I adore the Dolomites. For over a decade, I have walked, climbed and skied amongst them, gained wonderful memories and many great friends. COVID cancelled a planned ski trip in March, but now that restrictions have eased, I couldn’t resist a visit.
What a year 2019 was, or wasn’t. The first time I missed a Scottish winter for 20 years, a trip to Africa cancelled at the last minute, a climb in India scrapped because of lack of interest and a cycling trip to SE Asia cancelled because of injury. For some just that would be disastrous enough, but all those setbacks paled into insignificance on March 20th as, out of the blue, I lost my Dad. The literary world is strewn with poetry, prose and paragraph about death, but no words can describe the feelings of loss I had and still have. I’m happy that he left us peacefully, with his loving family around him. He felt no pain or suffering and I thank God for that. Only the night before, he’d been on top form, laughing and joking with me at a Duke of Edinburgh Award Scheme Presentation. It was a striking lesson in living every day of your life to the fullest of your abilities.
The end of 2017 is upon us, and it’s easy to look back and think that not much exciting happened. It was just another year, like the one before and like the one to come. Thankfully I write diaries and looking back, 2017 has certainly been packed with life experiences.
We left the Bujuku Hut at 4am in our attempt to summit Mt. Speke 4890m (16.042ft). Initially the terrain was thick bog and undergrowth, but this gave way to more open ground as the sun tried to break through the dense clouds. We ascended a large scree field suffering faltering disability, reaching the ridge early morning. This is where our problems began. Thick rime ice had plastered the rocks, making what should have been a challenging scramble, impassable. The only way we could summit was to circumnavigate the peak and approach it from the opposite side. It’s all sounds so easy to read it here, but what followed was a two-hour slog up and down scree scattered boulders and exposed edges. At least the clouds broke occasionally and allowed extensive views over the range and the tongue of the Ruwenzori Glacier. This ice used to allow easy access to Ruwenzori Peak, but its retreat has made any ascent of the mountain a real challenge. Few ever venture there now because of the loose rock and unstable ridge.
I rarely look for adventure. Adventure finds me. The years of scouring maps and magazines for interesting places are gone. I’m extremely lucky to have wonderful friends across the world who share my passion for travel, as we love to share our experiences. Sibusiso Vilane and myself met many years ago, climbing Carstensz Pyramid in Iran Jaya. Since that day, we have been great friends. Sibusiso has had some wonderful ideas, including cross the Drakensburgs and trekking the Otter Trail. So when he said ‘how about climbing in the Mountains of the Moon in Uganda..?’ I leapt at the chance. The Rwenzori’s were extensively explored during the colonial era and even starred in Rider Haggard adventure books. The Idi Amin era saw much change, but people are back. I have to admit however being surprised when asked to bring Wellington’s as well as an ice axe, crampons and mountain boots..!Read More »Uganda 2017 – To the the Mountains of the Moon, and Back… Part 1
Years ago I said that I would only ever visit a place once, unless it impressed the hell out of me. Well, I’ve grown to love South Africa, and moreover I have a wonderful friend there – Sibusiso Vilane. I spoke about friendship in my last blog and how the mountains have a way of bonding people together, and so it was that Sibusiso and I met back in 2006…Read More »Travelling Friends and the Otter Trail…
The flight to Johannesburg is nothing like going to the far reaches of SE Asia, but still I felt exhausted when I arrived. I had been working and presenting hard for the last few months and it was beginning to show. Also, a nasty chest infection had caught hold of me in Austria recently and didn’t want to let go. A few days out in the mountains should do me good then…
I returned to Sumatra to make another attempt on Gunung Kerinci, before flying to Papua to climb the hardest peak of my 7 x 7 challenge – Carstensz Pyramid. The climbing went so fast that I was left with ten days to spare, so I travelled across South Sulawesi and Central Java taking in the culture of the islands…Read More »Indonesia 2006 – Sulphur, Stone & Ceremony
I still feel a bit shell-shocked from last nights reception as I write this blog, but I’ll do my best…
I often come home from an expedition and find the doormat covered in post. Many of the letters are full of sales pamphlets, offers and bills, but one postmarked Buckingham Palace caught my eye. I carefully opened the envelope to find a wonderful invitation to the Palace to commemerate Robert Falcon Scott’s fateful South Pole journey in 1911 – 1912.