Monday, December 28, 2015

Last paddle of the year

After a Christmas break away from the Island it was good to get a quick paddle in today.  The south easterly force 6-7, which was forecast, plus the rather large westerly swell reduced the options but Bouley Bay on the north coast seemed ideal for a couple of hours out on the water.
For the last paddle of the year it proved to be a pretty reasonable choice.
 The small pier was constructed in 1828, although there had been earlier plans to construct a much larger harbour in the area.  This project was dropped due to the lack of available flat land to build on.
 The heavy rain of recent weeks has resulted in a few seasonal waterfalls appearing along this section of coast.
 Alex approach Tour de Rozel, the wind was pushing us along quite nicely.
 Tour de Rozel is one of the iconic landmarks of the north coast of the Island.  On the flood a delightful tide race develops which has provided hundreds of hours of entertainment to local kayakers.  Here are a few pictures taken 5 years ago.
 Fort Leicester dominated the western side of the bay, rebuilt in 1835 it is now available for hire from Jersey Heritage, as a rather unique place to stay.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

India Walk About - Day 4

After another cold night it was an early start as we aimed to reach our highest camp of the trip before crossing a col tomorrow and starting our descent into another valley.  We knew that the crossing of the col would be the most challenging part of the whole trek so we needed to be in a good position if the weather was in our favour.
In the bright sunshine we walked through an increasingly rugged landscape.   One section of the walk was particularly exposed but we did manage to get a phone signal at one of the bends in the path.  The information wasn't good, poor weather was heading our way and above a certain level the precipitation would be falling as snow.
We spent the night in some huts but were concerned about the incoming poor weather so we decided to get up before dawn ensuring that we were ready to head towards lower pastures at first light.
Just above where we camped the previous 2 nights and preparing for the first section of uphill of the day.  The peak behind is the one we had climbed the day before.
Some distant views of the Indian Himalaya's as we walked along some broad ridges.  The temperature had been modified by the altitude, resulting in perfect walking conditions.
One of the few steeper sections.  Just before starting this ascent there was plenty of evidence of bears in the area although unfortunately we didn't see any.
Traversing towards are high camp.  Small patches of snow indicated the weather conditions of a few days previously.  Just before this position we had manged to get a mobile phone signal so were able to check the weather forecast.  It was not good.
There was a feeling that we were at the heart of some significant mountains.
Just below our high point of 3907 metres.  We knew that this would be our last night at this altitude.  We were due to go over a col tomorrow, which required further ascent but in light of the weather forecast we were heading downhill in the morning.
Looking down on the huts where we were going to spend the night.
Celebrating Maureen's birthday before going to bed early.  We were due to get up at 5.45 the following morning, with the potential for it to be quite a hard day.

Friday, December 18, 2015

India Walk About - Day 3

After a bitterly cold night, I can't remember the last time I slept in my down jacket inside my sleeping bag, we woke to a beautiful blue sky.  We were camped at 3390 metres, with some of the group starting to feel the impact of the altitude.  Today had been planned as part of the acclimatization process, walk up a nearby peak, which was just over 3700 metres before dropping back to the camp site.  For some relaxtion before moving higher the following day.
As we were pretty much above the tree line, the walk had a totally different feel to the previous couple of days.  Open mountain sides and distant views, it was almost like walking in the British mountains apart from the occasional glimpse of glaciers.
The climb up the peak took much less time than we anticipated so the afternoon was spent catching up on sleep, reading and just generally relaxing.  Tomorrow we head higher.
It took quite a while for the frost to melt, particularly in the shady areas.
The toilet tents had a superb view.  Our route for the day was along the ridge to the right of the tents.
It was always good to start the day with some group stretching or, as on this day, with some laughing yoga.
This could almost be the Welsh mountains, if it wasn't for the altitude.
This was our high point for the day at 3740 metres.  It had been quite warm as we climbed the ridge and lunch on the summit started off as a very pleasant affair with great views and some reasonably warm sunshine.
Within minutes though the temperature plummeted as the clouds swept in, obscuring distant views and forcing a speedy search for warmer clothing.  This wasn't a day for hanging around for too long.
Clothing for the descent was somewhat different to what we had been wearing about an hour earlier as we came up the ridge.  People were generally looking forward to a couple of hours relaxing in the tent or reading during the afternoon.
Back at the camp site at 3390 metres.  There were some pretty large clouds building on the surrounding peaks, fortunately where we were camped remained clear but the weather indications for the next few days were not looking good.
The views across the mountain ranges were always quite special.  What surprised me at night though was just how many lights appeared on the hillsides.  During the day you could pretend that you were the only people in the area but at night the lights indicated just how many people called this area home.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

India Walk About - Day 2

After a good nights sleep we woke to another beautiful day, which wasn't all good news as we would be exposed to the sun at times as we gained nearly 1,000 metres in height.  As the height increased there was a corresponding expansion of the view.  Snow capped peaks started to appear in several directions.
The young people were quite amazing, despite how strenuous the day was I didn't hear a single complaint or negative comment as we climbed through the forest.  It was interesting to note that in several places trees showed clear evidence of being struck by lightening.  Thankfully the weather was looking settled with not a cumulo-nimbus in sight.
As we broke through the tree line we emerged onto a col where we were going to spend the next two nights, part of the acclimatization process, as we climbed higher into the mountains.
 We did attract the attention of some of the local wildlife.
 This gives an idea of the gradient of the path.  Overall we probably spent 5 hours walking uphill at this angle.  The trees offered some welcome shade from the noon day sun.
 Above the tree line we reached a col, with a particularly steep drop into the next valley.  Although some of the summits were covered in cloud it was clear that there had been a fresh snowfall higher up, which wasn't particularly encouraging.
 Tents were pitched on the col and it was immediately time to find the down jackets, the temperature was dropping like a stone.  By 6.00 pm all of the tents were covered in a layer of ice and the thermometer kept going downhill for the next 10 to 12 hours.  It turned out to be one of the coldest nights I have ever spent in a tent.
 The tents did catch the last of the suns rays.
 The food tent was pitched on the flat roof of one of the huts.  During the warmer summer months the local shephards bring the animals up to the higher pastures but in the autumn we were pretty certain that we would have the area to ourselves.
As the sun sets over Pakistan we retired to the food tent to warm up, knowing that this would also be our camp site the following evening.  Tomorrow was meant to be an easier day after two long up hill treks.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Indian Walk About - Day 1

After the heat and madness of Delhi it was a pleasure to arrive in the Chamba Valley, in Himachal Pradesh, in north west India.  We were here to trek for 8 days through the mountains of this Indian State.  On the drive from Pathenkot, a town we had traveled to by overnight train from Delhi, there had been some distant views of snow capped peaks, but now they seemed within touching distance.  Initially we stayed at the beautiful Orchard Huts, which is a superb place to stay if you happen to find yourself in this corner of the Indian sub-continent.
Our convoy of jeeps traveled to the road head, from where we started our climb.  We caused quite a stir, with local school children coming out of the classroom to watch us pass by.  Camp that evening was at 2,450 metres, we had climbed nearly 1,000 metres from where we started in the morning.
 The first part of the trek involved some sections of downhill as we followed the course of the river, prior to heading up the ridge towards higher land.  Fortunately a lot of the route was through trees, providing welcome shade from the Indian sun.
 This water mill was busy grinding local flour.  It reminded me of the old tidal mills in northern Brittany, some of which have been lovingly restored.
 This was the last village we passed through as we climbed out of the valley.  Little did we realize that we would be camping in this village a week later.
 Looking back to the village.  It was clearly a rich agricultural region.  It never failed to amaze, the steepness of the slopes that villages clung to.
First night's camp.  The horses were free to wander after their efforts of carrying some of our equipment.
Before it went dark some of the distant snow fields were lit by the final rays of the sun.  Hopefully promising another good day tomorrow.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Jersy Sea Kayak Symposium 2016

The Jersey Canoe Club organized its first Symposium in May 1992 and over the years has attracted hundreds, if not thousands, of kayakers to the Island.  Over the years we have also been fortunate enough to attract many of the top coaches to the event such as Frank Goodman, Derek Hutchinson, Gordon Brown, John Heath to name just a few.
People have traveled from all over Europe as well as further afield to attend, with participants from New Zealand, Hong Kong, Canada and the United States with the vast majority returning home after a real enjoyable weeks kayaking in our waters.
Bookings are now being taken for the 2016 event,  which starts on the evening of Friday 27th May.  We are going to be based in the delightful Highlands Hotel, which has superb views over the west and south coast of the Island.  There is a swimming pool, if you haven't spent enough time in or on the water plus a bar and the most amazing lounge.
The format for the week is the same as in previous years, on Saturday, Sunday and Monday there will be coaching sessions ranging from forward paddling, stand up paddle boarding, tide races, sea kayaks and cliff jumping etc, as well as coastal paddles.  Then from Tuesday the focus shifts to paddles including hopefully the opportunity to visit the offshore reefs or some of the other Channel Islands.
Every evening there is something arranged including talks, quiz night, music bbq etc.  All in all it is a full on week.
Bookings can be made online here.
If you haven't been to Jersey before we look forward to introducing you to our local waters and if you have been before you can be certain of a warm welcome.
Corbiere Lighthouse is visible from the hotel we are using.  Great paddling within a couple of hundred metres of where you will have breakfast.

 The Highlands Hotel is a perfect location for the Symposium.  There are probably 5 completely different launch spots with a few minutes drive.
A visit to the Ecrehous will be high on most sea kayakers list.  If weather permits there will paddles to this delightful reef most days.

Monday, December 14, 2015

December Days

The last few months seem to have been mainly occupied with courses so it was a real pleasure at the weekend to just get out on the water for a paddle.  The wind, which had been such a significant feature of the last few weeks had died down to a southerly force 4 so Bonne Nuit on the north of the island was the chosen venue.
We headed east, hoping to find some interesting water off Belle Hougue, but we were a bit late to have any real fun so we carried on to small bay underneath the Club's cottage at Egypt.  A small part of the island with a rich history.  After a paddling a bit further into Bouley Bay it was time to head back. west
 Steff, Janet and Jim underneath the Canoe Club cottage at Egypt.  I wrote about the history of this area in an earlier post.
 Returning west.  The main headland is Belle Hougue, the tallest headland in Jersey.  In the distance is Ronez, the site of a large quarry, where chough's bred in Jersey for the first time in 100 years this summer.
 Rachel and Dean paddling around Belle Hougue.  It was one of those winter days when the light seemed particularly flat.
 Close to Wolf's Caves there was a pretty spectacular blow hole,  Angus was the first to paddle in close but John caught the larger swells.

 My last photo of the day.  There was no cleaning the lens after the soaking it received from this amount of spray.