Monday, 31 December 2007

The Last Top of 2007

The last day of the year and another glorious one so we decided on a walk up to one of the tops in the Massif de l’Esterel, a range of granite hills right behind the house. The Pic du Cap Roux (1620') fitted the bill, and gave us a pleasant three hour round trip, with great views out over the Med, and from the summit, along the coast to Cannes and Nice and on to the snow-plastered peaks of the Alps Maritime over 50 miles away. The ever-keen (ever-green) Colin and Dave Gregory arrive tomorrow (along with the rain if the forecast is to be believed) so we will doubtless be going climbing whenever possible.

Thursday, 27 December 2007

That's Better!

After a few cool days, the forecast was right on button and we woke to be greeted by wall to wall blue sky. I decided a gentle day on St Jeannet might be the ticket to ease back into things - the last time I touched rock was a cold grey day on Burbage North well over a month ago!
St Jeannet and its soaring rock faces dominates the country north west of Nice, I first visited the place with Graham back in 1984 and 85 when we did amongst other routes the magnificent La Mafia. With eight pitches up to 7a+ it was described in Pete Livesey's guide of the time as "very difficult to free climb" - after a winter training in the garage we were ready and we managed to storm it - all free, of course.
Today's plans were much more modest, with short and easy pitches a gentle 20 mins from the car. Who cares that they were easy, six routes in the sun were pleasant enough - and every Renaissance has to start somewhere!

Sunday, 23 December 2007

Relocation, relocation, relocation

Sherri packed in work (for good this time), left school at little early any by 5:00 we were in Hull ready to board the Pride of York. Considering it was the middle of December, the crossing was as calm as you could have wished for - though Zeebrugge was a shock, foggy, -5 degrees and everything covered in hoar-frost. Things went well enough until Sally SatNav blotted her previously good record and took us towards Paris; by the time I realised what the game was - it was two late! The three hours spent crawling around the Periferique were a lesson never to be forgotten - Hell on Earth. Eventually we got on the E6 and 53o miles from Zebrugge, and several hours late we booked into a hotel in Chanas - knackered!
The next day went better and by 2:30 we were in St Rafael having passed some fine looking cliffs on the way down - the most interesting of which (consulting Jingo Wobbly) were at Orgon, looked well worth a visit some time soon.
In a re-run of last year the rain started when we were about an hour from the pad - never mind though - a couple of days rest are what we need for starters.
Then the sun came out - lovely stuff!

Thursday, 13 December 2007

Christmas Aniversary

cb-6c-alcalali.jpgI think it was 1987 we first went abroad for Christmas, to the Costa Blanca and that was a revelation. Previous years we had been to Scotland, Pembroke, Cornwall and done a lot of caving. We usually manage to get something done though it was always a battle - Spain changed all that! Twenty years on it remains one of the most eagerly anticipated trips of the year - well along with Easter, Whit and the long summer break!

This year we are headed down to the Nice area for something a little different, I have climbed there quite a bit over the years, but don’t know it anything like as well as the Blanca - and a change is a good as rest!

If you are headed to there Blanca here is a small update to the Alcalali section of the guide on my RockFax blog (download it via the link at the bottom of the entry) - there has been a lot of development there including a superb crop of new routes. There have also been problems generated by the routes on the far right which overlook the gardens of the villas - avoiding these would be a positive step.

Enjoy your break!

Monday, 3 December 2007

Northern Rock

brimham.jpgThe only half-decent day of the week prompted Alan andaj-brimham.jpg myself to go a do a little bit more checking for the Northern England guide. We were a bit tardy at actually biting the bullet and getting away from Sheffield and by the time we got to Caley it was almost midday. Conditions were not too bad though and we galloped round the boulders, sketching, checking and photographing a variety of bits and pieces.

Heading back towards the car it was obvious from the thunderous black clouds rolling down Wharfedale that Almscliff (Destination II) was going to be wet! We tooled up to the parking and it was already hammering down, though brighter skies to the north tempted us onwards to Brimham where the sun came out for the 1st time. As anyone who knows the place well will testify (though not as strongly as those who don’t) this is one crag that will tax any guidebook writer’s skills to the max - suffice to say we are working on it! After a complete tour of the place we joined the queuing traffic on the A1 heading for home.

Sunday, 18 November 2007

Back to the Printers Again

Back to Clearpoint in Nottingham to see the presses rolling with Trad + (and add a few last minute corrections - try doing that with a printers in China!). They have a new printer for doing the proofs and the colours were quite superb - at Clearpoint they take always a real pride in giving us exactly what we want - which is great. The large image shows the printing room with its huge presses and the smaller one a sheet of 32 pages out of the book. Trad+ - fresh off the press.

Then it was on to Cordee in Nottingham (I knew that the SatNav would come into its own) where we had a very useful meeting with Richard Robinson and picked up 30 boxes of books (filled the estate car to the roof!) before cruising back to Sheffield managing to avoid the worst of the traffic. A useful day’s work, I pity the folks who travel the motorways on a daily basis!

The forecast for the weekend was poor so on Friday I went a walk with Dave Gregory. I had hoped to get up to Kinder to photograph the south side crags for the new Western Grit, but in the event it was cloudy. Instead we started from the Surprise View car park, went down through Lawrencefield and Padley Gorge and over to the Tegness Quarries, a place I hadn’t been for 30 years. We returned via Longshaw and quick loop into the upper end of Padley Gorge again. I told Dave about our travels the previous day, and in contrast we didn’t see a soul all day - though I bet the motorways were still busy!

Monday, 12 November 2007

Autumn is Here

A few cold crisp days was enough of an excuse to get away from proofing Trad+, tweaking Northern England and working on Lofoten. Friday was especially nice, myself and DG (Dave Gregory) dumped a car at the Surprise View then drove round to Moscar Top and walked back over Stanage - a gentle seven miler. The day was brilliantly clear but the NE wind had a savage edge to it, mind you it was over our shoulder most of the day, so that was nice!

I took a few photos of the ‘water-holes’ carved in the boulder above the northern end of the cliff - done to provide water for the grouse apparently, over a hundred years ago. It looks like there are 33 of them - they are all numbered, but quite a few are no longer visible, doubtless they have become overgrown. They are beautifully carved with elegant curved channels carrying the water into the central ‘basin’ one day I am going to try and find them all - I might even draw a map!

Heading past Higgar Tor we encountered a couple of folks with five BIG dogs, three Rotweilers and two Alsatians, roaming back and forth, we mentioned the presence of sheep on the moor - but, as ever, they assured us that ‘their’ dogs didn’t chase sheep!

Sunday was a bit greyer, but Colin and Mark were down from North Yorkshire, and decided on Burbage North, which as it turned out was a good choice, what with the wind still nagging out of the north west.

I never cease to be amazed how busy the Peak is at weekends, a cold grey day in November and I ended up parking over near Higgar Tor! The climbing was good if a little chilly, certainly way better than being indoors - and the valley was buzzing - walkers, climbers, boulders, bikers - all out making the most of the Sunday.

I watched with dismay as a dog chased sheep down in the valley bottom (so maybe some do!) before heading back to the car, where to my surprise the thermometer showed a chilly 3.5 degrees - amazing we got anything at all done really!

Friday, 2 November 2007

Different Worlds

It is probably many folks idea of paradise, 30 degrees every day, sea warm enough to swim in, hotels right on the beach, amazingly cheap - what more could you ask for? On the other hand a different perspective may see it as a sweaty, barren, over-crowded holiday camp in the sun!
The hills are something different, over 6500' it is cool up there, with swathes of pine trees, masses of cliffs and small towns with shady corners. I suppose it is good that different folks like different things or the hills would be as crowded as the beaches!

I managed to track down what look like the four main climbing areas;

Crags at Ayacata

1) Fataga: - a bit like Arico on Tenerife - accessible and about 70 decent looking sport routes with afternoon shade.

2) Ayacata: nice roadside crag, not many equipped routes, but the ones here look worthwhile and quite high. LOTS or rock in the area.

3) Roca Nublo: the 80m spire of rock visible from much of the island. About 20 routes, some quite large. Cooler than the other cliffs.

4) Tamadaba: supposedly the main climbing area on the island - but - two hours from the coast and a huge and utterly confusing area. It is basically a high plateau with the cliffs around the rim and approached from above. Very difficulty to find your way around - could do with a decent guide!

Sunday, 28 October 2007

Due South

A chance to visit Gran Canaria was too good to miss - I am working on the Lofoten guidebook with local mountain guide Thorbjørn Enevold, and he ‘winters’ down in the Canaries, it was either he came to Sheffield or we headed south - so no contest really! The journey from Sheffield to Manchester airport was pretty grim - pity the poor sods who commute daily - and the plane was full of screaming kids - though as we approached the island the view out of the window of the sunset over Gran Canaria and Tenerife made it worthwhile.

Beers on the terrace at midnight (22 degrees) and an air conditioned room was followed by a late start and a ride up into the hills. The roads are extremely tortuous as they climb through the huge areas scorched by last year’s fires. By the time we reached 5000′ feet it had cooled markedly so we hiked up to the foot of the Roque Nubio - a huge monolith of volcanic rock that was certainly living up to its name, it disappeared into the mist on occasions - at sixteen degrees and even some spots of rain, it almost felt like the Peak. There are some decent looking routes up there though much of the rock is a bit suspect - mind you to make up for it many of the bolts are pretty beefy! The easiest looking way up is the German Route up the right-hand arete in the photo, which is fully bolted with big fat glue-in bolts, it looked a bit like an aid route.

We zigzagged back down to the coast, had a quick trip to the Super Market and then back for a late tea - it had certainly been a change from the usual Friday set-up.

Monday, 22 October 2007

Never Go Back!

I was up at the Wainstones at the weekend (and glorious it was too) doing a bit of finally checking for my new Northern England guide, due out in January. Ambling back down the hill at the end of the day my mind rolled back down the years, to my first visit to the North York Moors. Back in 1966 I persuaded my long suffering father to take three of us (all mid-teenages and mad keen for it!) over to Scugdale so we could bivi there for a couple of nights and do lots (and lots) of climbing.

We humped our gear up to the crag (mostly consisting of tinned food) and set up home in a small cave. After an afternoon cracking routes off the rain started, and continued all night - by mid-morning things had turned squalid, and eventually we had to admit defeat, I trekked to the farm to ask if I could use the phone (and got a bollocking for ‘camping’ at the crag) - and my father duly turned up and carted us off home.

It didn’t take long to dry out (though most of the tins had lost their labels) and by early evening the sun was out and it was glorious. From our house I could see the distant hills bathed in sunshine - it all seemed so unfair!

It was a lesson learnt though - on a recent visit to Northumberland with Alan we drove through pouring rain heading for Callerhues, we were pretty close to sacking it when I retold this tale, we pressed on just a little further - and almost inevitably the sun came out and we spent a glorious day.

Saturday, 20 October 2007

Time for a New Set of Wheels

Sad maybe (must be a generational thing!), but getting a ‘new’ motor is always a milestone. The last one took us to Lofoten three times, and all the way to the Costa Blanca - so I wonder where the new (bigger - room for more grub, camping and climbing gear) will get us! A weekend up in the North York Moors will do for starters.

The Impreza was a great but brutal car and the lack of whistles and bells always irked - mind you simply hanging on was usually top priority most of the time.

Getting back from the garage with satnav was a revelation - a kind lady told me exactly where to go (in the nicest possible way!) - I may even chuck the scabby old road atlas away.

Sunday, 14 October 2007

Full Circle

My first Blog entry was a Burbage Round, that I did last November with Dave Gregory and 11 months on we were there again, (he was fresh from a month in California) another damp autumnal weekend, out for a bit of exercise instead of sitting in font of the computer. It was foggy and damp but pleasant enough for all that, and I mulled over what we had done in the intervening year; a long weekend in Ariege, 14 weeks in Spain, back to Ariege on the way home again for a couple of weeks, six weeks in Arctic Norway and half a dozen trips to Northumberland/Yorkshire Grit - not a bad tally!

As to the future, a trip to Gran Canaria is planned and hopefully an extended trip to the Cote s’Azure, maybe one or both of them might generate a guide. Then there is the Northern England guide on the horizon, and Lofoten Rock no too far behind

Monday, 1 October 2007

Old Favourites

With Dave Gregory still in the USA and Colin tramping around in the fog in the Lakes as DoE support, it was left to the 'old team' to make the most of a lovely autumn Sunday on Stanage. For the first week in October the place was really busy, so we headed for Stanage End, and even there plenty of folks were mooching around. Crow Chin was smothered by the t-r brigade but End Slab and the Crab Crawl area had a few gaps. I got the chance to test my birthday present (to myself a Leica DLux 3) and even did two routes I hadn't done before - that makes 963!

Thursday, 20 September 2007

The Galloping Guidebook Writer

Photo: Colin on Tom's Peeping VS 5a (or E1 6a?).

Deadlines, the weather, partners, home-life, other jobs - some juggling was needed as the autumn rapidly approaches and so does the printing date for Northern England.
A cast of thousands was assembled to get the final few shots and do some last minute checking.
In the event (and as ever) it fell to myself, Alan and Colin to spend a couple of frantic days. Day 1 was Scugdale, Park Nab and the Wainstones, completed just as the cloud motored in and the temperature plummeted. We bumped into a Cleveland MC meet and discussed the guide/photos/which cliffs were in an out etc. all in an amicable fashion which was nice.
Day 2 and we drove through heavy rain to emerge in bright sunshine just south of Bellingham, the days was spent on Callerhues getting trashed - the grades were as anomalous as we had expected - and more so in some cases - all will be revealed in the new guide.
Then it was off to Causey Quarry to catch the last rays of the sun before heading for home - back into the rain!

Friday, 7 September 2007

Back to the Gritstone Grindstone

Well it looks like we brought the summer back with us! I spent a hot sunny and sweaty day tramping around the Staffordshire gritstone area taking crag shots for the next version of Western Grit, it will be a while yet though!
Ramshaw and Hen Cloud were deserted, but as ever the Roaches was busy, despite it being a mid-week Thursday - there was the obligatory group of school kids polishing Chalk Storm and its nearby routes, and as to the lady who suggested that I should ask before taking photographs - well excuse me - I will ensure that you are digitised out of the crag-shot!
Three hours and 185 shots later I headed for home!

Friday, 31 August 2007

Fabulous Fjordland

Isn't it strange how you forget? After several superb summers in Lofoten we decided to break the journey south with a couple of days in Aurland, in the heart of the fjords. We had forgotten what a majestic part of the World this is, the aquamarine fjords pinned between high tops already sprinkled with the first snow of the season.
The area was still quite busy compared to the north, especially considering September is just around the corner, but the steady steam of coaches, camper-wagons and cruise-ships make you realise that we are back in the heart of Tourist Territory!
Highlights were an amazing glass-fronted viewpoint (above) and a short walk to a modest summit (4670') overlooking the old mountain road, the car thermometer read a steady zero degrees!

Monday, 27 August 2007

Homeward Bound

A chill northerly wind and the disappearance of all the tourists, can only mean one thing, the short Arctic summer is coming to a close and it is time to think about heading south and get stuck into the Lofoten guidebook - though one year we would love to stay on and see the winter arrive. It is amazing to think, four short weeks ago it never got dark, and now the autumn is almost upon us.
We had a last tour of a few of our favourite spots, the normally busy Kalle beach was deserted, not a tent or camper-van in sight - and of course its Bank Holiday Monday at home and a sunny one too, with all that entails!

Wednesday, 22 August 2007

Way Out West

With the forecast a bit unsettled we decided on a day out in western Lofoten yesterday and took the ferry (only one a day - climbing in here would need a bit of planning) for a quick trip round Rienefjord to get photographs for the new guide. There are some amazing peaks in there, the sort of things a child would draw for a picture of 'a mountain'.
The most impressive is probably the charmingly name Brieflogtind (Wide Slab Peak apparently) - it is only 750 metres high (just a little higher than Kinder!) - but what a peak!
We also sailed past the huge shark's fin of Seiltind (730m), of which the current guide simple says "first ascent unknown". That presumably means the soaring faces are unclimbed!
Merraflestind (the third photo) is obviously so insignificant is isn't worth of a mention in the guidebook or a spot height on the map! Despite this it is probably only a 15 minute walk from the pier and has some rather fine lines and currently at least ONE route!

Sunday, 19 August 2007

Bouldering - whatever next?

Needing to sort the bouldering out for the new Lofoten guidebook, I spent a day visiting the half-a-dozen popular spots, playing on a few problems and taking pictures. I have never been a fan of bouldering, it always feels to much like 'playing on rocks' to me.
Having said that, they day after my session, I was aching all over and I'm not sure my fingers will ever work again - so maybe there is a point to it all!
Anyway, there is loads to go at, in some of the most sublime locations imaginable.

Tuesday, 14 August 2007

Eggum, but no chips!

Colin's three weeks went quite slowly - but then suddenly it was time to deliver him to the the tiny airport at Svolvaer for his return trip (which will include spending the night at Bodo airport because of the connections).
We decided to visit Eggum out on the north coast on the last day, a recently developed sport crag with about 20 routes - mostly in the harder grades. Colin cracked of three of the easier ones - up to Norwegian 7+ (about F7a) in good style, we had a wander out to view a sculpture (a strangely intriguing head on a plinth) on a foggy headland then headed for home. The shot is a montage of the sculpture from two different directions!

Tuesday, 7 August 2007

Up with the eagles

A couple of cool showery days came and went then it was back to hot (22 degrees) and sunny. We decided to head up to Glamtinden, I nice little peak we climb every year, and have a look at Eagle Ridge. The route was worth the effort, though some of the rock was a bit soft and crumbly. Despite this the positions are quite superb, making up somewhat fot the sections of 'iffy' rock. The views from the summit are magnificent.

Wednesday, 1 August 2007

Rest for the Wicked?

After over two weeks of excellent weather, we finally got a day's rain and a chance for a bit of a rest and to catch up on all the jobs that have needed doing. We have done some great routes, including High Priest (on the Priest) yesterday afternoon, getting back from just as the sky started to turn milky and the wind started to get up.

We had arranged to go out in Thorbjorn's new boat to gets some crag-shots of the Priest, but the strengthening wind and the fact that we were late down due to a jammed abseil rope (hats off to Colin for eventually extracting it from the depths of the crack) meant we decided to leave for a calmer evening!

Sunday, 29 July 2007

Lofoten - reprise

Great to be back in the 'Magic Islands' and so far (3 days!) the weather has been kind, in fact almost too hot! We spent the first evening poking around Paradise, and yesterday on Pianokraken, where 8 pitches were dispatched in good order. Highlights were the excellent jamming crack of The Piano Player (6 - about HVS 5b) and the superb finger crack of Tapir (7- maybe E3 6a) - good to report Colin is going as well as ever!

Saturday, 21 July 2007


The North Sea ferry was a little bumpy (just for a change), but we arrived at Bergen OK just before sundown. A two hour drive got us to Gudvangen, where it had just stopped raining for the first time for four days - the waterfalls were spectacular - as the photo shows.
A cruise on the Nordlys, up the Norwegian coast under a clear blue sky - apparently whilst still raining in the UK - was excellent, we crossed the Arctic Circle whilst we slept and arrive in Bodo a few hours before Colin jetted, from Edinburgh via Oslo. We spent four days climbing in the area, the shot is of a typical Grade 7 route at Bratthammeran. After getting suitable rested we drove on north to Skutvik to catch the two hour ferry crossing to Lofoten - it was was clear blue and flat calm.

Wednesday, 11 July 2007

Pokketz Rockets Rocks!

A quick mid-week visit to Birchen was in order - Mr Gregory was desperate for a day out and his car was playing up - so I took along a copy of the brand new Pokketz guidebook to give it a quick test-drive (test-climb?).
The volume performed as expected, locating the routes was easy AND it fitted snugly in my trouser pocket. We did a dozen routes and at the end of the session the guide had performed admirably, which is more can be said for the climbers - they were a little worse for wear (combined age of 128 probably had something to do with that!). We showed the book to a few other climbers and the response was favorable - and although there may be no need to carry the book up a 10m gritstone climb there is obviously potential on mountain crags and sea cliffs - anyone for a Gogarth Pokketz?

Monday, 9 July 2007

Northern Soul

After weeks (and weeks) of dodgy weather, the weekend held the promise of something just a little better, so Friday night we skipped up to Colin's and Saturday Bruce joined us for a day on Highcliffe Nab on the North York Moors, it was a breezy squally day, with impressive shower clouds being pushed along on the wind. We only got wet once though, checked out some good routes and got all the photos I needed.
Sunday was better again, Colin had an afternoon appointment in Scotland so we galloped along to Hadrian's Buttress, and zipped up it (Severe!!!), he headed north and we walked out via the Roman Wall.

On to Causey Quarry for a bit of bouldering, one last photo-shoot, then its back on the road to Sheffield - as successful a weekend as we could have hoped for.

Monday, 25 June 2007

Wet, wet, wet.

The two weeks of grey weather followed by the wettest June ever (wettest MONTH ever according one report) have stopped me getting back up north for the final bits of checking. Grabbing the odd day in the Peak has had to do, though at least I have all the shots I need for the new guide.
Today was the wettest yet, it rained from dawn to dusk, sometimes light, sometimes heavy - but it kept on coming. News reports suggested chaos in downtown Sheffield so at 5:00 we decided to pop to the park to see what was happening - impressive stuff!
I returned a couple of days for a look to compare what had happened and the place was back to normal! The solitary silver birch is a useful reference point. All clear at our end of town but it still sounds rough in the lower Don valley and further down stream - ans there is more rain on the way.

Saturday, 9 June 2007

The New Stanage Guide

It arrived at last, and has been very well received. It is good to see my years of research come to fruition; Nial has done a grand job with the book, fresh, up-to-date, anecdotal stories a-plenty, plus inspirational pictures, just the ticket really. Stanage finally has the guide it really deserves.
A slight surprise is the lack of new routes since the 2002 guide, I think we must have pretty much squeezed the place dry working on that one.

Negatives: almost (almost) too few to mention,
  • I am not a fan of the front cover, it doesn't encapsulate the Stanage Experience the way a guidebook cover should.
  • The bouldering circuits, I will hold judgment on these, a very brief dip in found the layout and the information confusing, maybe that is my old brain. I'll be interested to see the environmental impact in a couple of years on the more isolated areas too.
I was pleased to see that despite being the villain (in some eyes anyway) of the Stanage Saga, my contribution to the cliffs superb repertoire (over 100 new routes) hasn't been ignored. I nipped out on Tuesday to do a new Direct Finish to Fern Crack HVS 5a that we explored (sounds better then top-roped) at the weekend - so it is out of date already!

The Sheffield launch was a convivial (and bloody hot) do, stories were swapped, beer quaffed and curry troughed. The pub was bulging with faces old and new, including Ron Townsend (first new route on Stanage back in the 1940s!) Dave Gregory (who has been involved with Peak guidebooks for 50+ years) and Malc Baxter who's superb drawings have graced generations of guidebooks.
I think it is fair to say a good time was had by all.

A month in Switzerland

Gornergrat - rammed A month passed in Switzerland and it has been very pleasant, climbing, hiking, chilling and even doing a bit of to...