Wednesday, 25 January 2012

On the kindness of others.

A quick update:

Our two lady runners have now run the marathon, so a massive well done and a huge thank you to them, Rebecca completed her ordeal in 3:48.22 and Bryony in 4:50.29 - both incredibly impressive.

Also, we at SusSAR are very happy to announce that we have been chosen as one of the four official local charities for the 2013 Brighton Marathon - so if you're interested in running for us then get in touch through our website.

Since joining SusSAR I have become acutely aware of the effort made by its members, and the members of the many other ALSAR and MR teams to help other people. We have all joined these organisations because we want to do something for others. What is also apparent is the effect our commitment to these teams has on our loved ones and the sacrifices they in turn make – it is rare that the callout text will wake me in the middle of the night, but it always wakes Mrs. W who then gently elbows me in the ribs to bring it to my attention, this will then prompt me to try and answer the text by randomly punching buttons on the TV remote before waking fully to wonder why the TV is on and tuned to some obscure channel….all of this serves to ensure that Mrs. W doesn’t get quite the nights sleep she desires or deserves, but you know what, she doesn’t moan about it, she accepts that its going to happen now and again, and its happening for the good of others. I’m sure the rest of the team has similar experiences to tell. We, as members of the team, must remember that WE volunteered; our partners, kids, families and friends did not, but without their support we would not be able to do what we do.

Thinking about this has led me to those that support us who have little or no connection to our teams, these people range from those who drop a pound in the collecting tin as they pass, to those that “like” us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter; to people like Gary Shipp, a former member of the team who has moved away to the West Country but once a year comes back to run our Mountain Bike training course for nothing but a warm feeling inside and a few cakes.

Another prime example of the kindness and support that our team does not expect and yet relies on was the efforts of a chap called David Lawton who last year ran the Barns Green Half Marathon in our aid. Now, lets make one thing quite clear, we didn’t ask David to do this; in fact we had no idea who David was at the time and it was only after we contacted him did we discover that he is a Scout Leader and members of SusSAR had given a talk on our work to his Scout group and this had prompted his generosity. He ran his race and raised in excess of £1000 for us, for which we are incredibly grateful.

This in turn brings me onto two brave young ladies, Bryony Olney and Rebecca Nicolson who are running this year’s Brighton Marathon for SusSAR. Neither are members of SusSAR, Bryony lives in the far north (well, Barnsley actually, but to you southerners it might as well be Oslo) and has no connection at all to the team, other than having been originally from Crowborough and therefore a Sussex girl, she responded to our appeal for runners on Twitter. Rebecca has some connection to the team as she is friends with one of our members, but again, like Bryony has no reason to choose us other than through kindness. Both have set up Just Giving pages:

Bryony Olney at Just Giving

Rebecca Nicolson at Just Giving

Please give them a visit and support them, and SusSAR by donating.

Bryony is also writing a Blog sharing her training experiences, it’s well worth a read.

If you would like to assist SusSAR then you can find us at Just Giving or contact us through the fundraising address on our website.

So there you have it, SusSAR and teams like it, could not and would not exist without support from our families, friends and the generosity of the public.

Thank you all.

Tuesday, 17 January 2012

Captain Robert Falcon Scott CVO

Captain Robert Falcon Scott CVO
6th June 1868 - 29th March 1912
I'm sure that many articles and blog posts will appear discussing the herculean efforts of Scott, Wilson, Oates, Bowers and Evans as 100 years ago today they reached the South Pole.

They will be written by those with far greater knowledge of the subject and individuals involved than I, but I would like to add my voice in tribute to these amazing, fine men. Having travelled in the Arctic and experienced a little of what they endured from the comfortable position of modern clothing, equipment and food, I find myself in awe that they achieved so much. In his excellent biography of Scott, Sir Ranulph Fiennes talks about Scott's detractors and debunks their gross slights against his character, I agree with his assertion that to comment on and criticise Scott then you must have experienced some of what he did.

Their efforts and eventual sacrifice are, without doubt, one of the greatest feats of bravery and endurance ever to happen. Their birth and death days should be celebrated as national occasions and marked on every calendar in the land as it is these men who epitomise the adventurous spirit of all mankind. It is the determination, willpower and must-do attitude of men like Scott and his companions that have taken man to the tops of the highest mountains, the depths of the seas and even to the moon.

For all of this we should hold these men in the highest esteem. A man needs no greater heroes than these.

Friday, 6 January 2012

Gear Review - Berghaus Men's Elite Half Zip Jacket

It became apparent during a very wet SusSAR training weekend last July that my 10-year-old Technicals (Blacks own brand) waterproof no longer qualified for the title. It had served me well; it had come with the thickest fleece Ive ever seen as a removable liner and Id used both parts in Norway as supplemental layers. The one issue Id always had with the coat was that even the shell on its own weighed a bleeding tonne (well 980g, anyway) and wasnt very packable, add in the fleece and the weight trebled and it would easily fill a daypack. Id binned the fleece a couple of years ago following a bonfire incident and now the shell was about as waterproof as a sieve. I tried reproofing it with a spray on Nikwax product but all that achieved was a bad smell, so when I finished a search exercise on the aforementioned training weekend completely soaked through I realised it was time to start looking for a replacement.

I decided on three criteria -
1. It had to be waterproof, windproof and breathable (very breathable, I sweat like a fat lass)
2. It had to be lightweight and packable; I wanted it to hide away in my pack until I needed it.
3. It had to be reasonably priced - I didnt have £400 lying around to splash out on kit.

The Berghaus Men's Elite Half Zip
I finally (after a few more soakings) got around to buying a Berghaus Elite Half Zip in Size FatBlokeoops, I mean XXL. It cost me £65 from Cotswold Outdoor, on sale from the RRP of £90. Its advertised on the Berghaus website as Fast and Light and it comes in one colour (Black with Orange zips and draw cords). If you want a different colour then you need to be a girl, as the feminine version comes in a fetching shade of brown theyve called Pumice. As the name suggests its a smock design and only has one pocket on the left sleeve. Its made from Berghaus own AQ2.5 material, which I imagine is one of the contributing factors to its low price.

My initial reaction when it arrived (very promptly a day later, well done Cotswold) was that it was incredibly light, so light I felt compelled to weigh it (yes, I know, geek) and it came in at 199g, it was also very packable - compressing down to approximately the size of a can of beer. The material feels quite soft but retains a feeling of quality and strength being ripstop. The jacket has a scooped rear hem and the hood is big enough to get a helmet under but can be reduced in volume to hug the head and move with it instead of staying put and blocking your vision when you turn. The hood has a stiffened rather than wired peak but this doesnt seem to be a disadvantage, its also permanent rather than roll away. The half zip is just that making the jacket very easy to get on and off and zips right up to the chin, when done right up with the hood down it nicely pulls the hood in and stops it flapping about. Berghaus describe it as "active fit" so even the XXL doesn't feel like a tent.

As an emergency waterproof, packed away in a work bag or in my search kit the jacket is barely noticeable, the only complaint being that it doesnt come with its own stuff sack. Ive had it for about three months now and for the first month due to the unseasonably warm dry weather thats where it stayed. Then when the mornings became chilly, I used it as an extra layer and recently when it's been both wet and windy its been of put to the test. It's passed that test with flying colours, it is both windproof and extremely waterproof, with water beading and running off. This waterproofing is maintained even at pressure points where the straps of a rucksack sit, nor is there any water ingress at either zip.  The lightness, softness and breathability of the material is such that I barely notice I'm wearing it and the drop rear hem seems to prevent it riding up under a pack.  

The Berghaus Elite Half Zip is a great jacket and incredible value even at the full RRP of £90.... now, I'm just off to do a rain dance so I've an excuse to wear it, anyone care to join me?

Tuesday, 3 January 2012

2011 - A look back.

With the year ended I thought I’d have a look back at 2011 and a look forward to 2012.

The year didn’t start particularly well, quite apart from the customary hangover caused by the consumption of way too much Linie Aquavit, I was also still recovering from surgery I’d had in October 2010 and I hated my job, hate is something of an understatement, I was desperately unhappy doing it and would have quite happily walked out and not gone back, I don’t know how Mrs. W put up with my constant whinging.

Hang on...its my birthday, why do I have to carry everything...?
Very soon January and February were gone and I was approaching my 35th birthday in March. I recall sitting the night before with Mrs. W in one of our local boozers (The Cage), she having convinced me that she had nothing planned for the next day - even going so far as to plan a quiet walk on the South Downs after a lazy breakfast. So it came as a great shock when she woke me at 0430 the following morning, shoved me into the car and drove to the Brecons for a quick once up Pen Y Fan via Cefn Cwm Llwch as a birthday surprise. I hadn’t noticed that the night before Mrs W had been unusually abstemious while letting me quaff intemperately for fear of raising my suspicions as to her nefarious plans. Consequently the first few uphill (very uphill) miles were done under something of a green cloud. However the rest of the hike was splendid. For those that haven’t done it, the last 10 or so metres to the summit from the north are a bit of a scramble and so it amused me greatly to ascend in hands and knees fashion onto the plateau to the incredulous gazes of those who’d pushed their prams from The Storey Arms. Across we went to Corn Du and back down to the car passing the heart-breakingly sad Tommy Jones’ Obelisk before getting home in time for tea with the Watsons Minor who had spent the day with their grandparents. A great birthday.
Later in March I attended a Lowland Search Technician Course run by UKLSI and achieved my goal of becoming an operational member of SusSAR. Typically, however, I received my first callout the day after the course and couldn’t attend due to work.

"Dad, can we use the handrail?" "No son, we're British..."
April brought with it a much needed break in the form of a trip to Phoenix to visit Mrs. W’s sister. We spent 10 days being complete tourists around Phoenix and Tucson, eating too much, drinking too much and shopping too much. We climbed Camelback Mountain (thoroughly recommended), we visited Tombstone (don’t bother) and Karchner Caverns (brilliant). We went to the brilliant Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum just outside Tucson and stayed for two nights at the Cat Mountain Lodge. We took the kids to watch the Arizona D’backs stuff the San Francisco Giants at Chase Field and I got a tweet on the Jumbotron (#GoDbacks). We even managed to fit in some wall time at AZ on the Rocks and all of it was done in a hired Dodge Charger which fed my inner petrol head.

April also brought a stupid injury when over the course of two weekends climbing and generally buggerring about I managed to ruin my groin putting me out of action climbingwise for 6 weeks. Luckily I managed to push my recovery so by the time we went for our annual week in North Devon at the end of May I was able to get some surfing and hiking in. We were joined by some friends for the first few days of the week, they’d never camped so sleeping in a caravan awning was a new experience for them especially when the wind, shall we say, “Got up…” but they seemed to enjoy it, we got them into wetsuits and into the water and they may even join us again this year.

June brought election to the SusSAR committee and an increased commitment to the team and July brought my first proper search managing to attend after a late shift at work, great fun and successful as the misper was found alive and well. I also engineered a change in role making huge difference to my mental state at work. At the end of August my son managed to break both the bones in his left forearm just after he’d bought himself a climbing harness and just before the first week of Rugby training. Consequently the poor little bugger hasn’t climbed, played rugby or been allowed out at breaktime in school since.
In September and October my daughter made me proud buy choosing to join a climbing club and being annoyingly good at it. I also started to push my grade more and managed my first 6a while making progress with both technique and fear control. I also became an Assistant Beaver (stop sniggering) Leader.
November brought much of the same, more climbing and the SusSAR MTB course. The eleventh month also saw the launch by some friends from the north of PROBalm, a great skin repair product and they’re working on a lipbalm as a follow up product. Good luck to Craig and the guys.

I appear to have worked what seems like the entire month of December including Christmas and New Year, it feels very strange not to have spent the whole time with the family, although I did manage to take the whole family climbing at Craggy Island on the 29th where the kids climbed solidly for four hours, I have high hopes (pun intended) for both of them. It was the first time the Son had climbed since his broken arm and he managed a couple of 5’s, the Daughter seems to improve with every visit to the wall and is learning to have confidence in her ability. The wonderful Mrs. W is happy to belay although I am trying to persuade her that she belongs on the wall rather than just standing at the bottom of it.

What’s to come in 2012? I posted a tweet on the 1st saying that this year I will write more, run more and climb more. I want to write more because I enjoy it and thanks to feedback from you chaps out there apparently I’m not too bad at it. I need to run more as I really need to up my fitness level in the run up to February 2013 when I will be trekking in Norway again, this time in aid of SusSAR (more details later) and I need to climb more because its like crack - great highs and terrible withdrawal……
It’s also Mrs. W’s 40th this year so I suppose I need to do something about that…..any ideas…..anyone……?