Tuesday, 17 November 2015

Back To Basics

White Cat's rather sad ears after surgery
The week in Ariège was very pleasant, and (as ever) very quiet, we did a bit of climbing a bit of walking and a lot of taking it easy. Our long-term 'pet', White Cat had a nasty growth on her ear which we had noticed last time and assumed it was scab from fighting - but it was actually a tumour due to sun exposure. We showed photos to the vet on Saturday, and she was booked in for 8:30 Monday morning. For a couple of days she was in a sorry state but by the time left - five days later - she was well on the way to recovery. By the time her hair grows back she will be as good as new (-ish). Interestingly the number tattooed into her ear told the vet 'she' was 10 years old and actually a 'he'!
Kalymnos Sunset - same as it ever was
Then is was a quick flight to Stansted, a too short night in the Raddison, then onwards to Athens - for £20 each). We caught the late boat over to Kalymnos, and were in Babis Bar in time for a beer and chill. Unusually the Bar is still pretty full - perhaps we should have kept quiet about how good Kalymnos is in November!!!!!
Day One: four easy routes on Sea Breeze - in the breeze - and a perfect Kalymnos sunset, it is great to be back.

Saturday, 7 November 2015

Round the Circle

Festival of Ancient Fruits - Orpierre
We left Orpierre after the camp-site closed for the season - last day of October - and headed to Buis les Barronies, two and a half years since we were last there. Orpierre was an 'interesting' experience, we will probably go there again but only at a quieter time of the year - it was so busy it really detracted from what is a lovely part of the world. One of the highlights was the last weekend when 'The Festival of Ancient Fruits" took place, a celebration of ancient crops and skills - it was nice that the whole thing wasn't filled with people sell tat.  There was barrel-making, knife-sharpening, apple pressing, wine, nuts, lavender, fungi, and a real sense of history - most enjoyable.
Sikarate, Baume Rousse, 5c, 37m, 16 clips 
We only had a short spell at Buis this time around and the weather was a little mixed though I got three days climbing done, including a glorious day on Baume Rousse. Then it was on the road again and back Ariége a couple of months after we last left.
Chez Arran was deserted - well apart form the cats of course. White Cat's ear had deteriorate markedly since we were last here - we took a photo the vets and she confirmed it is a kind of cancer common in white cats and triggered by sunshine so she is booked in first thing Monday morning for a bit of cosmetic surgery!

Tuesday, 27 October 2015

Orpierre in the Fall

Climbing in the gorge at Sisteron

A rest-day walk - high above Orpierre
After a very pleasant three weeks in Briançon we loaded up the cars and drove a steady two hours to arrive at the fabled Orpiérre - another well known climbing destination that had escaped my attention completely over the years. The reason for its fame, and the associated downsides soon became all to apparent, a) it was busy - really busy, b) the cliffs were packed, c) a lot of the routes were horrible polished. It also turned out we had arrived at the start of the busiest 10 days in the whole year; the place is too hot in the summer, too cold in the winter and ‘just right’ around October half term!
I guess the place is a victim of its own success - the number of 'live-in' wagons in the various car-parks and many really large groups of climbers spoil the place for us a bit - though the answer is to visit at another time, like we have learnt to do with Kalymnos.
Any way, it is a lovely spot and with a bit of dodging around we managed to get plenty of climbing done, around Orpiérre and a little further afield.
Sadly the camp-site shuts for the winter this weekend and we are being ejected from our cosy (and quite posh) caravan - so the question has to be - where next?

Wednesday, 30 September 2015

New Beginnings - Briançon

Day One, Crag One, Route One
 A steady journey via the Hull to Zeebrugge ferry and a 10 hour drove and we rolled into Briançon - a place I have never visited.
My 65th birthday passed on the way south - must admit that was one milestone I wasn't looking forward to - but onwards and upwards I guess. As the saying goes 'getting old is no fun but it is better than the alternative"!
We have rented a ski apartment for three weeks and first signs are very encouraging, the weather has been good, the place is quiet and I managed 25 routes in the first three days on five separate cliffs - all new to me which was great.
The Col de Galibier - 8200'
The city is said to be the highest in Europe at just over 4000' and it is ringed by some amazing fortifications - we have made a start on exploring this intriguing area.
The weather varies between absolutely glorious and a bit on the cool side - record low so far 0C - not sure if this is the norm for here, time will tell!
One week on and we have had a complete mixed bag of weather from hot to cold, rain to snow, thunderstorms and wind - not much chance of getting bored with it. The route tally is now up to 40 and I have lost track of the number of different rock types I have climbed on - variety is the spice of life.

Sunday, 13 September 2015

Getting Over That Hill

Plateau de Beille

The month in Scandinavia was brilliant and the 12 days back Ariège have been very pleasant, it is effortless slotting back into the easy-going groove here. We are still managing to find new areas to explore, and as ever the place is pretty much deserted.
 But time presses on, it is September already and we need to think about plans for the winter.
Climbing near the Spanish border
Initially we are headed back to the UK on Tuesday for just a week - time to visit dentists, opticians, parents and attend the OWPG's  annual bash up in Northumberland. Then we will be loading up the car and heading south for the Briançon/Orpierre area for about six weeks. These are two areas which are well regarded but about which I know very little. I am looking forward to getting a few solid weeks on the rock and getting fit. Beyond that nothing is fixed but we may manage a slider to Kalymnos once all the crowds have gone. By mid-December we should be back in the Ariège so I can start work on the new Lofoten guide which hopefully is due out sometime next year
Two weeks ago was the 50th Anniversary of my first ever climbing trip (Scugdale - North York Moors) and the night we sail from Hull to Zeebrugge is my 65th Birthday - where did all that time all go?
A Quick Update - I assumed we would have Tuesday to sort and pack the car ready for the off on Wednesday - but Sherri informed me that is my Birthday Present Day - Prestwold Hall where I will be driving a Porsche 911, an Aston Martin, a Ferrari and Lamborghini - not sure the Scoobie will ever seem the same again!

Wednesday, 26 August 2015

Narvik - Away from it All

Spectacular Presten from the sea
We had just over a week in Lofoten and the weather was perfect - in fact almost a bit warm on occasions. With it being the tail-end of the season everywhere was nice and quiet and as ever Thorbjørn organised us some superb accommodation in a quiet corner of Henningsvaer. We cracked on with the crag photography - the highlight was a boat ride out one evening with Jonas and his four year old lad (in a rather small boat) to get some shots of Presten from the sea as photos from the land are always very foreshortened. The light was rather poor when we set off but right on time the sun came out and I got a great set of shots.
Eidtind from the slabs
The forecast was for the weather to deteriorate towards the weekend (three weeks without rain so no complaints) so we left Lofoten and headed for the Narvik area for a few days of exploring the astounding granite peaks that pepper the area.
We started with a walk up the huge slabs on Stortinden - as amazing a setting as anywhere in Europe.
We met a solitary Norwegian guy on the mountain and we was rather surprised to meet English people in the area - apparently we are are a bit of a rarity!

Sunday, 16 August 2015

Wandering Out in the Far (North) West

Beach on Andøya
Almost two weeks since we left the UK and we have finally landed in Lofoten. Overall the weather has been pretty pleasant, though the last couple of days have seen the establishment of a classic Arctic high pressure system - I'm not sure how we always manage to bring the sun with us but we aren't complaining - it was almost too warm today!
We spent three days up on Andøya, the most northerly of the whole group of islands and well off the normal tourist trail. It was quiet with some superb beaches and deserted mountains.
Lofoten perfection
The journey down to Lofoten was a delight, almost deserted roads and an on-time ferry crossing, with fantastic weather and the usual magnificent scenery. Lofoten is busier than the other islands, in particular with Germans and Italians in big (often huge) camper-wagons - I guess the news of the beauty and serenity of the place has spread far and wide.
Our main objective is to start rephotographing the cliffs for a new version of out award winning Lofoten Rock guide book which is due to sell out next year. Whilst the weather is so benign we need to crack on - making hay!