Sometimes it can be good to take a break from things and reflect on life and check that the path you are on, is the one you really want to follow. The break on this site has been part of that process.
Several months ago I decided I would no longer review Outdoor gear, unless I had bought it with my own money. Shortly after this the whole bloggers reviewing gear conversation blew up on various sites. I commented on one site, but generally decided to keep out of the conversation and wait until things calmed down. My personal opinion is that you can do what you like, it's your site, but personally I would rather disclose if I was given something. The reason for stopping reviewing is nothing to do with the online discussion, it's purely personal. Reviewing gear isn't something that I enjoy and trying to think of something interesting to write feels far too much of a chore (the day job is enough work). That's not why I spend my time in the outdoors and in the online outdoor community. Having said that, I love to read about gear and find out what others think of it.
In the last week alone I have turned down 3 companies offering gear to review, several people thought I was nuts for saying No.
While the site may of been quiet, away from the online world, my life has been anything but sedentary. After an operation on my heart I decided to start running regularly again and entered an race for the first time in years. The Scarborough 10K which somehow I persuaded Traci (Girlfriend) to enter and we successfully completed the course. I may not have been happy at my time but the main thing is that my heart appears to be fixed and I will now need to find another excuse for being rubbish.
A couple of years ago I started bouldering at Durham Climbing Centre, but the stop start nature of it caused problems with the ticker. Now that everything is OK, I have been climbing at Sunderland Wall for the last few months with Jonathan Craddock and more recently Traci too. I'm still not very good, but have managed to climb up to F6b+ top roping. The next stage is to learn Lead climbing, then progress to rock outdoors next year.
There hasn't been a lack of walking either, a couple of trips with Phil Turner most recently an Epic couple of days in the Cairngorms which delighted us with inversions, Broken Spectres, 4000 feet summits and night walking. An earlier trip also included Colin Ibbotson and Tookie Bunten in the Cairngorms and a trio of Trailstars.
Somehow I have been fortunate enough to find someone who is as nuts as me (Traci) and is happy (so she says) to wander up mountains, climb walls, run and generally put up with me talking about the outdoors. Over the last few months I've dragged Traci up several mountains including Bidean nam Bian, Ben Nevis, Scafell Pike, Helvellyn, boggy hills in Weardale and last weekend across the Aonach Eagach. Before meeting me she'd never done anything like this.
Walking with others is something I really enjoy, while I love solitude at times too. It is a very different experience walking with more than just my Kuksa for company. The majority of memorable trips have been shared experiences. Over the years I have encouraged and taken walking many friends, often their first experience of walking and the outdoors. I love doing this and a natural progression is to work towards the Mountain Leader qualification which I have now embarked on. Hopefully I will attend the training course in May next year, I have far more than the required 20 "Quality" mountain days needed. Several months later I will then need to pass the Assessment and then will be a Summer Mountain Leader (fingers crossed). I have a plan in place which will hopefully take me to where I want to be in a couple of years and for the first time, what I'm doing and where I'm going feels like the correct path.
So what is going to happen to this site?
Now that I have formally announced no more reviews I can focus on the things I enjoy again, writing about my experiences, skills learned and observations. I mentioned above that I have a plan for the next couple of years, so much so that I have almost all my holiday scheduled until March 2013. This includes the Ultralight Backpackers Summit Hendrik Morkel is organising in Slovenia next year (dates to be confirmed). These trips and my experiences will now be more regularly written up on here.
I have 2 other Outdoor related sites in the pipeline, both involve a lot of work but once there is something to show I will write about it here. Thanks to everyone I have walked with and spoken to online. I have returned!