Saturday, 8 July 2017

Back to Blighty

Yarncliffe Quarry - hot
After a great 10 days in Chamonix it really was time to get back on the road - a steady ride to Zeebrugge and then the ferry back to Hull - with the usual free upgrade to Club Class was as easy as it gets.
We arrived into heavy rain, thick spray on the motorway and traffic jams - oddly that was exactly the kind of welcome back to the UK that we had been expecting despite it being the end of June.
In the first week it was the usual round of visits to the Doctors (x3), the Dentists, the Hospital (x2), the Garage, the Opticians and a ride up North to visit our parents - never get a minute to yourself.
Colin - Horse Thief Wall, Stoney Middleton
Then Colin came to visit, he did some very useful work on the flat and we went out climbing several days on the trot which was very nice.
We mixed it up, alternating bolt clipping on the limestone with days on the Grit, and despite the rather oppressive heat it was novel to be back climbing in the Peak.
Already we are getting itchy feet - we will have to see develops. I am hoping (hopping?) to get a minor operation done on a bony lump on my big toe - but maybe we can fit in a slider whilst we wait for the NHS to sort me out.

Saturday, 17 June 2017

Mostly Rambling Northwards

Panorama above the Col de Galibier
The Maurienne - off the beaten track

We left Briançon and made the short (1hr 30mins) journey via the very pricey (€44) Frejus Tunnel back to Aussois, and the same apartment we used back in September. Just like then the area and the accommodation were deserted.
Despite a small patch of dirty weather we explored the area and did some great climbing. After the week was up, and despite the fact we were supposed to be heading towards the UK via Chamonix, we decided to double back to Briançon for another week. A good call as it turned out, we walked or climbed every day and managed to avoid both the heat and the crowds that were starting to appear.
Then it was really time to get on with the journey home - 3.5 hours saw us in Chamonix at Thorbjørn and Lutta's lovely apartment right under the Bossons Glacier. A week here should just fit the bill before we are obliged to head for Zeebrugge and the ferry 'home' - almost 10 months after we left!

Wednesday, 31 May 2017

Orpierre versus Briançon

Orpierre, even the out of the way cliffs were busy
From Orgon we moved on a couple of hours northwards and had a week in Orpierre. The first few days were pleasant, there were quite a few climbers around but it was possible to get stuff done by being flexible and shuffling around. Then came Thursday and the Bank Holiday/long weekend - I have never seen so many climbers in one place - every cliff in the area was packed.
Of course this is the downside of Orpierre as a destination - despite it being a lovely mellow spot, the fact that you can walk to many of the cliffs means that it is always popular and especially with 'groups'. Also many of the routes are badly polished now, which detracts from the overall experience.
Briançon - a bit more like it
Briançon is a different kettle of fish, a small city, high in the mountains and surrounded by cliffs of all shapes, sizes and rock types. The extra altitude (4,400') means it is cooler than most venues at this time of year. The sheer amount of climbing on offer means that cliffs are generally quite - though it is always worth keeping a look-out for mini-buses in the parking areas and having a Plan B.
Next week it is onwards to Aussois and the Maurienne - if our experience from last September is anything to go by, that is one area that should be really quiet.

Friday, 19 May 2017

Orgon for Beginners

Sherri above of Orgon
Orgon - polished but pleasant
The slow journey home started after a couple of pleasant weeks in the Ariège, and initially we decided to head to Orgon, about four hours northwards. The venue was well known for its hard climbs many years ago but it was a spot I have never visited. It turns out to be a lovely little area, a quiet campsite, ringed by the cliffs, with 300+ routes to go at across the grades. It has to be admitted that a lot of the climbs are pretty polished now - a common problem with lower grade limestone routes across France - but the approach is short, the setting is sunny and the bolts are fat.
It is looking like May is a good time to be wending our way through France - it is pretty hot - up to 28C - but everywhere is so quiet - just how we like it.
From here, next stop is Orpierre, then after that - time will tell, we expect to be back in the UK in about a month, so no great rush.

Tuesday, 9 May 2017

Flying Visit

Stanage perfection
It was my mother's 90th birthday and we were called to attend. A Friday afternoon flight to Manchester was on time and easy, collect a car and booking into an airport hotel was the easy option - better than the UK motorway network on a Friday night.
Saturday was a long day, driving, talking and celebrating before we arrived back at our flat in Sheffield 8+ months after we left. A bath, the big chair and boring TV were our reward.
Sunday was Stanage with a large jolly team and perfect weather. I did half a dozen routes including top-roping a couple of E3 climbs that I made the first ascent of about 30 years ago - phew, must have been pretty good once!!
Then Monday it was back to Manchester for the flight back to Carcassonne - it is amazing how easy travelling is nowadays.
A week in the Ariége then we head off on a slow drive back to the UK - first stop Orgon.

Friday, 28 April 2017

Spring is in the Air

Lindos Acropolis on Rhodes
Andorra late April - unusual conditions
The six weeks on Kalymnos had been great and now it was time to move on. Flight back to the UK from Kos were pretty expensive but much cheaper from Rhodes so we decided to make a 'short break' of it. We caught the high-speed catamaran, and had a few nights at the Agla hotel in Kos town, where we did a bit of 'touristing'.
Compared to Kalymnos, Rhodes was pretty busy - it is effectively a year round destination nowadays. The high-light was visiting the Acropolis at Lindos - the first temple was built there at around 400BCby the ancient Greeks - though the area has been occupied for around 5000 years. It has been added to by the Romans, the Knights' of St John and the Ottomans - amongst others.
Then it was back to the Ariège via a night in Stansted. We arrived to cloudy skies and sleety drizzle - what a contrast. After a couple of grizzly days the sun came out to reveal the Pyrenees in all the snowy glory. We have a couple of weeks here before we head off on the slow drive home - and some climbing.

Friday, 7 April 2017

Deserted Island

We have been on Kalymnos for almost four weeks now and as ever the spring conditions have been superb; warm and sunny, without the oppressive heat of later in the year, and delightfully green and floral.
Flowers and greenery
Despite the pleasant familiarity of the situation something is different - the almost total lack of climbers is really surprising - though not in a bad way - at least for us. The locals appear rather stunned by the silence, all the shops and restaurants that geared up in good time for 'the rush' are largely deserted and some are even closing early.
The reason behind the lack of traffic is pretty simple - RyanAir pulled out of Kos last year because of some wrangles with the mayor/council - and flights from all over Europe stopped.
What really surprises me that climbers - fun loving, adventure seeking, individualistic types can't cope with having to change planes in Athens!
All quiet in paradise
We had friends here for a couple of weeks and they manage Manchester - Athens - Kos - Kalymnos comfortably in day and the same for the return, using the time in Athens to have a meal. And for a very reasonable £170 return.
Bizarrely I have even heard of teams of climbers booking a fortnight's package holiday in Kos, but heading to Kalymnos
instead - paying for accommodation twice just for the convenience of flying from a local airport.
I am sure the season will pick up in May, and Kalymnos will once again be crowded with jolly climbers enjoying their two weeks bolt clipping in the sun and the locals will be happy. As for us - we will be somewhere quiet!

Back to Blighty

Yarncliffe Quarry - hot After a great 10 days in Chamonix it really was time to get back on the road - a steady ride to Zeebrugge and th...