Chainmail Part… unknown.

Blame a Scotsman. Not any Scotsman of course and certainly not one wandering aimlessly down the high street in Alloa on a Saturday afternoon. Nope, blame that Michael Thompson, him of scottishmountaineer.com fame. Sic.

I’ve not been motivated to write for a while, running across England had been the motivation before and that was done and dusted a long time ago. Climbing has taken over my life, owning me like my forehead owns my hair-line of late. There’s a million blogs which focus on rock, plastic, sport and trad… what realistically can I add?

Then Mike tagged me on faceache. Some sort of chain mail thingy. Respond or die. Actually, that may be ptc’s new record.

Git.

His ‘elevenish’ questions fought for attention and the answers give a clue as to their origin. I’ve had a Bulmers, life feels comfortable yet fast as it travels towards my future. So I knuckled down and hammered the keys but who wants to hear? Mr Thompson does, maybe a few mates too and I need to write more. I need to write period. Keats did and I should…

Stanage

1 – Action Man. The Polar Explorer and the Mountaineer. Maybe the Astronaut too, after all, is that not the greatest adventure? It certainly seemed it in the sixties and all of my dreams and aspirations emanate from those plastic dummies…

2 – I’ve taken a PHD down jacket with me in the summer. Down jackets make the evening bliss instead of bearable, when all is going to hell. I like them a lot, especially some ridiculous -26c Haglofs thing I bought as a sample. I love that jacket. I even sent it on holiday with a mate to Denali.

3 – I wanted to write popping to the shop after a fat line of ket but that’s not very inspiring. Mainly because the toughest thing I’ve managed, was getting to the top of Ben Nevis two weeks after brain surgery and a year after a major accident. I couldn’t walk well, everything was hurting and by the time I hit the pub, I needed those two pints and the morphine. Tough, incredibly.

5 – Waking up and already being there. Unzip the fly and it’s there. Every wild camper knows that feeling.

6 - Going home. There’s always a point on the drive home when I become morose and ponder the point of my life. It happens to others too I’ve noted. Should we go home? That’s the key question and I’ve decided no. So in October 2015, I’m heading to northern Spain to climb full-time and live in a van. I’m psyched. I’ll have little money, be mentally and physically challenged every day and I won’t have to go home at the end of the week. I cannae wait!

7 – The outdoors means so many different things to every person who takes a step from the beaten path. Forge your own way. Ignore advice and do what feels right on that day and in that place. My advice is talk to strangers and be open to suggestion. Smile because you can and eat peanuts. Oat cakes too.

Bela Lugosi is Dead

8 – Age is irrelevant. I’ve had my feet a while and they keep on going. What more do I need?

9 – Music on the mountain is not for me… nah, not for me at all. I tried and it was awful as I couldn’t hear nature’s whispering ways. The wind has it’s own beauty if you allow it to speak to you, I’d sooner not miss it’s song. Turn off all the tech gear in the mountains, be there. Get lost even and enjoy that freedom.

10 – If I had to climb one mountain once and then never climb again… it would have to be a solo of the North Face of the Eiger. I’ve scrambled up the start to have a nose and it’s just overwhelming. If I could keep on climbing but only in one area, then the Snowdon massive would be it. Yeah there’s far better but Crib Goch, Cloggy, the Trinity Face in winter? Brilliant. Home is the UK and North Wales just rocks.

Crib Goch leading to Snowdon

11 – I’ve three days in North Wales next week but on the 23rd – I’m heading to Switzerland for six weeks. Salbit South Ridge, some bouldering in Engelberg, the Eiger. No fixed agenda, just good weather to find and myself to push. Top company at times but plenty of soloing to cleanse the soul. I’m a fortunate man.

Words don’t convey how I feel, nor tell the tale that leaps from my lips when conversing over a brew, alcoholic or not. I’m so psyched for the outdoors at the moment and work has been full on, encompassing. Too much and every day almost. The trip is almost here and yet now the decision has been made to jack it all in and head to Spain… this six week alpine adventure has almost become a dress rehearsal for the BIG adventure.

Thank you Action Man. Without you, I’d have not had dreams big enough.

 

 

 

National Parks and garbage.

Just back from Montserrat, a stunning area and unlike anywhere else I’ve ever been. Easy access from Barcelona makes it a popular area with walkers, climbers and general tourists who wish to visit the monastery there. Most laybys will have a camper van or two parked up in them overnight and it can get pretty busy at the weekend.

 

Dale and I decided to camp up for the night in a layby that looked like it had good potential for sunset photographs and having found one that seemed suitable, I had a scout around the small headland. I guess it’s always going to be worse on a Sunday evening when the crowds have gone home but it still saddened the heart. Everywhere on the headland was like this…

 

I took some photos for two young couples on their phone and as they drove off, we had the place to ourselves. I then noticed that they’d packed up their garbage and instead of taking it home (there are no bins here) to dispose of – they’d left it behind.

 

A strong wind and it would be strewn everywhere. Then it just got better/worse!

!!!

 

This pile of stuff was right by the car parking area… stunned! A shame the guide wasn’t in English. As we made breakfast in the morning, a worker turned up to pick up bits of rubbish and it was rather saddening the amount he went away with, this from one small area maybe 20m by 40m.

On a trip to the Canadian Rockies some 9 years ago, in three weeks I saw only one piece of rubbish on the trail. That shows that we can keep our Parks pretty free from garbage if we follow the rule – Take out what you bring in.

Sunshine summer shots.

No doubting – it’s been a fine summer in the UK. It wasn’t hard to find blue skies most weekends and even tho I somehow contrived to work too many of them… when I did get out, I was happy to be in Britain.

Lunch time!

The Aonach Eagach on Saturday was followed by Curved Ridge on Sunday. Perhaps one of the best trips to Scotland I’ve experienced. Even the midges stayed calm.

Curved Ridge

Pembroke

Wales played it’s usual large part in my life with a first trip to Pembroke and of course the Ogwen Valley enjoyed some serious heat at times. I even fled to the sea mists of Tremadog one weekend, as the Pass was just far too hot. Who’d have thought eh?

Ogwen Valley

A road trip through France and Spain this last couple of weeks cemented the idea in my head – when it’s dry on this small island, I want to be nowhere else.

It’s been emotional.

Since the year started, the proverbial rollercoaster that people often talk about to describe their life left the tracks and ran me over. Twice. The emotional state of existence has, if I’m honest, been more akin to having the head thrown in a wash cycle of 90deg and a 1600rpm spin. Add 2 hours in a tumble dryer and scalding with a steam iron after and you’ll see why I’ve not been blogging much of late. I can’t even say it’s settled down now as my head’s just been used as a hex in love’s game of chance. I lost.

Thing is, my life ain’t that bad. Work has been busy, I’ve been away lots, the weather has been amazing at times and even that constant work of failure called climbing has been progressing well. I’m still crap but I’m now comfortable with that and lately it’s been a heady mixture of frustration, failure and fun. Like the above mentioned lovelife.

I managed my first VS route back at the start of May. Onsight and only at St Govans… insert here all those americanisms of radical speak to make you feel like climbing. I then backed off the next five. What a loser. I spat the dummy. Had an hour with a coach, seconded for a while and then cheated and got on a soft E1. Then happily banged out the next three VS routes. The head’s a funny thing and mine seems to respond to a smidgeon of recklessness, a pinch of stupidity and a spoonful of the superficial. Yeah, I wanted the grades. Again, a loser but an ambitious one. A politician in the making maybe.

Yep, well and truly shafted this year and even the Atlantic Ocean got in on the act and pulled my pants down.

Easter? This was North Wales

The start of Crib Goch

We somehow managed to squeeze in more than just the one season – climbing season that is. From an alpine-like Crib Goch, Ladies Gully and Idwal Stream, we hit the coast for some bouldering at Port Ysgo and on the way home, a trad route and some sport at Penmaen Head.

Truth - Port Ysgo

Idwal Stream

 

The weekend couldn’t have been improved on to be honest. Those who were there happened upon calm winds, blue skies above and a warm sun. Mountain Rescue were busy due to people being unprepared in one way or another for the high reaches, a shame, as they could have been out enjoying the conditions themselves. NLMC had a big turnout and lots was done, just how it should be.

Chris on Chris' Corner

Liz at Penmaen Head

I fell off…

Finally fulfilled a dream the other week and found myself wandering up Trinity Face, you know, the big hideous pile of rubble that masquerades as a cliff face on Snowdon – every winter, when it freezes up and gets a coating of snow, it somehow garners an attraction that’s not there in summer. The snow working somewhat like beer goggles I guess.

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It had been a cracking weekend, tootling up along Seargent’s Gully with Liz and George and after a solo up some Grade II pitches of ice we’d headed up Parsley Fern past an unseen dead badger that had it’s ten minutes of fame in the next few days.

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Megan joined us on the Sunday for the trip into the Snowdon massive and she and Liz headed off to our right – George and I having decided that RH Trinity was our goal for the day. We’d never climbed together before and whilst I’ve soloed bits of Grade IV, neither of us had led a III – we were slightly excited. Beaten to the start by a rope of three, we hung around on the belay for a while and enjoyed some stunning views. I managed to slip off the crux due to my frozen gloves having less grip than discarded chewing gum and George found the ropes slightly short for the next pitch, which necessitated a hurried belay as I had to strip mine and move on up after him. We had a decent climb, it all went well enough and hopefully there’ll be more routes like that in the future. Of interest to some may be the fact that my Black Diamond spinner leash caught my fall and just on the one strand too.

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I had a bit of an epic as we headed over Crib Goch – dehydrated over the weekend, I kept getting incredibly dizzy and irritated. It took a few hours to get down and pretty much wasted me out for a few days. I was sick all that night and when I finally went to the docs three days later, it turned out I had blood pressure of 84/55. No wonder I was slightly light headed. A good lesson learnt for me, as I quite often push the boat on matters of food and drink. George was a star and I need to apologise for being grumpy up high.

An unexpected weekend after me thinking my winter season was over. Grand, just grand.