Tuesday, 3 March 2015

Into the Sunrise

Plateau de Beille: -6C and blowing a hoolie
Eleven weeks in the mountains and it is time to think about moving on - heading east to a small rocky Greek island. Last year we left at the end of March, parked up the car in Ariège and flew Carcasonne to Stansted to Kos for about £30 each. This year we will get the car home 1st and stick it in the garage - we might be in Greece for quite a while!
The weather this winter hasn't been quite a good as normal - much better than the UK of course, but not quite the settled warm spells of previous years. Despite that we have kept ourselves pretty busy and fit with lots of short walks up in the hills - as is usual around here we hardly ever see a soul.
Great views above Saurat
The book is being tied down now with less than two weeks until it goes of to the printers. Currently it is looking pretty good - 560 pages, (Rockfax's biggest ever book) 4000 route and 36 graded lists - that should keep most folks happy for years. 
We have six days in the UK then onwards to Kalymnos  - the winter there has been unusually unsettled too, cool, damp and very windy - I am sure it will sort itself out over the next two weeks.
Long-term friends Andy Nicholson and Colin Binks are coming out in April so I have a couple of weeks to get fit and grow some skin - can't wait!

Thursday, 19 February 2015

Spring is in the Air

Plateau de Beille
It is nine weeks since we left the UK - the time has zipped by as it always does down here in the mountains. We have passed time in the usual ways, walking, climbing, snow-shoeing and working.
The days have drawn out nicely, when we arrived the sun went off the village at 1:30 in the afternoon, now it is nearer 4:00 - almost time for the 1st BBQ of the year!
Auzat - mint February conditions
Only three more weeks now until we head back to the UK for five days (a bit too long but we will doubtless cope) then onwards to Kalymnos for the spring season. It will be nice to have a few weeks there before the crowds start to arrive around Easter time.
Unusually we have no plans beyond Kalymnos - though there are plenty of options. I would like to go back to Corsica, there is all the new stuff Aris's Greek guide and of course there a big chunks of France that are in prime conditions in the later spring. A final possibility is a flight up to Northern Norway for a few weeks of midnight sun - time will tell.
 It is always nice to have options.


Wednesday, 4 February 2015

Eastern Promise

Eastern Grit 3 - Wharncliffe to Black Rocks


Millstone sample page
Great news - almost two years to the day since I dropped the 1st photo-topo into the Eastern Grit template the book is just about finished and it has turned into a bit of a monster. Currently with all the layout tied down it weights in at a massive 560 pages - it will be the biggest Rockfax ever. It should be headed to the printers in the middle of next month so should be available in the shops in good time for the spring season.
Stanage sample page
Alan James has worked his magic on my text, topos and photos - and the whole thing is looking exceptional.
This time round the book will continue 4000 routes, amazingly that is over a thousand more than the last version and double the content of Peak Grit East - the book that started it all.
It is filled with some great action shots, the best set of cragshots ever seen and over 30 ticklists - from pretty easy for anyone to complete all the way up to almost impossible for anyone to complete.It will have full index this time round, an extensive introduction and all the usual Rockfax whistles and bells.
Quite what I am going to do with my time now that my baby has left the nest remain a bit of a mystery, though I'm sure I'll think of something.

Saturday, 24 January 2015

Cragging at La Clape - Off the Beaten Track

Deserted beaches that run for miles
 We decided after six weeks in the Ariège we fancied a change for a few days so loaded up the car and headed to Gruissan, on the coast near Narbonne, about 2 hours drive away. The forecast was for cold and a little unsettled but we thought we would give it a go anyway. The area isn't a main-stream climbing venue but there are half a dozen small cliffs scattered amongst the vineyards with 300+ routes, a pamphlet style guide book available from the Tourist Info in Gruissan (€16) and some superb beaches.
Typical climbing at La Clape - 100m from the car
Despite the cool weather - it never got above 9C - the crags are all very sheltered and conditions were perfect. We climbed on four different cliffs and ticked off 21 routes. The grades felt a little tough and the crags nearest the parking spots were polished - but that is the same the world over.
For somewhere a little different it was well worth a visit - I think we will be back.

Friday, 16 January 2015

Wanderings and Wonderings


Wandering
Almost five weeks we have been in the Pyrenees now - the weather has been amazing - only a couple of wet days - today being one of them - in the whole of that time. Checking back with the UK on occasions it has looked a thoroughly miserable winter with extended periods of persistent wind and rain - I'm glad we have the option to be 'elsewhere'.
We have done a lot of local walks, exploring the immediate area and a little further afield - a nice gentle way of getting fit. As ever the whole area is exceptionally quiet. There are plans to have a few days away over near the coast to visit a different area and get some climbing - the forecast looks a bit mix, so it will be a case of suck it and see.
 
Eastern Grit Sample Page
I have pressed on with Eastern Grit at this end and Alan James has been doing the final layout back in Sheffield and the whole project is moving along so fast, it still looks like we will go to the printers in early March - that will be two years and one month from dropping the 1st topo into place.
Now what am I going to do with all that spare time?

An aside: Alan said that Rockfax sold its 250,000th book in December - my contribution to that total was just over 78,000 books - not bad in just over 12 years.

Friday, 2 January 2015

Peace and Quiet

First snow of the season up at Beille
It is now almost three weeks since we left the UK and relocated back to the Ariège - for the 3rd winter in a row. Although the area is pretty quiet (as ever) Chez Arran has been busy - full for the whole of the holiday season. Today (2nd January) the final guests left and peace return -  which is just how we like it.
We have done a bit of climbing, a bit of snow-shoeing and a lot of walking -which is  always a pleasant way of keeping fit as well as exploring and enjoying this superb area.
Mid-winter sun above Niaux
As has become the norm a trip to Andorra and a new camera were in order - this time I got hold of a Sony RX100 iii and it has turned out to be a rather impressive piece of kit - plus the saving over £170 compared to buying in the UK isn't to be sniffed at.
On the writing front, I have done a lot of work on Eastern Grit Version III and passed it all over to Alan for the final editing - it currently looks like we will be publishing in March - which really isn't very far away. We sold a magnificent total of 24,000 copies of the previous two versions, but this one is going to end up being a bit of a monster, currently at around 520 pages and not finished yet. It could be my swansong and my Magnum Opus perhaps - only time will tell.

Wednesday, 17 December 2014

Happy Christmas and All the Best for 2015

Diamonds on the Beach - Iceland

Another year rolls round, and it has been a busy one - about six weeks in the UK and forty four weeks elsewhere. Highlights? Well all of it really but Iceland, Corsica and Santorini were new and great, whereas Kalymnos and Ariège were the same as ever - and great too.

If you read this, I wish you 

All The Best For The Next 12 Months