Rufuscam – by Rufus

So,

I am finally able to unleash my creative talents and challenge Dave for the title ‘Best Photographer in the House’. How is this possible, you ask? Well, he who styles himself the second coming of Ansel Adams has bought me a camera. He didn’t actually realise this when he did it. He thought he was buying it for himself. But it’s small and light and with one of the many plastic things he got with it, he can attach it to my harness.

Me and the harness have a love hate relationship. It’s okay, but I prefer the collar. I have dominated the harness by biting through part of it, so it now understands who is the boss. Dave witters on about how he can attach me to a seatbelt when we’re in the car and I can see the benefit of that, but it used to dig into my armpits a bit. Not any more! A side effect of my recent injury is that I’ve lost weight and as a result, the harness is more comfy now.

This morning, Dave attached ‘his’ camera to the harness and unleashed me on the garden. It took a bit of getting used to; I banged it against the door as I was going out and the look on Dave’s face was a picture. My harness was loose due to my new slim look, you see, and the camera slipped sideways. But I managed to get some nice images and for once, I was able to get photos of Dave just like he always gets photos of me. So now we are equals.

After a swift check up at the vet, (apparently I am looking fantastic and the healing process on my knee is going really well), we went off to Tor Clawdd this morning, where I fully expected to be able to take more photos but for some reason, Dave didn’t bring my harness. I was disappointed but tried not to let it show.

Dave has said something about a more comfy harness arriving in the post soon. Watch out for more of my works of art when that arrives.

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Rehabilitation

It’s three weeks since Rufus hurt his knee and two since the operation to mend him. Both the vet and I are happy with the progress he’s making, although I’m still careful about how much exercise, and what kind of activities he can do. We’ve been building up the amount of time he’s been out walking over the last week or so, to the point where he managed just over 50 minutes today.

I need to keep his weight in check as his exercise regime means he could add on the pounds which would add to the stress on his recovering knee. At the suggestion of the vet, I’ve replaced most of Rufus’ treat snacks with carrot sticks! Initially Rufus was hesitant but rather than explain to him the health benefits of eating unprocessed, natural vegetables I made a huge fuss and turned the carrot stick into the most amazing treat ever invented. It’s worked and I now have a carrot stick addict to look after.

I still have to keep him on the lead for large parts of our walks as the worst thing that could happen right now is that he disturbs another rabbit and tries to chase it down, or that he runs off and stumbles over a hidden dip. Today, I let him off the lead for several short spells where I could see the terrain. It was great to see him jog, although I was quick to put the lead back on when I saw his nose rise as he found a new and exciting scent. I know the signs and sure enough, he’d detected something in the ferns that had expired. We managed to avoid that one, only disturbing a few crows as we went past.

Rufus is dozing on the sofa now. He slipped as he jumped up into the car and it may have jarred his knee a bit as he was limping as we climbed the steps to the house. It may just be a bit of stiffness after the car journey home. I’m confident it will be forgotten once dinner is served.

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Hopalong Hound

At 9 years old, (63 in dog years), the last thing Rufus should be doing is chasing rabbits. Unfortunately, when the rabbit calls, Rufus is honour bound to answer. Thus it was on Betws Mountain last Tuesday night, as we were returning to the car after watching the sun set over the distant Mynydd Preseli. A rabbit popped up out of nowhere, surprising Rufus and I and before I could stop him, he was off chasing it. Rufus kept within a couple of feet of the rabbit until it started turning to throw him off. As I stood trying to call Rufus back, they circled me. At one point the rabbit was heading directly for me and I had an image of Rufus crashing into me and us both going over. But the rabbit swerved again and Rufus followed. This must have gone on for about 30 seconds or more – it felt like minutes. In a straight line, I think Rufus would have caught the rabbit but the turns were too much for him.

Suddenly, I heard him yelping and he pulled up, limping to favour his back right leg. I did a quick check over to see if there was anything obviously wrong. In particular, I was worried about a fracture as I would have to carry him back to the car. But he let me examine his leg and there was no obvious injury. So we slowly made out way back down to the car and judging by the way Rufus was reluctant to leave, pulling on the lead to follow the scent of the long departed rabbit, it wasn’t too bad an injury. I assumed an overnight rest and some TLC would sort it out.

The following morning, he still wasn’t right and I could tell he was in pain as he tried to walk. So a trip to the vet was in order. Rufus struggled down the steps to the car but still wanted to go for a walk along the street. At the vet, he was diagnosed as have torn his cruciate ligament. It’s the bit of us that holds the knee joints together. I had a similar but less serious injury of this ligament which forced me to postpone my Kilimanjaro climb.

Although there was an option to rest it and let it heal naturally, this would take a long time and risk damage to the joint. Rufus is an active dog and keeping him quiet and inactive for the healing time would be difficult. And every time he didn’t rest, it would risk making it worse. So I agreed for him to have an operation on Monday to repair the ligament.

He’s a fit and healthy dog and I’m not too worried about him. I’m more concerned with his ability to let the leg heal. Since he’s been to the vet (and is on pain meds so in no discomfort) he has gone up and down the stairs with little problem, discovering the best way to balance and in the process giving me heart attacks as he wobbles and threatens to take a tumble. He won’t wait for me to go down in front of him. He hops up and down the garden, ensures I know when he’s hungry (which is all the time as I’ve reduced the amount of food he has as he’s not exercising, and I want his weight down so that his one good back leg has an easier time). The one thing I can’t do is take him for a walk, although he dragged me down the steps to the street on Thursday night and we did stroll up and down the pavement for a couple of houses either side of mine.

He follows me out into the garden too. I like to keep an eye on him but he’s getting his confidence back and I don’t really need to be there. This morning, I took some macro photos of the insects on the hedge but Rufus got bored and went back in to rest.

I suspect he will be a difficult patient after the initial post operation period is over. The vet will give me a 6 week recovery programme of exercises for him to do. I haven’t explained this to Rufus yet – I’m waiting for the right moment.

Post script – by Rufus

I could have had the rabbit. Easy. I was toying with it. But Dave yelling at me distracted me. The knee hurts, but hey – wounded in action! When he took me to the vet, they gave me weird drugs and everything went psychedelic for a while. When I came to, I was back home. I love watching Dave’s face when I charge down the stairs. It was hard getting used to the balance at first, but now I know what I’m doing, I even fake a wobble now and again to hear him swear. I think I might enjoy the next few weeks!

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Looking back

Four little words – ‘this time last year’. I make no apologies. This time last year I was on the way to completing a big challenge and I think I earned the right to use those words.

This time last year I was climbing up to Shira Plateau on the Western slopes of Kilimanjaro. It was the first full day of the trek and a hot and tough one as we climbed through the rain and cloud forest out on to the heathland the forms the crater of Shira. We ended up at 3500m and while the day was hot, the night was cold.

Today Rufus and I did not set out to recreate the event. Instead, we took advantage of the beautiful weather on the Brecon Beacons to get onto the hills again. Our goal – Fan Brecheiniog. It has featured on this blog many times and I hope it will many more times. I drove this way yesterday but the road was clearer today. There were several moments when i though the car might slide off the road on a thin coating of frost and ice, but a bit of care and forward thinking meant I was able to get to the start point for the long walk to Llyn y Fan Fawr. We set off from the car in brilliant sunshine and snow. The wind was cold but before long my hat and gloves came off as the temperature rose. Rufus bounded through the snow, stopping to greet a fellow canine walker as we made our way along the river. By the time we got to the first steep part of the day, the snow was several inches thick.

Rufus followed the tracks of previous passers by, as it was easier than battling through snow which, in places, was up to his belly. I followed Rufus; he has a good nose for the best path and I’ve learnt to trust his judgement. This time last year I was probably as fit as I have every been. Today was very different. I felt every square of chocolate eaten over Christmas, every mince pie and every roast potato. My backpack was lighter than the 8kg one I took with me on the trek but I felt it’s influence as I stopped several times ‘to take photographs’.

Then, after several false summits, there was the lake. And above it, Fan Brecheiniog shone in the morning sun. We stopped for a few minutes for me to get my breath back. Normally I would throw stones into the water for Rufus, but it was too cold for that today and instead I threw snowballs for him to chase. After yesterday’s fun, he’d learnt not to expect too much and it was enough for him to race to the snowball and break it apart with his nose.

Then we made our way over to the start of the short but knee-achingly steep climb to the bwlch. One of the great things about very cold weather is that all the marsh and bog freezes over. But for some reason I managed to step on the only bit of unfrozen bog in the whole place, and it was deep. I felt myself falling forward before I knew what was going on and I managed to stop myself from going flat on my face. But my left leg disappeared into the water and mud up to the knee.

Undaunted, I headed up the steep path. I thought I heard Rufus snigger, but he was so far ahead it may just have been the wind. It was hard going, even taking into account my lack of fitness. The snow was thick and slippery where it had been trodden down and then frozen overnight. At one point, I was conscious that the view ahead looked a bit like photos in a magazine accompanying an article on how to perform an ice axe arrest! After several ‘photo stops’, I made it to the little valley between Fan Hir and Fan Brecheiniog. I wasn’t sure I’d be able to go on and I was looking at Rufus to see if he was coping. Apart from a few tiny snowballs on his feet, which I cleared quickly, he was fine. He was watching me to see if we were going on and every now and then he’d race a few steps up the hill as if to encourage me.

I set off again, adopting a slow plod as my tactic for making the ascent. The snow was deeper again and in places it was like walking up a sand dune – my feet would slip back as I pushed forward. The usual path on to Fan Brecheinog was completely covered in snow; I’ve never see than before. One set of foot prints led off tot he south and up in a curving climb and I decided to follow them as walking on the compacted snow would be easier. Rufus was now reduced to a plod as well as he battled through the snow but he kept going every time I took a breather. But eventually I decided that I was struggling to go further and it would be silly to exhaust myself and risk slipping on the way down. I called Rufus, who was a few paces in front of me.

I swear a big grin appeared on his face. Before I’d finished saying the phrase ‘lets go back to the car’ he had raced past me and was standing on the bwlch again, about 20m away. I love watching him run in the snow. He bounds like a big cat and the snow flies everywhere from his back paws. He usually races down from here and meets me at the lake. I was a little worried that he might slip on the snow going down, but I needn’t have been concerned. He is sure footed. We passed several walkers descending gingerly but I was using my walking pole now and I found it much easier than I had feared. One of the walkers had just put on a set of mini crampons but I knew from experience these wouldn’t work well in the deep snow. Sure enough, both Rufus and I sailed past him.

At the lake, I threw more snowballs for Rufus and we posed for a couple of buddy selfies. Then we set off back down the slope and the car. I don’t like the last mile or so; it tends to be boring. But snow changes everything and I was able to get some nice photos of the Brecon Beacons stretching off to the East. By now the snow was melting from the lower part of the hill. I had to avoid a few boggy patches I’d walked over with ease on the way up. The last bit of this walk is a short, steep climb of no more than 10 metres, and I found this really tiring. Slumping down into the car, I decided I needed to work at getting fit again.

As I drove off, around 12.50, I remembered that this time last year, I’d made it to Shira campsite, at 3500m after climbing 719m and I felt good. Today I’d climbed around 400m and felt shattered. More work required!

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Day of Reckoning

Yesterday, Rufus and I climbed Fan Brecheiniog. It’s one of my favourite mountains for a number of reasons; the views, the terrain, the airy ridge walk. It’s quiet, too. But yesterday was about testing my knee on a proper mountain, both up and down again. The steep final uphill sections were ideal for that. Going up was a test of fitness. Coming down checked out the strength of the knee itself.

The weather was pretty awful with heavy rain on the drive to the start of the walk, and drizzle when we set off. But then the sun tried to break through and I saw little breaks of blue sky.  When we started to climb up to the lake, we walked into cloud and more damp conditions. Underfoot, the ground was soaked by the recent heavy rain and everywhere there were new streams and rivulets forming waterfalls. Rufus was spoilt for choice over where to paddle.

At the lake, the mist swirled and cleared before blanketing us again as the wind took it. After a short stone throwing break, we started on the path up the side of the mountain. The rocks were slippery underfoot and the wind and rain started again. Not the most enjoyable time I’ve had climbing this route. Even Rufus, normally racing ahead, took it easy. I could feel my lack of fitness as we neared the top of the first bit. I was out of breath and ready for a rest. A minute or so took care of that and soon we were on our way again towards the second steep bit.

Although short, this bit is very steep and the rocks that form the path are always slippery. In the cold or wet, they become worse and today was no exception. There is usually a wind from the south east through the bwlch and that didn’t disappoint either. It took less that 5 minutes of careful footfall to get over the worst of the slope and to reach the welcome stone slabs that form the path to the summit and trig point. The mist was thick here and the wind blew heavy drizzle into our faces but we carried on (this makes us sound like Arctic adventurers – there is no comparison, of course). The trig point has recently been painted white so it was invisible in the mist until we nearly bumped into it.

We carried on northwards to the end of the ridge. There were no views this time but I wanted to get the extra distance in. With little more than a pause to get our bearings, we headed back along the ridge to the descents. I was using my walking pole this time and took it easy. I was very conscious of my knee but tried not to favour it – I wanted this to be a fair test. The first descent, slippery and steep, was over quickly and Rufus decided to leave me behind as I was clearly slowing him up. By the time I got to the second, longer descent he was no where to be seen and I spent a few anxious moments looking for him. He appeared over the crest of a low hill, charging towards me and wondering why I was making a fuss of him.

The second, longer descent was going to be the real tester, and I started off a little nervous of what would happen. As I went down, it became clear that my knee was fine; there was no pain and not even the burning sensation i sometimes get on descents.  Of course, the walking pole helped and I’ll be using this all the time now. But I was pleased that there were no unexpected creaks and groans from the joint.

By the time I’d got to the bottom of the path, Rufus was already at the lake waiting for stones to be thrown, so we spent 15 minutes of so splashing about in the water. Neither of us were going to get any wetter than we already were.  Then we headed down, out of the cloud and into the occasional drizzle as we followed the many new streams down to the young River Tawe, and eventually the car.

There was lots of snowing on the sofa as I watched TV that evening.

Today, we went for a shorter stroll on Cefn Bryn. The weather was completely different to yesterday and the sun was warm on the hillside was we wandered through the undergrowth. This was the second part of my knee test – how would it feel on the day after a mountain? The answer was fine! The slight ache that I woke up with soon disappeared as we walked along and although the going wasn’t as harsh and testing as yesterday, we still climbed the best part of 100m and walked more than 5km.

I think I’ll be booking the trek to climb Kilimanjaro tomorrow.

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It’s official

Just been to see the doctor and he has prescribed a month of rest for my poor knee. If you’re reading this, gather at my house for I think I may need waiter/waitress service!

So after seeing him, I went for a chilled stroll through the botanical garden at Singleton Park. I never really knew what exactly was in there but it was beautiful. Lots of colourful flowers and plants and a squirrel, sort of hiding in a bush. But he just couldn’t contain his curiosity and kept poking his head out to see what iw as doing. Of course, I was poking my camera in to take his portrait.

Then, walking back tot he car, I was confronted by a road accident that had only just happened. A Ford Ka was across the road with it’s bumper ripped off and front tyres deflated. Being an ex-first aider, I started to get twitchy but there were no casualties – in fact it seems as if the two youths in the car had run away. I felt sorry for the woman who had just walked back to her parked car to find it part of the mayhem – the Ka had hit it before bouncing into the middle of the road. My car was only two vehicles away from the one they hit. I overheard a witness telling the woman that the youths had been speeding and had swerved to avoid a dog. Nothing for me to do, so I managed to do a three point turn and drive away from the chaos.

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&%$@@!%$ (&^%$@^*

Hark, another swear word. What’s going on?

I have mentioned my recurring knee issue in previous blogs.  I’ve been doing my very best to rest it between training strolls and apart from the swelling on the front below the kneecap, it’s been pain free and only mildly uncomfortable. But last night, I was on the exercise bike in the gym and with little warning I suddenly had that horrible feeling, as if my knee was about to lock. Accompanying it was pain – not excruciating, but enough to sound alarm bells.

I stopped cycling, of course, but the pain continued and did so for the rest of the night, despite ice packs and ibuprofen gel. And this morning it was still hurting enough to leave me worried. Ibuprofen helped, as did a tight bandage. But it was clear that there was something more than a week’s rest could fix.

I have 44 days of training left. The training plan calls for two 6hr hikes this weekend, including ascent and descent with back pack. In the following three weeks, I need to do another three 8 hour hikes plus increasing amounts of cardio-vascular training in the gym. By my estimate, I have a two week window to rest the knee and hope it gets better. Even then, there is no guarantee it won’t go again either during the final training or on the mountain itself. On my last trek 6 people had to be evacuated down the trail, two by helicopter. A couple of those were as a result of pre-existing conditions. It nearly cost all of us our chance of getting toe Everest Base Camp. I’m not going to do that.

I went straight to the doctor who confirmed what I already knew, that two weeks wasn’t nearly long enough to sort the problem out. I’m having an X-Ray done too, as there may be more to it than simply Housemaid’s Knee. As long as it has a name with multiple syllables that sounds vaguely heroic, I don’t care.

So, reluctantly, I have decided to postpone the Kilimanjaro trek. Postpone, not give up. I’ll be back next year.

My knee

You know this knee now. The purply red bits are the culprits. Grrr!

I feel gutted and frustrated. Part of the preparation was psychological. I still remember climbing Kala Patthar in Nepal – and that was ‘only’  5,545m. Kili adds another 450m on to that. I can’t risk my knee giving out at that late stage. More importantly, when the adrenaline runs out and we’re heading down, that is when the damage will happen and I’m planning on using my legs after Kili.

Watch this space. I’m guessing the next post will be about the experiences of trying to claim off my travel insurance.

 

Bl**dy typical

I have trekked to Everest Base Camp twice. I have Climbed Kala Patthar in Nepal at an altitude of 5.5km above sea level. I’ve scaled Ben Nevis twice. I’ve done Snowdon 8 times, including the Crib Goch ridge twice. I’ve done three other Munros, the Carneddau, several Wainwrights and most of the mountains in the Brecon Beacons. I’ve got to the top of Pen y Fan 44 times and Corn Du 35 times.

I’ve completed three Gower Gallops – over 30km each. During the preparation for the treks, I regularly walked 16km a day. In May I hiked 128km. I did 60km in one week with Rufus.

In all that time I haven’t really had any serious injury. For that I’m grateful.

But now I have Housemaid’s Knee! The following space is the space I give you to laugh.

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Housemaid’s Knee! The doctor stifled back a snigger as he asked whether I spent a lot of time on my knees. I have the sudden urge to get a feather duster. I may scrub the porch steps later this evening. As a bloke I refute the existence of dust but as a housemaid, I know dust exists. I am confused.

Below is a picture of a Housemaid’s Knee. You can see the swelling (it’s soft and watery to the touch) beneath and slightly to the left of the kneecap. It aches a little.

My knee

Housemaid’s Knee.

No rest for the wicked

But I’m a good boy, so today was a day of rest after yesterday’s 6 mile wander in Gower.

Except I find it difficult to do nothing. I’ve talked to friends about this and opinion is divided. Some like to kick back and have no problem doing so, others find it hard to stop. So although I decided early to give my knee a break (not literally, of course) and take it easy, I soon found myself hoovering the house, and then cleaning the bathroom and the kitchen. Then it was out in the garden to remove great swathes of bamboo that grows right at the back.

I’ve spoken about the bamboo before, it’s where the Japanese soldiers live. Today, while they were away, I cut down about half of what was there. It’s still a jungle and it still makes a fantastic swishing sound in the wind, but less loudly now. The plan is to remove all of the bamboo and also bring down the levels of all the bushes and trees on the left of the garden so that my vegetable patch gets more direct sunlight. I also put up some Buddhist prayer flags that went with me to Everest Base Camp in 2011. They’re meant to be outside and only now have I got round to fixing them in place. Sadly, there are photos below of all my garden exploits.

Then it was time for a coffee and time to reflect on the poor choice of TV on a Bank Holiday.

Happy Easter everyone.

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