About Me

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Way back in time before the onset of adulthood I enjoyed countless days heading into the hills of Yorkshire with nothing more than a squashed sandwich & youthful sense for adventure! Despite long past youthful and work commitments keeping me in the city, the sense of adventure and love for the outdoors never left me. After digging my boots out and returning to the hills I attended a number of courses to improve my hill knowledge and skill base, during one of these courses it was suggested I join the Mountain Leader Training scheme and was delighted go on to gain the MOUNTAIN LEADER Award in April 2012. As well as spending time on the hills and mountains of the UK I have also enjoyed trips to the Nepalese Himalaya, Swiss & French Alps, Mallorca’s Tramuntana, Andorran & French Pyrenees, Morocco’s High Atlas, Tanzania’s Mt Meru & Kilimanjaro, Argentinian & Chilean Patagonia and winter expeditions to Norway’s Hardangervidda. Since gaining the ML I have also gained the SINGLE PITCH AWARD, INTERNATIONAL MOUNTAIN LEADER AWARD and the WINTER MOUNTAIN LEADER AWARD. I am now enjoying working in a freelance role whilst trying to get out climbing as much as possible.

Friday, 5 July 2013

Ladies Day on Snowdon - June 13

 The last day of June and I returned to Snowdonia to help Tracy complete her first ever mountain route as she prepares to undertake the 'National 3 Peaks' later in the year.
Tracy hadn't walked in the mountains before so was slightly concerned to see mud under foot!
  In an out of character charitable moment of madness I had mentioned to Tracy that I would help her as she prepares to undertake the National 3 Peaks later in the year. Having made, what I think, is a late start to her program due to Tracy's frequent overseas and weekend commitments I decided to get straight into it with a trip up Snowdon via the Watkin Path.
 We would be joined on the day by Ali who, having returned from trekking and summiting Kilimanjaro a week earlier, was keen to stretch her mountain legs again.
On the Watkin Path below the cloud base.
 The route to Snowdon summit would take us around 3hrs to cover the 4miles and 940m of ascent and the path is regarded as one of the most demanding routes available to walkers, it does rise steeply and passes over large areas of scree and so care does need to be taken in places.
Onward to the cloud!
 Watkin Path was named after a railway entrepreneur and MP Sir Edward Watkin who retired to to live in a chalet in Cwm Llan at the foot of Snowdon. A path already ran from South Snowdon Slate Quarry through Cwm Llan and Watkin extended this path to run from the quarry to the summit. It was the first designated footpath in Britain!
 Prime Minister William Gladstone at the time officially opened the path in 1892 when he addressed a crowd of 2000 people from a rock at the side of the path which became known as the Gladstone Rock.
Ladies day continues as the ascent grows steeper.
  Arriving in Snowdonia at 07:30hrs we parked up along the A498 at the foot of the Watkin Path. Making our way through the wooded area at the start of the route we were soon rising steadily and reached the new works constructing a hydro electrical facility in Alon Cwm Llan, the stream that runs with some force from Cwm Llyn.
 The path continued to rise steadily until we reached the derelict former mine buildings. It then takes a turn for the much steeper as it rises through old discarded slate mounds. This seemed to slow Tracy down a little from the pace she had set, thankfully!
 Heading up the path turned to scree where care was needed as we reached first Bwich Ciliau, then Bwich Saethau and finally the Snowdon Visitor center. On the route we had met a few people, most notably a couple of young lads who had camped near the summit and endured a long, wet, windy night!
Approaching Snowdon Visitor Center

 Some people look at you daft when you say there is a cafe, toilet & railway platform at the summit of Snowdon, others then expect facilities at the summit of all mountains! There are many different opinions on having such a building at the top of a mountain, I'm of the opinion that it gives people who wouldn't normally visit the summit of one of Britain's mountains the chance to get a small sample of what those that walk the hills enjoy. There are hundreds of other mountains that have nothing other than a pile of stones at the summit so a few tourists visiting Snowdon by train can't be too bad can it?
On Snowdon summit.
Can be a busy place Snowdon summit!

 After the compulsory walk up to the summit point and photo we had a break in the cafe where lots of day trippers and foreign tourists were looking out of the windows at the expansive views of the inside of a cloud! Making use of the facilities and having a luxury hot chocolate we listened to the dulcet tones of the friendly train conductor as he gently called his passengers for the return trip down the mountain before we set out again.
 Rather than simply retrace our steps we would make the route a circuit by heading along the small ridge of Bwilch Main and descend into Cwm Llan.
Tracy fails at Hide & Seek!
  The cloud base had by now started to lift and the wind started to drop, which was nice!
Dropping into Cwm Llan.
Girl talk!
  After a short walk along the ridge we had soon dropped into Cwm Llan and were making our way carefully through the wet marshy ground back to the Watkin Path.
Scree down into into Cwm Llyn.
Looking back up toward Cwm Tregalan.
  Back on the Watkin Path at the ground works we followed the track back down past the waterfall and through the wood back to the cars. The route took us under 6hrs and was enjoyed by all (I was led to believe!). It gave Tracy an insight as to areas she would have to look at as she gets ready for the National 3 Peaks, it gave Ali a chance to stretch her legs on the hills and it gave me a chance to try stay awake for 36hrs having worked the night before and working the night after!

                                          Watkin Path Ascent video.

Thursday, 4 July 2013

This Is Africa (Part 2) - Kilimanjaro The Roof of Africa!

 After our acclimatisation route to the summit of Mt Meru (4566m) myself, Commander Rob, Lord Martin Cocks of Cocksville, Barry (George Clooney's Dad!), Vic, Paul, Blister Steve & Andy headed back to Weru Weru for a good meal, a couple of well earned local beers and a nights rest before we would go on to Kilimanjaro!
Kilimanjaro - The worlds tallest free standing mountain.
  Kilimanjaro is a dormant volcano and has three volcanic cones, Kibo, Mawenzi and Shira. The summit is at Uhuru/Kibo Peak and stands 5,895 metres above sea level. Located in Tanzania it is the highest mountain in Africa & the worlds highest free standing mountain!

 Initially I wasn't at all attracted to attempting Kilimanjaro, this was mainly due to the mountain losing some credibility as a serious challenge after having a bunch of unfit & (some) grossly overweight so called celebrities trek the mountain for charity some years ago. "If  ------------ can do it anyone can do it" being the general consensus! It is also a very expensive mountain to undertake due to the park fees set by the Tanzanian government,  non East-African citizens are charged a 'Park Conservation' & 'Camping' fee of well over $100 for each day of their trip ( Tanzania National Parks.) .  
A friendly local turned out to see us off.
  However! The trip would be heading for the summit by tackling the 'Western Breach', which would involve a scramble up to the crater rim during the early hours due to the risk of rock fall during the day. Sounds exciting, I'm on!
Barry (George Clooney's Dad) brought some Hollywood to the trip at Machame Gate.
Leaving from Machame Gate at 1840m we would trek through the African forest up to the Machame Hut at 2980m. The trek took us on a good track rising steadily until the forest turned to Alpine moorland where heather grew up above 2m tall!

Lord Cocks leads his loyal subjects.

 On reaching Machame Hut we saw the extent of our support team for the first time. 3 Guides, 2 Cooks, 21 Porters! Each porter is allowed to carry 15kg + 5kg of personal equipment on Kilimanjaro and this is set by the Tanzanian government, the porters also receive their wages from the government per day rather than per trip as in some other parts of the world. It was only when considering the amount of kit needed for the 6 night trip that it was understandable why our small team needed so many in support - tents for us, tents for the porters, food for 3 meals a day for everyone, cooking equipment, sleeping kit, spare clothing etc. Oh and a portaloo!
 Jimmy, who was our head guide for the trip, led the way with some African beats as he introduced all the team to us and we were encouraged to introduce ourselves to the team using the medium of song & dance. You needed to be there!
Rob gets 'involved' with the introductions!
 Our assault on Kilimanjaro would see us spending our nights under canvas at each camping area. I was lucky enough to pair up with Lord Martin Cocks of Cocksville who was an inspiration to me with his evening 'pep' talks about how much he was looking forward to each day, as well as encouraging me to continue with my personal quest for mountain education!
 We would spend a total of 6 nights under canvas in total, including the evening 'snooze' before summit day and an overnight on descent.
Heading to Shira Hut at 3840m through the cloud.
Lord Cocks in deep thought preparing for his evening 'pep' talk as Barry (Hollywood) looks on.
Kilimanjaro looms over Shira Hut camp
  Each day we would wake and make our way to the mess tent where breakfast would consist of millet porridge followed by bread, omelette and sausage or similar, all served with Tanzanian coffee which among the best coffee in the world apparently (would rather have a mug of gravy been a Yorkshireman!). We then pack our kit ready for the walk to the next camp whilst the porters dismantled and packed the camp into their individual loads in minutes!
Porter with 15kg load on his head.
On towards Lava Tower Camp.

Team photo in front of Lava Tower.
Rob can't help himself and climbs Lava Tower to kill some time.
 The day before summiting would see us have a short walk from Lave Tower to Arrow Glacier camp and spend most of the day resting in our tents, the wind had grown in strength and the temperatures were less than African at an altitude of 4800m. The camp was located at the foot of the Western Breach and as the sun warmed the ice and rock we could hear a nearby stream grow in strength, this was the reason we would tackle the route in the hours of darkness. As the temperature rise then rocks held by ice further up the Western Breach become unstable and loose, with some tumbling down the face. In January 2006 there was a rock slide on the Western Breach which unfortunately claimed the lives of 3 people and injured other members of the group.
Setting up camp under the Western Breach.
Blister Steve with the Western Breach in the background.

Camp under the Western Breach.
  We gathered outside our tents under the stars of the Milky Way at 02:00hrs in a cold & brisk wind. With plenty of insulating layers on and head lamp batteries checked we started off what would be a steep walk and Grade 1 scramble taking us up approx 800m to the crater rim & the Furtwangler Glacier. Moving slowly we made our way upwards, I personally had problem from around 5100 to 5400m having to stop to orally expel my supper a couple of times!
Night scrambling up the Western Breach.
  After 4 or so hours we finally reached the crater rim, a very emotional moment after having spent the previous hours feeling like we climbing up using only one lung whilst carrying a grand piano! First light was breaking and we made our way to the Furtwangler Glacier for a photo opportunity and a well earned breather!
'Chilling' at the Furtwangler Glacier.

 From the crater it would be just a 300m ascent to the summit up a volcanic scree slope. 'Just' 300m! It was excruciatingly slow after the excursions of the Western Breach and at an altitude of 5600 to the summit at 5895m. There was now less than half the air pressure available to us than at sea level where our lungs are designed to work the best!
N.B whilst the air is still made up of the same composition of approx 78% Nitrogen, 20% Oxygen & 2% other stuff(!) because there is less of the atmosphere pushing down on it so the amount of oxygen in each breath reduces the higher you go!

Dawn breaking over the crater & glacier.
Its a lie!

Approaching the summit.
  With a mouth full of fruit pastilles we carried on upwards until eventually the summit came into view. With views out over the surrounding mountain peaks, across to Mt Meru and over the cloud which covered everything below 3000m we stood at the summit 'board' and took time for some photo's and to collect ourselves.
 It seems slightly silly to have spent time doing the acclimatisation route on Mt Meru, 4 days and nights walking and camping and then going through the pain of the final ascent to only spend approximately 10 minutes on the summit, but the risk of hypoxia is a concern and so it was quickly off again and we made our way down to Millennium camp.
Paul, Blister Steve, Vic, Commander Rob & Barry Clooney at the summit.
Lord Cocks poses on descent.
 A last night under canvas after a very long 14hr route mainly consisted of a good meal, a wash and the best sleep of the trip so far, 10hrs straight through for myself!
 Rising for breakfast on our last morning we had just a 3 hour walk back into the African forest and to Mweka Gate at 1050m, lungs full of lovely oxygen!
Drunk on oxygen with Kilimanjaro in the background.
All smiles at Mweka Gate.
& Barry (George Clooney's Dad) gives us the Hollywood smile!
This Is Africa!
Refueling back at Weru Weru!

 As with any extended journey or expedition Kilimanjaro had its high and low points and it is only after the end of the expedition that these could be weighed up. There were far more high points than low and in fact the low points weren't very low, piss wet through on the first of the Yorkshire 3 Peaks comes far lower than at any point in Africa!
 Kilimanjaro deserves respect as do all those that undertake the trip to the summit, apart from some of those that do it full of Diamox & get helicopters from the top maybe! :-) Just my opinion x

* Video from Expedition Guide

Wednesday, 3 July 2013

This is Africa (Part 1) - Mt Meru.

   June and I again joined Rob Johnson of Expedition Guide, this time for a trip to Africa with the goal of reaching the summit of Kilimanjaro. Along with Lord Martin Cocks of Cocksville, Vic, Paul, Barry (George Clooney's dad), Andy & Steve we would first summit Mt Meru to help us acclimatise before heading up the 'Western Breach' to the 'roof of Africa' to stand 5895m above sea level and on top of the highest free standing mountain in the world - Kilimanjaro!!
Kilimanjaro stands above the cloud at sunset - seen from Mt Meru.
  I was fortunate enough to have received an invitation to spend a few days in Tanzania by my friend Simon Enstone which I gratefully accepted. Simon, who I met whilst on the Mountain Leader training scheme, is teaching at a school near Arusha and was generous enough to introduce me to Africa, as well as take me on safari and explain TIA (This Is Africa!). So it was having sampled a tiny bit of Africa that I waited at Kilimanjaro airport for the rest of the team to arrive and to meet our 'in country' agents, eager for our mountain adventure to begin.
 We would spend a comfortable evening & night at Weru Weru Lodge near the town of Moshi before heading into the Arusha National Park to start our acclimatisation climb on Mt Meru.

 Mt Meru would be a demanding few days to start our trip seeing us ascend from 1500m to over 4500m, and down again, in less than 60hrs!
Starting the trek through the forest.
 Day 1 Leaving Momela Gate we walked through dense green forest as we headed to Miriakamba Hut, which stands at 2500m, where we would spend the night. We would also have our first meals provided by our cooks for the trek so it was thumbs up all round having sat down to a tasty & plentiful 3 course evening meal, the moral and overall success of an expedition or trek can hinge on the standard of food!
 Day 2 we continued making our way up, soon leaving the forest below, and out into the bright African sun. We reached Saddle Hut at 3500m where we rested for a couple of hours before myself, Rob, Vic & Paul took a leisurely stroll up to 'Little Meru' accompanied by Jimmy & Ernest of our guiding team. The stroll would take us up an additional 300m above the hut and help with acclimatisation when we dropped back down to sleep in the hut.
Approaching Saddle Hut in the African sun.
Compulsory 'man leg' pose on Little Meru.
  On arriving back at the hut we sorted our kit ready for our ascent to Mt Meru summit, which we would be doing during the early hours. We then sat down for our evening meal before heading to bed around 7pm!!
The plan was to sleep until midnight, we would then get up and have some breakfast before leaving the huts to ascend the 1066m to the summit in the darkness.
On the dark ascent to the summit of Mt Meru.
 Under the stars of the clearly visible Milky Way we made our way slowly upwards, leaving any sign of vegetation behind as we walked with volcanic rock and scree underfoot. The path to the summit took us to Rhino Point and continued up a tiresome scree slope where it was 3 steps forward and 1 back at times, we then had a few areas of scrambling where a fall could have proved somewhat painful!

 After around 4hrs the first light of dawn appeared and we were approaching the summit just in time. Making our way up the final ascent we were treated to sunrise over Kilimanjaro which stood around 70km away on the horizon.
Break of dawn over Kilimanjaro

George Clooney's dad Barry, Lord Cocks of Cocksville, myself & Vic with the flag of the kingdom of Yorkshire.
Commander Johnson takes tea at the summit.

Sunrise over Kilimanjaro
  After a brief stop for photo's and a snack we turned and retraced our steps back down as the warm African sun chased away the chilly night air. Going was easier on the way down with the benefit of light other than that of our head torches.
The clearly visible ash cone of old volcanic action on Meru.
Paul making his way over the volcanic ridge.
 Back to Saddle Hut around 08:30hrs we took time for some food before packing our kit up and heading back down to Momela Gate, leaving the volcanic landscape behind and back down through the lush forest.    In total our day was an ascent of 1066m followed by a descent of just over 3000m, arriving at the gate at 14:30hrs, making a 14.5hr day, a very good day!!
Lord Cocks of Cocksville makes his way down through the forest.
Commander Johnson leads the way out onto the African plain (where the dangerous animals live!)
  On to Kilimanjaro!!