It is that special time of the year when many Scottish winter routes are still climbable, UK rock routes can be warm enough for balmy days on the crag and Easter arrives with family holidays to the fore. All this can get a bit difficult to tie together but can result in plenty of varied activity.
Starting out from Derby with Nicki it took 3,300 miles, and one reverse into a tree incident, for me to complete an appropriately varied Easter break.
First stop was to stay with family friends conveniently positioned near Dover, then next day on to spend a day skiing above Chambery with long time climbing partner Mike Morrison and Sandy. That reminded me I must get better at skiing. Then on to Chamonix to finalise a forthcoming Mick and Vic book at a meeting with Victor Saunders and our long suffering translator, and very fine host, Eric Vola. Helping Eric to enjoy his fine wine collection is always challenging. A difficult early start followed but somehow Nicki and were in rain swept Abruzzo the next evening. Part of the plan had been to check out the rock climbing in the gorges of Majella mountain but wild and wet weather put paid to that as we battled to sort out a winter’s worth of accumulated problems at the once derelict building that Nicki has spent seven years renovating. After reversing into a tree digging a drainage trench was the last straw for my back which was in a sorry state by the time we headed north again to Geneva airport to pick up daughter Tess.
At this point I can give a useful tip. Think very carefully before deciding to try and avoid the 40 Swiss Francs Swiss motorway charge by finding a way to the airport via the back roads of Geneva. The charge might be extreme if it is the only time that you will use a Swiss motorway in the year but after missing the correct exit, incurring 23 Euros of French motorway charges and having an excellent bout of marital anguish it was looking as if 40 CHF might have been good value. We finally arrived well over an hour late and drove in circles causing max distress to us and other motorists before eventually meeting up by way of Tess climbing over a wall and through some bushes to get to the car. We were then several hours late before meeting up with my old climbing partner, Jon Lincoln, and his family for a week of skiing at Meribel.
Having spent something like 283 Euros on a six day ski pass I then discovered that my back more or less prevented skiing for a couple of days. No worries, the last few days of slithering over pistes might have been expensive but were also very fine in that we met up with Alec (son who was on a Uni trip to an adjacent resort) and with Mike Morrison and Sandy again. My skiing ability attracted the usual mixed feedback before it was back in the car to Calais and the UK.
Crossing the channel on the boat I couldn’t help to notice that a new rock fall on the white cliffs has created an excellent looking groove line. I haven’t climbed at Dover for a few years but can feel an urge to return.
Finally, my new part-time working status, dictated that I was not immediately required back at work so after unfortunately breaking the lawnmower I was able sneak in a beautiful day on Stanage with Steve Burns. It was my first rock day of the year and it reminded me how much I enjoy clambering up steep bits of rock. All I have to do now is improve the standard a bit for a trip to the Isle of Pabbay and get some fell running done in preparation for the annual Jura fell race at the end of May. And then it’s West Nepal in October. So much pleasure ahead ….