Saturday, 5 April 2014

Back to Kalymnos - easy as pie!

We flew Carcassonne to Stansted (€20 each) - a night in the Raddison (posh!) then an evening flight from Stansted to Kos (£20 each).  That left us time for a beer in a bar in Mastichari before catching the late night ferry across to the island. Sitting outside on the upper deck was my (dopy) idea, the soaring starry sky was great but we arrived wind blasted and chilled; as ever it was great to be back. Spring is well established and at the moment things are pretty quiet. Doubtless the hoards will begin to arrive over the next 10 days - lets hope it doesn't get too busy.

Tuesday, 25 March 2014

Kalymnos Calling

100 days we have been in Ariège now - how time flies! It has been a much milder winter than last year with hardly any snow falling down at Chez Arran, which once again has proved a fantastically quiet place to spend time.
I have made huge progress with the next version on Eastern Grit which means I can ease back a bit and get some more climbing done.
I can almost feel the crinkly sharp Kalymnos limestone on my fingers, and the hot Greek sun on my back. Looking forward to sunsets on the terrace, Mythos and Metaxa in the bar - hooking up with old friends and easing back into island life.
The plan had been to return to the UK before we headed East, but Sherri found flights from Carcassonne to Stansted for €20 and Stansted to Kos for £20 - so one night in the UK (the Raddison!!) and onwards - can't wait!

Sunday, 9 March 2014

Spring is Springing

Three quiet months since we rolled up to Chez Arran and suddenly there is a change in the air, the days are drawing out, the whole place has become busy (French Winter Holidays?) and suddenly it has turned warm sunny and dry - with a great forecast.

Photo right: a wander up a small hill behind Foix

Three weeks left - and then off to Kalymnos for a couple of months, looking forward to it already. We visited last spring, and it was great - warm, quiet and amazingly green. We are not too sure how we are going to get there - we have a flight booked from Stansted to Kos  (one of RyanAir's amazing £20 each deals) on April 1st, but whether we
go home 1st, or fly from here is still up for discussion.

Photo right: one more day on snow-shoes 

When the weather has been unsettled I have been proofing the new RockFax Peak Bouldering guide - it looks superb and big too at over 500 pages - I'll need to ensure that Peak Grit East 3 is up to the same standard - something to keep me occupied in Australia maybe?  :-)

Sunday, 23 February 2014

A Flier

My father's 90th birthday and vague hope of getting some of the missing crag shots for Eastern Grit III persuaded us 'home' for a quick week - though I'm not sure Sherri was totally convinced. We said a sad farewell to the cats and just a few hours later were in a wet and cold Liverpool. Friday was a half-decent (for February) day so it was Curbar with Graham and Steve - in the event I got all the shots I wanted and we even got a couple of routes done. Saturday was an early start, a surprise for my parents (who thought we were in France) and a big get-together for the Craggs/Ramsey Clan and then onward to Sherri's mum in Saltburn for yet more food and more being talked at.
Sunday was back to Sheffield, a damp day so a chance for a bit of getting organised. The three days we had left, had a half-decent forecast and in the event I photographed some of Baslow and Gardoms, as well all of Chatsworth, Agden and Cratcliffe - turns out it was the driest spell for over two months.

Of course the big news is that we have booked flights to Singapore for June as part of planning a trip to Australia - only a 1st step as the whole idea is a bit scary/daunting - but all journeys have to start somewhere and just booking part of it gives us the option of changing our minds!

Sunday, 9 February 2014

Winter Wanderings

Almost eight weeks have passed since we rolled up to Chez Arran in the wonderful Ariège, already the days are starting to lengthen and the 1st signs of Spring are on the way. We had our 1st visitors in the shape of long-time friends Steve and Sue Warwick. They were very pleased to leave the grotty weather of the UK (the wettest winter for centuries if the hype is to be believed) and do some snow-shoeing, climbing and walking in the mountains.

Top: Chouila snow-shoeing

Bottom: Mas d'Azil Cave

Before they arrived we visited the amazing Mas d'Azil cave to the north-east of Foix. The area has been inhabited for more than 30,000 years and the scale of the cave - with its road running right through it - is amazing.

I have cracked on with Eastern Grit 3 - looks like I might finish it several months early - so with that being the case, I'll be looking for a new project quite soon!

Saturday, 25 January 2014

Ariége - it's Business as Usual

Six weeks now and life has been much the same as ever, quiet and mild - but mainly quiet. We have plodded in the snow, climbed on a variety of crags and even been caving.
Life at Chez Arran revolves around working on Eastern Grit, playing Wiff Waff and enjoying the company of the cats.

Eastern Grit (Ver 3) is starting to look really good - even though I say it myself - the deadline of later this year is easily within reach - I might even have to find something else to keep me busy in the meantime.

Also on the publishing front, the skiing book produced by Thorbjorn/Jonas has arrived and it looks quite superb - even the proofing is of the highest standard :-)

The cats continue to be a delight - I never really considered myself a pet/animal person - but times change, or maybe I just never realised. Either way, they are a pleasure to be around, despite the odd scratch - certainly more pleasant than you average 'uman!

Top - Brilliant snowshoeing conditions at Beille
Middle - Comfy cats
Bottom - bats in the belfrey

Monday, 13 January 2014

A Month in the Mountains

Four weeks since we hauled up at Chez Arran, and it has been great. John and Anne have been away in Thailand for almost three weeks, so we have been in charge of the place, keeping the guests happy and the cats fed. The weather has been very pleasant, giving us the option for snowshoeing, walking, climbing or just taking it easy - all pretty pleasant. We even had a session on a snow-mobile up in Andorra - which was superb, though we did manage to turn the thing over which was a surprise to us and the instructor!

On the odd damp day I have pressed on with Eastern Grit, the third version of the book that started my relationship with Rockfax back in 2001 - it is starting to look a bit good.  12 years on from that Genesis and with eight books currently in print we have a bit of freedom to travel and work where-ever suites us. With that being the case we have been doing a bit of planning and might try something a bit different this summer; Iceland, Australia and Canada are the current shortlist - I sometimes I think I enjoy the planning almost as much as traveling so have been keeping busy.

 Right top to bottom: 

1) a walk around Verdun with Sinsat behind
2) Skidoo fun - Andorra
3) Sample Froggatt page from Eastern Grit III
4) White wilderness at Choula