Monday, 17 October 2016

Off We Go Again

The first sign of winter
Lovely conditions on Auzat

Two and a half weeks at Chez Arran have passed as quickly as ever. I didn't get quite as much climbing done as I hoped as Graham brought and ugly bug out from the UK with him, I caught it after four days and Sherri picked it up a couple of days later. One week on and we are on the road to recovery - but it hasn't been nice!
When we travel we make a point of trying to avoid picking up bugs with regular use of a nasal spray and antibacterial soap but there is only so much you can do if they are delivered to your home!
Anyway - it is the usual last few days of sorting, packing, stashing stuff in the barns and feeding the cats to a standstill. We are headed to the Radisson at Stansted tomorrow, the hotel is a bit flash for us but it is walk-able from the terminal, has a bath (wow) and includes a full-English in the price.
Then it is onwards to Athens - for the princely sum of £20 each - and with a bit of luck and a following wind, to Kos in time for the 18:00 ferry to Kalymnos.
It sounds like the season is still in full swing down there, not sure how hot or busy it is going to be but we fancy getting there before things cool down this year so we can do a bit of swimming and snorkelling - and of course some climbing.
As ever there appear to be quite a few new crags to go at - which is just great - a couple of months down there should do us just fine.

Thursday, 6 October 2016

66 and 100 Not Out

Orpiérre - cruising classics on deserted cliffs
From the Maurienne Valley (we will be returning there sooner rather than later) we headed back to Orpierre, we spent a couple of weeks there last autumn, and the place was so busy as to to be really unpleasant. We arrive on a Saturday - my 66th birthday - everywhere was shut so I had a lovely sandwhich for my evening meal.
This time round the whole area was much more how we like it - we were virtually the only people on the campsite and the cliffs were so much quieter that the climbing was a really pleasure.
I noticed towards the end of the week that I had done 100 routes since we left the UK on the 1st of the month - that isn't something that happens very often.
Then it was the long drive back the Ariège - Chez Arran was busy as everyone was getting ready to go off on trips away. We noticed that White Cat had a large swelling on her neck that was obviously causing her a lot of discomfort, so 08:30 Monday morning we were back at the vets almost a year since were there to get her ears sorted.
White Cat after 'Operation Abscess'
The vet was very matter-of-fact and when we picked WC up at 4:00 the change in her demeanour was great to see - all three of us slept much better that night.
Graham and Helen Parkes have arrived for a quick weeks climbing and relaxation - the weather has started a bit mixed but the forecast is great - my plan is to use his superior climbing ability to get dragged up as many routes that I haven't done before as possible - all systems are GO!

Tuesday, 20 September 2016

Wandering through the pre-Alps

Posh (and fake) Swiss Cottage at Courcheval 1850

We left Chamonix after a too-short eight days and took a drive round to the area around Bourg Saint Maurice and Moutiers, only an hour and a half away. Another new spot and well worth a visit despite it being a bit too hot some of the time. There is some good craging around the area and the road network up into the Trois Vallees ski resorts means it is possible to drive up out of the heat. Courcheval 1850 was especially worth a look, as the most exclusive ski resort on the planet some of the residences have to be seen to be believed. Apparently property prices for the top-end places start at around €37,000 per square metre!!
Some large random waterfall in the Maurienne
Then it was onwards again to the Maurienne, the big valley that runs up towards the Italian frontier. Again it was an area I had heard about over the years but never visited. It turned out to be an intruding place, with a long history, superb scenery and lot of good climbing. Looking the entries in the UKClimbing logbooks, the area seems to get precocious few UK visitors which is odd considering the quality and amount of climbing available in such a compact area. Several of the popular  cliffs don't even appear on the databases. What the area needs is a Rockfax - there, I have gone and said it!

Wednesday, 7 September 2016

Chamonix Spectacular

The Aiguille Vert and the Dru from the Lac Blanc path

The Glacier de Bionnassey
What a difference a week makes - from the humdrum UK to the bustling busyness of Chamonix - their season may be pretty much at an end but the place is buzzing, with car-parks full and queues for all the lifts. The weather has been superb, almost too hot, but we have managed - climbing and/or walking every day since we arrived.
Today we did the walk from the Index chairlift to the Lac Blanc then back down to the Flégère gondola. A great walk with fantastic views of the Mont Blanc massif and the wasting glaciers. The difference compared to my first visits here over 40 years ago is shocking to behold.
A couple more days here then southwards to more new (to us) venues.
Work on Lofoten Rock Climbs - the new title - continues, albeit rather slowly at the moment, there are trails to follow and rocks to climb.

Monday, 29 August 2016

England's Dreaming

A busy sunny Bank Holiday
We have been back in the UK for a little over two weeks now and we have got over the initial shock of how crowded the place always is - the contrast with where we spend most of the rest of the year always comes as a bit of a surprise.
With having so much time at out disposal we got stuck into giving the flat and the garage a good clear out - mouldy old camping gear, 600+ guidebooks, music CDs, old photographs - all these and much more have been the subject of a big purge. Much of the stuff has been passed on to people who might make more use of it than we do nowadays.
The weather has been an odd on-off mix of hot sweaty sunny days interspersed with rain - which has worked well - a day's climbing followed by a day's 'rest'. There has usually been a happy band of retirees out on the rock making the most of mid-week freedom and avoiding the mobs that descend on the Peak's popular cliffs on any sunny weekend.
Graham on Namenlos (HVS 5a) Stanage
We also got the chance to head up north and visit both sets of parents over the Bank Holiday weekend - the weather was superb and not unexpectedly the crowds were spectacular - no time to be on the road.
Anyway - duty done and it is time to bugger off south for the winter. It will be Chamonix for starters then wander our way towards the Ariége before heading for Kalymnos in the middle of October. This is a bit earlier than in recent years - the place will probably be quite busy but we fancy a bit of snorkelling, so we will have to put up with the crowds - from past experience the place should soon start emptying out. At this time of year we especially enjoy watching the convoys of taxis heading towards the port, packed with departing climbers always making a point of giving them a cheery wave. 

Sunday, 14 August 2016

The Long Trail

On the open fells near the Swedish border
 After nine weeks in the Arctic we had to think about heading back south - not that we were really all that keen. Three nights in Thorbjørn's cabin at Riksgransen were pleasant - we even had a bit of snow early one morning.
Then it was on the road for a seven hour drive though the never-ending forests of northern Sweden.
The next day it was Luleå > Stockholm > Manchester and back into the bedlam - a 25 minute queue to get back in to the country through passport control, then a hot sweaty train ride back to Sheffield - the crowds everywhere were a real culture shock.
Welcome back - we laid on a party for you
So Sunday it was Stanage - a bit green after the unsettled summer, and not TOO busy - except for Crow Chin where we decided to start our day. Apparently it was 'Trad-Fest" so a large group of noisy and excitable individuals arrived and took over the crag - we moved on!
Two weeks in the UK to get all the 'jobs' done then it is south - Chamonix for starters, whilst the cable-cars are still open, that should be nice - can't wait!

Friday, 29 July 2016

Lofoten - the End of Days

Lillemolla from Glåmtinden
Busy days on Bilberries - 20+ climbers
in a big convoy

 We have been back in Lofoten for a couple of weeks now, the weather has been a little mixed - apparently pretty much a 'normal' summer up here in the Arctic - but certainly nice enough to get plenty of stuff done.
The most striking thing has been how busy the whole place has become - admittedly it is 'High Season' but even so the number of camper-wagons on the roads, tourists in town and on the beaches and climbers on the crag has been a bit of a shocker. If you want to come here to climb the classics, a top-tip would be to avoid July at all costs!
Busy, busy, busy
Work on the new book has progressed well - most of the photos are in the bag - apart from the big remote cliffs out West - we are waiting for a settled spell before heading out there - though with only two weeks left it better come sooner rather than later.
Sherri has been busy booking ferries and planes - the next few months are sorted, UK > Chamonix > Briançon > Ariege > Kalymnos should see us through until Christmas time.