Monthly Archives: August 2017

Pabbay

36 hours after getting back from Tanzania I was off on my own adventure with eight friends to the Barra Isles.  In this time I managed to unpack, do three loads of washing, go to the climbing wall (twice), clean the house and repack my camping gear plus an excess of ropes hoping that I hadnt forgotten anything.  Its never ideal to start a climbing trip having not climbed for the month previously so I hoped that my two indoor sessions made up for the month in Tanzania where I mainly drank lots of coffee and ate too much.  The isles of Pabbay and Mingulay  are one of the UK’s trad climbing paradises and somewhere I have wanted to visit for a very long time.  While they were inhabited for a long time by a surprisingly large amount of people neither island has had permanent inhabitants since 1911.  What is left is some beautiful Lewisian Gneiss cliffs on the west coasts constantly battered by the atlantic swells while the east coasts have sheltered bays of perfect sand.  A climbing trip to these islands involves a bit of organisation (cheers Malcy!) as getting a group of climbers to agree to dates and then actually turn up in Oban for a five hour ferry journey followed by another hour on a fishing boat is no easy feat.  Added to this the mixed weather the islands receive for much of the year make this a tough choice when a trip to spain costs almost the same.931A4785

Skipper Francis and the “Boy James” taking us straight to Pabbay in the evening sun.
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Some of the locals coming to stay hello931A4811

Getting dropped off with our mountain of kit.931A4819

Camp on the first evening.  As soon as the tents were up it was off to the other side of the island to squeeze a quick route in before dark.931A4882

Second day – Rich and Brian on the Poop Deck one of the brilliant single pitch crags tucked into the West coast.931A4899

The Main event.  You can just see Duncan in green on the pillar to the left of the great arch on the classic 4 pitch route “The Priest”931A4908

Tim fiddling in some gear on the initial moves of “As sound as Mr JA” at Hoofers Geo931A4978

While “only” a single pitch crag, “Hoofers Geo” certainly packs a punch.  Brian on the ultra classic route “Sugar Cane Country”
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Theres always a risk with a late summer trip to the Hebrides!  Tims lightweight alpine tent not standing up the challege of some force 7 gusts while Als cheap car camping tent sits proud.  We were offered an early pickup by Francis but ended up staying (long story) to weather the storm.931A5029

Drying out after the storm.  The psych wasnt too high the morning after as none of us had had much sleep and a few of the tents had taken a bit of a hammering.IMG_9005

Tim on yet another  steep classic.  I think this might be “Endolpin Rush”.  Im still not sure why we did a wet E3 as a warm up to a bunch of E2’s but it definitely made sense at the time.IMG_8976

Looking down the initial slab of “The Priest” to Tim far below.  Tim and I were keen to get as many of the three and four star classics done as possible.  This involved some pretty exciting days with quite a few pitches of quite damp rock!931A5035

Another storm cloud rolling in from the South West.  The island on the left is Mingulay931A5060

Pippa cutting loose on Hyper Ballad on the last day.  Climbing can be quite a lonely sport at times but the sociable scene with multiple teams was a real highlight of the trip for me.931A5114

Getting picked up a day late.  Due to the storm we ended up being picked up a day late which was a bit stressful as we had no phone reception.  931A5117

Speeding back to Barra on the Saturday.  I was really struck on this trip by how many places in Scotland I still have to explore.  I’ll definitely be back in the Barra isles for another climbing trip soon but hopefully Mingulay next year!931A5119

Only a day late for our pub dinner but boy it tasted good.  931A5121

Castlebay Church lit up at night with an eerie moon.

 

 

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Tanzania

I have a bit of a love hate relationship with overseas school trips.  Done badly they can feel a bit like poverty tourism with a group of disinterested teenagers getting dragged to places that are somehow going to make them better, more rounded individuals.  Done well they can be amazing cultural experiences for teenagers, teachers and expedition leader alike.  Thankfully my recent trip to Tanzania was the latter with a great group of boys and two teachers from Victoria College in Jersey.  From the very start the team was interested and engaged and made the absolute most of a challenging itinerary in a challenging country.  While these trips are definitely work I am continually amazed that I get to visit places like these and get to experience the beauty of a country like Tanzania.  931A3860

First day at work in Tanzania – a mug of coffee, a water bottle, a lonely planet guide and quite a bit of paperwork along with a view to the Indian Ocean.931A3895

Indian ocean on our second night in country.  As ever the photos dont really tell the full story – this had been a long stressful day for me and a couple of the group, changing money, buying a local sim card and 5 days of food for 12 people along with all our cooking supplies.  Its all worth it when your day ends somewhere like this!
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Local post office.  The level of bureaucracy in Tanzania was mind blowing.  To accomplish anything to do with tickets, visas etc took an amazing amount of time and involved a multiple people doing a job that could easily be accomplished by one.  I estimated that we passed one police road block for every 30mins of driving and were stoppped at about 25% of them. 931A3948

The view from one of our campsites in the Ulugurry mountains looking down on the town or Morrogorro as the sun rises.  931A3991

We spent a week camping near Iringa working at a local school every day.  The majority of the work was diggin foundations for teacher accommodation and painting the school.  We had to stop work at 230 every afternoon as it was so hot.
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Getting dinner ready back at our camp near the school. (We werent staying in the “Bandas” in the background but in our tents)
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Getting my camera out at school meant I would be instantly surrounded.  The kids were fascinated by any technology and soundly beat the Victoria College boys at football despite being 4-6 years younger and playing barefoot.931A4178

We then headed further west to Mbeya for our final trek and an ascent of Mt Rungwe, Tanzanias third highest peak.  Above – another shopping expedition to a local market.  The only thing we struggled to buy was dairy produce as cheese was about US$18 a kilo.931A4232

Camp near Mt Rungwe in a dormant crater at 2200m.931A4237

Heading for the summit of Mt Rungwe.  The group were all pretty fit making for some short hiking days and lots of time to chill out.931A4331

The safari had been one of the main reasons I had agreed to go to Tanzania in the first place – we ended up staying at Tandala tented camp – one of the most beautiful places I have ever been.  With unlimited coffee and the animals strolling through camp it’d be hard to beat.  One of the teachers,  Matt unable to tear himself away from the elephants.931A4390

Sunset at Tandala
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Dinner under the stars at Tandala – we had been in our tents for about 20 days at this stage so were all a bit shocked to be in en-suite rooms and eating steak for dinner!931A4426

Not quite a zebra crossing.931A4568

Hippo strolling casually away as two female lions watch him from the carcass of one of his mates.931A4682

The safari was amazing with good clear sightings of lion, elephant, buffalo as well as numerous others.

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Finally we headed to the island of Zanzibar for a few days of R &R.  The view from our beachhouse accomodation in Paje village.931A4763Exploring the market in the old stone town of Zanzibar.

While the long bus journeys on horrible roads got pretty tiresome I loved Tanzania and Zanzibar and it was great to travel with a keen, motivated group who absolutely made the most of their time there.  Now its back to the wild scottish weather for a bit.

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