Monday, 3 November 2014

A familiar feeling at Aberffraw

Arriving on Anglesey in the teeth of a gale, the rain falling in sheets, was, worryingly perhaps, not an unfamiliar experience. The promise of a pint or three once the tent was pitched hastened proceedings and the evening passed in a pleasant blur putting the world to rights before all too little sleep saw us drifting downstream...
...heading for Traeth Mawr - the beach beyond which the diminutive Afan Ffraw meets the sea. And the surf.
With all the usual beaches crowded by kite surfers and boarders, here we had the sands and the sea to ourselves. Above, Brian lends a hand as John prepares to head out...
...before leaving the sands himself in something a little shorter.
John quickly into the thick of things...
...and myself, enjoying the familiar feel of the Alaw.
Breaking out was hard work with a good deal of time spent either vertical or airborne...
...but worth the effort every time.
There really is nothing quite like it - pure fun.
Our energy spent, the shallow stream proved more difficult to paddle up than down, but with just sufficient water to float empty hulls, it was an easy walk back to Aberffraw.

Sunday, 2 November 2014

Back in an Alaw but not an Alaw Bach

Back in a Rockpool Alaw - (the GT being modified to see how the handling will change with a little less rocker at the bow) - and I realised how much I have missed my old boat, the Alaw being perfect for days like these.
Image: Chris Drew
Breaking out into Aberffraw Bay, Anglesey, to enjoy what were lumpy and rather unpredictable waves but great fun nonetheless. More to follow.

Saturday, 18 October 2014

Into the not-so-wild-anymore

Approaching the crest of a low ridge on the edge of the Cairngorm mountains, I could sense their massive bulk beyond, out of sight still - the vast plateau, the bite of cold air shifting between granite tors, falling toward the icy depths of high lochans. Nearly there, the scent of heather clear as a weak autumnal sun drew subtle shades of colour from burnished slopes. Cresting the ridge I simply stopped, dumbfounded, the impact of these turbines sudden and absolute, utterly at odds with the landscape that dwarfs them and yet is dominated by them.
The so called renewables debate continues to rage - the questions politicised, the answers polarised, the lay-person seeking balanced objective information left to muddle through a mass of conflicting, spurious arguments. In fact I find it amazing that any real progress has been made in preventing the industrialisation and destruction of wild space which includes far more than turbines like these. The launch of things like the SNH map of wild land areas in June is encouraging, yet the fact that proposals such as the wind farm application between Loch Rannoch and Loch Ericht continue to be taken seriously is a damning indictment of just how little value so many place upon such spaces. A decision is due in November. Should the proposal go ahead, it will make a mockery of any pretense to the contrary. And so for a little while longer, a few will hold their breath, as countless millions continue, oblivious, into the not-so-wild-anymore.

Thursday, 16 October 2014


One year after launching to critical acclaim, Jottnar has extended its range of technical clothing for mountaineering, winter climbing and all-mountain skiing.
Smith's Route (Image: Mike Pescod)
Conceived in the Arctic and inspired by the brutality of the Norwegian mountains in winter, Jottnar was founded by Tommy Kelly and Steve Howarth. Former Royal Marines, both served, climbed and skied in some cold, snowy, icy, wet and vertigo-inducing places all over the world. 
That experience underpins the design and performance of every item in this uncompromising range.
Rigorously tested at each stage of development and proven by the most exacting users in the most demanding conditions...
This is a tightly focused range for those that want the best.

Tuesday, 14 October 2014

Snowy owl sighting - Beinn Meadhoinn

A little over a year ago, I rode from the Linn of Dee, through Glen Derry and on, up past the Hutchinson memorial hut - though it is a carry beyond until Loch Etchachan is reached - en-route for the summit of Ben Macdui. It was a superb day and a fantastic descent, one of the best. But as I dropped rapidly toward the loch, I noted the steep track falling from the summit plateau of Beinn Meadhoinn whose tors I had also seen many times from the surrounding ridges, but never visited. A return trip was assured.
Looking towards Ben Macdui from the summit, Braeriach the distant cloud topped summit to the right of the frame - the second and third highest mountains in Britain respectively.
The approach - riding beneath the flank of Derry Cairngorm - easy ground before the steep stuff begins in earnest.
Looking down on Creag á choire Etchachan - one of the most remote and impressive crags in the UK it faces east and lies at 750m, but offers one or two lines that dry quickly including the Classic Rock route: The Talisman. Another climb that I'd earmarked years ago and never quite got round to. No excuse. One for next summer perhaps.
And looking across to Cairngorm itself - an all too brief moment of sun catching the broad flank high above Loch Avon.
Setting off along the broad ridge for the summit tors of Beinn Meadhoinn. Lumpy riding but easier than initial appearances had suggested despite the closely scattered and irregular lumps of granite that litter the ridge.
Not the best image but a beautiful and rare sight - this snowy owl watched warily as I climbed the gentle slopes toward the summit. Native to the arctic, the last recording of a breeding pair in the UK was apparently in 1975 and the last sighting in the Cairngorms I believe was in February 2013.
We watched each other for several long minutes before he took flight - it seemed a casual departure, a moment of graceful power and unhurried beauty.
I stayed a while longer, soaking in the scene - the grey granite of broad summits catching an elusive sun - and pondering my luck, before making my run down toward the loch, bothy and eventually Glen Derry.
A last look toward the tors of Beinn Meadhoinn and a memory that will stay in my mind's eye for many years.