Saturday, 18 November 2017

The Best of Times, the Worst of Times

Nafplio - climbing in the sun
The trip to the Peleponnes was excellent, a lot of great climbing on a varied set of cliffs.We had a rather mixed bag of weather, with the whole gamut from pouring rain to almost too hot to move. Leonidio was very, very busy - up to the best/worst of Kalymnos. Kyparissi was beautiful, very quiet and totally idyllic. Nafplio was interesting, loads of history and a great set of cliffs. 50+ routes ticked in the trip wasn't too shoddy.
 After two weeks we took an early morning drive back to Athens, dropped the lads off and jumped on a plane ourselves. This was a day earlier than originally anticipated, but the storms forecast for Monday forced our hand. In the event, the Monday flight was cancelled, so that was a good call!
On the Tuesday I had a message from my sister that our father had a lung infection, but was on antibiotics. Three days later, and after perking up and being out for a walk he suddenly collapsed and died.
I don't believe in premonitions but I had had a heavy heart for a few days so who knows. Anyway, he was 93, had led a full and active life, was still driving and helping out at my sister's farm several times a week. I know it is trite but we all agreed it was the way he would have chosen to go.
Greek cat Nibble, watching out for us.

So now everything is in the air as we await details of the funeral, we need to get back to the UK for that once a date is fixed and then decided what is happing next.
He approved of our nomadic life and as dad used to say 'Do it now, before its too late' - I'll drink to that!

Friday, 3 November 2017

Pootling about the Peleponnese

Sampatiki - a great place to stay
Colin on another classy 6a+
An easy journey got us from Kalymnos to Athens where we collected Andy and Colin for the three hour drive to Leonidio, the current climbing 'Hot Spot' for the whole of the Peleponnese peninsula.
Through bad timing and bad planning we ended up arriving during the week of European Half Term holidays AND the date of second climbing festival to be held here. We were surprised and rather disappointed to see just how busy places were - the crowds were the very reason we had left Kalymnos!
First thoughts on Leonidio - well as many people have said - "It isn't Kalymnos" and I understand exactly what they are getting at.
 Positives - It has to be said first of all - the climbing is great, well bolted, good rock and with stacks to go at and with many really big pitches. The grade spread is good and the fixed geqr is all in excellent condition.
Negatives - The approaches are almost always quite long and steep - which can be a chore in the full sun. Also there isn't currently too much on offer in the shade, many of the decent cliffs face due south so would make great winter venues.
Leonidio is a typical Greek working town, dusty and noisy, with narrow streets and lots of traffic. It is a few miles from the sea and is surrounded by fields of fruit, vegetables and plastic tunnels - currently it isn't really set up for tourists, though climbing and coffee shops, plus assorted accomodations is becoming available gradually.
The locals are super-friendly, though they do seem slightly bemused by all the pale lanky strangers in their midst.
We stopped a short way up the coast from Leonidio in the small port of Sampatiki - which felt much more like the the 'typical Greek' holiday experience.
We are visiting Kyparissi and Napflio next so will report back in due course.

Wednesday, 18 October 2017

Travellers Tales

Manchester Airport - and the fun begins
I first flew way back in 1971 - a student traveller trip from London to Zurich - it was all very novel and exciting - the whole thing made you feel a bit special. Nowadays the whole travel experience has become a bit of a chore, with lots of queuing, crowds everywhere, security checks and the general feeling that you are less of a valued customer and more of a bloody nuisance.

So what tips and tricks have we picked up over the years to ease the whole process?

Checking a hold bag? Common sense maybe but don’t put your ‘essential’ stuff in there, just in case it gets lost or delayed. So money, pills, travel documents, car and house keys (on the way back home) and a pair of rock shoes should stay with you.

Hiring a car? Don’t use the airline’s recommended provider if you want to avoid a big queue on arrival. Sending the main driver on ahead while someone else collects the bags can be a great way of jumping the queue, just make sure the rest of the team know which desk, or if the company is off site. If you travel more than a couple times a year consider buying an annual policy (around £35) to cover you in case of damage - much cheaper than short term cover, though you do have to actually pay any bills then claim it back. Check the prices of some of the main stream providers (via a price comparison site) against the bargain basement guys, you might be surprised. Avoid Goldcars.

Stay well? How often do you go on a trip and fall ill within a couple of days? Airports are dirty places full of dirty germ ridden people - or maybe that’s the best way to think. We carry a small antiseptic hand soap and a nasal spray and use them before and after every flight - it might be kidology but we appear to get less bugs than we used too. The cooling air vent above your seat is a great idea - for spraying everybody’s recycled germs in your personal space for a couple of hours, so turn it off.

Queues? One of my personal bugbears is queuing, I know it goes against the dirt-bag climbers code but paying a few quid for fast track certainly eases the start of a trip.

If you are driving to the airport and have to pay for parking (we use the train a lot nowadays which is often cheap and very convenient) it might be worth looking for  hotels that offer ‘free’ parking with an overnight stop. That way you avoid both a pre-dawn start and the rush hour motorway for a more civilised start.

Go light? It isn’t usually possible on a climbing trip, but travelling with just hand luggage is very liberating - more like catching a bus than a plane. Today the plane from Manchester touched down in Kos at 15.55 and by 16.21 we’re on the ferry - folks who had to wait for bags missed it.

So there you go, hope some of the tips help - Happy Trails

Friday, 6 October 2017

Patched up and Good to Go

Down (by) a Lazy River the Inn
Boulder Hopping Mad
The five weeks in Austria were excellent despite what the locals described as the 'Worst September Ever'. We climbed, hiked, explored and ate loads of sausages!
We were impressed with the area, the friendly locals, the high standard of everything and the generally inexpensive nature of the place. We already have plans to give the area another try next year hoping for a 'proper' autumn.
Then it was homeward via the German autobahn network - the traffic was pretty grim, with lots of delays, nose to tail queueus and several minor bumps - they need to take a lesson from the French maybe?
Sunday we arrived back home and Monday I checked into the Claremont Private Hospital - courtesy of the NHS - to get my toe sorted. By early evening I was back home, bandaged up and wondering how long the recovery might take - there was some talk of 'up to 12 weeks' at the hospital.
Three days later I hiked (slowly) up Mount Stanage, five days spent a couple of hours belay duty at Awesome Walls and ten days visited by docs to have the dressing removed before heading to Manchester Airport and the Ariege. Easy does it - but so far so good.

Tuesday, 5 September 2017

September Snows

View-point at 10,945'
 We left the UK towards the end of August and the first 10 days were as expected, with everywhere being hot and busy. Then the forecast offered something a little different; unsettled and cooler - and it was spot on. After a damp couple of days the clouds parted to reveal sparking snowy summits.
With a complimentary Ötzal Card (many thanks to the kind staff at the Local Tourist Office) we took the highest cable-car in the region - the Schwaze Schneid, which deposits you at 3247m (10,653').
First week of September - who would have though it!
From there we continued up a snowy trail to a spectacular view-point at 3336m (10,945').
The view were fantastic, covering the surround peaks of the Tirol and away to the south, the distant Dolomites. A brisk wind blew out of the north and my watch showed -4C, with the added wind-chill we didn't tarry too long - though the hot drink and sandwich Sherri had 'smuggled' up to the top were much appreciated.

Sunday, 27 August 2017

Austrian Alpine

Above it all
With a date for getting my toe sorted we decided to push off for a quick (well five week) trip, but where too?
Something on UKC recently had caught my eye, about the Ōtztal valley in Austria being a great venue for rock climbing in the lower and middle grades. It wasn't a place that was on my radar, so a peruse of the book shelf in Outside was in order, where I discovered the 600+ page tome that was 'Sportclimbing in Tirol'.
After a quick flick to check the potential we started by booking the Hull to Zeebrugge ferry and a couple of days later we were aboard and headed south.
The upgrade to Club Class was as welcome as ever and the crossing was silk calm. Two easy half days on the autobahns and we checked into the very classy Allgäuer Appartementhaus in the lovely Bavarian town of Pfronten. (When I booked the place I actually though it was in Austria, though it turns out it was in Germany - hey ho!)
Day One, Crag One, Route One
We spent four days there, climbing, hiking and exploring the area. Being August, it is still pretty warm and everywhere is quite busy, but another week should see the masses heading back to work and everything starting to cool dow.
Then it was onwards to the Ötztal via few routes on the odd slabby crag of Arzbergklamm before we headed to our residence of the next couple of weeks - Top Tirol apartments, right in the middle of the valley. The rain started just before we arrive but the forecast is fine, hopefully it will be a bit cooler up here at almost 4000'

Thursday, 10 August 2017

Ready, Steady, Go

FFS - raining again!!
 It has been six weeks since we arrived back in the UK, it is amazing how the time rolls buy.  It has been a sociable time with plenty of walking and climbing with the usual suspects though the weather has been a bit of disappointment - I guess some things never change.
One of the reasons we came back was to try and get an old injury to my big toe sorted out. I have seen my GP, had X-Rays, seen a specialist and finally got a date for him to shave the bone back to something like its normal size. I guess six weeks for that from the NHS for something so trivial is pretty good going. I had the same operation done 30+ years ago, but the wear, tear and pressure of too many tight boots and shoes means it finally needs doing again.
Toe the line
Anyway a date towards the end of September means we can shoot off for a month, so Switzerland and Austria here we come. Possible venues include the Øtzal, where we have never been, and the Val di Mello, where we haven't been for about 15 years.
After that it is back home to get the 'procedure' done with the hope I will be fit enough to push off to Greece by mid October - about three weeks later. We have appointments with Kalymnos and the Peleponnes and they won't wait.

The Best of Times, the Worst of Times

Nafplio - climbing in the sun The trip to the Peleponnes was excellent, a lot of great climbing on a varied set of cliffs.We had a rathe...