Sue and Martin's Christmas 2003 letter

Dear All

As you can see, we now have a web site. The course that ran from September last year to June of this year tested both of us, from an artistic point of view (neither of us are very imaginative) as well as a technical one! It was particularly hard when the weather started to improve in the spring, as neither of us planned to become ‘anoraks’ and we refused to do web design when the weather was fine. The main purpose of the site is to inform people of our ongoing programme of walks etc, but this has extended to the inclusion of some stories and pictures of our activities.

Sunset over a loch  
We saw in last New Year at Roybridge in Scotland, where a group of us had three cottages for a week. In the clear skies we were able to see Saturn’s rings and Jupiter’s moons through a telescope outside the back door. The weather was good, with snowfall and sunshine towards the end of the week, and we got out every day.

Despite most of this year’s weather being excellent, we picked some bad days to be out on the hills. The weather was much worse at the end of February than it had been at New Year for a return trip to Scotland and we had to turn back during Sunday due to high winds and snow. This failure on Schiehallion followed shortly on from a failure earlier in February to traverse the Glyders in Snowdonia - on that occasion the same five people had experienced a rather bizarre half hour in a gale on a single patch of ice. Then, at the beginning of March, a wet day on the Offa’s Dyke path around Knighton saw several of us inches deep in mud and other unpleasant brown stuff! Using Youth Hostels on a ‘rent-a-hostel’ basis is ideal for getting groups of people together and that weekend we had Clun Mill hostel to ourselves.

Our luck changed when we spent a weekend in Paris at the end of March, doing touristy things like going up the Eiffel Tower and seeing the Mona Lisa in the Louvre. The sunshine had brought the crowds out and it was enjoyed by plenty of people who sat outside bars along the Seine.  
Eiffel tower

Paps of Jura from the campsite   On Good Friday, a group of us enjoyed a sunny journey on the deck of a ferry, first to Islay, then to the Isle of Jura. We camped outside the Jura Hotel overlooking both the sea and the famed ‘paps’ of Jura.

The following day, we climbed all three ‘Paps’ with superb views of surrounding islands and the mainland. The only rain fell just as the bus arrived to collect us for the return ferry on Monday (just as well as we had left the car window open all weekend!).

South Cornwall coast   Late May found us as usual enjoying some of the best coastal scenery in the world on another section of the Cornish coastal path, with our friends from the Johannesburg Hiking Club, this year from Marazion to Helford Ferry.

Around midsummer, we’d arranged an attempt of the Welsh 3000’s, covering all the summits in Snowdonia in one day.

Perhaps not surprisingly, most of those showing initial interest found excuses for not joining us (especially when they were told of our earlier failure to manage a day walk on the Glyders), so it was just Martin and I   Crib Goch at sunrise
who set out from the car park at Pen y Pass at 4.20am, to climb Crib Goch and Snowdon, the first of the summits.

Supported by Alan Roberts who made great bacon sandwiches and kept us fed and watered at various rendezvous points, we continued over the Glyders, then the Carneddau, arriving at the end, 33 miles later, at 9.20pm. The following day we were quite happy to be sitting at home watching the Wimbledon men’s tennis final! Another attempt is planned for 2004 for those who missed this year's!

Near the Drei Zinnen in the Italian dolomites   One of our favourite places is the Dolomites and we were pleased (and a bit daunted) to have so many people joining us on what has become a regular trip. For most of the third week of July there were 21 of us camping in Cortina. The weather was excellent and everyone walked, climbed or did Via Ferrata routes every day.

It may sound as if life is one big holiday, but with a number of fairly big projects at work this year, together with deadlines for the web design course, things have been quite stressful and I was pleased to be getting away in early September when most of these projects had been finished.

We spent just over two weeks in the USA, visiting Zion and Bryce canyons, Arches National Park, Canyonlands and the Grand Canyon, with only one cloudy day.  
Hoodoos at Bryce Canyon

The scenery is spectacular and the parks highly organised, making it a very easy holiday. Temperatures varied from 95F at Zion to freezing overnight at Bryce at 9,000ft. Also, a good place to spend a wedding anniversary, even if the name 'Dead Horse Point' doesn't exactly exude romance!

The next year or so will be different. Martin is now working part time with a finish date at the end of March, though it sounds as if he may be even busier after that. I am taking advantage of a ‘career break’ opportunity and having six months off, probably from mid-July. We plan to walk across the Pyrenees on the High Level Route, likely to take 7-8 weeks from July to September. After that, there should be an opportunity to catch up with friends and family, and to have a different routine for a while. In addition, my mother is 65 next year and my parents have their 40th wedding anniversary.

Martin's children are flourishing. Kate finishes her degree in psychology next year and is busy applying for jobs, and Michael has started at Salford University doing modern music and recording, as well as running his own band, Mamaroux. They both keep extremely busy but come round for family meals on a regular basis!

Have a great Christmas and best wishes for 2004.


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