Tuesday, 19 July 2011

Adventure will Begin in Two Weeks.

Only two weeks to go; so excited. These are memories from 2009. All photos by The Mountain Goat/George Taylor.


Val di Mello 

 Wicks puts faith in friction

 A Gigiat

These can freeze in winter!!!!!!!

 This is the main road up the valley.

 I actually wussed out on the big rock routes.

Bugger forgot the big cam.

 Approaching Point Lachnal (I think)

Agille du Chardonet, May have a shot at the Forbes Arete (left ridge line) this year.

Berm Baby Berm

Two minutes of pure bliss; riding so brilliant it had me whooping and cackling to myself as I carved through the woods. Two minutes of just my body, my bike and the trail, no distractions, no compromises just pure enjoyment.

A first visit to Glentress one of the famed 7Stanes and I've found a spiritual home, by far the best trail center I've visited. A brilliant day only just scratching the potential of whats on offer here, a brilliant red and monster black trail still awaiting discovery on a future visit.

I would not normally have considered a blue route but I was taking a friend out riding for the first time so lowered the sights a bit. I'm glad I did, the trail was brilliantly constructed getting every inch of enjoyment out the hillside; challenging for a beginner, yet still great flat out for more experienced riders.

The highlight a short section called "Berm Baby Berm" so new you could almost smell the varnish on the entrance gates. Trail design isn't easy, but here they have excelled; the corners bermed to perfection flow into eachother  with the occasional roller thrown in to get some air. Just amazingly brilliant.
Think these guys liked it too

One satisfied customer

Glentress Trail Map

Southern Uplands

Sunday, 10 July 2011

This Must Not Be the End

Bugger the cost I should have gone; a Shuttle launch was one of the things I had always wanted to experience, and now I won't be able too. Atlantis' flight marks the end of a launch program almost as old as me. The shuttle never became the cheap launch vehicle intended, a reusable  craft with up to two launches a week bringing space flight to the many. It was flawed, expensive, and certainly not carbon neutral, but Fu**ing Hell it's impressive

Atlantis' penultimate launch in HD, footage all the way to main tank separation and orbit.

Some people have argued the whole thing was a waste of money because it cost 100's of billions and failed to deliver enough reward. Looking at the picture taken be the Hubble Space Telescope I would disagree, but that's beside the point. 

We have only been a space faring species for about 50 years, and really have only just dipped our toes in an ocean of possibility. The shuttle missions are about exploration not cold hard cost benefit analysis.  Some people may explore in the hope of making their fortunes but the majority I think do so from a desire for knowledge, or simply because of Mallory's dictum "Because it's there". The value of discovery may not be easily quantified at first, it took 450 years from the discovery of the Americas until the USA became the most powerful and richest nation on Earth.

Atlantis and her sisters stand at the end of a long line of ships of exploration, the Santa Maria, Golden Hind, Terror, Erebus, Nimrod, Terra Nova, Enterprise, and Fram to name but a few.  Three of the shuttles take their names from exploration ships of the Royal Navy, Discovery, Endeavor, and Challenger taking up the baton from a history of which we in Britain should be rightly proud.

From the deck of HMS Endeavor looking out at the shores of newly discovered Australia, to the flight deck of OV Endeavor looking down from hundreds of miles on the continents and oceans of the world the same spirit runs. I think the men and women of both ships would understand each other.

There is something wonderfull about the human psyche that makes us not be able to see a mountain without thinking what lies over it's ridges, a river without thinking where it rises, or an ocean without wondering what lies beyond the horizon. Cook, Scott, Polo, Gagarin, and Armstrong all had this desire.

Fourteen men and women, like hundreds of sailors and explorers before them paid the ultimate price for taking a step into the unknown. Without their sacrifice and the desire to see what lies beyond we would still be a pathetic species living in caves. 

Atlantis' last flight must not be the end.

Monday, 4 July 2011

Glorious Granite

“I’m in the Med right?” The sea a sweeping expanse of deep blue stretches out to the horizon to meet an equally vivid turquoise sky. Perched high on the cliff, granite rough under my fingers is glowing golden yellow in the sun, light catching on huge crystals of quartz embedded in the rock. Behind me the bay curves round protecting a beach of yellow sand nestled below the steep bluffs which tumble down from the plateau.

Below waves break against the rocky platform, sending spray crashing into the air. It’s changed since I was last here, a great V shaped incision cutting in where a third of the platform has vanished without trace into the jaws of the sea during a winter storm; a victim of the endless battle between the elements.

Sennen is the last village before the tourist horror that is Lands End, amazingly it does not suffer for this; the hordes charge past in their rush to stand at the furthest point west oblivious to the beautiful bay and small village that lurks just a mile back down the A30.

Sat at the belay I can look along the cost and spot the last house in Britain perched on its headland. The Cornish coast is some of the most spectacular we have, raw, rugged, and un-tempered, but spectacularly beautiful. The plateau a patchwork of fields and gorse thickets protected by battlements of granite cliffs and steep bluffs, a myriad of headlands, outcrops, and tide washed rocks, the graveyard of countless ships.

I’ve been coming to Cornwall to climb for over ten years, long miles through the night packed in the back of a minibus, or car. The trips blend together, memories of routes, epics, and experiences hard to differentiate; stories and jokes sat outside the Count House at Bosigran beer in hand as the sun sets over the sea, and dinner cooks on the barbecue.

Doorpost (HS 4b); perhaps my favourite and most frequented route despite a traumatic baptism of fire on first acquaintance. The delicate aerial ballet of the first pitch; traversing the line of small footholds and rising crescent of handholds which arc across the face. The brutal twin cracks of pitch two, a contrast, a battle, a joy?

The “Sentry Box” belay perched high on the wall, the fin of Porthmonia island far below rising up out the sea home to hundreds of sea birds. Then there’s the exhilaration of the final pitch, a leap of faith because the holds and line aren’t clear from the belay; the exposure, a world of sea, sky and rock.

Other snapshots stand out; the obscenely good final pitch of Little Brown Jug (VS 5a), a series of flakes just below the top which turn out to be a line of holds so brilliant, so tactile, so bombproof that you just want to carry on lay-backing for ever as you romp from one to the other. Commando Ridge (VDiff), a alpine style route from sea level, and an adventure from the start, abseiling down almost into the sea, then weaving your way from spray drenched rocks at the base to airy pinnacles at the top.

There are other routes here, reasons to return again: Bow Wall, Ghost, Anvil Chorus, Suicide Wall, Terriers Tooth, South Face Direct, Diocese, and Demo Route. In the endless battle between returning to the places you love and exploring somewhere new I don’t think I will be able to ignore Cornwall for long.