Sue and Martin in Mallorca 2019

Sue and Martin in Mallorca 2019
On the Archduke's Path in Mallorca

Saturday 3 November 2007

Saturday 3 November 2007 - Miscellany

The Villain
Whilst I have to admit to being one of those people who can find Jim Perrin’s TGO magazine contributions a little hard going, the two books of his that I have read, ‘Menlove’ and ‘The Villain’ were a delight. ‘The Villain – The Life of Don Whillans’ has to be a mountaineering classic of the highest order. Anyone with the vaguest of interest in the climbing scene in the north of England and beyond from the 1940s to the late C20 should enjoy and appreciate this book. It is not just about Whillans, but as one of the leading climbers of his era Whillans provides Jim Perrin with the vehicle to describe the climbing scene of which he was himself a member, in fascinating detail. A classic, I think. Unlike Clint Willis’s effort referred to in my 30 October entry, which in my opinion is merely ‘A Good Read’.

TGO Challenge 2008
It has been reported that there are 409 applicants for the 300 places. Sue and I remain optimistic. ‘We have a plan’, as they say.

Last Night
Graham has some fancy new software that converts a digital ‘slide show’ into a multi-media extravaganza. (I'm jealous!) On a recent trip to Stok Kangri and numerous sights of northern India, he took some 2000 images, of which he has converted some 800 into a 4 part presentation. We enjoyed this in the wake of a meal so sumptuous that I have to admit to having a gentle snooze during some parts of the show. Thanks G & T for a great evening, and sorry I fell asleep. We especially enjoyed the video clips, and the accompanying music, of Graham’s attempts at cross country skiing in Norway!

OS Maps
I have Anquet 1:50000 maps for the UK and as a matter of course use them in ‘screen dumps’ on our personal website. For example, here is tomorrow’s route:

Alan Sloman has raised some issues about this type of use of images and the possibility of upsetting the Ordnance Survey. I view the issue with slight concern, but surely the OS wouldn’t be bothered about a few poxy images on a personal website or blog? Or would it?

Friday 2 November 2007

Friday 2 November 2007 - A Postcard from Timperley

I have been to work today, and have an exciting evening ahead. So this is a genuine ‘Postcard’, of this morning's view from the towpath of the Bridgewater Canal near Timperley Metro Station:

Having a nice time, chatting to the fishermen (just behind me), in the warm autumn sunshine. Wish you were here…

Thursday 1 November 2007

Thursday 1 November 2007 - Bye Bye Bus

It is the end of a minor era. Today I had my last drive in the car that we have enjoyed using for trips over the past three years. It has been to Italy twice and to Scotland and other parts of the UK many times. It even transported WD to Stirling on his fateful trip last May (sorry about the reminder, Darren!) But circumstances change. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing; it just seemed pointless to have this vehicle sitting on our driveway ‘spewing tenners out of its sun roof’ (as Andrew so eloquently puts it), when we are away on trips and the asset could be earning money in a bank. Or, more likely, be used to fund some nice trips!
So I took it part way to Newmarket where I hope it enjoys its new life with Mark and his family.

Postcard from Timperley – the experiment continues.
Well, it’s an indulgence really, but I’m enjoying this experiment and will continue with it for another month. Statcounter tells me I’ve had 400 visitors. Sue says she made three of those visits, and she approves of the project. However, today she forcibly rejected my proposal to change the header photo on a monthly basis. And as other friends have also expressed a liking for that image, I think I’ll let it be for now. However, no one really notices the footer, so I’ve replaced that. The old one is shown here:

There’s a small prize each month for the first person who identifies where each footer picture was taken, and a bonus for identification of the header. Best of luck. And I hope you all have an enjoyable November, if that is possible…

Wednesday 31 October 2007

Wednesday 31 October 2007 - A Dental Problem, and a Via Ferrata

I have a sweet tooth. I have always had a sweet tooth. This has led to most of my teeth having been filled, and those fillings become old and disintegrate.
That happened to one of them this week, so as usual I called the dental practice at 9 o clock. As usual, the phone was answered quickly, and the receptionist asked if I could come straight away before realising it would take me 15 minutes to get there. So we settled for a couple of hours later and my tooth was repaired in the usual efficient manner. Thank you dentist Sue and the efficient team at Stretford Road Dental Practice. Nuff said.

And so to Via Ferrata Ettore Bovero.
I was able to brighten this grey November day by sorting through some photos from earlier in the year. On July 17 we spent a fine day on this Via Ferrata, which leads directly to the summit of Col Rosa, a fairly small but pointy hill just west of Cortina. The above photo was taken this year, but it seems a shame not to reprint Nick’s eloquent report of his effort (and it was an effort) in getting up this route back in 2001:

Ettore’s ‘e’ grade – travelling the Via Ettore Bovero on Saturday 21st July 2001
It wasn’t how I’d planned to spend my last day in the Dolomites. I stalked around silently with my own thoughts as I thought of the challenges ahead. I’d rather fancied a stroll around the plateau of Monte Piana, and the thought of an ‘e’ grade via ferrata with its vertiginous drops was perhaps more than I could stand. But as I lay in my tent thinking of the day ahead, I visualised how I would feel on the top having completed the ‘walk’ and decided it was better to try this than walk off on my own.
The day dawned bright and clear – the kind of weather we’d prayed for all week, but I couldn’t eat much breakfast at the thought of the rigours ahead. Linda had already told us that everyone feels nervous before a new climb – and the threshold at which you feel it gradually changes. Mine was about to be increased.
Parking at Camping Olympia (alt. 1300m) was the easy part – not much negotiation was required to be allowed to park all day in front of the No Parking signs. We set off through the shady woods, my pack all the heavier with the rope that I had insisted we take – ‘just in case’.
I knew it was a big climb up to the Passo Posporpora. After all, we’d descended from there into Cortina only a couple of days earlier, but the easy gradient and the multitude of zigzags made it a steady plod. Not quite enjoyable, but bearable – even with six days of walking in our stiffening legs. Pausing at one point in the shade for a sip of water, I wondered whether my dented litre Sigg bottle would really be enough for such a hot day as this.
We paused at the col (alt. 1730m) to look for the mouse we’d seen earlier, but despite (or perhaps because of) copious poking about with Martin’s stick our little brown friend failed to surface. Now began the real climb up to the start of the via ferrata at around 1900m. This path was much rougher than the gentle amble up to the col – and even the lower stretches were not for the faint-hearted, being somewhat exposed. I asked 'why the pause' at a particularly dodgy section – ‘to look at the beautiful view’ was the reply. It was, but I wasn’t in the mood. A little higher we scrambled on to a rather wider ledge. I felt confident enough to take out my camera for a few wide-angle shots way up the valley of the Rio Travenanzes towards Tofana and Falzarego.
Onwards and upwards, the waymarks now taking on more of a climbing feel, with red arrows pointing around corners and upwards. There were a few awkward moments – luckily for me Linda just in front was able to point out some easy handholds that made the route finding easier. Martin, a little further behind, paused for a rest at this point. (Actually, he stopped because he was stuck! – Ed)
It was a relief to finally reach the bottom of the route. The wires snaked up the white rock into the brilliant blue sky. We climbed into our harnesses. Linda proffered some nuts which I had difficulty swallowing. But it looked do-able which was good – I had pictured in my mind some vertical blank wall.
Rupert led from the front, followed by me and then Martin. I pulled up the first part, hearing words to take small steps but ignoring them in my anxiety to get up. Much of the route up was completed in a daze. I looked out at the view with incredulity – not believing I was there. The worst part was always unclipping at the end of a wire while walking over ‘easy’ ground. I rushed for the next wire to make me ‘safe’. Rupert offered quiet words of encouragement. I wished I dared take out my camera to record the moment. Rupert took shots downwards where I dared not look. Then came a moment I couldn’t believe.
Just up ahead the wire disappeared horizontally around a corner. But where to put my feet? Rupert suggested I go ahead so he could take my picture – but even this opportunity failed to encourage me. Instead we had to execute a rather tricky manoeuvre on a very tight ledge. I was shown the controls on the camera, but all I could do was hold on tightly to the wire. I dared to let go with one hand as Rupert swung out onto the wire. One-handed picture with much camera shake, while Martin waited just below with his nose pressed to the rock. Moving around the corner was easier than expected, so we were soon on some easier ground below the summit rocks. There was a call for lunch but Martin, I suspect like me, wanted to be on the top. There were then several sets of ‘stempels’ – big iron staples drilled into the rocks, before I finally saw the small wooden summit cross ahead to my right.
It was just as I visualised. We relaxed on the summit at 2166m, enjoying our lunch and taking in the wide-ranging views as the sun baked us. Many summit photos.
Then off down the long walk back. The conversation was light-hearted – and we laughed as one of our fellow ‘mountaineers’ skipped past with a video camera slung over his shoulder as his only equipment! Much more in the way of war remains on the way down. Chris made a fine model poking his head out of a tunnel window 50 feet above us. And Sue made a fine sunshade with my hat so I could record the moment.
The rest of the journey down was uneventful, save for a rather ungainly scramble down a tree trunk, and some sarcastic comments from some Germans who looked rather disdainfully at our rope.
Ice creams were only noteworthy by their obvious absence at the entrance to Camping Olympia, so instead we returned to Cortina for a welcome beer.
The day finished in style with a communal meal of highlights and leftovers from the week: seafood pasta, sausages – expertly cooked by Chris and Rupert – with a very large salad, a lovely Barolo wine, and yoghurt with strawberry jam to round things off. And no rain.
In the middle of all this, Linda helped a small German child go to the toilet.
Nick Gray - 23rd July 2001

Tuesday 30 October 2007

Tuesday 30 October 2007 - The Bonington Boys

The gear shop I mentioned yesterday as having latterly been occupied by Nevisport was, as I said, once a fine retail outlet. It must be about 30 years since Nick Estcourt opened it, in the days when despite Bonington having moved to the Lake District, this area was a focal point of the British Mountaineering Scene.
The demise of the shop turned my mind to a book I recently read, written by an American, Clint Willis, and entitled “The Boys of Everest”. It relates the exploits of a small band of Mountaineers over the period from 1958 to 1985, covering many Himalayan and other successes achieved by a group of climbers of which Chris Bonington became the natural leader. Sadly, the mountaineering accomplishments of these ‘Bonington Boys’ were often tempered by the cost in lives of achieving them. And so it was with perhaps Bonington’s closest of friends, Nick Estcourt, who was swept away by an avalanche on K2 in 1978, shortly after opening his climbing shop. Nick’s wife ran the shop for many years after his death, but it wasn’t until Nevisport got their hands on it that it slipped into the decline that proved terminal a few weeks ago.
Willis crams quite a lot into his 500 page book, many of the climbs and expeditions distilled into this tome being the subject of several books in their own right. I enjoyed it despite being uncomfortable with the style and with Willis’s conjecture as to the last thoughts of the numerous ‘late’ members of the cast.

Monday 29 October 2007 - “It’s Been Emotional”

Firstly, I forgot yesterday to thank the good people of Alderley Edge, particularly the residents of Marlborough Avenue, for their generosity in leaving a fine selection of both eating and cooking apples, Ripe For Scrumping from their green and pleasant land. We will enjoy them this week, as we did after our previous visit three weeks ago.

We had two local gear shops, three if you include the Rohan clothing emporium.
One of these, Millets, has become my first port of call for the routine odds and ends of outdoors gear that occasionally require replacement or replenishment. I have come to accept from the helpful staff that whilst they would love to be able to stock the state of the art gear that the wealthy residents of North Cheshire may be able to afford, that privilege goes to their sister store, Blacks, in Manchester.
So having routinely established that what I really want is (for reasons the staff regret) not stocked by Millets, I revert around the corner to what used to be a fine retail outlet. Sadly, this outlet has in recent years been trading under the Nevisport banner. Now I know Nevisport has an excellent store in Fort William. But I have always struggled in their Altrincham branch, where the staff have seemed keener to keep their heads down on admin tasks than on trying to sell anything from their dingy and poorly stocked surroundings.
For example, they are nominally our local Rab stockist, but in practice they have refused to supply any Rab item without payment in advance - not much use when you want to try something for fit. (But possibly a credit to Rab’s credit control department.)
I concluded long ago that unless it had a hidden value, this outlet was a pointless acquisition for Nevisport and would help to bring them down. So it was no surprise when today I passed the shop to find it boarded up with a simple note in the window: “Thanks to all our customers. It’s been emotional.” It seems Nevisport has gone bust and that the best bits have been sold to someone called Trespass. See Cameron’s TGO blog for more information. Naturally, our local store has been permanently closed. I’m not too dismayed at missing the final sell off of stock, as I’m pretty sure they didn’t have anything I needed!
It’s nice of the staff to thank their customers, and I wish them well for the future despite my own experiences of their apparent lackadaisical attitude.
I just hope that the Millets store survives and that someone in the Blacks hierarchy spots the opportunity to improve its range of stock and take advantage of being the only outdoors store in town.

Monday 29 October 2007

Sunday 28 October 2007 - Familiar Ground, Unfamiliar Weather

J & J stayed over and after our statutory extra hour in bed and a leisurely breakfast we headed off to Alderley Edge for a stress free stroll in the rain on familiar ground for Sue and me. The others hadn’t been there before and enjoyed the same route as we had taken on that sunny day some three weeks ago. Today there were fewer people on the paths, but still a smattering of joggers and dog walkers, despite the unfamiliar rain.
Considering the wet dullness of the day the autumn colours strived with some success to be vibrant. Our walk took us past the Wizard’s Well to the Armada Beacon – yes, our second Beacon in four days! This one is situated at the highest point on the Edge, a natural site for one of a chain of signalling fires used to warn of imminent invasion in 1588. There must have been fewer trees then, unlike on Worcestershire Beacon where we were on Thursday, which may have been part of the same chain of beacons and would be as visible as ever today.
On we strolled, past old mine shafts and a narrow railway line heading into the base of the hill, before heading across farmland and returning to the Edge at the site of the Engine Vein, a 100 metre long fissure featuring bowl-like opencast pits where Bronze Age man mined copper ores around 4000 years ago.
Further on, past the Wizard Restaurant and across the road to Macclesfield, we encountered the site of some houses demolished in the 1950’s. How times have changed – they must have been too costly to maintain, and now the place where they stood has been taken over by woodland – whereas these days such places are making way for footballers mansions.

Saturday 27 October 2007 - Heliskiing

This evening we enjoyed the company of John and Janet. I worked at the same firm as John for many years until leaving in 2004. Now he has retired and is looking forward to a season of ski mountaineering in the Alps. Years of experience have given him the skills to enjoy remote off-piste trips. A look at some of his images leads me to quickly conclude that I would probably lack the technical skills to get from one of the high mountain huts to its outside loo and back without falling hundreds of feet, so for me this is a spectator activity. John told us about this year’s exploits on the Haute Route. That’s the traditional skiers’ Haute Route, not the straightforward stroll that is the Walker’s Haute Route. Both go from Chamonix to Zermatt, but the ski route is high level and committing, whilst we summer walkers gain only modest heights and often stay overnight in villages.
Our rarely used DVD player was pressed into use for John’s video of his trip. Of the first part there was no record! Apparently the whole epic up to the Bertol Hut and back had been too frightening to record, all parties doing the Haute Route having abandoned it. So we enjoyed a video of the post-retreat activities, when the exhausted group did what some might say was cheating, but what is apparently a not too expensive way of getting a great day out. John’s day, with two companions and a guide, started outside their hotel in Arolla, where a local hut supply helicopter picked them up for the short ride to near the summit of Pigne d’Arolla, a peak of about 3800 metres. After ‘skinning’ to the summit and enjoying fantastic views in most directions, with the previous day’s charcoal grey clouds in the other direction, the group made graceful zigzag tracks down to Cabane des Vignettes. You can see in this picture what I mean about the dangers of a visit to the loo!

And after a break in the freezing cold cabin the jolly little group carried on down steep glaciers to return to the safety of Arolla by mid afternoon.
The walker’s route is so modest by contrast, it makes me feel inadequate. Well done John, and ski safely this winter. I’m sure you will, under the expert tutelage of Mark Seaton.
But looking at Mark’s blog I’m not sure what to think. He appears to have climbed the north face of the Eiger in September…and then this month he was escorting Reuben Berg and his son on a climb – if that’s the same Reuben Berg I used to have dealings with, those two trips must have been somewhat contrasting for Mark!

Friday 26 October 2007 - A Golite Quest

I have a shiny new rucksack. An impulse buy.
Being in the Malvern area, I felt a compulsion to visit Bob and Rose, who we discovered in their Aladdin’s Cave after yesterday’s walk (Bob having joined us for part of the walk).
Weighing in at about 1400 gm the Quest gives me a 600 gm weight saving over the old Karrimor Jaguar rucksack, but it does present some new challenges. That’s because the Quest lacks the Jaguar’s lower compartment (used to store wet tent and waterproofs), and its side pockets (brewing kit in one pocket, accumulated rubbish in the other). The side pocket issue is easily solved, and the Quest has a front pocket that may be suitable for waterproofs, but the Phreerunner or Nallo tent will have to live in the main compartment, so waterproof bags suddenly gain a greater importance.

Postscript - March 2008
I used this rucksack for about 8 days' of 'hutting' backpacking in New Zealand in early 2008. Once I had the comfy hip belt positioned at the correct height the sac was extremely comfy. But no tent was being carried, and a maximum of two days food meant that the weight was fairly low - maybe 10-12 kilos. It seemed taller and thinner than my old Karrimor Jaguar, so after unrolling my karrimat inside the sac, the other items didn't fit as neatly inside it.
It also worked well on a Munro bagging trip in April 2008, apart from being blown away whilst fully laden! See here.

Thursday 25 October 2007 - The Malvern Hills

After a few gloriously sunny few days it was disappointingly overcast as Sue and I set off from British Camp with Julia, Ian, Caroline, Megan, Alexi and Bob. We’ve covered this ground before with Julia and whilst it’s a pleasant enough route over the Malvern Hills to Worcestershire Beacon then down to West Malvern to join the Worcestershire Way for the return trip, this was more of a social day out with people that we rarely see.
Bob soon peeled off (call of the Podcast?), but the rest of us, fuelled with Fudge Brownies (Kate having decimated the usual Caramel Shortbread during a breakfast visit), continued to Worcestershire Beacon, the hill whose summit is the highest point of the Malvern Hills, which run for some 13 km north-south along the Herefordshire-Worcestershire border. The name beacon comes from the use of the hill as a signalling beacon. Even in recent years it has been used for this purpose on special occasions such as the millennium night of 31 December 1999 when a large fire was lit for a public celebration as part of a national network of hill top beacons. On the summit is a viewfinder or toposcope, identifying the hills to be seen on a clear day. Though replaced in recent years (see photo above), it was originally erected in 1897 to celebrate Queen Victoria's diamond jubilee. The views are very extensive, including to The Wrekin, the location for some of my first ventures into the outdoors, and past Birmingham to Cannock Chase, as well as much of Herefordshire and Gloucestershire, the Welsh borders, the Shropshire Hills and across the valleys of the Severn and Avon to the Cotswolds.
We saw little of all this given that today’s visibility extended to all of about one kilometre!
However, once on the Worcestershire Way we did find a nice grassy lunch spot, with Midges! Then we continued past some ‘Fred Smith’ sheep, an impressive and curiously showy ram, a pair of equally attentive pigs, a dead fox that nearly tripped us up, and a gooey ploughed field where Alexi rescued a forlorn potato called Bobby.

So our adjournment mid-afternoon, to the pleasure of Rose’s welcome tea and apple cake, was not without relief to us all.

Sunday 28 October 2007

Wednesday 24 October 2007 - The ‘GTA’ or Grande Traversata Delle Alpi

The final map for our two month trip based on the GTA route, planned for next July and August, arrived today from Stanfords. The whole set weighs in at 1200 gm – not too bad for such a long trip, and we will be able to post maps home as we amble along the French/Italian border from Menton to the Monte Rosa massif some 400 miles up the trail.
The idea for this jaunt came from Gillian Price’s Cicerone guidebook “Through The Italian Alps” (see photo), but the GTA route described by Gillian takes a modest line and incorporates possibilities for meals and lodgings most nights. We plan to stick basically to that route, but will camp high where practicable, and weather permitting we’ll try some more remote options – perhaps a bit like the Pyrenees High Level Route is to GR10 or GR11.
So now I can do some more detailed route planning, though however much of that is done in advance, it will only ever be a rough guide once we are on the trail.

Tuesday 23 October 2007 - A Nice Place To Work

On this Glorious Autumn Day I chatted for a while with the sun-tanned guys on our local ‘dredger’ whilst they ‘cleansed’ the canal of the effects of boisterous schoolboys on their half term break. A shame for the local moorhens, who seem to really enjoy floating along on the occasional log.
And pleasing to see more schoolboys heading for the local tennis courts in Walton Park, where the nets for this free facility have to our delight recently been replaced.