5% Chance of Rain

Most of the places I’ve been to this month have been promising 5% chance of rain or less but this seems to have been more a sign of the Met Offices’ optimism that actual reality.  With a few more days off than expected this month I have managed to catch up with lots of friends and family, finish the bolting work at a local sport crag and get to some pretty cool places on personal trips.

First up I joined Tristan and Lizzie with a host of other kayaking friends for a week of sea kayak day trips from Glen Elg.  I’m usually not a big fan of day trips in a sea kayak but in the knowledge that there would be some stormy conditions and some other paddlers that like that sort of thing it felt like a good opportunity to put my dislike of faff aside.

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Kag, Tristan and Lizzie paddling into Kyle of Lochalsh in stormy weather.  Our first day saw us launching at Sconser and surfing all the way to the Crowlins, through the Crowlin gap and on down to the bridge.IMG_9076

Lizzie and Kag taking a break under the Skye bridgeIMG_9087

Kayakers under Kilt Rock.  The longest day on the water was Staffin to Portree, a trip I had wanted to do for some time.  It was fairly tough paddling into a head wind at the end but worth it for some amazing coastline.  Being based in Glenelg this was a fairly long day to fit in before it got dark.  The fish and chips in Portree at the end of this were amazing.
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Sam making sure Pep knows where to go.IMG_9094

Sam approaching the waterfalls of Kilt Rock
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Kag passing one of the many pinnacles on this section of coast.

Next up it was straight to Wales for a couple of days work. As usual in October the weather didnt quite play ball despite again promises of 5% chance of rain.  I did manage a couple of routes at Gogarth with ChuckyIMG_9160

Chucky on the brilliant top pitch of “Concrete Chimney”.

From Wales I did a massive drive up to the Reiff Climbing Festival.  Saz, Al and I had decided to go to the festival no matter what the weather.  It turned out to be terrible weather for climbing but great fun with a good group of people.931A5574

Adam and Ailsa getting packed in the back of their van for a day of rather damp cragging.931A5592

Ailsa, Ali Hodnett and Adam sheltering under the shipshape block at Reiff.931A5593

We did manage to find the shortest routes in the UK.  Reiff is known for short routes but I think these could be the winner!  Adam struggling on one of the trilogy of Severes on this wall. 931A5596

It did dry up to try a couple of harder routes.  Adam making the off the deck dyno on “Lilidh”

I had a few days around Fort William before heading back up to Assynt with Bob and Adam.  Assynt is not somewhere I’ve spent a huge amount of time until this year but I just cant get enough.
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Stoer Lighthouse.  We woke up to this view after a late ascent of the Old Man of Stoer and then headed off on a two day canoe trip from Elpin to Boat Bay.  Connecting Loch Veyatie and Loch Scionascaig and a series of smaller lochs has become a bit of a classic and I was keen to see how hard the portages were.

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Bob portaging Eas Dubh Uidh a Glaigeal on the outflow from Cam loch.  931A5656

And going back upstream to pretend that he’d ran it.  This portage is probably not necessary but the falls are spectacular.931A5693

Adam supplying some moral fortitude for the second portage.931A5703

Adam paddling under Suilven.  We had originally planned to do a climb on Suilven as part of this trip but the weather didnt quite play ball and we didnt have quite enough hours of daylight.931A5727

Can you see two canoes?  Bob (back) and Adam (front) in the middle of 2 km portage between Loch Veyatie and Loch Scionascaig.  This, the “eastern portage” is essentially a 2km portage and rumored to be harder than the western one.  As 2km portages go it was pretty straightforward and easy.931A5733

Bob and I have done quite a few portages over the years.  I wonder when he’ll notice that I just take photos and he does all the pulling!
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Bob completely in his element on cooking duty with Cul Mor in the background.
931A5745Autum colours at Cread Dubh above the Spey.  Its quickly been turning to winter in the highlands and the colours have been fantastic.  Every time the weather starts to get me down I realise how many amazing adventures there are to be had in Scotland at all times of year.

I’ve also been tidying up some qualifications this year and this month finally feel able to take stock having completed the last one on the list (for now!).  I moved back to Scotland “full time” 5 years ago and wanted to bring my qualifications up to speed in the UK.  On one of my many long drives recently I started to count up the cost in both time and money of doing this.  The good news is that its been a lot of fun and I’m now at a stage where I don’t feel the need to work too hard on any other qualifications, the bad news is that I worked out I have spent over 60 days on training courses in the last 5 years (bearing in mind that I have only been in the UK for 36months of that period!) and its cost me at least £8000 just for the courses (not the kit or the consolidation days).  The process has been massively rewarding and through it I have re-engaged with so many friends and made so many new ones.  When I started in the outdoors at 18 I’m not sure what I expected but certainly not the huge variety of work and adventures that can be crammed into a few short years.

Posted in Assynt, Assynt canoeing, canoe, Canoe across Scotland, Climbing, Kayaking, mountains to the sea, mountainstothesea, North Wales Climbing, Scottish Kayaking, Scottish Sea Kayaking, Skye, Stoer Lighthouse, Suilven Canoe, Uncategorized Tagged , , , , , , , , , , |

Wet Weather Activities

I havent really taken many photos this month.  Lots of work, lots of driving and not very much good weather has meant that I havent had the cameras out too much.
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A brief spell of good weather at the end of last month.  I went on a wee canoe trip with Ali, Hana and Malcy out to Peanmeannach Bothy on Loch Ailort.  Hana and Ali swimming at our lunch stop.931A5141

Malcy disappointed hes going to have to carry his stuff to the bothy!  931A5435

Campfire on the beach.  The bothy was really busy with female backpackers (yes really!) but theres still plenty of space to escape the people.931A5443

I’ve been doing a fair bit of canoeing work this summer, mainly following DofE groups.  A common morning view as another squall comes down the loch.

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Almost got this wrong.  Loch Awe rose about 40cm overnight in torrential rain and I work up with the water lapping in my front porch.931A5477

I’ve also had a little side project this month – rebolting the Sport crag at Arisaig.  Drilling, grinding and glueing arent the funnest of jobs but its hard to complain when this is the walk in!IMG_9059

James and Zeemon pulling the old bolts at Black Rock Arisaig931A5482

Ive been on Stac Pollaidh a few times this summer with various groups from Joint Services.  The climbing is a bit loose but the views are spectacular.931A5491

The glamorous life of a Mountaineering Instructor.  Making cups of tea in the back of the MOD van at the base of Stac Pollaidh.

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Simon and John talking about life round the fire on the beach near Stac Pollaidh.  Its a hard life when you have to camp somewhere like this before heading to the Ceilidh House in Ullapool for breakfast the next day!IMG_9049Colours changing at the falls of Acharn in Tayside.

I’ve now done my last day of self employed work for a while and have a month to catch up with family and friends (and finish the bolting at Black Rock!).  More Scottish Adventures!

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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.

 

 

Posted in alastair rose, ali rose, Barra Isles, Basking Shark, Climbing, Hebrides Climbing, Pabbay, Pabbay climbing, Sugar Cane Country, The Priest, Uncategorized Tagged , , , , , |

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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Wet Weather Sports

This month has mainly been about boats.  I had some assessments and continued professional development that I needed to do and managed to book various courses surrounded by paddling work and a bit of training for myself.  This tuned out to be the best use for June anyway with lots of rain falling at the start of the month and the wild weather continuing throughout the month.  Its been great to be back in a sea kayak and canoe and all the brilliant places they can get to.  This has culminated with doing a trip that I have wanted to do for some time.  I always pictured doing the “Morar – Nevis Loop” by sea kayak but when offered the chance to do it for work and by canoe I jumped at the chance.  931A3405

Ian Carter going for a quick sunset paddle on Loch Venacher while he and I were out assessing a Bronze Duke of Edinburgh Group.931A3415

Spring in the forest on the shores of Loch Venacher.

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A very low Roy River.  This would have been too high to paddle (for me) within two days of this photo as we got a months rainfall in a day!931A3436

Bob setting off down the Lower Roy.  Bob joined me for a couple of days of professional development, bringing me up to date on skills for the confusingly named “Moderate Water Canoe Leader” qualifcation.  Bob and I last paddled this section (Roy – Spean) on our 4 star White Water assessment over 10 years ago!931A3444

Bob lining one of the rapids on the Roy931A3460

Showing me how its done on the Spean.  Needless to say Bob did this a lot nice than I did!931A3495

In amongst lots of canoeing and Sea kayaking I have managed to snatch some good weather days for heading into the mountains for both work and play.  A group from the 24 CDO watching the sunset from Coire Lagan in the Cuillin.
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Finally at the end of the portage.  I was out last week assessing a Gold Duke of Edinburgh team from the High School of Glasgow.  They had a loose plan of paddling up loch Morar, portaging into Loch Nevis, paddling up this and then back round to Mallaig via Inverie.  Great to be out with a well trained and motivated group of teenagers.  They didnt even complain at the portage (though it did take them a few hours!)931A3618

Some food after the portage at the church at Tarbet.
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Kyles of Knoydart931A3824

The group looking out towards the Small isles on their last night.931A3838

Leaving the last camp at the edge of Inverie Bay.  You can just make out the statue of Mary overlooking the bay.931A3845Final paddle up the sands of Morar to complete the loop.

Now sorting paddling kit and changing it over for some hot weather gear as I’m off to Southern Tanzania for a month.  Hopefully some photos of big animals!

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Boats and Climbing

This spring has had some great weather for adventures in Scotland.  Over the last couple of months I have been trying to get to places that have formerly escaped me, its so easy to go back to places I love.  As the winds dropped and sun came out at the start of the month Adam and I headed to Skye for a couple of days.  I have spent a lot of time on Skye though had never got the boat from Elgol to access the Cuillin.  We had a very leisurely start with the aim of a two day traverse of the Cuillin with the Dubhs Slabs start thrown in for good measure.931A3023

Getting the boat in was great – cups of tea and shortbread with the skipper and stunning view of the full Cuillin ridge.931A3024

The last time I was in Loch Coruisk was about ten years ago on a sea kayaking trip.  We almost got stuck at the head of the loch in a force 6.931A3028

Adam trying to work out which one is the Dubhs Slabs.  In recent years there has been some hard climbs put up in this glen – theres a life time of climbing in just this one area if you get the weather and the time!931A3059

Still snow in the bivy cave below Sgurr Alisdair.931A3068

Our aim on the first day was to get past the Inaccessible Pinnacle and find a bivy spot.  With both of us happy to solo most of the ridge it was pretty easy going with the odd stop to realise how lucky we are and admire the views.  Above – Adam on Collies/Harts ledge.
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Adam soloing the East Ridge of Inaccessible Pinnacle as two other traversers gear up at the bottom.  After watching both of us they both decided to solo it as well – interesting decision making!931A3089

Bivy spot on Banachdich931A3095-Pano

Sunset views from the bivy spot back south along the ridge.931A3102

What its all about!931A3223

After a couple of days of work I managed to rustle up some friends for a trip I’ve wanted to do for a while.  Getting 5 people, 5 vehicles, 3 canoes and lots of climbing gear to the correct layby on Loch Maree was probably the hardest bit!  Above – Cecile, Tim and Chucky bringing the last boat down to the Loch.931A3229

We had opted for an evening paddle across Loch Maree followed by a 10km hike into Carnmore Crag in the Fisherfield Wilderness.  Above – Ceciles first time in a canoe!931A3237

Dark and broody getting over the hill and down towards the Bothy.931A3238

I had been into the Fisherfield area from the other side a couple of times but had forgotten how spectacular it is.  Tim on the approach to the bottom of the routes.931A3253

Cecile about to start the unprotected traverse on the main pitch of “Dragon”931A3284

Tim the red power ranger relieved to be across the traverse.931A3297

 

Cecile working out where the route goes.931A3314

On our second route of the day (Gob) we crossed paths with Al and Chucky.  Above – Al (with Chucky somewhere above) on “St George”931A3322

The landowner at Carnmore kindly leaves a barn open below the crag – Cecile and Tim chilling by the front door.931A3326

The bothy is not the nicest but it does have beds!931A3328

Sunset over the bothy931A3330

931A3362We had two brilliant days at Carnmore and then headed back to the boats in the evening.  I love how much you can pack into a couple of days in Scotland.  If you’re ever heading to carnmore I recommend the canoe approach over the 20km walk (you just need a friend with lots of boats!)

Posted in alastair rose, ali rose, bothy, canoe, Climbing, Cuillin, Fisherfield Wilderness, Jetboil, mountains to the sea, mountainstothesea, Scotland climbing, Skye, Uncategorized Tagged , , , , , , , , |

Adventures in Benidorm

It seems Benidorm is most commonly associated with retired British people living in a sort of little Britain on the beach but there is another side to the area.  Hidden from the Benidorm beach by the endless flats is the amazing adventure playground of the Costa Blanca.  For British climbers seeking a bit of sun the Costa Blanca has long been a popular choice for a quick sport climbing holiday but Linda, Miles, Scott and I headed out for some of the more adventurous routes the area has to offer.
931A2451 The beautiful town of Finestrat from our campsite with Puig Campana behind.  One of the routes we climbed was “Epsolon Central” which climbs the skyline ridge in 14 pitches.931A2474On our first day we decided to head off on and adventure route called “Magical Mystery Tour”.  Even the abseil approach felt pretty adventurous descending next to some terrifying looking ladders.931A2471Miles checking out the ladders.  I have since heard that people do lead up the ladders to get out of this area.  Having seen what they’re attached to at the top i’m not sure its wise!931A2477-2Finding the route – abseiling into sea cliffs is always pretty exciting but this felt even more so with this being the only route in our guidebook on this section of cliff.  You can just make out Scott and Linda in the bottom left of the shot.  I spent a little while on this route proving where it didnt go (up a loose pillar).  Brilliant adventure climbing.
931A2550Linda on the top of “Parle” a brilliant (and intimidating) route that climbs up through an archway in the cliff.
931A2563 Linda (belaying) and Miles (Posing or struggling I’m not sure which) on “Parle”931A2656 We did of course go Sport Climbing too.  Linda on the nearest crag to our campsite climbing “Edwards Edge”931A2686 Hard life back at the campsite/villa.  It was amazing to hang out in Finestrat with lovely little bars and restaurants but drop down to Benidorm in the morning to buy food.  The two places seem a world apart.931A2843 Scott on the Guidebook cover route “Tai Chi” with the city in the background (Calpe rather than Benidorm)IMG_8861 High on Epsolon Central on Puig Campana away from the bustle of the city.  This was probably one of my favourite routes of the week though I got no good photos of it.  Endless fun climbing up a big ridge in the sun.IMG_8888Scott cruising up another brilliant sea cliff route.  While most of these routes do have bolts and are therefore “sport” climbing they still feel pretty adventurous.
IMG_8900 Back to the real adventure!  I also spent a few days in N Wales this month with Adam.IMG_8930 Adam on the crux middle pitch of Atlantis/True Moments/Freebird.IMG_8960 Its not all fun in the sun.  The heinous (and dangerous!) approach to the pinnacle area on Cloggy.  I’ve since been told that most people abseil in from above!IMG_8970Adam setting off up the last route of the trip “Octo”

Posted in alastair rose, ali rose, Climbing, Climbing fall, mountains to the sea, mountainstothesea, Spanish Climbing

Roadside Scotland

As the seasons change from winter to spring its traditionally my time of year to do a lot of driving.  While winter hangs on in the mountains but the sun starts to shine a bit more work spreads itself all over Scotland and there are a lot more options for outdoor activities to be had.  The best thing about going away from your home country is the appreciation of it when you get home so with the beautiful weather I have been making an extra effort to stop and check out some of the roadside views.931A2351The drive from Fort William to Glasgow is always amazing whether its blue skies of torrential rain.  I’ve stopped here (Loch Ba on Rannoch Moor) many times in the past to take photos but never in so much as a rush this morning.  Luckily there was lots of light and not too many photographers so I could get a couple of handheld shots.
931A2262The change to spring is also the change to rock climbing – Chucky high “volcane” on Meall an Fhir Eoin Beag at Ardnamuchan.  931A2284Caspar and Chucky shelter from a brief rain squall.  Ardnamuchan has lots of amazing Gabro that dries really quickly.931A2286Matt after his introduction to Ardnamurchan cracks!931A2290Before the clocks change!  Packing up after a great days cragging.931A2317Some locals coming to visit our campsite.
931A2323What Scotland should look like!  The view down to Ballachullish from School house ridge.931A2347As ever a photo doesnt tell the full story this was actually a very windy day!  Vertical spindrift on the ridge of Sgurr Dearg.931A2396The three bridges of the Forth from North Queensferry train station.  You can just see the new bridge on the right hand side.931A2399Looking back towards Dalwhinnie distillery.  I cant drive past this without hearing my dad say “highest distillery in the world”931A2406Loch Laggan at Sunset.  931A2421As well as all the driving I have still been doing some things closer to home.  Connor up high in Glen Nevis climbing Bewsey crack (in a t-shirt!)931A2430One final winter hit.  I took Jago and Sarah on the classic “ledge route” on Ben Nevis.  Sarah even convinced me to go to the summit so we headed down Coire Leis for a full tour of the mountain.  You could have ice climbed, rock climbed, skied and mountain biked all in one day on Ben Nevis this day.
931A2443The view down Loch Lomond.  I am always amazed how the scottish roads cut through some of the most impressive scenery.

Posted in alastair rose, ali rose, Ardnamurchan, Ardnamurchan climbing, Ben Nevis, Ben Nevis ice climbing, Climbing, Creag Meagidh, gabbro, Meall an Fhir Eion, mountains to the sea, mountainstothesea, scotland, Scotland climbing Tagged , , , , , , , |

Return to the Norm

My first month back in Scotland in 16months.  I got back to Scotland and the usual round of people endlessly discussing conditions and weather, a fair amount of rain and some less than wintery hills.  This has not been too much of a burden really as there have been loads of friends and family to catch up with amongst remembering how to deal with banks etc.  It is awesome to be back.  I have spent a large amount of my adult years in different places in the world and the one thing that really makes you do is appreciate home.  As I mentioned in my last post, a lot has happened since I left and it has been great to catch up with friends old and new and of course revisit some places that I love.IMG_8757One of the first things I did on return home was go up to the place where my good friend Joe passed away a year ago.  This might seem morbid to some but I wanted to go up the path and try and put myself in Joe and Simons minds as they headed off that day.  I have walked that path many times with many people but I will always now think of those two headed of on another adventure as I wander into the high coire of Stob Coire nam Beith.  Above – a very damp Stob Coire nam Beith.  The hills had no snow on when I first got back.931A2171Spending time in the hills with friends is always the best way to catch up.  Ruaridh came over for the weekend and we headed out in the hills in some very wintery (and windy weather).  We headed west both days to try and avoid the worst of the wind but I still got picked off my feet at one point.  Above – Ruaridh heading up the long ridge of Garbh Bheinn (Ardgour).  931A2182Ruaridh giving his “its so windy” face.931A2184View from Garbh Bheinn back towards Fort William.  Winter has returned!

931A2193On the Sunday we were joined by Jago, Sarah and Gemma and headed off towards Streap.  Streap is only 15 mins drive from my house but I had never been up it.  We didnt really expect to be able to go all the way to the summit but actually the wind was not too bad on the top or the final grade 1 ridge and we were treated to spectacular views out to the Cuillin and back towards Ben Nevis.931A2205Looking South West.931A2218Final summit ridge as the weather changes.

IMG_8793I have been doing a few days of work as well.  Someone said to me recently that as a Freelancer you basically do the jobs the someone else doesn’t want.  If thats the case I’m fine with it.  I spent valentines day with a lovely couple climbing a grade two ridge in the sun as they planned their honeymoon on Skye.  IMG_8805There has been a fair bit of bad weather days this month.  Some days you just have to find a bothy, make hot chocolate and eat loads of brownies.  Linda and Miles chilling!931A2227In between bouts of work and play I have also been sorting out a new van.  Wee Katie Tayler looks on as I start to drill holes!IMG_8762 I have managed to get a little bit of climbing done – Caspar leading up behind the flake of “Flake Route Right Hand” on Church door buttress.IMG_8775 Caspar leading the pitch above the arch just before he did a bit of a slither back down the way he’d came!IMG_8809 Stu and I headed up the Ben with various plans.  We should have known the day wouldn’t go well when we had to dig numerous vehicles out of the snow, were late setting off and had to wade through thigh deep snow to get to the base of the routes.  Above – a happy Stu trying to work out where we are.IMG_8821 Turns out that we didnt know were we were (not bad for two MIC’s!) but climbed something about the right grade.  Stu coming up the initial pitch somewhere on the middle tier of Trident Buttress.IMG_8827 My friends Jago and Sarah are living with me just now seeing what the highlands have to offer for a winter season.  I insisted they join me for some mountaineering  a couple of days ago and we got one of those special days climbing in the sun with amazing views and finished it off in the Nevis range cafe!IMG_8836Jago and Sarah on one of the last sections of “Golden Oldy”  on Aonach Mor.
IMG_8839I can see my house from here!  Its tough living in Fort William but someones got to do it.

Posted in alastair rose, ali rose, Ben Nevis ice climbing, bothy, Climbing, Creag Meagidh, Cuillin, mountains to the sea, mountainstothesea, scotland, Scotland climbing Tagged , , , , , , , |

Last days at Rothera – How was it?

Sitting on the plane I can feel the question coming as I head towards catchups with friends and family – How was it?  Where to start? – Its hard to sum up sixteen months of life in a few short words but as I fly home I’ve been trying to think of the differences between Rothera and my home life and some of small things that help show the randomness of life working for BAS.

Since leaving the UK I have been on almost sixty flights from as short as fourteen minutes to as long as twelve hours. I’m not a massive fan of flying but there has certainly been a lot of variety with everything from cattle class on major airlines to flying as a co-pilot in the twin otter aircraft. If anything I’ll probably feel happier flying on a normal commercial flight – nothing can be quite as bad as a bumpy flight in the back of small plane surrounded by poo bins and petrol jerry cans.

Of the sixteen months almost two them have been spent in “lie up” stuck in a tent or caboose. Twelve percent of my total time on the continent has been spent camped at Trident East on winter trips.

I haven’t seen any trees, grass, flowers, dogs, children etc for over a year and I’ve only drunk in one bar. I’ve eaten amazing meals, both from the Rothera chefs and in various field camps and tents. I’ve also eaten somewhere in the region of eight hundred biscuit browns and some fairly average dehydrated food spiced up with fried spam and chilli sauce.

I’ve met some amazing people. Scientists who have been to Antarctica every summer for over twenty years, people who have done multiple winters (sometimes agreeing weeks before they were meant to go home at the end of their first eighteen months to stay for another twelve). And of course friends who I could meet in a week or ten years and still laugh at the same jokes, people who will hopefully turn up on the doorstep uninvited and stay for weeks.

I spent seven months with the same twenty one people between the ages of twenty three and sixty, living, working, socialising, cooking, cleaning and partying.  In such a short time I feel I know these people as well as I know some of my best friends.  I had the privilege of taking eight of these people on their winter trips. Camping, skiing and mountaineering in winter in Antarctica will always feel special but getting to know people at the level you do on these trips can only be described as a privilege. Being stuck with the same twenty people through what seemed like endless bad weather and dusk was at best some of the funnest times and funniest parties I’ve been too and at worst made me question some of my life choices.

I did more climbing and skiing than I expected but also watched more movies and tv series than I would have ever considered possible. From never having been to a gym before I became a regular (at least till the sun came back) in one of the least inspiring rooms for exercising ever. 2016 will hopefully always stand out as the year I did the least rock climbing since I was eighteen, the year I did the most digging, sitting around and most refuelling of vehicles.

The hardest part has been missing events in others lives. Friends and family have moved on, passed away, got married, moved house (some multiple times), had birthdays, had babies, been through hard times and done amazing things and its been hard to not be present for any of it. I can only hope that these people know I was thinking of them and while I feel I missed out on their experiences I don’t feel I could have missed out on this one for myself.  I have lived away from the UK for a lot of my adult life but for some reason this time felt different.  The idea that you cant return to see people no matter what happens can be a difficult decision to live with.

Its been hard to leave all the amazing people at Rothera, somewhere I called home for a while but with some Scottish tunes playing in my head phones (Frightened Rabbit, Braebach, Skippinish and Runrig) I cant wait to get back to my real home, my family and friends and see what happens next.

These photos hope to show my last couple of days on base as well as some of the things that might be a little different to home.

IMG_5482The view across the Ryder bay from Base.  I have photographed this view so many times but it never fails to be impressive.  It has occasionally felt like being in a museum with a look but don’t touch mentality.931A1999The wonderful Pilots and Mechanics of the BAS airunit.  These are the people you hope are doing their jobs correctly!  Keeping the planes flying or coming to get you and not complaining about how much you smell.931A2025The Cross.  This area is littered with memorials and a great reminder that some people do not come home from Antarctica.  In my last couple of weeks on base the ice was slowly moving North away from Rothera making the landscape even more dramatic.931A2028In the last couple of weeks also had a visit from the RV Laurence M Gould an american research vessel.  Possibly one of the most ugly ships I’ve ever seen but I had also heard that they had good food and a great coffee machine on board.  Twenty of the Rothera staff went on board for the day for a bit of a cruise and a bit of sciencey stuff.  Above – getting winched onboard at 7am.  Straight from here into a massive american breakfast while the Americans who had swapped with us went for toast and cereal!931A2043Nelly and I found the coffee machine and then took almost an hour working out how to make two coffees.  They were pretty amazing though!931A2048View from the bridge.  The Gould is not a full icebreaker but can push the ice around a bit.  Here we are headed back towards Rothera (top right) through the broken up ice.931A2066The Gould is a dry ship but traditionally stops at Rothera once a year for a bit of a social and some music.  Above – a well stocked fridge outside the music venue (the garage)931A2105 The band in full swing.  One of the things that has truly blown me away about Rothera is the amount of time people are willing to put into making things happen.  While some of us where on the ship a group of staff had built the stage and set up for the evening complete with decorations and a full bar complete with optics.  On stage (l-r) Adam (Bass -Boatman), Jim (guitar -chippie) Calum (drums -comms manager) Rob (vocals -Plumber), Kate (Vocals -Dive Officer), Trev (Sax -Chef), Tom (Trumpet -Doc), Ali (Sax-Bonner lab manager) cranking out the tunes.931A2132 The doctor.  The talent and time people are willing to put in to help others enjoy themselves is truly incredible.IMG_8742Traffic Jam on my commute to work.  Last summer there were hundreds of Elephant seals.  This year there were only three but they did decide to commandeer the bridge between the buildings forcing people to walk around them.  I think elephant seals are awesome but I’m not sure what they actually do.  These seals were in place for the whole of my last week on base never eating or drinking anything.  IMG_8745Decisions.  The only thing I have really noticed since returning home is that there is a lot of decisions to be made.  Above – the whiteboard tells you what to do and when.  The “foxhat” (worth googling) is the film choice of the person who’s been washing dishes all day.IMG_5497 The dive team heading off for a dive.  Before diving they need someone on Seal watch looking out for Leopard seals or whales in the area.  Such a tough way to spend an hour or so!IMG_8752The history on the walls.  Above – the family tree of all the Antarctic dogs that worked out of Rothera and Halley.  This amazing document is on the wall down a side corridor in a building that will soon be knocked down.  The walls of the base are littered with amazing things like this.  (Great to look out for themes in the dogs names with different generations – Lord of the rings, hebridean islands, film characters etc)
IMG_8753 View out of the library window at another weather front rolling in.IMG_8754 Tough times in the rothera bar.  This sign has been up the whole time I have been at Rothera so I dont think there is any risk of the stocks not lasting.  Getting used to using money instead of just ticking next to my name could be interesting (Top right is probably my favourite picture on base of Tom Crean picking up one of Shackletons dogs.)IMG_8755One last penguin shot.  There has not been many penguins about this summer but the odd Adelie does pop up around the point.

IMG_4836The awesome winter 2016 team.

Posted in Antarctica, BAS, British Antarctic Survey, Climbing Antarctica, Field Assistant, Field Assistant Antarctica