Sunday, 12 September 2010

Probably the last barefoot update before winter (huge sighs from everyone)

[I’ve just seen I have a couple more blog followers (great word that isn’t it?). Welcome!! Thanks for looking in. I still can’t believe I have 13 people looking at this blog but I’m happy you do. It gets a bit boring writing to myself.]
Well I stopped gravel walking a while back It served its purpose at the beginning to toughen the feet enough to enable me to actually walk somewhere but now I have discovered that it’s much more efficient just getting out and doing it. The longer the walk, the more varied the terrain the better my feet seem to cope after the initial foot toughening it’s a lot more about technique than robustness of foot. Of course the  more leathery you foot the  more comfortable it will be to walk on rougher terrain and further I suppose but with the cold weather coming in I’ll have to wait until next year to find that out. Toe mobility after an initial improvement has now stabilized and  though I can move them further and easier manually I still can’t get them to move independently. No more than I expected though. I can however splay my toes far more than I ever could and the whole foot is more mobile but all this came within the first couple of weeks. There has been no further noticeable improvement since then but no cramps either which is nice. The fascitis seems to have more or less gone but has been replaced by a lot of tension in the ankle which goes away after a couple of barefoot steps like with fascitis. I’m not sure what it is, anklitis?. I’ve also been having problems with shoes rubbing and walking barefoot all the time in the house on perfectly flat tiles is not very positive and I think that maybe shoes in the house might be better. But all round I’m very content with my progress barefooting in the mountains as all the problems only seem to come alternating shoes with barefoot as pain comes back as soon as my shoes go on. It’s going to be a long winter. I’m going back to boots on the next walk to see if maybe it’s the trail shoes to cause the problem with the ankle as they are exactly ankle height.. I’ve been concentrating on the practical side of things over the last month forgetting everything else. My walk and scramble up to Manzol (see video below) brought me to a realization that it’s deliciously comfortable going barefoot. Your whole body releases tension. Even my lungs seemed to work better. Apart from the lack of weight on your feet your whole body feels more solid on the ground. Solid but light. Balance improves, less tension in the neck and shoulders and choosing where to put your feet becomes a real meditation  Usually I walk for the views or to go somewhere of course but going  barefoot adds in  the pleasure and joy of just walking for walking’s sake. I’ve found that with shoes two trekking poles are useful, but barefoot it’s better to either have none at all or just one (for the snakes and as a slight aid to balance). If you have two poles you rely a lot on them too much especially on what seems to my brain to be uncomfortable stretches. This causes you to tense up because you think it should hurt and then it does hurt. No poles or just one I found that this enables you to stay relaxed because no weight is being taken on the pole. In fact nothing on my trip up Manzol hurt at all. Because my back is also more flexible, well feels more flexible anyway, I discovered the lost joys of using my hands. When I was younger I used my hands all the time going up hill sometimes to the point of being almost quadrupedal and it was nice to albeit minimally, rediscover that feeling. One odd thing the first few steps barefoot are quite uncomfortable. Then you walk a while and the further you go the more relaxed your foot and the more  comfortable it is. I put this down to tension. It all seems to boil down to having the mental fortitude to relax even you’re your brain is telling you not to. That is seeming to come with practice. Then there are two  other aspects of barefooting I like, the aesthetic part of it and the tactile part.  Something of the hippy obviously still remains and there’s something about grubby dusty barefeet that makes me smile.  I know it might only be imagination  but the whole body seems to shift it’s baricenter lower making even tall people seem more stocky and rooted. It sort of restores the natural harmony that shoes remove. I don’t find shoes attractive but the appearance of tanned, dusty feet is very pleasing t my eye.In addition to this walking barefoot gives you marvellous sensations; cold hot, damp, dry, rough smooth etc. You notice the ground on many other levels you are not used to noticing it on. Even to the extent of noticing the plant and animal life more It’s a bit like walking along with a magnifying glass rather than binoculars. Little mysteries that you would never have noticed pop into your attention, like the path covered with prickly raspberry stalks but no raspberry bushes in sight. Or just how many colours of slug are there? Or my surprise at how the type of rock and the colour of the dust you are walking on changes so often. It’s all a great experience but one that with the arrival of autumn will shortly be coming to an end until next year. Pity

Wednesday, 1 September 2010

Lunch with the Ibex family

A spiffing good day what?! One of those days that makes you at peace with the world, well briefly anyway and underlines that it really is good to be alive.Due to a mix up with Balders I went up to the top of Mount Manzol again. The weather was good and windy when I left at 05.30 and there was not a cloud in the sky all day. So this time I started from the Barbara refuge at 1,700m with no shoes and walked to the top of Manzol (2,933m) for a measly linear total of 5 or 6 km but a respectable height gain of 1,177m, all barefoot, so if anybody says it can’t be done, it can and very comfortably too thank you. And it took me only a quarter of an hour more barefoot than shod. It still surprises me how easy and relaxing it is. Interesting that I didn’t have a trace of my usual headache which occurs over 2000m which makes me wonder if perhaps barefoot could perhaps be a cure. Time will tell. [Image]Wildlife-wise it started out a bit disappointing. I usually see a chamois or deer or marmots or something but this time nothing, not even any birds. But then once I reached the pass there were choughs and ravens wheeling and even a wall creeper creeping up a wall, as is their wont. I would have taken a photo but was somewhat preoccupied with hoisting myself up a bit of rock at the time so my second sighting in our valleys since 1985 went unrecorded. But anyway, sidling round a rock only a few meters from the top there were 6 mountain ibex lounging around right under the summit. I gingerly walked round them to avoid moving them on but they stayed put so I needn’t have bothered. Thus I had the unique (for me) and immensely enjoyable experience of having lunch on the top of a mountain only 67 metres short of the 3000m mark, totally alone (didn’t see a soul all day) barefoot and surrounded by Mountain Ibex, (well on one side anyway). That lunch was only a boiled egg and tomato-and-cheese crackers did not detract one bit from the enjoyment. The puddingy whiff of ibex glands rounded the whole lunch off right nicely. Wilda plonked herself down in the stone wind break someone had generously contrived to make and went to sleep leaving me in literally total silence.[Image]I was very pleased with my little dog today, she passed all tests with flying colours. She doesn’t come to heel but, though I didn’t teach her, does come to toe and whenever there are farm animals about she comes straight to toe and keeps well away from them. She’d never seen ibex before and although she was curious, she was a bit wary and kept so close I nearly stepped on her a couple of times. But no aggravation whatsoever. Marmots of course are a different matter. She’ll run miles to get a sniff of a marmot. Thankfully they live in burrows. I’m not at all worried about the marmots, I’m worried about Wilda’s nose. Marmots have big teeth and claws and  are well able to  defend themselves against inquisitive dogs as I have seen in the past. Another thing she does here at home and in the mountains too is crap off the path. At a certain point she wended her way down until she was almost out of sight and I was just about to call her when I saw her dropping her drawers as it were. Considerate animal.[Image]I spent an hour and a half on the top in the company of the ibex, the choughs and amazingly numerous butterflies before attempting the descent, this time with shoes.I must say though I did come to a conclusion and it’s useless trying to convince myself of the contrary - I do not like scrambling. Well lets say that I do not like scrambling down. Up is no problem, I’ll go anywhere up, but down or across is another matter. The descent from the top is a nightmare of scree and rocky outcrops combining both down and across in vast quantities and I was not at my ease. Ibex rock bombers didn’t help matters either and it was only the kungfu-like sixth sense that all woozles have enabling them to feel the proximity of the rocks as they bounced down the scree that averted a disaster. I did though find barefoot scrambling better then shod scrambling. Maybe something to do with the more direct contact with the rock and scree and the fact that you can bend your toes to get a better grip. [Image]Last time I had to lower myself with my rucksack straps down a bit of rock so this time decided to avoid that route and find another. Trouble is the ibex had paths all over so finding the right one, if there was a right one, proved to be impossible in fact I was up and down like a whore’s drawers for an hour and a half, half an hour more than the ascent (I can already hear Baldrick’s giggled across the ether) and was very glad to get back to the pass. So next time I do it I’m taking a leaf out of Ariadne’s  book and I’m going to chalk everywhere in alphabetical or numerical order