Pen y Fan

We spent the evening at the Welsh International Climbing Centre. They have a 45 room bunkhouse. The accommadtions are sparse; basically a couple of cheap beds, small screen TV, and shared toilet and shower facilities. But for £14 a nite plus a full breakfast, it was more than enough for our needs.

We arrived at the WICC a bit to late to do any climbing. They receptionist on duty was going to charge us £4.50 to climb for less than hour. We decided to pass on her generous offer and retire to our room for some light reading and to plan out today’s adventure. Besides, we were too full of steak and chips to contemplate hauling ourselves up a wall.

The beauty of going to places off season is that you generally have the place to yourself. We were the only tennants of the bunk house and had breakfast all to ourselves. And a good breakfast it was.

The plan for the day was to head north towards Brecon stop off at the bottom of the south face of Pen y Fan, hike up it and then beat feet back down and head for home.

The weather today was in stark contrast to yesterday’s beautiful day. Basically I felt like I was back in the UK, cloudy and wet.

The last time I was up Pen y Fan was last year during the Brecons Challenge. It’s a decent enough hike culminating in an 886 meter peak. On a good day, the views are quite stunning. Today we were lucky just to catch glimpses of the valley floor below us.

We made short work of the walk up and back down doing the 4.5 mile loop in just over an hour and half. And then it was back in the car and heading for home.

Drifting through the days outdoors has a timeless quality. I feel a million miles away from my normal life of routine and work. I’ve been off work for 3 days and it feels like a lifetime ago since I was last in the office. It is this feeling that taunts me to throw in the towel of corporate life and become a vagabond roaming the world with the wind at my back and a good pair of hiking boots on my feet.

I got home early evening. It will only be a short stay. Basically I’m back to refit, then pack my bags for Bristol, which is where I’m headed Friday afternoon.

Scavenger

I like to climb rocks. Sometimes I question the sanity of climbing rocks for fun because I’m not sure if it’s for the challenge or if it’s just that I have to much idle time on my hands or simply because the rocks are there. At any rate Paul and I found ourselves headed for the Gower Peninsula in South Wales to climb the Three Cliffs.

The Gower Peninsula is a fifteen-mile-long stretch of undulating limestone that faces the Bristol Channel just to west of Swansea. The peninsula is dotted with yellow sandy beaches and bays with a multitude of precipitous cliffs. I had never climbed a sea cliff before, so was looking forward to combining two things I am naturally attracted to – the sea and rocks.

It seems always on the drive down to these adventures, we invariably end up questioning why we continue to work in the corporate saltmines when we should be chasing a life of adventure and meaning instead of lining some fat cat’s pockets with cash. To day was no different.

We couldn’t have asked for a better day. In fact I had to pinch myself to see if I was dreaming…sunny and warm…in Wales…in Feburary? Can’t be. Yet there we were in t-shirts preparing to climb sections of the Three Cliffs.

Our first climb was long but easy. The climb took us up a route called the Plumb Line, which is rated as a VDiff. It felt good to be gripping some warm rock and hauling myself up to the sounds of the waves breaking on the shore. This definately beat, pushing paper in the office.

Paul is a more aggressive climber than I am. On our second climb of the day, he wanted to have a go at a line called Scavenger. I didn’t like the look of it and if it had been up to me, I would not have attempted it. I derive my pleasure from the feel of the rock, not the challenge of overcoming a difficult problem. The isolated position on the rock can have a very zen-like feel, but its hard to get that feeling when you are literally hanging by the skin of your fingers thinking am I going to fall.

Paul wanted to have a go, so I took the position of seconding his lead. Paul started up Scavenger. He reached the face placement of gear with no issues. On the way up to his third placement, his second piece of gear fell out. If he slipped now, he would have a long way to fall before being caught. Not to much of a problem as long as his first only placement at this point was good enough take his weight in a fall. My palms began to sweat as I watch Paul scurrying to find a crack to place some more protection. It didn’t help that his legs were getting tired and visibly beginning to shake. I was silently chanting to myself, place some gear Paul, place some gear. Finally, he found a crack, placed some protection and clipped in.

The next few moves up were equally a bit scary. Paul reached the crux and took a breather before continuing up. Another piece of gear fell out after I lost sight of Paul. Now all I could do was watch the rope and hope for the best. It was ages before I finally heard Paul shout down those sigh of relief words, “I’m safe,” which means he was tied in and ready to belay me for my climb.

Now it was my turn. The thing with Scavenger, is you really have to rely on your feet as the hand holds…well really finger holds…are small. Reaching the first two placements wasn’t to bad, but after that my hands raced to find something to grip on. Reaching the crux was difficult. I was sweating and breathing heavy. Okay time to commit. I went for it and lost my footing taking a fall. Paul caught me almost instantaneously, so I did fall far or hard. I recovered…focused…and went for it again. Success. I reached the crux and had a breather. The rest of the climb was tough but not tenuous. I reached the top breathing heavy.

Paul had a great big grin on his face and so did I. This was for me the most difficult climb i’ve done in my short climbing career. It was the perfect end to a good day. The sun hung low in the sky just shy of sunset as we headed back down to solid ground.

This a picture of the Three Cliffs with the routes outlined.

Birmingham

My saunter to New Street station in Birmingham turned into spending the afternoon wandering around the city centre. I’ve been to Birmingham on many occasions, so I didn’t quite fullfil my original intent which was to hop on a train to someplace I’ve never been…reason…time was just not my friend…I had to be back in Leamington before 1600 to pick up my car from the mechanic…so I thought, why not see what I have not seen in the “city of 1001 trades.” Many of the giants of Industrial Revolution kicked around in Birmingham…men like James Watt, Matthew Boulton, William Murdock, and Joseph Priestley.

I did a quick read through my guide book to get a general sense of history and to make a mental map of the street plan. Having limited time on the ground, I decided to head for the art gallery first.

There’s something about wandering around city streets that tugs at my sense of insignificance. I feel like Ralph Ellison’s main character in the Invisible Man.

“I am inivisble man. No I am not a spook like those who haunted Edgar Allan Poe; nor am I one of your Hollywood-movie ectoplasms. I am a man of substance, of flesh and bone, fiber and liquids – and I might even be said to possess a mind. I am invisible understand, simply because people refuse to see me. Like the bodiless heads you see sometimes in circus sideshows, it is as though I have been surrounded by mirrors of hard, distorted glass. When they approach me they see only my surroundings, themselves, or figments of their imagination – indeed, everything and anything except me.”

Chances are I will never see any of these people again…and to think for a brief moment fate brought us in contact with each other and yet we will never really know one another…

Enroute to the art gallery, I stopped to take some random photos of people:

In Victoria Square, a new bottled water company was running a promtoinal event. They had invaded the city in drooves to hand out free bottles of water. It was like being in a marathon race where people handing you water along the route. My thirst was quenched all day.

The city art gallery is famous for its comprehensive collection of Pre-Raphaelite art. I find most art galleries to be very inspiring. I’m particular attracted to pictures of great men doing great things…heroic scenes of sacrifice. Where are the giants among us now?

My next stop was the Ikon gallery of contemporary art. I must confess, I am one of the unenlightened buffons who doesn’t understand contemporary art of the let’s collect ‘found objects’ of junk, slap it on a piece of board, give it a title and call it art. One of the displays at the Ikon was a box full of tangled Christmas lights that were switched on. I’m sorry, I just don’t get it. Every year when I collect the Christmas tree out of the attic, i’m confronted with a box of tangled lights, but I never thought to slap a title on them and call it art. Maybe that’s why i don’t have a major exhibition at the Ikon.

It didn’t take me long to get exhausted by the mockery of art I saw in the Ikon. Where is the blood, sweat and tears like you see in the works of the old masters?

Time ticked and I had to move on. I only had about an hour left before I had to get back to the train station. The central library was my next stop. My love of books kept me from passing by such a shrine without having a wander around the stacks. Unfortunately this was my last stop before heading home.

Best Laid Plans

Our choices of half chance, or the saying goes…and this morning was typical pf that half chance. I rolled out of bed a little later than usuall…0530 instead of 0430. I wanted to watch a DVD produced by O’neil, the surf and snowboard retailer. Quick aside…the DVD was very inspirational perhaps i’ll go into why it was a little later. Back to the story…So after being inspired by this DVD, I decided I needed to get my ass in gear. I was original going to spend the morning doing domestic stuff and then go for a short hike around Edge Hill. But after watching the DVD, I was like fuck the domesticated stuff…get outdoors and go for decent hike in the Peak District which is about an hour and half drive away from me. I could do the domestic stuff later. My choices had already set me down a path I had not intended to go when I woke up. Doing something as simple as watching a DVD set me off on a whole new course. Well i’m sitting hear typing this note because I made another choice that has now set me on a different course.

I thought before I go off to the Peak District, I should fix the wing mirror on my car. The part had arrived the day before and I need to get the car ready for reinspection on Friday. I thought at most it would take a half hour to fix…but car manufacturer’s are devious. They never engineer a car to be simple to fix…there were all these hidded screws and bolts all over the place that needed to be undone in order to get to the screw that holds the wing mirror in place…HA…I finally get to that one screw only to discover that I still can’t get the old wing mirror off. Fuck. So being the typical infantryman, I start banging on shit. And low and behold i snap the old wing mirror off on the outside so now it’s dangle from a few cords…rendering the car not road worthy for safety reasons. Double fuck. So now I have to take the damn thing into the mechanic who of course now has my car and will have it until after 1400 today. So much for hiking in the Peaks.

But fear not, now my choice to fix the wing mirror has now led me down a different path…to salvage the day, i’ve decided to do an urban adventure instead. So in just a few…i’m going to take a shower…pack my camera, and video camera head out into the urban jungle. The basic plan is to head to New St train in Birmingham…look on the big board and pick a place I’ve never been and catch a train there….

On Dicing

Okay so I haven’t done well on the dicing…I make so many decisions a day that hald the time I coundn’t be bothered to role the dice and the other half, I couldn’t stomach the idea of leaving the choice to chance instead of deliberation. I have to let go and embrace the randomness. But I suppose if you really think about, all of our choices are half chance any way. The forces of chance are constantly at work in our lives. But some how to nakedly introduce chance seems hard. I guess because it shatters the illusion of control.

I’ve started recruiting for a new adventure race team. I’m hoping to put the team together in the next couple of weeks so we can start training together and hopefully race some time mid April. My run tonight was short but swift. I could feel the cold air slicing its way through my lungs.

I’m so tired right now….I’m half asleep at the keyboard…writing these sentences is draining the last little bit of energy I have left…it won’t be long now till I have to surrender to slumber.

Eye of the Tiger

It’s the 9th day of Feb and I’m now just starting my journal for 2004, which is a break from tradition for me as I usually begin in January with the grand idea that this will be the year I finally take writing seriously and get published and yada yada yada. Anyway I was in no mood to follow that same storyline again in 2004. In fact, I have not set my mind to anything other than taking the days as they come and seeing what fortune brings.

But having drifted for a month, I feel I need to now set some goals to accomplish for 2004, mainly to give me something to focus so I don’t drift into oblivion.

I’ve started training hard again. In the next couple of days, I need to pick an event to train for…something that validates my efforts.

Work has been exciting, fun and busy for the last couple of months…but somewhere in the mind, I keep thinking that my career, such as it is, is not on any real progressive track…no yellow brick road to the top. Does it need to be? The last thing I want to happen is for the next 5 years to go flying by and I’m still at the same pay grade and position. The last 3 years I’ve made several lateral moves…but really am in the same place just with a slightly different angle.

The answer is obvious on one level….I need to break that cycle and move on and up…but because things are in place at work, I can do frivolous things outside of work like hiking and climbing, and generally puttering around on the computer doing this and that.

It’s time to get the Eye of the Tiger back…

So over the next 4 days I plan to get the chicken bones out and set a course for the next leg of my journey…

Weird Wonk

I’m in a lull before transition…transition between phases…it’s like the quiet before the storm type of thing were I feel calm and confused and unfocused. Best cure for it is just to read and ride it out. I started rereading the Balkan Ghost by Robert Kaplan. He is one of favorite literary travel writers.

I’ve got some holiday coming up over the next couple of days…I plan to spend much of it in communion with nature and sorting out my goals for 2004. I need to sort out my big event for 2004…

The Dice Man Cometh

I stumbled across a 60 second interview with Luke Rhinehart in Friday’s edition of the Metro. I had never heard of the dice theory before even though Luke’s original book appeared 30 years ago. At any rate, I did some surfing around to find more enough on ‘dicing’. It sounds like an interesting concept…I might give it a go for a couple of weeks and see what results come of living by the dice. I’m not sure to what extent i’m going to dice…certain decisions or all…hmm okay why don’t I let the dice decide…

1 – no dice 2 – dice completely 3 – dice for minor decisions 4 – dice completely for 1 week 5 – dice minor for 1 week 6 – roll again

and the verdict is….6 roll again

rollling….6

rolling….6

maybe this is trick die

rolling….4

If yoou want to read more about dice living checkout Luke Rhinehart’s site at http://www.lukerhinehart.net/ or for a summation of dice living check out dice living at http://www.dicelife.com/node/view/1

Apparently, the only hard and fast rule of dice living is “the dice must always be obeyed.” I’ll keep you posted…

Sorted

Okay, I’m happy now. I’ve found my way around enough to be comfortable. I currently maintain a blogg on http://www.soulcruz.com but as I like the look and feel of livejournal, I think I will start migrating my thoughts over here. I especially like the fact that I can update from the road considering I do travel a lot. Besides that i have another use for my soulcruz domain…details to follow.

Learning my way around

Found livejournal through another user…I like blogging so I thought i’d give it a go.