Monthly Archives: June 2014

June 8th: Northumberland Coast – Not your typical Coastline…

Plagues and lotus were about the only things missing off the agenda according to the weather forecast for the recent bank holiday so we had zero expectations when we set off. The vague plan was to have a few days R&R on the Northumberland Coast; walk a few miles, cycle a few more, run a few as well and maybe, just maybe pull down on some problems…

DSC_6823_000_lo resI’ve been a fan of Northumberland ever since my first visit back in the late 70’s. The climbing is tough but super satisfying. I find the scenery stunning and the coast just something else completely. So many times I’ve been up there when the bad weather that was hammering the rest of the country never seemed to make it that far. The beaches knock the much lauded southern counterparts into the proverbial cocked-hat! I’m talking visually and water quality wise although as anyone who has been up there will tell you, there’s often a breeze that keeps temperatures a tad suppressed. If only…!!

Officially designated an AONB (Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty), the section of coast north of Amble and Alnmouth right the way up to Berwick Upon Tweed on the Scottish border is the amazing. Dunstanburgh Castle is the southern beauty; then Bamburgh and then Holy Island (Lindisfarne) in the north are the three stand-out locations that most folks have seen/heard about. We didn’t have a plan as such but having ‘done’ Holy Island and Bamburgh relatively recently we naturally gravitated towards Dunstan. Following the monsoon on the Saturday we had two incredible bluebird days – back-to-back sunny days that couldn’t have been much better.

Photographically, the area is a peach – although being a bank holiday we certainly weren’t alone, far from it in fact! Any photographic skills text-book will tell you that sun-rise and sun-set are the two golden hours in the day; but when you’ve a family with you, you have to take the opportunities when you can. I took the easy option and opted for sun-set rather than the totally unpalatable 4-5:00 am starts that hunting sun-rise shots would have meant. As I say, both days were stunning although strangely both evenings failed to live up to expectation.

I’ll upload two galleries from the trip; firstly a collection of colour shots and secondly some black and white conversions.  I’d never photographed at Dunstanburgh Castle before but it’s on the list now as a ‘must re-visit’ venue. I was utterly taken by the Castle and the surrounding area and I’m confident that you’ll get different conditions on every visit. The beaches are amazing  – not least the boulder-field just north of Dunstanburgh Castle. Don’t forget to drop-in to Craster too – another amazing ‘must visit’ spot.

In case you’re wondering, the bouldering mat and boots never saw the light of day as the weather nose-dived on our last day. Still, it gave us an excuse to get the slackline out – although that’s no easier when it’s lashing it down!

Dunstanburgh Caste sure stands well on the coast north of CrasterSo good here's a portrait shot of Dunstanburgh Castle as wellAnd another with the sea rolling inEmbleton Bay, north of Dunstanburgh Castle, has golden sands as far as you can seeDunstanburgh Castle from the beachDunstanburgh Golf Course. I don't play golf, but if I did this is one venue I'd go forDunstan floraLobster pots in Craster harbour. Lying in the lea of the castle, Craster is a cracking little venueDusk falls over Dunstanburgh CastleThe late setting suns blasts Dunstanburgh Castle and the bouldersDunstanburgh boulders await the incoming tideNight falls over Dunstanburgh CastleDunstanburgh Castle doing an impression of The Mittens in Monument ValleyNight falls over Craster harbour as late-evening 'crabber' hang inLow tide renders Craster harbour silentDusk and Craster HarbourAnd a landscape version of Craster Harbour too

Posted in Photography, Scenic, Travel

June 7th : Gear Review – Rock Shoes for 2014

The world of rock shoe manufacturing doesn’t stand still for long and this year is no exception. The June edition of Climber magazine is on the shelves and it features a review of no less than thirteen pairs of new shoes by yours truly selected from two categories – beginner, intermediate and all-rounders shoes and specialist performance shoes. If you’re in the market for some new shoes it might be worth taking a quick look through as there’s some surprises in store…

DSC_6253_lo resI, like many climbers, have had my favourite shoe manufacturer for years – 5.10 in my case. However, doing back-to-back shoe reviews for the last two years (see below) has opened my eyes to new products on the market today. More and more though I see experienced climbers trying new shoes looking for any advantage they can get – in my case to buy-back age-related declining performance!

Although most of the shoes tested are brand spanking new, typically they build on previous designs and features looking to spring-board off popular feature sets. Unusually though, some manufacturers have gone retro for 2014 and have re-introduced slightly remodelled shoes from yesteryear.

I commented last year to the effect that there was a huge number of rock shoes on the current market and there’s more coming to market all the time. That trend seems set to continue. Similarly, there’s a veritable mix of lace-ups, velcros and slippers as well as low volume/narrow fit to high volume/wide fitting shoes. Surprisingly, all five of the specialist performance shoes tested are slipper-based shoes with some throwing-in a Velcro closure as well to supplement fit/performance. Perhaps this is proof that slipper/velco fastening shoes are now more popular than traditional lace-ups.

Included in the 2014 review are the following shoes:

rock shoes review_spread#1

Beginner, Intermediate and All-rounder Shoes: Boreal Marduk, Edelrid Blizzard, Evolv Addict, Evolv Defy and Elektra, Five Ten Guide and New Pinks.

Specialist Shoes: Boreal Satori, Boreal Dharma, Edelrid Cyclone, Evolv Nexxo, Scarpa Stix and the Tenaya Ossi.

Here’s some visuals to check-out too…

Yours truly - supervised by Simba - putting the new Pinks thru their paces on the age old classic Hampers Hang (Font 7a)More Hampers Hang actionAnd the flip-side of Hampers Hang



Posted in Climbing, Reviews