Coed Brenin Enduro 2014

Coed Brenin Enduro 2014

Thursday, 18 August 2016

Escape from Dolphinholme

For a number of years I've dreamt of living in Scotland, but I don't think I ever believed it would happen, as I didn't initially see how it could realistically work.

But after a few twists of fate and a successful job interview all of a sudden Scotland was on! Moving just North of Inverness is rather exciting, with so much wild land to explore. I'm particularly excited to be moving North of the 57th Parallel, which is a similar latitude to Alaska!

So now I'm just filling up the van with a second load of stuff before heading North and leaving Dolphinholme behind for a while....

As its a big change for me it seems fitting to start a new blog '57 Degrees North', where I hope to post some Scottish adventures. Exciting times lie ahead.....

Wednesday, 3 August 2016

Day out with the family Brown

On Sunday I had a nice day out climbing at Rylstone (Yorkshire moors) with 3 generations of the Brown family. It was pretty cold and windy at the crag but great to go somewhere new, and even better to climb some more gritstone. The heather was in full bloom and the bilberries were tasty and prolific.

Top of the crag

Cliff on the mono's
Cliff was on good form demonstrating his new (version 7) stove making brews for all, and although he declared he wasn't on top form shot up the steep VS I lead. Shaw was was on equal good form by nearly sending us up an E4 whilst looking for a HVS ;-).

The Browns (and Judith)
Admittedly we didn't climb many routes, but it was a nice social affair and we finished with some fun bouldering on the walk out. In fact I even had to rescue one Brown from a route, I'll let you guess which one!?

Judith photo bombed by the chopper

The sun finally came out at the end of the day

Saturday, 30 July 2016

Mini Grit Rampage!

I cut my teeth and learnt to climb on the Peak District gritstone and ever since I just love climbing on  gritstone. I bumped into Steve many years ago at Cratcliffe, he was climbing an E2 on a shunt. We swapped numbers (before FB/computers! Probably!) and he basically taught me to climb. 

Over the following 10 year period we got into a very definite routine, we would meet Kev, Sue and Dave at Steve's cold house in Winster (lovely house but he was too tight to have the heating on!) most Saturdays and Sundays. I can still remember it clearly now, he'd sit in his kitchen in his big duvet jacket to keep warm, we'd  have a brew (often 2), go through guidebooks before heading off to climb somewhere in the Peak, obviously favouring gritstone, but also limestone if we had to!

It was a fun, and climbing wise very productive time, and I ended up climbing some E3's (my climbing high point!)! 

Phil's first grit route I think (Heather Wall)
Eventually change was in the air (?life happened) and the whole group disbanded the same summer/year. Kev and Sue moved to France, Dave moved to Brussels, Steve fell in love and moved to Somerset and I resigned from my job as a telecoms engineer and moved to the NW to go to University and study to be an Occupational Therapist.


I see Dave most winters for skiing now, and Kev and Sue pop back to England regularly (and bring wine - big thanks), but I'd not heard from Steve since he left 10 years ago.

Hargreaves Original Route
Thanks to Sam getting in touch (we are both useless at this) we arranged to meet at Stanage on Monday and climb :-). Steve was up from Plymouth holidaying with his family and other friends.

Me on BAWS crawl (couldn't let Phil miss this)
We met at Stanage, and Steve hadn't changed a bit. Straight away the banter began as we set off on a grit rampage, to climb as many routes as we could in the time available, and to show Phil the best routes here. Steve was wearing a 'berry' coloured windproof that he'd bought from the charity shop for £1 - this made me smile...

Right unconquerable

Right unconquerable from other side

top of right unconquerable

It was a fantastic day, I think we were all on form as we cruised 3 classic VS's, 4 classic HVS's (Goliaths Groove, Right Unconquerable, BAWS Crawl and Eliminator) and 1 x E1 (The Link).

Goliaths Groove (the tricky bit at the start!)

Phil learning to 'feel the force'
They were already running late as we finished on Goliath's Groove. We got back to the cars and as Phil and Steve burnt off in their people carrier (family men!) Steve leaned out of his window waved, shouted 'love you', gave me a cheeky look and they sped off! Hilarious - Steve you have not changed one bit and it was great to see you. Lets not make it 10 years until we meet up again.

Steve - chopper man!

Sunday, 24 July 2016

The muscles from Brussels visits the Lakes

It was great to catch up with the muscles from Brussels (Dave) on home turf. Apart from Brussels obviously, Dave can be found at various alpine regions throughout the summer and winter seasons. Indeed a good way to locate him is to look around the sale rails of the alpine gear shops, in fact if you find the rail with discount brightly coloured ski trousers you are almost sure to catch sight of him!

This way

The big climb..
He didn't have much time, and I couldn't persuade him to come climbing on Gimmer (boo) so instead we met in the Northern Lakes (near Keswick) and mt biked the famous Skiddaw Loop. I was a little late having stopped for a flat white on the way up (how cosmo of me!). 

The water jump!

Wet but fun
This is my favourite ride in the Northern Lakes so its always good to show someone else around it and we both enjoyed the 38km, good weather, good riding and a good catch up. I didn't have much time for photo's, in fact its probably the fastest time I've done the route as Dave is as fit as a 'butchers dog' (so to speak!) so it was a fairly quick tour before tea and cakes in Keswick in the afternoon. I think I have this athletic thing cracked!

Extra bit tacked on the end was great

There Dave goes..

Monday, 18 July 2016

Wales Coast to Coast mtb

Jo decided it would be fun to ride the Welsh Coast to Coast (North to South) and basically asked if anyone was interested in joining her for some of it. She 'persuaded' me to join her on her first day which basically went from Llandudno to Coed y Brenin.

The slightly tricky bit was how to bike with her, but then get back to my van. A plan was hatched that I would meet her near Betws y Coed at the Marin Trail centre and bike with her over to Ffestiniog and then head back, either the same route or by Penmachno.

The damp start for me at the Marin Centre!
While most of the country was experiencing nice weather I met Huw and Jo in a very wet carpark in Wales, and we set off. Firstly going round some of the Marin Trail before dropping down to the ugly house and searching (GPS useful) for the (unsigned) route over to Dolwyddelan.

slippy single track
From Dolwyddelan it got interesting.... I'd already got to the 20km point and although I was very much enjoying being out biking with Jo, and having a good catch up I was conscious that at some point I had to turn back (in the rain!) to get back to the van.

Unrideable track over to Dolwyddelan
Nice track, still raining
We headed South gradually climbing on another forest track into Cwm Penamner. Then after what seemed forever Jo suddenly stopped and pointed to a small hobbit sized hole in the trees at the side of the trail and declared that this raging stream was the 'path' through the forest to get up onto the fell/moor land (high point) before crossing over to the old slate mine working near Ffestiniog.

This looks flat, but actually it was quite steep!
After a tortuous bike push up a steep rocky stream we emerged onto an exposed moor. It's fair to say it was quite grim. I was reluctant to leave the sanctuary of the forest and suggested I may turn back here but Jo wasn't having any of this and wanted my moral support until we got across this to the more distinct tracks of the old mine workings shown on the map.

At the edge/lip of the big quarry!
We were looking for vague sheep tracks to follow (didn't find any), and visibility was down to about 10-15m so we had to keep checking GPS readings (Jo's phone) to work out where we were as there were no paths/trails/visibility. Eventually we found the edge of the massive old quarry we were aiming for which was really spooky because you could tell it was deep, but couldn't see the bottom, just a shadow of a giant tree growing in it.

Bye Jo (the first time!!)
We said our quick goodbyes, both wet and cold, Jo just had to follow the edge of the quarry and get to the tracks that would lead onward, and I headed North into the cloud/mist. But then the weirdest thing happened, I ran off pushing my bike (it was so cold by now), thinking I was heading North, saw a fence (that I'd not seen before) and followed it... This went past spoil heaps and turned into a track, alarm bells... this isn't the moor route back to the wood, stream, home etc....

By now committed I cycled the track thinking I'm lost, but I don't have many options I have to see where this goes. Then I saw a cyclist heading towards me (phew, saviour), I can ask them where I am! Oh its Jo!!!! What on earth has happened!? No idea but somehow I've gone in a complete circle and got ahead of Jo who's on her correct route heading South!! Even when I downloaded my bike GPS route later at home it doesn't show how this actually happened (Welsh Triangle or time travel I think).

I was totally stuck at this point.... it would be foolish to try and go back on my own into the mist and try again as I was now in a completely different place/location. The only safe plan was to carry on with Jo at this point. Jo suggested I continue on her whole route and stay at Corris, but I had to be back in the Lakes for climbing on Sunday so this wasn't really an option.

We carried on down the mine tracks, checking our position at the junctions with the GPS to be sure the ground matched the map. At a point where it looked possible to cut across to Penmachno again we parted.

The next 30 minutes were quite tense, exhilarating and stressful as I headed off into the mist following macro land features (the edge of a forest and big ground features) and my nose. Eventually I passed through lots more complex mine workings before finding a decent track that dropped me down and eventually out of the bad weather and into the Penmachno Valley! Phew!

As time wasn't on my side I just blasted back mainly on the road (with odd quick forest section) the 20 or so km to the van as the sun finally came out and I gradually dried off after 6 hours of damp cycling.

Its ages (can't remember when) since I was stretched like this, both physically having not biked much this year, and mentally, carrying on in the rain, unfamiliar terrain/area, unclear navigation, wet/cold, all impacting decision making. But its these testing/challenging days that you get the biggest reward from. So thanks Jo, what a great day.

If you want to hear about Jo's journey check out this (Huw's) blog.

Sunday, 3 July 2016

Fancy a run Rob?

Yesterday Rob completed the Lakeland Ultimate 110km run. I think its fair to say that Rob wasn't really a runner before entering this event a year ago, but he's worked and trained extremely hard for the last year to complete this difficult and personal challenge.

They set off at midnight from Ambleside on Friday, and Janet et al spent a long time trying to catch him en route to offer encouragement and support. We decided to walk in from Langdale and catch him  on the Stake Pass, at the approx 58-59 mile mark (not totally sure).

Here he comes
The weather was pretty awful, 10-12 degrees (quite chilly), very windy with frequent very heavy showers and as we got soaked walking the few miles along Langdale and up to the Pass I did wonder how Rob would be faring in these conditions.

Keep moving
Rob estimated he'd be at this point by 3-4pm, we arrived at 3pm, and he popped up at around 4pm. Rob said he felt pretty beat at this point but didn't look too bad. He said that his legs had been hurting for the last 30 miles, but this wasn't getting any worse....

Rob nearest to camera blue!

Robs the middle of the 3 blurs!

He walked with him for a while, tried to offer a cup of tea, crisps (not required), took pictures and offered encouragement until he wanted to jog again. We saw him bravely descend down into Langdale, wishing him well.

We headed out, jumped in the car and went to the finish in Ambleside where we saw Janet. Janet had last seen Rob at Elterwater and said he was 'fading fast'. We saw many of the people on the 55km course jog in and finish.

Down into Langdale
Rob arrived...... and it was quite a shock, Rob walked on to the finishing fields with a woman who I think was worried about him and offering encouragement. Rob was in a bad way, he was really struggling physically, his speech was a little incoherent and he said he was a mess. We walked with him nearer to the line and he did manage to jog over the line. The supporters at the line recognised that he was doing the 110km route and there was a lot of cheering and clapping.

20m from the finish - come on Rob

This is Rob after 'coming round' a little!
I hope Rob doesn't mind me writing about this, but I was so impressed by his grit, sheer effort and determination to get to the end. Clearly his body was in shut down (I think for quite a while!), but his persistence and strength of character and mind got him to the finish. An amazing achievement Rob, well done.

Wednesday, 22 June 2016

Kipling Groove - at last

I have a small mental list of climbs I want to do before moving to Scotland. One of the most important to me is Kipling Groove, an HVS on Gimmer Crag which is reported to be ruddy 'ard......

I've really wanted to climb KG since I first did the reasonably stout 1+ hour walk in from the Old Dungeon Ghyll (Langdale) and saw Gimmer Crag and the route many years ago. I've been to Gimmer quite a few times but never managed to get on this route. Initially I was too scared (!), once it was taken, with people waiting in line, once we climbed a route up to the ledge and start of the route and it was freezing and we couldn't feel our hands.... etc etc (excuses).

Last night was 'the' night I hoped as I joined the KMC on their summer (solstice) evening meet. I teamed up with Neil and Chris and we 'warmed' up on Crystal a tough E1 Neil wanted to climb, which certainly warmed me up...

Looking down into the valley from the belay
KG is/was amazing, and actually worth waiting for. The first undercling pitch which is easy gives atmosphere to the route and leads to a great belay in a big corner system. After reading the guidebook description a few times I set off on the top pitch. Wow.... It starts up a straightforward but very enjoyable corner, before being encouraged out and around an arete onto the headwall.

Picture by Mike 99 (UKC) of first pitch undercling

The crux is just the most amazing bit of climbing I can remember from any route as you have to reach massively out right to a small horizontal break that you can only just see and get your finger tips into at full stretch - and don't really feel you can hold. I then had to push further right with my left foot trusting my right hand would hold and smearing a right foot cross through with my hands for a better hold. You are then holding this great thin horizontal break with both hands, both feet on smears whilst you hardly believe the exposed position you are in as you try and remain calm to get some gear in before making another hard reach move to go further along the break..... After this the finish is still tricky up an 'easier' crack.

I got to the top absolutely buzzing and feeling great. Its definitely the best route and lead I've done for a long while.

Hope I don't get in trouble for this. Picture by Gordon Stainforth (from UKC).
The climber on the headwall is on Kipling Groove (red/orange helmet)
I was thinking about the route on the drive home and when I went to bed and have decided if I had to come up with a list of my top 3 climbs of all time, it would be on the list. Gimmer Crag is amazing, and my favourite crag in the Lake District, it will be the thing I miss most about the Lakes when in Scotland.

Neil around the crux

Neil on the crux (or there about)
After last night my all time top 3 climbs are:
1st - Snake Dike - Yosemite
2nd - Kipling Groove - Gimmer
3rd - Dream of White Horses - Gogarth

The walk out. Looking back at the prominent Gimmer