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Ice Climbing in the UK

Find out where to go Ice Climbing in the UK and what the experience if like from our ice climbing in Scotland adventure.

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At this altitude each breath is increasingly harder as I try to suck in as much oxygen as possible out of the thin air. My breath hangs visibly in the air around my head every time I exhale as the temperature hovers around -2 degrees Celsius on our ice climbing in the UK adventure.

The lack of oxygen is starting to affect my muscles. Or is it the fact that we have constantly been going vertical now for nearly 2 hours. My left leg uncontrollably shudders again from the exertion as I cling to the solid ice wall. My fingers lock in a death grip on the slippery handles of my ice axe, the points of which are sunk no more than 2 cm into the glistening ice.

Splinters of ice continue to rain down upon my helmet every time I work them loose to drive them home again and again and again.

My head rings with the advice of the guide; “keep your heals down to work the crampons into the ice”. But instead my big toes ache from banging around inside my boot as they scramble for grip on the tiniest ledges. My brain cannot comprehend how these tiny 1 inch spikes hold my weight.

The stiff and frozen rope disappears above my head to loop around a single tiny ring of metal which is supposed to hold me in place once I take the inevitable slip. The other end is knotted in a haphazard looking fashion to my climbing harness which is starting to chaff in the most uncomfortable places. My forearms feel like they have been dipped in burning oil from the tension and I can tell they will only support my weight for a few more minutes at best.

And then the final piece of advice from the guide slowly creeps its way back into my mind…

One last thing, whatever you do, DON’T look down”

I cannot help it. That overwhelming urge to know how far I will fall to my untimely death consumes me. I risk a glance over my shoulder to the abyss below me…

Oh hurry up Cole you are nearly there!”

Rudely awakened from reverie I realise I am only 10m off the ground and in the safety of the world’s largest indoor ice climbing facility located in the heart of the Highlands of Scotland and not clinging to the side of Mount Kilimanjaro. Damn this is hard.

Ice Climbing in the UK

Ice Climbing in the UK

We ventured up to Kinlochleven in Scotland for a short weekend of adventure and to try our hand for the very first time at a spot of ice climbing in the UK. Now I can count the number of times I have been indoor rock climbing on one hand and definitely do not consider myself to be an expert at all.

In addition, I have been blessed with my Dad’s sense of Acrophobia, more commonly known as being afraid of heights so ice climbing in the UK gave me cold sweats before we even donned our climbing gear.

Ice Climbing in the UK

Slightly confused how this tiny piece of metal will hold us up

However, whenever I am faced with putting myself outside my comfort zone it always helps that I am highly competitive. This competitive streak has helped me overcome a number of different trials and there was no way I was going to let my mate Simon get the better of me by getting higher than I could. With that in mind we signed up.

We were told to dress warmly before we arrived and I am glad we did as the indoor venue is literally a gigantic freezer with the ice scraping the roof at a height around 13m.

Now that might not seem very high to some people but for sufferers of acrophobia it is the equivalent of scaling Everest. We spent about 15 minutes at the beginning with the guide getting kitted up with crampons, ice axes and nut-squeezing harnesses before being let loose on the wall.

Ice Climbing in the UK

When I say let loose I really mean it.

5 minutes of instructions with a quick tutorial on how to belay each other (in other words putting your life in someone else’s hands) and how to most effectively use our crampons and ice axes was the basics we needed. The simple instruction of “don’t smack yourself in the face or anyone else in the face with the ice axe” were duly noted as we swung as we hacked our way up the beginner wall.

Chunks the size of my fist rained down on the spectators below. We were very glad we had the helmets while ice climbing in the UK.

Ice Climbing in the UK

With the guide watching dutifully over our shoulders and only 5 in our group we quickly progressed from the beginner wall to the much higher and harder wall where they had held the Scottish Championships the day before.

I really was not lying in my story above, it really was that hard.

For the best part of 15 minutes I had clawed my way to within 1m of the top when I physically could not go on any further. My legs trembled, whether from exertion or my fear of heights I am not sure, and my forearms and hands just seized up completely. It took the remainder of my strength just to prise the ice axes out of the ice wall and swing out into the open air behind me to be lowered to the floor.

Ice Climbing in the UK

Thankfully I managed to get higher than Adela.

Have you been Ice Climbing in the UK?

Cole is one half of New Zealand's leading adventure travel blogging couple who have been wearing out their jandals around the world since 2009. He loves any adventure activities and anything to do with the water whether it is Surfing, Diving, Swimming, Snorkeling or just lounging nearby on the beach. You can follow Cole on Google+. Or consider following us via RSS Feed, Twitter, Facebook and subscribe to our Newsletter.

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12 Comments

12 Comments

  1. Christy @ Technosyncratic

    October 17, 2011 at 12:47 PM

    Holy crap, this sounds…. awful. I mean fun! Awfully fun!

    You can tell I’m not a big fan of climbing or ice, lol, but I did enjoy reading this from a safe distance. 🙂

    • Cole and Adela (fourjandals)

      October 17, 2011 at 2:14 PM

      It was lots of fun (and hopefully I didn’t exaggerate too much in the story haha). You have to try it, I am petrified of heights and managed ok. The hardest bit was the effort, we were all exhausted after 2 hours but cannot wait to try it again.

  2. bronwen burmester

    October 17, 2011 at 7:47 PM

    LOVE it!!!! Haha

  3. Stephanie - The Travel Chica

    October 18, 2011 at 7:22 PM

    Wow! I didn’t even know places like this exist.

    • Cole and Adela (fourjandals)

      October 19, 2011 at 2:15 PM

      Yea it was pretty amazing actually Stephanie. If you are ever over in Scotland you will have to try it out.

  4. Reena @ Wanderplex

    October 26, 2011 at 9:02 PM

    Wow, that sounds both terrifying and thrilling… what a great experience!

    • Cole and Adela (fourjandals)

      October 27, 2011 at 1:12 PM

      Hi Reena. Yea it was petrifying and yet so rewarding when we made it to the top. So hard to trust the people below why were belaying each of us, even though they were our mates! Definitely would love to try more climbing.

  5. lawnmower

    November 5, 2011 at 4:14 AM

    Great! thanks for the share!
    Arron

  6. Erin at The World Wanderer

    April 7, 2013 at 6:50 PM

    This is amazing! I wanted to try ice climbing this year, but it didn’t happen. LOVE that this is an indoor facility for it. Sounds like a place I will have to visit for myself one of these days. You should be so proud of yourself, I can only imagine how difficult it must be.

    • Cole Burmester

      April 8, 2013 at 8:39 AM

      I can’t stand heights so it was a real challenge. But still LOTS of fun and you should definitely try it if you make it over here!

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Adventure Travel

Tips for Planning Your Uluru Tour

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Located in the Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park, the magnificent sandstone of Ayers Rock or Uluru stands tall at 1,142 feet above ground. The natural formation is widely known for being one of the most sacred places to the indigineous peoples in Australia. At the same time, it is also popular for attracting tourists from all over the world to the land down under.

If you want to visit Uluru in order to pay tribute to this wonder of nature, then doing so through the right tour is in your best interest. It’s not only because Uluru is located at least a few hours from civilization, but it also because such a tour allows you to enjoy the picturesque sights that come along the way within the Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park.

So what sights are there to see along the way and what other general tours suggestions you should keep in mind while visiting Uluru? To help you answer these and some other important questions, here are 5 top tips to keep in mind while visiting Uluru.

Don’t Climb the Monolith

First things first, while it is legal to climb atop Uluru, it is recommended that you do not attempt such an action in order to show your respect to the indigenous peoples.

It is a pretty easy rule to follow when you pay attention to the emotions of the indigenous tribes who have recommended time and again for people to not climb Uluru.

But that doesn’t mean that you cannot enjoy the natural beauty that Uluru has to offer. In fact, you are encouraged to visit the sandstone and take in its natural glory by standing right beside the formation. That’s why 4WD tour is highly recommended. The tour guides would be able to tell you what you can and can not do.

Visit During Sunset

Ask anyone who has visited Uluru about the best time to see the formation, and you will instantly get the answer as “sunset.”

It’s because Uluru is not an ordinary monolith, but one that is formed through arkosic sandstone. This allows the rock to actually change its color according to the position of the sun. As a result, you can expect the formation to sport a different color depending upon what time of day you reach it.

At sunset, Uluru projects an amber glow that is surreal to take in, especially when you are seeing the formation in person for the very first time. That’s why, it is recommended that you time your trip in a way that allows you to experience this magnificent sight.

3. Take Your Time to Plan the Trip

Perhaps the best way to visit Uluru is through the nearby town of Alice Springs, which has various amenities and accommodation options for tourists who are making their way to the Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park.

The drive from Alice Springs to Uluru can take around 5 hours, which is why it is recommended that you arrive at least a day before you are planning to tour Uluru.

This way, you can reach the national park while feeling fresh and rested. This also gives you time to plan longer trips to the park in order to enjoy all that it has to offer.

4. Take in the Sight of the Rock Art

Uluru is not just a wonder to look at by itself, but it also holds several little pieces of wonderful art within it.

The caves at the bottom of the formation hold several pieces of rock art that can only be found at Uluru. If you love learning about other cultures through their art, then this will be a must visit.

Just make sure that you take the time to learn about this art through a local tour guide or via the information provided within these exhibits. This ensures that you have an immersive and informative experience which you can remember for a long time.

5. Don’t Forget the Natural Attractions Around the Rock

Enjoying the breathtaking sight of Uluru sounds rewarding enough for a trip to the Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park. But it’s not all that you can do during a tour of Uluru.

From seeing the red kangaroos and other marsupials to spending some time with the camels, and from seeing the one of a kind formations of Kata Tjuta to taking a walk by the Valley of the Winds, there’s so much to see and do around Uluru.

That is why, it is recommended that you take your time at the park and put aside at least two days to enjoy all of the unique activities that the area has to offer. It would give you a well-deserved break from the hustle and bustle of daily life while also allowing you to make the most out of your long journey to the sandstone.

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Adventure Travel

Best Time to Visit Panama and Costa Rica

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The fact that Costa Rica and Panama are close makes both countries perfect for visiting. During your holiday there, it’s easy to travel back and forth between the two countries and enjoy all the wonders they have to offer. Keep in mind that the timing of your holiday will influence what sorts of sites you can visit and what activities you can make part of your plans. By understanding a little about what to expect, it’s easy to determine the best time of year to visit both countries, based on what you would like to do.

Learning More About the Dry and Rainy Seasons

If you’re the type who prefers the hustle and bustle that comes with holidays during the tourist season, plan on being in Costa Rica and Panama during what’s known as the dry season. Expect plenty of sunshine and warm weather during this part of the year. Many of your activities will be outdoors, although you will find a number of indoor sites that you will want to include in your plans.

The dry seasons in both countries overlap. The dry weather for both typically arrives during the first to the middle part of December. In Costa Rica, the dry season usually lingers until sometime in April. Panama enjoys a slightly shorter dry season, with it usually ending sometime in March.

Keep in mind that since this dry period is the height of the tourist season, the cost of visiting from December to April will be higher than at other times of the year. Even so, if your plans include spending a lot of time exploring the rain forests or soaking in the rays on one or more of the beautiful beaches, the dry season is the only time to consider.

Making the Most of the Dry Seasons

During the dry season in both nations, do expect the weather to be more humid and the day temperatures to be a little higher. There is some variance depending on which regions you plan on visiting. As a general rule, locations nearer the coast will include warmer weather and higher levels of humidity. By contrast, the more mountainous areas will offer slightly cooler temperatures and lower humidity levels.

During this time, do plan on enjoying the lush greenery found in the rain forests. During much of the dry season, the abundance of rain from what’s known as the rainy or green season ensures that the forests are at their best. Consider adding some variety to your holiday by spending time at the beach, soaking in the nightlife along the coast, and doing some shopping at many of the open air districts. This is also the perfect timing to enjoy some of the local cuisine while dining outside.

There are special events to celebrate during the dry season. President’s Day in Costa Rica occurs during this period. Along with locals, you can enjoy a number of celebrations, open-air festivals, and just about any type of entertainment that one can imagine.

Since the dry season does attract more tourists, it pays to book your lodgings in advance. Along with President’s Day, there’s also spring break and the Easter Season to consider. While you could look at different hotels and other properties near beaches, there are also hostels that make perfect places to sleep. After all, how much time do you plan on spending indoors when there’s so much to do?

Things to Do During the Rainy Seasons

In spite of the name, it isn’t always raining during the rainy or green season. Most days, there will be brief periods of sunshine that do allow you to spend some time at the beach and other outdoor venues. Do expect the evenings to be cooler. At times, the temperature may make wearing long sleeves or possibly a sweater a good idea.

Even if you’re out and about while it’s raining, there are plenty of things to see. Towns and cities in both nations offer indoor concerts, a number of restaurants catering to all sorts of tastes, and clubs and other settings for entertainment. You will find museums that will tell you more about the history of indigenous peoples and the complexity of their cultures.

What are some of the activities you can enjoy during this time of year? Both Costa Rica and Panama offer options to go horseback riding. Generally, this will happen during the morning when the sun is most likely to be out. Walking tours are also a great way to learn more about the culture and possibly find some interesting places that you will want to return to a little later. Don’t overlook the opportunity to get in some fishing when there’s a sunny morning coming your way. There are changes to engage in freshwater fishing as well as charter boats that will take you to some of the better places to enjoy salt-water fishing.

Coffee and rum tours are also something to consider during the rainy season. These tours allow you the opportunity to see different facilities and how they produce their products. As a bonus, you get to enjoy some taste-testing at many of the places that you visit along the tour. Some of the sites will also have bistros or restaurants included, allowing you to enjoy a nice meal or snack with your coffee or rum.

In terms of museums to visit, San Jose offers some of the most interesting museums in Costa Rica. Many of them are located in or adjacent to what’s known as the Central Market. It’s a great way to enjoy time indoors during the rainy afternoons and early evenings.

In Panama, check out the Panama Canal Museum in Casco Viejo. You can make use of headphones that offer the guided tour in multiple languages. If you happen to be proficient in Spanish, feel free to check out each exhibit on your own. You can also check out the Biodiversity Museum, which features exhibits on the over 1,000 species of animals and plants that are found in the country. Make the most of the discounts offered on Sundays. Retirees also get to enjoy discounts when visiting these museums.

Which season is the best time to visit Costa Rica and Panama? It’s really up to you. For those who prefer a slower pace and don’t mind rain during the afternoons and evenings, the raining season is ideal. Those who thrive on activity, sunshine, and plenty of tourist activities will enjoy going during the dry season. Whatever your choice, plan on coming back a second time. It’s rare for anyone to see everything they want to see during a single holiday.

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Adventure Travel

Most Underrated Travel Destinations

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Everyone knows about Paris and Rome and London but there are so many other beautiful travel destinations that are amazingly underrated. The fact that so many beautiful countries go unexplored by travelers is a tragedy. Not only because so many people are missing out on rich cultures and picturesque views, but also because a lot of these destinations tend to be a lot cheaper to travel to than popular cities. 

A majority of Americans, when asked about traveling abroad, will likely shake their head and say they can’t afford such trips. Many people deal with multiple monthly bills, such as mortgage or rent, student loans, and title loans, which are all stress inducing. 

But what a lot of people don’t know is that there are gorgeous, underrated foreign cities one can visit for a fraction of the price of touristy European cities. Forbes recently published a collection of the ten most underrated destinations you should consider visiting. 

Here are a few of them:

Yerevan, Armenia

Yerevan, the capital of Armenia, is known for its magnificent sights of Mount Ararat, historical monasteries, and its many striking temple ruins. Armenian cuisine is other worldly with classic dishes like rabbit stew, sautéed eggplant rolls, and lamb tartare. 

Telč, Czechia

Telč is a colorful town with Italian influences in Czechia. It boasts of Baroque-Renaissance architecture and has a castle of its own with exciting tunnels and passageways that you can explore underneath the town.

Santiago, Chile

Santiago is the capital of Chile and features gorgeous architecture from the neoclassical era. There are towering cathedrals and, of course, plenty of quality Chilean wine. Plus, the city of Santiago is a great place to kick off your exploration of Chile’s wine country. 

Rotterdam, the Netherlands

Rotterdam is often ignored due to the popular neighboring city of Amsterdam, but it is a bastion of underground music and street art. The architecture is strikingly modern since the city was heavily bombed during World War II and thus had to be rebuilt from the ground up. The city is filled to the brim with amazing cuisine and museums.

Lagos, Nigeria

If you are looking for a big city destination, Lagos is a metropolis that has plenty to see and do so that you’ll never be bored. And whenever you need a break from the urban marketplaces, private beaches are just a short drive away.

Con Dao, Vietnam

Con Dao is a Southeast Asian island that makes an excellent beach destination with two resorts and tons of fascinating history. Once host to a brutal French prison, the island is also home to the tomb of the Vietnamese martyr Vo Thi Sau. 

Colonia del Sacramento, Uruguay

This is one of the oldest cities in Uruguay dating back to the 17th century. The city has a vibrantly decorated historic quarter and a three-century-old convent. It’s also only a short trip away from the bigger city of Montevideo.

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Meet Cole and Adela

Cole and AdelaWe have been wearing out our jandals (Kiwi for flip-flops) on our travel adventures around the world since 2009. We think our blog is thought provoking and a little witty. But we have been proven wrong before. Find out more about us here...

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