About Me

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I'm Alex (also known as Midge, Al and the Guy in the Neon Orange and Black Leathers). Three main passions in life: Mountains, Motorbikes and Old Stuff. Currently in North Wales, at Bangor Uni with my Transalp 600 and Snowdonia on the doorstep. The purpose of this Blog is a combination of discussing the above and highlighting other blogs and videos of interest.

Slideshow Info

The Slideshow contains various pictures (all taken by myself), ranging from my Dogs to hanging belays at Gogarth. Hopefully they give you a flavour of what I get up to.

24/01/2012

Racing, Running and Reviews.


The dates for the various motor-racing events have been released. Of major interest to me is the Moto GP (Silverstone, 15th-17th June), British Super Bikes (All year, but I’m planning on visiting: Oulton Park, 5th-7th May/6th-8th July, Donington Park, 7-9 September) and the Isle of Man TT (provisional dates: 28th May-8th June). For more dates and locations see the websites. 
 
The Dakar Rally is now over, with French man Cyril Despres on the KTM winning the Bike category. A summary of the best bike action is available here
 
TT: Closer to the Edge came out last year and last week I got round to buying and watching it. Two words; amazingly quick. Whether you like the TT or bike racing at all is not really important. It is a tale of a group of people seeking something past the ordinary and ordain in life. Although it is a documentary, it is a well-edited, fast-paced, person-orientated film rather than the typical moribund T.V. shows. The on-board camera shots are unbelievable, watching the bikes hit over 170 mph on the tiny country roads sends adrenaline shooting through your body. It is the stories of the riders and their families that really make the film, in particular those of the Dunlop family, Guy Martin and the Dobbs family. Some of the quotes Guy Martin comes out with are hilarious and down-right honest opinions, e.g. ‘Some lads love going to the pub, some lads love shagging. I don’t mind it but I’m not into it. Different things make different people happy, don’t they’. Anyone who likes adrenaline fixes will be able to relate to it. As the tag-line says ‘Just because you’re breathing doesn’t mean you’re alive’!

As I’m doing a series of reviews I’ve got some biking jeans, Richa Kevlar Jeans.   I’ve owned them for about a year and a half, taken no spills on them. As jeans go they look the part, have a good cut (slightly different to normal jeans), proper denim, can be worn on a night-out and are tough as old boots. The cut around the knees may look a bit strange, that is because on the inside they have insert sections for knee pads. Also on the inside are large sections of Kevlar fabric, round the backside, down the back of the legs and around the knee, prime areas to get hurt as you slide down the road. They take a bit to get wet and I’m sure if you treated them with Nikwax or the like they would be fairly water-resistant. For sitting on the bike they feel comfortable for all day riding and are much nicer if you are going in to town than your full leathers. A couple of downsides are flexibility is very limited for non-biking movements, they take even longer than normal jeans to dry and in midsummer when not travelling at 60mph they can get very warm. Overall I’d highly recommend them to any biker, and unlike those jeans you got from G-star (or some rubbish brand) they won’t fall apart after two washes.

I had the cast off and then replaced last week. It is now neon yellow. My thumb was given the all ok and I’m getting it moving again, as it had been immobilised for five weeks. Still cannot ride the push-bike though, my arm sticks out at a funny angle and grabbing a handful of the back break is not going to happen. The cast comes off around the end of the month, then a few weeks will be needed to get it back to working strength.

I’m now able to run, finally. It is a great feeling that I can now be building my strength back up. Distance and speed is getting there. My knee is no longer buckling if I misstep which proved amusing to everyone else as I went down the road. It is funny how things you take for granted when taken away from you become suddenly really important to get back. 

In the vain hope that this was useful, thanks for reading.

07/01/2012

Why Adventure? (and some videos).


As this healing process has been going on I’ve had a few introspective moments. The close call with being a dead body and evening news story brings a different perspective, and more importantly I’ve found a serious mental questioning on ‘is what I do and enjoy worth it?’. Personally the answer has been a strong and definitive ‘Yes!’. Yet my assumption that if I die or severely damage myself doing something I love, be it on a cliff, mountain-top or on the motorbike, that it would be fine has been brought to the fore and been found wanting (it is not a fear of dying, but one of missing out on all the stuff I could have done before dying). Now how this effects my mental attitude when I’m physically fit is something to find out. Maybe physically hard but relatively safe adventures will be the route I take. Whatever route I take I will do it because I enjoy it and the challenge it presents. It would be interesting to hear from people who have had similar experiences to hear how they mentally organised themselves after such events. 

There is a new(ish) article on the Bangor University Website: http://www.bangor.ac.uk/news/full.php.en?nid=6308&tnid=6308. It discusses the psychological reasons for people to seek adventure (I’m sure there is a more comprehensive paper somewhere). It seems that we seek adventure for a heightened emotional response and that adventure allows us to take control of an aspect of our lives. Seems interesting. I think that we all struggle to truly know why we place ourselves in positions of danger, is it just the adrenaline kick or is there more to it.
Many climbers, mountaineers and explorers have tried to answer the question of “why?”. Mallory’s succinct ‘Because it’s there’ doesn’t really answer it. I believe it is a very personal matter that needs to be addressed individually, if you work out why you are doing something you perform and enjoy the activity much more. Which aspects of your own adventures do you get most from? Focusing on those aspects helps improve the overall outcome.    

The Dakar Rally, heard of it? You should have. One of the most gruelling races on the planet, man and machine are tested to their limits. Desert racing at its zenith. And the best bit is that it is on at the moment.
Here is the official website: http://www.dakar.com/index_DAKus.html.
The route, even without racing, looks amazing. Watching it makes me want to just get out on my motorbike and go for a spin on a dirt road (which obviously can’t happen at the moment).
My Transalp is based on Honda’s racing bikes for this back in the late 80’s/early 90’s. No wonder it feels indestructible.   

I'm going to get (and read) Full of Myself by Jonny Dawes. I'll let you know what it is like.

Now a load of videos to get you psyched.
Mixed Climbing Avalanche Accident (was buzzing round UKC a few weeks ago).

02/01/2012

New Year, Similar Targets.


Another year has gone by, one that personally was exciting and full of amazing experiences (and I hope your year was as well). Some key highlights include: My first Gogarth trip (Britomartis, HVS 4c) and subsequent visits, my first limestone E2 (It, E2 5b), buying and tazzing around on my Transalp, my first slate E3 (Goose Creature, E3 6a), crapping myself (not literally) on Superdirect (E1 5b) with Gwen and doing Pull My Daisy (E2 5c). Also completing my first year at Uni and managing to survive my recent epic stand out (although my fall wasn't really a highlight!). 

Some targets for the new year: Climbing: Comes the Dervish (E3 5c), Atlantis/True Moments/Freebird (E2 5b), Samurai (E2 5c), The Sloth (HVS 5a), A Dream of White Horses (HVS 4c). Walking: Summer version of the route we were doing when I fell, The Pennine Way, Scarfell Pike, Ben Nevis, Cadir Idris, Welsh 3000’s. Motorbiking: A Scotland trip, a Lakes trip and save up for kitting the Transalp up for off roading.

I’m still out of action, my hand is going to take some serious work to rebuild its strength (hopefully this will force my climbing footwork to improve and better, smoother gear changes on the motorbike). My knee is now able to bend completely, it has taken time and quite a bit of painful stretching to achieve it though. I still can’t step down stairs with it, I kind of mentally line my right foot up to catch me, then step down and move quickly as my left knee buckles. It can be quite hairy doing this so I wait till I’m almost at the bottom of the stairs before trying.
My best advice is don’t fall/slip, the recovery process is a real frustration. But if you must bash yourself up; stay focused, positive and just keep working at it. Recovery does and will happen.

Currently, as I can’t do anything useful/fun/scary I’m reading a lot. Nothing wrong with being well read, in fact I normally pack a book in my backpack when I’m out for a few days to pass the time after tea and before bed. Therefore the next few blogs will probably be reviews of adventure literature and films.

Here is one review to get you started.
    
In September I bought Unjustifiable Risk?: The Story of British Climbing by Simon Thompson. It is a quite fascinating read that I have recently finished. It brings together various aspects of history, social commentary, politics and biographies to present an overview (although it is possible the title should be changed to ‘an introduction to the story of British climbing’) of the history of climbing (in all its aspects). It not only covers the British Isles but has an international perspective of the role of British climbers in the development of our “games”. It covers a time period of circa 1800 to modern day.  It is interesting how the change and development of gear and attitudes to it have played an important role to the climbing we are involved in. Thompson makes you wish to be involved with the tales he discusses (apart from, personally, the deadly accidents that have occurred pursuing those lofty peaks).  Overall I highly recommend the book.

A few other titles I recommend reading or watching are:
  • The Ascent of Everest by John Hunt. 
  • Climbing: Because it's There (Philosophy for Everyone) by Stephen E. Schmid (ed.). 
  • Long Way Round with Ewan McGregor and Charley Boorman.  T.V Series.
  • First Ascent Series Boxed Set by Sender Films.

So, happy New Year to everyone. Get psyched, get out there. Enjoy the mountains.
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