Tuesday, 20 September 2016

Wandering through the pre-Alps

Posh (and fake) Swiss Cottage at Courcheval 1850

We left Chamonix after a too-short eight days and took a drive round to the area around Bourg Saint Maurice and Moutiers, only an hour and a half away. Another new spot and well worth a visit despite it being a bit too hot some of the time. There is some good craging around the area and the road network up into the Trois Vallees ski resorts means it is possible to drive up out of the heat. Courcheval 1850 was especially worth a look, as the most exclusive ski resort on the planet some of the residences have to be seen to be believed. Apparently property prices for the top-end places start at around €37,000 per square metre!!
Some large random waterfall in the Maurienne
Then it was onwards again to the Maurienne, the big valley that runs up towards the Italian frontier. Again it was an area I had heard about over the years but never visited. It turned out to be an intruding place, with a long history, superb scenery and lot of good climbing. Looking the entries in the UKClimbing logbooks, the area seems to get precocious few UK visitors which is odd considering the quality and amount of climbing available in such a compact area. Several of the popular  cliffs don't even appear on the databases. What the area needs is a Rockfax - there, I have gone and said it!

Wednesday, 7 September 2016

Chamonix Spectacular

The Aiguille Vert and the Dru from the Lac Blanc path

The Glacier de Bionnassey
What a difference a week makes - from the humdrum UK to the bustling busyness of Chamonix - their season may be pretty much at an end but the place is buzzing, with car-parks full and queues for all the lifts. The weather has been superb, almost too hot, but we have managed - climbing and/or walking every day since we arrived.
Today we did the walk from the Index chairlift to the Lac Blanc then back down to the Flégère gondola. A great walk with fantastic views of the Mont Blanc massif and the wasting glaciers. The difference compared to my first visits here over 40 years ago is shocking to behold.
A couple more days here then southwards to more new (to us) venues.
Work on Lofoten Rock Climbs - the new title - continues, albeit rather slowly at the moment, there are trails to follow and rocks to climb.

Monday, 29 August 2016

England's Dreaming

A busy sunny Bank Holiday
We have been back in the UK for a little over two weeks now and we have got over the initial shock of how crowded the place always is - the contrast with where we spend most of the rest of the year always comes as a bit of a surprise.
With having so much time at out disposal we got stuck into giving the flat and the garage a good clear out - mouldy old camping gear, 600+ guidebooks, music CDs, old photographs - all these and much more have been the subject of a big purge. Much of the stuff has been passed on to people who might make more use of it than we do nowadays.
The weather has been an odd on-off mix of hot sweaty sunny days interspersed with rain - which has worked well - a day's climbing followed by a day's 'rest'. There has usually been a happy band of retirees out on the rock making the most of mid-week freedom and avoiding the mobs that descend on the Peak's popular cliffs on any sunny weekend.
Graham on Namenlos (HVS 5a) Stanage
We also got the chance to head up north and visit both sets of parents over the Bank Holiday weekend - the weather was superb and not unexpectedly the crowds were spectacular - no time to be on the road.
Anyway - duty done and it is time to bugger off south for the winter. It will be Chamonix for starters then wander our way towards the Ariége before heading for Kalymnos in the middle of October. This is a bit earlier than in recent years - the place will probably be quite busy but we fancy a bit of snorkelling, so we will have to put up with the crowds - from past experience the place should soon start emptying out. At this time of year we especially enjoy watching the convoys of taxis heading towards the port, packed with departing climbers always making a point of giving them a cheery wave. 


Sunday, 14 August 2016

The Long Trail

On the open fells near the Swedish border
 After nine weeks in the Arctic we had to think about heading back south - not that we were really all that keen. Three nights in Thorbjørn's cabin at Riksgransen were pleasant - we even had a bit of snow early one morning.
Then it was on the road for a seven hour drive though the never-ending forests of northern Sweden.
The next day it was Luleå > Stockholm > Manchester and back into the bedlam - a 25 minute queue to get back in to the country through passport control, then a hot sweaty train ride back to Sheffield - the crowds everywhere were a real culture shock.
Welcome back - we laid on a party for you
So Sunday it was Stanage - a bit green after the unsettled summer, and not TOO busy - except for Crow Chin where we decided to start our day. Apparently it was 'Trad-Fest" so a large group of noisy and excitable individuals arrived and took over the crag - we moved on!
Two weeks in the UK to get all the 'jobs' done then it is south - Chamonix for starters, whilst the cable-cars are still open, that should be nice - can't wait!

Friday, 29 July 2016

Lofoten - the End of Days

Lillemolla from Glåmtinden
Busy days on Bilberries - 20+ climbers
in a big convoy


 We have been back in Lofoten for a couple of weeks now, the weather has been a little mixed - apparently pretty much a 'normal' summer up here in the Arctic - but certainly nice enough to get plenty of stuff done.
The most striking thing has been how busy the whole place has become - admittedly it is 'High Season' but even so the number of camper-wagons on the roads, tourists in town and on the beaches and climbers on the crag has been a bit of a shocker. If you want to come here to climb the classics, a top-tip would be to avoid July at all costs!
Busy, busy, busy
Work on the new book has progressed well - most of the photos are in the bag - apart from the big remote cliffs out West - we are waiting for a settled spell before heading out there - though with only two weeks left it better come sooner rather than later.
Sherri has been busy booking ferries and planes - the next few months are sorted, UK > Chamonix > Briançon > Ariege > Kalymnos should see us through until Christmas time.


Thursday, 14 July 2016

New diversions - Noodling around Narvik

Reflecting on life
There's a moose in the garden!
We the forecast of a little unsettled weather in the pipeline and a need to get Colin a little nearer Evenes Airport for his homeward journey, we moved over to Thorbjørns 'seaside' cabin close to the small city of Narvik. As with hall his and Lutta's residences, it is well appointed and has been a superbly tranquil spot to stay.  So far we have had a great mix of taking it easy, hiking in the spectacular mountains that surround the area and working on the new version of Lofoten Rock which should be out by the end of this year - apparently they just sold the last copy of the old book in Henningsvær and the season is still in full swing so demand is going to be high.
High above Narvik and still miles to go.
Thorbjørn turned up for a couple days, to escape the current madness (Disneyland) in Henningsvaer. That gave us the chance to do some serious socialising and making good progress on tying down many of the loose ends that research for the book has thrown up. Details of many of the newer long routes out in the west have been difficult to track down, we have a trip out there pencilled in for the next spell of good weather.
On one on the clearer days we caught the cable-car  up from Narvik and hiked to the top of Naviksfjellet - the big hill right behind the town. The views were spectacular with unknown peaks arrrayed in all directions and bizarrely it was rather too hot for comfort - in the Arctic!



Wednesday, 22 June 2016

Loitering on Lofoten

 After a cool week at Riksgransen on the Norway/Sweden border, with snow showers and night-time lows of 2C we made the four hour drive to Lofoten and booked into a cabin on the Ørsvåvær campsite for three weeks.
Colin flew into Svolvær after a trouble free journey, and we nipped out the same afternoon to do the classic Pianohandlers route on Pianokrakken. The weather was great and to our surprise we had the crag to ourselves - a rare thing in the high season.
10 days in and the weather has been quite unsettled, with a number of grey days, though there has been little 'real' rain as we have manage to get out and climb on a regular basis.
The whole place is busy with tourists and camper-wagons but there doesn't
appear to be a huge number of climbers about - the camping area at Gandalf has never had more than 3 or 4 tents there,
Colin leaves in just over a week, then we can go back to working on the book and taking it easy - the forecast is much better too!
Talking of 'the Book',  work on the Lofoten rewrite has progressed well and most of the popular areas around Henningsvær are pretty much finished. We will need to spend some time visiting the remote crags out West and for that we will need some proper summer weather - we have all on July and part of August to work with, so bring it on.