considered an optimum recovery spot for eye surgery.

In any event, a “quick” visit to our local optometrist today, together with full pupil dilation and photographs of the eyeball innards, reassured all concerned that these floaters were nothing more than part of the normal aging process for people in their fifties. I keep asking why no one has given us an instruction manual. We’re highly aware of the normal wear and tear on the body, but floaters? Really?

While all this was transpiring, I was facing my own Private Idaho – we have long had a pact that if one of us can’t make it up a mountain the other goes forward. And that I would have done – but the idea of scaling Cotopaxi and maybe Chimborazo with just me and a guide was definitely going to push that pact to its furthest limit. I lay awake last night thinking of the worst case scenarios – just to get my mind in gear to accept that it could conceivably be me versus the mountain. I would have done it – but it wouldn’t be optimum.

Yesterday I did a seven mile run in unbelievable heat and humidity. Now I know many of you run further, but believe me, it’s hard when it’s in the 90s at 9 am with an equal percentage of humidity. At one point I realized my shoelace was progressively getting looser and I could feel it flapping on the ground as I ran.

You know what? I actually stopped; paused my Map My Run app; and tied the damn shoelace. All the running in the world isn’t going to do me much good if I trip and break my ankle two weeks before departure.

It’s coming soon now. Please send some good karmic vibes our way.

A Brief Musing on Mothers and Mountains

Sunset over Kibo, Kilimanjaro
Sunset over Kibo, Kilimanjaro

Today is Mother’s Day, at least here in the U.S. And since the theme of this blog is from swamp to summit, a brief shout out to all mothers may be appropriate.

Of course, there’s my own personal experience of motherhood – both as mother to my two daughters and as a daughter and granddaughter myself. I was fortunate enough to know both my grandmothers – one from South Yorkshire in England, and the other from a small town in Alabama. Yes, I know it’s an unusual combination, but that’s a story for another day. Both of them worked, one as a career teacher and the other as a registrar at a college. They were both determined and fiercely independent women. I still wish I had seen them together when the Alabama grandmother and the Yorkshire grandmother went sight seeing together in London. I can only imagine.

My own mother shares all those characteristics. She took up running in her late 40s, after discovering she had a natural talent for it, and ran for many years – including winning her age category in quite a few 5Ks. To this day she still walks a good two miles daily. I sometimes wonder if her sudden shift to become a runner helped inspire my decision to take up mountaineering and trekking at age 49.

Being a mother certainly encompasses both swamps and summits. And since the younger daughter – known as S – graduates next weekend from Tulane University in New Orleans, I’m looking forward to experiencing a summit in the swamp.

And just one more musing on the topic of mountains and mothers – the earth itself is described as Mother Earth, Gaia…maybe we’re all looking to return to the mother of all of us, to reach back to something primal and life giving, and that’s what leads us to the swamp, along the trail, up the mountain. Countdown is seven weeks to Cotopaxi and Chimborazo.

The Power of Fear – Two Month Countdown to Cotopaxi

Mt. Elbrus - an avalanche seen from across the valley
Mt. Elbrus – an avalanche seen from across the valley

As we near two months out from what I expect to be our hardest climb ever, up Cotopaxi and Chimborazo, it’s the power of fear that’s keeping me training. By now I’ve hit the point when I’m terrified that taking even one day off from some sort of exercise will cause the last months of training to be flushed down the toilet. Irrational, I know, but that’s what fear’s all about.

By now I have probably watched every YouTube video and read every blog out there related to these two peaks. They range from tales of cheery climbers who apparently think not twice about the journeys up and down to poor souls who are wheezing, pale, and throwing up even before they reach 18,000 feet. And, of course, everyone posts the photos that make both mountains appear the most insurmountable – veritable jungles of crevasses and steep walls.

Things haven’t been helped by the news of this week. An earthquake in Nepal that causes an avalanche at Everest Base Camp – filled with many trekkers who had no higher ambition than base camp itself – only to find themselves in the path of runaway snow, rock and ice. A volcano in Chile – good for underscoring the fact that Cotopaxi is still active and erupted only 70 or so years ago. And celebrating my 54th birthday this past week can’t help but remind me that I am not exactly going to be the youngest or fittest climber out there. A point that one of my fellow climbers brought home to me last year on Mt. Elbrus when he pointed out most of those on the mountain were half our age. And that was a year ago.

Now it’s not as though I’m a stranger to fear. You can’t be a litigator and appear in court without having experienced dry mouth or pounding heart before you embark on an impassioned plea in defense of your client. But there’s something that’s a little bit different when it’s you up there against the forces of Mother Earth.

I just keep saying to myself that fear is good. It keeps you going. And it keeps you grounded.

How does it work for you?

End Games or Beginnings? Mt Hood.

On the way to Mt. Hood  - photo from a car window

End games. What a great phrase. And it is what I think about as I trudge up the stairs with my backpack to prepare for this summer’s summits.

To remind myself of one of the original reasons I embarked on this journey to Cotopaxi and Chimborazo and what the end game actually is, here’s an account of an unsuccessful trek up Mt. Hood in June 2012.

We had just returned from our hike along the Inca Trail with daughters #1 and #2 in May 2012. But June is a month of brides and we were already scheduled to attend a wedding of a dear friend at the Columbia Gorge Hotel on the Hood River. What could be a more obvious add-on than an attempt on Mt. Hood.

We left the lovely afternoon wedding reception perhaps an hour early and drove off in the general direction of the biggest mountain we could see. Now, we’d been to Mt. Hood before, many years ago when the daughters were small, but that involved a car, a visit with old friends, and lunch at the ski resort. It did not involve ropes, plastic boots or crampons.

This time, we stopped at a grocery store to buy what we thought we might need food wise, and continued on up the winding road featured in the intro scene of the movie of Stephen King’s The Shining. It’s steep and windy and the pine trees lean in at you from both sides of the road. We eventually arrived at the Timberline Lodge, built in 1936. It was constructed entirely by hand, using many craftspeople from Europe, as part of a Depression era Works Progress Administration program. It is perched at the side of Mt. Hood at an elevation of about 6,000 feet, and an entire ski complex has grown up around it. The rooms are small, and retro. No televisions; there are quilts; and the phones have rotary dials.

This was our first experience on ropes and ice. One main guide company leads climbs up Mt. Hood, and they supply most of the equipment, from helmets to plastics boots to ice axes and crampons. Neither husband J nor I had used any such exotic gear before. Kilimanjaro just required leather boots and a strong set of legs.

The first day consisted of skills training. The two of us were the only climbers in our party. Our guide, Phil, was from Ireland, had learned to climb in and around Sheffield, England, where my mother is from, and had trained under classic alpinist climbers in Chamonix.

We knew knew we were off to interesting start when we checked in at the guide office. Just a few days before, an expert climber, climbing solo, had fallen to his death. Some of the guides had been involved in the rescue attempt, and were filling out accident reports as we were signing all of our liability waivers.

We spent several hours on an ice bank behind the hotel learning how to move on rope, self arrest, and the varying types of steps needed to ascend a mountain. Rest step (well, we knew that one from Kili), traversing (ascending steep sections in an s shape), “duck” steps straight up ….all the while remembering to keep that ice axe in your uphill hand.

By early afternoon the sun was beating down and it was time to go back to rest and prepare for our 2 am date with the snowcat that would take us to the point where we would start climbing. Even though it’s a little hard to sleep at 7 pm we managed a couple of hours before we got up at 11:30 – we knew it would take us ages to strap ourselves into all of our unfamiliar equipment without tangling ourselves up in carabiners, climbing harnesses and the like.

We expected problems as soon as the snowcat arrived – and out tumbled three very shaken looking climbers – a middle aged couple with a grandson – who had arrived at the point of departure up the mountain only to decide it was too windy and wet even to attempt a climb. They came down without ever even getting out of the cat! Phil said he had never actually seen that happen before. We had been watching the weather all afternoon and knew things didn’t look promising. We were offered a raincheck (appropriate use of words) but a Florida residence didn’t really lend itself to an impromptu trip up Mt. Hood any time over the next twelve months. We told Phil we recognized the risks and the likelihood we wouldn’t summit, but we wanted to go as far as we could while staying safe.

After we were unceremoniously dumped out of the snowcat at about 8,500 feet, what we didn’t know about mountain climbing became more and more apparent. Winds were gusting up to 50 MPH or so, and we were still struggling to get goggles on over our climbing helmets. That should say it all. Our lack of experience was obvious. The procedure for attaching our ice axes to our packs had become an absolute blank. Phil immediately took off to test the snow and to check conditions – which were awful. It was too soft for crampons. We took off, sinking into snow up to mid calf on most steps. Phil broke trail; I was in the middle; and J was behind me. There were very few other headlamps heading up in the swirling fog/rain/snow, and all I could do was keep watching Phil’s light in front, and follow along in his footsteps.

After several hours, it was clear we hadn’t fitted our boots, pants, and gaiters together properly, and we were getting ice and snow in our socks. My supposedly waterproof gloves were soaking.  And the wind was picking up, close to 60 MPH gusts. Fortunately, it was blowing toward the mountain, or I am convinced I would have been blown off. We started to feel chunks of ice and snow and, I suspect, some rock, hit our helmets,and ultimately reached a point that required crossing a large exposed area. At that point, Phil gave us the best of all guide advice. “We are not going to summit. No one is going to summit tonight. And I can’t keep myself safe and that means I can’t keep you safe.” The follow up was obvious – we had to descend.

As we descended, it became apparent that my short 5’1″ stature made it easier for me to go down – husband J, at 6’2″ and with a much higher center of gravity, had a harder time. I was able to glissade (boot ski) down as the sun rose over Mt. Hood, while he was a ways behind. (Two years later, on Elbrus, he made up for it with a much stronger descent than I!)

As the sun rose, we passed by the ski trail groomers, looking very zen, and could see the untouched ski runs that would would soon be home to the summer ski school skiers of Mt. Hood.

Did I mention that at some point we realized we had managed to lose both of our ice axes?

It’s a summit we didn’t achieve. But we played the end game. That afternoon, after a few hours nap, we found part of the Oregon Trail to hike. End games aren’t ends – they’re beginnings.

Summits – The To Do List

Part of the broken trekking pole
Part of the broken trekking pole

We have reached that point of every major travel adventure where the to do list seems as daunting and insurmountable as we fear the summits of Cotopaxi and Chimborazo themselves might be. So on Saturday I suggested to husband J, as he struggled with a new computer which seemingly has no spam filter, that perhaps he would feel more organized if he made a list. He didn’t follow this sage advice, and for that matter, neither did I. But I did think about what I would jot down in one of the many notebooks I have left over from the daughters’ school days that I use for such purposes (I can’t bear to throw away unused paper), if I were so inclined.

1. Go to Iceland. Now that may not be first on most people’s list of mountain climbing preparation, but it is a fact that we will be spending five days in Iceland in the beginning of March. And that upcoming adventure has created other subset of to do lists that I won’t even begin to address here.

2. The gear check. This is an inevitable part of any expedition and one that I both anticipate and dread at the same time. Certainly we are in much better shape than we were back on 2011 when we climbed Kilimanjaro but now we have broken gear to deal with and new and unusual gear to get. We are in good shape for crampons, but have never before had to buy any rope. Since the guide company supplies rope I’m still not sure why we have to have our own as well – an emergency supply in case we fall into a crevasse on the way to an outhouse? The possibilities are not reassuring. We have to call Travel Country to see if the balaclava/face mask I ordered has arrived and if climbing helmets in a smaller size are in stock yet. And we have to replace the trekking poles that somehow daughter #1 managed to break on Mt. Washington. I still don’t know how she hiked the last 5 miles not realizing that one pole was 12 inches shorter than the other. And this is just a fraction of the gear issues.

3. Order zinc for lips. As those of you who followed our climb up Mt. Elbrus know, it never occurred to me that my allergies to regular sunscreen meant that I couldn’t use Chapstick with any sort of sun protection. In fact, this didn’t occur to me until I was on the side of the glacier on summit day, realizing that I looked and felt like I had kissed a hot burner on a stove. Never again.

4. Write to do lists for work, training, family and trip. Yes, this is a circular blog post. But I can’t think of any other way to try to have some certainty about what remains to do for the next few months. Should it be one giant list, or multiple lists for each area? I’m trying to make some order out of chaos – but I’m afraid that if I overthink it I’ll be doing the reverse. Wish me luck.

An Ode to Airports – Terminals Aren’t Terminal

When I started this blog last April, one of my first posts was entitled, “Where am I going and where have I been?” It was made up of exactly one photograph, as at that point I was still working my way through the intricacies of things like figuring out that a tag wasn’t a piece of paper with a price written on it (and was a far cry from a backyard game).

But a layover at the Miami airport this weekend provided the perfect graphic to answer that original question – at least for the next six months. As I looked at exotic destinations on the departures screen, many much more exciting than my 40 minute jaunt back to Orlando, I saw the below:

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Where am I going? Quito, listed there near the bottom. (Or Orlando, depending on your time frame, shown just at the top of the screen.) And where have I been? Well, Raleigh-Durham – where I grew up – appearing right under Quito. (Or Orlando, once again, depending on your frame of reference.) For the record, “Raleigh-Durham” is a misnomer – I grew up in Durham!

Airports are like that. You can smell the adventure waiting at the other end of a flight. I still find it remarkable that 100 plus people can be sent 30,000 feet high at over 500 mph. At an airport, you can sum up the where you are and where you want to be in one screen shot.

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Another example – note the Havana, Cuba destination. I’m not sure I can recall ever before seeing Havana listed on a departure screen, much less right above Houston, Texas. What better way to show a shift in geo-political realities.

When I was growing up in the 1960s and 1970s, my family always arrived at the airport dressed in Sunday best and several hours before any scheduled departure. My brother and I regarded the waiting at the airport as much a part of the trip as the actual journey. I still remember the iconic TWA terminal at JFK, and how slick and modern Dulles Airport was, rising out of what was then a rural area outside of Washington.

Photo by Joe Ravi, lic. CC-BY-SA3.0
Photo by Joe Ravi, lic. CC-BY-SA3.0

As the reality of the Cotopaxi and Chimborazo climbs sets in (right now I am at the slightly terrified stage), I just need to take it one step at a time. And after the training – the next step is going to be at an airport. And whatever happens, I know that when I set foot in one of those ultra modern terminals, it’s not a terminal in the sense of an end. Yes, it will evoke memories of where I’ve been – but even more excitement over where I’m going.

Cotopaxi and Chimborazo – Where We Are Going

Volcanoes of Ecuador
Volcanoes of Ecuador

So I did it. Last week, on Tuesday to be precise.  I emailed Mountain Madness, our trekking company, and just said yes to the Chimborazo extension. Now I recognize that some of you were pushing for the Galopagos Islands, but I simply couldn’t escape the fact that there will be no other point at which husband J and I stand a better chance of actually climbing a 20,000 foot mountain. I think I can manage the Galopagos in future years.

As I continue the grueling process of forcing  myself to run at ever faster paces and climb stairs with increasing amounts of weight – and of finding the time to do so – it occurs to me that I have not really described the two mountains that are engendering such passion (or foolhardiness). I’ve referred to them by name, but without much explanation.

Here’s what is inspiring me.

Both mountains are part of Ecuador’s Avenue of Volcanoes, named by 19th century German scientist Alexander Van Humboldt.  Due to a location just above and below the equator, the scenery is supposed to be reminiscent of the Scottish highlands or the Arctic tundra, at least according to our trekking company.  Both were first summited (at least by westerners) in 1882 by Edward Whymper, for whom some of the passes are named.

Cotopaxi last erupted in 1940 and some consider it the world’s highest active volcano.  It stands at 19,347 feet (5897 meters) and is located near Quito, which at 9400 feet is itself one of the world’s highest cities.  Cotopaxi has been worshipped as a sacred mountain, a bringer of rain and fertility.

We will acclimatize for the altitude first with a climb up Guagua Pichincha (just outside Quito, standing at 15,696 feet, last eruption 2004) and then what is described as an “enjoyable rock scramble” up Illiniza Norte (16,818 feet), with trekking, camping and stays at haciendas in between. Mules are supposed to help at certain points as we travel between and up the various mountains.  Once we are at Cotopaxi, summit day (summit night is a more accurate description) begins at 15,749 feet, where we will have been staying at the Jose Ribas Hut.  The glacier starts at about 17,000 feet, and according to Mountain Madness, we will be crossing snow bridges, avoiding large crevasses, and climbing “short, steep sections.”  Once at the summit of Cotopaxi, we should be able to peer into a perfectly round caldera, the origin of the steam you apparently can sometimes see boiling up.

I have found a lot less written about Chimborazo. It is famous for being the point closest to the sun, due to the bulge of the earth at the equator. As I mentioned before, I hope our attempt to climb it is not too Icarus like. It is currently inactive, with a last eruption in 550 A.D. or so.  It reaches a whopping 20,564 feet (6268 meters) and is the highest mountain in Ecuador. Chimborazo can sometimes be in very bad condition – with unstable snow, big crevasses and high risk of rock fall. The itinerary states that if Chimborazo is not climable, we are to attempt Antisana. It’s only 18,714 feet high, but from what I’ve read is even more technically challenging, as it is completely covered by glaciers, and is not climbed very frequently.

Despite all this, you may still be left wondering – but “why?” Well, a summit goal, for me at least, gives me something to focus on, look forward to, and lifts me out of the drab tension of the day to day working world.  And the other reason is simply a variation of the “because it’s there” phrase – because there is something about standing on a summit that gives a high that doesn’t come from anything else.

A Walk on the West Orange Trail

Cement plant amid abandoned orange groves
Cement plant amid abandoned orange groves

Training has to be in earnest now. The long Martin Luther King weekend  provided the impetus for our first hike with weight since – oh, probably when we were training for Elbrus last year. But with Cotopaxi and still maybe Chimborazo looming a mere six months away, it’s time to ramp up.

Orlando has been working on its urban and semi-urban trails for a number of years, and the West Orange Trail was one of the first. It stretches 22 miles from Killarney to Apopka, running mostly along abandoned railroad tracks.  It passes through suburbia, a high end residential enclave, abandoned orange groves, and, every now and then, glimpses of the pine forests and palm hammocks that graced the state before development threatened to turn it into one giant subdivision.

Husband J and I had hiked the segment from Killarney to Winter Garden last year, so we were already familiar with the classic car show that takes place in Winter Garden on Saturdays. People from all walks of life sit on lawn chairs with everything from Model Ts to 1967 Mercury Cougars on display. Somehow I don’t think my 10 year old Sebring convertible would have qualified.

So this time we decided to load up the backpacks with about 25 pounds and walk the next segment, from Winter Garden to about three miles beyond the Chapin Station by Chapin Park, for a nine mile round trip. Before Ecuador this summer we are going to try to walk the whole length in one day. Hey, if the Romans could march over 20 miles every day, why can’t we?

Not really a walk on the wild side
Not really a walk on the wild side

The first part of the trail cuts through several housing developments. One of the most striking features is the lengths and lengths of white vinyl fences that line the trail. The fences finally stop and you’re treated to a view of backyard after backyard – all of which blend into one another with barely any delineation. Talk about peer pressure to mow your lawn! Notably, I saw not one soul sitting outside on any of these neatly manicured grass strips, even on a beautiful Saturday afternoon. Finally, housing developments give way to abandoned orange groves. As we passed the one with the cement plant rising up out of the middle (see photo above), we heard what at first sounded like a loud rant of some hellfire and brimstone preacher. But as we got closer, in the distance we could just hear an amplified broadcast of MLK’s I Have a Dream speech. Somehow very fitting for the weekend, the trail and our training.

West Orange Trail - J's trademark shadow in the corner
West Orange Trail – J’s trademark shadow in the corner

The next segment did move into something approaching nature, although the sound of the highways nearby was never too far away. A hawk almost strafed our heads as we paused on the bridge shown above, and then settled into the trees, its plump belly blending into the mottled deep green black leaves.  We passed by a specialty crop garden tended by a local high school, as well as what looked like an uninhabited barnyard with a big sign saying sustainable farming.  And at one point, from a warehouse al out hidden by the trees, we could hear the throbbing bass of a rock band practicing. On the way back, it seemed to have transformed into something that sounded like a mariachi band. Same band? Or rented space?

The West Orange Trail even has a few hills – at least by Florida standards. I just kept thinking to myself, “imagine it’s 10 degrees farenheit, it’s a 35 degree slope, and you are at 18,000 feet.” You’ve got to have some imagination to train in Florida.

There's a hawk somewhere in there - use your imagination!
There’s a hawk somewhere in there – use your imagination!

Iceland Cometh – Travel With Friends

 

Powder paint at Gentlemen of the Road - Travel With Friends
Powder paint at Gentlemen of the Road – Travel With Friends

Many years ago, when daughter #1 was still being carted around in the plastic contraption we called the rocket seat, we would go out to dinner with our then childless friends, M and S, and drool over all the places we could explore once our parental responsibilities had lessened. But then daughter #2 came along, and M and S had their own equally charming off spring and those days seemed to get further and further away.

Oh, there was the moment when we thought there was a possibility of a two family trip on a Russian icebreaker to see an eclipse in the Arctic Circle. S, who is an amateur astronomer, had seen an ad in one of his magazines that suggested such an adventure could be had for the sum of $1500 a person. Unfortunately, in the cold light of Monday, he realized he had ignored the extra zero in the price.

A couple of years ago we did all make it to St. Augustine for a long weekend to see The Gentlemen of the Road tour (Mumford and Sons etc). A great time, but aside from the paint powder extravaganza shown above, it wasn’t what you would call a particularly adventurous weekend.

Althugh we have yet to convince the Friends that they too can reach summits we have all decided to spend several days in early March in Iceland. The plan started because at that point – for some unknown reason – there was a straight through flight from Sanford, Florida to Reykjavik on Icelandair. We were also all under the impression that Iceland was located closer to where Greenland is and there would be a minimal time difference, making it a good long weekend destination. We’ve now determined there is no direct flight and it is a five hour time difference but we are going just the same. I also bought husband J a globe for Christmas.

I have little idea about Iceland except for an early episode of Anthony Bourdain’s first series, No Reservations, but trips with no expectations are sometimes the best. And I am confident that we can get M and S onto a glacier – at least for a little bit.

So now when I’m training for the June trip to climb Cotopaxi and Chimborazo at least I have something else to occupy myself with – the 7 mile run yesterday was a lot more fun when I thought of volcanoes, hot springs and ice. I decided to ignore the dried cod.