Now for a couple of my previous challenges I have wanted to use this sound track but I have been saving it. I think it is an awesome tune to start this expedition that myself, Jamie Anderson and Team leader Alex Hibbert are soon to start.
In the next couple of days once everything is ready, people are fully recovered from illness and we will be heading out onto the ice along this epic route, with staggering scenery and a fantastic team.
Like all good plans there has been a slight change of plan. Due to the conditions, a non-supported route of this length isn’t feasible for this expedition. The more than average snow that has fallen this year slowed us considerably during our test run. So instead we are going to be resupplied.
There are lots of cliches that we can use like we have adapted and overcome or something a long those lines.
The good news though is that it was resolved with a lot of discussions around routes, logistics and ice forecasts. We are all extremely excited about the start of it and will keep you up dated with our progress.
We spent the evening driving over to a hostel called Pete’s cafe which has a well deserved reputation for huge breakfasts and a bit of a Mecca for all things outdoors in North Wales. Compared to the last hostel of having an entire flat to myself it was time to go back to a shared room. It was a beautiful evening, a ripple less lake with the back drop of the setting sun basking the hill tops in golden hues. Apart from around the bobbing orange head as one of the group opted for an open water swim. The rest of us chose a cold beer, should have taken my swim shorts!
The next morning we sat in the hostel drinking large steaming mugs of coffee and pouring over maps, before deciding on where to go. Parking up outside the National Trust centre at Caneddau and Glyderau with large slate stones marking the start of the path. Heading straight up into the Glyders towards to top of Y Garn.
The objective for the day was to put into practise our risk assessing of groups on scrambling terrain, with the idea being to understand when assistance was required and in its different forms. After a few alterations to our initial route we weaved our way onto the beginning of the ridge. We came to the conclusion (admittedly it had been pointed out to us before hand) on the importance of route planning from a distance by using what you can see of the terrain as well as hints from the flora and fauna. So once you are on a section of it you have a rough picture in your head of any key features or obstacles. So on this occasion if we strayed too far to the one side we would find ourselves off the ridge and if we went too far the other the ground resembled more of a rock climb than a wee scramble.
Making our way up and along the ridge line we stopped occasionally to discuss areas of concern and have the odd snack. The weather had done a complete change and was beginning to warm up as sweat began to slowly drip from us. Arriving to the top and it was time to find the path downwards. For this we opted to find a mountain goat track.
From the top it certainly didn’t look like a route as we tracked our way down by the side of a stream and taking it easy to make sure we didn’t slip or dislodge the loose rock onto those below.
The track narrowed as it followed the slope across the hillside with a bit of a drop to one side and water flowing down it. We finally reached the devils appendix which I believe is an area for ice climbing when the conditions are right. As it was not cold enough this provided us with a quick shower instead. Making it to the bottom beside a crystal clear lake our instructor, Dave, opted for a route that would bring together the skills we had learnt with getting groups up a challenging scramble as well as the risk assessing/ route finding that we had done previously. With some larger steps up rock faces being involved we certainly had to think a lot more and it was certainly not something we envisaged doing when we have large packs on our back. Reaching a good stopping point we turned around and repeated the process down hill. The interesting bit being that heading down the hill is much harder to do as you can’t see as easily where to put your hands and feet, which if you had to do unexpectedly really highlight the point of knowing your and the groups skills. We cris crossed a stream over, down and around rocks some of the group making it look far easier than myself. All comes with practise apparently!
The nights activities was to plan our expedition. With maps, empty mugs of coffee and beer bottles littering the table, fingers traced different potential routes across the grid lines in front of us as plans began to hatch. Ensuring it would be a realistic distance to cover in the time period and give us enough potential to test our navigational skills. Each route was discussed at length as we each tried to sell our ideas. Part of the fun in all these is in the planning. That initial building of an idea into a concept and looking at try to realise it. In the end we decided to present a couple of options to our instructor the following day one of which was Matt.
Having been on the cards for a while I had the opportunity to go on mountain leader training with peak mountain training who are based up in the Peak District. Driving up with forecasts of rain and relatively high winds wasn’t the most appealing to be out in the Peak District but it would certainly make for a more interesting experience!
After the long drive I reached the bunkhouse at Pindale Farm where it turned out I was the only one in my room out of a possible 7 others. So with kit spread out I began making myself at home and although relatively basic it had everything I wanted and was comfortable enough. I woke early the next day to get all my kit ready and have a look over the map to see where I could head on my first day. Normally the course is a 6 day course but for a number of reasons outside of my control I could only start it after the first day. My plan for the day was to make a loop around the local hills before heading back. The forecast hadn’t improved as I sat with my coffee cupped between my hands viewing the map but with a plan, lunch packed and kit ready it was time to go.
The initial section was heading up a valley with a castle overlooking the area; the recent weather had turned the path into a wee stream as water swirled between the rocks and my feet.
The day was certainly one of all seasons with patches of sun mixed with rain, strong winds and hail that stung any patch of skin that was exposed to it!
While I saw quite a few groups hunkering down behind stone walls avoiding the worst of it.
I made my way round admiring the view from each of the peaks despite it being slightly imposed on by a rather large cement factory. I finished up at a cafe full of cyclists, motorcyclists, walkers and runners enjoying a final blast of coffee and a sugar hit before heading back to make homemade pizza.
The next day was much more classroom focused with us learning about risk assessing both before and during an expedition, understanding weather patterns and looking at emergency situations involving mountain rescue. This was quite appropriate given the wet conditions outside. The afternoon was spent out in the hills to put into practise the risk assessing we had been doing in the classroom into practise. Heading to some of the steeper areas I had been on the previous day where we would consider the potential for an accident and the severity of it. We also practised the art of walking slowly and I mean really slowly to the point where one bystander stopped to witness the event. Stopping for a bite to eat we tried experiencing how it would feel just needing to wait around in a relatively cool day to see how quickly we would start feeling the cold. The results were quite surprising in terms of the speed by which our body temperature fell and certainly highlighted the need for the right equipment in the mountains. Heading back for some cold pizza, soreen malt loaf and setting my tent up to make sure it was all ok ahead of our expedition phase.
The next day was our last day in the Peak District and it was due to be a pretty interesting one. The morning began in the classroom, planning expeditions before we decided to head to an area called Stanage Edge to do some scrambling and rope work. The emphasis of the exercise was that rope work within mountain leading is definitely a last resort but if the terrain, group and/ or conditions require it then we need be to able to do it safely. Soon we were all tying ourselves in and climbing up and down areas. For those interested it was using the remote belay using a rock as an anchor as it is designed to be safer method if anything goes unexpectedly wrong.
Whilst standing admiring the surroundings we could make out bands of rain rolling towards our position as it rain began waterproof trousers and jackets were donned. The area is very popular with climbers particularly in the area and you could certainly see why with options of bouldering and climbing on shorter pitches. The final exercise was leading an individual down and up steep slippy terrain which was now in perfect condition thanks to the recent rain. The idea wasn’t to create the impression of danger but more act as a confidence rope. With the exercises all done it was time for a quick bite to eat and driving over to Wales for stage 2 of the training.
The summer has certainly hit the UK shores and with holiday season in full swing I thought it would be great to share some of your travels, adventures and weekend mini adventures. If you have any epic pictures that you would like to share drop me an email with the picture and a bit about the moment. I’m wanting to do a picture a week, I cant offer prizes or anything like that but maybe it will inspire others to check somewhere new out which is always good.
At the same time and partly because I’m currently massively behind on writing about them all I had a bit of a brain wave, doesn’t happen often but here it goes, the plan is to give you a sneak preview of a selection of my pictures or if I don’t get round to writing about it as they say a picture is worth a thousand words. Check out the link below which is also on my links, save it to your favourites and share it.
Happy snapping and I hope if provides a big of inspiration for some photos or trips.
The alarm sounded or at least I initially thought so, it was in fact the local mosque’s call to prayers, known as Adhan, in the early hours of the morning. After this initial disruption we had a long lie in thanks to some confusion within the group, our phones and we realised the local vicinity as no one really seemed to know what the time was or should be. We were instead woken by a knocking on our door wondering where we were at what ever time it was.
Breakfast arrived and I stuffed my face as if the expedition had already started with bread, omelette, muffins, pancakes coated in honey all washed down with copious amounts of sweet mint tea. It did however lack one ingredient initially, much to the dismay of some coffee lovers within the group. We were soon on our way into the foothills of the Atlas Mountains.
The drive was broken up by a quick stop at an argan oil factory. This was also the time to experience having a snake wrapped round your neck as a guy came over and draped it over me. It all felt very touristy!
We continued the drive, passing an estate car which quite literally had the entire football team squeezed inside of it before finally arriving at the lunch stop and the point we were to begin the walk up the valley. It had felt like we had spent the whole day eating! Whilst sitting there with me trying to get comfortable in the cross legged position, which seemed much easier when I was smaller, we began to notice a change in the weather. The wind was picking up with the trees swaying and the dust being whipped into the air.
The bags were tied onto the mules which are different to donkeys we discovered as we were off.
We began the trek wondering up the dirt track past terraced plots and olive trees. It was like a green oasis curving along the side of the river that meander it’s way down the valley. The villages that we passed through appeared to be becoming more basic with the animals living on the ground floor and the family upstairs with mud walls and roofs. Yet there were still the satellite dishes fixed to their sides, it was quite a contrasting sight especially with the smells mixed into it of smoke and manure.
It started to spit ever now and again, finally the heavens opened, the temperature dropped and we could no longer hold off from wearing a waterproof. It was the first time it had rained in weeks apparently. It was a case of hunkering down and getting to the gite quickly.
We arrived dripping wet and fumbling around for places to hang all the wet items in the low light under head torch. A light bulb was found and screwed in giving us time to take in our surroundings. The village only got electricity a few years ago and mobile reception the following year. It sounded like such a dramatic and quick transition.
Our sleeping area for the next couple of days was effectively a massive covered balcony open to the elements but with loads of blankets laid out.
My trip to morocco came round a lot quicker than I anticipated as I was throwing and squeezing all the kit I needed into a rucksack that was either far too small for the trip or I had far too much stuff.
In between this I was preparing (microwaving leftovers) my last meal in the UK or at least until I reached the airport. My previous trip to morocco had been in the searing heat of the Sahara as part of the Marathon des Sables. This trip had the potential for the heat of the desert to the snow up in the mountains, on top of this we were leaving England as a storm was due to hit so I was packing for all eventualities! As I sat on the tube the rain started to come down hard, I was glad I was going to miss the remainder of what was to come. I made my way to Gatwick to meet the rest of the group who had arrived in a timelier manor than me. Despite it only being a 3 hour flight, not knowing when my next last meal would be I thought I would savour a chocolate bar on the flight which needless to say was eaten before boarding the plane. I was clearly in a mood of great self restraint.
Arriving in Marrakech it came to passport control and spotting a small queue in front of a booth I opted for this one only to receive a wagging finger and being pointed towards the much large queue that had formed and I had being trying to avoid. Finally making it out, we met Steve our expedition leader and Ibrahim our local guide. This formidable pairing of Steve with a huge amount of experience and stories which made many a famous explorer or adventurer seem very tame and Ibrahim with his local knowledge and connections spreading across the Morocco we certainly had the ingredients for a fantastic trip.
Arriving in the main square and the souks in Marrakech in the evening can only be described as mind blowing with such a contrast to the London we had left behind as our sensors were hit with a rich mix of smells, sights and sounds. Locals and tourists mixed together in one big melting pot. Wondering around you were introduced to every kind of smell from incense to freshly cooked food and the odd whiff of drainage system or lack of.
After many offers from different food stalls we were greeted by a cook in his once pristine white uniform, now highly decorated in a variety of colours and food stains, which we opted to stay at. A young couple were mid way through what could have been a romantic meal in Marrakech. This was broken when the waiter realising the lack of space for our group decided without telling them that he would move them along. In his haste he knocked the ladies drink over her and the table. But at least we would all fit now. The meal was really good despite warnings of not eating meat and I assumed that the calamari was probably even riskier given our distance from the sea, all were very tasty. My meal was made slightly more interesting when I felt a rubbing on my arm. Looking round I realised it was the cooks arse going up and down my arm as he bent over to pick up something. All part of the experience. A quick tour of the souk before me and roommate crashed out in the hotel a head of the next day’s trip into the mountains.