Before the good citizens of York, United Kingdom tear this post apart for the blog title inference that they are akin to a certain breed of yappy dog, I assure you I was more along a line of thinking that maybe–just maybe–if rowers were angry rather than athletic, too many pints before an evening in the water could result in Viking-style water combat.
My first trip overseas since my pre-pandemic visit to Virgin Gorda in 2019. First stop, the pre-medieval town of York. The trip was ostensibly supposed to be a work thing. I annoyed all the engineers with the camera and its cannon-size lens hanging at my side at all times. I hastened across the bridge to get to the Cut and Craft and join the boss and a few colleagues for pickles and a pint, when I looked left and saw the picture laid out for me. Simply lovely.
Sure, they used to hang folks from the gallows here in Grassmarket Square. All that remains today, however, is the brightly colored social center of Edinburgh, with luscious pubs, fabulous and diverse food, and boutique shops for cheese, antique maps & books, clothing, and 16th century structures repurposed as entertainment venues. Love it!
Glasgow, cloudy with a chance of meatballs, and the sun shining from one side. We amble from great gothic Glasgow Cathedral up the epic hill where every prominent citizen’s family & friends apparently competed for giant tombstones, garish monuments, stone remembrances. Except for John Knox, who predates the Necropolis, and who’s monument is tallest of all. Fascinating place, and not even a bit creepy. Just felt like history, and great views of the city.
Panoramic photos don’t make for great photoblog posts, but we were rambling along Princes Street in Edinburgh, looked up in the steady rain, and saw this and thought perhaps I might share it anyway, because those dramatic Scottish clouds painted up the sky over Edinburgh Castle.
Another beautiful burg with loads of point and shoot opportunities everywhere you turn. Amazing, lovely Scotland.
Remember that red mountain with the snow crown last night (yesterday’s post)? I come out of the tent at 5:30am and as the light in the sky brightens, my mouth drops open at the sight of a Kilimanjaro, completely blanketed in snow and more cloud plumes flowing off of it. “Damn,” I yell to our team, still asleep in their tents, “Looks like we’re gonna be making an Everest attempt, not a nice hike up to Kili.” A few of them crawl out and look at the snowed in beast of a mountain before clouds consume it.
Forgot to mention, late in the evening, a porter walked into camp with my missing bag on his head, having walked 20km and ascended to 13,000 feet in one day to get my gear to me. Hallelujah! My poles, my rain gear…it’s all there. I sleep well, despite pounding rain.
Destination today is Moir Hut, which is an eastern traversal and ascent to 13,750 feet, higher than most all of the mountains we’ve climbed in California except Mt Whitney. The mist and clouds are clinging to the cliffs above us, and the views down to the Shira Plateau and Shira Cathedral are spectacular.
The ascent out of Shira Hut starts on the same fairly steep, meandering route through volcanic stone we used for yesterday’s quick acclimatization hike. It’s about 4 hrs or so, 5 miles, and constantly shrouded in mist.
At length, we arrive at camp, and it’s pea soup – we can’t even see our camp until we stumble past the bright blue Internet Cafe. Just like clockwork, as soon as we get the gear off and into the mess tent, the rain starts and hammers away while we eat lunch. We groan when JT comes in and says we’re doing an acclimatization hike at 3pm. When we ask him about the rain…he says rain or shine, we go. Just like magic, right at 2:55, the rain stops. Rhys stays down again, choosing to stay warm and confident his acclimatization is going well, but the rest of us gear up, JT leads out this time, marching up the steep switchbacks below the overcast skies. The geology up here is craggy and spectacular, with layers and fault lines clearly visible.
This time we climb to around 14,200 feet to a junction below Lava Tower, only a couple hundred feet lower than the highest mountains any of us have climbed. The air is incredibly crisp, clean, and cool up here, and the winds blow hard. It’s a very stark looking landscape up here, not quite lunar, but boulders strewn carelessly all over by some giant hand. There’s also a little sparrowlike bird called the alpine chat bouncing all over the place, trying to munch our snacks. Couldn’t really nail them down for a pic, fast little buggers. The idea behind acclimatization is to reach the altitude, stay there for 15-30 minutes, then head back down, which after munching our chocolate bars, we do.
The second hike of the day took us 3 hrs; we return to Moir Hut in the mist and settle in for the long night; after dinner and into our tents, rain and sleet start up again, but by this time, we’re so used to it, everyone crashes hard. Cort is now our 3rd party member on Diamox, while Alex and Paul have recovered and are going strong as ever. Caryl is dealing with sinus issues and and a headache that seems pressure related, depending on when she is standing, hiking, or sitting, but she’s going to gut it out for now.
FAQ: How did you book this epic journey?
Through Peak Planet, the best reviewed agency we found. Researching the Kili guiding is an exercise is due diligence – but something to consider is the treatment of porters and guides helping you up the mountain. The cheaper operators have a reputation for porters and guides with tattered clothing, substandard shoes, and not getting paid for the many days away from their families. From all testimonials and references, Peak Planet is the opposite of that, working with the African Walking Company to ensure good treatment while keeping the prices reasonable. I have zero stake in Peak Planet, but the blog should speak for itself – the guides and porters were excellent, friendly, helpful, courteous, etc. all you could ask for on such a comprehensive undertaking.What camera did you use?
The Fuji XT-1 mirrorless APS-C with an 18-135mm lens. All of it heavily weather resistant, unstopped by rain, freezing cold, sleet, or altitude. I did bring 4 extra batteries, kept warm in a wool sock…which proved to be good for the whole 9 day mountain journey.
Saban villages are lovely settings for these red tin roof cottages and houses, their wash white painted shingles, their green gabled shutters. You walk the friendly Road and people young and old greet you with a variety of waves and acknowledgements; I think brother Michael has catalogued ten or more different waves in his visit here. Those of you who havent been, put Saba on up your bucket list and come here one day to witness in person what I’ve tried to convey in this blog, this charming rock and its rugged shores and guts and mountains, its hardworking people.
When two photographers walk together, particularly brothers, often as not, they happen upon scenes or settings where they both see the image to be captured; so it is with today’s picture. We were on our way through The Bottom to hike The Ladder when we turned the corner near the Thomas Dinzey cemetery and came upon this juxtaposition of Saban houses against Paris Hill greenery, a clouded sky above. We both saw it at almost the same time…I snapped a few pics, he snapped a few pics, here’s my favorite of mine. Hope you enjoy it!