The Tiny House movement and travel

The Tiny House Movement and travel combine well together. In this video a Czech couple bought a fan and transformed it into a self contained home to live in for a year. They chose it because they wanted room for the surfboards, wet suits and more. It has space for cooking lamb shanks, socialising and sleeping. You can enter the van both from the front and the back.

I really like the idea of this van. It would be fun to travel for a few months from place to place, do what there is to do, see what there is to see and then move on. This would adapt well to hiking, climbing, via ferrata and other sports. It allows you to live comfortably without spending money on hotels, villas or other places.

The project cost them around 10,000 dollars to build so if you work and save up for a few months you could easily take a gap year and afford to do such a project. Working on such a project does require some skills in wood working. He said that it took hundreds, if not thousands of hours to prepare the van. If you’re travelling then a few steps a day for a few weeks would get to this final result.

At one moment they speak about the herb garden that they have in the glove box. As they had the space they planted some mint and other herbs for cooking. As a result of this herb garden they said that when driving on rough roads the Mint plant gets shaken about and in the process the van smells of mint. It’s a natural air freshener.

In a month they will move on and sell the van to continue travelling. If I was travelling to New Zealand I’d like to try living in a van like this and use it as a base to go hiking, climbing and enjoying other sports. This seems like a pleasant way of travelling.


Learning about Tiny Houses

Learning about Tiny Houses is interesting. There are a number of features/documentaries online where people build their own tinyhouses either from shipping containers, trailers or other structures. The aim of these tinyhouses is to maximise space and reduce costs. Some of these homes are entirely off the grid. They collect rain water and solar panels provide power. The bedroom is often built above the kitchen and climbing wall holds are used instead of ladders or conventional stairs.

One home folds out from a truck to become a castle. One tower serves as a toilet and the second one serves as a shower. The space above even features a bath.

Another Tiny home is designed as a tree house providing a beautiful 360° panoramic view of the landscape around.

This tiny home is interesting because it’s built out of half a shipping container. For a change the bed is below and the living room is above. The kitchen and office are next to it and there is a shower from which to watch birds.

I have seen a lot of people speak about minimalist living, living off the grid and living out of cars, campers and other vehicles. By watching videos about tiny houses you begin to understand that there are certain basics that you need to have and that these basics fit in to small spaces. If you have a van, a caravan or other vehicle then you can live as comfortably as these people.

This last video would make for a perfect summer home for recent university graduates or high school graduates. It’s small, light and mobile. You’re self sufficient to a great extent and as long as it’s warm you have your own space. It’s amusing that in at least three videos we hear about people learning to be neater through living in such small spaces.

As a scuba diver, rock climber, cyclist and geek the biggest challenge for someone like me would be to find a place where I could store my diving gear and especially the scuba tanks. They’re bulky. Diving gear also needs to dry properly to avoid the smell of the lake (as I used to dive weekly in the lake).

My view of living in a tinyhouse has changed through the watching of these documentaries. It shows you that what you want is functionality rather than size. You want “gadgets” as these maximise how you use available space.

A 360 timelapse walk through the woods

Yesterday I went for a 360 timelapse walk through the woods above Trelex. I set the camera to take an image every 8 seconds. As the woods were dark and dense it took some effort not to walk in too much mud and not to slip too many times. The result of the timelapse is not as good as I had hoped. Ideally I want to find a way to fix the camera so that it looks at my direction of travel.

From this footage you see that the camera suffered with the lack of light and that because the camera occasionally rotated to the right it is easy to become disorientated. It is for this reason that it is useful to find wide open spaces when possible and to find places with a lot of ambient light.

What I like about this video is that we can see the various exercise locations. We can see the horizontal bars, the rings and other activities. When I design something to hold the camera steady while I walk with it I can have a little more fun. I could hang on the rings or play with the bars.

With a little luck the month and a half of bad weather is coming to an end and I will be able to go out and get to some interesting locations to film some time lapses.

There are a number of panoramic locations that I think would lend themselves well to 360° views. Imagine a walk by the lake side or a walk near the summit with a view of the landscape below.

What locations or sites would you like to see as 360° timelapse videos?

Montagne en Scène Genève

Au Vieux Campeur held the summer mountain film screening event at the Batiment des Forces Motrices in Geneva. They introduced the event as being the opportunity for them to share the passion of the mountains with people who may not be aware of the activities that are possible. They then went on to say “but as we’re having the screening in Geneva we know that you’re just half an hour from the mountains so many of you are practitioners and today we may even have participants from the cancelled Patrouille Des Glaciers.

Mountain film screening
Montagne en Scène, four films screened at the BFM buildling in Geneva

Four films were shown at Montagne En Scène. The films shown were A Line Across the Sky, a documentary following two less experienced climbers as they attempt the Fitzroy traverse during a rare good weather window, Chasing Niagra, a documentary about Rafa Ortiz and his preparations to shoot the Niagra Falls in a Kayak. The third film is Mont Rebei Project, a documentary looking to achieve a new Rope Jump record.

The Last film, and my favourite is Valley Uprising. It takes a look at the American climbing scene from the fifties up to the Modern day. This documentary is great because it provides us with a deep understanding of the American climbing psyche. Mountain climbing is a sport of passion and so to see how different groups helped this passion progress over the years is interesting.

Film screenings are in Switzerland, France and Belgium

Sharkwater – a documentary worth watching

Sharkwater – A documentary worth watching.

If you have one and a half hours of free time I recommend watching this documentary. It discusses the anti-whaling work by the Sea Shepherd, the work it did to combat long lining around the Galapagos and it touches on the shark finning mafia and corruption.

The documentary also looks at the public perception of sharks. It shows that they are not the dangerous animal that they were thought to be until recent history. The film ends with a shot of the narrator free-diving with sharks and being perfectly relaxed. At one point he says “sharks are so sensitive that they can feel your heart beat, if you are calm they will stay but if you panic they will flee”. I paraphrased his exact words.

Another theme that is explored in this documentary is the food chain. He mentions that plankton absorb a lot of Carbon dioxide and that with the overfishing of sharks the ecological balance will be ruined as the apex predators are lost. He pushes strongly for the conservation of shark numbers. We are familiar with the current Save our Sharks movement.

This is an interesting investigative documentary about the economy surrounding shark finning and why it has a negative impact on the food chain. If the documentary was updated it could look at the economic viability of shark tourism that has grown in recent years. Sharks, in some places are more valuable alive than dead. If you don’t have time to watch the entire documentary then I recommend that you watch the last thirty to fourty minutes.

Via Ferrata du Diable – Aussois

The Barrière de l’Esseillon are a line of fortifications two hundred years old and capable of holding two thousand soldiers in total.The fort Victor-Emmanuel is still standing and in it’s day could hold up to one thousand five hundred troops. This fort overlooks the via Ferrata.

Some drone shots of the region in winter

The Via Ferata du Diable is a series of via ferrata routes located around a bridge called Le Pont du Diable (Bridge of the Devil) which crosses the river L’arc (The Bow). This set of via ferrata varies from two easier ones that are suitable for children to four via ferrata that are suitable for various skill levels as long as you are not afraid of heights. The last one is going to challenge your courage and stamina because it is high off the ground and there are overhangs.

The via ferrata are numbered so if you do them then do 6 followed by 3, then walk back and do four and five so that you complete a loop without back tracking. If you want to do the seventh then be ready to be high off the valley floor, to cross a monkey bridge, a nepalese bridge and a more conventional final bridge. There is an escape route but by this point you might as well finish the via ferrata and walk back.

Social Media and Via Ferrata

People on linkedin were discussing whether social media campaigns are worth organising and keeping. When it comes to extreme sports such as Via Ferrata, rock climbing and other extreme sports then I believe that the audience is ready and enthusiastic enough for a social media presence to be desirable.

Via Ferrata is an outdoor sport that can be practiced in France, Italy, Spain, Switezrland, Austria, Germany, the United Kingdom, the United States, Canada and Peru. As a result of the diverse place where this sport can be carried out so social media became an excellent avenue through which to share information about the sport.


I have loved the sport of via ferrata for five years now, half a decade. What I loved about it was the simplicity of the sport. After just two or three climbing lessons and going with a guide once I saw that I could handle via ferrata comfortably without a guide. I always insisted that I would take people with rock climbing experience, not absolute beginners.

Via Ferrata is a specific sport requiring specific equipment and specific experience. It requires a head for heights and an ability to hike for an hour or two before a climb and another hour or two after the climb. As the locations are usually remote it also requires someone with a car and whom can navigate.

Social networks such as Glocals for Geneva and Lausanne, Xdreams, for Geneva specifically and the Via Ferrata Suisse group for the French speaking part of Switzerland are good places to find participants. The first two examples are to connect with the international/english speaking community and the latter is to connect with the French speaking community.

Glocals is a local social network helping the international community in Geneva, Lausanne and other cities to meet up and be active. Through this site you can meet people to work on hangover, meet people to scuba dive and meet people to do outdoor sports such as hiking, climbing, via ferrata, swimming, canyoning and much more. Due to the nature of the social network are spread around Switzerland and the meeting point is usually the event, with car sharing from strategic points.


Via Ferrata Suisse is a nice online community for French speaking via ferrata practitioners on Facebook. As they are spread across the French speaking parts of Switzerland they can provide information and tips on via ferrata that are local.

Aside from connecting people social networks and social media are great for the sharing of pictures, personal accounts and textual information about via ferrata. Some people want beautiful landscapes and so pictures will help them select which via ferrata to do. Others are afraid of heights so they will avoid being too far from the ground. A third group will look at how exertional via ferratas will be. I have seen two people run out of energy at Plan Praz and I have seen everyone feel weak by the time they finish the Leukerbad Via Ferrata.

Tourism professionals and equipment manufacturers can benefit from a social media presence. I see that Iloveclimbing, Suunto, PETZL, Mammut and other brands actively share the adventures that either their athletes or enthusiasts of their equipment are enjoying. It’s a great way to make me dream of going to some locations, getting that piece of kit or trying an activity at that time of day.

To give a specific example I have wanted to do the Moléson by night Via Ferrata for years now and have never got around to it. For two or three years it was because of work and this year it was because of the weather and because I had already booked Leukerbad for the weekend it was moved to. Next year I will make it.

I love suunto, Mammut and PETZL. Rather than advertise to the city dweller like Apple, Fitbit and withings do they organise social media campaigns around the great outdoors and around extreme sports. As a result of their social media policy I identify very strongly with their products. In the case of suunto I have dive computers and fitness watches. I understand the passion that their athletes represent in their social media campaigns.

Social media is about socialisation and passion. Via Ferrata is a sport that people feel passionate about but because it requires physical fitness and a head for heights your pre-existing group of friends may not be the best suited for your passion to take off. That’s where social networks and social media can help find new via ferrata, see what to be wary of and meet new people. According to these three parameters Via Ferrata and social media are perfect for each other. Sports companies, tourism offices and transport infrastructure would result from a social media presence.

The Leukerbad Via Ferrata

The Leukerbad Via Ferrata is a mythical Via Ferrata for those who practice the sport in the french speaking part of Switzerland. It is mythical both for the duration and for the vertical movement. The climb itself takes around 5hr30-6hr and the vertical change is 1000m. Via ferrata is rock climbing for tourists. A team of specialists look at a climbing route and then install a safety cable, spikes and other features to help people climb the via ferrata. The cable is static.

Via ferrata have a number of origins. Some via ferrata routes are along old smuggling routes, others were used by the French resistance as hide aways and others were used to get troops from one side of the mountain to the other during the first world war. In the 1960s to 1970s they were reinstated to attract tourists.

Leukerbad is a spa town with a collection of baths heated by geothermal activity. This year I chose to stay at the Alfa hotel and the price included access to a covered parking, access to the spa and access to the lifts. When you see that the lift is 34CHF and the Spa is around the same price the saving is interesting. As the town is small I parked the car when I arrived and did not use it until I left.

People like to catch the first cable car up and try to make it down before the last cable car down. Walking down to town is possible but most people are knackered after the via ferrata.

The Via Ferrata has three main parts. The first part takes you from the base of the Via Ferrata, by the big Swiss flag and up to a terrasse where grass grows and people have snacks. If you are not used to spikes then this route will surprise you as much as it did me. I would recommend finding a shorter Via Ferrata (VF) with spikes before doing Leukerbad.

Usually the Via Ferrata is not this busy. Two or three groups were active this weekend.
Usually the Via Ferrata is not this busy. Two or three groups were active this weekend.

The second part can be tackled one of two ways. The first way is to climb up as a climber, using foot holds and hand holds wherever you can find them. For those with less experience pulling yourself up with the cable is possible. If you use the cable then do not make the mistake I made my previous three times. If you are not afraid of heights then pull on the cable perpendicular to the cliff. It’s easier. This requires that you are not bothered with heights. The route has been changed. It used to be a more direct and upwards path. Now the path zigzags until you get to the cave.

Half way up the path to the cave a new VF variant is being added which takes you to the right and upwards towards a nepalese bridge before rejoining with the main route. The cave is interesting. It gets darker but you do not need a torch. In the cave you have two variants, easy, and hard. The easy route is along spikes and you climb up a ladder. The hard route has standard hand holds, a wooden bridge and then crosses over to the main route.

Where the two paths intersect you exit the cave and go up a chimney. The Chimney is relatively easy and you can rest against the wall. It then traverses right and you go upwards. As there are few hand holds and footholds you can either rely on climbing experience and climb using the rock or you can use the cable as I described in a previous paragraph. There is eventually a small plateau where you can have a quick snack, a drink and restore your energy. You still have a few more minutes of climbing until a real plateau. From this plateau you can enjoy the view.

This is the point by which I was usually exhausted. For the first time doing this via ferrata I was smiling at this point. Usually I’m exhausted and can’t wait for it to be over.

The passage through the cave you do on foot is nice but I have never had the courage to go over the edge and climb up. I take the footpath across the scree field to where the two paths intersect again. From here you have another half an hour of climbing to a slightly overhanging ladder. When a VF friend got to the top of the ladder and saw over the crest she said “Wow” because that view is so spectacular. The source of the “Wow” is a large circus with two glaciers. This year the glaciers had a lot of snow and you could clearly see the curves which illustrate glaciers in action.

If you take the Alfa hotel then your entrance to the spa is free. You will need to ask them for a card for the locker. The spa has a bath fed with warm volcanic water at 47 degrees and with larger cooler pools. Those pools are at about 36°c. You have the choice between bubbles or jets.

For food I ate pasta the first night. On the second night I had an entrecôte Sauce Café de Paris and it was delicious at the Pizzeria Giardino.

While I was capturing portals whilst playing Ingress I walked through the old town of Leukerbad and found these traditional buildings and implements.

Fribourg was liberated by Fribourg, Lausanne and Geneva Ingress resistance fighters

This weekend teams of Resistance Ingress agents from Fribourg, Lausanne and Geneva met in Fribourg to neutralise and capture all Enlightened portals. Some teams were on foot to liberate portals from the centre of the city. I was with the bike team and we took care of liberating all of the portals on the outskirts. It involved cycling up and down hills, a thunderstorm and being rained on.

I really enjoyed being part of the cycling team. It’s a fantastic way to get around and it’s a good way of seeing a big portion of unfamiliar cities with a minimum of effort. My team members were on electric bikes and I was on a mountain bike. This was great for me. I had to work hard to keep up with them. This was a good workout. There were moments where I generated up to an estimated 1300 watts of power for very short bursts and got the fifth best time on a segment.

I enjoyed this experience so much that I would love to do this again in other cities around here. Cycling gave me a workout and playing Ingress gave me time to recover. It seems that if you’re creating fields having a bike is ideal. You can get almost anywhere from anywhere within a city within minutes with a minimum of effort. By car this would be dangerous and impractical and on foot it would be slow and impractical.

France Télévision Coverage of the Tour De France

The Tour De France is a 3600 kilometre race over 3 weeks with one independent race each day. They start in an international city and then make their way to France within two or three days. The programmes are built around three specific shows. There is the pre-show Village programme followed by the first part of the race before the depart until well after it. The last segment is moved to France 2 for peak viewing and audience.

During the first of these programmes you learn about the city the tour de France is leaving. You get artist interviews, food preparation and other small animations. During the second programme, the first part of the race you see the cyclists and the landmarks and places worthy of note. You get landscape shots of the countryside, aerial shots of castles and learn about where they are cycling for future tourist visits should you be in one part of France or the other. You also get to see the cycling.

Today they’re cycling through the Pyrenées so you will see the cyclists face the challenge of climbs at the same time as working on making their endurance last long enough.

There are a lot of sports on television but very few of them have the intensity and landscape of cycling. Tennis is in a court, Football is in a stadium, golf is in a park. Only Cycling provides television audiences with a journey, a voyage. I love this voyage and love the “French Landscape programme” as I like to call it, for this very reason.