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!

Sunday, 23 November 2008

Wharncliffe Wanderings

Dave Gregory was doing a bit of research for a someone writing a history of James Puttrell (JWP) and he had a selection of ancient b & w photographs - ostensibly of Wharncliffe) that he wanted identifying. It was the coldest day of the year so far (1.5 degrees) but it seemed like as good an excuse as any for a day out.
We managed to i.d. all the shots except one (left) which was captioned "Puttrell's Crack" though this turned out to be a wide chimney crack. Despite having climbed in the Peak for a combined period of over 100 years, neither of us could put a name to the route. I even placed a thread on UKC asking the "great and good" for their help, but so far this has also drawn a complete blank!

We also visited Cascade Buttres, the Bass Rock and Lodge Buttress, so I took a few shots for Eastern Grit Ver.III though that will be a few years down the line.

Friday, 7 November 2008

Every one's a winner!

Photo: CC checking out the jump between the horns on the Svolvaer Goat!

John Harlin described Lofoten Rock as "perfect" when it was chosen as the winner of this years Banff "Mountain Exposition Award".

Enough said!

Cheers to Sherri, Colin, Thorbjørn and Alan - as ever it was a team effort!

Thursday, 6 November 2008

Easy as 123


That's that then - Kalymnos done and dusted. Five weeks, 123 routes, 10 minutes rain - and tomorrow we head for home - I think I am going to cry! The 10 forecast STILL shows no rain, the temperatures continue to drop, and I estimate the number of climbers around has dropped from over 1000 when we first arrived to less than 50. At Arhi this morning there was a solitary scooter compared to the 50+ at peak times. On thing is for sure - as Arnie said - I'll be back!

Thursday, 30 October 2008

A Sea Change

I think that was our flight passing high overhead as I clipped the lower-off on Sea Breeze - oh dear - but never mind! Nice to get another 6b in the bag, followed in double-quick time by yet another - the time spent growing some thick skin has worked, the current tally now stands at 98 - which isn't too shoddy!
Suddenly the place has gone rather quite, which is great, we had the crag to ourselves today, and the sun continues to shine. The 10 day forecast doesn't show any rain either - so all in all things are tickety boo! Now where's that guidebook.

Saturday, 25 October 2008

Rejuvenation

Three weeks in - 80 brilliant routes, 10 minutes rain - that just about sums it up.
My climbing has pretty much tailed of in recent years, from fanatical to just keen! I seem to spend most of my time checking stuff for guidebooks and grabbing the odd days climbing here and there. Kalymnos has been a revelation, every crag has been great, the routes have generally been magnificent - even in the lower end of the grade spectrum that I now operate in. The old pattern of pick a crag and go climbing, then do the same tomorrow and the day after has been really great. There are still huge swathes of cliff we haven't been anywhere near, and finally as the season draws to an end it it starting to quieten down nicely. Regular reports on the UK weather from Dave Gregory, plus three e-mails all saying how grim it is back in the UK, have got me wondering - do we really want to go home!

Monday, 13 October 2008

50 Not Out


Almost another week rolls buy, the cliffs are still busy and the weather is still sunny. We have had one 10 minute shower (it didn't half come down - the early scooterists got well wetted) and it has been windy on and off, but I have climbed almost every day.
Two days ago we had a rest and visited 'Nicholas the Sponge Diver' and had a drink at his 'paradise taverna' on the remote north east coast of Kalymnos; Turkey looked no distance away at all across the water.
Yesterday we visited Dolphin Bay, a beside-the-seaside crag with a great ambience. We bumped into the FRCC contingent yet again (not sure who is following who) and the whole atmosphere was very convivial. They are all off home in two days - when we said we had over two weeks left mutterings of 'jammy beggars' were heard! Then it was back to Kastelli - uncharacturistically deserted this time to knock of five more routes to bring up my tally so far to 50!

Tuesday, 7 October 2008

Rock On Tommy!

A few of days later and we have the car (a bright yellow Fiat) and I have done a bit of climbing, 18 routes so far up to 6a. A quick storm has freshened things up nicely so climbing in the sun is a pleasure rather then a chore.

First thoughts, grades a bit soft and quality ratings a bit generous, we will soon see if they are representative - still a great spot though!

It has been real treat, can't remember that last time I went on a pure climbing holiday - and wasn't scurrying around checking stuff.

Today is Sherri's birthday so we went snorking, a novel experience and all a bit spooky, not sure what's lurking down there!

Friday, 3 October 2008

Kalymnos

Well that was easy! The flight only took just over 3.5 hours, a brisk tail-wind meant we were covering the ground at at over 600 mph. Two taxi-rides and ferry and were were there. A meal and a beer on the terrace overlooking the Agean (Greek Salad, Moussaka and Dolmades) and it really felt like we had arrived.
Next morning we took a walk out to the headland to the north just to get a look at the area.

First thoughts:
1) Hot - a shade temperature of 28 C is to hot to climb - for me at least!
2) Busy - the crags look like they are heaving - I counted 50+ climbers on up on Oddessy
3) Scruffy - the amount of litter scattered in the hedgerows looks like Spain did 20 years ago.
4) Very friendly locals.
5) Lovely unspoiled spot (always excepting the litter!).

The scooter culture looks a bit dodgy - we might hire a car instead!

Friday, 26 September 2008

Brrrrmmmm brrrmmmm

We were travelling back home from Ariege on the day of my birthday, Sherri gave me my present - but the bag seemed rather small! In fact it contained a Subaru World Rally team cap - and a voucher for driving an Ariel Atom at Elvinton air base near York.
Suffice to say the expereince was both breathtaking and exhausting! The cockpit was a tight fit for a 6' 3" hulk and apparently the pedals are set for size 8 feet. That is my excuse for over-cooking a couple of the bends and flattening several of the marker cones!

Later I did some extra laps in an Impreza STI - though a lot less of a beast than the Atom it was also a lot more driveable. On my final lap I overtook two Lamborghinis and a Ferrari - Italian supercars - pah!

Sunday, 21 September 2008

What a Difference a Week Makes!

What a pleasant week - and that makes a change. We have done some climbing, both granite and limestone, some hill-walking (up to '5550) and a enjoyed a bit of down-time in the sun. 
It sounds like it has been OK in the UK too, but at least being over here in the Pyrenees has given me a good reason for not going up Kinder again!
Mind you, we'll be back home on Wednesday - a week to unpack, launder, repack and then head for Kalymnos - that should be somewhere a little different - can't wait! Oh - and I might have to nip up the big 'K' in the mean time!

Monday, 15 September 2008

That's Better!


Six hours from home to Ariege where it was cool and cloudy, so not that different from home really - hey ho! We checked in at Graham and Christine's place, and had a walk round the neighbourhood to shake out the Kinder cramps and collect some berries for breakfast - all very rural!
Monday was better though, sunshine, blue skies and off to the gorgeous granite at Auzat, a great change from grizzly, drizzly Peak gritstone. 
The crag was nice and quiet so myself and Graham did five routes that I hadn't done before doing a bit of exploration/checking up and down the valley. Then it was shopping and home for tea - a great start!

Tuesday, 9 September 2008

Enough is enough!

Attempting to get the last few crag shots for Western Grit has become a bit off a war of attrition and the weather has finally won. It is the first summer we have spent in the UK for 20 years and I am not sure we will be doing it again! We have made steady progress by picking our days carefully, but the weather has turned from unsettled to just plain crap! The final straw was driving over to Hayfield on the promise of a better day, and sitting the car, in the rain, for 30 minutes before we turned round and came back home. It is less than a month till we go to Kalymnos, but we have decided to nip out to Ariege for 10 days - we need some sunshine!

Monday, 25 August 2008

Once in a Millenium

Bank Holiday Monday - Dave and Brian were keen to help me to the 1000th Stanage route so we tootled out to the Plantation car-park. It was windy yet again, a bit of theme this summer, but we cracked on - this time it was the turn of Elastic, Pedlar's Wall, Bouldering Matt, and Blue December Day. No classics amongst them but a few worthwhile offerings.
Just as I was about to set of on number 1000 (perhaps aptly it was to be Old Smoothie, an odd traverse above BAW's Crawl), Sherri rolled up to join in the moment which was nice, even better, once back at base she pulled out a bottle of bubbly and four glasses so we celebrated in traditional fashion!

It has taken 40 years and 8 days - not a very impressive rate but we got there in the end By the look of it there are still a few more to do too!

Tuesday, 19 August 2008

Rubies in the Grit


The last few visits to Stanage and my quest for the one thousand routes got me thinking. When I got home on Sunday (8 more making 985) I dug out an old diary I used to keep back in the 1970s. Rather amazingly it turned out my first visit to Stanage was exactly 40 years earlier to the very day - 17th August 1968 - and it was with Colin (and Pete Ackroyd).
I can still remember the journey down in the back of Colin's van from North Yorkshire (in the hammering rain), camping at North Lees and getting up just after dawn to walk up the road and get a first look at mighty Stanage. It must have made quite an impression.
40 years on and still climbing on the same cliff with the same partner - mind you 1000 routes in 40 years is pretty slow going!

Saturday, 16 August 2008

Kinder Reprise


The indifferent summer weather continues but by grabbing the best of the weather we are managing to get out regularly. Colin and team came down Wednesday and we spent a good day on Stanage. We hunted out 10 routes I hadn't done before, though some were rather indifferent! I sat down with the guide and did a tally - I make it 978 routes done on the cliff - so that is 22 to go!

Friday was clear and sunny for the second week in a row so it was back out to Edale and up Crowden Clough, this week the breeze kept the midges at bay. We wandered round the amazing boulderfield of Whipsnade, I photographed the four cliffs I was after, then we trundled back down Jacob's Ladder. Six miles, 1500 feet and 104 shots - another chunk sorted!

Saturday, 9 August 2008

Kinder - a Pleasant Surprise!

A mixture of very hot sweaty days interspersed with periods of rain have been putting me off tackling the photographs of the Kinder cliffs for Western Grit - most of the other areas have been going well, but always there has always been that big, high dark moor lurking in the background! The offers of help with the photography never came to anything (what a surprise!) so as ever, it was down to me and Sherri.

We grabbed the first cool bright day for a few weeks, parked at Edale and trundled up Grindsbrook to the plateau. The walk was pleasant apart from the final steep section of the stream that was thick with clouds of midges that hung in the still air - truly horrible. Fortunately the wind on the rim cleared the little bastards and we enjoyed the walk along the edge, the heather was at it glorious purple best. I photographed Nether Tor and Upper Tor on the way. Two down - plenty more to go!

Wednesday, 6 August 2008

Three (***) Stars


We (myself, Dave and Steve) had set off for Wimberry, but once over the hill, the clouds were lowering and there were spots of rain in the wind. We stopped below Alderman for me to get a crag shot and it looked so inviting we decided to head up there without further ado. Dave and Steve had never visited the place and I had done precious little there. The grind was soon over and we zipped up Great Slab, two pitches and three stars (at least in my guide!), the first a pleasant and mild slab, and the second a steep strenuous and tough jamming crack. 
I did a bit of soloing, then we skidded back to the car in heavy shower and tootled round to the interestingly named Running Hill Pits, a series of quarries above Diggle. I have climbed there a few times over the years but had never done THE low grade classic - Plumbline VS 4c. Steve dispatched it in good style, Dave and myself nipped up it (superb actually) then we toured the rest of the quarries so I could photograph them for the new Western Grit.
Heading back to the car it rained yet again, but we didn't care, only a gentle day but two three star routes I hadn't done before - now that is a rare event!

Wednesday, 30 July 2008

Spurned!

Rain was forecast to the west and clear blue skies to the east which gave a great excuse for abandoning the photography, scanning and guidebook writing and having a ride out to a place I had often heard about but never visited; Spurn Point.
It was further than I expected from Sheffield (98 miles) but at least the roads were quite - and the forecast was spot on. It turned out to be quite a weird spot - stuck out in the middle of nowhere, and home to the UK's only permanently staffed lifeboat station. A steady stream of ships chugged into the Humber as we circumnavigated the whole headland at beach level, photographed the groynes and lighthouses, then adjourned for a cream-tea to fortify us for the journey home!

Friday, 25 July 2008

Lancashire Hotchpotch


What with the state of the weather in recent weeks I have been rather slipping behind schedule with the crag shots for Western Grit. A better forecast seduced us over to the 'west' for three days, we stopped B & B in the heart of the area - Rossendale. I also wanted to have a quick look at a few of the crags we left out of Western Grit ver 1 - so in three hot and sweaty days I visited and photographed Helsby, Pex Hill, Frodsham, Witches' Quarry, Hoghton, Denham, Anglezarke, Brownstones, Wiltons 2 and 3 (I was in 1 last weekend) Egerton, Troy, Cadshaw, Shaw and Den Lane. That should put me back on target - all I have to do now is sort the 250 RAW files, choose which crags are going in and write them up!

Tuesday, 15 July 2008

Evening Snapping


I zipped over to Windgather early evening to meet Sarah who had come straight from work for a photo-shoot for the new Western Grit. It was hardly ideal - pretty grey, with a damp mist in the air and the place was amazingly busy, especially considering it was a Monday evening. We did a bit of soloing and got a few pics then doubled back to Castle Naze, which proved to be deserted.
Keep Arete (VS 4b) was dispatched in good style and I got some half decent pictures despite the poor light. I also introduced Sarah to the idea of abandoning her halfway up the crag then wandering off with the camera - she cope well!
The difference in our eras/back-grounds was interesting - I got told off for cleaning my shoes on the rock, coiling the rope the 'wrong' way and offering unwanted advice (beta) - I did my best to get up to speed on the modern approach!

Friday, 4 July 2008

The Shining

Work on Western Grit continues at a steady pace, though the thought of making the dark cliffs of Kinder and Bleaklow look as attractive as Lofoten's granite peaks is a bit of a daunting one. A 4:30 start from Sheffield caught Wimberry bathed in morning sunshine about a month ago, but Kinder North and especially Shining Clough have been preying on my mind!
Last night the forecast was to clear up before dark despite it having been a cloudy day to I took the weather lady at her word and tootled round to Longdendale at seven in the evening. The walk up seemed shorter than I remembered it, I even found a decent path all the way to the cliff this time. Right on cue the sun pierced the banks of cloud out west and illuminated the main face and that was it; job done. So I guess its Kinder next!

Tuesday, 24 June 2008

Ramshaw Wrestling

Monday and good forecast saw a team assembled, Graham and Dan (home from Uni) plus Dave Vince on his 50th birthday. We fancied somewhere a bit different and so tootled over to Ramshaw, not unexpectedly we had the place to ourselves. I soloed a few easier ticks that I had never done, and we tackled off a few of the E1s on the crag and a varied bunch they were too:
Louie Groove (E1 5b) - very mild at the grade despite the boldish last move. An oddity for Ramshaw as it is delicate and very short-lived.
Sneeze (E1 5b) - a tricky little monkey with a hard layback start, a precarious middle, and a rounded top-out. The 'definitives' two stars is a bit generous, and the suggestion to leave the ropes behind is just odd!
Alcatraz (E1 5b) - another that felt low in the grade (it used to be HVS), but a steep and imposing line with a nice wriggly off-width to finish and good gear throughout.
The Untouchable (E1 5b) - a hanging bulging crack reached by a tricky little traverse. The crack is pumpy and leads to a 'lovely' finish on fist jams - very tasty!

Tuesday, 17 June 2008

Party Time

That's that then! Time to reflect on a superb three weeks in Lofoten, the highlight of which was probably Friday 13th. We had a gentle day scoping out Alan and Mark as they steamed up Vestpillaren. They were on the top of Festvågtinden at 6:30 and still made it to the Nord Norske Klatreskole at five minutes to eight, just in time for the guidebook launch.

The evening was a great success, the beer flowed, yarns were spun and Thorbjørn was the perfect host - my glass never got less than half empty all evening. Sadly Arild Meyer couldn't be there (a bad back from too much DIY) so we called in for cakes and coffee the next day, after clipping a few bolts at Finvika, just to say hello.

The party wound down at about 2:00am and "Lutta's Taxi Service" ferried everybody home, before we bedded down we checked out Vagåkallen bathed in the early morning light - quite superb. 

Sunday, 8 June 2008

Midnight Sun


Two weeks up here now and the sun hasn't sent, and won't for about another six weeks - which is all a bit strange. Even stranger is that once again, the weather has been great for us.
The Lofoten guidebooks have yet to arrive and everyone is waiting with bated breath - last thing we heard, they had made it as far as Oslo, so at least things are moving along.
We have climbed (new routes and old) fished, and hiked, and Colin has been plodding around up amongst the snow and ice that still blankest the core of the islands.
Everywhere is very quite, we have hardly seen another climber, which is great - just how we like it!

Thursday, 29 May 2008

Serious Arctic

Back to Lofoten one more time, only on this occasion we flew, clutching a bevy of copies of the new guide. One hour thirty, Manchester to Oslo, one hour fifteen Oslo to Bodø, a three hour drive to Skutvik and a two hour ferry crossing to Svolvaer. It sure beat the usual five day trek to get here. Two months earlier then usual it is all a bit strange, lots of snow on the mountains, a daytime high of 7 degrees at the moment, and the racks that cover the island decked out with cod, looking like miles old grey socks drying in the wind - very pungent!
Sherri caught SIX cod in half an hour fishing in her favourite spot, and we had a pleasant day doing the great classics of Gandalf and Gollum - we had the crag to ourselves, which was great!

Tuesday, 20 May 2008

Busy Boy!

Three books published in less than two years - and all fat ones at that! Eastern Grit was a rewrite, so that was less of a task but Northern England and Lofoten Rock were done from scratch. Working on two books in parallel was quite an undertaking, but having both volumes roll off the press just a couple of months apart has been great - all three are crackers too! My bookshelf is starting to creak and crack a bit!
What I need now is a bit of a vacation, well at least once I have got the Western Grit rewrite out of the way - should only take about eight months!

Thursday, 8 May 2008

Westward Ho!

It was a great journey home. 8 hours 15 minutes from Chamonix to Zeebrugge (570 miles) - the French motoway network is superb. Then it was an overnight ferry to Hull followed by a 70 min drive, and now its all over!
We brought the weather back - as per usual, and apart from heading to Nottingham for the printing Lofoten Rock I have been using the sunshine to get stuck into the photography for Western Grit 2.0. Today was superb in the Chew Valley, we had to wait a couple of hours for the sun to come round onto Dovestone Edge - but we coped!

Wednesday, 23 April 2008

Wow!


Dawned bright and clear - first time for a while, so we packed up fast and headed for the Aiguille du Midi cable car. The brilliant conditions meant it was filled with young snow-boarding types - suddenly I felt old! I caught a glimpse of the Frendo Spur as we flashed past and our comfy bivi-site from about 30 years ago!
12600' meant we were really puffing on the stairways - but it was superb to be up there above the clouds. We explored the area then took the 'bubbles' across the Valle Blanche to the Italian frontier where the views of the Brenva Face (another venue from half a lifetime ago- the whole experience was breath-taking.

Monday, 21 April 2008

Off We Go Again

Another 10 days flown by. The weather has been a bit mixed but that has meant I have almost finished Lofoten - good job as it goes to the printers in a week. Tomorrow we head for Chamonix to meet Thorbjørn for the last few corrections, it was bit damp and drizzly in the afternoon - so I talked Sherri into a 'quick' trip along one of the local Via Ferrata. I can say she really enjoyed it (especially the 'wobbly bridge') but she did well and was pleased to survive the experience!

Saturday, 19 April 2008

Mountain Weather!


In contrast to the never-ending days of sunshine at St Rafael (that's what it felt like anyway) the mountains have been throwing a bit of a mixed bag at us! Mind you it has been no worse than changeable and we have still been able to explore the area, get some good cragging done and do some decent walks too. 
Last night we had a wet snowfall so I figured there might be a good covering higher up. We drove up into one of the side valleys, parked well above the snow-line (four wheel drive!) then plodded up in to the blinding whiteness. The views were spectacular and we both got a bit singed by the bright sunshine. There were a few birds of prey quartering the sky and tell-tale tracks in the snow of their intended prey. At
 just over five and half thousand feet we found a south-facing bench, swept the snow off it and enjoyed our butties. The return journey was much easier!

Saturday, 12 April 2008

Snow Time like the Present

ClimbFrance ended with a bit of a bang - after a couple of grey but perfectly pleasant days we were woken a spectacular and noisy thunderstorm on our last morning, so close it almost knocked us out of bed. And that was it, two weeks gone and time to move on! We packed up and drove for about three hours eastwards into ever more spectacular scenery, it looked like full winter still up in the high Alps. 
We booked in to our accommodation at AlpSun 10 minutes early, unloaded the car, had a stroll into the old village of Les Vigneaux, which is located in a side valley a short distance to the south of Briançon.
As we were only about 10km from Ailefroid, a place I had long wanted to visit, we had a ride up to the end of the valley. Despite rumours to the contrary the road was open, but there was a whole heap of snow around. It turned out the snow-ploughs had cleared the road that very morning - now that's what I call timing!
Sunday the sky was blue and the snow plastered peaks glittered in the sun - superb. Half a dozen route on one of the local gneiss 'ecoles' loosened the muscles then I zipped through the 'green' via ferrata in the bottom of the Durance ravine - great fun. This area has a mass of potential, it is a matter of how much we can see in ten days!


Tuesday, 8 April 2008

Sun Rock - that'll do nicely!

A cracking week in the Buis area has really zipped by and this morning we tootled down to Nimes to drop Dave Gregory of for his return flight to the UK. It was damp and cool, a huge contrast to roasting on Ubrieux yesterday evening, mind you, I for one am not bothered, a couple of days rest and a chance to get on with putting the final touches to Lofoten are both needed.

Stopping at ClimbFrance has been great, Ollie has kept us supplies with wood for the stove, the hamlet is superbly quiet and of course we never drove more than 8 miles all week to access some really great cragging. Having kept half an eye on the frequent snow showers in the UK has made it all the sweeter.

Tuesday, 1 April 2008

Aprils Afoot

We packed up from the Cote d'Azure (long faces all around) and headed north though glorious weather (possibly the warmest day of the year yet) to Buis les Barronais. I can't remember the last time I was here - possibly Easter 1982 when we I hitched around the area with Graham Parkes, we stopped at the Camping Municipal and presumably were using Pete Livesey's tiny French Rock guide. The only thing I remember it Graham taking a long fall when he pulled a peg out - everything is fully bolted nowadays though!
We explored the area, bought a guide and checked out the whereabouts of the cliffs then it was an early start to pick up Dave Gregory from Nimes' airport - his flight from East Midlands was £10 return including taxes.
We dropped the gear at the pad then adjourned to Ubrieux and cracked of seven routes, one or two were a bit polished, but it was warm in the sunshine so who is complaining. Great sunset over a snow covered Mount Ventoux which is straight across the valley from us!

September Snows

View-point at 10,945'  We left the UK towards the end of August and the first 10 days were as expected, with everywhere being hot an...