As the new girl in the Alpkit team I’m quite excited to be writing my first daring deed! Jim has asked us to write about our favourite bit of this weekend’s Big Shakeout festival. Yeh.. just one bit! It’s pretty quiet in the Alpkit office today, maybe because we’re all shattered, or maybe because we’re all sifting through pictures, tweets, messages and great memories of the festival. So here is my pick of the weekend…
My favourite bit of Big Shakeout 2011 part A:
Saturday evening… where to begin? Saturday’s weather had been absolutely perfect and as the sun set over the Big Shakeout festival there was a smell of wood smoke in the air and a very special atmosphere settled around the campsite; that atmosphere where you just know that the whole festival is gearing up for a good party.
We had a few special things up our Alpkit sleeves to add a bit of sparkle to the night. These included some awe-inspiring films, fire logs, excellent bands and about 200 tealight candles (oh and a well-stocked bar). After chilling out watching the films we busied ourselves with lighting the pathway of candles up to the yurt and through to the campfire circle while the rest of the team set up for the music. Once all the prep had been done we got a chance to let our hair down a bit and enjoy the evening with all the brilliant people we’d met during the day. It was a crisp 4ºC and I think we could safely say that the summer had gone, but it didn’t seem to matter when we were stood by the roaring fire under the golden trees and listening to Rik Warren’s blues. It was great to hear people commenting on all of the things we’d worked hard to organise that day. Later we moved back down to the marquee for some faster tempo music (and to re-visit the bar). The evening then faded into the very small hours of the morning with some serious dance moves, some games involving stones, some beatboxing (!) and a lot of Alpfun. I think one tweeter summed it up perfectly; any party that ends in a yurt is a very good party!
My favourite bit of Big Shakeout 2011 part B:
(Yes ok, I’ve picked 2 things and cleverly disguised it as one article but I can’t choose between them.) Having caught the dreaded and potent Alpcold I’ll admit I was not particularly motivated to get up early to do 360 Oudoors resin-to-rock bouldering course on Saturday. Having emerged from my tent to a field of mist and frost I tried to convince myself that my lack of appetite for breakfast was due to my cold and not nerves. I’d seen some of the bouldering moves from the climbing competition a couple of weeks ago and wasn’t convinced that a pair of borrowed rock boots and freshly-stuffed Alpkit Phud was going to turn me into a climber. Oh, and did I mention I’m not great with heights?!
Meeting our instructor James and the other people on the course calmed my nerves a bit. James obviously knew what he was doing and most of the group seemed to have limited experience of bouldering so we were all about the same level. We drove out to Cratcliffe Tor and took a brisk walk from the layby up out of the mist to the crags. My first challenge of the day was to locate the crags we’d be climbing using James’ guidebook. Once we reached the crags James explained some of the basic gritstone bouldering techniques and about spotting. I was even able to use some of the things I’ve learned in my first 2 weeks at Alpkit to tell the group about the different kinds of crash mat. We set off on a couple of basic problems and learned to trust our feet and look for subtle footholds and grips. We weren’t all able to complete every problem (much to our frustration) but James explained that sometimes this is simply due to different climbing styles, strength and height. Another aspect of bouldering that we had to master was falling off (which might sound counter-productive) but James assured us that if we weren’t scared of falling off we’d be more comfortable on the rocks. Gradually as the mist cleared from the valley the group’s confidence started to grow and everyone was completing the trickier problems, spurred on by cries of ‘Go on.. plant it!’ and ‘Send it home!!’.
I can safely say that I’ve been hooked by outdoor bouldering and I wasn’t even put off by grazed palms or constant falls! Big thanks to James Blake from 360 Outdoors for running the course! Check out the amazing pictures on the Big Shakeout Flickr feed.
We’re back in the office now and things are nearly back to normal (apart from the odd turnip knocking about the office… ask Jenni on that one). My voice is completely gone (last heard in a yurt in the wee small hours of Sunday morning) and I haven’t shifted my Alpcold yet but my head is full of memories of an absolutely blinding weekend and I can’t wait for next year!