Showing posts from October, 2011

Mapping the forest, or mapping the mind?

In that Empire, the craft of cartography attained such perfection that the map of a single province covered the space of an entire city, and the map of the empire itself an entire province. In the course of time, these extensive maps were found somehow wanting, and so the College of Cartographers evolved a map of the empire that was of the same scale as the empire and that coincided with it point for point. Less attentive to the study of cartography, succeeding generations came to judge a map of such magnitude cumbersome, and, not without irreverence, they abandoned it to the rigours of sun and rain. In the western deserts, tattered fragments of the map are still to be found, sheltering an occasional beast or beggar; in the whole nation, no other relic is left of the discipline of Geography. Jorge Luis Borges, "Of Exactitude in Science" from A Universal History of Infamy (Penguin 1984 p.131) All maps are illusions, tricks of the mind, elaborate tapestrie

Italian Lakes interlude

A week of late autumn sunshine and soft alpine breezes made for a perfect walking trip, plus some stunning rock architecture curtain-walling the many well-marked paths of the Italian trail network. Lierna is a superb base for exploring Lake Como and the foothills of the Sondrio alps, underneath the high ridges of the Grigna and the Legnone. The high treeline allows shaded walks to about 1500m, I tripped over myself several times as 300m faces of rock reared through the gaps in the oak and beech. It was also a trip to unwind, watch sunsets with a beer or two and swan about the jigsaw harbour villages of Varenna, Bellagio, Menaggio. I even thought I might catch a glimpse of George Clooney on his Vespa - 'Ciao, George!' - but his name was banned on the holiday, just referred to as Voldemort...   Lake Como is a leggy lake with two branches reaching down to old Etruscan/Roman towns of Lecco and Como, the hidden bays more accessible by boat than land, usually punctuated

Chasing the right weather . . .

Not as odd a concept as you may think . . . with the amount of forecasting sites available on the web, 'chasing the weather' has become a black art. All of us who love the outdoors have different priorities when it comes to weather: rock climbers, winter mountaineers, canoeists, surfers, walkers, paragliders. However, we all have one thing in common: the perfect forecast! For a surfer, this may be a settled period after a storm, with huge swells and little wind. For walkers and climbers, it is the eternal hunt for the 'blue day', usually a high pressure forecast with light winds and dry conditions underfoot. For canoeists, rain-swollen, low pressure systems whet the appetite, as the rivers boil into bursting arteries of peaty water. For paragliders, only the stillest, 'thermal' days will do. Many old-timers will smell it in the wind, or have developed an instinct for it, such as 'mixed' winter mountaineers. This rare breed of snow-scrapers seek o