Saturday, 14 September 2013

New website on it's way!

Hi Folks,

There is a cool looking new website in the pipeline, mainly spurred by Smugmug's (my gallery hosting site) change in layout. Here is a preview of one of the gallery pages:

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Along with this will be my own custom domain name and a completely new blog interface. It is taking me a fair bit of time because I am rubbish at web design, however please be on the edge of your seats

If you guys have any comments or anything that you found annoying on the current website, do let me know


Tuesday, 10 September 2013

The Talisman - Creag a'choire Etchachan

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Remote crags at their finest
I've done very little but work and sit on my backside since our trip to Ailefroide in July. That sounded like the best reason to hit a multi-pitch rock route in one of Scotland's remotest coires, on a Sunday!

Calum had previously been into Creag a'choire Etchachan (pronounced however it happens to fall out of your mouth) earlier in the week to do Scabbard, a starred VS. He was keen for us to go back for the Talisman, a 3* HS. So myself, Calum and Alasdair met at the Linn of Dee complete with bikes at the leisurely hour of 9am.

I immediately regretted not buying a new mountain bike this summer. My trusty Carrera from Halfords is still holding strong after 17 years. That's right, I bought it when I was 10 years old and it still works! Much like Trigger's broom, it has had several new wheels and saddles but the frame is the same. Despite various upgrades it is showing its age, to the extent that; the brakes do not function as a braking device, and the inner tube is bursting through the perished tyre walls. 

A couple of hours pushing the limits of where bikes should be taken, across drainage ditches and over cobbles, we found ourselves at the Hutchinson Memorial Hut at the base of the crag. A feet dampening approach was swiftly dispatched....oh no it wasn't, because I am desperately unfit, now I remember! Sorry, 30 sweaty minutes later and we geared up.

The route was ok I guess, roughly speaking you have an un-protectable wide flake crack followed by a blocky ladder then a traverse with no gear. I did this bit. Calum then did the open corner to the 'awkward alcove' with an interesting move out. Alasdair and I kept the route entertaining by discussing various points of contact.....don't ask! 
Alasdair did the final arete to finish. Nothing special but not bad for a 3 pitch route with the crag to yourself.

The cycle out was preceded by being swarmed by hundreds of midges when retrieving the bikes from the undergrowth. Then I was nearly castrated on several occasions when my non-suspension bike was stopped dead in its tracks by a drainage ditch, rut or even small twig! Only one complete 'over the handlebars' moment, thank goodness.

Next summer I am buying a new bike. For the sake of my nuts, wrists and brain cavity.

Tuesday, 3 September 2013

Just the daily grind....

There are many disadvantages to having to work in the Highlands; long distances, cold weather, midges!! Then every so often, there are those things which make it all worth it.

Saturday, 3 August 2013

Spey Descent

Last weekend a few guys from work packed our (not so) dry bags and big blue barrels and jumped in some canoes. Destination: Spey Bay on the east coast.

Click here to be taken to the photo gallery

Nick had done an excellent job of organising everything with Donald at Explore Highland and we were ready to go in no time. Launching off from Loch Insh just outside Kincraig, avoiding the Osprey nest, we spent the first 4 hours running over some essential skills to avoid wetness and death.

We left Donald at Aviemore after a coffee break only 4 hours into the trip! After this we had to make up time and steamed ahead. Day 1 went by with only a brief shower in the middle of the day and camp was set up in the dry. We even got a fire going!

Day 2 surprised us with excellent sunshine and most of us came away with 'canoe knee'. A pub dinner at the Mash Tun in Aberlour and some cava sealed the day off nicely.

Day 3.....the less said about day 3, the better. It was wet....all day. Morale was low from the outset and tension built amongst the supposed elite team. A stern reminder of the fact that we were indeed men set us upon our final leg to reach the 'oh so good' Dolphin Sanctuary cafe ahead of time, enough for me to demolish two sandwiches!

Enjoy the video!

Spey Descent from Owen Flowers on Vimeo.

Tuesday, 18 June 2013

Chamonix - 1 year later

So as my trip to the Ecrins looms closer, I thought it was about time I sorted my photos from Chamonix last year!

I'm going to be really lazy and let the photos do the talking....maybe i'll write something later on :)

Argentiere basin - Petite Aiguille Rouge - Chamonix Aiguilles & Mont Blanc 

Tuesday, 12 February 2013

The Seam

Fresh back from my week long course in Ambleside, I hooked up with James and Calum for a trip out. I am desperately trying to get away from the hotspots this winter, but Calum has been itching to get on the Seam for a while now so we headed into Sneachda for what feels like the 100th time. Not to say I minded.....a day out is a day out after all. The forecast was reasonable for Saturday although it became ‘clear’ that it was going to be a bit of a claggy day. We had several overhead visits from the coastguard helicopter on the walk-in, which we questioned as to whether it was a good or bad omen for the day.


Not too many pictures in this blog, although clicking the photo above will take you to the gallery with a couple more photos of the day. The claggy mist made it really difficult to keep the lens clear and even then, images were pretty dismal.
Calum pretty much owned this route. I led the initial ramps of Invernookie as I’d done them before and could recognise the route through the clag and depths of snow. I actually realised after getting back that I was suppose to lead us up right slightly earlier on to the base of the chimney. It’s probably what made the middle traverse pitch quite tricky.....sorry Calum.
Calum led a short, yet awkward pitch to the base of the chimney and then the final pitch in one rope length. Belay duty was actually a pleasure in this instance as myself and James had much amusement from Ramone and Mark, the team following us to Invernookie, trying to pass our small belay. I also explained to James the term ‘braying Geoffrey’s’ and had an impromptu cinematography lesson.

One reason I like to explore elsewhere.......
Calum did an outstanding job of the whole route, one which I certainly found quite tough and I think James would agree. I used the opportunity of being in a three to take some video footage with the hope of creating a proper edited cut. Here is my first attempt at a climbing short!! It is a little rough around the edges, but I’ve tried to make it a little more than 4 mins of continuous fiddling.

Well done Calum!

2013.02.09 - The Seam from Owen Flowers on Vimeo.

UPDATE: It is unfortunate that some university students from Leeds appear to have got caught out over the weekend, with one later confirmed as killed. Reports suggest that the 5 were recovered on Monday morning after being reported overdue on Sunday evening, so I am unsure what the large MRT presence was on Saturday. Maybe training? None the less, it is sad that the trend over the last few weekends has been folk getting into serious trouble and paying the price. Very sad.

Monday, 4 February 2013

Tower Ridge - Winter

John text me a while ago suggesting he'd make the Catterick - Dalwhinnie journey sometime soon and we could get some winter climbing in. If it was anything like last time (see: Cummingston) there would be lots of alcohol, little actual climbing and sightings of sea badgers!

Despite a comms malfunction, John managed to locate the cabin in the woods that is Station Cottages in Dalwhinnie a.k.a. Timbuktu, around 11pm. There was a brief catch up over the important events of the previous evening in London with the Men of the West, which involved some mlarring messes and a new form of club-based communication called the 'liquorice allsort nod'.

The objective for the next day was then set: Tower Ridge, a route with a history of underestimations and benightments. Let's do it!

So, less than a year since I did the summer ascent with James, we make the early start that is required for a day on the Ben, never mind it's biggest winter. Despite a late night and very little exercise (for me anyway!) we made good time to the CIC hut and are soon standing under the huge bulk of the Douglas Boulder.

The usual slope leading to the initial chimney pitch looked loaded so we decided to avoid it and join the ridge further up. In our haste we also tried to overtake a roped party by picking an even more 'alternative' route onto the ridge by a horrendously exposed snow traverse. Quite possibly the scariest part of the route!!

Once on the ridge we roped up and took coils to start moving together over the initial easy sections, although easy is not necessarily the right word. The ridge immediately provides good climbing, plenty of exposure and amazing views. With the conditions the way they were, sandwich between awful winter storms, it wasn't surprising to see numerous teams on the ridge. This slowed things down a bit as a fair amount of time was spend queuing. Still, we couldn't complain.

The rock mass in the picture above is the little tower, the first real obstacle of the route. We managed to race up this and move over the next level section with lots of photo stops along the way. I had real trouble selecting the best photos from a batch of many, although I slightly wish I had taken the SLR along for such an epic route.

Next on the cards was the infamous Eastern Traverse. Looming above you is an impenetrable wall which would make anyone thing they've let themselves in more than they wanted, the Great Tower is a milestone of the route. Winding it's way around the east (huh, really) side is the traverse and to be honest makes you consider finding a way up the wall! Fortunately with plenty of beta under the belt I dispatched the traverse and managed to protect John's journey around it just as well.

The climbing after here is exceptional and the outlook over Observatory Gully is outstanding, definitely my favourite part of the route! We could see a trio finishing up Tower Scoop and Gardyloo Gully which had some point eaten the stoner we saw earlier on. Over the other side, Robbie was on the Tower Face of the Comb which looks a little stiff.

We got up on top of the Great Tower and joined the queue for Tower Gap. At this point it was getting Harry Gleanpigs (cold) so the duvets went on and we chatted to some guys who were partaking in the SMC Winter Meet, which explained why there were so many people in the coire.

Tower Gap has to be witnessed to really understand its complexity. It has exposure, sure, but the down climb forces you to look straight down into the abyss as you manoeuvre your feet to get down into the gap. Then there is the climb back out!! Lots of noises were made.

The Gap in profile
Words and photos just don't quite capture the scale and grandeur of this route, it really is one that has to be experienced. Our trip was 11.5 hrs car to car, with only 7.5hrs on the route. We worked out nearly 2hrs of which was queuing, so we managed the route in less time than my summer ascent. Not bad really!

I can only advise to anyone thinking of doing the route to try and get it in good (snow) condition and with good weather, if not just for the views.

Cheers John for making the journey up, first on the list of many!

Click any of the photos above to view the gallery in a new window