A Year of Travel and Adventure 2013

Another year draws towards its close and so ends another chapter in my ongoing collection of travel adventures.

It’s sometimes all too easy to feel that we may not have achieved even half of what we set out to do at the start of the year, trips that fell through, weather blighted days in the hills and mountains, places that did not live up to expectations etc, etc.

So I think it’s always a good idea to have a brief retrospective at this time of the year, you might find yourselves pleasantly surprised and even possibly amazed by just how much you did actually manage to cram into those last twelve months! Trust me you could feel a whole lot better just for simply searching through your memories and archives!

So here’s how my 2013 went, an honest reflection of what I did and didn’t do with, warts and all………

To kick the year off my ski trip to Europe fell through at the last-minute due to unforeseen circumstances….not the best start to the new year and a bitter personal disappointment! Events conspired against me and the trip was just not supposed to be. I found myself sitting around in February as fit as I had been in many a year but with nowhere to go and no outlet for my energies.

Blencathra SummitOn the summit of Blencathra in blizzard conditions in February

So instead I decided to go to  The Lakes for some winter hiking during February to celebrate my impending birthday. I got more adventure than I had bargained for! A summit attempt on Blencathra on my forty sixth birthday saw me struggle through a white-out and plenty of fresh snow in near blizzard conditions (yes blizzards in the UK) to achieve a hard gained and well fought for summit as my eventual reward. Note to self: take some ski goggles next time and remember micro-spikes don’t cut it in real winter conditions! As a newby to winter hiking it was a real baptism of fire and I leant some good lessons albeit the hard way! Read some more about this trip here: http://wp.me/pPdIP-1tS

In late March I set out to hike for two days across the Talybont Hills in south Wales, hoping to wild camp in some woods overnight. There was still plenty of snow on the hill tops even this late in the year after what had been by all accounts a record winter in the UK. During the first day a sudden lapse of my concentration resulted in me slipping down a snowy slope on my back and un be known to me losing my tent from the back of my rucksack! With several minus degrees promised overnight I had no choice but to bail and hitch a ride back to my car. Luckily for me I managed to snag a lift in the back of a local farmers muddy Land Rover. Another epic fail of a trip in my mind which once again had laid bare my inexperience in winter conditions. I had spikes with me but had left them back in the car! What a wally! Still it provided me with plenty more adventure than I had bargained for when setting off from London that morning. Another lesson learnt…from now on I pack my tent inside my rucksack at all times and having micro-spikes or crampons with you is also a near necessity before March!

Slopes of BowfellScrambling up the slopes of Bowfell in early May

So in early May and with spring arriving I turned my attentions to a week camping in The Cumbrain Mountains of the Lake District to satisfy my growing wanderlust. This trip was shared with my girlfriend and we used the beautiful Langdale Valley as a base camp for some multiple day hikes in the surrounding hills and mountains. The weather though had not read the script and was still stuck somewhere back in winter for the majority of our stay but on the good days we did bag the following peaks: Harrison Stickle, Pavey Ark, Bowfell and Esk Pike before beating a retreat back to London amid a deluge of incredibly wet and windy weather. Read some more about this trip here: http://wp.me/pPdIP-1vv

Wild camping in the Talybont HillsWild camping in a tranquil forest deep in the Talybont Hills during late May

Not to be beaten by either the weather or my ineptitude I returned to complete my proposed two-day hike in south Wales later in the year, using it as part of a pre-trip training regime for an up coming hiking expedition to Iceland. This time I got it right! Read some more about this trip here: http://wp.me/pPdIP-1wS

Hiking across the Brecon BeaconsBack hiking in the Welsh mountains in June in glorious weather

In June I returned yet again to attempt another more ambitious two-day hike and wild camp in the Brecon Beacons in preparation for my imminent trip to Iceland. This time I was joined by my occasional hiking buddy Andy Crozier and we traversed the whole Beacons ridge over two days including an ascent of Pen y Fan and a wild camp on the shores of Llyn Cwm Llwch along the way. Read some more about this trip here: http://wp.me/pPdIP-1zc

The Laugavegur TrailHiking along the spectacular Laugevegur Trail near Álftavatn in July

By early July I found myself on a flight to Reykjavik in Iceland to attempt a week-long trek across the Icelandic Highlands following the famous Laugavegur Trail from Landmannalaugar to Þórsmörk. In my humble opinion this trek should be on everyones bucket-list and must rank in the Top 10 must do before you die hikes! The trip was an eye opener to a wild land and even wilder Icelandic people (they are positively NUTS!)
Read some more about this trip here: http://wp.me/pPdIP-1Cf

Bikes in FranceEnjoying the good life in France, my kind of R&R cycling through the countryside in late July

Then in late July I took a family vacation to southern France for a week of R&R enjoying a bit of glamping and over indulgence brought on by tasting all the fine foods and wines afforded by the beautiful Dordogne Valley. We did however manage to squeeze in a canoe trip down the river and spend a day cycling through the splendid countryside not to mention walking up to many a medieval chateaux in an attempt to offset our guilty culinary greed.

Base Camp for Scafell PikeWild camps do not get much better than this, Great Moss Eskdale Valley Cumbria in August

By August and back at home I found I had developed itchy feet again and over the bank-holiday I decided to head back to The Lakes and spend three days hiking around the remote and rugged Eskdale and Wasdale Valleys with a wild camp at Great Moss and an ascent of Scafell Pike (the highest mountain in England). The weather gods were kind to me and I enjoyed the rugged scenery and isolation that can only be found in such wild places as this. Check out my route taken through the mountains over on SOCIALHIKIING or read some more about the trip here: http://wp.me/pPdIP-1Fu

Hiking in the Picos MountainsHiking and climbing in the stunning Picos de Europa Mountains in Spain in September

As if I had not crammed enough in to a cluttered year already as the summer drew to a close I found myself heading off for the mountains of northern Spain and a week climbing and hiking in The Picos de Europa. Happily a successful week amongst the mountains saw me top it off by scaling the highest mountain in Cantabria – Pena Vieja at 2619m and still to this date the highest ascent so far of my life. I had to face my own lack of self confidence and slight fear of vertigo on more than one occasion on this eye opening trip. You can read some more about this adventure and learn a bit about the Picos region too here: http://wp.me/pPdIP-1FY

So as I look back over yet another eventful year I realise that what had started off fairly lamely with a cancelled ski trip ended up in the best possibly fashion finding myself scaling new heights in the mountains of Spain.

But that was 2013 and a new year is just around the corner so it’s time to shake off the shackles of yesteryear and look to the future. It’s time to come up with some plans, schemes, ideas and adventures to see me through the next year and beyond.

I hope 2014 finds you searching for something else, something beyond the 9 to 5 of the office, something to inspire, invigorate and get your Mojo going! Until then happy New Year and thanks as ever for reading my humble blog.

All the best
James

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