Sunday, July 11, 2010

Men of the Mountains

Winter seems like it was a long time ago now; far enough away to look back on without feeling the bone chilling baltic cold that characterised those few months for a lot of us.
But a couple of my friends LOVE the cold. They spend the winter watching the thermometer drop until it's been below zero for a good couple of weeks, and then they run off to the mountains of Scotland, Wales and the Alps to go climb frozen waterwalls, ski-tour, and get some mountaineering done.
During the other 9 months of the year, Simon Carley-Smith and Matt Wheadon run a coasteering/climbing/ocean kayaking/coastal safari business in North Cornwall (, introducing people to the unspoilt beauty of the coastline that we live on. They work damn hard and then take the winter to go and do the things that they love, namely climb big mountains. Both of them usually have a little waterproof camera strapped to themselves on these adventures and I love looking through their images when they get back in the spring. This winter Matt spent a whole heap of time in North Wales and Scotland. For a few days in Scotland he and his climbing partner decided that walking to and from the truck every day was wasting a few hours of valuable climbing time, so they camped at the base of a mountain and built half an igloo behind and around their tent to block the arctic wind. They climbed some beautiful big blue frozen waterfalls, abseiling back down in the dark. Si was back and forth to the Alps a lot this winter and these are his photos above. He had to abort a couple of attempts to summit Mont Blanc due to poor conditions and the avalanche risk, but it doesn't look like he had a bad time despite that. The ice climbing photo at the bottom is his friend/climbing partner Patrique on a route up a frozen waterfall called "The Tears of Chaos". What a great name! The ski-touring shots, from the top down are Si on the Mer du Glace looking back at the Glacier du Geant which they'd just descended, and his friend Rupert half way down the stunning Glacier du Geant.
I love the fact that while most other people are cranking up the heating, complaining and waiting impatiently for summer to roll around again, there are others who embrace the winter and revel in the conditions. There's no doubt that mountains are a beautiful environment to immerse yourself in, and the trips that Matt and Si do really accentuate that fact.
Now that it's summer our garage is full of boxes of crampons, ice axes and complicated looking mountaineering equipment all stored away, but when we're back in the cold grip of winter I'm hoping that they might drag me along on one of their trips so that I can stand at the bottom looking up and taking some photos. I'm trying not to think about the cold for now though.
P.S. An Tor Orth An Mor may well be off radar for the next couple of weeks whilst I hit the road in search of some warm waves. I'll do my best to update as and when I can. Fingers crossed I'll bring back some good shots though, so keep 'em peeled.

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