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Via Ferrata

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Les Escaldilles - Llo

Probably the most physically demanding and un-nerving thing I've ever done (ditto Ruth). We had the options of the AD or D+ route (it goes F/PD/AD/D/TD/ED - although one web site I've found say the routes there are PD and TD!) - either way we did the hardest! The route climbed 259m in a length of 800m as it went diagonally up this big rock face. There were basically 4 types of terrain/pitches: a very few bits of walking/easy scrambling where you needed little protection, lots of traverses where you were using natural small rock ledges and grooves but with some sort of metal handholds, a few corners highly exposed where you had to step around to the next traverse, and finally a number of vertical climbs of 5m - 20m where you had metal rungs  which were sometimes obliquely spaced. The AD and D+ shared all the top 2/3rds. But the D+ start included a 20m overhanging vertical climb with a sloping wooden plank at the top - which looked flat from below but was a complete nightmare when you got to it. Ruth was pretty much pulled up this bit by the instructor  (she rapidly fell out of love with via Ferrata, but after about the 1/2 mark really got into her stride and enjoyed it). I thought I'd never be able to raise my right arm again my muscles felt so burnt out (and we were only 1/3 the way up). Protection was by two slings and carabiners - but you clipped these onto a fixed metal cable which was only attached (and so would stop a carbiner)
every 5m or so, so from the vertical climb you' slide 5m before the carabiner stopped, and then the sling had about another 5m of shock absorber built in so you'd then fall another 5m before you stopped!

Just to add to the fun most of the fixing points where you had to unclip and clip form the line (one carabiner at a time of course) where right on the crux moves! All this was about 60m above ground level - straight down. I thought exposure was going to be a problem, but you were so focussed on just trying to hang on and get up the only chance
you had to look around (and take photos) was on the easy bit. Needless to say we were all very relieved when we got to the top!



Once back at the town we soaked in the hot tub for an hour or two and had a cafe and crepe at the local Salon de The.



Canyoning tomorrow then home, but after today it should be a doddle
(assuming I've got my strength back and I'll be giving the water jumps
> 5m a miss anyway!)


Tetons in Spring

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There's still snow on them there Tetons.

Alps Planning

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Nick and I promised ourselves a year or so ago that we'd aim to start climbing in the alps. For the last two winters we've managed a short trip to Scotland to do some snow and ice stuff, and we'll hopefully do the same this winter (if ever there's enough snow). But this is hopefully the first year we also do the alps in summer. As a prelude I've been looking at all the alps books, and settled on the following as the best set to have:

- Kev Reynolds "Walking in the Alps" for a general intro (get the US paperback, its a lot cheaper)
- Alpine 4000m Peaks By The Classic Routes as the best route book
- 100 Hut Walks in the Alps for the acclimatisation and recce trips
- In Monte Viso's Horizon: Climbing All the Alpine 4000m Peaks by Will McLewin as a personal experience and practical take on the climbs.

If it all comes off I should have some stunning words and photos for the blog.

cover cover cover cover

Sanctuary Cove

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And here's what the place looks like from GoogleEarth (a year later with a retro-post)

Climbing in Glencoe

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My mate Nick and I headed up to Scotland for the weekend to brush up our winter climbing skills. Had a great guide, Donald, from Abacus Mountaineering who tooks us back through self-arrests, belays etc. On the second day, in dreadful weather, we set off up the S side of Glencoe to to North Central Gully, Grade I/II. 3 pitches (and a bit) of very steep snow. Crux was getting over a rocky rib on the L to get into a short final gully to the summit. Wind must have been 50mph+ on the summit, not a good place to be belaying Nick up on the last bit. A great weekend, and Donald and co are well recommended.

Centre for Alternative Technology

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Whilst in Wales we went to the Centre for Alternative Technology at Machynlleth. Great place and some new stuff since last time I went, although the fly's eye projector has gone. Picked up an interesting book, Tomorrow's World - Britain's Share in a Sustainable Future, published by Friends of the Earth because it looked like it had some good material for my Colony Alpha book. One interesting concept in it is that of Enviromental Space - defined as the share of the Earths (or another planets) resources that the human race can sustainably take. We are currently running at about two planets worth for the globe as a whole, eight(!) for the UK!

Madog's Wells

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Spent a good weekend in Wales last weekend with a couple of friends, staying at Madog's Wells, a lovely remote place in Mid-Wales looking up into a semi-private valley. The key thing about the place is that it has 8" and 16" telescopes available - pity it was overcast. maybe next time.

Mulanje Massif

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Deb and I had a wonderful time hiking on the Mulanje Massif in Malawi and climbing Sapitaw, the just short of 10,000 ft peak at its centre. The Massif was also the setting for Laurens Van Der Posts' Venture into the Interior. He lost a man descending the same trail we did - but he had storms, we didn't. A lovely place richly scented with Mulanje Cedar and hardly another living person.

Hyatt - San Francisco

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The Hyatt Regency and Embarcadero Centre in San Franscisco from GoogleEarth.

I fell in love with the Hyatt when I first went to San Francisco when I was back-packing around the US in 1981. The huge pyramidal atrium lobby, the revolving restaurant with canyon like views down (Market?) street. Wonderful.

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