Wednesday, 24 September 2008

Five things I didn't know last week

In no particular order:

1. That Tim Sadlier is still willing and able to get into a boat. Well done that man.

2. That the Falkirk Wheel is the equivalent height of 8 double decker buses (it said so in the visitor centre, I think).

3. That not having a full service history for your car, can seriously affect the resale value.

4.  That carbon playboats will soon be an 'affordable' option.

5.  That up to 30 million pound coins in circulation could be fake, and how to spot one.

Summer adventures (well float boating, bbq's and climbing of a sort)

Back in sunny July we headed out to the Ardeche to so some hardcore sunbathing and ice cream eating.  The plan was 6 days on the 'desh' and another four in the Alps. 

The Ardeche is a brilliant river for getting your family (non boaters) out in sunny, warm, welcoming environment - as a result it is literally overrun with French and German tourists and hoards of English school kids shipped down the river (in an impressively well managed fashion I add).

We stayed about two kilometres downstream of Point D'Arc, which is the limestone (?) arch on the front of the guidebooks and tourist pictures in a lovely riverside standing camp. 
I was surprised to find a nice little playspot just upstream of the Arc. Which has a decent enough wave (think nomad on a 6ish..)  to have a few hours of sunny fun. The best bit though is the hundred of bods on hired canoes falling out of their boats, getting pinned and generally trashed on the run into this wave.

Anyway - all good things must come to an end and we headed over to Vallouise in the Alps (nr. Briancon) for a few days boating or whatever.  We stayed with Pete and Helen Laundon at their AlpSun apartment. Anyway - once we got there the boating just didn't happen so me and pol organised to do a couple of via ferrata routes:

Basically via ferrata is using fixed metal equipment to climb a route - you use standard climbing gear, save the special Y slings that take the shock load of your fall (no stretcthy rope to swing on in this).  Apparently the first route were established in the Italian Dolomites - as a way of moving troops around. Anyway we did about three routes; a free route near to the apartment and a couple of paid for routes in the Durance Gorge

A good break. One final note though, 30 degrees, four boats and an inflatable roofrack do not mix well....

The rest of the pictures can be viewed here.

Thursday, 21 February 2008

its a bit nippy

Mountain biking; so far I've fell into a canal, fell over, fell of my bike and generally just been well, crap at it.

After a year or so of road biking on my lovely Cannondale I decided thought it would be a good idea to branch out onto the hills with a spangly Specialized mtb, full suspension, disc breaks - the works. The only thing I didn't have enough of was skill, oh and a shocking lack of fitness.

[Heading towards Hope Cross from Winhill]

So after last ''summer'' we decided that it would be good to get out early in the year. Saturday morning, about 10am it was exactly 2.5 degrees in a car park about 3 miles from Hagg Farm (5 miles from Ladybower Reservoir). Our plan was a short hop over Bell Hag, a blast alongside Derwent Res, and then the long way round and over Winhill, via Thornhill, and finally a bit of fun down from Hope Cross.

Brilliant weather, absolutely clear skies and a think layer of frost on the shaded paths.

The day started well enough with Phil managing to blag a van from work, so no faff ... and it got better with hot vimto and bacon sarnies. We got to the car park in good time and set off (well, at least some of us headed in the right direction)..

The first 20 minutes was pretty much a carry - as none of us were fit enough to even get a third of the way up. After some deliberation at the top (and a lot of adjusting the bikes.. nothing to do with me gasping for air) we set off on the first descent, 2 miles (?) of wide, quite flat trail and fast enough when you can't feel you hands. The last 400 meters are really steep and bouldery (add lack of bottle to my lack of fitness and skills) but it ran, or wheelled, or whatever the term is.

[I forgot to add on the route card that the overall feeling was happy]

The blast from the Lower Derwent dam (*the*
dam busters dam, no less) was a bit more hairy than I expected after nearly getting wiped out by an equally scared driver who hit some black ice, and generally being frozen made for a nice section . Did I mention the brilliant weather?

Any onto the hard bit, from Thornhill up Winhill, this was a grind, espically as we were being overtaken by guys on full suspension downhill bikes, and that we didn't really pack any food except for Pollys' cereal bars... I always enjoy being on Winhill, even when knackered, be it the agressive sheep trying to nick lucnh or the lovely view of Ladybower, less so of the cement factory in Hope, or the pig of a route that is Parkin Clough. Did I mention the brilliant weather?

[The Derwent]

Anyway I digress, after no little effort (and no stops..) we reached Hope Cross looking forward to a nice blast downhill. So what else is lacking in my armour as a potential top mtb'er? skill to be short. The downhill from Hope Cross was a boulder garden which was harsh - I got down, slowly, too slowly to use my bike as it should be (with some walking) but basically my skill / bottle let me down. Must do better. Did I mention the brilliant weather...

By the way, Chris Smith was
out climbing about 5 miles from us, nice pictures and routes, shame about the smelly fleece!

Email me if you want the route card in MMO format

Wednesday, 6 February 2008

boating dec 07

Afon Dwyfor, Afon Ogwen - December 07

Its always good to do a new river, even though every river is new in so far as the flows, lines and levels are unique, but after 200 (I may exaggerate slightly) runs of the Kent, Dee and the other usual suspects I decided a while back that as much of my boating as possible would be a new rivers. So to get a good bimble down the Afon Dwfor was a nice addition, not too mention possibly my favourite run in Wales, the Ogwen from Fishermans Gorge.

Phil, in hardcore boating mode, as we always are...

The Dwfor is a nice grade 3 (with maybe one or two 4's), and would in my opinion make a great club trip river except for the absolute lack of decent parking anywhere near the access/egress. I can see why Chris Sladden describes it as a bigger Tyweryn, omitting that it does have more than a foot of water in it for most parts, and is free (whilst apparently can run huge in flood).

The day was lovely, cold and crisp medium water levels. Bob and Phil were also out. The river, as far as my memory serves has no major hazard for the competent boater, one weir which we ran, and really just some straight forward rapids intersperse by easier meandering sections.

Dwfor: not a bad shot with a broken camera

The day was topped off by a good run down the Ogwen at a good medium level, it was a fun run really as the river was in a good condition, but no-one else was at Fishermans gorge. We got on after some umming and ahhing, and general chin scratching over the level (it can run a 5 at the right levels) but I'm glad I did really. The drops and boulder garden section are always really good fun, even when I've swam down...and the fact that its a short hit (only 30 mins) mean it was a fantastic way to finish the day.

Dwfor: the get out

Check out Chris Sladdens: The Welsh Rivers for authoritative info on both rivers.

Tuesday, 5 February 2008

gripped and nearly loosing my head

Fantastic weather, a good friend, the promise of a few beers later. Wildcat crag overlooks Matlock and is a imposing looking limestone crag, not hard to access with lots of good mid grade routes, a nice easy summers day climbing

The day started really well, the crag only had a couple of other climbers on routes and it all shaped up for a classic day. A quick run up Bobcat (VS 4b) and onwards. At this point its probabaly worth putting some background in, Craig and I (well if I'm being honest Craig) have a history of minor and not so minor epics..namely falls, faff and mountain rescue call outs (we'll leave out the drinking aspects) but I'm sure you get the idea. I think the route was Jackdaw grove (VS 4b), I led the first pitch with some faff, Craig followed and led onto the second, all good so far.

Whilst waiting for Criag to come up some kind person decided to set up an abseil over the top of us and ab down, needless to say we weren't pleased, but we let the first guy pass on the basis they stopped, and besides he was half way down already. I led off, and within 3 metres became gripped... couldn't move. It's not as if the moves were hard, there was some exposure - but this was OK. Now I've been gripped before, and fell off - but never to the extent that I completely loose my head, but it happened. Sh*t was nicest word I used.

After an age of faff, disco knees and lots of overly deep breathing, along with some abuse/ support from Craig I decided to move... and zip, our friends the errant abseiler knocked off a football size bolder from the top of the crag. I didn't see it - I heard and felt it drop past my head... about a foot away I reckon, and only just missing Craig by the fact that he was sat below an undercut.. nice. What made things worse was the lack of a shout from above, no apology, and that we continued to have a steady stream of dust, small stones and crap streaming down.

No longer gripped I pretty much ran up the rest of the pitch to the top, about to give this guy a piece of my mind, I got there... and he had clients! a bloody climbing instructor no less, I expected it to be a group of mates who didn't know better. We had a friendly chat with myself and Craig pointing out the ethics of abseiling over a route, kicking off rocks and him generally being a knob. If nothing else I'll wear a helmet next time I climb, and I'm sure I'll get gripped again at some point. Great crag though oh and Maltock has some really nice tea shops.


We'll what can you say that hasn't been said already? Going to America was / is probably the best trip I have ever been on, not strictly an outdoorsy trip (we did get a few days) open boating and walking. We had an awesome time, spending some quality time with my family in State College and going boating near Old Forge (below). New York was fantastic... I don't really need to say any more other than you must go there, at least once.

Times square and Grand Central

Old Forge was really quiet, but strangely lacking in wildlife

Waiting for probably the best shuttle ever...

Who needs heli-boating, when you can travel in real style... well the back of a stream train.

my other america pictures


After spending far too much time avoiding revision (best left for another day), looking at pictures of trips, routes, holidays and what not. I realised that all of my digital pictures and experiences are simply sitting on my laptop… so my aim for this blog is for it simply to be my diary of trips and interesting experiences, and i‘m sure when I get more confident the odd rant or two at the world...