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They are an internet hosting company and provide amongst other things, VPS services (Virtual Private Servers). Their slogan – “Great Hosting – its about time“. Well, its about time they did something…. since their entire VPS infrastructure has been down since 22nd of December, right through Xmas and is still down today. I host several websites with them, which are thankfully not live (trading) yet and still in production. I can’t image how frustrated many companies will be over the Xmas period with a 5 day (and counting) outage.
The outage page is – dailystatus.co.uk. Here is a transcript of the log as of the morning of the 27th December 2011 incase they remove it: PDF.
Its a shame, good service up to now, but a 5 day outage over a critical trading period is dreadful!
I’m out in Chamonix today between the 15th and 21st December. If there was any doubt about winter arriving, thats over now. Its really really snowing. The lifts are all closed but due to open tomorrow hopefully. You can feel the anticipation in the town. Bring it on! Keep up to date with the latest Webcam views and links to weather here on the fight gravity conditions page: http://www.fightgravity.co.uk/climbing-conditions/
Many thanks to our sponsor for Broad Peak 2011, UK based company ebpSource.
I’ve been involved with ebpSource for a number of years and they are a fantastic company. Our summer expedition was lucky enough to receive their sponsorship and we proudly took their logo all the way to summit at 8052m. Today they have released a press release with the details of the expedition.
Check it out on their website or click the image below.
Its been a while since I’ve updated the blog. Its been manic since this summer and the Broad Peak 2011 expedition to Pakistan. The expedition was a success exploring Pakistan and taking in the green Islamabad, rugged Karakoram Highway, dusty Skardu all the way to the incredible Karakoram Mountains. The expedition left the UK on the 28th June 2011, and returned early on 4th August 2011. John Roberts, one of our team members organised the trip and did a excellent job getting things off the ground and in motion.
We teamed up with Lela Peak Expeditions – the best operator in Pakistan run by brothers Akbar Syed and Syed Anwar. They were brilliant and really looked after us traveling to the mountain and in base camp. I was lucky enough to make both the central and main summits of Broad Peak without supplementary oxygen or the support of HAPs/Sherpas on the mountain. Joining me was our other team member from the Basque Country, Koldo Zubimendi. Having always wanted to experience 8000m and to know the feeling of climbing that high I was elated to reach the summit on the 25th of July. Of the 50+ climbers in base camp around 7 made the summit. Given the 14% success rate on Broad Peak compared to attempts, this is about right statistically. We spent around 25 days in base camp in the end and left early with a dreadful snowy forecast towards late July leaving no room for further attempts on the summit.
Having changed our flights using the sat phone on the Baltoro Glacier, we had 5 days to get from underneath Broad Peak and K2 back to Islamabad for our flight. Given the walk in took 6 days, we really had to push it and did the 80km walk out in 3 days with fairly heavy packs. It was an a hard ask, made less painful only by the great efforts of Lela and especially Ishaq our cook who rallied us along. Having spent 7 full days on the mountain only two days before I was totally knackered and deeply relieved to be walking our via the longer but flatter Baltoro Glacier rather than over the shorter but much much steeper Gondogoro La! I walked 50km of the walk out in a pair of crocs after my walking boots gave up on the first day. Back in Islamabad after an epic retreat down the Karakoram Highway we caught the start of the monsoon an hour before our flight, then flew out for the UK via Doha.
The day began at 4600m in a mountain hut on the southern slopes of Mt. Damavand. Our team of 5 were awake at 5 and ready to climb to the summit of the highest mountain in the Iran and the MIddle East. The previous day, a climber had summited the peak and suggested -50 degrees Celsius with wind chill on top. Nervously, we put on every item of clothing we were carrying. The day ended 20 hours later in a natural hot spring in the basement of a hotel at the bottom of Mount Damavand. Visible through the steam stood in the doorway an overweight Iranian taxi driver called Madhi, wearing nothing but white baggy Y-fronts and wildly waving a piece of plastic hose in his right hand. The day of extremes, in a country of contrasts continued to suprise.
The wirlwind of our trip to Iran began on 14th of March 2011, when we landed in Tehran’s International Airport laden with skis, climbing gear, thousands of euros and a little trepidation at what lay outside the airport. Iran was after all a member of the American’s ‘Axis of Evil’ and we were a bunch of naive Europeans unsure what to make of it all. After a little under a week, we’d managed to climb Iran’s highest mountain, meet some of the friendliest and most welcoming people on the planet, skied the best lightest ice cold powder we’d ever laid eyes on. We even spent Iranian new year with fantastic welcoming family outside Tehran.
Day 2 – On the 2nd day of the trip, we skied at the largest ski resort in Iran. This is called Dizin. Incredibly we were very lucky to have had a snowfall the night before, and as we drove up the windy road to the resort, huge fresh avalanches could be seen on either side of the road. Bluebird sky, and deep powder were waiting for us at the resort, and like excited children we paid our $20 lift passes and headed up onto the slopes.
The lift system at Dizin is very old, based on bubble lifts and our fat skis didn’t fit in the outside of the bubble. We clambered inside, skis and all and with half closed doors headed up the pistes. There are only a few lifts at Dizin, but there was so much powder and so few people, that every run we skied for the whole day had fresh tracks. To the right of the slope was Mt Damavand, looking vast on the horizon, and to the left the biggest crown release avalanche I’ve ever seen. It was so large it had taken out at least a third of the resort, a perfect release from about 5 metres below the long cornice running the top of the slope. The top pylon of the ski lift was so buried that you could walk ontop of it.
Back on the ‘safe’ side of the resort, the powder was fresh, light and fluffy. Iran’s ski slogan is ‘Iran – warm people, cold powder’ and its so true – the conditions were incredible – the best powder I’ve ever skied.
We had a small feeling of being watched throughout the day. In the morning a man introduced himself to John and the boys in the lift and said he was the head of security at the British Embassy! Throughout the day he kept popping up and making comments.
Dressed in the most outrageous ski gear he certainly didn’t seem to be there for the powder. We joked about what was going on and drew a few best guesses to the reason for his presence.
We skied all day, and arrived back at the van exhausted and exhilarated. The rumours were true – Iranian powder might just be the best in the world.
Mt Damavand – days 3, 4 and 5
Given the positive short term weather forecast, it naturally fell that the day after Dizin, we had to leave at 5am for Mt Damavand. 5am in the Olympic hotel reception, Northern Tehran with our bodes aching – no one seemed too happy at the prospect.
We left the Olympic complex in the same van, with the same driver who worked with us all week. With us was Hussain – our trusty guide who had been assigned to the group by Mohammed – our contact to the Iranian Mountaineering Federation. Hussain is on the National Mountaineering team, and has climbed in the Himalayas several times. He looked and proved to be very fit and an excellent host, really looking after us.
We drove for an hour before stopping for breakfast on the very edge of Tehran. Hussain wanted us to try something local… It was similar to porridge, but more gelatinous, with bits of meat in it. The boys ate it, but Duncan and I couldn’t stomach it at all, especially after Henry said he saw a large bag of fatty congealed red meat behind the counter…! It was wrong!
We pushed on, feeling a little worse for wear after breakfast and arrived in Palour, the departure point for Mt Damavand. We organised gear in the car park of the Iranian Mountaineering Federation building there.
The road to the starting point of the climb was closed due to avalanche (surprise surprise!) so we took an alternative. It was the second time in a few days we had seen a road totally wiped out by an avalanche. In the Dizin ski area, the amount of avalanche activity was second to none, unbelievable (we wore transceivers in the van!). Our drive Medhi drove for an hour to an alternative starting point for the climb and as the road turned to drifts of snow, we stopped and geared up. We all carried full avalanche rescue gear, sleeping bags, stoves, food and plenty of warm clothes.
Leaving the van, finally on skins and skis and after all the preparation – we were heading up the mountain. The initial day is two hours of skinning, along a snowed up road which gradually winds upwards towards the slopes of the mountain. The air was ice cold, and the views behind us spectacular – standing proud with any of the great Andean, Himalayan or alpine vista I’d seen before. The higher we climbed the better the view became.
We were all carrying full packs, except Hussain who hired a porter to carry his gear to the first camp. After a couple of hours of technically very easy skinning, we climbed over a small prominence on the slope and were greeted with an incredible view of the Mosque camp.
This is camp 1, and were we planned to stay for the night. The golden Mosque silhouetted against the summit of Damavand was an inspiring sight. Beautifully designed and vibrantly colourful, the Mosque contrasted against some of the garish alpine huts in we were used to around Chamonix. That said, once entering the Mosque, we all realised we weren’t in for the comfort of the Alps…
Inside the Mosque was a single room, with a hard concrete floor and a thin rug covering half of it. In the corner of one side was a large frozen puddle of ice. For some outrageous reason, Duncan, John and myself had decided to not bring roll mats and were in for a grim night. After a short afternoon ski up the slope, during which I managed to break my G3 Binding (this is another story), we settled in for the night. The temperature dropped significantly from 6 o’clock. Katabatic winds picked up and things got very cold very quickly.
I experienced a grim nights sleep, very cold and uncomfortable literally sleeping on a pair of gloves for padding.
Around 10pm another group arrived and began playing music and cooking eggs. It was quite a surreal situation, in a half sleep in a Mosque in Iran, listening to Chris de Burgh wondering how much I could buy an egg sandwich (or a roll matt) for.
The night passed slowly. I woke up feeling like someone had superglued my joints together. Despite the discomfort, a glorious day greeted us outside the Mosque. We left at 8am, with a climb of 1500m to the next hut. The moderate route up follows very wide snow fields leftwards, with the destination – the new hut at 4600m towering above. It doesn’t look far, but the GPS told us the summit was 3.6 miles horizontally from the Mosque, with 2500 metres of uphill in between. A huge distance.
As the temperature increased in the sun, we gradually gained height on our skis winding gradually back rightwards. The heat was intense and we stripped off to t-shirts and unzipped salopettes. The burning began, especially given that I had brought factor 15 sun cream by accident.
The next stage of the climb involved steep windslab slopes crossing from one of the large snow fields, over a ridge and onto the slope to the second hut. I began touring up the steep slope, and using the sharp edges of my skis to gain height. I felt good, and had toured up steeper stuff in the Alps. Suddenly both skis unclipped, the G3 bindings just unclipped and popped open. Both, at the same time… I’d experienced this before with the G3 – the bindings are dreadful. Given the steep nature of the slope I slid a few feet before stopping. One of the skis shot off down the slope, but luckily was grabbed by Chris 30 metres below. I was getting less and less patient with these bindings. The design is dreadful. I made a note to email the makers G3 as soon as I got down…
After the drama we climbed onto the ridge and waited for Henry to catch up. Henry was carrying a huge (‘Henry’) pack with camera equipment, which was slowing him down. We fired the JetBoil up to rehydrate whilst waiting, and replenished the sweat lost after the heat of the earlier climb.
Another 45 minutes of climbing brought us to the second hut. This new second hut is 3 years old and very impressive. Inside its cold, but the position on the mountain is spectacular. Luckily the rooms had roll-mats on the bunks, and for 5 people the cost was a mere $45 USD. I was relieved as I wasn’t keen for another glove bivi.
The Katabatic winds started around 4pm and again the temperature began to drop rapidly. The arctic skyline was spectacular and showed how cold it really was high up. Mount Damavand can experience summit temperatures of -60 degrees Celsius. Even in the temperatures we experienced which were far less, you’d last about 10 minutes in a T-shirt.
After a great dinner cooked by the hut guardian, we prepared ourselves for the following day. We planned to leave at 5am for the 1200m climb to the summit. Given our expectations of the weather, we stuffed extra warm layers into our packs. John on the other hand just decided to wear everything he had with him for bed, and slipped into his sleeping bag wearing the whole package – including a GoreTex suit!
Several hours later we left the hut under windy and cold conditions. The temperature was thankfully not as cold as expected, but still around -20 at 6am. We climbed up wind blown slopes making OK progress. Henry began to fall behind, keeping steady but slower pace. He had traveled within 4 days from 10m at home, to 5000m on Damavand. The rest of us had acclimatised in the mountains before leaving for Iran. We ascended on skis for around 3 hours before deciding to continue on foot due to the snow conditions.
We still had 1000m metres to the summit. After an hour of climbing along a prominent and safe ridge line, Henry decided to call it a day. He had reached 5000m, and just was not going fast enough to reach the summit before the strong afternoon winds kicked off.
Its was a great effort, really sad to see him go down and we watched him as make his ski descent back to the hut.
The distances on Damavand are very deceiving. In the Alps, its easy to judge roughly how long it takes to go from a to b by looking at the slope and surrounding mountains. In the Himalayas, or on larger peaks than the Alps, such as Damavand everything goes wrong. Distances that look short take hours and slopes that look tiny turn into huge expanses spreading as far as you can see. The upper section of Damavand is like this, and gradually we toiled up the ridge making progress towards the false summit that awaited us at 5200m. The wind picked up on the upper part of the mountain and the group met at the final sheltered spot before moving up from the ridge and onto the exposed summit slopes. Here in the safety of the rocky shelter, we could just smell sulphur from the vents on the summit slopes. The rocks had a very mild tinge of yellow, but nothing compared to what awaited us above.
We set off, knowing there was no break between our current position and the summit. The upper slope spread away up gradual switch backs towards the ridge at the top. A plume of sulphur bellowed from the top of the mountain, thankfully with the wind being pushed away from the summit itself. The rocks turned to a yellow tinge then very yellow, and the air became rife with a bitter tasting sulphurous odour. Hunching into the windy, I climbed upwards, pace dictated by a mild headache and the oxygen-less air.
After reaching the summit slope and rounding a small rocky promontory I was confronted with a fantastic view of a sulphur vent billowing from the upper slope. The smoke poured from the ridge into space and the sound was incredible with the wind. A video of this is below.
After videoing the vent, I climbed onwards and a few minutes later reached the summit, the highest point in Iran and the Middle East. The date was 19th March, and four years previously my Dad had passed away after a long illness. My Dad was deep down proud of my climbing, and the thought was with me as I made the final few steps to the top.
On top was Hussain, who summited a few minutes before me. We celebrated and waited for the boys to arrive. The summit temperature was only around -20 so out of the wind was bearable. We sheltered in a small alcove between two rocks. The view of the surrounding mountains was out of this world, spectacular and different to mountain panoramas of the Alps. On the summit there was a strange bronze sculpture and two frozen, mummified sacrificed animals that looked like goats. When the boys arrived, we took some quick pictures and quickly descended.
After 100m of walking downhill, we stopped to put our skis on and begin the ski. We planned to ski all the way to road-head that day, so had to be quick. As I was putting my skis on, I fell through the crusty snow which had about a half metre gap between the snow and the rocky slope underneath. A huge plume of sulphur escaped and went straight up my nose and in my lungs. It was grim and I retched with the acrid taste of it. Most of the group had a banging headache which prevented much continuous ski style as we set off. After a few turns, we had to stop and let the headache recede before continuing down. Chris was skiing telemark at 5500m which just looked exhausting to even watch.
The lower we went, the lighter our heads and better our turns became. The snow was fantastic from the summit to the hut. We stopped for a few photographs and arrived at the hut 45 minutes after setting off. Henry met us at the hut, and we quickly packed up before carrying on to thick air, food and the pleasures of the valley 1000’s of metres below. Packing our gear in the hut, we all had a thick layer of sulphur on our faces and clothes. All our gear stank of it.
We clipped in outside the hut and started the second stage of our descent to the Mosque and then the valley. The snow gradually got worse and with tired legs a few people stacked it. As we crossed huge couloirs and ridges, linking the lines together and aiming for the road far below. The daylight got better and better and we took hundreds of photos with Damavand in the background. In one couloir a Iranian wolf ran across the slope with a dead animal in its mouth. We also saw a Golden Eagle circling above the same couloir lower down.
Eventually we reached the golden Mosque camp, and continued down down down. The snow got worse the lower we went, providing hilarity with some outrageous cross skied stacks. It was the worst snow I’d ever skied. In a little under a week in Iran, I’d skied the best and worst snow of my life, but loved every minute of it.
Five hours later we checked into the Hotel Damavand. The hotel had large baths in the basement and the other lads were already inside the steaming hot water. The same sulphur that billows from the summit of Damavand was heating the bath water we lounged around in. I climbed inside and aching legs and arms felt instantly soothed. We were in great spirits, and had full stomaches after finishing the final descent to the road head and eating a huge meal at a local restaurant. Our hotel was in a place called Larijan, where every building is heated by the natural hot water.
Despite being knackered, everyone was in great spirits – less than 5 days in Iran and we’d already climbed our objective and had some truly unique experiences. It was at this point that Madhi, our faithful taxi driver opened the door and stood proudly in front of us with baggy white Y-fronts and a long piece of rubber tube used to guide the water into the bath in his hand. He laughed but not as hard as we did, realising how lucky we were to see such an outrageous sight. Welcome to Iran, the land of warm people and ice cold powder.
Quick note, to say we’re going to Mt Damavand tomorrow (Thursday 17th). We leave for the climb from Palor. We climb to the first hut on the 17th, the second hut on the 18th, hopefully summit on the 19th and down, and return to Tehran on the 20th.
The crowded and hot flight touched down at 4.10am and we stepped out into bright lights and -1 degrees Celsius. Kensington Gardens, London (where we got our Visa’s) seemed a long way away now. We walked into the arrivals hall and after queuing for an eternity our passports were scanned, ruffled and stamped. We were in. Welcome to Tehran.
After collecting our bagged, including the 30kg’s of excess we headed for the taxi rank. The usual unofficial taxi game began, which after half an hour of an Iranian man trying to fit our huge ski box into his tiny car (which was absolute comedy), ended with us abandoning him and voting for two large high spec WV vans. Our vans left the airport in the dark and raced along the main highway at the usual outrageous Middle Eastern taxi speed.
Incredibly the drivers on the motorway managed to convert three lanes into about 6, of which any one is the high speed overtaking lane. Having been through this enough times before, the best thing you can do is sit back, laugh and accept it. Staring out the large side window (a welcome distraction from the front window), I could see the sun rising in the East – that classic Eastern low light coming over the horizon. The traffic, beeping horns and buildings wizzed past, and gradually we relaxed into the back seats. Suddenly we could see a huge mountain in the distance – Mt Damavand (5160m) – our objective. Shaded in the low morning light, its took shape and we rapidly realised the size of it, given that it was over 65km away from us! An hour later we’d driven through the South of Tehran to the North of the city closer to the mountains.
The mountain in a rare moment of calm on the highway!
Altitude increased by 500m, to 1500m and frost covered most of the ground. The South of Tehran is less affluent than the North, and the change was definitely noticeable. After many (hundreds) of near misses, including one nearly being squashed by two commuter buses, we turned right into a massive complex with Olympic logos on the front.
It was a relief to be out the traffic, which given that it was only 6.15am was incredible. The taxi passed the first of many security checkpoints (basically random blokes in tiny huts), before we drove for another 10 minutes and pulled up to a parking bay near a large oval running track. Apparently behind the track, there was a hotel somewhere, which is where we were staying. This Olympic site is uniquely awesome, its like something from 1970 USSR, large concrete buildings all dedicated to sports – Running, Tennis, Swimming, Fencing, Crazy Golf!… you name it. Each sport has its own huge facilities. We were all wondering who pays for all this, how can so many people be employed to manage checkpoints and where on Earth is the hotel in all this! With frost all over the ground, the Soviet architecture, low Middle Eastern light and steam coming out of the building roofs into the cold air, it was like going back in time.
View from my bedroom window
Our taxis left us (after changing the price), and we did indeed find the hotel. The place is basically used by Iranian Olympic athletes to train, so feeling somewhat like a bunch of mega non Olympic frauds we settled in and got our bearings. Everything is really old in the hotel, but in a good way – its a relic of the 1970′s and the place still has a great and unique charm to it. We could imagine the rooms all full of hopeful Olympic athletes, training, living and existing in what would have been a state of the art facility back in 1970. What an experience to be here!
After a breakfast of boiled eggs, cheese, jam and roti type bread, we had a short sleep before meeting our contact at the Iranian Mountaineering Federation. This guy has been fantastic for us, and sorted everything out. He introduced us to his friend, who will climb & ski Mt Damavand with us. He is on the Iranian National Mountaineering team…. Everything about him screamed FAST, STRONG, FIT. I thought back a couple of weeks in France, when I had two tartiflet’s in two days….! I can bearly remembering exercising since. After arranging plans, organising dates etc we agreed to go for the climb starting on Friday. The temperature on the mountain is only -30 this coming weekend, so much warmer than usual….! I have to say these guys have been great so far and I’m looking forward to the climb and spending some more time with them once we’re down.
After our contacts left, we headed into town to find a coffee bar. We walked down the main road, through a great park and into a shopping area. We passed a gigantic police presence who were out in force in preparation for tonights Bonfire celebrations (and Government Protests). Friendly bunch. After almost giving up hope on coffee, we found a small coffee bar with friendly staff who we chatted with for an hour or so. Back up the road, past the even bigger police presence and into to the safety of the Olympic Village.
The park on the way back to the hotel. Mountains in distance.
And thats about it – day 1 in Iran is over, and we’re going skiing tomorrow at 6am.
Last week I bought some Plum Bindings, and some new G3 Fever skis in a shop in Sallanches, just outside the Chamonix Valley.
Previously I skied with the Freeride Fritschi bindings, so using the Plum Binding was quite unusual to begin with! After a day on piste, I started to get the hang of things. The G3 ski was unusual given its size (I’m used to a thinner ski). The G3 is 100mm across. After 3 days of use I learned to let the larger ski do the hardwork, carving through powder and piste it performed really well. I tried some new skins on the G3 and did a short tour up the piste for half an hour for a sample. The Plum tours really well, very simple to adjust and use (with your ski pole). The designers obviously had strength and simplicity at the forefront of the design process. The glide action during skinning on the Plum Binding is excellent, making for really comfortable ascent.
So I was very happy with the skis at the end of day 3. I had probably done a total of around 7 hours ski on them over that time.
On day 4, everything went wrong. I was skiing in Chamonix, descending from the ‘Herse Run’, a fun ‘red’ run at Grandes Montets. I was making a turn on a soft mogul which had formed on the piste during the day. Half way through the turn… disaster! I didn’t fall during the turn, simply the binding ripped off the ski mid turn.
The ski obviously popped from my foot and looking down I could see the Plum Binding still attached to my front of my boot. These Plum’s are really well built – very very strong and there wasn’t a scratch on it. The problem was that the whole front of the Plum binding itself had ripped out of the ski, screws and all.
Given this was simply a turn, on the piste it is a very very dissapointing problem. Imagine it was a serious mountain couloir? Currently the skis are with the shop I bought them from, Auvieux Campeur, Sallanches. The ski has been returned to G3 for analysis.
I took this photo later that day.
G3 Fever Ski and Plum Binding Broken after 4 days piste ski