Picos De Europa: The Futures Bright

So last week I felt a little like a rock star, although I put that down to travelling in the far from luxurious Easyjet where you walk to the plane and get to come down the steps like the Beatles in their prime. As well as that I was also asked to deliver a climbing coaching course in the Picos Du Europa.

The course went well and both the clients and the company that employed me felt they got a great deal out of it. It was of course such a privilege to be invited over by The Mountain Guide School, who are running rock climbing courses in the Picos based alongside the local guides at guiatrek. Which if you haven’t been there climbing I suggest you reconsider it as a destination, although if you don’t believe me then wait till next year when I will be based there for nearly three months.

For those that maybe haven’t been following and even those that have, my plans for a round the world trip have come together really well. I leave for South America to work for 42 days in Chile and Argentina for The Mountain Training School, I have already met a few of my students and assistants.

I am hoping that during that course we can explore the local crags of Coyhaique again, as well as travel up to Bariloche, Esquel and fingers crossed Cochamo. The last place we never visited on the first trip there despite this being one of the places I have dreamt of going for year, I have heard that subsequent courses have made it there and even put up a new route.

Cochamo was first climbed on by Cripin Waddy and a few other British climbers. I hear they are trying to develop the place more and more, with easier shorter routes as well as the major wall.

As soon as I finish I fly back to Santiago and start a journey north through south america with a aim to climb Mont Llullaillaco, visit Potosi and Machu Pinchu. If there is time then a quick surf and an attempt at Chimborazo.

I then fly back to the UK, where I have ten days off before I head back out to Picos Du Europa for a 21 day intro to rock climbing course again for the Mountain Training School. I then have a month and a half off when I am hoping to do a little tour of Europe and classic mountaineering and climbing routes before heading back to the Picos again for a 42 day climbing course finishing in July.

After that I do plan to return to the UK for some ‘time off’ and some more climbing. With the idea of heading to the USA to climb some more of their classic routes in sept/oct/november. In particular I want to climb the Devil’s Tower the route made famous in Close Encounters of the Third Kind.

I then hope to finish the year off with some trekking in Nepal. The plan is to celebrate my 40th year in style, in what I hope to turn into a youtube series called “Round the World in 40 Climbs”. If you have read my book “Hanging By A Thread” then I plan to try and climb as many of the route in that book as possible, which should keep me busy for a year.

The great thing is with the work I have lined up, the royalties from my various book projects and the hope that I can sell a few articles from the stories of my travels as I go that I have essentially funded it so no matter what it is going ahead.

I have been busy putting a more definitive proposal together to try and get a little more support from equipment manufacturers, as I think a Vlog in the form of a youtube series of this trip could be totally different, if you have seen my recent videos on the History of North Wales Climbs then imagine that on a global scale and that is what I am aiming for.

graffiti2

It is all my fault?

So I was quite surpassed when my post about art or vandalism took off across social media like wild fire. I have been accused of everything from a knee jerk reaction to just desperate to get more people to my website. Well I am guilty of both counts and I don’t think I have ever tried to say otherwise.

However along with those reasons is another. A love for the outdoor and especially the place I call home, Snowdonia. This is my, so take it or leave it, if I feel that someone is doing something that I feel is destroying an ethos of the outdoors, the take only pictures and leave only footprints message so many organisations encourage us to use the outdoor by, then I may well fly off the handle.

What I have found really interesting is that whilst most people supported the concept that it was vandalism or at least ill conceived art. Who actually took the time to go up there after the event and see what mess was left.

I did and I videoed then scrubbing the wall clean of lichen and that chalk based paint. There was a rather bizarre idea of health and safety when it came to working at heights as well. When I ask whether it was a ill conceive and poorly thought through idea, one of the production team came down the rope for a talk.

It was an interesting talk, during which he used words to the effect it looks bad now but because of the social media frenzy we have had to clean it off. Basically they blamed me for them having to clean up there mess.

A member of the production team trying to clean up the mess.

A member of the production team trying to clean up the mess.

So I guess a pressure washer wasn't the answer!

So I guess a pressure washer wasn’t the answer!

My concern that no one had actually thought through how they were going to get rid of the poem was highlighted by the mess they have made clearing it up. They started with a pressure washer, so when I went up there was a ‘negative’ cleaned imprint of the poem across the rock. I think the photos speak for themselves as to the damage they have done.

The representative I spoke to said he was going to visit the site every month to two weeks to see how the ‘damage’ is looking. I have asked him to send me the photos and I will try and get up there if the weather is nice during the winter. He also conceded that his three day show would have effects that stretch on for months in this valley, even if it is only a visual one.

I guess the victory for me was they are at least in voice standing up and taking responsibility for there actions. Although talk is cheap. Maybe they will think an idea through to its end in future.

the long periods of walking do dissipate the intensity and there is sometimes little to distinguish the show from a ramblers’ outing – Guardian

There production the Gathering, did not get a very positive review (Telegraph) ether. However the actual gathering, when the local farmers team up to clear each valley of its sheep, it an awesome site to behold. Forget one man and his dog, this is about what real working dogs can do. They can almost clear one side of the pass of sheep in 30 minutes and bring down to nant for sheering or later on in the year moving down to warmer less exposed pastures.

Having been bouldering when the mini-stampede of sheep make there way down the pass as the gathering rolls in. Their was little sense of artistry involved, more sense that the hard graft of agriculture made this possible, which if you have every laboured on a farm you will no why those farmers suppers are so big.

So in conclusion the show was ‘ambitious’, and the resultant mess is my fault and not that of the person(s) who scrawled it across the rock.

photo 3

Art or Vandalism?

Give a man a grant and can vandalism be art?

That is a question I was faced with today when I was walking up Snowdon. The national Theatre of Wales, and doing a ‘production’ of something called the gathering in Cwm Llam where the Watkin Path heads up snowdon.

There are a few ‘arty’ installation up there, although some are bizarre. A few latex gloove filled with water and having from a tree and large red carpet laid out down the incline. That you can see from the road and a few blocks in a stream covered in red material and then daubed all over a natural rock face in paint, a poem.

My only guess is they got a grant to do this, and the arty types that hover round national theatre groups like flies round ….. thought it would be a great idea. I however think they will have blightly the landscape they have chosen to help celebrate their tale for a good many years. As whilst it will clean off, the texture of the rock will mean a good scrubbing. Taking far longer to clean than the vandal that scoured his government support idea of art onto a landscape that is still trying to recover after being quarried.

I’d really like to know whether the national theatre of wales would have me arrested if I paint a 100ft poem of my choosing across their building and called it art? My guess is because I didn’t get a grant for it then it couldn’t possibly be art.

I hope the land owners who I think are the national trust see it and make sure they remove it in an environmentally sensitive way.

I would rant about the dam up there but will be told it is a weir!

photo 1 photo 2

North Wales Climbs – Episode 2

So i took a day off climbing mainly because my back is hurting a little have been walking in and out of cloggy twice this week and then sat down for hours at a time in the cold doing some time lapse work has stiffened it up. I was really excited to edit this and see how the new camera and microphone have worked out. I am really please although I did pay the price of manual exposure in a couple of shots I had to edit over.

Anyway, I hope you like the second episode of North Wales Climbs. Where we look at Archer Thompson and the first route to explore the buttresses.

Project Over the Hill and Far Away

So for the last year I have been telling my friends about this project. As next year I am forty and decided that I should try and go travelling whilst I am still young enough to enjoy it. By telling people I think it forces your hand more.

So in an effort to ‘pay’ my way around the world, I contacted the company that employed me to teach rock climbing in Patagonia in 2010. They have welcomed me back into there program, and I have just bought the tickets to Santiago in Chile.

I had planned to start travelling in June, around my birthday, however I am leaving just after christmas for 42 days work, followed by some more exciting travel plans for a further month. Including heading to Machu Pichu, An attempt to find and trek to Mount Llullaillaco and a visit to a high altitude city called Potosi.

I am keen to find some travel companions, so I have asked my friends, some of which do actually read the drivel I knock out here whether they want to join me. If you think you might be interested in joining me then please email me, the more the merrier.