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Dr. Darren J. McAulay

(+44) 07092 840603
Skype: drdazmac



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Ski and Sail - Harstad, Norway

08/04/2011 20:31

 Ski and Sail  - Harstad, Norway                  March 2011



A week of ski touring on the stunning islands of northwest Norway based on the Anna Rogde (c1868) sailing ship. The trip was organised by David Hamilton for the Eagle ski club (UK). Both David and Darren McAulay were guides for the 13 members present.


Harstad sits proudly on Norways largest island Hinnoya and is an important fishing port and commercial centre. This region of northern Norway hosts numerous beautiful islands and mountains (up to 1300m) suitable for ski touring. However, few people have ventured to this ski playground so the trip was partly exploratory for both us and the crew of the Anna Rogde. The ship was used for eating and sleeping but more importantly it provided us with access to islands and slopes that would otherwise be difficult to reach. During the week we met no other skiers (although the weather may have played it’s part in this!).


Our first forays were on the island of Grytoya - 2hrs sail north of Harstad.  One day to the extremely windy Skjellesvik skardet pass (560m) and the next (a sunny day) skiing above the tiny village of Dale (only 2 inhabitants in winter!) where we climbed Jamnfjellet (802m). There appear to be many other possible peaks to ski on and various traverse across Grytoya.


Our next destination was Andorja island which is said to be the most mountainous island in Norway. During the 2hr voyage we got to hoist some of the sails but then resorted to motor. Strong winds and heavy snow prevented us landing so the night was spent at the more sheltered Lovdal on the mainland.


Next day we returned to Harstad for extra supplies (we were eating far too much of the great food that the chef prepared each day). Also, being protected from the worst of the winds it gave us the chance to ski up the local ski mountain, Sollifjellet (567m) which gave great views to Grytoya and beyond. Although the lift was not operating until the evening (flood lit skiing!) we skinned up three times to the enjoy the fresh, deep powder.  I gave some quick lessons and tips to (hopefully) help improve a few folks technique.


Heading south next day we made for a pier at Raudskier and the mountain Saetertinden (1095m). We skied up through the birch forests - finding some deep snow on the way but turned back at 400m due to avalanche threat and bad visibility. A few turns were enjoyed in the deepest fresh snow yet encountered. The sun arrived just as we headed back to the boat so a few of us were tempted up the small but shapely Harberget (399m) which gave a great descent.


Moving south again we landed on Tjeldoya island this time by the small dingy as there was no safe harbour for Anna Rogde. An interesting day for the scenery (when visible between the heavy snow showers) but again turned back not far above the tree line. A pleasant ski was made back to the coast and then an exciting trip back in choppy swell in the dingy.


Last day and more sunshine!!!! Hooray. We made for Saetertinden (1095m) again but this time via a different route from Elvelund. Again using the dingy to land we had a great climb up to the secondary peak of Haukebotinden (900m) and then the best ski of the week.


That evening saw us return to Harstad and the home mooring for the Anna Rogde.


Thanks again to the Anna Rogde team and the volunteer crew that made the trip possible. Darren plans ot return to this exciting nrew destination in March 2012 - just give him a call if you are interested. Darren








Just where did the summer go?

19/10/2010 00:00

 Summer-Autumn 2010: ......a quick brief!

June saw plenty of Skye Munros, classic Cuillin climbs and sea cliff adventures. The Old Man of Stoer was summited by Mary n Dafydd before they swapped the Scottish Highlands for the French Alps and some exciting Via Ferrata, multi pitch rock climbing and a wee mountain or two.


The southern section of the GR54 Tour des Ecrins was traversed with a small group in late July. Fantastic Alpine scenery, traversing high cols and eating great food in mountain huts and gites was order of the day here. Flora and fauna in abundance as always in the Ecrins Alps!


August saw a return to the UK, starting in Cornwall and finishing with a tour of Scotland. Starting on Skye for some Cuillin classics, then to Torridon for an ascent of the Northern Pinnacles of Liathach..... followed by Aviemore, Aberdeen, Edinburgh and Glencoe - just some of the places on route back to Chazlelet for Sept.


Autumn sunshine in the Alps provided many hot rock days and wonderful walks in the tranquil mountains.....and a few paraglider flights.

Now the snow line is creeping down from the high summits and the frosts a regular morning visitor.....soon be winter activity time again!!

BUT.........before the Alpine winter I am returning to the south of the globe. Another three months in Antarctica with plans for a ski to the South Pole (arriving around xmas), ascents of Mt. Vinson and further explorations in the Ellsworth Mountains. Great stuff!!!

See you in 2011.


Round the Globe (April-June 2010)

07/07/2010 14:12

We (Robin and me) left the UK on April 21 and headed out to New Zealand. Stopping off in Hong Kong on the way out and Fiji on the way back.


After a week visiting Swill in Honkers we headed down to Christchurch, New Zealand.....and some peace and quiet after the city!

For the month of May we travelled the sights of both the South and North Islands (visiting old friends (skiing and ALE) on the way)


Lyttleton harbour and Mt. Cook.


Moeraki Boulders.....   Yellow-eyed Penguin and Alpine Parrot (Kea)


Gravity at work near Queenstown   


Milford Sound


Milford Sound again


Walking on water at Golden Bay, Takaka


We will take two please!


Back at the Carrot, Ohakune!!


Eddie and his Hot Rod!


West coast north of Auckland (the sun returns!)


Kayaking over the corals, Fiji


Robin taking it way easy, Fiji


Sunset over the islands Fiji.







Antarctica 2009-10. Ellsworth Mountains Ski Traverse

25/02/2010 10:44

 Ski Traverse from Mt. Vinson to Patriot Hills (via Hercules Inlet). 

This expedition was part of the 7summits2sealevel quest and involved skiing over 250km through the Ellsworth mountains. Following remote and unvisited glaciers in one of the most stunning regions of Antartica. The trip is best described by the photos!! The opportunities for exploring the Ellsworth mountains by ski are endless - just contact Darren or ALE if you fancy planning a visit!


26 Dec 2009: The Team about to depart Mt. Vinson base camp at the start of the expedition.



The first day involved finding a safe route through the upper glaciers, down to the huge Nimitz glacier. We took the flat terrain in the top left of the photo towards the Zapol glacier.


On the upper glaciers heading for the Zapol glacier and descent route to Nimitz glacier.



The route down the heavily crevassed Zapol glacier as seen from the Twin Otter.



On the Nimitz glacier (65km long!) 



Camp 2 on the Nimitz glacier  



Skiing a blue ice section as we entered the Heritage Range of the Ellsworth Mountains.



High on the Schneider glacier after 35km skiing that day.



 The route from the Schneider glacier to the Driscoll glacier from above.



Camp high on the Driscoll glacier.



New routing on Mt. Fordell, Marble Hills.


High on Mt. Fordell. Marble Hills.


Airy descent on Mt. Fordell, 


A chance to relax at Vinson base camp.


The IL-76 Iluyshin getting packed ready to go home 24 Jan 2010.




Antarctica - 2009/10 (part 1 of 2)

15/02/2010 16:12

 Antarctica - 2009/10 season      (Part 1 of 2)

Second Season Guiding for Antarctic Logistics and Expeditions/Adventure Network International (ALE/ANI).

I departed Le Chazelet heading for Punta Arenas, Patagonia, Chile on November 5, 2009. Then on November 12, after lots of preparation and packing, we all got in to the giant Ilyushin IL-76 aircraft and set off to the Ice. Following an extremely smooth landing on the blue ice runway (thanks to the work of the advance team) we all began the Patriot Hills camp set up - first up was our personal tents and cook tent. One day of wild winds did not deter the camp building and after a week, with Patriot Hills up and running, the Vinson guide team took the ski plane (Twin Otter) the 220km to the Branscomb glacier on Mt. Vinson (our home for the season).

Windy day at Patriot Hills, Antarctica.

 Vinson Base Camp.


This season saw a small, but International, set up team (Chris (USA), Pachi (Chile), Namgya (Nepal) and myself) on the mountain. However, we soon built up the Vinson base camp including communications (HF and VHF radio systems), solar power, waste containers, tents and stores. We then skied up the mountain to prepare Low Camp, the fixed ropes and High Camp before the clients arrived.

 Wall building at Low Camp, Mt. Vinson.



Namgya snowmelting for tea!


For the first two client programs I was Vinson Base Camp manager. Amongst the numerous tasks this involved keeping a track of all expeditions and teams on the mountain. I was extremely fortunate to get to fly over to the far side of the Vinson Massif with an Austrian team who were to attempt Mt. Tyree (2nd highest in Antarctica). Russell (the Twin Otter pilot) landed us safely on the Patton glacier where we all enthused at the view in this rarely visited part of the Ellsworth mountain range. Not only was Mt. Tyree impressive but the whole Patton glacier was surrounded by stunning peaks including Mts. Gardner, Shear, Morris and Evans peak. Wow!

 Vinson Massif from the south.

  Mt. Shear and Mt. Morrison, Ellsworth Mountains.


Having helped the Tyree climbing group unpack their gear we then flew back all the way to Patriot Hills to pick up more Vinson climbers. Although it was now 11pm the sun was shining and the light extremely clear so the trip through the Ellsworth mountains was superb. Later in December I was going to be leading a ski trip from Mt. Vinson back to Patriot Hills (see Ellsworth mountains ski traverse coming soon) so this flight provided me the opportunity to view (from above) the route. Through relatively unexplored terrain the proposed ski route would be descending the 80km long Nimitz glacier, crossing the even larger Minnesota glacier and then on through the Heritage Mountains range to reach Hercules Inlet (the edge of the Antarctic Continent - would be the coastline if the ice melted!) and back to Patriot Hills camp. Over 250km of skiing!! 


 Patton Glacier of Mt. Tyree flowing northwards.

  The Twin Otter below Mt. Tyree.


Back at Vinson base the new teams were all getting ready to ascend the mountain...... This season all ALE/ANI clients again reached the summit successfully and safely.....more to come.....









Autumn 2009 plans.......

13/10/2009 20:42

 Back in Le Chazelet for October and all is very very quiet. The autumn sunshine is still strong but the nights cooling quickly. Last chance for some rock climbing and wandering before the winter snows. Well, actually I am back off to the summer in the southern hemisphere next month. Antarctica beckons for another season - more work for Antarctic Logistics and off to the South Pole and Mt. Vinson for 3 months!!

So, get planning those trips and adventures for 2010 and give me a call!!!!

La Meije with autumnal trees from Le Chazelet.


Inca Explore Trek, Peru - Sept 2009

11/09/2009 16:03

Peru 2009 - Inca Explore Trek - Inca Trail to Machu Picchu

Sept 7: The first morning we visited the pre-Inca site called Huana Pucllana in Miraflores district - this consists of a vast mound constructed of adobe bricks containing many levels and plazas. The afternoon saw perfect conditions for paragliding along the Costa Verde. I spent over an hour cruising to the Marriot Hotel and back whilst Terry, Jules, Chris, Toity and Barney all took a tandem flight also! Great soaring conditions and what better way to view the Lima skyline and Pacific ocean than free flying paragliding.

Barney paragliding past the Marriot Hotel, Lima

Sept 8:  South on the Pacific highway to the coastal reserve at Paracas. Desert scenery and beautiful coasts. Hotel in town of Pisco which is still recovering after the earthquake of Aug 2007. It will be a long time until Pisco is restored but the friendly welcome (and pisco sour drinks) emphasise the character of the people here.

Pacific Ocean waves at Paracas Nature Reserve.

Sept 9: Boat trip to the Ballestas Islands -abundant bird and sea life in the guise of Humbolt penguins, Inca terns, Peruvian boobies and sea lions galore. The afternoon saw a sandstorm blow in from Paracas - interesting experience for all before we took the bus south further and on to Nasca.

Sept 10:  Flight over the Nasca Lines to see the huge desert drawings and lines. Surreal experience as we looped around the various drawings of hummingbrids, spiders and even an astronaut! The afternoon saw us heading south again. A long journey to Arequipa that was lengthened by the Pacific Highway being closed for an hour as sand dunes covered the surface.

Nasca Lines flight crew (don´t ask Terry for a sick bag!)

Sept 11: Easy day sightseeing in Arequipa - the White City of Peru! Tomorrow we head up to the Colca canyon and on to Lake Titicaca before back north to Cusco for the Inca Trail.

Colca Canyon condor watching


Sipping GnT´s on Lake Titicaca

Uros floating Islands, Lake Titicaca

Sept 18 - Now in Cusco having watched condors in the Colca Canyon and cruised on Lake Titicaca (World´s highest navigable lake at 3810m) in a reed boat!

The team are in the Sacred Valley today, dicovering the Inca sites at Pisac and on the Inca Trail on Sunday........proper exercise at last!


INCA TRAIL trek, 20-23 Sept.

 The start of the Camino Inka (Inca Trail)

 All happy at 4200m in the Andes, Dead Womans Pass

 Machu Picchu, Peru




Rock climbing - La Berarde, Ailefroide. superb granite walls and slabs.

26/08/2009 19:50

August 2009 in the Ecrins Alps. Rock climbing on the multi pitch granite slabs at La Berarde and Ailefroide. Climbing mates Saz and Stu Mackay were staying in the La Grave area so many routes were ascended. Chilean guide Pachi also called by, cruising the local 7a's at Les Freaux!


Route: Ailefroide - 2 Hot Men, TD- (6a max)


Route: La Berarde, Barfly-Encoula area :Bataille des Aigles, TD, 6a+


View from Barfly rock climbing, over La Berarde to the La Meije and Le Rateau




Le Chazelet, la Grave, Ecrins Alps, France

11/08/2009 12:03


Le Chazelet, La Grave, French Alps

By darrenmcaulay

Summer in the Alps (just an excuse to avoid the rain and midges in Skye?). At the end of June I returned to my summer retreat in Le Chazelet. The sun was shining on the Meije, the GR54 and the splendid Ecrins Massif. July 6th saw me off on a wee trip to Switzerland. Val D’Anniviers and Zermatt were the destination – trekking with Keith from Hillways. The busy streets and disneyland resemblance of Zermatt were no match for the tranquil Ecrin and I returned to the French hills on 16th. Much rock climbing, mountain walking and short paraglider outings were undertaken. In addition a 3 day visit to Orpierre (between Sisteron and Gap) to meet up with friends saw more rock climbing and heat avoiding swimming sessions in the campsite pool.

Back in Le Chazelet for the rest of August: My alpine chateau played host to many folk including Pachi from Chile (a mountain guide with whom I work in Antarctic logisitics) who came to sample the great rock climbing and glacier scenery around La Grave, baldy Robin for his annual sunbathing and walking sejourn and Neil and Trish from Mammoth Lakes. Neil is a UIAGM (USA) mountain guide who I know from working in California. He now runs Sierra Mountain Guides based in Bishop, Ca……..he was so impressed with La Grave that a return visit is already being planned!!

The sun is shining so some alpine activities beckon…….climbing? walking? mountain biking? via ferrata? paragliding? rafting? or just relaxing at the Creperie!!

 Summit of the Grand Pic (3983m) - La Meije.


 La Meije traverse (Grand Pic on the right).



Isle of Skye, Scotland Guiding May-June 2009

21/07/2009 10:59

I returned to the Isle of Skye, Scotland for the guiding season of May-June. Long daylight hours, good weather and lack of midges make these months the best to visit the Skye and the infamous Cuillin mountains and atmospheric sea cliffs. The Cuillin Munros all saw a few ascents with various groups and parties. Other notable climbs were made of the Inaccessible Pinnacle, Pinnacle Ridge, the Cioch, Dubh Ridge and the Basteir Tooth. The sea cliffs at Neist, Flodigarry and Elgol (Suidhe Biorach) also provided much entertainment - rock climbing in the sunshine! At the end of May a brief trip to the mainland was undertaken with a small group. We took the ferry in to Inverie, Knoydart - staying in the Torrie Shieling for 3 nights and ascending some of Scotlands most remote Munros - Ladhar Bheinn, Luinne Bheinn and Meall Buidhe.

When the sun shines on the Highlands and Islands there is no better place to be!  But at the end of June it looked like rain so I headed south to the Alps.......


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