The end of August found me meeting Ross Greenwood and the other IPS staff at Gatwick Airport for the annual D of E Gold Expedition to the Pyrenees. This time I actually made it onto the plane although when we met up with Chris in Cauterets, it was clear it was his turn this year for the upset stomach.
Following the acclimatisation day to the Refuge Ilheou and the usual Via Ferrata along the valley, we set off on expedition.
Once again, we had to alter the routes for a number of reasons but the teams were successful and the threatened weather held until the groups were nearly down. It is such a good location for a Gold D of E Expedition
Once again, in late July, it was time to join the Norton Hill School D of E trip to the Gran Paradiso Area in North West Italy. However, before they arrived, Tim and I attempted to climb the Gran Paradiso from the Shabod Refuge. It all started well and we made good time to the glacier and beyond but the chest infection I picked up the week before was always going to defeat me and we had to retreat.
The students arrived to improving weather and we set about the expedition. This time we attempted a Figure of 8 route between the Rifugio Sella and the Sogne di Berdze. All students were successful and it proved to be a rewarding and popular route
Following the expedition, the students had three days of activities including climbing, mountain biking using e bikes and white water rafting. Over ten of the students managed to lead sport climb for the first time. The only down side of the week was finding the via ferrata closed and we had no way of finding this out in advance
Once again I was asked by Adam Calder of QEH School in Bristol to run their summer adventure trip. This time I took them to walk five days on the Alta Via 2 in the Italian Dolomites. The plan was to walk from Passo Gardena to St Martin di Castrozza and take in a couple of outstanding via ferratas on the way. having arrived at Venice, we set off early next morning and were dropped at lunchtime at the foot of the Via Ferrata Tridentina, a 800m ascent to the Rifugio Pisciadu. The group were shocked into coping and cope they did. A stunning intro to the area.
The following days were spent on the way to St Martino and included a stunning day on the Via Ferrata delle Trincee and an exciting traverse from the Rifugio Mulaz to the Rifugio Rosetta. We also managed to fit in the World Cup Semi Final. A disappointing finale but a wonderful backdrop of the Marmolada.
The group then finished with some well deserved R and R in Venice. What an excellent trip with a great bunch of staff and students
In February, Tim Chandler joined me in the Pyrenees for a few days in the snow. We arrived at Toulouse as it started raining and didn’t stop for 48 hours. This rain did mean that there was snow higher up and this massive depth of snow led to some interesting and exciting driving to get to places. We tried skiing but the visibility was so bad, we decided to snowshoe instead and had three good days near Gavarnie, Pont d’Espagne and Bareges
Following Tim’s departure, I was then joined by Georgia and John and repeated some of the days including an overnight at the Wallon Refuge and a wonderful four course meal. By this time, the sun had come out to leave some amazing snowy, mountain scenes
In July, we returned again to the Vanoise with Norton Hill School for their annual D of E Gold experience. There were five teams this time and all completed successfully. There were some inspirational performances from some of the students who completed their expedition despite health issues. The weather was generally very good except for a few very violent thunderstorms late in the afternoons which the groups managed to cope very well with.
As per usual, we finished off the trip with some activities including the wonderful Cascade de la Fraiche Via Ferrata in Pralognan. The group was without doubt one of the nicest and most appreciative of young people
The Easter School Holidays is often a busy time and this year was no exception. We were also blessed with some excellent weather although the lack of snow in Scotland was a bit problematic. The first week saw me in Kinlochleven again for Giggleswick School’s Annual D of E/Mountain Training week. Once again, we went to the Glencoe Ski Area for their intro to winter skills and along with Lucy Dowland, we managed a good day using axe and crampons despite the snow melting fast. The expedition took in a long route around Ben Alder and then back to Kinlochleven
Climbing to the col below Creise
The following week saw good weather at home so it was time to get the climbing gear out and after a warm up session in Fairy Cave, it was off to Baggy Point with Josh Wildman and Tim Chandler for a hours climbing in the most beautiful weather. The following week saw me running a Lowland Leader Course for Kilve Court Staff on the Quantocks. Once again the weather was very kind
Winter 2017 was not the best, either in Scotland or on the continent. In early February, mark, James, Brent and I went to Torridon to try to do some long winter routes. However, the snow and ice was absent. We managed a good day climbing on the coast at Inveralligin in a beautiful setting when the snow arrived. We then climbed up to the Liathach ridge in some deep, unconsolidated snow. Torridon is a very special place and I had forgotten how beautiful but also how big the ascents and descents were.
The view along Loch Torridon
A week late found us in Spain visiting the Picos de Europa for the first time for some ski touring. The Picos is like a mini Dolomites with dramatic limestone peaks and steep sided gorges. Fortunately, there was a good snowfall just before our arrival and on our first two days leading to just about enough snow to ski. The sun came out later enabling us to enjoy some stunning views and thrilling descents
In November, Richard Brawn and myself flew to Kathmandu and then on to Pokhara to trek the Annapurna Circuit. We were lucky enough to arrive at Pokhara in time for the Diwali festival, a vibrant and colourful celebration of dancing and music. We set of and it took six days to walk to Manang where we planned to have a rest day. As we climbed the scenery opened up and were treated to views of Annapurna II and Manaslu. The vegetation also changed from Sub Tropical Rain Forest and rice paddies, through Pine Forest and ultimately to a short, squat, thorny type of vegetation similar to that of Corsica. We decided to have two days rest at Manang with some short acclimatisation walks.
After the rest we took three days climbing steadily uphill towards the Thorong La at 5400m above sea level. The last day to the col was a 1000m climb up steep paths and switchbacks. We then had a long descent to Muktinath and another long descent the next day to Jomsom making a total of 3000m of descent in two days. We decided to end the trek in Jomson and take a flight back to Pokhara. This was an experience in itself – like something out of Indiana Jones. It was a great all round experience and I would recommend it to anyone. The scenery is so varied but so massive and the Nepalese people are so friendly.
The end of July saw me with the sixth formers and staff of Norton Hill and Somervale schools. The Gran Paradiso wasn’t an area we had used before but it proved to be one of the best and certainly one to use again. It was perfect for the D of E Gold Expedition and went through some challenging but stunning scenery with lots of wildlife. The huts were very welcoming and we had the first ever experience of a live rock band at the Rifugio Victoria Sella.
Before and after the expedition the area was perfect for mountain biking, white water rafting, climbing and via ferrata. the weather played its part in a fantastic trip
July saw me accompanying the boys and staff of QEH School to Corsica. After overnighting in Nice, noisy and busy due to the Euro finals. An early morning ferry to Ile Rousse and a train took us to the campsite at Algejola. The next day, we set off to Haut Asco via the via ferrata to start our expedition on the GR20. The next day saw us dealing with the longest day on the route and an ascent of Monte Cinto. As it started to rain near the summit, we were faced with a difficult descent but fortunately, it stopped and dried out. The next three days saw long but easier walks and more time for swimming.
A finish in Corte and a train back to the coast allowed us three days to enjoy the beautiful Corsican coast with some sea kayaking, snorkelling and beach games.