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 

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Biking near Dol Dol

Peter biking down one of the granite slabs 
I had a day out before the work commenced with Peter and his brother on the bikes in an area I had not yet got to. I had always wondered what lies on the road beyond the army base which heads to the town of Dol Dol out on the Laikipian plateaux. We headed round there until the tarmac stopped and the red dirt roads began although it was more biking trails that I wanted rather than the now incredibly dusty B roads. 
Not far before Ol Jogi I spotted a large round granite dome in the distance with easy angled slabs all over it, looked perfect for some biking with nice looking single track paths winding through the bush to it. We headed off, immediately I had a puncture problem fixed and off we went, immediately Peter had a puncture this pattern repeated itself for most of the day. The acacia tree has a thorn on it like no other a ‘shock and awe’ thorn which will pierce your tyre, flip flop and trainer and I have had one through a wellie. The only thing safe seems to be a Land Cruiser tyre. Although there is one alternative of which I have a pair the Masai make their sandals from old car tyres which keep out the thorns good tip if you are a die hard flip flopper like me upgrade to Pirelli! 
Once we made the granite dome it had some great areas you could bike all over the dome which we met a local Masai man who took great curiosity in why my folks went up and down and proceeded to attempt to push all the air out before I stopped him. We carried on behind sweeping through nice single track through villages and over some great technical sections of granite ribs sticking out they where the only place free of the shock and awe thorn. Huge views of the bush spreading out makes it feel like a slice of the Africa people imagine at home. 
It was quiet in terms of people which was nice sometimes being the exhibit becomes a little wearing after time and its nice to have a spin without people jumping in the way to see what the Mzungu might offer. It was just me and a Kenyan colleague having some biking time which was nice. There where a few kids who came out but they where chirpy and just interested to see people in their neighbourhood and not to sure what it was we looking for or where trying to achieve. This is one of the big differences I have found, biking is perhaps the exception more than climbing, mountaineering, canyoning, or just going for a walk and camping out. These things are not really seen in the same way as home. I think perhaps to the everyday Kenyan trying to survive people cant really appreciate leisure pursuits as they are not part of the general survival of day to day living. Not being able to afford or swing a way of getting next years ski mountaineering set up is likely to cause me a panic attack at home, but sometimes sitting in the bush looking at raggedy kids with nothing to eat makes me think what that £1000 set up really is (excluding boots, skins, transceiver, probe shovel and the trip itself). A device to slide down hill on snow, not knocking it though its great and I would ski in the morning if it snowed although getting this years set up would be tricky here.

I have put together a few clips with Peter saying a few words on the biking and being an instructor with us. 

Instructor Peter from Dan Goodwin on Vimeo.