Tuesday, April 27, 2010

A good day for riding

I went to and from work on the bike today. The sun was out and as I was coming along next to the sea in downtown Helsinki this morning, a weird sea mist was rolling in - see the video above - somehow it was really mellow although you half expected to see a ghostly pirate ship come sailing out of the fog bank. I road home at 10 pm, the sun had set but only just and a nearly full moon shone brightly on my back as I traveled North. It was quiet and cool and air full of smells. Winter is great but it doesn't smell of much. I guess the snow blankets many of them plus the freezing temperatures limit the circulation in the air of other molecules that provide scent. Winter has sounds, the crunch and creak of snow, the cracking of tree sap as it freezes, but spring and early summer is full of smells. Good smells and bad smells, it's all part of the richness of life emerging again.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010


My house is something of Star Wars fan zone these days due to younger members of the family, and having watched Clone Wars this evening (just an elongated episode of the TV version really - disappointing) this tickled me by connecting up to the earlier UK politics flavour to my day.

MyDavidCameron.com | More annoying than you can possibly imagine

Dumb Helsinki cycle paths #8

First bit of rubbish bike path design for 2010, Katajanokalaituri in downtown Helsinki. Another case of a good intentions not really thought through very far.
(Please click on the picture to get the full-size version.)

UK general election poll tracker

Jolly nice of the various pollsters/betting firms to let people embed this on their websites for free. So you can keep an eye on the up and downs of the parties over the next 2.5 weeks here on Northern Light.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Nothing stops the parcel guy

This is a screen shot of the UPS tracking record of a parcel coming from the UK to here in Helsinki. It seems to have met with some volcanic activity along the way, but not for very long. Keep on truckin' dudes.

Americans watching the British Election

There has been some commentary in the UK about how no one else around the world is interested in the UK general elections. I’m sure on the whole this is correct, the UK is a medium sized country with a struggling economy. Many continental Europeans see it as politically self marginalized in Europe due to its Euroscepticism and closeness to the US. Meanwhile the US doesn’t really notice it until it needs some more deployable and well trained troops or the political fig-leaf of a “coalition” to take some international action that many others will object to. In the UK worries remain that Obama in particular doesn’t like the British; perhaps with his Kenyan heritage us Brits shouldn’t be too surprised by this.

But the UK election campaign did get brief mention on a couple of the US current affairs discussions radio programmes I listen to each week. On KCRW’s Left, Right and Centre, host Matt Miller showed himself to be a completely incorrigible political junkie by having actually watched the first prime ministerial debate as it was live streamed. In Britain the debate was seen almost unanimously to have been won by Nick Clegg of the LibDems, but interestingly – perhaps showing how political cultures differ – Miller reckoned that Gordon Brown looked like the “only adult”. There was a longer discussion on the Diane Rehm Show’s international news round-up on Friday. Here one of the journalists came up with the frankly bizarre analogy of Nick Clegg as a “Ross Perot-type figure”. I suspect that neither Mr. Clegg nor Mr. Perot would be particularly happy with the comparison, and the British journalist on the panel was only half managing to suppress his guffaws. It does seem though that some non-Brits swallowed Cleggs “new politics” and “new party” rhetoric. It will be interesting to see how far this flies amongst the UK electorate. It is an attractive idea but considering the Liberal party was a ‘rebranding’ of the Whigs who go back as far as anything resembling political parties do in the UK (and arguably in the world), as a historical claim it is a bit of a stretch!

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Spring at Haukkakallio

A good day of climbing yesterday at Haukkakallio to start my rock season. Jody got "Clint Eastwood" - a technical and slightly scary E1, and Tony put his impressive system to work and made a very fast and smooth ascent of Nu Moon, a 7a+. I didn't do anything hard as I haven't touched rock (except for with ice tools!) since October, but I did six climbs and got my first jamming scabs of the season on my hands.

Tony 'warming up' by leading Flacka, 6a, an oddly unsatisfying route that doesn't make a good warm up!

Tuukka's mate (sorry, didn't catch a name) making a rare onsight attempt at Jody's scary masterpiece "Smac and Stun Slab", E2 5c. He didn't make it but showed the gear isn't too awful!

Erik smoothly onsighting "Tinkerbell", 6a+.

Mad dog eats Englishman. Me with seemingly only one leg left on "Mad Dogs and Englishmen", HVS 5a. Thanks to Erik for snapping.

Tony cruises Nu Moon 7a+, Coach Gresham would be proud of you chap! Thanks again to Erik for snapping away on my camera whilst I belayed Tony.

Latest gear testing for UKC: "Lime" quickdraws from Climbing Technology. A nice, lightish all-rounder with key lock noses for easy clipping/unclipping.

Tuukka headpoints his scary new route. Good effort! 6c+ on not particularly convincing small gear - anyone want to suggest an E-grade?

Over all, a good fun day and even if my finger strength is gone, it showed that pulling on ice axes is perfectly good training for pulling on hand and fist jams. But maybe next winter I'll try to make it to the wall once of twice, just to keep Tiger Tony company in his 8a quest, and to make sure I still have some crimp strength left come the warming rays of spring.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Lyngen - a week in the sun at the top of Europe

So finally, some pictures and words from my Lyngen trip at Easter. First a video that Ed mixed together that gives a good taster of the week: lots of sun, lots of skiing.

Day 1. Ice climbing, start: Tamokdalen 270 m - top of icefall c. 500 m (230 m of ascent)

We rolled out of the car after a 17 hour drive through the night, and staggered up to climb a 120 mtr high icefall. I'm not really sure about the grade - OK to climb, hard to protect on the first steep pitch. WI3 or 4 at a guess.

Day 2. Skiing, start: sea level - Storgalten 1219 m (1219 m of ascent)

Storgalten was hard. Hard work going up with those endless summit slopes that just go on and on, and then hard going down in cruddy snow. But the views from the top - out across the Arctic sea and to the glaciers to its south, are just superb.

Day 3. Skiing, start sea level - Tafeltinden 1395 m (1395 m of ascent)

Tafeltind was great, as high as we went all week, but somehow easier with height gained over a much further distance so not as brutal. The snow was great for coming down as well and my first time skiing on a glacier - which was cool.

Day 4. Ed paragliding, me skiing, start: Kræmarvik 10 m - Ramnberget 158 m (148 m of ascent)

We went over to Kvaløya so Ed could fly with some Tromsø pilots. I took my skis up to the launch site and skied back down to the road so I didn't miss out on all the fun.

Day 5. Skiing, start: sea level - Uløytinden 1114 m (1114 m of ascent)

Two ferries needed to get to this island, but well worth it. An easy ascent and fun descent with absolutely stunning views across Lyngenfjord to Lyngen.

Day 6. Skiing, start: 32 m - plateau above Kvalvikhytta 573 m (541 m of ascent)

This was meant to be a rest day, but Dave never needs rests and somehow I got emotionally blackmailed into accompanying him "just a little bit higher" when Ed and Laura headed back down. But they got lost in the wood at the bottom whilst Dave and I got some nice turns and tree skiing. So that's gotta be karma...

Day 7. Skiing, start: 115 m - Fastdaltinden 1275 m (1160 m of ascent)

The best skiing of the week on some new snow at the top, and spring slush on the steeper slopes below. Looking down on where I had camped for a week 12 years ago was very cool as well.

So in total: 5807 m of ascent over the week's "holiday"! To give you a clue of how good a trip it was, we found ourselves in all seriousness having a discussion whilst skinning up Uløytinden as to whether this was the best view in the world or not. As a claim it seemed completely sustainable that day. Thanks to Ed, Dave, Laura and the rest of the 'surgical posse' (including those who aren't surgeons!) for making it such a magic week.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Never trust a viking

BBC News headline today:
Icelandic volcanic ash alert grounds UK flights
You have to wonder don't you - is this some very sneaky Icelandic revenge for the British government using anti-terrorist legislation to freeze the assets of the Icelandic banks that went belly up in the financial crisis - to the cost of many British savers including quite a few local authorities?

Cool footage of the eruption here.

Thursday, April 08, 2010

Northern Light under the Northern Lights.

The Northern Lights, taken last night

We've finally had some "bad" weather (bad being not getting sunburnt) here in Norway, so only did a short day today. Hence I now have some energy and time to blog something! A superb week of ice climbing, ski mountaineering, sea eagles, blue sky, white snow, ferries, island mountains and each night amazing displays of the Aurora Borealis. A short clip of today's slightly less good weather:

Saturday, April 03, 2010

Northern Light is on the road north

At the end of this road is the end of the world. Or Norway. Indeed they maybe the same thing. Happy Easter all from the last town in Finland, with a great café and free wifi.