Sunday, 26 December 2010

Christmas Crack

What a Christmas; no post from the UK for three weeks so no Christmas Cards, no presents and no sign of the new book yet! On the plus side, it was a warm and windy day, I did five routes, Sherri fed cats, dogs and goats galore, then in the evening we had turkey and all the trimmings.
Sherri's friend Brenda came round for the evening meal and we had a convivial time.
All the routes I did, I have done before, but what the heck, it was better than doing Christmas Crack for the 100th time, especially considering how cold it looks back there!

PS The next day the post arrived - four Christmas Cards and two copies of Cote d'Azur - looks lush!

Sunday, 19 December 2010

Christmas City Break

Babis and Diana are off to the UK for Christmas - (well maybe, if they can get in and out of Frankfurt and into Stansted because of all the snow) - and they have asked us to look after their three cats for a couple of weeks. So big city here we come - we packed our bags and drove the nine minutes to Pothia, and moved in, lock, stock and laptops. A quick walk round the area took us to yet another of the ancient castles that pepper the island.
A change is a good as rest they do say.

Sunday, 12 December 2010

A Taste of the North

Friday night and all day Saturday a gale (up to Force 9) has roared out out of the north - battering everything in its way. Trees toppled, a few roofs gone AWOL and this morning our windows were encrusted with salt blown up from the sea. I bet not many ferries have been running round these parts!
The contrast to the last month was extreme; last night the temperature fell to 6C (and 9C indoors, these places are not designed to stay warm) - I think in the middle of the day it may actually have been colder here than in the UK.
I ended up having to work in bed, wrapped in a sleeping-bag whilst nursing a hot water bottle - so not all bad then! Work on Peak Limestone continues well despite the adversity.

Wednesday, 8 December 2010

December!

The news stories from the UK of knee-deep snow, traffic jams and sub-zero temperatures keep filtering through - it sounds really grim! Yesterday we were due a bit of downtime at the superb little harbour of Vathy and today - 8th of December we visited Arhi again. It has become my favourite crag on the Island; it was 22C and there was one other team on the whole cliff - that is about as good as it gets. I led the superb Komak (36m - 16 clips -6a+) amongst others - brilliant.
The forecast for the weekend here looks pretty unsettled but as it hasn't rained for a month now it would be churlish to complain - it is December after all!

Thursday, 2 December 2010

Goat Rescue Mission

December has started pretty much the same as November ended, mild and windy, but totally pleasant, and very quite. Our neighbours at Babis Bar are a couple of Canadians and Nancy had heard about two goats 'stuck' in Sikati Cave and wanted to rescue them. We had never been there, so thought it would make a good objective for a day out.
We caught them easy enough with bread for bait (a mother and kid) and then manhandled them up to the base of the descent route - they weren't too keen!
We had some idea about hauling them out, but Nancy's one (the big one!) sat down and refused to move so we wrapped it in a rope-sheet and squeezed it into a rucksack then carried it up the fixed rope - there was lot of goat hanging out the top. The kid was easier to handle a fitted the rucksack a treat - see photo. They seemed unphased by their journey, nibbled a few bushes and wandered of. The question remains - how the Hell did they get in there in the 1st place!

Thursday, 25 November 2010

The Snow has Arrived Early!

In the UK that is - and it is only November. Eight weeks in Kaly and we have had one and a half days of rain - not too shoddy - and lowest temerature so far has been 12c - I think we will stop a while longer.
I went to renew the car hire today (good exchange rate at the mo) - and Mike asked me if I wanted to actually buy a car - he a good deal on a Matiz. Trouble is we need to be in the Blanca in February, 'suppose we could buy it drive it round there!
Big fat local oranges €3 for four kilos from a harbour front seller - superb!

Thursday, 18 November 2010

"It's all gone Quiet Over Here, Over Here"

The 'season' is about just about done, our team of five has departed for damp and distant shores along with most other folks. We have set our clocks two hours ahead of Greek time to make the most of sunny evening on the terrace (yeah, weird I know!) and the glorious sunsets continue to dazzle.
I have started working in earnest on Peak Limestone which is a bit weird, day-time climbing superb 35m pitches on perfect Kalymnian limestone and evenings scrutinising pictures of Horseshoe Quarry and Water-cum-Jolly.
A hot couple of hours on Arhi, (four routes, 12 stars) and an early evening dinner courtesy of Babis and Diana - a great way to spend a Friday!

Sunday, 14 November 2010

Wham, bam, thank you Maam!

Colin, Dave and Mark have been here three weeks today (five in a Panda - no probs!), Graham and Helen a fortnight - and it has been pretty much perfect; warm, sunny and dry, with the number of climbers continuing to dwindle. Tomorrow they all set off for Blighty and we settle into our winter routine. We have done some fantastic routes, the big pitches on Arhi being especially notable. Colin and Mark have done (well) in excess of a hundred routes again and Graham has been as impressed as we were 1st time - "I'll be back" was all he had to say on the matter.
We had the compulsory thunderstorm a couple of days ago - with associated power-cuts and floods - it was a real cracker, flashing and rumbling away for most of the night. We were climbing on Kastelli when it arrived, I made it back to the car with seconds to spare - Mark and Colin didn't quite! The drive back through Massouri was spectacular as the water gushed off the hillsides, levels rose by the second and the wipers couldn't cope with the volume of rain - Kalymnos doesn't do anything by halves!

Sunday, 7 November 2010

Remember, Remember

November has long been my least favourite month, invariably grey, cold and miserable, with precious little to look forward as the winter grinds on. This is our 3rd November on Kalymnos, and I am warming to it, as usual the crowds have gone, it has cooled down nicely and the weather has been brilliant. Monday 1st Nov we took the boat round to Irox and it crossed my mind we could easily have been stuck in traffic, in the drizzle back home on the way to start the long and dreary autumn term. A couple of days ago we went snorkelling (loads of fish) round at Emporios and since then we have done some great routes - unbeatable.
Graham and Helen Parkes arrived a few days ago, and they soon slipped into Island Life - it doesn't take long!

Sunday, 31 October 2010

French Revolution


November tomorrow, the fleet of taxis has been trucking the climbers towards the ferry in droves, the forecast is about as perfect as it gets, cool sunny and dry. Lovely Jubbly! The new guide has proved a great fillip, getting us to revisit old venues and new ones too. Almost everywhere we go we are spotting new lines - the Kalymnos Gold Rush is far from over.
We have done some great climbs including some superb long pitches probably pre-eminent have been a couple of 6b routes; Titine on Cave Crag (34m - 16 clips) and Cacoyannis (30m - 17 clips) on Pocket Wall - both magnificent routes and quite unlike anything in the UK.

Well known French climber and new router Bruno Fara is stopping in our apartment block again this year. I explained who I was and a bit about our new guidebook to the Cote d'Azure. Once he finished roaring with laughter and pointing his pretend gun at me he was pretty cool about the whole thing. He says there have been rumbling of the French climbing sites but looking at the guide on the laptop he said "I will buy it" - that's good enough for me - he can have a complimentary copy!

Tuesday, 26 October 2010

Kalymnos Guidebook Launch

The much anticipated new guidebook to Kalymnos was launched earlier this week. The author, Aris brought 250 copies over from Athens and they were all sold within a few hours, more 'supplies' are arriving on Wednesday. There was a cheery gathering of 30 or 40 folks at Aris's house to 'wet the book's head', as the sun set over Kalymnos, all very romantic. He signed and passed over one of the few copies reserved for 'friends and helpers' and I managed to smuggle it out without the assembled masses getting a look at it - I think I would never have got it back once it was out in the wild.
The book is a slightly smaller format than the last one, and the addition of an extra 60 pages have allowed the route count to more or less double - from 840 to around 1600.
A lovely piece of work and sure to be on the shopping list of many a climber through the long dark winter ahead.
I have already started a list of new routes that have been added in the past couple of weeks mind, I think it was out-of-date before it was actually in print!

Wednesday, 20 October 2010

Nikon P7000 - First Thoughts

I have had the new Nikon P7000 now for three weeks (a big thank-you to Harrison Photo-Video in Sheffield who got me one the day after it was released) and I thought a little report back might be a good idea. It is quite a chunky beast, substantially bigger and heavier than my old Leica DLux 3, but is small enough to be carried on the hip and used with one hand.
The lens is a cracker, at 28-200 it covers a substantial range and at 2.8-5.6 is quite fast too.The two shots above show the full range of the zoom - impressive enough.
It has a decent sized sensor, reasonable low light performance, a rapid shooting mode (not sure how many fps - but a few). A 90 minute battery charge lasts for more than a week of shooting. It has a high quality video mode (720 fps) in which the full range of the zoom works AND a view-finder. Link HERE to a short video. It also has a neat 'stitch-assist' for overlapping panoramas which is very effective. Rapid start up and negligible shutter lag; all in all, a great package.

Cons: the manual only comes as a PDF, the battery symbol only shows when it needs a recharge rather than a diminishing scale (still get a days shooting out of it when the light comes on), and it will fire when it can't focus (shows a red square to warn you mind). I would have preferred the lcd screen to be recessed rather then flush with the back of the camera, will need to take care.

Monday, 18 October 2010

Strange Times We Live In!

Two Octobers spent on Kalymnos and hardly a cloud in the sky - we naively assumed it was always like that. How wrong can you be, the forecast a week ago predicted a long unsettled period of showers, wind and thunderstorms and it was pretty much correct. Unlike UK weather it doesn't actually stop you climbing much, though today was pretty damp!
The other thing that has happened is that the place has become REALLY busy over the last weekend which is the one thing I don't like about Kalymnos. It is back to riding around and selecting the crag with the fewest scooters lined up below it - there were 50+ below Arhi the other day so we passed by.
On the positive side, the forecast looks great from mid-week and the majority of the holiday-makers will be pushing off next week-end, bring it on!

Tuesday, 12 October 2010

Ticking Over

Almost two weeks in and time has really flown by, climbing, snorkelling, walking, putting the finishing touches to Cote d'Azure Rock; we have managed to keep pretty busy.
The weather has been markedly cooler than last year which is great, and generally the place has seamed quite, though it busied up considerably over the last weekend. The forecast is actually quite unsettled though in typical Kalymnos style today's p.m. rain came to all of 10 drops.
Sherri has befriended most of the islands cats, dogs and goats and is keeping busy trying to feed them all - quite a challenge but it is keeping her occupied.
Colin, Mark and Dave Gregory are due out in 10 days so currently I am taking it easy - there are hectic times ahead!

Wednesday, 6 October 2010

The Boy (and Girl) are Back in Town

Great to be back, it has taken almost a week to unwind from the last month back home, but it is coming on nicely!
It is hot and sunny though a bit cooler than last year with a gorgeous breeze much of the time. Also it is fairly busy but again it feels less so than last year. A gentle 20 routes has started some skin growing and snorkelling in the Aegean is great for minor cuts and scrapes.
I have been helping Aris proof his new Kalymnos guidebook (with 1600 routes - almost double the last one) and it looks magnificent, inspiration guaranteed and due out in a couple of weeks!

Thursday, 30 September 2010

Easy, Peasy, Greekaneezy

Steve Warwick's 'taxi-service' whisked us to the airport then for the third year in a row Thomas Cook did us proud, the flight was on time, the journey was smooth, bags off sharpish and we made the 2:00 ferry with 15 minutes to spare. We rolled into Mryties mid afternoon only a little ragged at the edges.
The theory that Kalymnos is a bit of a trek doesn't really add up as the journey at the far and is so easy - if you connect with the ferries.
It was warm mind at 26C, but we are in no rush, it will cool down and we are here for the long haul!
Day 1 we popped out late in the day and I did 5 easier routes on Summertime. I had done them all before but what the Hell, it was way better than being on Stanage today!

Tuesday, 28 September 2010

Sixty!

Friday - birthday boy! Where did sixty years go - I sometimes wonder if i made a mistake with the tally somewhere along the way. Evening saw quite a gathering in the boozer which was nice. The nine bottles of malt were welcome, though I am not sure what that says about me.
Saturday myself and Colin had an autumnal walk up Padley Gorge, to the Burbage Valley, over Higgar Tor and back through the quarries. There were quite a few climbers out despite the cool weather, we relived a few glory-days in passing. I test drove my new Nikon P7000 - 1st impressions were very positive.
Anyway no time to retire yet, the French guide is a gnat's away from being finished, and Wednesday we head for a few months on Kalymnos.

Wednesday, 15 September 2010

Autumn's on the Way

Since we got back from Switzerland it has been pretty unsettled, par for the course I guess. It has given me the chance to get stuck into the last big push for the French guidebook.
Out of the blue Mike Owen - who I last climbed with 21 years ago - got in touch. He has lived down on the Cote d'Azur for some years and offered to help with the guide. His input has been superb - detailing many of the hard routes down there. With less than a month till we print his timing was spot on.
I popped out to Stoney on Sunday to get some cragshots. It was the weekend of the UKC/BMC Stoney Reunion, and I couldn't get parked on the 1st run! Sounds like it was a great 'do' with over a hundred folks climbing, dossing and reliving the glory days. Nice to see the crag busy again.

Sunday, 5 September 2010

Suisse Plaisir

That was that then - ten days, 20 routes - a mixture of granite and limestone, stunning scenery, quiet crags, great rock, very acceptable weather, lovely camp-site - couldn't really be better! There was some great leading by Colin and we were looked after royally by Sherri.
Even the journey home was a delight, good old EasyJet - on time into Manchester. Then there was the trip back the 30 or so miles to Sheffield - traffic jams, road works, potholes - welcome home. At least it wasn't raining - that is forecast for tomorrow!

Photo left: a happy man - honest.

Saturday, 28 August 2010

Genuine Swiss Movement

A 7:00am flight from Manchester meant an almost sleepless night, the plus side was being on Azalee Beach, in the heart of the Grimsel Granite area by mid-afternoon. A four pitcher was cracked off in good style, then back to base for a snooze!
Friday we dodged the showers up at Susten and Saturday was wet, not a Bank Holiday surely?
Sunday dawned clear blue, and turned out to be primo. We expected things to be wet but found our chosen route almost bone-dry; Foxie (5+) is nine pitches on the most perfect granite imaginable. We swung leads and did it up and down in 2.5 hours whilst Sherri collected bilberries for tomorrows breakfast - I guess it has to be muesli!

Monday, 23 August 2010

The Old Ones Are the Best

Work on the French book has kept me indoors, or at least that and the indifferent weather. Despite the the general clagginess weekends have almost always been fine, chance to get out on the good ole' Grit. Colin and Mark have been making the regular trip down from North Yorkshire, and of course the usual suspects have always been out and about.
I even found three more routes on Stanage that I hadn't done - 1037 is the current tally though they are drying up fast now.
Colin had 10 days off and the forecast is pants - more like October than August say the weathermen. Pembroke, Cornwall and Jersey were all mooted, but in the end we booked a flight to Switzerland - for the day after tomorrow!

Monday, 16 August 2010

Mr Motorvator

I have been thinking about getting a 'smaller' car for a while now. In the event, the salesman was very persuasive at Europa Subaru in Sheffield - I think he saw me coming - never mind, at least we can get all the camping gear in the back! With a top speed of over 150mph and a 0-60 time of around 5 seconds it is an incredible piece of machinery. Of course it isn't about the numbers; the Impreza is a lovely colour!

Not surprisingly the summer is turning into a wet warm and windy one, but Colin has got 10 days off towards the end of the month, we need to go somewhere rocky - and of course this year's expedition to Kalymnos is only six weeks away - bring it on.

Wednesday, 11 August 2010

The Same as it Ever Was

Back home for 10 days now and it has been a pretty standard UK summer; mild and cloudy, midgy and muggy! I enjoyed a lovely Sunday on Froggatt with Colin cracking of eight routes Severe to E1 and despite the humidity the friction was pretty good.

Work on the French guide continues a pace, with the help of expat guide Alan Carne the Verdon section is starting to look really something!

Wednesday was forecast to be the best day of the week so we headed to Cheedale to retake some of the shots we got back in February now that the cliffs had dried out. Walking through the sticky slop and dripping rhubarb I realised some things never change. Interestingly there were about a dozen teams on the Cornice and Two Tier Buttress, though with one exception all the folks I saw were sat on bolts. One guy hadn't actually moved when we walked back the other way an hour later: I wonder where all the 'climbers' have gone?

Sunday, 1 August 2010

Back to Base

A 5 a.m. start and a steady crossing of the Skaggerak on a big Fjordline 'cat' at speedy 40 mph led to a five hour drive across Denmark in the pouring rain. Early evening saw us boarding the DFDS ship Dana Serene (another free upgrade!) and setting of into a choppy black night - the early start ensured that we slept like a couple of babies.
The UK look green and surprisingly quiet - and that was it, two months to the day - back home! A bit leaner, a bit fitter and a bit poorer - Norway does that to you!
The novelty of a clean bed, a bath and a big TV are all very nice - better not get used to it though!

Tuesday, 27 July 2010

Tranquillity Base

We headed for the Kristiansand area as i was the one place in the Søreland guide that I hadn't climbed. The drive from Egersund passed the requisite amounts of superb looking rock, the Jossingfjord area being especially impressive. We tried a couple of the 'ferie-centrer' campsites on the coast first, and to put it mildly - they were overpriced, overcrowded shit-holes - sorry but there is no other way to describe them.
We headed inland for just 10 miles to different world, and found a tiny (and deserted) camp-site by a delightful lake, free boats and free fishing and only a few minutes from several of the crags - purrfect!

After almost drowning in a tiny canoe (in a swimming pool!) many years ago I have always been terrified of canoeing, but a gentle intro in a 'Canadian' and I was set - it was amazing drift along in silence, slipping over the water and seeing the the world from a very different perspective. The trout we fished out were the icing on the cake!

Tuesday, 20 July 2010

Headed South

From Loftus to Sauda to Egersund and on to Kristiansand, lots a great places and generally very quite despite it being peak season. Egersund is an odd spot, a local climbing club and superb rock sticking up everywhere, but as far as I can find, no climbing anywhere near - weird!
We have a ferry booked for home in just under two weeks so have decided to head south to make use of the Sørlands guidebook and get a bit more craging done. It has been a bit showery, but the forecast is great - that should work nicely then.
And the reason for the sudden rush? Torbjørn has invited us up to Lofoten for late August so we need to head home for a couple of weeks to get organised, and try to finish the Cote d'Azur guide which is due out in the autumn - I never get a minute to myself (said in true Jim Royle style!).

Tuesday, 13 July 2010

Summat Fishy

The week spent camping in the cherry orchard at Loftus was great, we explored the Hardanger Fjord area (plenty of unclimbed rock around there) and ate our fill of ripe cherries! We also fished a bit, but there wasn't much doing - the weather, the climate, the fish - who knows?
Then it was over the hills (again - so much brilliant looking unclimbed rock) to Sauda, a bit of the beaten track, just how we like it.
Sherri tried fishing off the jetty in town but I had spotted the old road heading out round a rocky headland which dropped into deep water . We headed out and half-an-hour later we had tea in the shape of two BIG pollack (the bigger was 60cm) and a mackerel. Looks like fish for tea tomorrow too!

Wednesday, 7 July 2010

Welcome to (proper) Norway

After a few days at the ski resort of Geilo, exploring (the edges!) of the Hardangervidda we decided to head for the fjords and a bit of 'real' Norway and we weren't to be disappointed. Once off the plateau the road dropped steadily towards the 'edge' where the Vøringfossen waterfall plunges 600' into the valley below - spectacular with a capital S. The roads takes only a slightly less direct route corkscrewing through tunnels as it struggles to loose the 4000' from its high point. We set up camp in a cherry orchard (free fruit - no really) in Loftus overlooking the blue waters Sørfjord and the glittering ice-cap of the Folgefojn.
Of course it rained a bit in the evening - but what can you expect!

Friday, 2 July 2010

Home Alone

We dropped Dave Gregory off at Torp airport this morning, and Ryanair zipped him back home - the return leg of his sub-£50 ticket, a lot faster and cheaper than the old ferry route. His intro to Norway was great, deserted cliffs, fantastic rock, gorgeous weather, no mozzies, quiet campsites - exactly how I have been telling him it is when ever we are here - maybe now he will believe us.
We spent the last few days at Drammen, just to the south of Oslo, just for a change the climbing was great, and one of the cliffs in particular Vardåsen was superb, a 300' sheet of prefect granite. The routes there were some of the best either of us had done for a long time.

Friday, 25 June 2010

As Good as it Gets?

According to the locals the route Via Lara on Haegefjell is supposed to be one of the best multi-pitch 'moderates' in Europe - too good an accolade to go unchecked. It is a 7 pitch route, about 1200 feet long following an amazing continuous crack-line up the side of a huge granite dome. There is no fixed gear at all in the route which is a nice change, though the line Gone with the Weed about 20m to the left has fixed belays, offering a (tricky) escape if needed. Via Lara is Norwegian Grade 4 - so about HS/VS, and it gave me and Dave Gregory a pleasant afternoon - we were happy with the four hours we took for the seven pitches and six abseils down a neighbouring line. A Swedish guy we met at the bottom said he had soloed it the previous evening in just under 17 minutes - bugger!

Tuesday, 22 June 2010

A 'Big Up' for Noway

I like Norway for a heap of reason; the folks are friendly, the place is generally quiet, the scenery is magnificent, the roads are good the camp-sites are quiet AND cheap - all in all its a pretty cool place.
The weather is often surprisingly pleasant (24 hr day-light is a great novelty) and the expected insect life is always much less worse than anticipated.
On top of that there is some great climbing, the crags are not the most user friendly in the world (Kalymnos gets top vote for that) but they are generally of superb quality and usually deserted.
The south doesn't have the grandeur of Lofoten - but its beauty is still very evident, like a giant deserted version of the Lake District.
The £ has taken a bit of a dive against the Kroner so things are more expensive here compared to our last visit - but it still feels like good value!

Wednesday, 16 June 2010

Bootiful Bohuslen











Evening sun on the granite at Ramsvik.











Smogen waterfront.











Glaciated granite Bohuslen coastline.










Evening storm clouds above Honnebostrand.

A few pictures from the Bohuslan area, a beautiful area, at least when the sun shines. There are plenty more shots on my PBase gallery under the "Images of Sweden" link.

Now it is time for the land of the North Men - let's hope the weather holds!


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 rathe...