Monday, 31 December 2018

2019 INCOMING

2018 gone, 2019 just over the horizon, lets hope it is another one filled with travel, climbing, good friends, sunshine and adventures. Best wishes to friends far and wide and anyone who has bought one of my books this year - we couldn't do it without you.

Monday, 10 December 2018

Greece to France (via the UK)

Don't go - stay with us- pleeease
We sent Colin heading back to Manchester and nearly flew back into Kalymnos. In the event the plane turned back just short and several hours later we arrive in Kos courtesy of a rescheduled Sky Express flight and via two visits to their Executive Lounge.
We had another two weeks in Kaly, everything was very quiet - the weather was less good than we have come to expect down the years - though MUCH better than the UK. We climbed, wandered, socialised and looked after a host of cats - times are getting harder for them now all the tourists have left.
Then it was time to head back to the UK, in four days we picked up the car, now fixed, visited my mother, had a day at the climbing wall, packed the car and made it to Hull for the evening ferry.
Belle Burgundy
The crossing was a bit 'lumpy' as the Captain called it (Beaufort Severe Gale Force 9) then headed to Burgundy for a look at an area I have never climbed - the event the weather has been a bit crap - I know it is December but really!
Ariege next with plans to head down to the Costa Blanca to start a rewrite on my best selling guidebook to the area - no rest for the busy!


Thursday, 15 November 2018

Greece - off the Beaten Track


Varasova - seaside fun
Don't get me wrong, I love Kalymnos, but it does get a bit busy (OK very busy) at times. Last year we decided to escape to Leonidio in the peak late October season - and it turned out that was just as bad with 50 cars parked under Mad Rock some days - bah, humbug!
Fyrgani - Day 1, Crag 1
So this year I thought we could try something a little different, I picked five crags with a selection of easier routes in central and northern Greece, Colin flew into Athens for a fortnight, and off we headed in search of quiet cliffs and new adventures.
Meteora - pebble-tastic
Frygani, Kalogria, Varasova, Mytikas and Meteora? I'm guessing that like me you have never heard of them, well except for the last in the list, which is well known as a UNESCO world heritage site.
12 days and around 50 routes later I can report that there are great cliffs in Greece where you won't see another climber, let alone have to queue to get on your chosen route. Accommodation was sorted through Booking.com and AirBnB and in most cases was inexpensive and close to the climbing.
Frygani is a conglomerate crag 30 miles west of Corinth, east facing with 40 routes and five minutes from the road. It has huge potential for new routes.
Kalogria is a set of cliffs above a big lagoon which is an internationally important bird reserve. 100+ routes across a variety of cliffs. Mozzies can be a problem because of the lagoon but there is some great climbing on offer.
Mytikas - peaceful perfection
Varasova is an old school venue, much used by Athens climbers over the years. Right by the sea, and a selection of restaurants there are 90 routes to go at, from short and sharp right up to 18 pitches.
Mytikas - and idyllic crag with 30 routes, only seconds from the road. It overlooks the bay and town of the same name and gets afternoon shade.
Meteora - a huge and fascinating area with who knows how many routes. There are single and muti-pitch on a host of towers and the bolting can be a little (or very) spaced, especially on the the older routes. The rock is a very solid conglomerate, billions of rounded pebbles from acorn-sized to huge - bring your stiff boots.


Wednesday, 31 October 2018

Greece - Islands and Mainlands

A private Boeing 737 - that will do nicely
 Autumn well under way so it must be time to head east - Kalymnos Calling. To be totally honest I wasn't 100% keen on going because of the ill will our new book had apparently generated in a few disgruntled souls. But Sherri wanted to see her cats and we both wanted to see out long-term Greek friends so we booked flights from Carcassonne to Stansted to Kos. The second leg was with Jet2 and we had the plane to ourselves which was a novel experience. It was headed down to bring the package holiday people home so would be full on the return journey.
Pocket Wall - form an orderly queue
Kalmnos was very busy, especially considering it is late October - possibly the busiest season ever according to sources on the island - may the new book had a positive effect after all.
Our personal tax-boat on the way
As ever we cast around to find quiet crags, there is nearly always somewhere available. Christian Lemrich's new crag at Palinisos fitted the bill perfectly - reached by a 5 minute boat ride, north-facing and 14 routes from 5a to 5c, up to 30m long and like the plane, we had it to ourselves.
At the weekend we fly up to Athens to meet Colin for a couple of weeks exploring some of the Mainland crags in the centre and the north of the country, hopefully including the mythical Meteora - looking forward to it a lot.

Saturday, 13 October 2018

There and Back

Rescued from the fire

We had planned to fly home to the UK for a week, so we could be in the country to keep half an eye on my mum, while my sister flew to Dubai for a week to visit her daughter who teaches out there.
Then on the Monday morning a fire in the bins at Barry d'en Bas scorched the side of our car - if the locals hadn't alerted us and Sherri hadn't been so quick the whole thing might have gone up in smoke - a really close call - and the first new car I have ever owned- typical!
Sunset at Zeebrugge
After a lot of mulling our options we decided the least disruptive course of action was to take the car home to get it sorted - we hadn't planned to drive back until next year.
So two days later it was Orleans > Paris > Zeebrugge > Hull > Catterick for fish and chip breakfast a couple of hours earlier than it would have been if we had flown up!
Great Harry (VS 4c)
After a couple of days we headed back to Sheffield to meet Colin and do a bit of climbing/DIY/medical, and then hopped on the train to Stansted, and back to Chez Arran eight days after we left.
 First job the next morning was White Cat to the vets for another ear operation - the cancer had returned so the ear had to go - 'streamlining' the vet called it. It was very stressful for all involved - I think we all need a bit of quiet downtime now for a few days.

Friday, 21 September 2018

Beautiful Briançonaise

Autumn in Ailefroide
We moved a couple of hours over the mountains from the Maurienne to the Briançon area. We have stopped around here quite a few times in recent years, out of season the area is exceptionally quiet and the altitude (around 4500') means it is often pleasantly cool, especially when compared to the lowlands further west and south.
Mi-Nöel (5c+) Rocher Baron -
this one is quartzite!
There is an amazing variety of rock on offer in this Alpine orogeny collision zone with granite, gneiss, quartzite, limestone, conglomerate and probably some sandstone. There is also a very good spread of grades, from easy stuff for old guys to some seriously impressive crags and routes of every length from tiny up to major multi-pitch.
Then there are the passes, that allow you to get even higher, when it does warm up and a serious set of Via Ferrata to go at. Ailefoide has long been popular but the rest of the area much less so, which seems a bit odd.
Anyway it is onward now, Ariege next and next month a trip to exploring the Greek mainland with Colin.




Sunday, 9 September 2018

Back to the Peace of the Maurienne

Above Saas Fee - 11,000+ feet
 A few days in France then a week in Switzerland gave a bit of time for the crowds to head for home and everywhere to start to quieten down. The time in Saas-Grund was great, it isn't the best climbing destination - but a small 'tourist tax' allows free access to the cable-cars, so we spent quite a bit of time high up, hiking the various high level trails.
Climbing in the Maurienne
The plan had been to head to Ponte Brolla and the Italian Lakes for some climbing, but the forecast was hot (28C) and prices seemed very expensive - still high season down there. After a bit of thought we decided to head back to the Maurienne, the deep valley running up to the Italian border north west of Turin.
We were here last year and were impressed with the peace, quiet and variety of climbing available. The face that we managed to get a six bed ski chalet for £18 a night was a major bonus - the beauty of being here out of season.
Col de Mont Cenis at the French/Italian border
A week into September and I have already done 36 routes - compared to 20 for the whole of July in the UK. For many years now I have found it much more motivating to explore new crags and poke around areas I don't know very well - I guess this a not very subtle way of hiding the 'decline into decrepitude'.

2019 INCOMING

2018 gone, 2019 just over the horizon, lets hope it is another one filled with travel, climbing, good friends, sunshine and adventures. B...