Friday, July 09, 2010

All at sea - blogging from the Baltic

Viking Line ferries have wireless internet - hurrah! Hence blogging from the middle of the Baltic is now technically possible. I left Helsinki amongst some pretty dramatic summer thunder storms.

Out at sea it is calmer and the sunset was rather pretty. Tomorrow, Sweden and then the rest of of Europe.

The ferries between Sweden and Finland are always slightly bizarre experiences - I don't think that they show either country in the best of lights, but perhaps it is all the more truthful for that reason. I quite enjoy it as a once-a-year type of experience - but I think my idea of hell might be being condemned to being in a Baltic ferry disco listening to cover versions of Abba song for the rest of eternity.

Thursday, July 08, 2010

Learning to ride

This month's Guardian Bike Podcast has a wonderful report at the end of an initiative to get mums riding bikes in East London (it starts about 20 minutes into the programme). The area of Tower Hamlets is, I think the poorest area of the UK and has a connected problem of child obesity. Local authorities are trying to promote cycling and walking to counteract this to some extent. They found that many parents were very supportive of their kids doing this but had no experience themselves of ever riding bikes themselves. Almost all the women concerned were from Bangladeshi or Bengali families, and said traditionally women just didn't ride bikes. But their clear joy and excitement is just lovely. If you ride it will remind you just what a simple pleasure cycling is, and if you don't - I'm sure their pleasure will still bring a smile to your face.

Monday, July 05, 2010

High summer on Kustavi

The summer slides by. The days started getting shorter over a week ago although you wouldn't notice it yet. There is something about the almost non-existent nights that seems to stop me from sleeping at normal times, I stay up into the early hours then want to sleep late into the morning. But summer is a time to do things, so this weekend I went to Kustavi, an island just off south west Finland to brave the heat and climb.

Orchids at Pärkänvuori

The first stop was Pärkänvouri with its plentiful moderate routes and enough shade and breeze to stop the heat from being oppressive.

Me in a crack at the aptly named Kräkiniemi, Apollo, 5 (HVS 5a)

After a good afternoon we watched the first half of Germany beating Argentina whilst eating burgers in a petrol station café before heading to a camp-site to pitch our tents. After a refreshing dip in the sea we headed to Kräkiniemi for a full evening of climbing. The evenings never really end, and we left the crag at 11 pm and headed to our tents.

Sunset at midnight over Mussalo

Time for tape - Tony gets ready to do battle

Sunday morning dawned clear and hot and the sun was on my tent at 4 am. I ignored the building warmth and went back to sleep until a more reasonable hour. We brewed coffee on the Jetboil and ate cornflakes watching the turns dive for fish out on the water. We decided to head to Riskeläisvuori to climb, on the basis that if it got too hot we could go for a swim in the sea below the cliff.

Using the tape. Tony on Pajavasara, 5 (HVS 5a).

Anni topping out on Volter Kilpi, 5- (VS 4c)

Tony enjoying Jätekuilu 5- (HS 4a)

We did a handful of routes - as ever with Kustavi, some were hard for the grade whilst others felt easy. My highlight was leading Jätekuilu, a technical chimney climb deep inside the cliffs big fissure. Falling off it - well, out of it more accurately - would be hard, but upwards progression came from wiggling more than climbing. I grazed my nose at the narrowest point. Cavers will understand.

Summer, it's hot and there are lots of mosquitoes, but otherwise its great.

In the afternoon we did one route at Haukvuori, but as most of the cliff was like an oven in the sun we went back to Pärkänvuori but to its imposing and shady north side.

Trad Master. And Tony.

The fissure of "Trad Master" has to be perhaps the best line in Finland. Utterly nuts, but a route that deserves some international attention.

Me starting up Friends will be Friends, 5 (HVS 5a)

Tony climbed one powerful line and then I tied on to try "Friends will be Friends". This turned out to be a great route, starting with a wide crack to layback and jam before narrow cracks cut back left across an overhanging head wall.

About to finish Friends will be Friends

I'm rubbish at anything overhanging, but the hand jams and the gear were so good up there that even I couldn't fall off. A fitting end to a great weekend. Thanks to Anni for taking the photos that I appear in.