Saturday, 13 September 2014

Sidetracked Magazine

Sidetracked Magazine is an online journal featuring a limited collection of personal stories of adventure travel, journeys and expeditions. The concept is simple: to capture the emotion and experience of adventures and expeditions throughout the world... and to inspire.

That's what they say - and I'll stick my neck out and say that they do it beautifully. So it is with a certain sense of bemused pride that I find myself looking at my own images and words on its pages. Closing the circle is the account of a wonderful trip around Shetland Mainland, accompanied by Tim, Chris and Brian. Click on the link above or here: Sidetracked Magazine, and take a look around. A relative newcomer, the content both online and in print makes a refreshing change from the usual outdoor fare and I wish the editorial team every success.

Sunday, 7 September 2014

Late summer sun on the fells

I took fewer images than normal on this, a day of calm and beautiful late summer sun on the fells. A pre-dawn start to see the sunrise from the summit of Great End was pure magic, after which I covered another seven summits. I might have pushed a little.
Starting the descent from Buck Pike towards Coniston after a long day on the tops with just one major loss of height. Perfect.

Sunday, 31 August 2014

Happy days off Haws Point

We have tried a few times of late, to catch the right conditions off the south end of Walney in the first hours of the ebb...
This time it was perfect.
A decent westerly and a moderately sized Sp tide created some chunky waves off shore...
...and we all had some long rides, before returning to the groyne and the faster flows which gave steeper if still unpredictable water.
After a couple of hours the flow slowed a little and as always here, the conditions eased off... 
...but still gave great sport.
Thanks to Chris who took all but the second image shown, of myself and Brian from the groyne at the end of the session. Happy days.

Saturday, 16 August 2014

A tawny owl or two

There has been a pair of resident owls nearby for as long as I can remember, but this year, for whatever reason, I have seen them far more frequently and closer than ever before.
I had also presumed they were barn owls - but after a particularly close encounter and a few lucky photos, I'm inclined to think this one at least is a tawny owl. It seemed wrong somehow to return indoors while he sat so close, but the rain was falling, so I stepped back inside and watched from the living room window for another few minutes before he left as silently as he'd arrived.

Sunday, 10 August 2014

Winters past and Summers to come

Researching an idea for a trip to its northern coastline, I couldn't help looking back over some photos taken in Norway, during a bitterly cold week in February that provided my first real experience of pure ice climbing. Before then, my winter climbing had involved the mix of névé and frozen turf so typical of routes in the Lakes and Cairngorms - my usual destinations. This however, was something entirely different. In many ways, it was more akin to cragging, single pitch routes dominating the agenda. 
Entirely unlike the winter mountaineering days at home, borne out of a necessity for height to find suitable conditions, here we stepped from the door into temperatures that averaged -15C. Which was cold even for Norway in February, the norm in this area at that time of year being -8C. After the UK winter of 2009/10 (when temperatures in the Dales fell to -17C) and to a lesser degree the two that followed, it seems less remarkable, but we had yet to experience such prolonged cold at home at the time of this trip.
And of course it was the reason we were there - except that such severe temperatures (as low as -25C on some days) simply make the ice brittle - disconcerting when another 'dinner plate' shatters beneath the pick and calves tire, crampon clad boots feeling cumbersome, clumsy tools when more used to the delicate precision of rock shoes. But that delicate finesse is essential on pure ice - more so the colder it becomes. 
I found the climbing hard. And at times disconcertingly insecure - the delicate tap of the pick so unlike a bomber axe placement in good névé or turf. An accident or two didn't help, one of our group breaking an ankle on the descent following an impromptu solo. Another unfortunate breaking a leg in a nasty ground fall, landing as he did on the remnants of a collapsed icicle, some two feet in diameter. Arriving at the scene immediately after the fall, we helped as best we could, trying to keep the casualty warm - that afternoon was -18C if I recall correctly - until he was airlifted from the bed of the gorge, the frozen waterfalls adorning either side forming the routes that minutes earlier had seemed so tempting. In fact, having walked in, we decided to climb anyway, though enthusiasm was somewhat diminished that afternoon in particular.
It was an eye opening trip and looking back over the guide books, there seem to be so many routes that look so good...perhaps I will go back but first I hope, in Summer, to the coast.