Friday, 9 February 2018

Sun Seekers

 The winter holidays in France are always a bit busy for our liking, Chez Arran gets full and noisy, plus the roads and moutains are packed. With that being the case we decided to fly south to sample February in Tenerife - 25 years since we were last there. Of course it is full on holiday season in the Canaries with 100 flights a day arriving. We sidestepped the hordes by stopping in the tiny resort of Abades about 10 minutes drive from the airport.
Waving Cactus
Of course we came for the climbing and that proved to be hot, dusty and busy - peak season eh? Fortunately many of the developed crags are in deep barrancos so the sun can be enjoyed or avoided according to taste. The grades seem tough (getting old!) and although a lot of the cliffs look scruffy, much of the climbing is very good.
The other thing that has struck us has been the incessant wind - a blustery north easterly that has kicked up the dust and rattled the shutters every day.

Monday, 15 January 2018

Winter in the Mountains

A snowy amble somewhere up near the Andorra border.

It has been four weeks since we left the UK - time flies, The weather in the Pyrenees has been much more unsettled that we have been used to in recent years, though that has meant plenty of time for snow related messing about, plus a great opportunity to press on with my next book - a climbing guide to Kalymnos. We had already produced an App for phones/tablets featuring nearly 3000 routes but apparently the book distributors Cordee said they get more enquires about a RockFax to Kalymnos that any other guidebook. With that being the case and Alan having a bit of a lull in book production we decided to go for it. Already it is looking excellent and will be bang up-to-date.

Rockfax Kalymnos guidebook sample page

Sunday, 31 December 2017

2017 Done and Dusted

  • Ariege,

  • Catalunya

  • Kalymnos,

  • Orgon,

  • Orpierre,

  • Briançon,

  • Aussois,

  • Chamonix,

  • Sheffield(!)

  • Ötztal,

  • Pitztal,

  • Sheffield(!)

  • Ariege

  • Kalymnos,

  • Leonidio,

  • Kyparissi,

  • Nafplio,

  • Kalymnos,

  • Catterick for my father's funeral

  • Kalymnos

  • Ariege

 .... and probably a place or two I forgot

Monday, 11 December 2017

Goodbye Pops

Funeral programme

The wedding - same church 68 years earlier.
The journey home went off as easy as it could have and of course the funeral was as sad and traumatic as everyone expected - it is hard saying goodbye after so long.
Dad's 93 years more that a fair innings as many have pointed out, and to go as quickly as he did, has to be a blessing.
Two of my sister's children (in their 40s!) gave very moving eulogies about how Tom acted as a granddad to their kids - their own father, George Ramsey had died 20 years earlier.
Of course the worry if now for my mum, married 68 years and suddenly on her own - though we know she is made of steely stuff.

Saturday, 18 November 2017

The Best of Times, the Worst of Times

Nafplio - climbing in the sun
The trip to the Peleponnes was excellent, a lot of great climbing on a varied set of cliffs.We had a rather mixed bag of weather, with the whole gamut from pouring rain to almost too hot to move. Leonidio was very, very busy - up to the best/worst of Kalymnos. Kyparissi was beautiful, very quiet and totally idyllic. Nafplio was interesting, loads of history and a great set of cliffs. 50+ routes ticked in the trip wasn't too shoddy.
 After two weeks we took an early morning drive back to Athens, dropped the lads off and jumped on a plane ourselves. This was a day earlier than originally anticipated, but the storms forecast for Monday forced our hand. In the event, the Monday flight was cancelled, so that was a good call!
On the Tuesday I had a message from my sister that our father had a lung infection, but was on antibiotics. Three days later, and after perking up and being out for a walk he suddenly collapsed and died.
I don't believe in premonitions but I had had a heavy heart for a few days so who knows. Anyway, he was 93, had led a full and active life, was still driving and helping out at my sister's farm several times a week. I know it is trite but we all agreed it was the way he would have chosen to go.
Greek cat Nibble, watching out for us.

So now everything is in the air as we await details of the funeral, we need to get back to the UK for that once a date is fixed and then decided what is happing next.
He approved of our nomadic life and as dad used to say 'Do it now, before its too late' - I'll drink to that!

Friday, 3 November 2017

Pootling about the Peleponnese

Sampatiki - a great place to stay
Colin on another classy 6a+
An easy journey got us from Kalymnos to Athens where we collected Andy and Colin for the three hour drive to Leonidio, the current climbing 'Hot Spot' for the whole of the Peleponnese peninsula.
Through bad timing and bad planning we ended up arriving during the week of European Half Term holidays AND the date of second climbing festival to be held here. We were surprised and rather disappointed to see just how busy places were - the crowds were the very reason we had left Kalymnos!
First thoughts on Leonidio - well as many people have said - "It isn't Kalymnos" and I understand exactly what they are getting at.
 Positives - It has to be said first of all - the climbing is great, well bolted, good rock and with stacks to go at and with many really big pitches. The grade spread is good and the fixed geqr is all in excellent condition.
Negatives - The approaches are almost always quite long and steep - which can be a chore in the full sun. Also there isn't currently too much on offer in the shade, many of the decent cliffs face due south so would make great winter venues.
Leonidio is a typical Greek working town, dusty and noisy, with narrow streets and lots of traffic. It is a few miles from the sea and is surrounded by fields of fruit, vegetables and plastic tunnels - currently it isn't really set up for tourists, though climbing and coffee shops, plus assorted accomodations is becoming available gradually.
The locals are super-friendly, though they do seem slightly bemused by all the pale lanky strangers in their midst.
We stopped a short way up the coast from Leonidio in the small port of Sampatiki - which felt much more like the the 'typical Greek' holiday experience.
We are visiting Kyparissi and Napflio next so will report back in due course.

Wednesday, 18 October 2017

Travellers Tales

Manchester Airport - and the fun begins
I first flew way back in 1971 - a student traveller trip from London to Zurich - it was all very novel and exciting - the whole thing made you feel a bit special. Nowadays the whole travel experience has become a bit of a chore, with lots of queuing, crowds everywhere, security checks and the general feeling that you are less of a valued customer and more of a bloody nuisance.

So what tips and tricks have we picked up over the years to ease the whole process?

Checking a hold bag? Common sense maybe but don’t put your ‘essential’ stuff in there, just in case it gets lost or delayed. So money, pills, travel documents, car and house keys (on the way back home) and a pair of rock shoes should stay with you.

Hiring a car? Don’t use the airline’s recommended provider if you want to avoid a big queue on arrival. Sending the main driver on ahead while someone else collects the bags can be a great way of jumping the queue, just make sure the rest of the team know which desk, or if the company is off site. If you travel more than a couple times a year consider buying an annual policy (around £35) to cover you in case of damage - much cheaper than short term cover, though you do have to actually pay any bills then claim it back. Check the prices of some of the main stream providers (via a price comparison site) against the bargain basement guys, you might be surprised. Avoid Goldcars.

Stay well? How often do you go on a trip and fall ill within a couple of days? Airports are dirty places full of dirty germ ridden people - or maybe that’s the best way to think. We carry a small antiseptic hand soap and a nasal spray and use them before and after every flight - it might be kidology but we appear to get less bugs than we used too. The cooling air vent above your seat is a great idea - for spraying everybody’s recycled germs in your personal space for a couple of hours, so turn it off.

Queues? One of my personal bugbears is queuing, I know it goes against the dirt-bag climbers code but paying a few quid for fast track certainly eases the start of a trip.

If you are driving to the airport and have to pay for parking (we use the train a lot nowadays which is often cheap and very convenient) it might be worth looking for  hotels that offer ‘free’ parking with an overnight stop. That way you avoid both a pre-dawn start and the rush hour motorway for a more civilised start.

Go light? It isn’t usually possible on a climbing trip, but travelling with just hand luggage is very liberating - more like catching a bus than a plane. Today the plane from Manchester touched down in Kos at 15.55 and by 16.21 we’re on the ferry - folks who had to wait for bags missed it.

So there you go, hope some of the tips help - Happy Trails

Sun Seekers

 The winter holidays in France are always a bit busy for our liking, Chez Arran gets full and noisy, plus the roads and moutains are packe...