Thursday, 10 May 2018

"50 Years Ago Today"

Big Chris and Smaller Colin - 50 years on and still getting wet!
Colin was heading back from Spain to the UK so he called in and we spent 10 days climbing together - initially at Orgon - and later around Briançon. The weather was a little unsettled but we managed nine days on the rock and around 40 routes.
Part way through the trip - 5th of May to be precise - it was out 50th anniversary - I first climbed with him at Brimham Rocks on the 5th May 1968. He followed me up Lichen Slab (VDiff) and Birch Tree Wall (VS) in his farm boots.
Half a century on and we still love it!

Friday, 20 April 2018

The Seasons Swing

DEEP snow on the Col de Palhiers
 And so back to the Ariege for a couple of weeks. Apparently while we were in Greece and Turkey it was exceptionally cold and unsettled in the Pyrenees - the spring was up to four weeks late according to some sources.
Right on time, the sun came out and the temperatures shot up, 27C in the valley was a bit of a surprise. Climbing, hiking and planning the onward trip - back to the UK but looking to take six to eight weeks over it and visit as many crags as possible on the way - no plans for the summer yet.
Summer is here!
The bumper new Kalymnos guide is due out in a  couple of weeks - as expected the news of its imminent publication caused a bit of a brouhaha. That is a word taught to me by the late Walt Unsworth when my first ever guidebook - the Costa Blanca was published way back in May 1990. In the intervening 28 years and 25 guidebooks later, virtually ever one has upset somebody - we were even accused of destroying the volunteer guidebook effort in the UK.
In the end, the sky didn't fall in, there were no losers and the winners were the guidebook buying public as everybody else raised their game - long may that continue to be the case.

Monday, 2 April 2018

A Tiny Trip to Turkey

Posh Turkish accommodation at Kemer (€23 a night)
 With the Kalymnos guidebook away to the printers and just for a change of scene we thought we would take a trip to Turkey and specifically to visit Geyikbayiri, to check out what is supposed to be the country's premier sport climbing venue.
We caught ferries Kalymnos to Kos and on to Bodrum, all very easy and efficient. After a night in Bodrum we found a hire car company, picked up a slightly tatty Renault, and six hours later rolled into Kemer. The accommodation there was best described as impressive - possibly the classiest place we have ever stopped, for a meagre €23 a night - astounding.
Deserted beach at Oylmpos
After four days there - and an abortive attempt to climb as Olympos (road closed for resurfacing) we moved to Geyikbayiri. is currently banned in Turkey so we used Airbnb and ended up with a big house up the mountains - it looked like the owner would be back any minute as it was filled with all manor of junk!
The climbing was excellent, the area was pretty quiet and the novelty of having to set a fire everyday to keep warm was interesting - it took me back 50+ years to my childhood.

Saturday, 24 March 2018

Done and Dusted

Ten days in Kalymnos was a necessity to get the last few bits and pieces for the new Rockfax guidebook to the island, due out later this year. I was rather concerned, as I had been told by a couple of people that I wasn't welcome - for having the audacity to write a book about a place where we have spent three years living - and climbing. In the end all the locals we know were as friendly as ever and super supportive. Plus of course the cats were a delight.
Sunset from Basbis Bar - mid-March
We had a lot of discussions with Sue and Steve McDonnel of The Glaros Bar - who have lived there for about 30 years - about the history of the various bolt fund initiatives and the shenanigans that have gone on down the years. Anyway - funds raised from sales of every copy of the new book will go into the Glaros Bar bolt fund, towards the equipping and re-equipping of routes on this magnificent climbing destination.

Tuesday, 6 March 2018

Back and Forth

Tenerife North - a different world
 The three weeks in Tenerife were very pleasant - a nice change from the wintry mountains. The island is an odd place, a mixture of extreme aridity, volcanic wilderness and semi-tropical paradise.
The packed tourist resorts are all in the 'arid zone' - I guess as nothing much will grow down there, farming tourists is as good as anything. At peak times there were 100+ flights a day arriving at each of the islands airports - that's a lot of people.
Col de Puymorens
The climbing is pretty much as I recall from 25 years ago - good but not brilliant - the island is much more a holiday destination than a climbing one. Interestingly, the majority of the good climbing is in the higher grades, some of the hardest climbs look truly superb. In general the easier stuff is short, polished and undergraded! The local climbers who are interested in attracting visitors are missing a trick here. There are some great areas at Las Canadas for example that would make excellent lower grader 'Escuelas'. Currently they are just set up for top-roping - which appears to be a bit of a waste.

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

"50 Years Ago Today"

Big Chris and Smaller Colin - 50 years on and still getting wet! Colin was heading back from Spain to the UK so he called in and we spen...