Saturday, 31 December 2011

A Ton up

Somewhat surprisingly this is my 100th posting. No personal activities to report but I was marshalling at the Auld Lang Syne fell race so a couple of photos. However I was at the highest point of the race and it was all I could do to keep as dry as possible and not let the camera get wet.

The Brownlees well in front at the trig point. Alistair went on to win.

Some of the following field appearing out of the mirk.
Just time to dry out in time for tonight's festivities.

All the best for the new year.

Wednesday, 28 December 2011

A Christmas Close Shave

Phew! With Xmas done and dusted (and blown away in the wind) it's time to start shedding those extra kilogrammes that mysteriously appeared. I managed to go for a short (very short) run yesterday through the fields round the house though everything was very boggy and I felt like I'd put on weight by the end!

Xmas was a bit of a panic as midday on Xmas Eve I thought I'd check the heating oil tank. It was virtually empty with the level of oil being halfway down the feed pipe! Probably only half a day's worth left. Of course being Xmas Eve all the local suppliers were shut. Our neighbours were also low on oil so no borrowing off them. In the end I managed to borrow some red diesel off one of the local farmers which should last us until we get a delivery early next week, that'll be 1000 litres then. For someone who wants to get some winter climbing done I'm now wanting the weather to stay warm to conserve fuel :-(

Time to start planning a training regime ...

Wednesday, 21 December 2011

The Stoop

After everyone cried off to go winter climbing at the weekend, I ended up taking photos at The Stoop fell race on the Sunday. Photos here on Picasa. It looked like a good turn out but it was a bit hard figuring out who was who as Dave Woodhead had handed out free Santa hats!

It ended up being a nice day so I decided to walk back home via Slippery Ford. It wasn't so much slippery as icy and would have been interesting to say the least on a bike. Along with walking around on the course of the race I must have walked about ten miles in total so a reasonable day.

It now looks like mild weather is around for the christmas period. I just hope things get cooler before too long.

Tuesday, 13 December 2011

Belgium Bicycles

Well a week in Ghent, Belgium resulted in starting with a cold on the journey home on Friday night. Saturday wasn't too bad - I managed a short walk to test out a new pair of winter boots (not bought in Belgium!) but Sunday was a washout - I only got out of bed for a total of four hours.

An interesting point of note was the number of cyclists in Ghent. They weren't your lycra clad, turbo-charged style commuters but people dressed in their work day clothes going to and from work; mothers on converted tandems with babies or toddlers in a covered cot in place of one of the seats; old and young there was no typical cyclist, everyone was doing it.

The infrastructure helps - not just a couple of bike racks at the station and maybe a shop or two but storage for fifty or more bikes every couple of hundred metres. The main train station had bike racks covering an area around at least 100 metres by 200 metres and was packed! See the photos in the post "My Bike is Lost!" and this shot on flickr to see what I mean.

The bikes themselves were nothing out of the ordinary, being the old "sit up and beg" style, in fact I saw only a couple of mountain bikes and no road bikes at all. The bikes at the racks were all locked up but with pretty basic locks compared to what we'd consider acceptable in this country, but then we'd only consider commuting on a bike that cost £1000 or more. If any of the bikes in use cost more than €200 I would be surprised so much less attractive to steal but since virtually everyone seemed to have one there is probably not much point in stealing them. Something like this was probably top end of the range.

The one downside was that cyclists appeared to be allowed to ride anywhere in any direction even against traffic on one-way streets. Given the lack of tooting of horns or shouts about "not being allowed on the road!" I'd say that it was accepted, you did have to watch out when walking though! The speeds most were moving at were less than 10MPH, 6MPH being a much more realistic value, a collision would have hurt only pride, motor vehicles were limited to 30KPH. The only real downside I could see was having to avoid the slots formed by the tram rails.

Why can't we do this in our city centres? The cost of installing regular blocks of bike racks, a decent number not just a couple at each location, is minimal compared to the costs of traffic congestion and the future costs of poor health. Add in a few bye-laws allowing cyclists low speed access to the pedestrianised areas of city centres and the only thing stopping it is the selfish nature of some sections of the populace.

It'll never happen of course :-(

Friday, 2 December 2011

In Defence of the Bowline

There has been some criticism of the Bowline as a tie-in knot recently prompted by the sad death of a climber at a climbing wall where what currently seems to be just speculation suggesting that a mistied or partially completed Bowline was to blame.

One climbing wall is now banning use of the Bowline as a tie-in knot, no doubt more will follow. Many walls seem to regard the Bowline as a black art, their employees will look askance at you if you use anything but the "recommended" (by whom?) rethreaded figure of eight. (I've had odd looks for not using a Gri-Gri!!) The main excuse seems to be that the figure of eight is easier to check for correctness by the staff. The argument is that if you mistie the Bowline then it's not easy to spot however if you do mistie the knot then it simply comes undone when you pull the rope leading away from you. A simple check.

I began climbing using the figure of eight as my tie-in knot but after my first leader fall switched to the Bowline and have used it for over thirty years with no issues whatsoever. If I was forced to tie in with the figure of eight I'd probably get it wrong, perhaps even more worrying is that I wouldn't trust it even if I did get it right. I can't remember the last time I tied a rethreaded figure of eight, maybe it was that time in 1981 when I lobbed off a route in Water-cum-Jolly and struggled to undo the welded mass of rope that the knot had become. I may have used a figure of eight on the bight once or twice a couple of years ago but I really can't be sure.

Above and beyond this is a slightly more pernicious creep of there being "one true way" to do things. Climbing just isn't like that, there's too many variables but climbing walls seem increasingly intent on avoiding this variability. Obviously they have a business to run and injuries or worse aren't exactly selling points but promoting the idea that there's only one way to do things is counter-productive. Climbing is about adaptability and if you don't have a variety of techniques to hand then you are severely limiting yourself. Often the "one true way" is so convoluted and time consuming that it just gets in the way of the climbing itself.

I'm more worried that climbing walls are employing staff who aren't able to recognise valid tie-in knots than any risk that I or any one else might tie-in incorrectly.

Phew! On an activity note I enjoyed a very windy day last Sunday walking over the fells to the north of Whinlatter Pass, apart from Whinlatter itself all were on a single walk though with a couple of real outliers in Sale and Ling Fells. I managed to avoid most of the showers and got back to the car about five minutes before a real downpour.

I'm off to Belgium for a week with work so unlikely to get much done this weekend.