Thursday, 19 May 2016

The Herault - somewhere Different

Our place in the country
Escaping the Gorge de Joncas
After 10 days back in the Ariège I fancied trying somewhere new - Sherri would probably have stopped at Chez Arran and looked after the cats but I was aware that long-time acquaintance Keith Sanders has a pad in a small village to the north-west of Montpelier - about three hours drive away in the Herault region.
I had never been to the area but there appeared to be quite a bit of climbing scattered around, so it had to be worth a look. Keith's pad was very well appointed as well as nice and central, it suited us just fine - apart from my involuntary descent of the stairs on our first night there - the bruising has nearly gone!
Orchids
We visited four different cliffs and did a couple of decent walks too, one up the highest peak in the local area, the Pic de St Baudille and another around the edge of the Lac de Salagou. The climbing was a good and varied and the weather was fine but we did get a bit scorched one day in the Gorge de Joncas where there wasn't a breath of wind and the cliffs were full in the sun. Looks like the area would be worth a visit at a cooler time of the year - we will have to pencil it in.
Just under two weeks more in the Ariège then it is time to think about heading north - the Artic beckons.

Wednesday, 4 May 2016

Back to the Pyrenees

Looking down towards Barry de'n Bas in the Ariège
Seven weeks in Kalymnos were great and I felt a rare rare sadness when we left - but it was getting busy, hot and bug-ridden so we really had to go. A couple of nights in the Radisson was our 'treat' - internet and TV in bed were real novelties.
Then it was an easy flight to a windy Carcassonne and onwards to Chez Arran. The cats met us on the drive and were starving - good job we had stocked up with cat food and treats 'en route'.
It is great to be back in the mountains, the high peaks still look pretty snowy, we need to head up there to have a look around as soon as possible.
We have both been stuck by the amazing greenness of the place - spring is here and the fresh growth and the bird song are fantastic. We have a month to play with before heading north to the midnight sun - a bit of climbing would be nice.

Sunday, 17 April 2016

Into the Wide Blue

Telendos with humid cloud cap
Almost six weeks since we arrived on Kalymnos and it feels like summer is just around the corner. It has been noticeably hotter that normal, almost too hot to climb some days and warm enough to swim in the sea - which is definitely unusual. Also the spring greenery is starting to fade, it looks like there will be precious little rain now until the autumn.
I have continued to climb and as always have especially been on the look-out for routes I haven't done before - I have completed almost 750 different climbs on the island now and there are still new places to visit, such is the continued pace of development.

Still looking for new routes to do
A couple more weeks to go and then we will have a month in France before heading to the far north for the rest of summer again to complete the work on the new version of Lofoten Rock. Currently Kalymnos is 30C and solid blue, northern Norway is snow-bound with temperatures around 0C - I guess variety being the spice of life is as true as ever.

Monday, 28 March 2016

Peace and Quiet

Easter Sunday on Skalia Balcony
We have been in Kalymnos almost two weeks now and it has been great. The time has been notable for two things - firstly much of the time there has been a nagging northerly wind keeping the the temperatures down and secondly the place is incredibly quiet.
This is the fourth spring we have spent on the island but the 1st when Easter has been so early - Greek Easter isn't for another month yet - and the place is virtually deserted. The lack of flights from northern Europe into Kos appears to be the main reason. Colin and Andy flew in via a change in Athens and we are all enjoying the peace and quiet - having crags to ourselves that are normally rammed. I guess the hoards will be arriving some time soon!

Thursday, 17 March 2016

Round the Loop

Day 1 - Route 5

Back to Kalymnos (or at least s far as Kos) was pretty easy - though as there’d been no boats for two days we thought we might be stuck in Mastichari. In the event the place looked pretty much shut up and the famous ‘Pirate Boat’ - the Anna Maria was in harbour. After some consideration, and with considerable trepidation we hopped aboard. The crossing wasn’t quite as horrendous as some of the tales we have heard, but it was pretty bumpy and quite a few of the locals (it was packed) started throwing up. Plastic carrier-bags, paper towels and wet-wipes were produced rapidly to stem the tide!

Day one was five easy routes on Sea Breeze just to start the skin growing game, finishing off with tea on the terrace and a classic Kalymnos sunset - it felt nice to be back and to be a little bit ahead of the crowds that are forecast to be arriving this weekend (plus Andy and Colin on Monday) - always assuming that any of them can get across the water!
Same as it ever was!

Sunday, 28 February 2016

Over the Hills and Far Away

Almond blossom and deserted roads
Our time in the Ariège is winding down, we need to head back to the UK in about a week, though only for a few days - just enough time to get sorted before heading to Kalymnos for the glorious spring season.
 We decide on a quick 'slider' trip and so drove back over the Pyrenees to visit Colin and Jane at Santa Egracia above Tremp in Catalunya.
We climbed on a variety of cliffs, several of which were new to me, which is always nice. The contrast between the Spanish and French sides of the mountains is always interesting with it being so much quieter on the Spanish side. The almond blossoms were especially spectacular at this time of year.

Sunset at Sant Egracia - above it all
I have continued working on Lofoten Rock - due out towards the end of the year -  and that is going pretty well. We are looking forward to getting back to the Magic Islands and the Land of the Midnight Sun in June and spending a couple of months up there working on the book. I started getting my State Pension back in October which is a bit of a depressing thought - but it is more funds to put in the 'travelling pot' - maybe getting older but there is no time to stop just yet!

Friday, 19 February 2016

Away From It All

Crowds - Yeuk
Two week back from Lourdes and back into the groove - working, climbing, wandering, wondering. We only have a couple of weeks left then we need to find a way to get us and the car back to the UK (nothing booked as yet)  - albeit briefly before travelling back to Kalymnos to catch the best of the spring - before the hoards arrive.
And there's the problem, we like nice places but hate crowds, noise, queues - people in general really. Sadly you can't expect to have Paradise to yourself!
Sweet Solitude.
The photographs illustrate the issue, and a solution - the Plateau de Beille is a superb area of high land at around 6000' and only a 30 minute drive from Chez Arran. Head up there on a good day in the French winter holiday season - which is most of February - and you will find it rammed - I reckon there were 500+ cars up there a couple of days ago.
We drove back down the hill about  a kilometre, bumped off the road and headed into the wilderness, pristine snow with a few animal tracks and total silence - perfection really!