All photo's are Copyright of Scott Swalling or the tagged Photographer. (Background photo Scott Swalling Photography).

About Me:

24Hr MTBike racer and general bike rider, climber and mountaineer. Good coffee drinker and cake eater (any cake, seriously, don't leave your cake laying around). Also, I like to try new things that challenge me.

Monday, 13 October 2008

Alpkit Jeanius

I recently purchased a pair of Alpkits latest product. The Jeanius, a pair of water proof, stretchy, cool looking climbing/outdoors jeans, which also carry a very high mark for being super casual and great for knocking around in.

Verdict so far, yes they are water proof, "aren't they Lisa?" Lisa a work colleague at Craggy Island, decided to test this by pouring water on them. Result, dry legs, wet toes. I repeated a similar process the following night whilst climbing, well not whilst actually climbing.

Climbing, they are ace. I have had a couple of pairs of stretchy climbing jeans before, but these are more flexible with a better cut and are really comfy in a harness for several hours.

Not only does the water run of them faster than squirrel with a horse chessnut, but chalk just brushes of them easily. They breathe brilliantly and I didn't feel hot in them in a normally warm centre.

Street cred, they score highly here as well, with almost all staff on arrival at the wall going "oo, I like your jeans" and friends doing the like, they have lots. The nice loose cut for climbing in, with a few patterns stitched in for looks, makes this look complete. Alpkit score on all levels. I have worn these in the office and knocking around over the weekend with them and a shirt or t-shirt.

Alpkit well done again.

SPA Assessment

On the 4th/5th October, I had my Single Pitch Award assessment. This is an award which allows the candidate “when successful” to instruct people to climb and abseil outside at single pitch climbing venues around the UK.

So what’s involved, you need to be able to climb competently on the lead on traditional rock routes, placing your own gear and setting up anchors, rig top and bottom ropes, managed groups safely both indoors and out, instruct groups at climbing centres, understand the environment, have some climbing history knowledge, some very basic geology knowledge and be entertaining and communicate well, finally you need to hold a first aid certificate.

You need a set amount of climbs at a certain level and to have completed the training course, which I had done only 3 weeks before, setting myself an interesting task and giving myself a little bit of pressure.

So off to The Peak I headed with Nik and Daniel, in moral support and to stop me going crazy on the 6th drive to The Peak in 6 weeks. We all hoped for good weather for them to climb and for my assessment. The weather didn’t listen at all.

Saturday morning we awoke to strong winds and light rain. We got organised and headed to the Pool Cafe to eat and meet the other candidates and the assessor. The assessor, Jules was my ML trainer and really had no idea of my climbing ability or any such thing. The other 1 candidate Steve, seemed like a nice and we would meet the other Rachel at the crag.

Jules, finally got us together, briefed us and off we headed to a now windy but dry Burbage North, dry for the moment. We arrived and Steve and I were asked to find a sector and a climb each and get started. We chose a sector and a route each and headed off to find them.

Jules and Rachel arrived shortly after and Jules introduced us all, Rachel also seemed quite nice, my evaluation of the other two candidates was underrated, they would both prove to be great and the banter between us and Jules made for a very relaxed but accurate assessment.

Steve was first to climb, then Jules asked me to belay Rachel, so he could second Steve to check his gear and anchors, he would do the same for us all. During Steve’s climb the rain returned, during Rachel’s it continued, to the point where by the time my turn was up, the routes where gopping. Tired a waterfall Severe and then decided discretion was the better part of valour, popped up a MOD and left the climb for the next day.

From here it was into rigging top ropes with direct belays, hands freezing even more as the lazy wind cut through us, fortunately I had my winter gloves, put them on and that was that. We then set personal abseils. The wind was playing havoc with the ropes and I had to carry my rope over my shoulder for most of the abseil.

The wind increased along with the rain and Jules decided this would be a good time to head to The Edge for the climbing centre part of the assessment. I looked forward to this as this was something I did weekly. One thing that was apparent was that Jules was as much willing to teach some more skills as he was to assess those required to pass the assessment, and two very good ones, we learnt here. One has already been put into practice and works a charm. Thanks Jules.

We all got through this and had some fun doing so with the role plays and cheeky comments which had now started to fly around the group. We all had a lead climb to rig a thread through and lower off and then that was that. It was the initial plan to finish up for the day, but the weather had settled a bit so we headed to Lawrencefield to do some more rigging. On the way there the rain started again and we arrive to find an SPA training group there, so we headed to Millstones.

Once at Millstones, we broke off Rachel by herself and Steve and I together, to rig a top rope route each in the lovely conditions, although Millstones Hell Bells sector is a bit sheltered. We did this, Jules assessed them and then we broke for the day, opted for a slightly earlier start for Sunday and headed off. We had some home work as well, this would be done in the pub, but not as the pub quiz that I had suggested to Jules, plus I wasn’t in the Little John, so it might still have been rubbish.

Back to Hathersage and Nik and Daniel, who had achieved one or two routes and then pulled the pin. Campsite, shower, pub, homework, then a few beers and socialising with Nik and Daniel.

Sunday morning arrived, wet, but not nearly as cold or windy. We headed for the cafe again, met the crew ate some breakfast and headed off quickly. Steve had spent the night in Rachel’s spare room and looked better for it. I am also sure their homework had the same answers. ;-)

We headed to Lawrencefield again, and arrived with the crag to ourselves. We all had to rig a bottome rope and this time Jules added a time limited, not so much to finished by, but to aim to finish rigging by. Three top ropes appeared quickly, I also managed to abseil down mine to check the route. Jules assessed these and provide feedback, and this was all good for all of us. By now Leicester Uni Freshers had started to arrive.

We quickly dismantled my bottom rope and made a couple of alterations to Rachel’s to make it more appropriate for the next section of assessment that was crag safety and rescuing a climber. During the rigging exercises we had done our level best to avoid the pitfalls of ledges and cracks, now the plan was to simulate these nasties and a stuck climber. This was to add some entertainment to the freshers day out and ours.

The crag safety section of the assessment was over quickly as it was apparent we all knew the dangers of crags and how to avoid/reduce the risks and how to manage a group in these environments. The rescue section of the assessment was far too much fun, but excellent to see everyone do so well and me jump at the bit, to redo a couple of rescues due to the different techniques we all had and some advance ones that Jules showed us. It also allowed us all to cosy up. :-P

Each of us had rescued each other a few times and I had been accused a few times of being fat. It also seemed that I had to demonstrate the most difficult due to lack of gear rescue each time, cheers Jules. One of these rescues was to ascend the rope, with only my ATC, a French prussic as an auto-block, slip-knot back up and a lot of hard work. I was knackered Jules, Steve and Rachel found this amusing.

After several goes each at different rescue techniques including the worst case scenario of having to abseil to perform the rescue. It was time to rig a release group abseil and demonstrate the use of this and the ability to perform rescues that maybe necessary when abseiling. The classic scenario of the hair caught in the abseil device was used and seeing as we had done a y-hang abseil rescue to rescue our climbers we needn’t repeat that here.

These all went really well and mine rig was even copied by the Leicester Uni group. Jules showed us a double abseil which he uses if there is one person who is quite scared and one person who is bang up for the abseil. This I thought was great, but being “too fat” it was Rachel and Steve who got to abseil, whilst I played instructor. This would have made a great abseil and I will remember this rig, even if it is just for some group fun.

Half way through the day the weather had cleared and the rock dried, so it was time for Rachel and I to prove to Jules that we could in fact climb. We popped back over to Millstones as now there were a number of freshers around and some quite would be good. Although, if you ever have to climb near a Uni group prayer it is Leicester, they were all really great and Gareth obviously does a great job with them. Also, “Hi Daniel, nice to see you again mate!”

At Millstones, Rachel and I made speedy lead ascents of the same root, “no beta” and Steve had a leisurely second in the sun. During this time Jules gave us individual feedback and all the good news. The 3 of us had Passed, yay!

We congratulated each other and thank Jules for a relaxed yet honest assessment and for the few new things he showed us as well. Now for Rachel and I, it is time to sort some ML days and for all of us to do some personal climbing again. But first a celebratory drink was taken at the Little John, where Nik and Daniel joined us and congratulated us all.

I think this was more a relief for me than anything else, with so many goals this year put to dirt by bad weather or injury, it was nice to see one achieved. It was also nice to meet two really nice people who I hope to stay in touch with, climb and do some walks with as they and Jules made the assessment fun. What sort of assessment is fun? Well my SPA at least! :-)

PS Sorry, no pictures, my camera seems to have vanished in to the ether at Crow Chin several weeks back.

Friday, 10 October 2008

Being Useless at Blogging

Sorry to those that come on here to check up on what has been happening.

But all in all it has been a good few months, with plenty of climbing ( well kinda, SPA experience work), some riding, my knees feeling better and new home being selected to move into, yay. No more gear everywhere.

My SPA has been passed in interesting conditions and met a couple of really nice people whilst doing so. Look out for the blog entry.

Only one significant kit purchase is my Alpkit Jeanius waterproof climbing "jeans" see the link to Alpkit at the side and a forum post. Oh and a new cycling jacket.

A trip to Norway has been booked to ice climb and ski, hope to provide some great pictures from that one.

With the next few weekends being dedicated to cycling, running and packing.

Anyway, better get on with it all really.

Monday, 4 August 2008

Paris and Le Tour de France - Part 3

After the race we all wandered off, in the same direction for a while, chatting about the day. Soon Clay had to head one way and Nadia and Hadyn the other, so it was time to say goodbye. These guys would be back or on the way back to Australia very soon, but it was great to see them again after so long and knowing that it will be while before we see each other again.

It was great to spend time with Kath and them, but I still had dinner to look forward to with my big sister.

Nik and I, being trigger happy slowed the return to the hotel greatly, so much so that Kath, trundle back by herself, don't blame her. It took us about 45 minutes to cross a bridge about 150 meters long. It is shown below and one of the ornate sculptures that adorn it.

Nik, Nadia, Hadyn, Clayton and Kath.

Nik and I meandered through the streets of Paris, relying on my inner pigeon to return to the hotel. Along the way we stopped at a cafe for a drink adn to soak up some more of Paris in the late setting sun.

The sun, wide boulevards (some tree lined) and the Parisian architecture and sandstone being the builders choice, allowed for some beautiful street scapes and a lovely feel of late summer to emmerse ourselves in on the walk. Streets such as these.

From here Nik and I made our way back to the hotel and got ready to head out to dinner with Kath, in the Latin Quater which is where our hotel was, we found a nice little restaurant just around the corner and a short walk from the Pantheon.

We ate our last meal in Paris together at the little cafe on the right of the pick below, before Nik and I headed off to have a look around the Pantheon and take far too many photo's of it, also shown below. Not to mention some of a church which the architecture suggests a number of after thoughts and different circa addtions, which make it quite a lovely church to view.


Pantheon Unusual Church

The final day would see us have a leisurely start to the day, with a late breakfast. Say good bye to Kath, who I will see when I travel home next year. Then Nik and I first heaed to Au Vieux Campuer to buy a few outdoor items and Nik to continue her annoying and frutiless search for a climbing harness that fits. The we headed towards Sacre Coure. On the way up the hill, we stopped for a relaxed lunch soaking up the last of our hours in Paris.

Then we headed uphill through the Asrtist District and to Sacre Coure. Whilst the history of the church is extremely interesting, the church itself does not match this in any manner was the feeling that Nik and I held. It was to say, it is like any other big church in its feel and although the architecture is vastly different to many, it is not as exciting or inspiring as we expected.

A trundle down the stairs and an experience with a grumpy restuaranteur and then a nice coffee at another cafe and we where heading back to the hotel and then Garde Nord and then home.

Paris always provides a lovely relaxed break away from the everyday life, right in the middle of a beautiful and vibrant city. Something I have only experienced in Amsterdam and Melbourne, thus far. I'll be back again.

Paris and Le Tour de France - Part 2

So Sunday morning would arrive and what to do about getting a good spot to watch the tour, we had all been giving varying advice, but the common theme during our discussions Saturday was get down early.

Well I am going on the record right now as saying, "As long as you get the right Metro station or are targeting a spot up the Champs Elysees, 10am will be more than early enough" Plus, you won't get moved on after finding the best spot to watch the riders dart across Place de la Concorde and right down your camera lense. Grrr!

Anyway, successfully relocated to a spot where we could duck out and get coffee and see the riders from both sides of the Champs Elysees and then the wait begun. Nik and I had arrived at about 8:30 as mentioned. You don't need to do this, many others had as well.

But now we all had got together and the crowd was slowly building, we had wisely bought food the night before and this allowed us to save a small fortune. Whilst we stood around and chatted, we were approached by a Sports and Travel writer from the Netherlands, Wiep.

We all had a bit of a chat to him, me airing a strong opinion about a particular subject of the Silence-Lotto team, which I have been following closely since before the start of the tour. But by and large the discussion was about all facets of the tour and what we had thought about the race this year and in particular, Kath and Clayton's views as they had seen a couple of stages.

Wiep left us after taking some pictures of a group of mad Aussie's and a suffering English rose ;-) and mentioning that he had rarely got to see the riders he had followed around as he always had to get his writing off to the paper back home. Which I thought was a bit harsh for him.

Soon the madness of Le Tour caravan would arrive, but to my surprise and Nik grave disappoint in relation to the Haribo cars, they were not throwing goodies out the cars. Kath and Clayton were kind enough to tell us about the things they had handed out on the other stages, cheers guys.
A Horny Devil

Not quite a tiger

The caravan was truly a bright and loud affair and as much a part of the tour as anything else we associate with it.

So much waiting around and watching (0n the big screens) the rider drink champagne and have a laugh on the way to Paris and then they arrived. Even though the tour had already been decided, there was still much to race for, line honors of Le Champs Elysees are a pretty big thing.

So there were some celebratory laps at pace and then it heated up even more, after 3000 odd kilometers and these guys were still so damn quick it was very impressive. But this made taking photo's near impossible. But I took many and some are shown below.

The peleton's crusing pace, notice the blurr?

CSC Train and Sastre, an awesome win for them. Well done Sastre and Co.

So I have finally made it to the last day of the tour, something I have wanted to do for many years, and what do I think. Well, I'll be back for more stages next year. I loved it I was so excietd and really enjoyed the experience.

Seeing the presentation and how happy these guys were to complete the toughest road race in the world, reminds you that they are just normal guys doing an absolutely amazing thing, which they have worked so hard to achieve.

Cadel, was still happy and looked a little relieved as they all did that it was over. Loads of Aussie were there to cheer him on to the podium, which was great to see.

Once the presentation was over we decided to head back. Don't do this, find your way back to the crash barriers and wait for the riders to do a slow lap, signing stuff and having there photo's taken. We had our reasons, but damn it!

We wandered away from the Champs Elysees, impressed and fulfilled at seeing the last day of a magnificent race, but I was a little sad as another July was over.

2009, Yell for Cadel!

Paris and Le Tour de France - Part 1

On the 25th of July I headed out to Paris to meet Nik, and see my sister Kath, who I haven't seen since I was back home a few years ago and a couple of mates. Clayton over traveling around Europe and the UK and Nadia and Hadyn, who had attended a conference then headed to Paris.

Nik, Kath and I arrived at our hotel at varying times, got settled in and then went to dinner, and Nik got to meet the first member of my family. (One at a time, she should survive this way, I think) ;-)

The next day we headed off to meet Clayton at Le Louvre and then headed off to pootle around and generally enjoy Paris. The best way to do this is certainly by the new cheap "Velib" system, which Clayton who had been in Paris for a few days introduced us to. Velib:

Basically, you put down a deposit, pay 1 euro for 24hrs and you can hire a bike for 30 minute periods at a time from a network of Velib stations around Paris. Whilst a great idea, not so great when your knees are still screwed from injury. next time guys, when I say my knees are screwed, guess what, they are!

Le Louvre

Anyway, on the bikes andof we set, first to a little crappiere (sp?), which was brilliant and hidden away from the tourist traps, then off up to the Opera area. A look around up there and then we all agreed that ducking into a bar to watch the final Time Trial of le tour was in order. We would also be joined by Nadia and Hadyn at this point.

Clay, Kath and Nik, Opera, Paris.

This would be Cadels last chance to regain the "malliot jaune" and win the tour. Alas, he did not, but he went down fighting a brilliant fight as he had done so through out the tour. Maybe next year Silence-Lotto will be a stronger team and can fight the strength and depth of the awesome CSC.

So Sunday would see us on the Champs Elysees with thousands of others to congratulate the teams and riders that had completed another grueling Tour de France and the winners of the different jersey's. More about that later.

So what to do in Paris, on a Saturday night.............mooch around, get changed and head out to dinner was the plan and a successful one at that.

We headed to a great little restaurant which Kath had selected to meet, Ruth and Ramaine, two friends of Clayton's that now reside in Paris.

The location of the restaurant was very Parisian and the food, wine and company fantastic. We took our time and enjoyed just relaxing and being away from the daily grind of our normal lives. Eventually we would decided it was time to leave and head back to the hotel for some sleep ready for a long day on the Champs Elysees.

Relay for Life

Back on the 19th/20th July, Nik and I took part in the Relay for Life as part of a team of friends and family in memory of those who have passed away from cancer and in support of those who have battled and won.

The team we had joined was Johns Plodders in memory of John Sanders, I walked also with the my Uncle Mal and a friend from long ago Paul in memory and in support of aunty Deb who won her battle, as well as well as John and the thoughts of so many others.

The Relay for Life occurs once a year with teams being formed for reasons as describe above to raise money for cancer research. It is a 24 hr relay event, where teams of any size walk, run or crawl around a track in relay fashion.

It provides the opportunity for folk who have been touched by cancer to work towards a common goal of providing the funds that help cancer research improve the quality of life of cancer suffers and find cures to the varying forms of cancer.

The event continues to provide entertainment through out the course and the opportunity to learn more about what is going on in the fight against cancer and the chance to meet some fantastic people, young and old.

There are games, raffles and other competitions such as the best fancy dress. Every Relay for Life has a fancy theme, where all teams this year had to choose a Musical and dress as chosen musical and complete the first lap in fancy dress. We chose Spam-a-lot and I went as a shrubbery. Picture below.

The fun and festivities continue for the whole 24hr's with more money being raised. This concludes as it starts with all the teams walking around the for a final lap (picture below), then the presentations and a brief talk from one of the supervisor of the Cancer Research labs being presented.

This was such a worthwhile experience and I will certainly being taking part again next year and hope that my pleas for sponsorship, also helped raise more awareness about cancer research.

All the teams raised a significant amount of funds and I would like to thank all those that sponsored me directly our who sponsored others.

Thank you all very much.


Monday, 7 July 2008

A Dirty Weekend in Scotland

It all started slowly, we (Jamie and I) left Guildford later than expected and got caught in traffic jam after traffic jam. One caused by something hitting a bridge and trying to incinerate it, we hope everyone was ok. We eventually arrived at 0030 after setting of at 1430, our endurance already tested. We pitched tents quickly and dived into bed.

In the morning we awoke and were greeted with a nice view on the valley and the event village.

We quickly registered ate breakfast and load with food and water and set off at around 0830, in overcast but stable weather with mild winds, it would stay this way until very close to the end of the day.

First stop from the start is the check-point value hand-out, we grab our copy, quickly assigned the values to our CP’s on our map and made a plan of attack, this would involve a large hill to start with and myself in less than peak condition, a dodgy front brake and seat post that kept slipping (which it hadn’t done before.

By the time we reached the first CP, my back was very sore and would only get worse as the day progress and my right knee, felt a little odd, this would also get worse. It was at this point I got sick of my seat slipping and took the time to work out what was exactly wrong, I rectified this and we were on our way.

We quickly ticked the next couple of CP’s but my back had become agonising, and maybe masked the pain of me knee. I actually felt quite rough and really had to dig deep to keep pushing on, at one point (Jamie didn’t know) on a climb I almost threw up from the pain in my back. We pressed on and ticked further CP’s and many of the allotted 7 hours had passed and passed quickly.

A fellow racer charges down hill.

It was time to sweep the last couple of CP’s we could and head home in time to avoid point penalties due to running over the 7 hours. I found something to charge to the very last CP and then charge back to the finish, however with about 3 mile left my back wasn’t having anymore of it today, not this day. I popped and had to plod home, but we still made it over the with about 2 minutes to spare and 330 points. The fastest Open Male had collected 640 with the closest to him around mid 400 mark and many more with less than Jamie and I.

We ate and took on water and a few of the Traquair House’s own brew, we recommend this. Then I went for a massage to see what could be done about my back. What could be done was full recovery, the physio manage to relieve all pain and stiffness from my back, which unfortunately would reveal the fall damage to my knee.

After watching the event band, we decided it was time for bed.

The next morning we awoke and to my delight my knee was f***ed, but it was only 5 hours today, it was only light rain and it had been great chatting to others during the race yesterday and we had planned to attack the CP’s on the other end of the map.

We had breakfast, I had my front brake adjusted slightly, but this would last about 5 minutes and I would be with only my rear brake on wet chossy decents (this took me back to my downhilling days). We set off collecting the new CP values for the day made a plan and promptly cocked it up.

We eventually worked out where we were, revised the plan and headed off in the right direction, this also, involved a big climb for the first check point, but it was a good plan. The state of my knee would cause a great deal of time loss on ascents as it hurt when I applied too much pressure. I had to find the best gear to spin in and plod up all the hills.

This was terribly frustrating for me and I imagine Jamie, worse still for me as I was absolutely full of beans as my back didn’t hurt at all. On the flats we cruised at good pace and on the descents I railed like a mad man with no front brake, hmm!

However, this would prove to be a great and exciting day and the single tracks were amazing and I got to test some long since used skills on technical up and down. I smiled just about all of the day Sunday as I managed my knee well, even though we were losing time, I had no choice, it was slow uphill or cab back to the event village.

(The single track was amazing with drop offs, rock gardens, switch backs, paddles, rock garden drop offs and more, I was in my element and didn’t want to leave, each rider in my sight a new target. The ascents were as fun as the descents and Jamie helped a MTB instructor to demonstrate how not to ride over a wet root, he made a great save.)

We pressed on, to only be undone, further by my error in reading a trail marker as a footpath rather than a right of way, The Tweed Valley Way. This would cost us a lot of time and me a very painful walk up a long overgrown and unused bike track, which the pain of did bring tears to my eyes at one point, but we topped out, narrowly avoided another cock up, which would have required another long painful uphill walk.

We descended the most interesting of the tracks on the event, part stream, part choss pile and part mud, my front brake was now near useless, so this descent for me was fast, furious and over very quickly as I arrived at a stream crossing and the next CP. We left here bothered some sheep that would not listen to me to get out the way, then we made the final long ascent of the way to the next CP and then to the crest of the hill.

I once again tried had to shut out the pain of my knee, like I had done my back the day before, but with more success today. We made good time to the crest of the hill and then bombed down the other side, over a small rise then through some farm land to the event village and wet muddy finish.

We had not done as well as the day before, but I think we knew this, I needed to ice my knee and get warm, and eat, not necessarily in that order.
We finished 21st in the Open Men, which with all things being considered, was pretty good, I now have an appointment with my physio to get my knee right for a trip to the Alps, fingers crossed.

The Dirty Weekend is a combination on the:
Polaris Challenge
ACE Race
And, Dirty Dozen
(all links shown to the left and result and photo’s on )

It brings these events together for a great weekend with like minded people and drank lunatic called Sean. Everyone was really chilled and very nice, lots of encouragement was handed out between us all which seems to be rare in many competitive events now days, I can’t wait for the next one.

I can’t wait for the next one.

Thursday, 26 June 2008

Rock Incident at Boulder Ruckle, Swanage

Back on the 10th a good friend of mine Cat and I decided that after a night of catching up and having a good laughed, followed by a morning easing Cat out of her hangover that actually climbing might be a good idea.

So we set off from Toms Field, grab food and coffee in Swanage and headed for Boulder Ruckle (BR). Cat had chosen a route that she was interested in, but as best laid plans are at BR it would be prove to be hard to locate.

We geared up, ab'ed in and set about boulder hopping to find the route. The sun was shining brightly and the sea looked inviting for a swim. Cat located what we believed to be the route and as I was already racked up, I set off.

I pottered my way up to a break under a roof, there was some discussion if this was correct. So I down-climbed the route about 10-15 feet and had a look around the blunt and very blank arete and groove. Whilst I was unsure of the routes direction now, it was apparent that the best way forward was to the break under a huge roof.

I arrived here, fiddled together a belay and then belayed Cat to the stance, she arrived rapidly.

Next Cat would lead a traverse to a groove and the top-out above, sounds simple enough right? Erm, it is Boulder Ruckle.

Cat set off and made short work of the traverse and went out of view. A little while later after paying out some rope, a few pieces of rock went past my stance. I paid out some more, then some more, then took in a bit. Then a larger rock fell to the boulders below, fortunately, no Cat followed.

I paid out some more, took it in again, this got repeated again and another rock smaller went past, but the rope was still slack and Cat above me somewhere. Soon, I would get the familiar 3 tugs on the rope and set off.

Being slightly larger than Cat the cramped traverse was turned into a hand and smear traverse and I arrived at the base of the groove quickly. I then realised why Cat had climbed and then downclimed a few times. Boulder Ruckle is know for its chossy top outs and this was no exception. As I steadily picked my way through the deteriorating rock with a couple of decent run outs, I thought what an ace lead for the terrain.

I soon could see Cat and the belay stake, if you could call it that, but it was sound, just very small. Cat's last bit of gear was well below this and I commented that she had climbed a great lead (although she out climbs me easily I thought it had to be said). We chatted as I moved carefully over the rubble.

I had got to a point on the choss where I was stood on a good sounds slab, a bit of choss and hands on only dirt. I had noticed a what look to be a very lose and large block, it was slightly above me. What happened next shock me up quite a bit at the time.

I was just about to step of the slab, when the lose block moved, I saw this out the corner of my eye. I buried my face in the chossy and dirt and got as flat as I couldpushing my arms above my head. The block slid from a few feet above my head, hit me in the right arm and slid down this and over my shoulder, falling to the boulders below with me screaming "BELOW!!!", it hit and shattered loudly, it was big.

I looked at Cat, she asked "Are you all right?", I was shaken and stirred. It took me about 5-10 minutes to cover the last 3 meters. My ordeal wasn't over, but the scariest bit was. Next I waded through thorns and brambles to the path, getting sliced to bits.

Cat joined me shortly after and we assessed the damage, a few cuts and bruises and a couple of marks on my helmet. Cat mentioned at the time it was luck I had my helmet on. She was entire correct.

We decided to call it a day there, as we had not enjoyed the route, we could not work out which route we had done (not uncommon for BR) and Cat had to pack for a big trip to Canada (see her link to the right).

We said our goodbyes and headed home. When I unpacked my kit I checked my helment again for damage and found a significant cut in the hard surface of my helmet. I pondered this for a moment and realised just how much worse this could have been, without my helmet on.

I don't normally wear my helmet on sports routes or even trad routes, where the rock is known to be very stable, but always do in a new area or a chossy one, and will continue to do so and maybe wear it even more often now.

But guys, when you are out climbing, be sure to know the rock stability of the area before going helmetless and if you are unsure, just wear one. I am very glad I did.

Happy climbing!

Monday, 26 May 2008

Summer Mountain Leader Training – Weekend 2, Day 2

(Continued from Weekend 2, Day 1)

The next morning we were up, cooked and ate, all in a civil manner as we did not have to rush today. We broke camp and then de-briefed the events of the night before.  During this de-brief a few things would be learnt and no-one person was to blame, but certainly having the confidence to talk up when you think things are going a bit wrong is certainly a very good thing to do.

If Giles had said something at the point when he had noticed the error or I when I was not entirely convinced we were on the right path, we may well have not incurred the error.  Live and learn!

Live and learn we did. We saddled up, Ant given the first leg of the day’s navigation and off we set.  I without a map as I am super hardcore and was using the inner pigeon.......oh, and I couldn’t find the other map anywhere I looked to buy one.

Ant landed us on the first contour point set by Stuart, after we had spotted the other group who would have a similar heading as us and we would see a few times before returning to the “start point” of the previous day.

Andy was up next and off we set, me only occasional looking at a map, trying my best to follow the contours, taking the occasional bearing, noting my altimeter and noting d’jounrey.  ;-)  We contoured under a large crag eventually arriving at a v-shaped contour and a Skylarks nest (to be confirmed).  Everyone pointed to where they thought we were. I had decided we were elsewhere and convinced Giles of this.

This time we spoke up, I sighted my reasons why to Stuart and then Giles did.  Then Giles was asked to prove it by taking us to the point we thought we would see around a significant high point and crag. We trundle off and found the dog leg in a river at the exact point and over the exact journey we had identified.

Andy, now relocated us to the exact point we needed to be perfectly and it would be Toby’s turn to lead a leg.  I don’t know about the others, but I think with the change of maps from 1:25 000 to 1:50 000, I could have made the exact same error, just as easily, as constantly had to remind myself when I looked at someone’s map it was 1:50 000.

Toby got us successfully to the next point.  We discussed some more group management, first aid and then practiced some emergency stretcher bearing exercises.  It was nice to see some team work and group bonding occurring again so easily, in a clearly tired team.

I was given the task of getting us off the hill, whilst Toby proved that he was an excellent speaker and deeply knew his subject matter and provided some humorous anecdotes during his 5 minute talk.

We arrived back with everyone receiving their personal de-brief from the weekend and all said they were happy with it and expected the comments they received.

A successful weekend by all accounts, including Nikki surviving the Wayfarer of Death, Heather’s keys being retrieved in a timely manner and Toby surviving a night in a tent with me, the plucky duck and I feeling a little gaseous after the Mountain House meal.

A quick meal at the pub, some catch-up from everyone and then we all headed off.  Giles and I in convoy at least until Giles found fuel which he did without incident.  5.5 hrs later I found myself at home and looking forward to the final weekend in Wales.

It was great to get to know the crew a little bit more and I do enjoy spending time with them on the hill.

Summer Mountain Leader Training – Weekend 2, Day 1

The second of the 3 weekend training course with Adventure Unlimited would see everyone converge of Eskdale in The Lake District. Many would have a quick and easy drive from up around the various regions of the North.

However, two of us would experience the Bank Holiday carnage of the M6. Giles coming from South Wales and I from Surrey. Both leaving at around 1400 to avoid the traffic, I arrived somewhere around 2045 and Giles, sometime later. I arrived with a lust for blood of BMW drivers, caravan owners and those morons that insist on sitting in the outside lane at 60 MPH with no vehicle inside them.......WTF?. I know this is stereotyping, but if the boot fits.

Anyway, I arrived, struck camp fast and headed for the pub to find Toby and Nikki and several pints of Westons Cider and an Apple and Black Currant crumble that would be my dinner. Hmmm? Giles arrived, then Andy and Ant, a bit of a catch-up and then it was back to the campsite. Getting blinded by the head torch of either Heather or Michelle (we didn’t realise it was them at the time and I might have mumbled something about night vision, blinding and fecking) and identifying that Nikki walks like a BMW driver. :-p

We quickly caught up with Heather and Michelle, had a quiet laugh about the 3 girls squishing into one two man tent, a Quasar at that. Then it was off to bed with Toby bivvying about 6 feet from my tent.

Saturday morning came earlier than expected for Toby and I thanks to a kid wailing, a of mumble "quieten it with a brick" might have been heard from my tent, but either way Toby and I were awake at around 0500, Nikki as well thanks to a very clear blue sky.

We would all wake up and get organised to head off to start the training course, only to learn that Heather had locked her keys in the boot of her car. The routine ribbing ensued, a call to the RAC and Ian one of our instructors was made and we waited for the RAC. They arrived quickly and we were back on track.

We met Ian and Stuart at the meeting point split in to our teams, got briefed on what would happen this weekend and where we might camp and off we set.

We continued to complete micro navigational tasks as we headed for a camping destination, Green Hole, situated under Bowfell and Crinkle Crags. Discussions on wild camping and group management we had and I am sure everyone in our group, learnt something new.

We arrived at Green Hole, struck camp and lapped up the view, had a quick brief of what to expect on the night nav that we were setting out to do that night and then we had time to ourselves.

At about 1700, our camp became a beehive of activity, we cooked, ate and then sorted our rucksacks ready for the night nav. At roughly 1930, we set off, I took the first leg, straight up and onto the col between Bowfell and Crinkle Crags. Then Andy took us to a random point on Bowfell, which was well found. We then headed to Bowfell summit and watched the sun set (it was beautiful) and chatted about various things, including Giles and ladies underwear, again.

Next Giles had his leg of nav and did a superb job, putting us on the path nr Angle Tarn, then Toby landed us on Ore Gap. This would be our last success.

It was now dark and Stuart gave us a tricky nav task, and as a group, we messed it up. We hit the false point, being the first of two high points we wanted the second of. I was a little unsure that we had hit the right point and had stopped several times, but the group kept pushing on. Arriving at the false point, Giles mentioned he thought we were here, pointing at false point on map. Whilst the others took quick bearing on the next point that Stuart had given us and headed off. Giles and I discussed it, but the group was off again.

It would turn out that Giles was correct, and we made what Stuart referred to as a parallel error, in taking our bearing to the next point, from the false point we would run parallel to where we needed to be.

Eventually, Stuart showed us our error as we didn’t look like unf**king the f**k-up. Stuart naved us to the point we were meant to be at and then let us continue t nav off the hill and back to camp. We turned in for the night.

Summer Mountain Leader - Training Weekend 1

I recently decided to get my act together in regard to becoming an outdoor instructor and leader, with a long term goal of gaining the Mountain Instructor Award (MIA) and just maybe the Mountain Instructor Certificate (MIC).

Anyway, to get there I need to achieve a few short term goals, which I had put off until now.

On 10th/11th May 08, I attended the first weekend of a 3 weekend course run by Adventure Unlimited.  The training course is to gain my Summer Mountain Leader Certificate, which allows me to lead groups in summer conditions in the UK mountain regions, over certain terrain.

This first weekend would prove to be an excellent time to refresh old skills, learn some new skills, get out in The Peak District in very rare sun and to meet a group of new people, with very similar goals as myself.

The two days saw a lot of time concentrating of navigation and the environment we were in, a bit to do with group management and a fair amount of bonding over Giles love of wearing ladies underwear. :-p  He doesn’t really!

For myself and the others, I think the weekend went well.  I received, better than expected feedback and was quite happy that the areas I felt weaker in had improved or it was more a matter of personal confidence.

This is a very brief summary of that weekend a few weeks back, but I am getting old and my memory is not what it was.  However, I was left looking forward to the next training weekend, which would see us in The Lakes District, an area I love, but have not been able to get back to for nearly 2 years.

Saturday, 12 April 2008

Spring Polaris Challenge and Helicobacter

The Spring Polaris Challenge didn’t happen for me in the end, I had been ill with a recurrence of a stomach infection known as Helicobacter, more below.

I had got excited about the Polaris all week and was confident of doing well and having a good time in what turned out to be very trying condition for the competitors in the end. Winter had a wild last gasp in Wales that weekend.

To cut it short I had serviced the race machine, packed lightly and was ready to go, but still didn’t feel 100%, nowhere near it actually. Nik was due soon and I was already in two minds about going.

When Nik arrived we bundle everything into the car and headed off, I was still feeling rough. It would take about 1.5 hours of thought for me to final admit defeat before evening heading out of the start area, hell, before evening arriving in the region of the race.

I begrudgingly made the right decision (it would turn out), Nik turned the car around and we headed home. The next few days I felt like rubbish and can only imagine what 30 hours of racing would have done to me.

It would appear whilst I am feeling better and less fatigued of late, I may not have completely shaken the bug, which is something I am determined to do.

The reason why I am sharing this on here as this has destroyed any chance of improving in my chosen areas of sport and puts a strain on my working career at times, due to the fatigue I have experienced. This has continued on and off since a trip to the Alps climbing in July 07. Fortunately some understanding friends and a great girlfriend have given me a little kick when needed and kept me laughing about some of the symptoms. Being a stomach bug I am sure you can imagine what some of these have been.

If you have your stomach ever feels bloated and sore for longer than a usual stomach bug may cause, you find yourself getting far too familiar with your toilet, along with this you start to feel increasingly fatigued and it doesn’t let up. Maybe having a read of the link offered below and a visit to your Dr might help you.

Helicobacter pylori is a spiral shaped bacterium that lives in the stomach and duodenum (section of intestine just below stomach). It has a unique way of adapting in the harsh environment of the stomach.

More found here:

Thursday, 20 March 2008

Stob coire an Lochan Epic

Friday 14th started like any other day of our week in Scotland. Up ready and waiting for Matt (aka Faffy McFaff) :-)

The plan was to be leaving the car park by 0800 Matt would ensure this to be 0830, but had built some hill fitness and we would arrive in the coire basin around 1030.

Heavy snows and mild weather would ensure the route and the fall back routes chosen would be capped by large unstable cornices and certainly not worth the danger. Wishing not to repeat Dorsal Arête and avoid SC Gully. The ridge and arête routes that were within my leading limit conditions were thin thanks to a previous day of mild weather.

A short tea break was taken whilst I decide our best plan of attack. Allowing for the conditions and the amount of day light left I chose what appeared to be a very easy ridge to the left of Boomerang Gully. This and route is shown below.

We roped up (Nik, Matt and myself) and moved as one to a small scoop in some rocks at the bottom of the easy ridge. We placed some gear for the benefit of Matt (he had only ever climbed sport before Dorsal Arête). We quickly climbed this little bit and started moving as one, with myself leading the team and every pitch that would follow.

It soon became even more apparent that Matt was struggling with the concept of taut ropes between the party members when moving as one and I would need to implement natural belays on the steeper or less stable ground. At one point the rope was extremely slack and behind Matt who was at the end of the three. Implementing the use of natural belays slowed our progress considerably.

After about 1.5 hrs we arrived at some steeper ground, we contoured to the left to a boulder with a large face behind it and steep snow slope to the left running up and out of sight. To reach the boulder, a snow and rock step had been climbed, above some much steeper ground. A quick check of the time suggested that it had taken a bit longer than the 1.5hrs I had guessed, it was 1400.

Nik and I discussed the remaining daylight (3.5hrs) and the current weather and expected weather later that evening, that appeared closer than it should have done, balanced against the speed of the group and estimated 250 meters of the route left (this was a pretty good estimation). I also considered the ability of a group member to descend safely.

I was left with the decision continue or descend, I stuck my head around the boulder to assess the route conditions and made the decision to head for the summit. I believe this to still be the best decision for the point we had reached and the factors mentioned above.

Off I plodded, promptly found some gear and continued, some more gear was found in a small chimney, then a 40mtr run out was ground to a halt on a narrow ridge above a spur of Boomerang Gully, I settled into a belay stance. Nik and then Matt followed. 3-4mtrs above me along the ridge was a nice large belay platform I was aiming for. I asked Nik followed by Matt to climb to this, it was easy but exposed ground. Nik assembled a bomber belay, tied Matt in and I took a short walk along the ridge to join them.

The next pitch would start more exposed and a little steeper, I moved to the centre right of the snow slope (it hung over the spur to the right and large cliff to its lower left. I carefully and efficiently made my way to some rocks placed a sling and a nut and moved up to a prominent spike to belay them up.

Nik arrived sometime before Matt again, and these gaps would grow on the next few pitches. Yet again Matt was shown how to clove-hitch and was made safe. (This would test my patience on the last belay stance).

Moments before I would leave this belay the sun would shine into the coire below to highlight a golden eagle swooping low through the coire and then rising gracefully on the wind above the summit heights and drift away. I pointed this out the Nik and Matt, let it soak in (this is why I do this), then noticed the cloud advancing and the wind increasing.

The next pitch was over open snow slopes broken by rocks, these provided little in the way of runners. I found two close to each other 15 meters before I would run out of rope. These snow slopes had started steep and shallowed where I would be forced to improvise a belay, it turned out to be bomber.

Once again Nik arrived promptly and Matt struggle to move at pace or would move to quickly in sections demanding the slack be taken in. I would tell him once more that “You climb at the pace of the belayer, the belayer has two ropes and climbers to contend with, not to mention the snow and rocks causing massive amounts of drag”.

He arrived and took several minutes to make himself safe, minutes we no longer had. The cloud cover had moved in and the wind had picked up. The eagle was probably somewhere snug and safe now or far above the dropping front. I barked some instructions at Matt, he was now safe. Nik and I sorted the rope.

I set off again, the ground steepened sharply and lured me left. After trying to bridge up a chimney, sense kicked in again and I found a good, but small nut placement on its right and rounded its right flank to steep but clear ground and the belay I had identified from the last stance. I covered this ground quickly placing only a sling over a spike as I passed it. “I must keep moving and fast...........but carefully” I told myself, the weather was closing, it was snowing lightly and it was getting dark.

I built another bomber belay and then it was Nik’s and Matt’s turn to join me. Nik was sorted and away in a flash. She made careful progress and was half to the belay. When I noticed Matt had not moved. I yelled at Matt to climb when ready, he took his sling out of the threaded anchor and I turned to check Nik’s progress. She was nearer and moving nicely. A couple of takes on the rope alerted me to the fact that Matt had still not moved. I yelled again, he faffed with his axes and yelled with earnest at him to “hurry the f*** up”. He finally left the belay this must have taken 5-10 minutes after he had dismantled.

Nik arrived and made herself safe and readied, to belay the final pitch. She had been a star all day and had maintained faith in me. Matt arrived, but due to his lack of pace, “Less haste more pace”, I asked him to make safe. Nik and I continued to sort the ropes, Nik was safe, but I held Matt’s end of the rope still. Once Nik and I had sorted one rope I turned my attention to sorting the other with Matt. I did not believe what I saw. Matt was stood holding the rope loop I had given him to make himself safe and looking at his HMS.

“For f*** sake!” I yelled, patience finally snapped, it was now dark. I had a rather dodgy traverse to make in the snow and dark. I tied the clove-hitch and made Matt safe, he had stood there for 5 minutes not safe, other than the fact that as I had not checked what he had done, therefore had kept him on belay, whilst the ropes were sorted.

At this point I sorted that rope and then Nik put me on belay. There was still a very annoying twist in the ropes, that made belaying near impossible. The traverse needed smooth running rope. I made myself safe again on one rope, untied from the other, sorted the twist with Nik’s help, tied back in and then set off.

We still had to get down safely in dark, windy and snowy conditions. Unfortunately Matt did not grasp the seriousness of the situation, this frustrated me no end. I moved about 3 meters away from belay, cleared my thoughts and headed off.

Up a small gully below the summit of Stob coire an Lochan, I then broke left across a large snow slope, I had found a marginal natural runner and carved deep in to the snow behind it to provide some (very little) protection. :-s

I pressed on, kick, kick, thwaq, thwaq, kick, kick, thwaq, thwaq,.......thwaq, the snow cracked above this axe placement.......I froze........watched..........nothing happened. I kissed the snow in front of me (the slope was quite steep 65-75%), it shouldn’t fall apart that’s why I chose this line. The next couple of moves I couldn’t believe my luck. The axes and crampons punched their way into polystyrene type ice...I smiled and patted the ice, like you would a dog for behaving.

My mood lifted and I calmed further, 15 more meters and a 60 meter run out was completed safely in the dark. I built the final belay, took a moment to myself and then signalled Nik and Matt to climb.

Sat on that belay in the dark I seemed to be alone forever. I thought about the sunny start to the day, the eagle, the route itself had been fun, the last pitch and the fact that Nik would look at it and think “Him and his bloody traverses”...... made me smile.

In what seemed like an age Nik arrived, to my delight, moments not minutes later Matt. We got our head torches out, then Nik and Matt ascended the ridge to just below the summit cairn. I followed with a sigh of relief and walking a bit like a cowboy, the last belay was not the most comfortable, but with that traverse I wanted bomber not chaise lounge.

We summitted. I called my friend Cat, who was expecting us for a drink to say where we were and how long I expected the descent to take. She had descended Broad Gully the day before and said it was fine and to bum slide down it. This was a great idea and BG is easy to find from the summit.

I guided Nik and Matt down from the summit to the top of BG, avoiding the easiest ground in some spots as this comes with deadly consequences in one particular spot if you carelessly trip.

At the top of BG, we removed crampons and stowed one axe ready for a glissade to the coire below. We sent Matt first and I followed Nik closely as she was a bit nervous as she could not see the coire floor below. Once the angle slackened, I took off, like a rat up a drain, but downward.

I decided it would be a great idea to try to stand up out of the glissade and run the speed off (“you idiot”) I know. The ensuing controlled roll would have been great to see, I did end up stood on my feet. Matt saw my light bouncing around and had wondered what had happened, it would have been more impressive in daylight.

At the coire floor, we regrouped, had tea, food and water and then plodded out of the coire and back to the carpark. I sent a text to update Cat we were leaving the coire and expected time of arrival.

As we descended Matt raced off, seeing this I was glad I had instructed him to leave his helmet on. Fortunately the only misfortune he would have on the descent would be his fading head torch and route finding. We had seen his torch flickering in the distance a few times as we made a comfortable and steady descent.

However, we arrived at the car to find no sign of him. Seconds later the local police arrived. They had been called by a passing motorist and alerted of our car, they said they had seen our lights a while before and were just checking we were all “ok”. We said the 3 of us were fine, they questioned the third. Nik and I laughed at the fact that we had seen Matt speedily heading for the wrong car park and he was now making his way back up after I had called in the right direction, we told them this, they found it amusing also.

The police were great and didn’t read the riot act, they actually laughed along with us as we told of our epic. We left the car park and headed back to the youth hostel having missed last orders.

We had had an epic day, they say you are not a climber until you have an epic. I never realised I had to have one in every discipline. But there are some great things that have come out of this, my ability to act calmly, efficiently and professionally under pressure in poor conditions. My winter route finding seemed to prove an ability to find stable and interesting ground without overstretching my limit. I found that I could lead a group comfortably on an unfamiliar route and off a winter ridge line in less than ordinary conditions.

Finally, on researching the route I was surprised to find that there was not one listed. Therefore I have contacted the Scottish Mountaineering Club, and Andy Nisbet has recorded the route in the 2008 journal. Now we have wait and see if it has been climbed by anyone else. This will be quite exciting if it stands as this was only my second time winter, climbing and Nik and Matts’ first.

Tuesday, 18 March 2008

The sun never shines in Scotland

Well I am just back from my 2008 trip to Scotland. This year saw the introduction to winter climbing for Nik and a mate Matt, while Jamie another friend and I got on the pointy end. Cat grade jumped and the sun did actually shine on a couple days unlike last year.
We (Nik, Jamie, Matt and I) headed up on the 7th March, and were to stay until the 16th March, but Jamie had already had to cut this short. The car was jammed with the gear of five people even though only 4 were actually travelling, Matt did have a lot of gear, even after we shrunk it the night(morning) before. We wedge Jamie and Matt in the back seat and set off. (The crew below).

The drive up was effortless and a pleasant one. A couple of stops and about 8hr30mins (driving onto Ranoch Mor is always a exciting moment, it signals you are there) saw us delivery Nik to the doors on a 4 star hotel for her 3 days course with Jagged Globe. Which it would turn out she loved and the has the winter climbing bug.

We dropped in ont he Glen Coe UKC meet briefly and then headed to Fort William and onto Farr Cottage. This would be our error.

A quick drink and feed and we headed for bed. Jamie and I had to be front and centre at Alan Kimbers by 8am. The Advance Climbing course would not wait.

The next morning saw Jamie and I rise early, eat and head for Alan Kimbers. This would be repeated the next morning. The course and the instructor (Pete) would prove to be excellent and would have Jamie and I lead Grade II/III on the second day. The climbing on the Saturday would prove to be in lean conditions and dry tooling was practiced for most of the route. However, South-West Ridge on the Douglas Boulder I can highly recommend, even in ther conditions we climb it.

Sunday would see us arrive on the slopes the Buachaille, Stob Dearg. A short but more technical walkin moving as one and a moment of avalanche panic (see Curved Ridge Avalanche below) would see us arrive at the foot of Curved Ridge, which would prove to be a lovely climb and a fun atmosphere as Pete, Jamie and I were joined by Alan Kimber and two other students and two other groups, that would climb the route closely to each other talking and laughing all the way to the top, with Alan providing excellent environmental, geographical and historical information along the way.

The climbing would prove to be great fun with some amazing exposure, but never too difficult. nearing the top we struck hard pack snow and then some amazing ice which sped our progress. A short walk to the summit, another Munro for Jamie, then a short descent would see me presented with the best invention in climbing ever, the glassade. Basically a bum slide done a gully. This one would prove to be about a hundred metres and was great fun, the simple things hey.

Saturday night had seen the arrival of Cat a good friend of mine and the catching up of the UKC Glen Coe meet. It was nice to see these guys and girls and to meet a few new faces and put faces to some of the screen names. Cat would also be gracious enough to take Matt out on the Buachaille for his first winter experience while Jamie and I swanned around with a tea party on Stob Dearg.

Monday would see a rest day and a move from Farr Cottage to the Glen Coe YHA as the girls attitude at Farr needed a realignment with a hammer. (Sorry Matt, and we don't blame you). Nik would also return to the crew.

Tuesday saw Jamie, Matt and I head for Dorsal Arete and meet Matt Kemp, Westy and a friend, for an ascent of Dorsal Arete. This would prove to be an interesting day, with Jamie and I seemingly the only team on the route with a plan and organisational skills. Matt D would also do a great attempt at dying on the way in, but he was recovered by Jamie and I and we topped out in fine fashion, if a little later than planned. But threes move slower and Matt is a complete beginner and does a great line in faff. (Jamie on Dorsal Arete, insert).

We topped out, congratulated each other and then got out of there as the weather was closing in.

Wednesday, would see Cat rejoin us and the entire crew head for Beinn a Chaorainn and a rigde suggested by Alan kimber. The weather was meant to be a bit rubbish, so we treated even the walkin as a day out. The walkin was lovely and gentle compared to other days, the sun shined for the start of this, but soon would be covered by cloud and drive snow, with winds increasing all day long. A lovely walk and a spot of lunch with a great view was enjoyed and another ridge route popped in the back pocket for the future.

Thursday would see me feeling rough, thanks to no sleep and Jamie off down south again. The Ballachulish Horseshoe had been suggested by Cat, I was in no state to head out ont he hill in the slightly wild conditions that would be reported by other groups returning to the YHA that night. An enforced rest day was taken and much needed sleep obtained for by myself.

Friday, would see an epic adventure fill our day with, stress, cold, a bit of pain, some swearing, benightment, more swearing and a sudden cloak of calmness when I realised I had things in hand, not to mention Nik being awesome and lovely. :-) Look for the Stob coire an Lochan Epic post.

Saturday would bring our last day in the West Highlands of Scotland, a feeling of sadness within myself and Nik, but a feeling of contentment as goals set had been achieved. We chilled most of the day, drying mountain gear, packing, buying food, not buying whisky (good boy Scott), annoying Cat (well I try), chasing and finding Niks Highland Cows with success. (See my flickr)

Saturday night Cat and I produced a feast for everyone, including Dan Gibson arriving out of the blue with his mate Brian. A few beers consumed and a cheeky tipple taken at the Clachaig with Cat and Nik. After this it was time to say goodbye to Cat once again, she had had succesful week as well and was as sad as Nik and I that the next day we see all of us depart.

There is always next year or Verbier as they say.

The drive back was even swifter with no delays and comfortable stops, however it is not so great to be back and work feels meaningless after a such a great week and realisation that of a couple of personal goals.

"Such as life" Ned Kelly, 1880