High is the word

I probably don’t have to tell you that I love the mountains, there is something magical and energetic that radiates from those big lumps of rock. 
For many people the idea of spending two nights out in the high mountains, in a cold basic shelter with no electricity,  running water, fire or toilets might not sound like much of a holiday. For Jens, Tara and I this basic refugio, sitting at 3200m in the Sierra Nevada mountains, was exactly where we needed to be to practice alpine skills. This simple shelter became our base, not just for easy mountain access but also to sit outside in the moonlight to listen to, well, nothing. The mountains are alive,  they creak, they groan, they sigh, sometimes they warn you that they want to be alone and sometimes they sit there quietly listening to your thoughts. Spending time in them, especially in the dead of night, is like visiting an old friend who reminds you that you are pretty insignificant in the grand scheme of things. 
What brought us to this mountain shelter was an alpine introduction course with local guides Spanish Highs. Richard, the founder, had met us at the airport two days before. The following day we went out to practice scrambling in our mountaineering boots and moving together on the rope alpine style. We even managed to simulate a crevasse rescue using a rocky drop off. Despite Richard having been on this mountain many times before I watched him pausing to soak in the atmosphere and views as we picked a route up the mountain side. His mountain love is clear.
The following day he handed us over to our German guide Jens to take us up the mountain in search of some snowy conditions. With a 13kg rucksack on my back and wearing crampons for the first time in several years, I have to admit to feeling clumsy and slow heading up the mountain side at altitude. Jens broke the trudge up with skills practice,  we built snow anchors, practiced ice axe arrest and generally laughed a lot watching various things go wrong. These serious skills will need some more practice when we get the chance. Jens’s laid back approach and blunt humor worked well, giving us a chance to figure out what we were doing wrong together, rather than immediately correcting every mistake.
We reached the refugio just as the sun set behind the nearby ridge, little did we know we would be attempting that very ridge the following day. Our teamwork and education continued into the evening as we melted snow for water and made our dehydrated meals badly, who would have thought that was possible!!
The following day we climbed a morning summit near the hut before heading to the ridge. Diving straight into the training we lead off along the ridge roped together with Jens reassuringly nearby for guidance. The skills here were difficult for rock climbers to comprehend,  the idea to move quickly and safely when comfortable but protect moves when required. This is mentally challenging,  protecting every move will slow you down but you also need to remain safe. More practice will be required to nail this skill. We managed to squeeze in a short sunset hike and a further peak the following morning before heading back down the mountain to reality.
As we headed through the airport to begin our journey home we found ourselves still applying our team working skills fairly effortlessly. We may be physically exhausted, but behind that we are high on life, high on mountain love and high of the idea or our next mountain adventure,  thank you Spanish Highs!


It has been a month since my last post, when I said my goodbyes to Singapore. The long flight back to the UK and the preparations for Christmas and New Year seemed to fly by in a flurry of tinsel and baubles. Before we knew it January 4th had arrived, time for most people to return to normality. For us that meant Peter flying to Accra, in Ghana, to take up the next phase of his work project. As for me, well, I was left behind in London. This is not our normality. 
We are learning things don’t happen quickly in Ghana, they meander along at a pace that suits them. There is an element of this which is frustrating of course, but I have come to accept that frustration gets me nowhere useful.
People who know me know that I am very much into doing. We are moving to Accra so let’s go and get on with it, together. Alas this is not under our control, although there are worse places to be waiting than in London. So for now we wait. We wait for visa’s, ID, our shipment, housing, tax registration, the list goes on and on. Of course these things were all initiated some time ago, in October and November, but perhaps not soon enough for Accra’s laid back approach. It took them twelve weeks to decide we couldn’t have the house we chose in October, setting us back to square one on that front with no particular explanation as to why they couldn’t have worked that out sooner.
For me I can see 4 to 5 months (at least) disappearing just trying to manage this process and waiting for ‘stuff’ to happen. I try to make the most of being in the UK, seeing family and friends for example and planning a nice weekend away. Doing some free MOOCs online, anything to make me feel like I am achieving something. For me this maintains my sanity during the upheaval. Of course things are no easier for Peter, his work load is crazy as the vessel relocates to Ghana and he has no choice but to live, temporarily, in a hotel whilst also trying to squeeze in house hunting. As I try to remain patient and do what I can to coax the process along I am starting to feel that moving from Singapore to Accra may have to be my achievement for these ‘lost’ months. This is by no means a complaint, I accept that this is all part of the adventure we are on and this is only the beginning of getting used to African ways. I am far better at remaining patient, calm and pragmatic about these things than I used to be, this is one of the many positive influences our travels have had on my life.