2018 - A Year In Pictures

2nd Jan 2019

When asked about why I love the outdoor life so much, I always say it is because of the seasons.  Of course,  it is spending time with amazing people, challenging myself and seeing incredible places, but the seasons are the glue that holds it all together.  

The activities there to enjoy in the winter are so different to the summer and it is this constantly changing playground that keeps it interesting and brings constantly evolving adventures to enjoy.  

As one season leads to another it can be easy to forget what has gone before and the start of a new year, as the seasons have come around full circle, can be a great time to look back on some of the photos of the year past.  

So,  we hope you'll stick with us as we self indulgently share some highlights of 2018.  We’ll add a new one each day to cover the 12 months of the year and explain a little about what makes the photo such a powerful memory of a great adventure.  We really hope you enjoy them and maybe there will be something to inspire you too….


Becoming a parent is the most enriching thing I’ve ever done.  It has been a continual adventure and the Peak Mountaineering juniors are a constant joy and one of the most fulfilling aspects of the parenting journey is introducing the boys to the same types of activities that Caroline and I have found to be so formative in our own lives.  

In January we took them to ice climb and ski in Rjukan in Norway.  This was their first visit to this special place and they loved it.  The photo below was taken on our first day as we headed into the popular ice climbing venue of Krokan.  We rounded a corner and Ben stood looking up the gorge with excitement and anticipation.  It was a priceless moment and we went on to enjoy a great week of climbing, skiing and exploring the wartime history of this valley community.

Rjukan Norway


February is always a tough month to choose a photo from.  I generally get some great snaps from Scotland and we also ran another Feb trip to Norway where I grabbed some of the best photos I may ever have taken (not that that sets the bar too high!).  But, the one I've chosen is closer to home and is another memory of a fun family adventure (I promise they aren't all going to be family adventures).  I'm going to come clean though, this wasn't even taken in February and was actually shot on March 4th - but hopefully close enough to be acceptable?!

This was one of those chance days where all the family had free time and reports from friends were that Kinder Downfall was climbable.  Those who know the famous waterfall that tumbles off Kinder Plateau may also know that sometimes, after a sustained cold spell, the water that has trickled down the main wall freezes enough for it to become a fun ice climb.

I've climbed it many times and in times gone by it used to be that someone would wander up to check it out and report back to the local climbing community.  Nowadays,  online sources means that everyone knows as soon as it is in climbable condition.  This also means, if you don't want to be in a long queue, you need to start very early to arrive first (it often also gets climbs during the night for those seeking an after work hit).

So, on this Sunday we dragged the boys out of bed well before light,  walked in by head torch and.....still were behind another party!  Even so,  we arrived to find a crumbling yet climbable with care Downfall and enjoyed a great adventure winding our way up.  By the time we left there must have been a dozen teams waiting below and yet we were in the Hayfield cafe by lunchtime.  A priceless quick hit adventure.  

Kinder Downfall  


Cal and I first visited Morocco as 20 year old students (which we can't deny is quite a few years ago now!) and we instantly fell in love with the place.  It is a place of contrasts, a place of great beauty and it is home to some of the friendliness people we've ever met.  Since then, we've regularly visited on personal trips, have taken our own children and have run countless Peak Mountaineering trips in the High Atlas and Middle Atlas mountains.  I always relish our trips there and really love introducing our clients to this very special place.

For March I have chosen a photo from last year's mountaineering trip.  I must own up straight away and say that this photo was taken by trip participant Pete rather than myself, but I am sure he won't mind me using it and it does represent so much about the adventure to be enjoyed in the Atlas Mountains.  The photo was taken as we walked up towards the Toubkal Refuge which would be our base for the next few nights as we ascended some of the surrounding routes.  

As you approach there is the beauty of the natural environment to enjoy, the people you meet to chat too as you walk, the anticipation of the adventures ahead and the exhilaration that comes with being in the outdoors.  I have walked up to the refuge many times and love the journey every time.  

Walking to Toubkal Refuge in the Atlas Mountains


After a busy winter there is that wonderful feeling that spring has arrived and I had some great adventures to look forward too.  I had an amazing trip to cross the beautiful Knoydart Peninsula in Scotland with a group of executives, I climbed multi-pitch routes on the Costa Blanca in Spain and got a good number of days out on the local gritstone crags and the mountain bike  I have a bunch of great photos for all these trips and choosing something good would be simple, but I have chosen a more curveball option.  

One of the favourite elements of my work is helping to train and assess future mountain leaders. It is an intense process and so the candidates I see are usually focussed and dedicated individuals and being able to assist them on their journey is such a privilege.

This photo was on the first day with a brilliant group of assessment candidates.  We had an initial navigation day in the Peak District’s Derwent Valley and it was great to get to know these motivated people who had prepped well and were totally engaged in all aspects of the scheme.  I love this photo. 

Mountain Leader Training Group


There could really only be one photo choice for May.  Every spring, for the last 5 years, we have joined forces with the Peak Park Conservation Volunteers and a generous bunch of local instructors to organise and run the Peak District Pick & Play event.  The concept is simple - invite members of the public to spend half a day collecting litter around our beloved national park and then offer them a range of outdoor activities as a reward.  The event is completely free and all ages are welcome.  We always worry about whether anyone will turn up but probably should know better by now - over the years the event has grown and last year we welcomed over 140 people!  The event is also generously supported by a number of brands and it wouldn't be possible without them.

In a day we can only clean up a small section of the park, but the Pick & Play is as much about educating people about the litter problem and highlighting the importance of responsible use.  By the end of the day we have a mountain of rubbish (the photo below was taken at lunchtime so this is less than half the amount collected) and with people having tried a range of new outdoor activities.  Our business has to support a family but we can't deny it is being able to offer this sort of event that says the most about why we love being in business.  

Oh, and the date for 2019 is May 12th so please do get in touch here if you'd like to join us for round 6 (and tell your family, friends, neighbours, colleagues, acquaintances and spread the word widely for us).  

Pick and Play 2018 Group


The long hot summer of 2018 was fantastic.  The endless days of sunshine felt like they would never end and it was a blissful time to be in the Peak District.  We climbed and biked and swam and ran.....and then did it some more.  On some days I headed out to instruct first thing in the morning and wasn't home until the dipping sun disappeared over the horizon.   

It was again hard to pick just one photo but. as I flicked through the possibilities,  The beaming smiles on these two stood out. The photo chosen for June is a memory of some of those special instructing days where motivated and fun clients combine with lush conditions to make a peach of a day.  

Greg was visiting from America and Victoria had booked for them to do a few days of climbing as a surprise - and he truly loved gritstone (who doesn't?!).  We tackled route after route and built belays, abseiled, bouldered and chatted (a lot).  It was just one of those special experiences and a perfect memory of this special year.  I hope you feel the buzz from these two as well? 

Greg and Victoria Peak District Climbing     


Scrambling is one of my favourite mountain sports and Snowdonia is a great playground.  Acres of quality vertical rock classics await and there are plenty of link ups can be joined in a day.  Moving fast and light is fantastic fun and pure adventure.

Over the summer months Peak Mountaineering runs a lot of scrambling courses and, although I don't get to do them all myself, I love it when I do get chance to head out with clients.  One of my favourite courses for 2018 was a July trip with Damian and Malcolm because when you take two motivated and competent mountain men and dry rhyolite you can be assured of some very memorable times.  

Over two busy days we linked up a stack of lines and covered a host of essential skills that the guys can take forward to their future playtime and the photo I've chosen sums up our time together - Damian near the top of another star Idwal option.

Damian Scrambling in Snowdonia     


I looked through the photos for August and it was so hard to pick. This was a month when we had exciting film projects with Channel 5, Mountain Hardwear and Columbia as well as working with social media influencers, families (a lot of families), stag/hen and corporate groups plus our usual selection of individuals and couples.  Choosing one photo to represent a month like that is very tricky.  It is also hard to pick because the sun just seemed to keep on shining (except during a couple of the filming projects!) and so snapping a good photo in those conditions is easy.

In the end, though, it came down to mountain biking.  I knew there had to be a photo from this year's mountain biking adventures in this collection somewhere and this was one of my faves.  This year has been such a brilliant one to be out on two wheels.  The trails have been in perfect condition and the long summer evenings have presented endless after work opportunities.  It has really been the year.  

This shot was a quick capture towards the end of a quick blast around one of our local circuits and we were racing to get home before dark.  The temperatures were spot on and the riding sublime.  That sunset topped it all off.  I'm so glad we stopped to get the photo.  What is not to love about off road adventures?!

Mountain Biking Sunset


We had a very busy September and the sun continued to shine (most of the time) - it felt like the summer that kept on giving.  There was another film project, our autumn trip to Morocco, various climbing courses and a bunch more biking.  It continued.  However, I have picked something for this month that is rather personal.  

At the start of September we joined many hundreds of other riders for the Scott MTB Marathon event in the Hope Valley.  This was personal because both the Peak Mountaineering juniors have attended/still attend the Hope Valley College where the event is based.  Personal because we know a number of people that take part and organise it, but personal mostly because it has become an event honouring the memory of the much loved Charlie Craig.

Charlie was a Hope Valley pupil who tragically, went to sleep on 21/1/2017 and never woke up.  Charlie was a remarkable young man who, as well as being an incredibly talented cyclist, was a good friend to our son Ben and a much loved brother to Tom and son to Nick and Sarah.  Nick is a legendary cyclocross and mountain bike rider and Scott rider and the event has become a yearly tribute to Charlie (and it raises a significant amount for the Ride For Charlie charity his parents have set up to support talented young riders).  

The main event is on Sunday but the photo I've chosen is from the start line of the Saturday night ride.  There is something really special about lining up alongside a crowd of other enthusiasts and blasting the trails surrounding the valley well into the night.  I hope this photo sums up that buzz.   

Hope Valley Mountain Bike Marathon   


By October we were well into autumn and, in many ways, it is my favourite season.  Crisp mornings, rustling leaves, the clear air and grippy gritstone.  It is hard to beat an autumn morning and, although I readily admit to being hopelessly biased, impossible to beat a Peak District autumn morning.

Often,  when I am office based on such a morning,  I head out for a pre work ride or a run to MamTor which sits just behind our office.  Besides being a lovely hill, MamTor gives a great perspective past our home village and down the Hope Valley.  It never fails to set me up well for the day ahead.  

So, for October I thought I’d use a photo from one of those early morning rides.  This is taken from the top of the famous broken road which sits below MamTor and, as you can see,  another feature of crisp autumn days is often these spectacular inversions.  I hope you enjoy it.  

Hope Valley morning


As I spent a chunk of November trekking in Nepal, it really wasn't hard to find a suitable photo. That isn't because I'm any great shakes as a photographer (quite the opposite!), but simply because wherever you point the camera in those big mountains will give you a great result.  The problem is more about which single photo you end up with sums up the serenity and beauty of these amazing peaks and the warmth of this stunning country.

Our Peak Mountaineering autumn trip involved taking a large group to Kala Patthar (the peak overlooking Everest Base Camp) and it all proved to be a great adventure.  There are very few places where, for several weeks, you can immerse yourself in the landscape.  You feel very small and that is a humbling and yet very special feeling.  The locals you meet, the traditional food you enjoy, the fresh air and the time to simply 'be' - it is an intoxicating mix.  

After much deliberation I really like the photo I've chosen.  Once you get to the village of Dingboche you are at a significant point on the trail.  The route towards Everest leads one way and a valley towards Lhotse and Island Peak head the other. It is a truly beautiful spot.  It is typical to make an acclimatisation walk from the village onto the nearby ridge line and we did this too.  A few hundred metres of ascent and the view towards Island Peak opens up (it is the obvious peak to the left of Helen in the photo).  Island Peak was a training peak for the 1953 Everest Expedition and makes a great first 6000 metre peak.  As soon as she saw it Helen was planning a return sometime down the line!

Dingboche View   


And so all good things must come to an end....and my selection of 2018 photos is no exception.  We are already at December.  After a hectic year it was time to hit the steeps of the Alps and see in the new year with snow under our feet.  The weather Gods shone and we had great snow and blue skies.  Mix this with some fine French wine, yummy fondues, great company and the beauty of the French Alps and there really is no better to say 'au revoir' to one year and 'bonjour' to another.

This photo was taken at the end of a long day enroute back to the apartment.  It was one of those sunsets you just couldn't ignore!  I hope you've enjoyed my photos from the year and I'll be trying to snap some more good photos for another collection at the end of this one - just some adventures to enjoy in meantime.  I wish everyone reading a very happy and adventure packed year and I also hope we get a chance to meet some of you long the way.   

French Alps

  Posted by Paul