Friday, 26 November 2010
Wednesday, 17 November 2010
"It’s not an adventure until something goes wrong"
Maybe my idea of travelling is more extreme than others, but I look upon this full on immersion in a journey as the way it should be done. I know many people many people that are going or have returned from travelling around South East Asia and Australia, and can't help but feel they didn't get all I think they could have out of it. In my eyes they appear to have taken essentially long holidays that involve taking in the sights abreast of a lot of drinking. There doesn't seem to be a lot of integration with the local populace, instead the majority of time is spent with other western travellers and indulging in activities that are mostly possible back home in some shape or form. Staying within you're comfort zone isn't really an adventure to me, but maybe my views are rather left-field.
"What are we going to call this route?"
"Nothing. It doesn't matter"
A lot of the sentiment shared throughout the film resonates with me, especially the conservation side of things. I feel we should all be trying to have a lower impact and live a more environmentally conscious life. Maybe that's why the Ditch Monkey and Hunter-Gatherer blog's were so interesting and inspiring for me, a stop gap until I am in the position to take my life in that direction.
It’s hard not to be attracted to self sufficiency; however I’m not so naïve to believe that it will make such a difference to the way the planet is exploited. Radical ways of looking at how we live are needed but large corporations and governments aren’t likely to let this happen easily as they both have far too much influence and money to lose. In the same way that exploitation of the working classes has been exported to developing countries, whether we want to believe this or not, it would appear the same will eventually happen with unpalatable high carbon and environmentally exploitive industries. Like many things it’s out of sight, out of mind, however as my current employer is trying to empress, it’s one planet living, thus shifting problems somewhere else doesn’t solve the problem.
Thursday, 11 November 2010
When I woke there was some ambient light coming through the nylon and the pivotal question running through my head was whether the cloud inversion had remained intact or if the clouds had risen overnight. Unzipping the tent with the clouds below me was like waking up to on Christmas morning with virgin snow on the ground.
I rushed to get dressed, donning nearly all the clothing I had with me, grabbed my camera and tripod, and then made my way to the summit tor to enjoy the sunrise and get some snaps in.
I felt very privileged to watch the sun rise over the peaks of the Mourne’s, it was spectacular to say the least.
Is a pink sky in the morning still a shepherds warning if you’re above the clouds?
Not a bad pitch in the end.
After having a very relaxed breakfast it was a rather swift pack up and a rather rushed descent where possible to meet up with my friend Jen and her dog Archie.
After passing the two large tors that summit Slieve Binnian it was time to say goodbye to the inversion and descend into the clouds. If luck was with me the clouds would stay at c. 650m and I would climb out of them while summiting the rest of the peaks. The descent gets a bit tasty in places and the poles came in quite handy for some of the larger drops.
After passing a couple groups making the ascent up Wee Binnian and trying to reassure them that there actually was a clear view on top of Slieve Binian, I finally dropped through the cloud base to a rather drab looking Silent Valley. It was certainly understandable why my promises of a view were questioned just ever so slightly.
After meeting Jen and Arch on the base of Binnian it was time for them to retrace their steps and then a quick cup of coffee and a fresh food replen in the Silent Valley car park.
Leaving the ducks and primary school kids behind at the reservoir, we continued along the wall, leaving it at one stage to take a “shortcut” across some rough land that ended up being more bog than solid.
Reaching Slievenaglough was a rather uninspiring event with the top shrouded in cloud and nothing more exciting than a small cairn to look at. After a short lunch, Jen and Arch left for the comfort and warmth of a car and I continued to plod along the wall, with nothing much to look at other than bog and stone.
I usually ascend Slieve Muck from the West after passing the Spelga Dam and it is one of my least favourite ascents in the Mournes, so I was quite looking forward to climbing it form the South, however with the cloud closed in, it could have been anywhere and soon descended into the usual slog.
Cloud coverage on Muck was thick and visibility was down to 30 metres, its times like this that you really appreciate the network of stone walls that cross the Mourne’s which make it nigh impossible to get lost with any use of common sense.
Slieve Loughshannagh, Meelbeg and Meelmore all passed rather uneventfully, but the clouds finally parted for a moment while descending to the Meelmore/Bearnagh saddle, opening views down into the happy valley and across to Slieve Beg. But as soon as the clouds opened, they closed back over extinguishing the views they had just allowed.
After filling the platypus for the nights camp from a stream just below the Meelmore/Bearnagh style it was time to slog up the last and highest peak of the day, and keep some hope that the clouds would be sitting below the 739m summit.
As I had expected, it was not to be and after passing the summit tor’s of Bearnagh it was time to pitch up the laser, for a change in existing daylight. The wind was blowing hard but the wall created a very effective wind break and after pitching nice and tight to the wall, a minimal amount of wind made it onto the fly, no unwanted percussion would be supplied by the laser this night.
The next morning I woke to the sound of voices and opened the fly just in time to watch four men run past the tent chatting as they crossed the relatively flat plain that I was camped on. Must be nice to make the Mourne’s you’re morning stomping grounds!
The summit was still covered in cloud so a leisurely morning was spent drinking too much coffee and eating more pains au chocolat’s, before finally shaking a leg and dropping down Bearnagh and finishing off the Mourne Wall.
As I dropped to Hares Gap I was certain I could hear shouting but couldn’t see anyone, however I could see a line of sheep coming down the hill and eventually spotted the farmer and his sheepdog out to round up some of the flock. I always like to see a farmer out with his dog and had a wee chat with him before continuing on up Slievenaglogh and back into the mist.
As with the majority of the second day I was stuck in the cold mist of the clouds, and it was rather uninspiring crossing Slieve Corragh before making the final ascent up Slieve Commedagh.
After summiting Commedagh to find yet more cloud coverage a quick descent was made to the Commedagh/Donard style before dropping to Donard forest and passing along the Glenn River. I really don’t enjoy the last couple miles down into Donard Park and find it a bit frustrating, especially when the legs are tired, but its a means to an end, and a pint of black wasn't too far off.
There aren’t many things better than coming off miserable hills and getting a couple pints in, and dropping into O’Hares in Donard Park always makes the last hour of descent a wee bit more bearable; a couple pints of Guinness, a packet of Tayto crisps and a large log fire, what more could you ask for?
I would recommend walking the wall to anyone and if you get the weather it really is a magnificent walk, although the constant climbing and descent make it rather challenging on the legs. You could cover the miles in one day during the height of summer if you were fit enough and kept the weight down, otherwise a lightweight overnighter should be easily attainable for most, you really do feel the extra weight when you are constantly on the climb and descent and my legs were definitely not loving the comfort gear I was carrying.
Even with the clouds for company for the majority of the walk it was an enjoyable couple days in the hills, however the inversion really did make it.
Tuesday, 9 November 2010
#93.3 - BON IVER - For Emma, Forever Ago
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Bon Iver - For Emma from the 2007/8 Album For Emma, Forever Ago
While most people are probably starting to move there training from outdoors to inside as winter starts to get a grip, the opposite is true for me. My running always seems to lag during the summer, maybe this is partly due to enjoying the hops, barley and water combination too much, but probably has more to do with my enjoyment of winter running.
Running in the dark has also always been my preference, and with the shorter days there is now little other choice. The other obvious aspect of the coming winter is the cold, wind and rain (and snow if we are lucky)which again is something I rather enjoy running through. No matter how horrible it looks from inside the bricks and mortar, once you get going its far more enjoyable than running on a nice day, and there’s always a sense of achievement from getting a good ole soaking.
It wasn’t quite as bad as this.
With the rain and wind beating down last night, I finally dragged my ass out for a run for the first time in nearly a month. I’m still persisting with POSE running and last night was the most comfortable run I’ve had keeping decent form throughout, and not too bad a pace for being quite out of shape.
I finally think I’m striking the ground correctly and didn’t have to spend the whole time thinking about form, just enjoy the rain and wind and push myself on. The ability to use my calve muscles this morning was also quite a nice plus, and quite a long way from the balls of lead that I was left with after previous runs.
I suppose I should mention Runkeeper. While I was out pounding the streets I was also running the Runkeeper Pro app for the IPhone for the first time. Runkeeper tracks the route utilising the onboard GPS, and gives a nice wee statistical breakdown of the run, much like a Garmin Forerunner, and probably does a whole load of other things that I will never fully utilise.
Just using the default settings, I was a wee bit surprising when Tinie Tempah faded out to a female voice telling me my distance and average speed after 5 minutes, it was definitely a good motivator, however I need to change the units to imperial from their default metric!
It looks like a promising training tool, which I may or may not write more about in the future, however I would question the accuracy of the GPS plotting on the map and the altitude, not that these make any real difference to me.
Friday, 5 November 2010
Wednesday, 3 November 2010
Listening to lots of acoustic and folk rock type stuff at the moment, and it felt about time to put another mixtape together, so here's a selection of songs from my favourite records at the moment, enjoy!
1. More Dance Music (int) – Kid Koala
2. Lovesong Of The Buzzard – Iron & Wine
3. Rinse Me Down – Bombay Bicycle Club
4. Heart Of Gold – Neil Young
5. Which Will – Nick Drake
6. Blue Blood – The Foals
7. The Escapist – The Streets
8. The End – Kings Of Leon
9. Space Cadet 2 (int) – Kid Koala
10. Mushaboom – Feist
11. Music Takes Me Up – Mr. Scruff
12. Black Swan – Thom Yorke
13. La Llorona – Beirut
14. Annie’s Parlour – Kid Koala
15. Aliens – The Cake Sale
16. Made By Maid – Laura Marling
17. The Cave (Live) – Mumford And Sons
Monday, 1 November 2010
I had been promising myself a couple days in the Mourne’s just taking time to enjoy the days and spend some time taking photo’s, and with a clear weather forecast and nothing better to be doing I took myself away to have a wee saunter along the Mourne Wall.
Like usual timings at my end kept on slipping and before long it was 16:00 hrs and I was still to jump on the train to Belfast. If everything ran smoothly I could be in Newcastle for half 6, just in time for last light. Translink had decided this was far too easy, so after sitting between stations for twenty minutes and thus missing my connecting bus, I eventually reached Gt Victoria St bus station to commence another half hour of waiting. By the time I arrived in Newcastle the sun had set long a go and the street lights were now stealing the attention from the starry night.
Leaving the metropolis that is Newcastle, after a suitably greasy send off courtesy of John Macs traditional fish and chips, a short walk into Donard Wood was made via head torch. The Glen River provided the soundtrack for the ascent, and the roots of numerous ancient trees that cross the uphill path provided plenty of interest, especially under torch light.
After a quick re-acquaintance with the Laser Comp (it really has been a long time) on a not so level part of the forest, and filling up the platypus it was time for getting the swede down with a little bit of Zane Lowe to keep me company.
At first light I ventured out of my tent to see if there was any scope for getting a couple of photo’s looking down to Newcastle under the morning sun, but the morning mist which is so often prevalent in the Mournes put an end to that idea. Oh well, time spent in the sleeping bag is always time spent well!
Coffee, Pains au chocolat and some Chris Moyles and then it was time to get moving.
The morning was still looking rather drab but it was dry and with a good breeze around there was a good chance that the cloud would clear. Indeed, just before starting the real climb to the Donard/Commedagh saddle views of the mountains came and went as the cloud moved across the peaks.
Dropping the ruck and setting up the tripod for a long exposure (with the help of some welding glass) I waited for the cloud to lift a bit more, but unfortunately as is often the case, it instead decided to descend.
Now you see me…
Now you don’t.
Just to add insult to injury, the cloud opened up just after I packed up and started moving off again, just one of those days I suppose.
Looking back down, everything below 300 metres was wrapped in cloud, anybody down there must have thought the hills to be a rotten place, but it couldn’t have been further from the truth. Above the clouds it certainly didn’t look or feel like the end of September!
It was a still and warm ascent to the top of Slieve Donard, and the 3 kilos of camera equipment didn’t make it any easier, the views on the way and those at the top certainly made it worth while though!
I had never realised that the trig pillar for Slieve Donard is actually on top of the shelter until climbing on top of it, that's what's in the bottom left corner of the above photo.
Taking a breather on Slieve Donard, enjoying watching the clouds move across the peaks. It was somehow reassuring to see everyone else sucking from air from Dungannon when they actually made it up.
Leaving what looked the summit of the world I spent a large remainder of the day walking through a haze of thin cloud which eliminated the chance of anything overly impressive being done with the camera, just as well I like dead weight.
Parts of the Mourne’s, like most ranges, are littered with run down cottages in rather idyllic settings, if not also rather inaccessible. Obviously not so good from some points of view, but would make for a lovely retreat for the outdoor enthusiast. I would love for these to be opened up in the same way as the Scottish bothies are, but some how don’t think they would survive long before being vandalised.
Big ole chain to help you cross the Shimna River.
Looking up the Analong Valley.
After reaching Carrick Big I decided to leave the Mourne Wall for a bit and followed a rather rough track to the top of Analong Forest before climbing the the East face of Slieve Binian, and the thick cloud that had formed around it. I now followed another stone wall, crossing it where it was broken to utilise the best trail and filling the platypus from the stream which flowed beside it.
By this stage the legs were telling me that they would like some rest in the near future and my guts were telling me they’d like something more substantial than caramel bars. Thankfully there wouldn’t be too much walking left in the day.
Climbing out of the cloud must be one of the best feelings in the hills, especially seeing that it happens so rarely with only 800 metres to play with over here. Definitely makes it worth the sweat.
It was getting dark fast and my aim of camping in daylight was quickly becoming unattainable, having only been on Binnian once I didn’t fancy picking a pitch in the dark so thrashed on up the hill as fast as my legs would take me.
Cloud inversions rock!
The orange glow that now ordained the cloud around me told me that sun would be setting very soon, so I decided to stop busting my balls and just enjoy what was around me, I had torches with me for a reason, even if I really hadn’t planned on making camp for the second night in a row with them.
I finally reached the summit of Binnian and after dumping the pack and climbing the tor I enjoyed the very last of the sunset and organised the rendezvous with Jen the next day. Incidentally it was the first bit of phone signal I had achieved since leaving Donard.
Leaving the tor behind and donning my trusty Petzl headtorch I wondered across to where I had imagined myself to camping, and thankfully it wasn’t too bad a spot. Sat between two large masts of granite, one of which saved me from most of the wind, and on a relatively flat piece of ground I threw up the laser comp, deploying all the guys incase the wind changed direction.
Chow time, a bit of Zane Lowe and then it was time to zip up the time machine and wait for the next day.