The Back Six

Six trips. One month. Nuremberg, Portland, Lancaster, Cambridge, Coventry and Eridge. July.

A rather grainy view of the German heatwave, in a tiny town outside Nureumberg.

A rather grainy view of the German heatwave, in a tiny town outside Nureumberg.

The summer of 2013 was real. Temperatures were regularly into the ‘shorts’ region, with maximums between “ah, that’s nice” to “bloody hell, where’s the cold water?”. At Portland, the rock was practically sweating, despite deceptively chilly sea temperatures; formal jackets for a German wedding were quickly discarded post-ceremony; and there was carnage in Cambridge as every man and his dog grimly gripped poles and pushed their way down the river. August brought some relief.

An image of a man about to slide down a boulder in Brimham.

Easy grit. The pleasure of pitting skin against stone is uniquely, er, exfoliating. Or excruciating. Take your pick.

Brimham Rocks, in Yorkshire, is a wonderful place. It’s as though some demented rock-giant haphazardly slammed a bunch of pancakes and scones together in piles. And made them into rocks. Or something like that. They’re just so strange. It was my first taste of outdoor bouldering (low-height rock climbing without ropes) and I can’t think of a better place to explore as an introduction.

I also tasted bitter defeat as an Australian in the crowd on the decisive fourth day at the Durham Ashes test. It was entertaining, but not the kind of climax we’d hoped for.

Oh well. It got better. September.

Monk Mountain.

Monk Mountain.

Two weeks in Greece emphatically underlined the most active northern summer of my life. The view above was my first glimpse of the beauty I’d not really expected from this part of the world. Halkidiki was a wilderness of tiny coves, clear water and secluded beaches. Hiking the Vikos gorge and gazing across Meteora added adventure, and Santorini didn’t fail to deliver postcard-perfect sunsets.

I didn’t take any pictures in October.

The year hadn’t really been about photography for me. It was about exploring. And, well, it all came crashing to a halt in October. The days were getting shorter, my bank balance was cowering in terror every time I went near a cash machine, and I was just plain worn out. So my camera was parked on a shelf. Oh, and I started Spanish lessons. And played a heck of a lot of new board games. That was fun.

Here’s a bonus photo: finding space in the last moments of light…

November already? Where did the year go? Ah, that’s right. It went to Fontainebleau on a rock star bus with all the cool kids.

If you’d told me before I left Australia that, one day, I’d be sweating my way through a crushing crowd in a London Underground tunnel, dressed in a ski jacket and lugging a big portable crash pad, I’d probably have backed carefully away from you then called the police.

But that’s only because time travellers and prophets are dangerous.

The surging tube crowds safely (and uncomfortably) negotiated, we jumped aboard the Boulder Bus, a 15-sleeper tour bus complete with seedy LED strip lighting and actual legroom in the bunks. A French patisserie was like a beacon in the pre-dawn, and we eagerly filled up on fresh treats before entering the Magic Forest.

No, seriously. The forest is magic. This picture proves it.

No, seriously. The forest is magic. This picture proves it.

I’m really not sure what my fascination is with climbing on top of rocks in an inefficient and difficult way, but I suspect it’s a primal thing, like robot animals (that was the end of November). Anyway. December.

Slow shutter swans.

Slow shutter swans.

I’d have hated for the year to end quietly. A trip to explore the Jurassic coast near Swanage was the ideal time to unwind, cross Durdle Door off my list, eat fish and chips, drink ale and go for long walks. I didn’t even bother unpacking, because two days later I jumped on a train to Exeter, to train my second Green Steps course of the year. Bringing a switched-on group of students through major environmental and organisational issues and solutions over five intense days is a tough gig, but immensely rewarding. As my train hissed and sparked back through floodwaters late in the month, my mind was filled with big ideas.

It’s hard to think how I can top 2013 for the sheer quantity of mini-trips I squeezed in and how consistently excellent they turned out to be. 2014′s shaping up to be a different beast. I’ve done the England Sampler and dipped my toe across the Channel a few more times. I’m itching for a really big trip.

Suggestions?

Categories: bouldering, climbing, Fun Things On Land, photos, Travel | Tags: , , | 2 Comments

The 6 Pictures From 2013 I Wouldn’t Have Lived Without, And You Shouldn’t Too

Sorry. Buzzfeed-style titles are just so inspirational.

Yes, it’s been a while – my longest break since I started this blog way back in the noughties. But there’s a new year to embrace and explore, so let’s take a whirlwind tour of 2013 through my lens and we can all move on, eh? Stop 1: January.

An image of a zombie on an escalator

Stirring the memory-beast that is ZombieLab is dangerous. It devoured 12,000 souls, and grew so large it almost became a victim of its own success. It spawned a BBC appearance for me (with a new job title), dragged the public into peer-reviewed research, and turned January into a dark, demented blur of a month. Let’s move on swiftly. February.

An image of the JASMA demo team doing Tai Chi in Leicester Square

This year, I’ve been learning Wing Chun kung fu at the Jeffrey Alexander School of Martial Arts. On a freezing, rainy Chinese New Year afternoon, the team took to the stage in Leicester Square. Martial arts are a total departure from the freestyle sports I’ve spent most of my life pursuing, with a strong structure, long history and strict training environment. I’m loving the challenge.

Not much else sticks in my mind from February. It was a short, cold month, and I was having the mother of all work-hangovers. I was prepared to plunge into powder, so let’s move on to March.

An image of off-piste skiiers in a tree run in Meribel

I’ve had more dreams about Meribel than anywhere else I’ve visited (link goes to video of the trip). I couldn’t contain my sense of awe as we rode up the gondola on the first day, emerging from the tree-line to a breathtaking panorama of the snow-covered Meribel valley in the French Alps. Six days of good conditions, great company and a sport that has saturated my mind with a desire for more…

Before I get trapped in endless daydreams, we’ll scurry on to April.

Scientists from the Antarctic at the Science Museum

My job at the Science Museum is more than just zombie-herding. In April, I invited scientists studying space weather in to the Museum to show off their work. They brought the Antarctic camping kit they’d lived in for their field trials. Cool.

The year’s been a really positive one at the Museum. I’ve created live events of all shapes and sizes, developed gallery updates, produced films about state of the art 3D printing, and so much more. It’s a ridiculously diverse role and I’m lucky to work with a brilliant bunch. Long May it continue.

An image of David on a Rock

Ah, yes. That happened. While I didn’t win a dream job in Queensland, I did get to run around London for two days with a crocodile and kangaroo, and met an array of people I’d never otherwise have crossed paths with. But it was an exhausting and intimidating two weeks, not least because I was also helping assemble a new display about brain mapping at work.

Later in the month I took off for a deep breath of fresh Italian air, finding some invaluable head-space with a trip to the Puglia region. A day exploring Monte Sant’Angelo was just magic. One word to describe the contrast between bouncing through Trafalgar Square in a Park Ranger costume and sitting alone in the sun-drenched backstreets of an Italian mountain village: stark.

Let’s wrap this instalment with June.

A climber at Portland, Dorset, sport climbing at Blacknor

Portland. The limestone one, not the hipster one. It was the first place in England that genuinely shocked me with its natural beauty. The second day of June was crisp, stunning and blue, and I experienced my first outdoor lead climbing on white cliffs overlooking the glassy Atlantic. Lead climbing still holds mental demons for me, and I plan to wrestle with them more in the coming year. Next time, it’ll be me doing battle with the flake line in the picture.

The summer of 2013 was, frankly, ridiculous. If I’ve tallied it correctly, I stayed in London for a grand total of 3 full weekend days between May and October; everything else was spent exploring England and Europe. So keep your antennae tuned for part 2 of my 2013 wrap. Expect stories of German caves, Brimham boulders, Eclectic games, Santorini sunsets, punting, castles, French forests and flooded Devon streets…

Pro Tip: If you click on the images in this post, you’ll get to see a secret bonus image from each month. Some are related to what I’ve talked about; others are just, well, things. Go on then. You know you want to.

Categories: climbing, Fun Things On Land, photos, Science, Thoughts, Travel | Tags: , , , | 3 Comments

Images of the photographic variety from multiple locations

I mentioned in my last post I’ve been getting around a bit this summer. Here’s a bit more evidence for your eyebuds.

An image of cathedral doors in Germany.

Cathedral Doors in Nuremberg, Germany.

Continue reading

Categories: photos, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Missions and rewards

In the past three weekends, I’ve done rather a bit of travel within England. Portland, Royal Tunbridge Wells, Cambridge, Coventry and Lancaster have all been on the itinerary. I’ve clocked up more than 2000km of overland travel. It’s been a little tiring, but the weather has been stunning and I can safely say I’m squeezing every drop out of the English summer.

Here’s a picture I took at one of those places.

An image of Blacknor South and Battleship crags at Portland, Dorset, with climbing going on

The approach view at Portland. Simply stunning. Click on the image to view it large!

Categories: climbing, Fun Things On Land, photos | Tags: , , , , | 2 Comments

One from near the Adriatic

An image of a castle at Monte Sant'Angelo

Possibly the most relaxing afternoon of 2013 for me… Monte Sant’Angelo sunshine. It was in the low 20′s, with a gentle breeze off the ocean and a quiet mountain village during the magic Italian afternoon slowdown…

Categories: photos, Travel | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

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