I hate ants by ellie berry

A tent is a wonderful thing. It's a portable home, one that takes all of 5minutes (*cough*hours*cough*) to erect, needs very little maintenance. There is one thing I am discovering though, that I do not like.


"Ants are social insects of the family Formicidae /fɔrˈmɪsɨd/ and, along with the related wasps and bees, belong to the order Hymenopera. Ants evolved from wasp-like ancestors in the mid-Cretaceous period between 110 and 130 million years ago ... They are easily identified by their elbowed antennae and the distinctive node-like structure that forms their slender waists. Ants have colonised almost every landmass on Earth. The only places lacking indigenous ants are Antarctica and a few remote or inhospitable islands."

Lying on the floor, I look at the opaque ceiling and I see the movements of small, black shadows; the snowman shaped body of these creatures dancing along on paths I don't quite follow. But it's not too bad, there's only one up - no, there's another, and one more ... and two over there. And look at that slightly larger one, but oh my god is it faster than the others ...  

And so, I realised instead of finding a reasonable route around my portable home, what feels like a colony of ants now skitters across above my head. 

This is not were they stop. 

After starting to piece together the moves of the climb Opium 8a in Recloses, I pick up Carl's shoe, only to immediately drop it. Looking inside, there is no sole, but a writhing mass of small brown and black bodies. Throwing the shoe, a sea of these crawling creatures splatter across the rock it collides with. I repeat the process, the rock becoming so thickly covered that I have to move to a new stone to abuse. 
Several minutes later, I look inside and see no more. Slowly, oh so slowly, I insert my hand. Drawing it out, there are more wriggling bodies swinging between my fingers, and I resort to using the climbing brush to knock the final resistors out of the toe. I sit as far as I consider possible on hillside from the shoe, only to then think of my camera bag basking in the sun, the my hoodie discarded on the ground, the food bag out of sight and I pray is fully shut. 

And so on. 

So yes, right now, I am breeding a sufficient hatred of ants, one that I see staying with me for a considerable amount of time. 

Chasing Lightning in Fontainebleau by ellie berry

Lightning Storm in Grez-Sur-Loing, Fontainebleau, France

Yesterday was not a day from climbing. It rained. It rained a lot. 
By evening though the place was in a balmy calm, slightly muggy and humid but with a clear sky. Walking back from the showers, I see flashes across the sky. No one else seems to react, so I wonder if it was just someone's head torch. But standing there, I see lightning, buried in far away clouds, flash and flicker. I guess everyone here is used to proper storms. The night before this, I had woken up to the most amazing thunder - the kind that makes me understand why some people claim to be afraid of storms. I felt the force of the bang hit me, both jumping up and into a ball as I was ripped from my sleep. It was amazing. Now, I stand looking at far off lightning dance across the sky and I know I don't just want to sit indoors. Taking my camera, I head off to a river just between the campsite and the town. However, in my haste, I didn't consider the fact that it was night, and that a tripod would be necessary. Sending Carl back to the campsite, I sit and watch the light show. 

Watching, it really dawned on me how it was just a giant ball of static. Just some charged clouds getting too close. And I know how obvious this is, but it's something that didn't quite click, and didn't quite instil the awe it deserved, until last night. 

Of course, even when I get the tripod, I've still forgotten to bring extra batteries, and the clouds are moving just a bit too far away. I decide that if I can make it back to the campsite, grab another battery pack and my bike, I can take a 5 minute cycle to the other side of town and see. If it's all gone, it would just have been five minutes. If not, I'll be happy to be there. 

One of my problems with the town was it's light pollution. A streetlight may be out of frame, but it's light still leaks into the corner and leaves horrible streaks. So I aimed for the open empty fields of the other side, away from everything. Standing out there, chasing my lightening, it felt like I was standing on the outskirts of a muted storm. There was no thunder or rain, just the rustle of long grass, and the flashing sky above me. 

The lightning wasn't huge forks or Harry Potter style bolts, but high high above the clouds, illuminating them from the inside.  When your standing there counting seconds for exposures though, you forget to watch where the storm is going. 
I'm not quite sure what way it was being pulled in the beginning, but at one point I noticed that it seemed to be coming back towards me a little bit. I became absorbed in watching the clouds and guessing when to release the shutter. And then, within four minutes, it seemed to move from being a far off speck, to something on top of me. The calm of the area was ripped apart by winds that caused moving straight to be difficult, and rain that pelting relentlessly. And I was very aware of how in the open I was standing. 

I think that was the most rushed back up I've ever attempted of my camera equipment. I went from chasing the lightning, to being chased by it. Reaching the streets of the town was such a relief, the fact that I was not the most metal object around a comfort. I was a dripping mess arriving back to the campsite. Climbing into bed, I felt so awake and excited I wasn't sure what I wanted to do. There is nothing more humbling and inspiring than witnessing something so much more powerful than yourself. As much as I don't need the storms for climbing, I pray that they come back just for one more night. 

Night train from Paris to Lyon passing lightning storm