Archive for July, 2008


The Pro’s and Con’s Of Rock Climbing

July 31, 2008

I picked up these helpful hints from


Develops mental agility and toughness

Sometimes described as ‘vertical chess’, rock climbing entails problem solving, planning ahead and keeping your nerve. Researchers at Texas A&M University found climbing could reduce stress, improve self-confidence and encourage positive thinking.

Gives you a firm handshake

Hand and arm strength was far superior in experienced female climbers compared with that of novices in a study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research.

Works the abs

Climbing builds a strong core (back and abdominal region). Your abs work particularly hard when you are holding your body weight against gravity, such as on an overhang.

Makes you bendy

Climbing improves your flexibility all over, as you are constantly reaching and stretching, but particularly around the hips, thanks to the frequently adopted ‘frog position’ in which the hips are open.

Builds steely thighs!

Of course, rock climbing builds strength and definition in the back, shoulders and arms, but the legs – particularly the quads and calves – also develop muscular endurance and strength in order to support you for extended periods and propel you upwards.


Risk factor

Well, if you’re a rock climber, you will fully understand the risks involved.

All that gear!

You can’t just get up and go climbing on a whim, it’ll take you ages to get dressed and ‘rack up’.

What goes up must come down

Abseiling has caused more fatalities than any other mountaineering activity, according to the British Mountaineering Council.

Climber’s finger

A tendon injury caused by trying to support your body weight with one or two fingers.


But don’t let the con’s put you off – it is still an exhilarating extreme sport, particularly if you are out there in the great outdoors, with fresh air, wide landscapes and a great challenge ahead of you.


Some ideas to get out ‘n about this summer in England

July 31, 2008

Ok so I can hear you all screaming and yelling and saying ‘that’s not extreme’ – you know something – you are absolutely right. But here at we recognise the need for all of us to turn off the telly and get out and about – you don’t have to risk breaking a limb – and so I am indebted to Ed Douglas of the who has put this list of 10 places to go for something to do in the big outdoors. I risk being reprimanded by my partner but hey that’s a risk worth taking cos getting outside is a start, it can inspire kids, open their minds – let let smell the land and the sea, let them ask the questions – so no regrets and thanks again Ed.

1: iTry, Snowdonia

North Wales has a mind-spinning range of activities on offer, from high-ropes courses, to rock climbing, to canoeing or just exploring the region’s stunning landscape and wildlife. But if you don’t want to sign the whole family up to an expensive course they may not like, a sparkling new initiative called iTry matches you up with taster sessions to suit your interests, budget and level of commitment. You tell them what you want, they put you in touch with the expertise you need.

· Call 0844 9022970 9am to 5pm, or Runs until August 31.

2: Tree climbing, Cornwall

Mighty Oak runs courses where kids can rediscover the old-school joys of tree climbing, but on really big trees secured by the latest safety equipment. Until you’ve hung around the tree-tops and seen the world from a nesting bird’s perspective, you really haven’t lived. Mighty Oak will even let you sleep overnight on high, roosting in a four-cornered hammock, rocked to sleep by the breeze. Oh, and you’re tied to a safety rope, so don’t panic.

· Guided climbing session and one night’s camping costs £140 per person. 07890 698651,

Tree climbing in Cornwall

Learning the ropes … tree climbing in Cornwall

3: Bushcraft, Wiltshire

What with soaring oil and food prices, it might be worth the whole family picking up some survival skills. Alas, junior courses with the woodlore guru Ray Mears have long since sold out. Book soon for 2009. In the meantime, check out the Wilderness Gathering, a three-day event where you can see everything from spoon carving to survival fishing techniques. Top bushcraft instructors include John Rhyder from Woodcraft School, Ray Mears’s former head instructor.

· Tickets £7.50 per day, £4.50 for Under 16s. Weekend pass with camping and introductory courses, £70 for adults, £30 for Under16s. 0845 8387062,

4: Lundy Island, Devon

A lump of granite poking 400ft out of the Atlantic where it meets the Bristol Channel, Lundy is perfect for trad pastimes like fossicking in rock pools and bird-watching, and is home to England’s only statutory marine reserve. There are guided walks and snorkelling safaris, and if you’re feeling adventurous, rock climbing and diving. Accommodation ranges from a 13th-century castle to a lighthouse, all beautifully restored and furnished by the Landmark Trust.

· Family tickets on the MS Oldenburg from Bideford are £70 return for two adults and two children. +44 (0)1271 863636,

5: Hadrian’s Wall, Northumberland

With the British Museum taking a look at Hadrian’s legacy, you can introduce your children to his furthest outpost and get the little darlings to patrol it. There is a path running along the length of Hadrian’s Wall, but the section between Steel Rigg to Housesteads is widely regarded as the finest with a visit to Housesteads Castle en route.

· Shepherds Walks is a small local guiding company run by Jon Monks with a growing reputation for offering guided and self-guided walks throughout Northumberland. The five-hour, seven-mile circular route from Steel Rigg costs £8 per person.

6: L-plate adventures, Cairngorms National Park

Glenmore Lodge is Scotland’s national outdoor training centre, but if that all sounds a little too grown-up and committed, in July and August the Lodge is offering taster sessions for 12 to 16-year-olds. Each session is half a day, and you can try mountain biking, orienteering, kayaking and rock climbing, or spend the whole day in the spectacular Cairngorm mountains, learning about navigation and what to take on the hill.

· Each half session is £12, or do two in one day for £20. Bring your own sandwiches. +44 (0)1479 861256,

7: Otter watching, Peak District

An otter Photograph: Bryn Colton/Assignments Photographers/Corbis Watching an otter can cheer the gloomiest heart, even one deprived of its Gameboy. The Chestnut Centre has a range of different otter species, as well as caring for orphaned otters that are eventually released back into the wild – and if that doesn’t make your heart melt nothing will. Set in 50 acres in the Peak District near Chapel-en-le-Frith, other attractions include 16 species of owls, plus a wide range of indigenous species. But you’ll have to leave your dog at home.

· Family tickets £20, open from 10.30am, last entrance at 4pm. +44 (0)1298 814099,

8: Coasteering, Pembrokeshire Coast National Park

If you want to take exploring the coastline to its ultimate conclusion, consider booking the family onto a “coasteering” course with TYF Adventure. Essentially, you put on a wetsuit and a helmet, and then spend a few hours scrambling and swimming around Pembrokeshire’s spectacular coastline with a guide to show you what’s safe and what’s not. If you’re up for it, you can jump off some unnervingly high cliffs, too. Accommodation is available in the TYF Eco Hotel, now certified organic.
Get there without a car, and they’ll give you a free drink.

· Take old trainers, other gear provided. Half-day sessions £40 for under 16s. Minimum age eight. B&B from £35 per person per night. +44 (0)1437 721611,

9: Swallows and Amazons, Lake District

Fans of Arthur Ransome’s magical adventures travel from all over the world to explore the lakes and fells where many of the stories are set. Although Ransome disguised exact locations, they are recognisable. The writer Roger Wardle pieced together the clues in his guidebook In Search of Swallows and Amazons: Arthur Ransome’s Lakeland (Sigma, £8.95). Hire a canoe, go for a swim, or stay at one of the pubs or farms that feature in the series, like Bank Ground Farm, in Coniston, also featured in the film.

· B&B £45 per person, younger children pay a nominal charge, +44 (0)15394 41264,

10: Surf’s up, Gower, Wales

Learning to surf at the Gower, Swansea Photograph: Peter Price A Frame photography It’s not just about Mandarin and piano lessons. What kids really need to make it in the modern world are advanced surfing skills. The Welsh Surfing Federation has a not-for-profit surf school at Llangennith on the Gower, with the right kit for novices, and two two-hour lessons each day, as the surf allows. And if you’ve never explored the Gower itself before, it’s the perfect spot for a family camping holiday.

· Introductory half-day session £25, subsequent lessons are £20, all gear included, +44 (0)1792 386426,


Aussie husband and wife team to go for wingsuit world record

July 30, 2008

Husband and wife team Glenn Singleman and Heather Swan will jump from a balloon at 39,000 feet near Docker River before a high-speed scenic flight in their custom-made suits.

Mr Singleman says they are determined to beat the previous wingsuit mark to add to an earlier world record they set in India for base jumping.

The adventurous couple have been planning their Alice world record assault for over a year.

They have completed two test jumps in the area since arriving in Alice Springs last week.

Central Australia has the ideal conditions for wingsuiting, Mr Singleman says, and will give the couple an advantage as they seek to beat the current wingsuiting record set by Spanish wingsuiters flying over Gibraltar in the Mediterranean.

The Spaniards flew 20km in their wingsuits, and Mr Singleman and Ms Swan hope to better that mark by gliding 30km in seven minutes.

“The secret to breaking the record is two-fold, firstly we have to get up very high so we’re going up to 39,000 feet in a balloon,” Mr Singleman said.

“The second part of getting a distance record is to have a fantastic tailwind behind you. And one of the best tailwinds in the world rages over Alice Springs way through winter and in fact it blows it well over 100 miles an hour, 100 knots, up high, so we will use that as a tail wind to push us along.”

The unique Central Australian landscape was another lure to making the attempt near Alice.

“It’s amazing, I mean it’s so beautiful,” Mr Singleman said. “We’ve done our test jump out here near Alice and it was so beautiful flying in our red suits over the red desert. And the clarity, the air, it’s so wonderful out here, and all the beautiful landscapes, it’s a fantastic place to jump.”

The couple has enjoyed exploring Central Australia during their time in Alice, and telling locals about their daring world record bid.

One question they find they are constantly asked not only in Alice, but all over Australia, is obvious; Why would anyone want to leap from a balloon high in the sky wearing only a puffy suit with wings attached?

For Mr Singleman, who trained as a doctor, the answer lies partly in medical science, and partly in the couple’s shared competitive spirit.

“Heather and I already have the world record for altitude wingsuit base jumping, and once you’ve got one world record you’ve got this sort of stuff in your system” he said.

“I’ve done a lot of study on the personality type of people who go after world records and this type of achievement and high sensation seekers.

“There’s some research now that points to the fact that high sensation seekers, the explorers of the world, they’ve probably got a genetic trait. They’ve got more copies of (what they call) the thrill gene.

“I’ve actually had my genes analysed and I’ve got exactly what the textbook says I should have. There’s a genetic imperative if you like for me to challenge myself to go after high goals and work towards these kind of pushing-the-envelope type projects.

“And that’s just the kind of person I am. Heather’s had the same genetic analysis and she’s exactly the same. So we can always blame it on our genes.”

Mr Singleman admits there will be some jangly nerves when the pair look down from 40,000 feet and prepare to jump. But once they’ve exchanged their special skydiver handshake, all bets are off and it will be time to take the plunge.

“You wouldn’t be human if you didn’t get a little scared,” he said.

“But we have been doing this kind of stuff for so long that we’ve developed these systems. And we’ve got a lot of trust in the systems. We know the oxygen’s going to work, we know the wingsuits will work, we know the parachute’s going to work, so it’s all good.”

Thanks to the ABC team in Australia for bringing this story to my attention and best wishes to Glenn and Heather on their world record attempt. I have included a YouTube video by mcdtcw of wingsuit flying so you can get a taste of what Glenn and Heather will be doing – it is perhaps not the best representation because the wingsuit flyers in the video are jumping off a cliff but it will give you an idea of how fast they will be flying. Good luck guys.


BMX at Beijing Olympics

July 30, 2008

BMX racing is pretty straightforward. It’s flat-out racing, every man or woman for himself trying to be the fastest around the course. Riders start from a high drop and then attempt to be the fastest to negotiate their way around tracks featuring funky jumps, banked corners and other obstacles.

Eight riders compete in each heat of the Olympic BMX races, which are held on a track usually around a quarter-mile (350-370 meters) long. That means a good rider will take only about thirty seconds to get through the course.

The Laoshan BMX Venue is rippled with jumps, one huge berm down the stretch from the start and three smaller berms. It would have been more challenging if it had more ‘cross to the course, but this is good for a start. Above is an artists rendering from the official Laoshan Venue website.

USA Cycling, which oversees road racing and athletes like Tour de France contender Levi Leipheimer, is also the national governing body for BMX. They are sending eight riders to the Beijing Supercross, all expenses paid. These 8 will be hoping to qualify for a place in the finals.

There are 48 slots for BMX athletes; 32 for men and 16 for women. Only three men and two women from each of the top countries will qualify; the U.S. is the world’s top ranked country in BMX.

Four initial heats are run with the starting field of 32 male riders and 16 in the women’s event. The top four finishers in each heat then move up to the next level. This means there are four total rounds in the process to determine who’ll be standing on the medals podium at the end of the day.

The American athletes are four men: Donny Robinson, Kyle Bennett, Mike Day and Randy Stumpfhauser; and four women: Amanda Geving, Kim Hayashi, Krystal Hime and rising star Jill Kintner.

Kintner will be the one to watch. She is already a BMX/mountain bike star; she’s won the prestigous Crankworx Bikercross, two BMX World Cups and a NORBA mountain bike race, and took the win in the Australian National Mountain Bike Championships. She also won the August 4th Jeep King of the Mountain race in Park City, Utah.


Mike Parsons surfs Cotez Banks

July 29, 2008

Well, we’ve done a trilogy of articles on surfing but here’s Mike Parston’s actually surfing Cortes Bank back in January – thanks to frompalmdale : by the way you don’t have to watch the whole 5 minutes unless you want to listen to Red Hot Chilli Peppers ‘Californication’ all the way to the end – it’s kinda cool – but I reckon Mike is surfing for about 1minute 10 seconds. However, imagine the buzz you get from surfing a wave of this magnitude – an extreme buzz you could say – well done Mike!

We have subsequently been advised that this is almost definitely NOT Cortes Bank as no-one wears just a spring suit at when surfing there as it only breaks during California’s winter months and no helicopter shots have been taken of Cortes Bank as it is too far out. The wave is more likely to be Peahi (Jaws) in Maui…


Is Dalby an option?

July 29, 2008

A network of mountain bike trails costing £400,000 was opened last year in Dalby Forest, North Yorkshire – and they were reckoned good enough to be used as a possible training venue for teams taking part in the 2012 Olympic games

The question of whether the forest could host the event has now been raised after plans to use a course in Essex were dropped because the area was too flat.

The organising committee of the games is thought to prefer another site in Essex as it would be nearer London.

But the International Cycle Union has not ruled out a venue further away.

When the trails were launched last year the Forestry Commission said it hoped the all-weather network could be used for Olympic training.

The forest boasts the most extensive mountain bike trails in England covering 34 miles.

I added a short You Tube video by cortaction which shows some of the terrain. The information above came from Trevor Hayes of the Scarborough Evening News.

Whatever they decide they have plenty of time to make a decision – Beijing hasn’t started yet!


Canadian to lead mountain bike challenge from Turkey to China

July 28, 2008

Ben Shillington is going on a bike tour – a very long bike tour. In fact, his mountain bike trip will cover 11,000 kilometres from Istanbul, Turkey to Beijing, China.

His love of adventure has taken him to Europe, Nepal, Australia, across North America and to other corners of the world. This week, it’s taking him to Turkey. He will be leading 16 cyclists (four others will connect with the group for part of the trip) through mountains, deserts and along the seas during the four-month expedition. The group will travel through countries such as Georgia, Azerbaijan, Kyrgyzstan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan. The trip is one of four offered by Tour d’Afrique.

“It’s a small company that runs multi-day mountain bike expeditions around the world,” says Shillington. “This trip is called the Silk Route and follows one of the ancient silk trade routes.”

The company also offers a Cairo to Cape Town African excursion, a trip from Paris to Istanbul and a South American trip from Rio to Quito. Shillington says people can follow the expeditions online at He learned of the company through a biking magazine. He sent in a resumé, had a telephone interview and a two-hour personal interview; he was hired in April as a tour leader and mechanic.

“This will be the biggest trip that I’ve guided,” he says. “Even though I’m 26, I’m still the youngest on the trip.” Most of the participants are in their mid-thirties.

The cyclists bring their own mountain or touring bike and a helmet. They are also encouraged to bring spare parts, personal effects (prescriptions, first aid), a tent and sleeping bag and layers of clothing appropriate for temperatures ranging from -15C to +35C. They are each allowed only two 90-litre duffle bags on the trip. The cyclists had to apply for several visas and the company helped out with the paperwork. They’ve been told to carry U.S. currency in smaller bills and photocopies of their personal papers.

Usually, the tour will consist of six days riding and one day off for the duration of the trek. Seventy-five per cent of the time, the cyclists will be camping. One of the campsites is next to the Great Wall of China.

A support van carrying food, some camping equipment and other gear, will travel with the group. Every evening, the next day’s route is mapped out and given to the cyclists. In the morning the bikers head out, riding in groups or alone. They all meet up at a marked destination point. Depending on the region, the cyclists could cover 95-160 kilometres daily, but the average is 120 kilometres.

Safety is paramount to the group. “There are lots of hurdles to get across the borders,” Shillington says. “We want to keep the group as safe as we can.” Police escorts have been arranged through some cities.

When he goes on a trek, Shillington says he is pushing his body and his mind.

“It takes you to a different level – it’s a confidence builder,” he says. “I come back with more knowledge and wisdom. You get taken out of your comfort zone, you get your eyes opened. You realize what things in life are important.”

He says he is always ready for another trip. “While I’m on one trip, I’m already planning the next one,” he says. There are still many places in the world he wants to see, but he rates a trip to Antarctic as top on his list. “I’m living my dream,” he says. “And I’m thankful for that every day.”

We at laud this pioneering spirit and wish Ben and his team the very best of luck – let us hope the wind is at his back and he has a successful tour. Further I would like to thank Heather Kendall of Barry’s Bay Weekly for bringing my attention to this story.


Ben Shillington, who grew up in Barry’s Bay and is an instructor at Algonquin College in Pembroke, is leading a mountain bike expedition from Istanbul in Turkey to Beijing, China.