Thursday, July 23, 2015

Update on the latest goings on!

Kayaking on the Ewasso Nyro, Laikipia 
Well its been a while again since the last blog but have managed some time to get one done. We have been moving through the busy summer season here with groups coming through from the UK, Canada, Kenya and even Brooklyn New York along with numerous groups coming through on adventurous training packages. Its been good to busy in Kenya as the security issues have had their impact on tourism with many operators feeling the pinch of less visitors coming, although in the next few days we will get a visit from Obama which will hopefully send a message that Kenya is safe to come to even if it means that it will be nearly impossible to drive in Nairobi during his stay. Apparently the US president requires a clean run to the airport at any time from wherever he is, my experience of Nairobi traffic is that you cant get a clean run to anywhere and any journey will take far longer than you expect. There was also rumour of shutting the airspace which seems a bit over the top. But it will hopefully send a message as to Kenya’s safety for tourists. Certainly here in Laikipa you wouldn't feel anything other than safe with regard to the issues laid out by the media. 
There has also been the chance to get out for some reccies between the groups. We have been down to an area on the Laikipian plateau along the banks of the Ewasso Nyro river. We managed a good stretch of paddling along the river to check for its paddlability and also hippos which pose a threat in many parts of the river. 

Mellow paddling on the Ewasso Nyro
It was an extremely nice spot with nice camping along the shores and large amounts of wildlife passing through. We also took a look at some of the crags and granite domes which litter the Laikipian Plateau. Many of the features are either two blank to climb or have a peeling layer on them meaning you could pull large flakes off. But some offer great climbing with superb views.

Heavy traffic in the bush 
Dougie and I climbed one new line which as we did you could look out and see a large herd of Elephants and Giraffes passing by which makes for a pretty special venue. Its not until you leave Nanyuki and start heading deeper in Laikipia that you realise just how immense it. You can get a sense of what it must have been like when the original explorers first came before the roads, towns and cities came. Its also nice to see the wildlife roaming and rather than them being in a purpose made park they are wandering at free will. As we camped along the shores we had elephants crashing around on the shores eating and drinking. Defiantly made me wary about getting out the tent for a pee in the night.  
Burton experiences a motorbike
Burton the dog seems to be gaining strength and character as time goes by. He is very keen on being out with the groups which always seem to adopt him well, it always amuses me when the burly soldiers arrive and immediately go weak at the knees at the sight of a small dog. He did create an embarrassing situation at the rock site a few days ago. Not dissimilar to the youtube video of Fenton the dog chasing a herd of deer in Richmond Park. A Masai herder came through with around sixty goats which Burton promptly flew off and chased them over some distance. He does know not to do this now. 
I also had my yearly trip up the mountain with Pepponi school which is always nice with friend and teacher Mike Peck. We had good weather on the mountain and a nice group. Although in almost the same patter we had clear weather until we where nearly at the final camp on descent and the heavens opened. On the open heath land in poor weather its almost exactly the same feel as Scotland or the Lakes. 

The season keeps going with more groups and a very busy period coming up. We have over this season got groups running in Kenya, Tanzania, Bali and also Australia which is good. Next month I shall hopefully be in Ethiopia to have a look at areas where we would be able to run groups. For now though the rains have passed although never really hit as they are supposed to our Forest Camp received only a fraction of what it should so it already looking a bit dry in the forest and below its starting its burnt orange look down on the plains  of Borrana and Lewa and on into Samburu. 
Mr Peck enjoying the early morning mountain ambiance 

Dawn comes on the mountain 

If only Patagonia made umbrellas ! 

Monday, May 11, 2015

Busy few days

A busy few days with courses passing through we had a little AT and followed up by a school which went very well. We managed to avoid the rain which in some places has been torrential at times but somehow we have always just been clear of it when it mattered. The difference it has made to the area has been tremendous with the forest feeling much more tropical than normal. We have a steady stream of smaller groups passing through prior to main season kicking off soon. 
I have also put together a few clips over the break for Rob at High Mountain Guides as a season changer as the Alps passes from the spring ski mountaineering season to the summer Alpine guiding season. That can be seen below. 

High Mountain Guides Summer 2015 from High Mountain Guides on Vimeo.

So an interesting result at home as the government takes a turn for the worse. I have to admit that was not the result I was expecting to see nor any reflection on my proxy vote. Thats the last two times I have voted the unexpected has occurred. It would seem that the country is very much divided and now risks some real separation issues. Will be probably far more interesting to see what happens now than in the run up to the election which seemed quite uninteresting looking from afar. I should think a historical moment in politics where one narrowly takes the house and all the opposing sides leaders quit by breakfast. Leaving the public wondering who is who is the opposition now then. I fear this may have been a disastrous choice. 
But on a softer note I have been given a dog through our security guard who it turned out was very young. Iona who I collected from a chamba just outside Ethi where our Forest Camp is. I took a look and decided she would make a good friend in the bush and took her back. The was only nine weeks and very skinny but had some beans in her and also a lot of ticks and fleas. But with some scrubbing and feeding she has perked up a lot. She had it fairly hectic going from the chamba to a busy camp with people all wanting to pick her up and out at the crag and canyon most days but she has kept pace and got stronger so she should turn out fine. 

Iona keen to get out the Land Cruiser 

Friday, May 1, 2015

Lake District Climbs and Scrambles

Dad has a new guidebook out at the moment, Scrambles and Climbs in the Lake District which follows on from the popular Lakeland Walks book. For more details you can have a look at the Vertabrae page for the book on the link below and also where you can get a copy on Amazon. 
I know lots of people who have already got their copy, so hurry while stocks last.......

Catch up Blog !

Dad above Honnister in the Lakes 
Crikey no posts since January that must be the longest I have left it from beginning of blogging history for me. Well its not been due to nothing happening quite the opposite its been a very busy time since then and a good start to the year. I also had a brief trip back to the UK in February. A nice trip back to Cumbria to see Mum and Dad and a brief foray to the Highlands. Certainly a remainder of what cold weather wind and rain felt like. It was a turbulent time in terms of weather with some wild fronts passing through. Dad and I
Mum and Dad at home 
managed to get me onto the snow above Honister and a reminder of thawing winter conditions are. The Lakes seemed a far cry from the bustle of East Africa with gardens and houses all laid out neatly and you could drive in and out of town without fear of a bribe or crashing. But you cant beat Mums cooking which was nice to have again and cheese which tasted of cheese. I also had a brief foray up to Oban and saw the Spinks who where in a wind lashed Highlands. We had a good catch up and day at the ice factor. The weather precluded anything outside even walking to the car was a chilly experience. Back to Cumbria for a few more days before picking up a flight back to Kenya which almost went array. I for the first time in years fell asleep on a flight which stopped in Bujumbura, Burundi. I awoke to see people getting off the plane and panicked and grabbed my things and bailed off the plane as I hit the tarmac I had a feeling this was not Kenya. It seemed very hot and steamy and there was no evidence of a terminal and no lighting I hovered around scanning the area for a moment before one of the Belgium air hostesses chipped in. ‘sir I zink you are going to Nairobi yes you should retake ze seat’ I headed back up the stairs to reagin my seat ‘and where the hell is Bujumbura’ ! 
We landed back in Kenya after only a couple of hours and to the taxi to get me back up to Nanyuki. 
I was keen to be back to the hustle and bustle and suspect cheese. It wasn't time to be thinking of the white cliffs just yet I was enjoying East Africa to much for that. And I can spend far less on warm clothes here. That said we are amidst the wet season which is fairly chilly although not by Oban standards.
Since then and up to our now April break we have been very busy with Schools and Adventure Training courses coming through the camps. We have also had a couple more UK staff come and go. Mark and Sam. Mark I can only say was like having a modern day Burton through. He shall be back for some more as we hit a busier part of the year later on. 
We have been fast developing the courses in our Forest Camp which the groups we have had in has had a great feel to it. The clients having good days out in the forest and returning to what has felt like a homely feeling and people enjoying that. We are on going over the break with building work to expand the facilities and keep giving it that more personal feel to us. We have added a few things like a couple of Tyroleans in the Canyon and also down below our camp. The next focus is on a bike course within the camp, in its current state its a tad technical but with some more work should offer a great decent with some good teaching opportunities along the way. 
We are now on our breaks. 
Joe looking out for crags near Impala reserve 
I have been in Nairobi and also up here in Nanyuki and around the mountain doing some biking and exploring the area. The original plan had been to hit the coast but I had a few warnings and about hopping the buses down to the coast, perhaps I am getting older but I decided this time to heed them. Here is a quick bouldering clip from a trip out near the Loldiga hills. There are some very attractive areas of rock around Nanyuki but there are often access issues and of course some are in wild areas which would have animals. Joe who I was having a look around some of the areas recounted his concern at coming across an Elephant who dummie charged him and sent him running into the bushes while bouldering somewhere. One boulder we came across we scoped out and it wasn't long before armed people came out the bushes which can be unnerving, but there needs to be high vigilance at the moment for poachers in these areas. 

Some interesting rock features scattered around out beyond Ol Jogi 

Laikipian Bouldering from Dan Goodwin on Vimeo.

Saturday, January 31, 2015

Wild North

The summit cliffs on Olokwe 
Big big views from the summit area
Back to basics and cooking on an open fire, summit camp 
Abseiling with the plains below 
I have been in the North for the last while working with a group from a Nairobi International School on the first Olokwe trip. I went up for a reccie sometime last year and knew then it would offer a great trip and it certainly didn't let us down. 
Olokwe  or as the locals know it Sapatchi sits about an hour North of Isiolo in Northern Kenya near the Wamba junction. Its a huge lump of rock which shoots out from the plains with its main wall being 500mts in height. The first thing you notice on arrival though is the intense summer heat bearing down on you. The group arrived at the small camp at the base of the mountain where we would spend the first night before heading to the top to spend the rest of the trip. The trip was a DofE style trip with the group taking charge of everything from the cooking to preparing the camp and did a very good job. 
We headed out early the next morning loading the donkeys and packing bags before heading up the very steep hill to get to the top. It was a long pull in the heat with big bags but the group got up to the plateaux in good time. Once on top you can catch a bit more of a breeze to help cool down. The summit area is a large plateaux with forest and open plains all dropping down to granite slabs and the huge drop beyond. The views up there are second to none looking back towards mount Kenya in one direction and the Mathews range and endless plains in the other. We spotted various signs on wildlife such as Elephant and Leopard. Its a large conservancy which has most things in it but due to its size things are well spread out but just incase anything crept up on us we have an armed guard with us, especially in the deeper forest sections. 
We set up camp in a forested area near to the main top where we would be based for the remaining days. Although we set up the tents people opted to sleep on the open slabs outside the wooded area under the stars which make for a very atmospheric sunrise. 
From the camp the group did some climbing and abseiling right on the top which although it was a group crag the backdrop of a big wall makes it a very good setting. We also did some wildlife motoring especially looking at the vultures which next along the cliffs and also some GPS work. 

Dawn coming up over the group who where still in bed, not a bad wake up call. 
Slab climbing at the top on nice granite 
 The group also got a taste of traditional Samburu culture watching over a ceremony which involved the slaughter of a bull and subsequent blood drinking which some took part in but blood is not everyones cup of tea. 

Masai traditions drinking the blood of a bull, lumpy due to its clotting but quite sweet I thought. 
With all the activities done we spent the last night having a BBQ’d goat which had been with us for the trip and unfortunately the group made the mistake of making it the camp pet so there where a few upset people as we ate ‘Daisy’ that evening. 
We packed up and headed down to the heat below said farewells and headed home. A great trip with a great venue and group so hopefully we shall be up there more and more as time goes on. 

Cheers enjoying a 'full bodied Samburu red' ! Blood............

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Bike reccie shots from Ethi

Peter winding through after we cleared a track through the blocks
Nixon coming through one of the many small ravines and old watercourses 
Some good technical features on the granite slabs 

Coming through the nice woodland areas above the Ngare Ndare reserve