The Sorcerer, Ghost Valley

The Sorcerer, Ghost Valley

Tuesday, 13 December 2011

First Lakes winter action

Conditions have been good here in the Lakes with a couple of friends climbing up on Scafell at the weekend.

Saturday was probably the first good day here in the Lakes as since then it's been pretty wild & windy. Still super cold up on the tops with a pretty severe wind chill, keeping the ground frozen solid & any moisture must certainly be hard ice.

Francis climbing the second pitch of Botterill's Slab, Scafell.

Francis said that there was a good few centimetres of ice on the slab which was enough to support the feet covering the moss which sometimes freezes up. The right hand crack was well plastered with firm snow in places, some good ice & hooks for the tools.

Botterill's can be a good early season route with the conditions we've had which hasn't been masses of snow but a lot of wind plastering the corner & creating ice in the slab with a recent freeze thaw cycle.

Great to report that the hills are starting to come into condition, as this time last year I'd already done a good number of routes.

I've been away down in Sheffield for the most part of last week but keeping fit bouldering & climbing down the indoor wall at the moment.

Still super windy here at the moment with more snow showers & freezing temperatures up on the hill. 

Looking forward to getting out in the next good weather day.

Good climbing


Wednesday, 9 November 2011


Kalymnos - this must be one of the hottest sport climbing destinations in the world right now & I can understand why.
Not the easiest place to get to out of season - we flew from Manchester to Athens, overnight in Athens & then took a morning flight with Olympic Air the following day to Kalymnos - but totally worth it.

Landing in Kalymnos - they've sliced the top off a hill to create the airstrip

It's a sport climbers paradise, well bolted climbs, easy lower off's & a massive variety of routes from easy slabs to steep tuffas & overhanging walls littered with Stalactites. There is even a good number of multi-pitch climbs at a more moderate grade.

A 10min taxi ride took us down into the small village of Massouri & our hotel on the seafront. Looking back up the hillside from behind the hotel great orange walls rose steeply & the Grande Grotta was the obvious landmark in the centre.

Hotel Piloxenia, Massouri, Kalymnos

Sectors left to right - Spartacus, Spartan Wall, Afternoon, Grande Grotta, Panorama, Stankill

The Classic route Trela on the righthand side of Grande Grotta

Looking out to Telendos Island from the Grande Grotta & the edge of Massouri strung out along the coast.

Katarina Kejzar a Slovenijan climber starting up the steep & overhanging wall of Priapos in the Grande Grotta 

Milking another rest on the many stalactites & tuffas on Priapos, Grande Grotta

Katarina high up on Priapos, Grande Grotta with the Island of Telendos in the background

Another amazing rest on the seemingly unrelenting overhanging wall of Priapos, Grande Grotta

A small climbing shop selling all the basics with the Grande Grotta behind & a great cafe next door!

The Secret Garden, a relatively unknown crag recently developed on the northern edge of the Island, with some fantastic climbing on steep orange walls covered with tuffas & blobs

Heading off to The Secret Garden & for only 10euros a day it's the only way to travel!

We took the bus to Ghost Kitchen one day which cost only 1.50euros, but the bus didn't return to pick us up - we saw it parked up outside a house & pointing the wrong way when we got back to Massouri!
The driver obviously coudn't be bothered to drive 15mins further up the road before turning around & had just made a U turn in Massouri & parked it up for the night.
So getting back, we did manage to get 8 of us + rucsacs into a Suzuki WagonR which I thought was a good effort.

A local climber starting up the steep Sevasti at Iannis crag straight up the hill from the Climbers Nest with the Island of Telendos in the background.

A view across to Eborios & the N/W tip of the island

Andy on Theodora at Kalydna, a beautiful orange wall with blobs & tuffas

Very inspired now.

I guided in Langdale yesterday & up on Raven Crag I managed to get some rests on routes in places were I've never done so before! All that three dimensional tuffa climbing in Kalymnos has really taught me how to milk every rest.

Roll on getting fitter & booking another trip out there next year!

Safe climbing

Saturday, 29 October 2011

Coast to Coast

I'm feeling a little tired today!

I cycled the C2C yesterday with a couple of mates -

We set off from St Bees, a small seaside village just 6 miles SW of Whitehaven in Cumbria on the West coast & cycled the 140miles across to Seaham a seaside town in County Durham 5 miles south of Sunderland on the East coast.

We'd planned the trip a couple of months ago & where lucky enough to have great weather with a light W/SW wind behind us all the way.

John Richardson, myself in the middle & Phil Whitehurst on the right at the start of the C2C

Myself, Graham Theobald & Phil at the start of the C2C in St Bees

We got away a little late & it wasn't until 8.45am that we left St Bees behind us & headed into the Northern Lakes towards, Ennerdale Bridge, Loweswater, Lorton & over Whinlatter to Keswick.

We kept moving on through to Penrith, Langwathby, Melmerby & then up the steep climb to the top of Hartside where we had our first break & time for some proper food. Unfortunately Phil left us here & headed back down the hill to Penrith. He was fighting a cold & did well to get that far. 

Time was passing fast so we picked up the pace down towards Alston & Garrigill, then up one of the many 1in20 climbs up to Nentheads and East to Stanhope.

The road was surprisingly steep in places & never flat or downhill for very long before it climbed up again. Even from Lanchester further East the road still had some steep descents & steeper climbs with the coast never in sight until the final mile down into Seaham.

The sun had long gone & any light was fading fast as we cycled the last mile or two down to the seafront at Seaham. We were glad to have lights but even happier to see the North Sea!

Myself & John at the finish of the C2C in Seaham

Graham, myself & John at the finish of the C2C

We arrived at 6pm after leaving St Bees 9 1/4 hours earlier - we stopped at the top of Hartside for 30 minutes & god knows how many times for Graham to relieve himself!! 

We had a great day out, if not a little tired today & already planning the next cycle!

Happy cycling!


Friday, 21 October 2011

Supercross video

Came across this Wiggle promotional video, showing last weekend's Rapha Supercross Event at Brockhole in Windermere. It gives you a good feel for the event & what cyclocross is all about.
Very different from the 3 Peaks which is one off, but more typical of other cyclocross events around the country.


Tuesday, 18 October 2011

Climbing, biking & I need a 2nd bike

Well it’s been super busy over the past couple of weeks since the 3 Peaks Race.
A work trip down to North Wales with plenty of cycling & climbing here in the Lakes. I don’t think I’ve missed a day when I haven’t been out on the bike, running or out in the Lakes climbing which has been great.
Out climbing in Langdale & Borrowdale last week & was surprised how grimey the crags were this early in the year. We’ve had constant wet weather, the ground at the moment is just sodden & the crags haven’t had much of a chance to dry out with streaks of wet all over them. Great news if it goes cold, but not too inspiring at the moment.
Off road at the moment is just wet & really muddy, I’ve been doing more washing this past couple of weeks than I have done all year! Although I have been getting out a lot training, as I had another Cyclocross event at the weekend, I’m cycling the Coast to Coast next week & then climbing in Kalymnos the week after!
A cycling mud fest sums up the going on the ground at the weekend, but the Cyclocross event itself was fantastic, well run & again a great location on the shores of Lake Windermere.
The start of the Rapha Cyclocross Race at Brockhole, Windermere. 2011

The sun shone on the event as it did last year, but as you may remember from last year we had minus temperatures & 6 inches of snow on the ground!

Last year's Cyclocross race at Brockhole, Windermere

Not so on Saturday, warm & sunny, perfect weather for biking but instead of deep snow to contend with we had treacle like mud!.
This year the event took on another level, as Rapha sponsored the event bringing with it more focus & attracting Elite semi-professional sponsored rides for a head to head on the same course later that same afternoon.
Nick Craig the winner of the 2011 '3 Peaks Race' designed & set the course which was tight, technical & very demanding in the mud.
It was a great, very exciting event with around 150 riders scrambling for the first tight narrow bend with a clashing of handle bars, off’s, elbows & crashes. The mud got worse & the off’s more frequent with the ground getting more and more cut up. At places in the course it was only one rider wide but you still somehow managed to push your way through. The wet tree roots & tree stumps were some of the worst offenders for instantly putting you off course either into another rider or just face down in the mud!

Me working hard, carrying up a steep muddy bank from the shores of Lake Windermere

But what I hadn’t thought through was the problems the mud would give you apart from the obvious. My wheels were constantly clogging up to the point where the wheels wouldn’t turn around. Even getting off & pushing was no use as the wheels just wouldn’t turn. I had to keep stopping or just had to carry the bike while I pulled great clumps of a mud bound together with thick grass, out from in-between my tyres & forks to release the wheels again. The problem got worse as the course became more & more cut up with 150 riders thrashing round it. I had to stop more & more frequently and even then the resistance when I was pedalling was never less than hard work.
The noise from the tyres rubbing on the thick mud in-between the forks became more & more annoying especially when you were overtaken by another rider on a totally clean bike! It only then occurred to me that over half the field were getting clean bikes every lap of the course. Their mates or partners would have a second bike ready for them, the rider would swap bikes & then they'd clean down the muddy bike for another pit stop on the next lap!
I'd missed a trick & felt on the back foot because of it. Not that it mattered (much) we had a fantastic day & some great weather but Sal, I need 2 bikes!  
Barnoldswichk Cyclocross this weekend & the C2C next week, fingers crossed for some more of those sunny days.

Thursday, 29 September 2011

Odd shots from the summer.

Traversing from the Dix Hut to the Vignettes Hut over the Pigne d'Arolla 

Andy Townsend with Nathalie & Ben summiting the Dent Blanche after climbing the South Ridge

A series of shots below of Mark Walker leading the 1st pitch on the South Ridge of the Cornettes des Bise, Portes du Soleil, France. A fantastic climb in a very quiet location with beautiful scenery close to Chatel in the Portes du Soleil. 

Looking back towards the Dix Hut & the Pas de Chevres behind, Arolla area.

The Dent Blanche seen from Col du Brenay heading up to the Pigne d'Arolla

A team heading across the Brenay Glacier towards the Pigne d'Arolla

A perfect rainbow seen from the Wiwanni Hut over the Baltschiedertal



My last week in the Alps we headed up on the Montenvers train, down the ladders and onto the Mer de Glace heading to the Couvercle Hut.

We walked up the fast melting Mer de Glace in searing heat stepping over small rivers in the ice to where the Leschaux Glacier meets the Mer de Glace & the ladders up the steep rock wall leading onto the Couvercle Hut.

Up the ladders we had fantastic views back across to the Envers des Aiguilles & up the Glacier de Geant and over to Mt Blanc itself.

A great view of the Grande Charmoz on the right, the Grepon, the Fou, the Plan & the Dent du Requin on the left.

L'Envers des Aiguilles with Mt Blanc behind

In very dry conditions & with very little snow or ice, we climbed the Moine ridge on the Aiguille Verte & summited the Aiguille Verte

A fantastic view from the summit of the Aiguille Verte

Descending mixed ground from the summit of the Aiguille Verte

We had a fantastic day on the Verte, it was a long day but totally worth it. It was made even more enjoyable, as on the way up I found some crystals in the gravel down by my feet. I ratched around some more with my axe & found 5 good quality crystals! All smoked quartz & a couple of really good clean examples. Bonus!

Once back down to Chamonix we then decided on a more relaxing day climbing in the Aiguille Rouge on the other side of the Chamonix Valley. The rock here is just fantastic & we had a great day up on the Brevent lift climbing one of the Classic long rock routes there.

The following day we headed up to the Torino. Next day we left early, heading towards the Tour Ronde and where greeted with the most amazing sunrise & full moon.

A fantastic sunrise & full moon above the col du Brenva in between Mt Maudit & Mt Blanc.

We traversed the Aiguille d'Entreves to the Col Freshfield & then continued up the SE Ridge of the Tour Ronde

Looking back at the Aiguille d'Entreves & the knife edge ridge we'd traversed with the Aiguille Verte (the highest summit) in background

Me on the summit of the Tour Ronde with Madonna!

Safe climbing


Tuesday, 27 September 2011

3 Peaks Cyclocross Race

Last Sunday was the 49th, 3 Peaks Cyclocross Race starting at Helwith Bridge nr Horton-in-Ribblesdale, Yorkshire.

The race takes in Simon Fell, Ingleborough, Bruntscar, Whernside, Blea Moor & Pen-y-Gent with 28km's of road, 33km's of unsurfaced track & around 8km's of unrideable terrain where you either carry or push your bike! Oh yeh and it's 5000ft of ascent!

You can get a flavour of what's billed as the toughest Cyclocross Race in Europe & some say the worlds by clicking the link below & watching a video from last year

Well the only difference was the weather, both leading up to the race which had been very wet & the weather on the day which again was wet to start with, with low cloud & mist on the tops! The weather did improve but the riding conditions didn't, it was super wet & boggy on Simon Fell & Ingleborough & very slippery on the rocks heading over Whernside & then again up and over Pen-y-Gent. It made for slower times throughout with a lot more carrying & running with the bike.

But still apart from the toughness & the challenges on the day it's got to be one of the best events I've ever done. I had a smile on my face when over 650 of us left the start & headed up the road to Horton-in-Ribblesdale, just to be part of something like this was special & then to finish in a good time, I couldn't have been happier.

Heading up Simon Fell last year

Me coming down off Pen-y-Gent on Sunday & enjoying the run down to the finish

It was so muddy & boggy up and over Ingleborough, I carried far more than I did last year & the sections which I rode were very tricky with the bike being thrown everywhere in the bogs & ruts. 

Coming down off Whernside and at the Ribblehead road junction

This was a hard very steep descent of Whernside down over wet slippery rocks & mud, over slabs of limestone & over steep rock drainage dyke's, loose rocks & slippery grass both on & off the bike! 

Congratulations to Nick Craig for a great win in difficult conditions & a big thanks to John Rawnsley for organising another great event.

I'm already looking forward to next year!

Safe biking!


Friday, 23 September 2011

A week of Alpine rock

We headed up to the Wiwanni Hut 2470m above the village of Ausserberg 10km from Visp in the Rhone Valley

After only an hour walking we could see the hut we had great views of the Wiwannihorn and the classic East Ridge which we'd planned to climb the following day.

The Wiwanni hut & the Wiwannihorn with the Classic East Ridge in profile on the right.

That afternoon we headed over to some smaller towers called the Klettergarten Schepfipfiler with some 3/5 pitch routes on them and had a great afternoon of climbing.

In perfect weather the following day we headed up the 17 pitches that make up the East Ridge on perfect granite to the summit the Wiwannihorn. 

Andy heading up the first pitch of the East Ridge of the Wiwannihorn

Andy heading up one of the many great pitches we found on the ridge

The following day we headed further up the Rhone Valley beyond Visp & Brig, to the Furka Pass.

Once we'd worked our way up the many switchbacks that makes up the road leading to the Furka Passed we parked up & walked in to climb the Gross Furkahorn. We wanted to climb the classic East South East Ridge.

A panorama of the Gross Furkahorn (the tall spire on the left), the Galenstock in the middle, the Gross Bielenhorn & the Chly Bielenhorn on the right. 

Beautiful granite low down on the Gross Furkahorn

Andy enjoying the climbing on the Gross Furkahorn

A fantastic steep wall & arete leading to the summit of the Gross Furkahorn

Enjoying the airy exposed summit of the Gross Furkahorn

We descended & stayed the night in the Sidelen Hutte in the centre of the main range as we wanted to also climb the Gross Bielenhorn the next day.

The Sidelen Hutte with the Gross Bielenhorn towering above & the granite pinicles making up the Klien & Gross Kamel's marking the Bielenlucke Pass

Me enjoying working the steep ground on the Gross Bielenhorn

Again just immaculate granite climbing on the Gross Bielenhorn

The Furka' just such a great place to climb - big long routes on perfect granite with super easy access in an Alpine environment - what more could you want!

We headed back down the Rhone Valley, towards Martigney and on back to Leysin. The last day we wanted to climb the classic Miroir D'Argentine. An amazing limestone cliff & summit close to Villars above the village of Solalex.

The huge face of the Miroir D'Argentine with the 2 classic routes marked
Red - Voie Normal, Green - Direct
Both routes are around 12/14 pitches long & moderate in grade.

Both routes finish at the col and then climb the steep & knife edge ridge left which then leads on up to the higher summit of the Argentine.

Looking down the slabs from a belay at the col. You can just see the top couple of pitches before the face steepens & drops away below.

A great view from the summit of the Argentine looking back across the summit ridge towards the col where many of the routes finish. You can see clearly the top couple of slab pitches leading to the col.

We had a fantastic week of weather & climbing and I can't wait to get back up to the Furka!

Safe climbing