Thursday 30 July 2009

Scandanavia or Bust.

While the Netherlands was all very nice, great to see friends, etc, it was somewhat flat.

So with tired limbs all nicely rested we set off through Germany (picking up 10 more crates of emergency beer for Mick's wedding) then on to Copenhagen.

Copenhagen was lovely for a short visit. We left the van in in a city center caravan park and spent a day sight seeing.

We took a water bus down the river, through the city center's canals and on down to the sea. On the way back we detoured through Christiana (a great big hippie colony in the heart of Copenhagen) and then back to the van.

Unfortunatley neither of us are very good at remembering to take pictures so you will have to trust us that the city is cool. A clever mix of the old and the new all on a waterfront setting interwoven with canals.

From Copenhagen we drove through the new tunnel/suspension bridge link to the south of Sweden.

On the bridge Jess was informed of some very happy fammily news (Jess's sister Kate and bf Paulo are soon to be Kate, Paulo +1) so no pictures were taken of this engineering marvel.

Uddevella in Sweden to see Mick and Katrin was the next stop.

Thankfully Uddevella is in Bohslan in Sweden and is anything but flat. Rock everywhere. Some of the best single pitch climbing in Sweden.

After dropping the beer we went for a little climb on a bit of rock in the center of Uddevella.

It was a rainy Thursday but we got out climbing properly on the Friday before festivities commenced. Beautiful rock with clean straight cracks. We didn't jump on anything hard but it was still good to get out.

The wedding itself was great. Lots of Mick and Katrin's friends who we had met before plus numerous other new ones made it a weekend to remember.

The reception was held in Gustavsberg (a quaint little seaside resort just south of Uddevella. The weather stayed dry despite an ominous forecast and the Happy Couple said yes (in Swedish) at the appropriate times.

Success all round.

Then on to the serious buisness of socialising and dancing...

Gus had a near miss on the dance floor as Jess swung him off his feet Irish country dancing.

There were many other near misses and a few deliberate hits. [Section deleted to protect the guilty...]

Pictures speak a thousand words so i will leave the rest to those:

Despite all Micky's worst fears, the beer did not run out and no-one went thirsty.

In fact there was still beer and wine left over for quiet drinks on Sunday.

On Monday we returned to the rock.

Again, beautiful clean lines on perfect rock. Good company too with many climbers at the wedding we had quite a party at the crags.

Hope every one got home ok. It was great spending time with you all. A special thanks to Linus for helping us find our way round the various climbing spots.

At the moment we are undecided whether to stay in Sweden a few days more or high tail it for Chamonix in the Alps....

Stay tuned.

No mountains :(

So after tiring the arms and legs with the Font bouldering, we headed to the Netherlands (not Holland as Sander explained to me). It's flat, as flat as a pancake so there was no temptation to climb :(. First stop was Delft for a couple of days to catch up with Barry and Kasia, who was visiting him too at the time. Delft is a really cute Dutch town filled with canals, traditional Dutch architecture and the most crooked steeple ever. It would give the tower of Pisa a run for its money. All the squares are filled mellow beer gardens and open-air cafes which were the perfect location to chill out and catch up on all Barry's adventures since leaving Ireland, especially since we were blessed with good weather. The first night there, the Irish man in Barry was determined to enjoy a few drinks with mates. Unfortunately for him, he's now a featherweight in those stakes so watching him put together his recent purchase of a bed from Ikea after the couple of pints was very entertaining! Of course Duncan maintains that Ikea is the Swedish for one part missing so that might explain the difficulties. The next day we wandered round Delft and took the tram to the beach in the Hague for a stroll. It was really good to catch up with the guys and see Barry settling in.

After Delft, we headed north to Groningen to catch up with a couple of Dunk's mates, Sander and Bernard. We stayed with Sander and his lovely wife Esther on Friday night. Esther had popped into town before we arrived to get us a selection of Dutch delicacies. We tried pickled herring (the jury is still out - good taste, raw fish texture), stroop waffle, orange cake (doesn't actually contain orange and is pink!!), liquorice and my favourite, sugar bread. I love sugar bread. Mmmmmmmmmm. Sander and Dunk had a great time looking at Sander and Esther's project, the renovation of a boat to potter round the Dutch canals.

On Saturday, Dunk brought me to see the latest Harry Potter. Yay! We had to catch it in the Netherlands to have any chance of seeing it in English. Afterwards we met up with Bernard who has recently moved to Groningen for love! And had just scored a job the day before. Congrats B! We had a really good night with dinner, drinks and one of Donovan's glow sticks. B's better half, Remke, and her friends caught up with us too. All good fun.

On Sunday, we chilled out and enjoyed the Dutch café culture before saying goodbye and hitting the road for Mickey and Katrin's wedding in Sweden.

Saturday 18 July 2009

Le Fontainebleau

After our Irish pit-stop we drove south to Rosslare for the overnight ferry to Cherbourg. A few hours drive on from there saw us in the Fontainebleau area.

Fontainebleau is situated in beautiful pine forests and is steeped in history. Not that we were paticularly interested in that. We were there for the climbing. The forest covers 1200 km2 and is scattered wth thousands of sandstone boulders covered with problems ranging from wobbly slabs to steep overhangs and is a mecca for boulderers. The problems are classed under different colours depending on difficulty and its a good place to get strong.

We were there about a week in total. Met some hippie impersonators living in a homemade teepee next door to us on the campsite. Apparently making a teepee is what boulderers do when they can't climb.... (Hope you made it home safely guys!)

We hit the boulders most days and by the end of the week our poor little arms were hanging off us but all considered we had a great time.

There was some great french wine consumed at about 3 euros a bottle, smelly cheese and baguettes, bbqs with the next door neighbours and a few splashes in the campsite pool. I even found some of the Lu biscuits we used to buy on family camping holidays. Yum!

We really were wrecked by the end of the week so didn't mind the propect of heading to the pancake flat Netherlands to visit some friends. At least there's no temptations there!

Thursday 16 July 2009

Another Irsh Pitstop

So we hopped on the ferry from Holyhead on Monday (29/Jun) and arrived back to Mick and a well stocked fridge (thanks Mickey!) in Inchicore. There were two reasons for this Irish pitstop - my graduation from college and Daithi and Clio's wedding. First job was to buy some new dresses! Life's tough.

The graduation was on Wednesday morning. Myself, Rani and John Cotter were graduating together which was cool. We put on our red robes and floppy hats and finally finished our phds. They can't take them back now!! It was a lovely day with lots of friendly faces popping by to say hi. It was great to catch up with everyone however briefly. The mammy, daddy and two sisters joined myself and Dunk for the day and after the photos and nibbles we headed to Roly's for a massive stomach stretching lunch which was tasty as always.

Saturday started damp and rainy and we weren't holding out much hope for the sun shining for Daithi and Clio's big day. Dunk brought Mr. Flynn out for a wedding morning climb being very carefully not to damage the groom in any way. We then headed for Ballymagarvery House outside Ashbourne for the main event and miraculously the sun broke through just as we arrived. It was a fabulous wedding. Daithi and Clio held their own style ceremony after getting all the legal proceedings out of the way the day before. We've never seen Daithi so well scrubbed up and Clio looked amazing in a full length red dress. It was a great day with a fab location, sunshine, good food and great company. It really was one of the best weddings we've been to.

Sunday evening we chilled out down in Arklow with my family and started getting excited about starting the continental leg of the trip. The ferry was booked for Monday. Yay!!

Friday 3 July 2009

Whether the Weather Be Fine.

So the plan was to head for Ardnamurchan while the weather was a bit iffy in the hope that the lower ground would let the clouds pass without breaking the rain. A better forecast was on the way for later in the week.

The first bit of the plan worked out quite well.
Although not particularly far away, getting to Ardnamurchan is a little time consuming. Many miles of single track road later we arrived on a grey afternoon at the most westerly point on the UK mainland and found a sheltered spot for the campervan.
We spent the next few days dodging showers in remote Ardnamurchan. Fortunately the rock there is a super sticky volcanic gabbro so the wet was not too much of an issue.
We spent the time getting comfortable with climbing on strange rock.

When not climbing Ardnamurchan proved very relaxed and away from it all. The population is a real mixture of sorts, from long time locals to city types who have sold up to telecommute from their country retreat. All proved friendly, if a little tipsy in the local pub.

On the drive out a few days later we passed exactly twice as many cars as hedgehogs down the 30 mile single track road. (We saw one hedgehog.)

Next on our list was Mallaig and the ferry to a very overcast Skye.
The climbing on Skye looks fantastic. We where hoping to get up on some of the classic mountain routes on the Cullin mountains but would have settled for playing on some of the good see crags but unfortunately the forecast break in the weather never materialised.
After doing a little sightseeing for a day or two, hoping for the skies to clear we finally gave up and started driving south.

The plan worked. After a scenic drive south and a night in a lay-by on Loch Lomond side we arrived in Glasgow fairly early and dropped the van in to QuickFit for new brake pads while we went to potter about the city in blue skies and sunshine.
That afternoon we drove south to the Peak District in England with it's fantastic grit stone.
They used to make mill stones from the grit (see picture below) but these days the Peaks is a national park with a steady stream of walkers and climbers.

The sunshine was still with us so we went to play on the rock.
I returned to a climb that beat me years ago on Stannage Edge. While it wasn't easy I finally pulled it:

Obviously there were lots of other climbs too. (Have you spotted a theme to our trip yet?)

On the whole we found the peaks fairly hard going so we only lasted 2 days before tired arms made us take a wee rest day.
Rather than sit about in the sunshine for the day we made full use of it by driving towards the cliffs at Gogarth on Anglsey, Wales, near Holyhead from where we had to catch a ferry back to Ireland in a few days.

Initially we went inland in Wales, hoping to do a few mountain routes in the Llanberis Pass but the weather had other ideas again.
Fortunately the weak occluded front dumping rain and mist on the mountains was leaving the west coast clear so we headed directly on to Gogarth.

Gogarth turned out to be a lot of fun, if a little scary at first.
Huge cliffs covered in loose rock and nesting sea birds all add to the atmosphere. As you can see, the sun was still shining.

We were still tired from the Peaks but got a lot of quality easy routes in. HVS and VS mostly.
I've got to get back there sometime and jump on something a bit harder.

We only lasted one full day plus a bit of the next morning before we dragged our tired bodies to the beach to wait for the next day's ferry from Holyhead back to Dublin for Jess's Graduation.