Spring

While spring is meant to be here winter does seem to be hanging on in the Highlands.  Despite turning to rock-climbing and sea kayaking and working on “Summer Mountaineering” courses I keep getting snowed on!  Its been a pretty wild April and this seems set to continue – a few photos from some good days out on the rock and the sea over the last few weeks.931A6872

On a marginal forecast a few of us ended up at Reiff – I struggle to get excited about small crags though the routes at Reiff can pack a punch.  Above- Adam on one of the classics – “The Executioner”931A6887Above and Below – Seb trying hard at Seal Song area931A6904

 

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Cecile on the awkward first move of “Jim Nastic” – Matt (belaying) is probably laughing we werent sure Cecile (who’s French) had understood the joke in the route name.931A6946

Canoeing on Loch Lomond.  I have been out on a few DofE expeditions and trainings in the last few weeks.  This was a particularly brutal one with high winds and driving rain.  This was the only picture I took.

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Cecile on the first pitch of “Secretaries Super Direct” in Glen Nevis.  The Glen is brilliant at this time of year and is right on my doorstep.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Sea Kayaking through the Raasay – Rona gap.  After a few years of saying I would do more Sea Kayaking work this year I am.  A three day expedition around Raasay with some wonderful clients saw sunshine, hail, high winds, golden eagles and a high speed rescue (thanks Alison!) when we deemed the winds too strong to get back up the west coast.

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5 minutes before this photo we were in driving hail.  Three of my group looking NW to Skye

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Matt and Adam paddling over to Ailsa’s birthday party.  “A quiet catch up with some old friends” – yeah right!931A7125-HDR

Theres a reason why the road to Neist is so busy!  I’ve sat and watched (and photographed) this view a few times – it never fails to impress.931A7139Reflections in Loch Lomond on my drive to a stint of work in Inverness.  In a lot of ways this photo looks a lot more like Autumn than Spring and that is how the last few weeks have felt too.  Despite the occasional sunny day its still felt cold and windy.  Maybe the rest of May will bring more settled weather.

Posted in alastair rose, ali rose, canoe, Climbing, mountains to the sea, mountainstothesea, Neist Lighthouse, Reiff, Scotland climbing, Scottish Sea Kayaking, Uncategorized Tagged , , , , , , , , , , |

Winter

Finally now that winter is drawing to a close I have time to look at some of the photos from the last couple of months.  From my return to Scotland in early February the skiing and winter climbing seasons have been truly spectacular.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The themes for my winter have definitely been climbing routes that I never thought I would (for various reasons) and climbing routes that were only just in condition (while everyone else seemed to always be on routes in perfect condtions!).  Above a photo taken by Joe Rochford of me leading the big ice pitch of Raeburns Buttress direct a rarely climbed ice route to the right of Boomers Requiem.

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Climbing as a 4.  Very shortly after getting back Malcy, Chucky, Scott and I headed to the Bridge of Orchy Hills to climb “Farenheit 451”.  I mainly didnt think I would ever climb it because of how busy it gets.  Turns out if you climb it just after it forms on a bad weather day theres no queues.  This was also the start of another of my winter themes – Hot chocolate and chips in the Bridge of Orchy hotel.

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One of my funner weeks this winter was with Mel and Sharna who mainly sung songs from Frozen on the belays or their own special rendition of “If you like it then you should have put a sling on it”.  We had an amazing week getting to lots of different venues around Lochaber and reviewing the hot chocolates of a variety of hotels.

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Abseiling of the arch of Church Door buttress.  Church Door on Bidean Nam Bian is one of my favourite crags it was amazing to climb Crypt route with my clients on one of the stormiest days of the season.

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Brian on the second pitch of “Gully of the Gods” on Beinn Bhan.  We woke up on Skye this morning to heavy rain – funny when one of your dream routes becomes a consolation prize.

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Mark Chambers and Chucky soloing the first section of the infamous “Crab Crawl” on Creag Meagidh.  We had high hopes for this but again changed from one brilliant objective to another.  We only did the first 5th of Crab Crawl (400m!) before we decided to do “Smiths Route” instead.

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It wouldn’t be winter without the hot aches.  Rachel had just finished two weeks of nights as a doctor but still insisted we go and climb ice in the pouring rain.  She paid for it (as did I) with some pretty bad Hot Aches and a lot of wet kit.

Posted in alastair rose, ali rose, Ben Nevis, Ben Nevis ice climbing, Buachille Etive Mor, Climbing, Creag Meagidh, Creag Meagidh Ice Climbing, mountains to the sea, mountainstothesea, Scotland climbing, Torridon, Uncategorized Tagged , , , , , |

Finlandia Foothills and a Skua Survey

The news was broken to me at Halley that I was the only person flying back to Rothera with Olly the pilot.  My dreams of alternating between napping and reading my book in the back while someone else did co-pilot duties were shattered!  As the plane was so light we flew direct from Halley to Rothera in just under seven hours with me still managing to get a bit of a nap and some reading done.  In reality it was a fun trip feeling much more like a road trip than normal with just Olly and I chatting away and me occasionally doing a little bit of flying to give Olly a break.  On the way out of Halley we flew over the RRS Ernest Shackleton doing relief on the Brunt Ice Shelf 40km from the Halley base.

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The “Shack” doing relief with lots of cargo sledges and vehicle lined up to take the cargo back to base.
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By the time we got to Rothera it was grey and overcast.  Flying from Halley to Rothera directly does mean that the last bit of the journey has some interesting views as the route cuts across the peninsular.

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Back at Rothera Julie and I had a bit of planning and packing to do before the input to the Finlandia Foothills for our final short project of the season.  It wasn’t until after Julie had flown in to establish our camp that I was shown this excerpt from the previous field party in the area in the early 80’s.  Needless to say Julie and Pete were on the ground for five days waiting for the weather to improve for the rest of us to fly in.931A6473

Julie walking away from camp with the Wilson range behind.  The team of six of us were in the Finlandia Foothills on Alexander island in the hope of establishing an Antarctic Special Protected Area (ASPA).  An area of the foothills had shown promise via satellites and four scientists were expecting a higher than normal density of biological matter and some birds. (Basically bird poo, birds, moss and lichens).  (Fossil Bluff is also on Alexander Island which at BAS is often referred to as being the same size as Wales.  I recently learnt that it is also the second largest uninhabited island in the world)

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On our first afternoon we headed up on the screes above camp looking for moss and lichen931A6490

Pete hard at work collecting Lichens931A6499Gearing up to leave camp.  On this day we decided to head down to our main objective just over 6km away.  Note the bird net Richard is carrying.931A6503

Julie and the two Pete’s skiing away from camp.

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What a lot of Lichen!  After three hours of glacier travel on skis and foot we reached the site to realise that there was…. just a few bits of Lichen and no sign of birds, bird poo or moss.  We had expected the sample collections at this site to take three to four days!
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Scientists in the mist.  While at the site Kevin wanted to collect a series of DNA samples making him and Richard look particularly strange wandering around in the mist.  Needless to say it was quickly decided that the site was not worthy of ASPA status!
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The neighbours – It was great to be in a field camp as a large group again as once we had discovered the site was not what we wanted we had to wait a few days to be picked up.931A6538

Julie and the Petes being told the planes wont arrive tomorrow.

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After eleven days for Julie and just six for me we flew back late afternoon over some amazing chunks of sea ice and the RSS James Clark Ross doing relief at Rothera.

931A6555JCR on the Rothera Wharf.

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Skua survey.  After a brief couple of days at Rothera it was straight back out with my tentmates from Finlandia, Kevin and Richard, to carry on a skua survey on the islands near Rothera.  The flags on Kevin and Richards bags are to give the skua’s something to go for rather than your head when you’re peering into their nests.931A6577

Skua chick.  While Kevin outlined survey areas and Richard counted nesting pairs I tried to count nest contents.  Despite the skuas clearly showing you where their nests are by swooping you more and more aggressively the nests are surprisingly hard to spot.931A6613

Our salubrious accommodation on Anchorage island.  Salubrious until I pulled the door off the hut within minutes of our arrival!   931A6617

More Skua chicks.931A6620

Inquisitive Weddel seal.  I’ve spent barely any time on the islands around Rothera so doing the Skua survey was a great excuse to wander around and get some photos on both Anchorage and Leonie Island.
931A6682Incoming! Despite being assured by Richard that the skuas were not that aggressive and would only go for the flag some of the birds were extremely persistent I did get a few good hits to my head by some of the more adventurous ones.

One more week in Antarctica before heading home to Scottish winter which appears to be shaping up nicely.

Posted in alastair rose, ali rose, Anchorage Island, Antarctica, BAS, British Antarctic Survey, Field Assistant, Field Assistant Antarctica, Field Guide, Field Guide Antarctica, mountains to the sea, mountainstothesea, Rothera, Rothera Research Station, Skua Survey, Uncategorized Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , |

Halley Christmas

A bit late on Decembers blog!  I’ve had a really varied season so far with the biggest difference getting to spend time at BAS’s other Antarctic Research Station – Halley VI.  Halley has been in the news a lot over the last couple of years as some previously dormant cracks started opening up in the Brunt Ice Shelf inland from the station.  Last year a huge team of Engineers, Drivers and support staff moved the main modules to the other side of the crack (known as the Chasm) only to discover there was another crack (Halloween Crack) even further “inland”.  Work continues at Halley this season with a lot of monitoring of the various cracks, readying the base to survive the Antarctic winter without staff and and attempt to fully automate all the long term science that happens.

From a Rothera perspective Halley is the place that all the fuss is made about while the science and field work happens from Rothera.  From a Halley perspective Rothera is not the real Antarctic.  The main difference for me is that you get bacon rolls for smoko at Halley

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At the start of December I spent a lot of time flying around the Ellsworth Mountains with Ian (Pilot) and Ben (Engineer) sorting out more science sites.  The views of the mountains were amazing as was getting to stay in the “hotel” at Union Glacier.

 

931A6048 Mt Vinson  – the highest peak on the continent (4892m)931A6052 Ben working at one of the sites south of the Ellsworths.  The first few sites were al uphill from the plane and involved lugging batteries to and from them.  A couple of these sites were at about 8000ft.  With the lower air pressure in Antarctica they feel more like 12000ft so its pretty knackering dragging car batteries behind you.931A6072 Tough place for a lunch stop.931A6090Enormous crevasses on the approach to the Union Glacier skiway.931A6098 Ben walking back to our tent on the guest side of the Union camp.  It was great to check out the setup here and catch up with some friends.931A6236 Flying again –  As field guides we spend a lot time in the aircraft.  Fellow field guide Julie knitting away on the long flight from Rothera to Halley.
931A6280 Halley VI.  The original Halley Base was started in 1956 with the most recent incarnation being commisioned in 2006.  The original four bases were snowed in and the staff lived in them underground.  Both Halley V and VI were designed to raised to deal with the snow accumulation.  931A6284 I’ve often wondered why you dont see many pictures of Halley from the air.  I think part of the reason is that its not a particularly exciting view but also that a lot of attention is focused on the space age modules.  The view from above shows the vast amount of infrastructure needed to keep the base running.  Above – Halley modules in the centre with the various vehicle lines, container lines, accommodation and garage modules.  The lines at the top of the photo are enormous windscoops leading to the “hinge zone” where the Brunt ice shelf meets the continent.931A6312-HDR Classic Halley view.931A6327 Christmas day – Doug climbing in Halloween crack.  Mark (FG), Doug (Air Mech) and Olly (Pilot) snuck off on Christmas for a quick climb in Halloween crack.  Having to ski-doo there, set up the ropes, abseil in etc meant there was only time for a couple of climbs each but a great way to spend Christmas!931A6332 Some things are the same on Christmas day the world over – lots of washing up!.  (Though I’m not sure Marks Hawain shirt and flip flops are standard)931A6343 Straight after Christmas it was back out into the field for me.  I joined Neil at Bluefields depot and then moved to a Depot in the Shackleton Range.931A6362Filling in the days with igloo building.  Rob (who switched with Neil) came to join me while I did constant Weather observations for the aircraft.  10 days of staring at clouds, drinking tea and reading.

Back to Rothera in the next couple of days and then back into the field for a couple of weeks before heading home.

Posted in alastair rose, ali rose, Antarctica, British Antarctic Survey, Climbing Antarctica, Field Assistant, Field Assistant Antarctica, Field Guide, Field Guide Antarctica, Halley Research Station, mountains to the sea, mountainstothesea, Mt Vinson, Uncategorized Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

Digging Season

I’m back at Rothera.  It slowly occurred to me over the summer at home that working in Antarctica didnt have to be a one off and an email from the Field Operations Manager as I boarded a plane to Tanzania offering me a couple of months work was too big a temptation.  It feels great to be back at Rothera helping train new staff, eat amazing meals, go skiing after work and of course do lots and lots of digging.

This season I am doing a variety of work for BAS both from Rothera where I was for my 18 month contract and also at Halley on the Brunt Ice shelf.  The first part of my season is focused on Instruments.  This is based from Rothera with trips between a day and week to service, relocate or replace instruments that record Glacial Re-bound, Ice shelf movement or the weather.  As a Field Guide my job is to help the pilot spot crevassing and a good landing spot, help access the site (deciding to rope up or not, to use skis or not or just to wander on over) and then help with any digging.  If the trip is overnight the Field Guide also sets up camp and sorts food and water out while the Pilots/scientists/engineers are doing their work.

First up a few photos from some training etc around Rothera.
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This summer there is a large focus on training at Rothera.  I have learnt things this summer that I should have known two years ago when I first started.  One of the main things has been sharing knowledge with the pilots who we spend a lot of time with.  Above – a group of field guides staring at a plane at the ski-way above Rothera.  This was aborted due to high winds in the end but the end of a training exercise in how to lay out Ski-ways in the field and on safe loading of Aircraft.931A5766

The high winds were quite obvious above the Stork hills.931A5788

New Field Guide, Tom Lawfield practicing crevasse rescue with the added complication of unconscious people (the green bag behind him) and pulks.  All done from the safety of the sewing loft!931A5799

Blair carefully digging up a seismometer a few kilometers from base.  Science gear weighs a lot and even being able to drive Ski-doos to within about a kilometer of this site it probably took us the best part of two hours for Blair, Ben and I to get everything onto the pulks and tow it back up the glacier.
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Elephant seal cleverly blocking the two doors I use most on base – Accomodation on the left and “Fuchs” the field guide office and store on the right.
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More training.  Fuchs being used by some of the fire team to practice blind searchs.

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Where I’ve been in the last week.  The good thing about instrument work is getting to lots of places.  The bad thing is spending lots of time in the aircraft.931A5874

First up I did a day with Ben (Electronics Engineer) and Ian (Pilot) to the Welch Hills and Traverse Mountains a short flight south of Rothera.  These sites were in a spectacular location a short flight down the peninsular931A5924

Old depot – new science.  While at the second site we were also meant to remove an old depot.  We had originally thought that the depot was American but on opening the manfood box we realised it was British.  (The marmite is the giveaway!)  This food was pre- use by date but some of it was manufactured in 1970.  The chocolate still tastes great but we werent brave enough to try anything else.931A5926

Ian towing another sledge of junk back to his plane.931A5929

Next up I flew up to the Larsen C ice shelf with two glaciologists.  Above – even for one night in the field with 4 people theres a lot of kit!931A5937

Science on the Larsen C.  The larsen C has become well known in recent years after the collapse of the Larsen B iceshelf in 2002.  Recently the largest Iceberg ever recorded (the A68) broke off the Larsen C.  BAS personnel now have to have a plane with them at all times while working on this Iceshelf.931A5940

A68 Iceberg edge.  One of our tasks was to photograph the A68 Berg which is reported to be the same size as Wales or London depending who you ask (A bit like saying “as deep as the grand canyon” it doesnt really mean anything other than its really big).931A5970

Flying along the edge of the Berg.931A5991

Hammer plate Seismic’s on the Larsen C, Emma manning the computer and Jim hammering the plate.  There are Geo phones every 10m for 200m which measure the shock of the hammer down the line.  I’m assured that this is world class science.

931A5981The tent all set up for the night.  I have been trialing a new tent made by “Arctic Oven” which is massive but not as heavy as the traditional pyramid tents.  With Jim and Emma on the Larsen they were so busy with hammering etc they actually only came into the tent for a nap at 7am!  I estimated that Jim had done over 500 hits with the sledge hammer and walked over 10km through the night.  (I did help out till midnight and then made then tea at 3am and checked on them at 5!)
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Coming in to land at Union Glacier.  Straight after being on the Larsen C for two days I flew further onto the continent via Fossil Bluff, Sky Blu and Union Glacier (The field camp of the commercial operator A.L.E).  Myself, Alex (Electronics Engineer), Dave and Mark (both Pilots) flew out to the Foundation ice stream to pick up some instruments that will be redeployed later this season.931A6027

I dont have many photos of the Foundation Ice stream as the weather was chasing us.  Above – Dave getting a quick nap after some digging before another flight.

My next big chunk of work will be at Halley on the Brunt ice shelf a base that has been in the news a lot this year.  Should be interesting!

Posted in A 68 Berg, A68 Larsen C, Antarctica, BAS, British Antarctic Survey, Field Assistant, Field Assistant Antarctica, Field Guide Antarctica, Larsen C Ice Shelf, Uncategorized Tagged , , , , , , |

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!

Posted in Uncategorized Tagged , , , , , , , , |

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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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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