Wednesday, 31 December 2008

That Was The Year - That Was

New Year's Eve again - 2008 has spiralled down the temporal plug-hole, time for a quick review of the year I guess.

We stayed down on the Cote d'Azure until April which was a great way to start the year. Sadly I didn't get too much climbing done due to a persistent problem with swollen joints - a long-time worry but it was certainly great to sidestep the UK winter. The Northern England guide was published whilst we were away - I was well pleased with that one.

We left the coast in April and headed for home via two weeks at Buis de Barronaise (I had forgotten how good the area was), ten days at climbing and Via Ferrating at Les Vigneaux near Briançon and a spectacular week in Chamonix. The highlight was a trip up the Midi cable-car, across the Vallee Blanche to Italy and back again - the amount of snow was a surprise and the scenery was astounding! It brought back memories of Alpine epics from 30 years ago.

After three weeks in Blighty, we flew up to Lofoten (a nice change from the usual week-long drive/boat/drive/boat scenario) for the launch of the new guidebook. We had a late night 'bash' in the Climbing School (the menu was fish soup - what else), Alan James and Mark Glaister were fresh from Presten's West Pillar and the guide had arrive just that morning - pretty good timing! The guidebook was well received by all concerned and the evening was massively convivial. Driving home (OK being driven home by Lutta's Taxi Service) from the party at 2am with the sun already rising high on Vagakallen was unreal.

Then it was back to the UK for the summer (the first time in 20 years) to get all the remaining crag shots for the new version of Western Grit. As it turned out the summer was pretty poor - and got worse. Regular trips up Kinder were interspersed with visits to a host of Lancashire quarries (Sherri wasn't all that impressed when I look her for a couple of night B & B in the Red Rose County, but needs must).

By mid September I had enough of the crap weather - even though a long planned trip to Kalymnos was only a month away, so we zipped off to Ariege for 10 days and very pleasant it was too.

Trips to a prof at the Royal Halamshire semed to have finally sorted my swollen joints out so it was off to Kalymnos. That was the revelation of the year - what a place. I got more inspired than I had been for years, did 123 routes up to F6b (I know the grades there are soft, but don't spoil the moment) and we even let the plane go home without us and stopped on for two more weeks. Whilst there I got the great news that Lofoten Rock had won the guidebook catagory at Banff. I phone Alan who was on holiday in Holland to share the great news. It would have been good (and expensive!) to go to the award ceremony but I wasn't ready for leaving Kalymnos just yet.

Then in mid-December we loaded up the car and drove back to southern France to start work on a guide to the Cote d'Azure cliffs. So that was that - full circle in every way - I wonder what next year holds?

Friday, 26 December 2008

Not Again!

The journey to the airport went OK until the car started making an odd 'flapping' noise and a passing motorist waved us down. A well-shredded back tyre was the cause, we tucked in tight to the barrier, pulled on our day-glow jackets and set about changing it metres from the roaring traffic. Within five minutes a big motorway assistance vehicle was pulled in behind us - lights flashing and protecting us from the traffic - impressive!
We made it to the airport, collect Colin (just a little late) and headed for home. Already the skies had become leaden and spots of rain were falling. Christmas Day was windy cool, and damp, and Boxing Day a was even wilder - though we got a few routes done on the Dramont.
It has been happening for years, the great weather lasts just as long as we are alone and as soon guests arrive it turns pear-shaped - maybe we need to tell them to stop at home!

Thursday, 18 December 2008

Buisiness as Usual

The Saturday we arrive we saw the sun briefly, Sunday was grey and showery, then the next two days it rained and blew - the local paper had pictures of huge waves, trees down and extensive floods - seams the same happens every year when we come away!
Anyway eventually the sun came out, and we took a walk up into the Rastel, the hills right behind the house. Great views in all directions, inland the hills were absolutely plastered with snow. The huge steel tricolour on the summit was especially impressive.
Next day was time to start work of the next project so we visited Saint Jeanette, did a few routes and took loads of photographs. And the forecast looks good for the next 10 days.

Saturday, 13 December 2008

Quick as a Flash

That was easy enough! We started on Thursday afternoon with a steady ride to Hull, followed by a nice calm crossing to a frosty Zeebruge. I clicked on the cruise control and wound the car up to 90mph and seven and a half hours driving and 525 miles later we rolled into Chanas (south of Lyon) just after dark. Saturday morning another three and a half hours and we were in Saint Rafael.
On the way down the temperature never rose above 2.5 degrees, and most of the time it hovered around zero, but here it was a more equable 11 degrees.
We collected a bit of wood for the evenings fire, and settled in - the pad will be just fine.
Saturday night was a wild one, windy and wet, and Sunday was grey and cool - fortunatly the Meteo has been forecasting it for a week so we made the most of the poor weather with a lie-in (Sunday morning) and some more wood collecting - we have a bit of a stack already and judging by the temperature, we will be needing it!

Sunday, 7 December 2008

Winter's Grip

A clear crisp weekend, a nice change from the greyness of the past few weeks. A (small) team outing to the Queen of Grit was the order of the day. The roads were icy and the crag was pretty busy, though 90% were boulderers, and most of those were stood round watching!
Graham and Brian opted to climb, but it was pretty damn cold so DG and myself opted for a brisk tramp out to End Slab and back - about a five mile round trip - and very pleasant it was too.
Anyway, four more days and we head south, hopefully to warmer climes (climbs) - can't wait!

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...