QR Codes – 5 Uses for Outdoor Instructors & Centres

QR Codes are those square pixelly things you see on a lot of marketing material. With the right software you can scan them using the camera of your phone. You might already use them quite a bit. They used to be a bit faffy to use because you needed to find an app blah blah blah. Now in iOS Apple devices they just work straight out of the camera. In this post I’m going to suggest some ways they can be really useful for outdoor staff and centres.

Try scanning this QR Code with your phones camera

Continue reading “QR Codes – 5 Uses for Outdoor Instructors & Centres”

Buying your first mountain bike – top tips and handy hints

Recently I seem to have come across lots of people wanting advice on buying their first mountain bike so I thought I’d collate it all into a post to make things easier.

So if you are reading this you have either decided you want to buy a mountain bike or you are looking for advice to give to someone. Well there are 2 ways to go about it, the short way or the long way. Continue reading “Buying your first mountain bike – top tips and handy hints”

Fat-Skeptic to Fat-Evangilist in just one bike

In May last year (2012) I had a go on the fatbike that Andy had brought to try on the sand. I was very fat-skeptic.

“Of course a bike wont work on the deserts soft sand”, I thought.

Oh how wrong I was. From that brief play on a small dune just outside Arabian Ranches I almost ran home and started googling everything  could about fatbikes. There wasnt much about using them on sand, most of it was about snow biking and the growing interest around the world in riding the 82mm rim / 4 inch tyre combinations on trails.

I came to the conclusion Continue reading “Fat-Skeptic to Fat-Evangilist in just one bike”

Dear Blog – please accept my apologies

for I have been neglecting you for far to long.

Starting with this post I aim to make it back up to you in some small way by paying you some attention.

My excuse is poor, I was initially distracted by glossy print and then suffered a bit of writers block leading to me not writing or producing images of anything for anyone, not even you dear Blog.

So to make amends I’m going to start a new page detailing my new found enthusiasm for cycling in the desert. I need to tell you all about it, about some big adventures I’ve had and about future plans. I’ve got some plans to use video as well as photos too so we’ll see how that goes.

I intend to spend plenty more time in Oman surfing this summer too. I felt like I missed out last summer with all the visa and passport malarky to start off with and then not being at home much as the summer wore on. I will have a root through some of the photos from last summers travels and share the better less boring holiday snaps with you too, I’ll not to over do it though, most holiday snaps are only interesting for those who were there!

So enough apologies, action speaks louder than words.


12/10/2012 Showka Descents Video + Wadi Racer Strava Segment

Had a great ride yesterday. I’ve quickly put together some of the chest mounted GoPro footage edited to include some of the key descents of the area and posted it on my vimeo account

It includes a full un edited run of Wadi Racer which is in my opinion the definitive Hot Cog track. I’ve set up a Strava segment called “Wadi Racer Short TT” that can be found at

So lets see who is quickest along this very gradually descending fast and technical boulder fest. If your going to play make sure your bike is feeling strong 😉



to write or not to write? this is the question

Last week a walker who’s plan had been to complete a circuit in the Wadi Ghalilah area in the Hajar Mountains, just outside of Ras Al Khaimah, was late ringing in to his family as planned. This obviously worried them greatly and they tried to do something to raise the alarm and in the process a friend of mine, Simon Cahill of Arabia Outdoors, was contacted. To mount a search in this part of the Hajar mountains is a particularly difficult task. The ground is very steep and uncompromising mountainous terrain, its a very big area that even includes an international border plus there is a very limited number of people in the area with the expertise to even participate in the search let alone organise it. On top of that the alarm was raised as it was getting dark. Although the family were worried there was a high probability that the walker was just running a bit later than planned. A search of walking reports from this area will show plenty of people who have been for an adventure there who have found it tougher than the expected and got back down later than planned so it is a normal thing to have happen.

Early the next morning, with the walker still missing, Ras Al Khaimah police mounted a search at first light that also utilised their helicopter. Unfortunately they found the walkers body, a tragic outcome for the persons family and friends.

While I don’t know how they are feeling as I don’t know them at all and I believe its important not to assume, what I do know is how I’ve felt in the past when close friends have died in mountaineering accidents, its tough as hell. A couple of them (there have been 4 total in 3 separate incidents) were very very close friends, the kind who don’t slip out of your memory, the kind I will always miss. Procrastinating about what it is I’ve been asked to do has meant they have been right at the forefront of my mind more than usual and its caused some tough moments for me in the past few days as a result. I wish I could talk to them about it, their thoughts and opinions would be great to have right now (and always).

What it is I’ve been questioning is I’ve been asked by Outdoor UAE to submit a piece concerning the accident. Part of the reason for this is that there has been quite a bit of news coverage in the national press here in the UAE. This is partly because the walkers planned route included the infamous, notorious and spectacular Stairway To Heaven (a ‘path’ that follows a wild line up through the Wadi Ghaliah headwall built by the Hajar’s hill tribes to give them a shortcut between RAK and the large plateau area at the top). There are sections where the tribesmen built steps out of piles of stones, the thing is that these so called steps seem to defy gravity as the piles of stones extend out from the cliff.

The Stairway to Heaven is describes in Explore Publishing’s UAE Offroad Guide and is therefore one of the only walking routes described in any detail in any easily available publication. This is something lots of people seem to have an opinion on 🙄

The reporting that I have seen in the national press has at best had significant inaccuracies based on the information I have been given, but at worst has been sensational badly written tripe full of contradictions. Put simply its been SHITE in my opinion. My ‘source’, Simon, is certainly what I would describe as very trustworthy and has been closer than most to the actual story. It is a fact that there are no witnesses to the incident that lead to this persons death but there are some reasonable assumptions that can be made based on what information I have and after discussions with other people who know the area and the same information I think we are agreed that in all likelihood the incident that lead to the injuries happened at about 5pm in an area of steep broken ground quite late in the descent. i.e. NOT a fall from the spectacular and exposed Stairway to Heaven as every paper seems to have reported (one even reported that he had fallen into a crevasse!! Yeah, right, the UAE is famous for its crevasses obviously).

So eventually (sorry not very good at getting to the point, it takes a while) I get to my original question regarding the piece I’ve been asked to write. Its been requested something concerning both the accident AND mountain safety itself.

Well the accident bit of it is easy because I think I have access to good information. The problem is the mountain safety advice.

I have some quite strong opinions on this kind of thing, the kind that some folks might get very wound up over and while it might not seem like it sometimes I don’t actually like to wind people up, flip side is I’m confident my opinions are pretty good and based on some significant personal experience from a lot of time playing a lot of ‘outdoor’ games so perhaps some people would do as well to listen.

In a nutshell I think that if folks want a nice safe life free from any risk then more fool them. Let them sit on the sofa watching telly and get obese (DOH! so much for avoiding risk ha ha!!). If folks want to do what some would perceive as stupid and risking such injury that may even put their life in danger then let em fill their boots. Why not?

NB I dont support at all folks doing stupid things that put other people in danger! Those tossers weaving through the traffic at breakneck speeds in huge 4wd vehicles on the Emirates Road in Sharjah (still dont get why the driving is so bad specifically on that bit of road). I’d love to see those people caught by the police and prosecuted with the full force of the law.

But folks putting themselves at risk for shits and giggles, why not? See the problem is that both risk and safety are completely subjective, one persons dangerous could be another persons walk in the park.

Safety guidelines that fit with the ethos of the adventurous activities/games we play have always seemed fundamentally flawed. Some examples:

  1. Never go alone – problem is I’ve had some of my best experiences in the outdoors alone. I love not having to organise or be organised. I love the simplicity of it and the pure feeling of self reliance. It may be mountain biking, mountaineering, kayaking or climbing. By myself the other day kayaking on the Black Run at Wadi Adventure, no one could see me, no one was ‘watching my back’. It felt like an easy place to maybe take a roll, wouldn’t be hard if this happened to smack my face on an obstacle under the water and brain myself, unconcious, injured and upside down I’m up against that fundamental safety problem with watersports that humans cant breathe water. By the time I’d have come into view of the rafting base I would have been in a bit of a state. But it felt great, exciting and empowering, the same as soloing a climb. These are things that on the surface are a bit daft but a lot of people know the benefits can outweigh the risks.
  2. Only go where you know where you are going or where someone you are with has experience – wheres the exploration and fun in that!!!!  If this is one of the things everyone should be doing then how is anyone ever going to find anywhere new? Around the world nations hold their famous explorers as hero’s, think of the places no one would know about, both a big and small scale if this, sensible on the surface of it guideline had been adhered to by everyone.
  3. Stay within your abilities – another load of tripe. My recommendation is to go out and take a great big bite of more than you can chew. Nothing beats that feeling of ‘oh shit, here we go’ but then succeeding despite it, even failing and taking a pasting feels great in the end because you tried. How will you ever know your current limits if you don’t explore right up to and beyond where you think they might be. Staying within your comfort zone is just a route to a life of mediocrity, cardigans and slippers. Bleugh!!

So from receiving a request for an article about guidelines for mountain safety I find myself wanting to say to everyone go out and find your limits, even cross the line where you think they may be and do it where you know nothing about where you are and do it alone!!

Hmmmm, doesn’t sound very sensible does it, hmmmmm, does sound kinda fun though!

If you choose to accept my, what I think is excellent, advice can I just point out something that I think is VERY IMPORTANT. If you follow my advice dont come crying to me, or anyone else for that matter, when it all goes horribly wrong.

Take responsibility for yourself and your actions.

That is the thing that is most likely to actually keep you safe. Forget any poxy safety guidelines written in some mythical outdoor safety manual. Do your research, make a plan, be properly prepared and then go and have a fantastic adventure with only yourself to blame for the consequences. This can be done with other people, taking responsibility doesn’t just happen when your solo.

Every one I know who are what could be described as good climbers/kayakers/mountaineers/surfers/outdoorsmen etc are all people who fully take responsibility for themselves. They make sure they fully understand the game they are playing and plan, prepare and then get out there. Some times they get their butts kicked and everyone laughs about it over a drink. Sometimes its not funny at all and the consequences are brutal for all concerned. Why folks continue to do it despite these consequences is a whole other blog post I’ll need to help me think about it.

to write or not to write? hmmmm, dont know.

Lastly to the family, just in case someone one of you reads this, please accept my sincerest condolences. It tore me apart when similar happened to me but I’m soooooo glad I knew them and they were my friends. I’m pretty sure that none of them or me can/would/could/should change a thing. They were all people who’s light burned brightly and I loved them very much for that and miss them badly.

First ride at Showka on the BMC Trail Fox (inc Video)

On Thursday I received a BMC Trail Fox TR02 from Adventure HQ in Times Square, Dubai. I’ve set up a page under “My Bikes” to post detailed information about it. You can find the page at

Here is a youtube video I’ve put together using footage from a chest mounted Gopro camera I was wearing on the bikes inaugral / shakedown ride at Showka on Friday morning.

The first outing and shake down ride for the BMC Trail Fox. Out from the roundabout Weaved our way up to and through Lisa’s Gash to the top of the bridge descent. The descent from the bridge is feeling great ATM! Then through and up to Wadi Racer. From the top of the steep gully across the ‘plain’ and then down the wadi to the resting tree by the farm took about 9:51. This should be clocked on Strava as the short Wadi Racer time trial. There needs to be a longer one that includes the ascent. From there it was over and round Gregors Mount (pause for face plant incident) before heading home. Just over 30km I believe. Top ride. New bike was tested on some of the best and toughest that Showka has to offer and I’ve got to say I’m pretty damn impressed! Great ride folks, shukkran

Music Rolling in the Deep by Adele. Taken From The Brand New Album 21. No Copywright Intended. Always Support the Artist. Order/Download from Amazon- Hmv- or iTunes-

For more information on mountain biking in the UAE check out the UAE Mountain Biking page on my blog at

Gear Review in May’s Outdoor UAE Magazine – Columbia Powerdrain Shoe

In this months Outdoor UAE we had a pair of Columbia Powerdrain shoes on test.

click the image for larger version

My conclusion was

If the idea of a good all round shoe that performs just as well when wet as dry, is nice and grippy on both wet and dry surfaces, looks subtly neat and drys pretty damn quickly to boot appeals then these are the best I’ve seen. I’d recommend these to anyone with a boat, anyone who spends time in and around the water’s edge and particularly to anyone participating in activities like rafting where foot protection is important both in the craft and out on rough watersides where toenails have a tendency to get torn off in the rocks or the soles of feet get cut. Get the right size and these will do most things well wet or dry.

If you want to find out the details get yourself a copy of the magazine

Columbia is available through both Columbia and Sun and Sand Sports stores. You can contact them through their facebook page at



Event- 10th May 2012 UAE Adventure Racing and Adventure HQ Desert Adventure Hike or Run

Kevin West is putting together what sounds like a fantastic and inovative adventure race

Click on the image to go to the Premiere Marathons Event Page

Information taken from the UAE Adventure Racing Facebook Page

Event Overview:  18km (4 checkpoints) or 37km (6 checkpoints) over red dunes on 3/4 moonlit night. Start between 7 and 9pm. Teams of 2 (experienced) or 3.

Social-so just come and camp.

Mandatory Equipment list
1. GPS per team (Running GPS okay)
2. Camelpac/backpack/per person
3. Headtorch per person
4. Mobile per team
5. Energy food and hydration per person
6. 1st Aid Kit per team
7. Whistle per team

Start Times:  07:00 am Cut Off Time:  08:00 am Start

Location:  Nazwa off Dubai/Hatta Road (approx 60 min from most locations in Dubai.

Finish Location:  Same as start location Course

Highlights: Red Dunes, Moonlight, Manned Checkpoints, Challenging though attainable course.

Support Stations: Each Checkpoint will have water, other drinks.

Timing: Manual Timing Registration Fee Includes:

Event T Shirt – available in Med or Large only.

Adventure HQ discounts on equipment on Event’s Equipment List GPS and course overview sessions at Adventure HQ from 7:30pm on May 1st and May 8th.

Registration Fee

Refund Policy: None, but you can transfer the registration – up to 24 hours before event starts. Please contact the event director for this.

Race Pack Collection: From Adventure HQ between May 1st and May 9th. Please try to combine this with the information sessions on May 1st or May 8th at 7:30pm if at all possible.

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