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Penny Zannikos: Snapshot of The Summer of 2019

As the temperature drops into autumn, we’re already reminiscing about our summer adventures and dreaming for next year. Our ambassador, Penny Zannikos, had an extremely eventful summer involving plenty of climbing, walking and one cute puppy. Grab a cuppa, and it’s over to Penny to tell us more…


As summer turns bronze and autumn takes hold, I find myself reflecting on my adventures and experiences, the people I have shared it with, the fun things I have achieved, the laughter, the tears, the ambitions I have and, ultimately, how utterly lucky I am!


Penny at Keswick Mountain Festival in her stripe base layer

Keswick Mountain Festival

Starting in May with Keswick Mountain Festival, sharing this time with our friends and co-members of York Mountaineering Club. John and I arrived early and headed straight for a day in the hill with a grade 3 scramble, followed by a multi-pitch climb before meeting the others and heading to see the Peat Bog Fairies at the best festival venue ever; its stage backdrop of mountains, cat bells reflecting onto Ullswater, as we jigged to the wild folk-rock bagpipes of the band. Day 2 was climbing at Shepherds Crag, a firm favourite, before heading to meet and listen to the amazing and always super inspiring ‘Jenny Tough’ – there’s a connection here as my first introduction to FINDRA was at Kendal where I also first heard Jenny talk about her adventures – the two have stuck with me, encouraged, inspired, opening me to new ideas, making me want to do more! The weekend concluded with another multi-pitch in a fantastic setting and sharing the day with our friend and awesome guy, ‘Alabama’.


What a view!



Later the same month we dodged the real clouds for a night away in the van and climbing at Hencloud! We felt so content to be away even if it was just for a night. You can pack so much into your time when you just go for it. We headed to the Peak District, parked up beneath the crag which in the fading light of dusk looked like a hill top fort, sinister and intriguing; I couldn’t wait for morning.



We cooked on the BBQ, watched the sunset, drank wine then slept. We were up and climbing before 08.30, thank God for my FINDRA merino base layer keeping me warm, super comfortable with no seams to rub and incredibly fast wicking when the temperature rises. In those early hours with no one else around, just us, the birds and the sheep, it was perfect. We had the crag to ourselves and loved every minute. We ticked off a couple of its famous multi-pitch routes before heading back to van for breakfast.

We decided to head home via Windgather Rocks because its accessibility and low height that we could make the best use of the remainder of the weekend. We did some basic technique training on harder climbing grades, including over hangs. Whilst my climbing style may be lacking my FINDRA merino-lite t-shirt in grenadine made sure I was in style, while keeping me cool in the sun rays. This amazing t-shirt has certainly been tested during our days away in the van, trail runs and climbing, it always smells clean even on the second day! Also it is super-light to carry in your pack as an extra layer and it is always in mine. A short but sweet adventure, these are often the best as time seems to move in a different way, leaving you happy, fulfilled and content.



WWW = Wet Wales Weekend

The FINDRA headband keeping Penny’s ears warm!


The rain was set in for the weekend across the country, but we decided to go for it and see what we could achieve. If you never went out in the rain in UK you would rarely go out at all! We checked the forecast using the Norwegian Weather service, always reliable in our experience, and found we had a few pockets of good weather in our favour. However, I made sure I packed an extra pair of FINDRA Skye Merino Socks just in case, they are simply the best when your feet are cold wet and tired, no hike of mine is done without these to hand.


Now that’s a ridgeline!


At 4am the Pen-y-pass carpark is quiet, even on a holiday weekend. Excited as I had waited a long time for this and now finally, ‘Crib Goch’ and the horseshoe. We almost had Snowdon to ourselves, which in itself was incredible. Crib Goch’s fine ridgeline did not disappoint. An absolute pleasure from start to finish, there are few days that I have enjoyed as much as this, what a start to the weekend!

We were in Pete’s Eats in Llanberris by 10.30 with hot coffee and breakfast, content and happy having completed the entire horseshoe route in great time. A great night followed as we joined the rest at the hut for supper, drinks flowing, good food and company and of course table bouldering!

Day 2 was a wash out so a late start was arranged. We met in the layby at the foot of Tryfan ready for the North Ridge – my second time on this beauty, still testing at times but a true satisfaction as we finished, the weather was mixed but the rain had stopped, I was grateful to my FINDRA merino base layer keeping me warm and my headband not only kept my ears warm it stopped my hair blowing in my face and eyes – also great for under my climbing helmet. Day 3, the sun surprised us and we finished the weekend with an incredible multi-pitch route at Blaenau-Ffestiniog, Gwynedd. At one point, 4 teams of 3 headed up different routes on the face of the rock, the steam train below and beautiful views of the valley, Wales was amazing and the company too.


The Big French Trip.

June into July, just over 3 weeks. I could write so much about this trip. It was the best trip of my life! So many breath taking experiences, much achieved, many firsts, with my best friend and favourite person, fell in love with France, 4 holidays in one. This is a mere ‘snippet’ of the three and a half weeks of uninterrupted fun and sun, the best bits!



Driving towards Chamonix for the first time was spectacular, the winding roads, long tunnels, the scenery, it was like being part of a movie with a back drop of the Alps, I will remember the day forever. After an obligatory stop at the Carrefour, the Mer de Glace campsite was our Alps base. The sun was hot as we set up camp and then a cycle through the town to Les Gaillands for sport climbing. I was grateful for my FINDRA leggings which not only fit like a glove, they are tough and durable with free movement and look great! A couple of routes under our harnesses to settle us in, beautiful rock and amazing view of the Aiguille du Midi, I think I like it here.

We had decided to stay at the Albert Premier Hut the following evening, for an ‘Alpine start’ and to see what we could achieve. The cable car and chair lift at Aiguille du Tour were challenging for someone with a crippling rear of heights (ridiculous that I choose to climb as a past time!) then the walk to the hut. Snow ledge traverses, steep inclines, mixed snow, rock and boulders, an interesting approach which kept us entertained and concluded with a steep accent to the hut. If you’ve stayed in a hut before, you know the drill; prep, food, sleep. Up at 3.30am and out at 4am, crampons on.



WOW, the cold on your face, dawn light approaching and snowy peaks all around, it really was incredible. Nothing can prepare you for your first alpine outing, the views, ‘that’ feeling, being alive and free, nothing else like it. With a couple of peaks ticked off and the heat in the sun rising as each minute passes, we had to apply more sun screen and thank you to my FINDRA neck warmer keeping those rays off me, each step in the slushy snow was becoming harder.

We were back at the hut by lunch ready to head back to camp. Our time in Chamonix continued like this, so many exciting firsts, such a feeling of exhilaration – why had I waited so long? Aiguille du Midi, Cosmique Hut, Vallee Blanche, that Ice Tunnel! How steep? How scared? I made it down and now feel I can do anything! Moving away from snow we did the incredible Via Corda, what a joy. The 600m + low grade climb that we chose to scramble was a pleasure from start to finish with an amazing surprise at the top; a superb little café/hut with views of the Dru. More great times followed, trail runs and resting with Aperol Spritz, and superb food As the weather turned we bolted South for an opposite but equally fantastic sports climbing excursion in Provence. Buis-les-Baronnies had everything you would want from a small French town; the best croissants, lovely markets, friendly, entertaining and superb climbing in valleys with rivers to wild swim and cool off from the heatwave. Heaven, what else did we need? I fell deeply in love with this place! This feeling stayed with us throughout our French trip and I can’t wait to go back.


July Welsh Dash.

Sometimes you have to grab whatever time is given! With John working late on the Friday, we had the van packed and were ready to go first thing on Saturday morning. We took a chance as the weather was so changeable, the best of it being Saturday afternoon and Sunday morning till about 11am. We went for it! Arriving in the valley, Craig Llywelyn, around 15.30 we quickly made the decision to do what we had come for and not wait to be fresh on Sunday as we’d never forgive ourselves if the weather went against us on Sunday and it was currently warm and sunny.



Aiming for Will-o-the-wisp, a Classic rock multi-pitch route. Its interesting approach took some finding but we had bags of determination and needed ‘our fix’. Four and a half hours later we were at the top of the route feeling elated, happy and content. We’d had the best of the weather with the sun shining on us, once again I was glad I had my FINDRA merino-lite t–shirt on with its amazing fast wicking qualities and super stylish too, teamed with my  neck warmer keeping the rays of my neck, I had all things covered! At the van we decided to wild camp where we were and get the BBQ ready. It was a beautiful valley, stunning views and only one other van around. After a celebratory meal washed down with wine, we went to bed to rest. We had decided on a circular trail route in the morning before the rain came in. Our neighbours for the night turned out to be two of Johns pals he’d climbed with the previous year so a catch up over coffee and some stalling on both parts made for a later start, and the wind to pick up. Our run was exhilarating and great fun. Tough on the steep uphill but scenic and so worth getting outdoors for, even with the now grey sky and drizzly rain, we were happy and full of contentment. We ended our Welsh dash with a walk on the beach and the best Fish n Chips from Tremadog. Once again those stolen moments of sheer pleasure and feeling proud of what we had packed in.



Family Reunions, Greek Weddings and more sun in August.

We had resigned ourselves to a week of relaxing, sightseeing, reading, beaches and eating – doing what normal people do on vacation (why were we feeling so nervous about this). In Athens we met Nicole (my eldest daughter) and her boyfriend Matt, who had just flown in from New Zealand – how excited was I for the three of us being back together, the three musketeers. We flew to Chios where we were reunited with Natalie, my youngest. Our partners joined us for their first trip to Chios, the beautiful island that seduced me many years ago in the 90’s when I lived for several years, it was great to be back. All the family were there to greet us at the airport and suddenly full flow in Greek once again – thank god I had studied each day for a month in the run up, I needed the refresher.



Our days were filled with deciding where to coffee each morning, which beach to visit, taking in some historic villages, castles and the port – we did however go for a morning run each day, even though the heat was relentless and even at 8am it was too hot to run, out came my FINDRA neck warmer keeping those rays off my neck. We discovered that there is some climbing in Chios although pretty undiscovered, and, sadly not discovered by us, not on this trip! The priority was a family wedding. Many more reunions with friends and family I hadn’t seen for years, it was wonderful and so nice to have this time. This was a different adventure from our usual explorations, and somehow more challenging and unnerving in parts, like ducks out of water. The best bits were seeing everyone I’d missed, the food – of course, the beaches and sharing our past with our present. Also, a chance meeting!



Puppy Rescue and Chios, August Part Two

Some of you know, but for those who don’t, one week after returning home I went back to Chios to bring back a little bundle of trouble we had discovered. I can’t really explain it, all I know is it had to be done and thank the lucky stars John agreed with me and said to go, do what you have to and bring him home to us! That was it, nothing would stop me.

The chance meeting was a 3 month old Westie puppy, I couldn’t leave him behind, he was already family. I made the arrangements, spoke to the authorities in both Greece and the UK and set everything in motion. I needed a week to go out, get to know him, gain his trust, and get all the paperwork sorted, Vets examinations and make sure he would be allowed entry. Nothing for it but a week of beaches and play, getting to know the little man. He is now happy, settled and a part of the family like he’s always been here and after much discussion and taking around two weeks, we finally agreed on the name Alfie, what took us so long as the name fits him perfectly. Puppy rescue mission complete.


Family Lakes Weekend and Pup entry to Outdoor Life.

September in Great Langdale. Back in the van and heading West, my smile as wide as the country. It never fails to have this reaction on me, I get in the van and feel like a child in a sweetshop, made sweeter by our new companion, Alfie. He slept the whole journey and was completely at ease, he certainly knows the van takes us to great places.

Found our pitch (let’s not talk about the van breaking down and not starting so we pitch the tent where we were – it worked out well under the big tree which sheltered us from the rain which was due on Saturday night). A walk to the pub for beer and food started our adventure, then a look at maps and routes and options for Saturday. We had to wait for the RAC to check the van, phew a minor issue and all was sorted. After a short trail run to start the day we set off on a short walk just to see how Alfie was and to assess how it may go – he loved it and seemed completely at home, we knew this would be his love too. 15 km later and little feet tired, some big feet too, we headed back for fuel and drinks and discussed the day.



Couldn’t be more happy with how it had gone, steep in parts, a low grade scramble, 360 views what else do you need. Options were available for Sunday but first we would sleep and assess in the morning. We had a resistant pup the next day, still tired and weary and Nic and Matt too were happy to relax so John and I headed out alone and ticked on a multi-pitch which we had been looking across at the day before. Once again we’d had our fix, shown family what we love to do, introduced Alfie to the hills, scrambling, sheep and living in the van, he was a natural, so good at night time and had the routine dialled – very proud of his intro.



Now the leaves are dropping and colours changing, our summer of exploring, adventures and fun in the sun is over, for this year. One thing that’s apparent is there are two ‘constants’ during my adventures; my partner John and FINDRA. I am never outdoors without either of them and I’m certain our adventures will continue, with both my ‘constants’ and sooner than you think.