the adventure continues:- Vikings, Volcanoes, Crags, Castles and Climbing….welcome to Edinburgh!

Right now as I write this down I am hearing The Proclaimers chanting “I’m on my way from misery to happiness today……a ha a ha a ha a ha”. I have just spent the last two days in Edinburgh wandering the streets of the old town and Edinburgh castle, all the way up to the National Monument and across “The Crags” as they are known that menace the city from the East.

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View from Nelson’s monument.
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The Crags and Arthur’s Seat, East Edinburgh

The weather was a little overcast and it was a little bit wet, but this is a city I could definitely spend more time in. I really enjoyed my time here and the people and the feel of the city are very favourable indeed.

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The cities central park.
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Best shop ever in Edinburgh.

We drove through town early on Thursday 28th July and checked in to our accommodation as soon as we arrived. The Gifford Guest House has been welcoming travellers for some 96 years now and the current owners have seen the original house books. It was a home for soldiers during WWII and some actually lived there in residence for up to five years. David and his wife were truly welcoming and wonderful hosts.

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Old Town. Edinburgh Scotland.
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Cottages in the castle grounds

Lunch at the Greenmantle Pub was five quid and it was super good and who would complain about the price. Cheap and cheerful was the vibe there and it was great. Deciding to walk to the castle was a great idea and it was a great way to see the streets of this picturesque yet seemingly dark old city. The buildings appeared dank and grey and there was an air to the place that smelled of ancient turmoil. Edinburgh’s history is truly amazing and even its geologic history is incredible.

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The National War Memorial. Edinburgh Scotland.
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Knights of old………..in the great hall. Edinburgh Castle.
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An ancient broad sword
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William Wallace in stained glass in a small chapel. its the oldest building in Edinburgh.

Today Karine and I packed up and headed out to hike to the summit of “The Crags” called Authur’s Seat. Though it can be climbed from almost any direction, we took the most direct route from the west side. Straight up the steepest point via the old granite stairs. The easiest and simplest ascent is from the east, where a grassy slope rises above Dunsapie Loch. We walked via Salisbury Crags, which has historically been a rock climbing venue; however due to shitty rock climbing is now restricted to the South Quarry and a free permit is required.

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The granite crags in Holroyd Park.
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14th century chapel in Holroyd Park, Edinburgh

Inspired by a recommendation from ours friend David and our new “climbing coach” Neil Gresham, we decided to go and check out the worlds biggest indoor climbing facility and do some training. Oh my god, this place is truly enormous and its built into a repurposed quarry. 30 metre routes and miles of bouldering and other vertical insanity. This is a climbing paradise for both “plastic pullers” and “pebble wrestlers”.

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Edinburgh International Climbing Arena, Ratho Scotland.

Heading further south and back into England the weather seemed to shift and became a little more sullen. We both laughed as we saw the border crossing and headed toward our final resting place for the evening. We were staying on a dairy farm in Underwood. Our host Jane was a very lovely well spoken lady. She booked us a table at the Punchbowl Pub for 8pm and we got changed and headed there for a great meal, good wine and local beer.

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The Punchbowl Inn, Underbarrow Cumbria UK.

The sunset was beautiful and I do love travelling with my lovely lady…….Thanks for a great week in Scotland K………will always remember it with a big smile on my face.

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the adventure continues:- Seeing Scotland was not about walking through galleries and just drinking whisky.

Leaving Gretna Green, Scotland and heading to Annandale Distillery was a great start to the day. This was a new distillery built on hallowed ground. The property was first developed in 1836 by Robert Burns and pre-dates Glennfiddich by approx. 50years. Johnny Walker owned it until 1918 and then it went to sleep until 2007. Renovated and restored it is currently in production and will release its first batch of whisky in about 18 months. The tour was great and the rascally liquor is on its way soon.

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the original Johnny Walker still foundations at Annandale Distillery.
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The stills at Annandale.
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Annandale Distillery returned to its former glory……..stunning!

Now on our way further north to the Auchentoshan Distillery for another tour, I was getting very excited about being in Scotland. I had wanted to come here ever since I had watched the movie “Highlander” as a young teenager. It was on the bucket list and so was going to some distilleries. We did the tour and tasted the unseated magic that is Auchentoshan. Glorious indeed was “tha’ wee dram offered.”

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This is one of the most stunning whisky’s i have ever tried.
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Auchentoshan Stills

Loch Lomond was our first stop and we arrived just as the rain started. Overcast and a little cooler than down south, it was a very haunting place to be. Standing on the shores of a loch in the Western Highlands of Scotland brought a tear to my eyes as I thought of my dad and how we had talked about possibly doing this before he passed. Well, I was here and he was definitely smiling down.

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Loch Lomond, Western highlands Scotland
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The lounge bar at the pub in Lass, Scotland
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Loch Lomond, Western Highlands Scotland

We were going to go to Glasgow for the night and spend the day walking the city. That didn’t happen. We drove down to Johnstone and found a quaint place to stay called the Lynnhurst Hotel. The room was great, the food excellent and the sleep was fantastic. My mate back home had also that night, sent me a challenge to do 22 push-ups a day for 22 days to support veteran suicide. I began the challenge the next morning.

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Long-haired Scottish cattle…..thats what they are called.
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It says it all

Driving back through the West side of Loch Lomond, Karine and I agreed that seeing Scotland was not about walking through galleries and just drinking whisky. It was about castles and lochs and the highlands. So thats where we were headed. In search of Kilchurn Castle. We searched a little bit less than we should have and ended up at Dunstaffanage Castle. But were laughing and having fun trying to find our treasure for today.

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Karine staring out at Loch Linnhne
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Dunstaffanage Castle, Oban
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Kilchurn Castle, Loch Awe Scotland
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Done Castle, Stirling Scotland
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Piper piping

Our goal was to be in Edinburgh tomorrow but we would only get as far as Stirling tonight. 40 odd miles from our destination. the B&B was fantastic. Ten miles out of Stirling and on a quiet country road. It was the home of “Eric the Moose” made famous in the Monty Python movies (in the credits only for those who have not bothered to pay attention) and the owner John was a jovial fellow and his wealth of knowledge on all things Python was wonderful.

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and Eric the Moose

Sleep well avid readers……… 🙂

the adventure continues:- Viking strongholds, knights of old….to walk the wall, oh the stories told.

Leaving our friends this morning was a little strange after such a great week together. We had been climbing several times out in “The Peak District” and experienced the English countryside on days that would closely resemble the temperatures of an Australian summer. We have  been truly blessed with the weather.

Our destination today is Newby Bridge, a little village on the southern most tip of Lake Windermere. Yes we were headed for the Lakes District. On the way however we could not go past the town of York. This medieval town was the northern most stronghold of the empire for many years. It had to visited and experienced.

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Shambles in old town York.

We decided to investigate the Park and Ride system that Nick and David had told us about. This is the best system and most convenient and comfortable way to see any of the major towns around Yorkshire. We pulled into the parking area, walked about twenty metres and hopped straight onto the bus that would take us to the town Centre.

Stepping off the bus was like stepping back in time (with the exception of the Mark’s and Spencer’s store across the road). The narrow cobbled streets, the old tudor styled buildings and the many many churches and priories that appear around the town.

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The cathedral ceiling in the York Minster

We were not going to miss out on wandering the hallowed halls of the oldest Gothic Minster in the UK. Fourteenth century stained glass windows telling stories of the pilgrimage of christ , the remnants of Viking strongholds, Roman domination and the burial place of knights of old. This building has been here in one form or another for over 1400 years.

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14th century stained glass and all the sections are 17 metres high (54 feet).
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The chorale performing Mozart’s Requiem.

We walked the wall of about twenty minutes and discovered a completely different York. Beautiful backyards in old cottages, big manor homes, exquisitely manicured gardens and Pimms on the lawn. This would be completely out of place anywhere else with the exception of the UK. The rain began to come down (we did expect it to do so) and we decided to head back to the car and set off for our final destination for the evening.

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The wall protecting old town. About 1600 years old give or take a couple….
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The Minster from the wall

As we drove the landscape began to change and became more arid and stark, although beautiful and green, it was all low lying flora. The grazing and farm land was now moors and hills with dilapidated old buildings popping up more regularly. We were just simply taking in the journey. Two and a half hours after leaving York we arrived at our accommodation for the night.

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Old church and lodgings, York UK.

After settling in quickly we headed to the Old Swan Hotel for a nice late dinner and a glass of wine. A great way to relax after a long drive and some dank weather. After dinner we walked around to the waterfront and stood on the shores of Lake Windermere. Although it was a little dark for great photos I thought it only necessary to get some shots of this beautiful place as we were headed to Kendal first thing in the morning.

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Ancient arch bridge on the estuary feeding into Lake Windermere. Lakes District UK
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A home on Lake Windermere
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Lake Windermere at sunset.

 

Sleep well trendsetters 🙂

the adventure continues:- Courage is not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it.

I have just walked in the door with my friend David. We are both fatigued and in need of a cup of tea and/or a beer…….not quite sure yet, but I know I have to have something to relax me and calm me down. I am really tired and I have not been this tired from climbing for a very long time. David took me out today on my first real British trad climbing adventure and it scared me a little.

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Full alpine experience at High Tor, Peak District UK.

I am, and have always been……….a sports bumbly. I have never been anything else and I would never profess to be anything else. I like clipping bolts and I enjoy climbing hard……but this was a different hard. This was “old skool” climbing on gear that you place on your way up the route.

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David running in out on the Original Route

We headed out at about 8:30am today and made our way to the South end of the Peak District to climb at a crag called High Tor. Tor means a hill or rocky peak in ye olde English. Our goal today was to complete two routes. They where “Original Route” HVS 5a and “Debauchery” E1 5b.

“Original Route” is described as “A right of passage“ for all HVS leaders, the exposure on the huge face is well felt……… “Debauchery”  is described as “One of the top ten “E1’s” in the country. So David had definitely picked a couple of fiery classic to test my mettle on.

David tied in and we did our safety checks and off he went straight up the rock ledge that led to the base of “Original Route”. Getting a good stance he placed a couple of pieces of gear and climbed onward and upward. 35 years of experience certainly makes this heady test piece look relatively easy. This 35 metre route was done and dusted in a very short amount of time and it was now my turn to climb up and meet David at the anchors that we would later abseil off back to the ground.

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Ominous view from the anchors of Original route

I stepped on to the rock ledge and headed for the base of the wall. As I pulled on I got a very strange rush of anxiety, which I don’t get on sports routes. It was simply the fact that I was climbing on gear and I was not trusting myself at all. I was questioning everything that I knew about the sport that I loved. As I climbed I was over-gripping and not using my feet well. I felt like I weighed 20 kgs heavier.

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This is why we climb………beautiful

I continued up, removing David’s placements and working through my cerebral overload. This was a new game altogether. I had done a couple of trad routes prior to this in my travels as a climber, but this was certainly different for me. Reaching the belay ledge, where David was standing and smiling. I said “Jesus that was a trial by fire experience and I was seconding it.” Ten minutes later we were back on the ground after a successful abseil.

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We had a quick bite to eat and then tied in and David led “Debauchery”. A thrilling traverse out into the left hand abyss that is the main wall at High Tor. Cruising through the traverse and then settling into the belay position, he yelled “SAFE”. Five minutes later I was about to climb and I was really nervous. I just simply understood very well that I was scared and feeling very out of my depth.

As I moved up and across the traverse I realised that my mind was definitely playing with me and I was over thinking the whole thing. Its hard to be calm and execute your technique well when you are having very unreasonable thoughts. Today was just a matter of dive into the experience and feel every single bit of it. God I felt like such a wimp.

I have never heard any of my climbing heroes say they are scared or that they feel completely gripped, but I am happy to say that I have heard my climbing mates say it before. I totally enjoyed my day and I now appreciate and admire the incredible mental toughness that the men and women who went before me in this game displayed…….

 

I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.

– Nelson Mandela

the adventure continues:- a sneak into the “The Peak” makes for one happy rock geek……

Well we headed for the Peak District this morning with the goal of climbing at Smalldale Quarry. This little sort of boutique sports crag is a well-known haven for all climbers with a varied range of routes from 5+ through to high 7’s on the main wall. David was super excited as he always is about venturing into the vertical and I was just excited to be going climbing in the Peak. This legendary and hallowed bastion of British climbing is one that I had been told by many of my more experienced climbing mates back home.

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Panorama of Smalldale Quarry.

Driving through the Peak is a beautiful experience. The free stone walls that line the properties and mark pastural lands across the hills are simply wondrous and the multi-coloured greenery through the area is truly special. I had always heard the English countryside was pretty but this is an understatement. I now understand why the Brits choose this bucolic life.

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The choss at the start of the walk-in……no routes here!

Weaving through the narrow roads avoiding cyclists and walkers on the way into the valley was an exciting adventure unto itself. There was a road race on and we had to be seriously careful passing as the road wasn’t just narrow but also a little rough around the edges.

We took one final turn left and stopped at a set of very large gates. This was Smalldale Quarry. We walked into the crag across the quarry. There were trucks and cars and equipment that was all no longer in use and just simply left to rust in the weather. Reaching a grassy patch just below the cliff line David stated how wet it was and that he had never seen it like this in the time he had been coming here.

Hopping over the barbed wire fence and continuing through the heath and bush was a slippery experience and the ground at the base of the crag was absolutely saturated. We decided to at least do a route or two since we were there. I started up a route called “Upminster Kid” 6b and within five metres had pulled off some large rocks that hit the deck very near Karine who was belaying and our friend Nick. Nick commented in her usual fashion “Oh that looks like fun climbing indeed!”

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Miss K powering on during her first training session in a couple of months.

As I moved up and got to the white rock described in the guide, I pulled on the large jug and it moved considerable. This was it for me……I backed off and said “this rock is absolutely shite David!” he responded with “British rock is shite Craig!” We laughed and tried another route called “More Chattery Teeth” 6b. Suer fun and minimal loose rock. With this done we headed to Horseshoe Quarry and the sunlight.

We arrived at Horseshoe and it was a little warmer there in the sun, but the rock looked solid and there were a lot of people around. Warmed up on “Rotund Rooley” 6b and fell off it just before the last bolt. Karine gave me a great catch as always and I finished the route. Fell off it again the next shot and laughed as the falls were a good head clearer.

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The author resting while working through his first training session in months too……

Nick’s daughter Rosie red-pointed it and cleaned the route after we had finished with it. Karine and I moved on to do “Pale Rider” 6a and another 5+ I cant remember the name of right now, but hand jamming is still a very uncomfortable thing for me. I was shitting myself for the last 6 metres. Karine however cruised it by comparison to me and we then called it a day.

Satisfied and tired we went to the Fox House Pub (or something like that) and I even had a good old Penfolds Koonunga Hill Shiraz with it. Enjoyed our first weekend here in “The North”. Its really nice to be here with “good humans” and the weather is currently spectacular……….Keeping our fingers crossed.

We have started training again and feeling positive about our time here…………..much thanks to David and Nick for their hospitality and for just simply being “good humans” 🙂

the adventure continues:- The North York Moorland Boulders….a tough welcome to British Rock.

Well this was to be our first day of “British Rock” and David decided to take us out to the North York Moorlands for some bouldering at Wainstones Boulders. This was East Coast Bouldering at it finest and we had not climbed much at all in the last couple of months. We were starting out with……….a bouldering session?!?!?!

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A 5:30 am start to begin research is always good.

The grading system used here is the French bouldering system or “Fontainebleau System” (F). It is not the same as the French sports climbing grading system. It is distinctly different.

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The first view of the plains

We warmed up on a 5+ called “Offbeat”. This took a couple of shots to solve and it was no give away. The body was saying “I am going to hurt you if you keep doing this”. We all got the problem solved in the end. David, Karine and I were off to a good start.

Following a couple of warm up laps we jumped on a problem called “The Palmist” 6a. This was the start of the real pain. It took me four attempts to get this one solved. Fontainebleau 6’s! What a hard welcome back to climbing after a long period away from the vertical.

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“The Palmist” F6a………nice problem to have.
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Miss K on her first bouldering session outdoors……so proud of her. “The Palmist” F6a. Thanks for the spot David.
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David relaxing into the day on “The Palmist” F6a

After a bite to eat we wandered up to the top of the Wainstones and our friend David says “Lets do this! It’s a 5+ standing and a 6b starting from a seated position. I got the standing start version, but I couldn’t even get the first move off the ground, oh god I just kept falling off. David got it rather easily and we trundled off.

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From the top of the escarpment

We walked around the boulder field and stared at the incredible view from the top of the escarpment down onto the plain and across Middlesborough to the North Sea. Absolutely stunning!  It was a beautiful day, it was hot and the wind was just enough to take the edge off. We decided to try “The Shelf” a sit start 6b+ on the “B Boulder” as its known.

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Topping out on “The Shelf” F6b+.

I put the pads down and Karine sat and leaned against rock in a very natural looking armchair position with her camera. I slipped my shoes on and looked up. I eyed a small dimple in the rock for my right foot and as I pulled on I realised instantly it was going to be a hard fight. I popped up to the next rail and off I came.

David managed to get his feet sorted well and then moved up to the “shelf” and pulled through and up over the top. He said it was a nice battle. I got back on and found the foot hold I was looking for and sent the problem. Happy with now being warmed up I did another couple of laps of it until the body needed rest. Karine headed off down the dale to send her second Moorlands hill of the trip and take some photos.

David and I tried another few problems and realised that our feet were now very sore and our hands were loosing asking very rapidly on the course and sloppey sandstone. We had been bouldering pretty constantly for about three and half hours and we were shot. David wandered off and soloed a very cruisy 6a to complete his day and when he finished Karine reappeared from her walk to the hill across the dale.

We headed home for a beer and dinner with some friends of David and Nicks and we were introduced to Nicks daughter Rosie for the first time. A lovely evening all round and I knew I was going to sleep well.

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Some unknown punter on the way home 🙂

the adventure continues:- Fear and anxiety going to the home of hard British traditional climbing…..

As I sit aboard the train to Hull to meet our friends in the North, I realise that the UK is very much a flat agricultural plain. Power stations line the horizon on either side of the train and the clouds are lightly tinted with a grey hue. There is no blue sky today and it looks like it will rain. There is truly nothing that can be done about this that is in my control however and I have decided that I will not let this darken my spirits.

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The train trip across the flatlands up to Hull was not as I expected it to be……….not at all.

We are heading off to see our friends and there are a fair few of them to catch up with. Nick and David have kindly agreed to “put up with us” for a while and so have Thu and Michael, which is lovely and greatly appreciated. I guess one could get rather down with the weather being like this on a regular basis. I know my brief stay in Ireland was marred by some dodgy weather, but I never let it get to me.

Heading to the Lakes and Peak Districts to go climbing was not really on my agenda as I didn’t know anyone there and I am really a sports climber. However after travelling the globe over the last year and a half, I have met an array of people from all walks of life who’s one true passion in life is going climbing. Some of which live in the United Kingdom.

Climbing not only has the ability to empower you and teach you patience, but it also takes you to and allows you to experience some of the most unique places on the planet. As I reflect on this I can smile and honestly say that although I have been on a journey of recovery and discovery, I have been on a climbing trip and climbed in some of the most beautiful places I have ever dreamed of.

I am currently experiencing a little bit of fear and anxiety about going to the home of hard British traditional climbing. As much as I would like to say I will give it a good go. I am also very much aware of my short-comings as a trad climber.

My goal here is to learn how to be a better climber and to experience the place, its culture and its people. I am so looking forward to getting in touch with a couple of gentlemen we met in Greece. Gordon and Gerry are a couple of the “old skool” Brits who have been climbing together for some forty seven years and are still going strong. Both in they’re early seventies, their knowledge and expertise in this traditional art form are second to none.

The exciting thing  is to get out and do things……. whether the weather is shit or not. There are crags, castles, cathedrals and other things that start with C that I cant think of right now to visit, eat and climb.

Accept the challenges so that you can feel the exhilaration of victory.

– George S. Patton