Wednesday, 22 November 2017

Patagonia, Torres del Paine - Flora & Fauna

A few pages i pulled together from a presentation i gave after a trip to Patagonia back in 2014. We circumnavigated the Torres del Paine, the route known as the 'O'. The shorter southern trek just visiting the honeypots is known as the 'W'. Info might be useful for anybody thinking of making the trek. Pictures by myself, with thanks to Dave Beer for the splendid wildlife close ups.

Tuesday, 6 October 2015

Mountain Photo 2015 - Trail Magazine

Flippin chuffed to have a photo shortlisted for Trail Magazine UK Mountain Photo 2015, voting ends soon, so if you like it please give it  a vote   

Friday, 7 August 2015

Markha Valley trek, Ladakh - Wed 5th August

Back in Leh out from Markha Valley after 'Deliverance' style epic 30k, 14hr trek from Nyimaling Plain to Hemis. Markha Trail desimated following prolonged storms causing severe flooding and damage to road and trail infastructure. The road from Shang to Hemis is impassable, washed out in several places, bridges were still standing up to Wed 5th Aug as we came out, but the halfway bridge crossing to true left bank had a gaping hole on the right hand bastion so that may be gone by Thus 6th August. Our escape back to Leh was only possible due to superhuman efforts of our Nepali guides. Heading down from the Gongmaru La Pass 5287m we had to 'Canyon' most of the mid to lower section from Lartsa to Shang. Sections had to be rapelled over waterfalls, and the majority of river crossings had to be roped. On one section of missing road below Shang we had to run a 60m rope to protect the traverse over the torrent. I believe their is a group of trekkers still camped at Shang waiting to get out when the river levels lower, thou if storms continue they may have to wait their a while. No WiFi coms from Leh at present, maybe out for 4/5 days, so posting this from Agra India. Anyway, off to the Penguin Cafe for a pizza and a bottle of weak Kingfisher. Helen had to summon up supreme courage to make it back to Leh, what a trooper!

Monday, 2 March 2015

Glyderau Traverse - Sunday 8th Feb

I'm as guilty as most for not putting the dam camera away and just living the moment.
For a few days in the 2nd week of Feb this year, winter conditions came good in North Wales, that is came good from a photographers point of view, cloud inversions and clear skies. 

On Sunday 8th we managed to grab one of those days, when you just don’t want to descend. A digital witness, I hung around for hours just soaking up the day through the viewfinder. Having just taken one picture, 10 mins later a slight shift in position had the camera out again..

 Getting home, sifting through the hundreds of images only half a dozen stand out. The mountain conditions we had that day raised the bar, nature was doing it all for me, all I had to do was click away. I was after and the day demanded something better than a chocolate box shot. I wanted a pic to sum up the crunch of the crampon, the sharpness of cold air, the ring of an axe on stone. Some days you feel you get close with a photo but seriously nahh…nowhere near.

Tuesday, 23 December 2014

North Wales, on a mountain, whiteout conditions, no compass...

                 About 15 years ago i had a ‘Winter Whiteout’ mini epic ‘somewhere’ near the top of Y Gribin.
It was a Mid Winter ‘solo’ day out over the Glyders just before Xmas. Weather conditions were generally good with clear visibility and plenty of well establish snow on the ground, though the forecast did suggested some likely snow showers later in the day.
                Equipped with Ice Axe/Crampons, a short length of rope and full winter kit, quite late in the day about 11am I set off. I reckoned i had about 5hrs of daylight, so had decided just to ascend via Yr Gribin ridge, and depending on how things went, descend via Seniors, the Kitchen or Y Garn.. having a torch & bivy Bag I was well prepared to descend in the dark if required. I was even aware that it was not far off a full moon.
                With a good covering of compact snow and ice I made speedy progress. Nearing the top of Y Gribin ridge I noticed a colossal bank of dark cloud rapidly coming in from the South west, i reckoned that i would top out before it hit and i could start making my way down if it turned bad. I’d taken about 20 paces from the top and was resting for a drink and a quick bite to eat when the storm caught up with me, I was in a full blown Whiteout with driving snow and zero visibility.  

OK think, get a grip, i needed to formulate a retreat, one problem, i couldn't find my compass. A search of the immediate ground to see if it had fallen out of my bag revealed nothing, the ferocity of the storm instantly obliterated my tracks, any hope of finding it were out.
On a better day
                I’d by now already turned around several times and so lost my original orientation from the ridge. 15 mins had passed, I needed a brief clear spell to re-orientate myself.... Another 10 mins no change, so re-evaluate. Descending Y Gribin in these conditions, err no thanks! but i couldn't be far off the edge of Nameless Cwm, so maybe pick up the edge and follow it along? Carefully pacing out and back along what I thought were the cardinal points, I still couldn't establish the edge of the Cwm. On the way up I’d noticed the large cornices so was cautious of exploring too close to the edge.  Dam.... time was getting on and my situation wasn't getting any better.
                I did have a mobile phone, but it was just a phone no GPS, so what next, mountain rescue, stay put, hunker down and find some shelter from the wind? Great, i couldn't even supply a grid reference. It was getting late, dark in another hour. Ok if i got really stuck at least I could let them know I was up here and what I was intending to do.
                Conditions weren't going to improve in the next few hours, I didn't relish an uncomfortable night out in the bivy bag. 10 minutes of buffeting later...hang on, I do have one other constant, the bleedin wind, its been blowing from the same direction since i left the ridge. if I walk into the wind it will at least take me off the summit plateau to the easier southern flank of Glyder Fawr. After about ½ hr slow progress against the storm, prodding the ground in front. I’d lost enough height to afford a fleeting glimpse of a way down to Pen Y Pass.
               I’m on the wrong side of the mountain for my car but at least i'm safe. A bearing based on the wind direction had been a tad speculative but with no visibility and no compass, it had worked and i was off the hill. In the dark I hit the iced up tarmac of the Llanberis road, thumb out, the first car struggling up the pass stopped and offered a lift. Not the first bit of good luck that day.

I guess i looked a bit iced up “You had a good day” said the driver.
After a delay of a few seconds “Err yeah...on reflection, pretty good” i replied.

Back at my semi buried car i eventually wrenched open the frozen driver door, and started the engine. Dumping the gear in the boot i took a step backwards, ‘Crack’ Lucky me, I’d struck Silva.

Thursday, 18 December 2014

Weekend of climbing at Ynys Lochtyn - Sept 20th – 23rd

Scene - A Thursday evenings indoor climbing
Deej explodes with some news...
“Lads lads, guess what says Deej, ”I’ve found this really great climbing venue that’s been re-discovered on the Welsh coast, and it’s near Daymo’s place in New Quay”
We exploded back “Err.. are you sure, we had a look a year ago and it was all chossy slate, that nearly killed us”
Deej now jumping about “Yes, yes its nowhere near that shitty place its further down the coast, place called Ynys-Lochtyn, we gotta go, we gotta go”
Over excited bouncing Tigerr Deej’s are a bleedin liability at an indoor wall, for his and our own personal safety we tie him on a rope.
“For fooks sake, ok, ok, somebody calm him down, and put him on the 7a.
....Later that evening in the pub checking the beta on our phones
By god, you know i think he’s right, this place looks amazing; bit of a walk in, but it’s bloody fantastic.
In June, a few of the chaps headed down to New Quay for a first recy.

I’m pottering round Ludlow on a lazy Saturday afternoon, and there’s a rumble in my pocket, as a series of pics and texts ping onto my phone. Opening the pics, I barely contain my excessive mouthful of Shropshire Blue cheese scone, bits of it fly across the cafe table.
Text < weather great, climbing awesome, were goin for a barby on the quay>
The delicious cheese scone only just about makes up for not being there...

The venue, Ynys Lochtyn has been re-discovered by Doug Kerr & Dave Williams. Presently there’s an excellent downloadable interim topo guide that i quote ‘is expected to be fully detailed in the forthcoming Climbers’ Club guide to Mid Wales (anticipated publication date of 2015)’
Download link
From the interim guide ‘Ynys Lochtyn is the island situated just beyond the headland of Pen Trwyn Lochtyn. Ynys Lochtyn only becomes an island at high water. It is possible to cross to the island by means of a rocky beach, normally passable up to approximately 2.5 hours on either side of high water during neap tides but more time should be allowed during spring tides’
The feedback was.. its a brilliant venue, and the rock is good.
On the Saturday the lads had made the longish walk in round the headland of Pen Trwyn Lochtyn. The decent to Ynys Lochtyn was a bit messy but OK, access this way was fine but climbing time is dictated by the tide tables, so not overly convenient. What they needed was a boat, and we got a mate with a boat. So Sunday they took the boat.

The seaborne invasion is best tackled from the Eastern side of the island, slightly better protection from the wind and currents. On a low tide if you anchor the boat some 100m out, you can row an inflatable onto an obvious rocky ramp, but best pack everything in watertight bags.

Over the now long forgotten glorious summer of 2014, Daymo steals a couple more visits to the island, armed with some ‘previous’ of the venue were ready for a late summer adventure.

The boat trip - Saturday 20th Sept
Daymo on Lochtyn Syndrome VS 5a
Its late September with spell of late sun, before the boat needs to come out of the water for the winter, we get a chance for a final visit of the year.
Damian, Len, Deej and Matt all manage to get down to New Quay on the Friday evening...
Very early Sat morning, I roll up at the wrong house and knock on the wrong door. Fortunately I realise the error and shuffle a couple of houses up, before the irritated owner answers. The correct front door is open but then this is a local community, the type of trusting community i remember form growing up in seaside Dorset. All’s quiet with faint hint of spilled spirits.
“Allo... Allo...wake up, anybody conscious? ”
They don’t look good...
Naturally, Matt has woken early with a purpose; he’s skipped down the village for some forgotten item for breakfast. Daymo surfaces and i remind him of the tide table, Yeah...we’ve got to get the boat out while the tides in the harbour. After an award winning fry up, we head off. Damian studies the sea with the keen eye of the ancient mariner. Yes, yes it’s a goodish day and the sea is sort of calmish. Already the harbour is busy; the locals are making the most of what may be the last good weekend of the year.
Gear stowed, we headed south from New Quay and picked up the knots.
“Daymo, how much fuel we got” say I.
“Loads Rob, were ok” says the captain "Take the wheel"
Undercover Wall area
…It’s been years since i steered, probably not since the incident on the Thames when my sleeve got caught on the throttle of my uncles boat. As the bow rose higher, his ever so reddening face hurtled towards me, mmm.. many a sunken punt, terrific fun. Served him right for the time he dropped anchor out of Poole Harbour, mid course of the Embassy International Offshore powerboat race, scared the shit out me, Coo.. great views of the crews faces, i could count their teeth. Many expletives later we were moved on by the coast guard helicopter.

The row in to the ramps on the east side
About an hour down the coast we get to Ynys Lochtyn, drop anchor and slide the inflatable into the water.
Tip, don’t let go of the bow rope. A couple of ferries and were all on the island, and mostly dry. This spot has traffic from local anglers so there are a few worn paths up from the rocky ramp. The weather is improving; no sun yet but its dry enough. We head off to the North tip of the island for Undercover & Stormborn Walls, a short scramble down an you’re on a good wide ledge.

Stormborn Wall (Right Hand) is getting some surf so we only have time for one route, it gets as regular tidal lash so there is also a bit of slippery seaweed.
Fewer routes due to encroaching tide. Damian leads on ‘Lochtyn Syndrome’ 15m VS 5a, the corner route is tricky at the top, we all second. Beware the finish, it may now be trickier, and you can blame Len for tearing off a useful chunk of rock.
Matt on Out of Time E2 5c
Ken soloing on Undercover wall
Undercover Wall slightly raked back about 5-10 degrees off vertical, and pockmarked with relief quartzite, nice, sharp clean holds. If it’s your first foray, Undercover has some good short easy-ish warm up routes, just right for getting a feel for the hard sandstone. The E2 in the far right corner has some challenges, useful protection is a little on the sparse side until you get around 3/4 height. We need to move onto Hidden Wall so we make a lame excuse for doing it on a toppy.

Undercover routes climbed (left to right)
· Full Time 15m S 4a (Solo)
· The Last Time 15m HS 4b (Solo)
· Come in, Your Time is Up 15m VD 4a (Solo)
· Time on My Hands 15m S 4a (Lead)
· Time of Your Life 15m HS 4b (The leftward trending flake) (Lead, Lovely little route to start on)
· Out of Time 15m E2 5c (Finish direct or more easily to the left at E2 5b) (Finish direct on top rope clean, protection sparse)
We shuffle back up from Undercover Wall and scramble down the cliff on the west side of the island leading to Hidden Wall’ area. Most of ‘Hidden wall’ is climbed from an elevated and wide ramp of rock that gently slopes into the sea. Its a superb spot to stretch out, catch a bit of sun and dry any wet ropes. Higher up the ramp, I don’t think it gets a tidal wash except probably spring tides and storms. As the afternoon warms up it starts to get a bit wiffy in places, Tip, if you caught sort and need a wee, ‘don’t pee on the ramp’ walk a bit further down nearer the water.
Totally recommend you try two lovely routes on Hidden Wall, ‘Crab’ S & ‘Seal’ VS, the guide advises these were originally climbed in 2005, there both well worth the one star and probably deserve two if you keep to the exposed flakes. A few extra small nuts will come in handy. I sew ‘Crab’ up big style, taking ages placing loads of pro, a few more routes and it’s time to leave.
Len on Menace from the deep HVS 5a
Hidden Wall - Lower ramp routes climbed
· Menace from the Deep 20m HVS 5a a difficult start then direct up the wall to finish up the quartz flake.
Hidden Wall – Upper Ramp routes climbed
· Crab 17m S The corner
· The Test 15m HVS 4c the right hand side of the golden/yellow wall with a runner in the groove of Saudade at 4m.

The row off from the gap at high tide
The row in to the gap between the island and mainland
Although most of our stuff is in dry bags we might have a bit of a problem pushing off from the ramp. The swell has picked up a bit. Daymo and Deej make the first reasonably dry run in the inflatable, leaving Len, Matt and myself waiting whilst Daymo brings the boat in a bit closer. To get off with a high tide Daymo rows the inflatable round to the gap between the Island and the mainland. Here even with a swell it’s reasonably clam. The inflatable can only ferry 2 at a time so that’s me and Len, any more and we won’t clear the small reef. Back on the boat Matt is the last sorry soul on the island. Daymo takes up the heroic task of the final journey, fair to say Matt’s pretty keen to get off buy now and so powers the oars back with exceptional gusto. Eventually were back into New Quay for Fish n Chips, a few beers in the pub, and finish off the honey bourbon.

Sunday 21st Sept
Bring the inflatable up high enough to allow for high tide
Dawn rises with rosy fingers, another odyssey begins....
Sunday starts a bit bleary, i think I’ve fallen out of bed but as its only a tad off the floor it’s hard to tell.
“Brew Rob” says Matt, ....what a gentleman.
It’s looking a better day, the sun is out but Daymo has a feeling it might be a bit choppy past the harbour walls.
“Daymo, how much fuel we got” say I,
“Loads mate” says the captain.
“Right” says Daymo, “Common let’s get going, who’s got the pasties” The waves are a bit higher with a smatter of white ‘oses, so we need to keep the knots down”.
We let the locals know where we’re going just in case.
As we anchor round the East side again, the sea comes alive with jumpin sparkling sprats; the mackerel are feeding, quite spectacular.
Back on Ynys Lochtyn we head back to Hidden Wall for some unfinished business.
Me on Seal VS 4c, Daymo relaxing!!
I drop onto ‘Seal’ a cracking VS 4c, there are a couple of options higher up, the close to the edge direct 4c, or creeping round to the right for a what looks like harder b finish in the flatter flake. Looking down I’ve put in so much gear my belayer has either fallen asleep or slipped on a bit of kelp. I plumb for the direct 4c. A lovely big pull over a overhanging bulge of rock. One over its an easy finish. Note, there’s a bit of loose rock higher up so some extra long slings are v useful.
Safely tied off Deej wants to have a go at the E3 ‘Flight of the Concrete Puffins’ 19m E3 6a, to quote The left side of the arĂȘte is steep and hard.
Deej on i think Gorilla Warefare E3 5c
Jee’s it is exposed and hard. Various other routes go through the day. Matt pushes confidently up ‘The Test’ 15m HVS 4c, and Len and I do ‘Branded’ 15m E1 5a, wonderful climbing. Deej and Daymo are now on a roll, War Dance E2 5c and ‘Gorilla Warfare’ E3 5c, glorious grunts, the later over a bulge finish. The rest of us all pump trough the routes and are pleasantly knackered.
Time and tide as they say...with the sun still out we recon we can swim to the boat, striping off all the gear is dumped in the inflatable and Daymo rows it across. Ouch Ouch ouch.. them there barnacles are sharp. After a day’s hardish climbing the cold water is good on the muscles. A few minutes in the water and the boat doesn’t look any closer, in fact it looks further away, mild panic ensues, however Daymo’s only bringing her round to get in closer. I’m still in the waters when i hear a massive thump.
“What the ‘feck’ was that!” i burbble
Matt shouts, “Oh fook, he’s fallen over, quick Rob, get up here”
Daymo has slipped over on the bow trying to secure the anchor and smacked his head on the deck. We do the emergency ‘lie still and don’t move while we check you over’ routine. He wasn’t knocked out cold but there’s a spanked look on his face, it’s hard to tell what passes for normal, but we think he’s OK. Oh yes apart for the double vision....ANYWAY
Crisis averted we slam the throttle forward and bomb for port. It’s a late sunny evening, three or four (that’s 6 to 8 for Damian) local boats are out running the coast. Closing in on New Quay we can see the dolphin watch cruiser has found a pod. Len insists we have a look. It’s an impressive sight to witness so we idle a while.
The dolphins clock off for the afternoon and we take our leave, what a lucky day... we’re on a high, we’re so nearly home, we’re so low on fuel…
The engine cuts, the bow drops and we roll in silence with the swell.
“Ohh shh..”, said the captain…

On a positive note, what a cracking weekend good climbing, good company, good grub, mmm local pasties nom nom. With the boat eventually back on the trailer we head for middle England. Deej and I take the mountain road to Rhyader. As we climb out of the valley the sun sets with rosy titles