Lakeland Snow

Saturday & Kentmere Reservoir

Richard and Ali came over to the Lakes this weekend… Snow was forecast, yet Saturday morning dawned cold and clear, though that didn’t last long. No sooner than we’d arrived at the parking area in Kentmere and the snow had really started to fall hard and was settling at all levels. This ruined our plan to nip round the Kentmere horseshoe as we were a bit late starting and a little under equipped for winter conditions on the fells. However, we did enjoy those conditions, got some much needed fresh air, and saw a large mob of deer. We had a long discussion about what a group of deer was called – at first we thought it would just be a herd, but later (with inter-web help) learned it could also be called a mob! ❗

The Kentmere road under snowy conditions
Approaching Kentmere reservoir
A frozen Kentmere reservoir with the snow settling on the ice


Dinner at the Eagle & Child

It’s my birthday soon (eugh, yet another year older!) so we headed out to the Eagle & Child for a few beers and some great pub-food on Saturday evening.

On the way to the Eagle & Child for dinner and beer!

Sunday & Scandale Fell

We weren’t really sure what the weather on Sunday would deliver – many forecasts seemed to be suggesting that a warm and wet front would come in from the west. But no, the massive cold weather system in Russia was winning and we were greeted with clear skies as we emerged from our slumbers…

The question that remained was what to do to entertain ourselves. We had thought to go to Kendal wall, but the awesome snowy scene outside beckoned. Eventually we decided to get out and locate a Lakeland Letterbox on High Pike above Ambleside.

Ali & Richard on the approach to Scandale from Ambleside
Looking back towards Windermere with the cloud inversion in the valleys
Approaching the High Pike summit
Letterbox stamp on High Pike
Richard, Ali, Laetitia, and Pete on Scandale Fell
Pete cornice-jumping!
Laetitia throws in a free-style jump!


GPX File Uploads

The regular visitors to the blog and authors will have noted the new mapping features in this report…

After a little teasing about providing the ability to trace the routes taken on adventures I have taken up the challenge and enhanced the country plugin to allow authors to upload GPX files (e.g. from GPS enabled devices). Then, with a simple link to the GPX file (e.g. <a href='http://domain/path/file.gpx'>file.gpx</a>), the link is automatically replaced with Google mapping showing the track of an adventure.

Hope it’s of use in future reports… 😀

WordPress Post Country Plugin
(with premium Google Mapping)

This plugin allows you to record a location against your posts. For example the country that the post talks about, the event took place in, the location you are writing the post from, etc. Your imagination is the limit…

Some of the key features are:

  • Once a post is tagged with a country the plugin allows flag icons to be added to your blog’s pages with simple additions to your template files.
  • You may also record the latitude & longitude of a location. The enhanced version of the plugin provides multiple ways to display the location using Google mapping.
  • Country icons can be clicked to take the user to posts from that country.
  • A sidebar widget that provides a popup to navigate to posts from a given country.
  • Presents an admin page, under the WordPress Tools menu, to review numbers of posts from each country.

I’m quite pleased with the plugin, so it’s available to share, I hope you enjoy it too. 😳

1. A screenshot showing posts tagged with country flag icons.

The plugin is available as a free download.

All I ask is that you credit the plugin, for example, include a link to this page or maybe add a link to your WordPress blogroll.
Or, perhaps please consider purchasing the enhanced version below…

:star: Why not check out my other WordPress plugins too! :star:

Instructions & Installation

  • Just put the complete un-zipped plugin directory into your WordPress plugin directory (if this doesn’t make sense it probably isn’t something you should be trying 🙂 ) and activate it.
  • Within the WordPress loop, use this country_tag($post->ID); in your index.php template file to show a post’s country tag.
  • And this country_tag($post->ID, false); in your single.php template file to show the post’s country tag.
  • Note, you’ll need this gobal $post; declaration in your template files too if it’s not already there.
  • The second parameter (the default true, or false) determines if it is a short or long output:
    • Long – Location Australia Australia
    • Short – USA
  • The widget has a single option, one of your WordPress pages. When set to one of your pages a link is shown under the popup list of countries in the widget. Following the link goes to that page – where you might show a list of countries featured on your blog, or a map! A map is easily created with the enhanced version of this plugin.
  • You can also include the same popup list of countries used in the widget on your pages by adding this country_list_countries(); to your theme’s template.
2. Countries widget options.

How to Tag a Post with a Country

Using the Location section (you can set the title of this section with the first of the plugin options, see below) of the post writing page. Select the Country you want to tag the post with from the country dropdown. For example, to get a UK flag UK select UK from the dropdown.

The country names provided are the names of the icon files in the directory:


Feel free to add additional flag icon files or remove those you don’t want to see listed in the dropdown.

Premium Version of the Plugin with Mapping

The standard plugin allows Latitude & Longitude to be stored along with the country tag. Google mapping is available with an enhanced version of the plugin available to buy below. An example of the mapping is given here showing dozens of mapped posts and venues.

The enhanced plugin provides several advanced mapping interfaces and features.

  • Within the WordPress post writing interface a sophisticated interface (including geo-location by address, place name, etc.) to create and manage the location associated with posts. This interface is shown in screenshot #3 below.
  • A public map for your blog readers to enjoy that shows all the mapped posts and venues (more details below about the venues feature). An example of the mapping is given here showing dozens of mapped posts and venues. The map is automatically inserted by the plugin on any page or post with <!-- adventure-map -->.
  • Show a location map on a post page (when the post has location data). Include a post map with the shortcode [post_map] and optionally set the map-type to ROADMAP, SATELLITE, HYBRID, or the default TERRAIN and zoom level (default 11) with [post_map type="SATELLITE" zoom="14"]. Please see Post Locations below for more options and functionality.
  • The plugin remembers the last map-type shown (using a cookie).
  • Several markers are used on the mapping, the default colours are:
    1. Posts are shown with a blue marker – post-marker.
    2. Posts with GPX data are shown with a purple marker – post-marker.
    3. Named waypoints in GPX tracks are shown with a green marker – waypoint.
    4. Venues are shown with a red marker – venue-marker.
    5. Additional maps embedded within posts showing other locations are shown with a green marker – additional-marker.
    6. When creating location data new locations are shown with a yellow marker – new-marker.
  • In addition to the default markers, there are a number of custom markers included. Add to these as you like, the new markers go in the plugin’s markers directory. There’s even an included Photoshop template (.PSD). The included markers are:
  • A simple yet powerful mechanism to allow uploaded GPX files (e.g. from a GPS enabled device) to be automatically represented with Google mapping showing the trace of a route. These routes may also be accompanied with a graph showing elevation along the route.
  • A number of template tags are provided to optionally enhance your WordPress theme:
    1. To including linked country icons: country_tag($post_ID, $short=true, $prefix='Location ', $size=15, $echo=true);
    2. To include a popup list of countries: country_list_countries();
    3. Location map links: get_map_link($anchor_text, $post_ID='');
    4. Venues button: the_map_sidebar_link($before_HTML, $after_HTML);
    5. Show a link to all venues: get_venues_link();
      Use this template function or have the plugin automatically include a link on any page of post with <!-- venues-link -->.

The plugin has several advantages over other mapping plugins. For example, it doesn’t unduly load your web server, making full use of the power of the user’s browser. This also makes content more interactive, for example hovering over elevation graphs shows the data at that point of the graph dynamically.

The following screenshots give a flavour of the plugin’s rich capabilities. The size, position, etc. of each map on your pages is customisable using CSS settings (defaults are initially provided), please refer to the options screenshot #13 below.

Post Editing

The following screenshot shows the location editing interface within the WordPress editor. As well as adding a country flag attribute to posts, add Latitude & Longitude either manually (click the location on the map) or use geo-location (address, place name, etc.). The new location marker (new-marker) can be dragged around the map to achieve an accurate position.

The location’s map marker can also be changed from the default using the marker drop-down list.

The multiple location plugin option (see screenshot #13 below) allows multiple locations to recorded for each post. When enabled the add and remove buttons are shown. Click the arrow icon to set the focus of geo-location, dragging the new location marker, and map clicks.

3. The post editing Location section.

The Country column of the post listing (screenshot #1 above) is enhanced when location data is given. Posts with location data will have Geo and an indication of the quality of the data:

  • Geo: geo-data-ok – the Latitude & Longitude are OK.
  • Geo: geo-data-incomplete – only one Latitude or Longitude value is provided.
  • Geo: geo-data-stopped – the Latitude & Longitude are OK, but the administrator has blocked plotting.

Multiple Markers at Maximum Zoom

A limitation of Google mapping is that each map-type has a maximum level of zoom. For example, the most limited level of zoom is often found with the TERRAIN style of map. Switching to SATELLITE may allow a higher level of zooming, especially in popular urban areas like cities. However, regardless of map-type, sooner or later it will be impossible to zoom the mapping any further. At this point if you have multiple locations mapped the clustering of the markers will be impossible un-cluster. This plugin deals with this problem by offering a tabbed popup, one tab for each location. Just click on the cluster to see the tabs. (The popup will be un-tabbed when clicking on a single marker.)

4. Multiple location tabs.

This example also shows how feature image thumbnails can be optionally included in the popup summary about a location (see the display icons option in screenshot #13 below).

Custom Markers

Alongside the default markers described above there are three ways to set custom markers:

  1. Venues may use their country flag as their map marker (see options screenshot #13 below).
  2. Custom markers can be set for individual posts (see screenshot #3 above).
  3. Or you may set a custom marker for a post category. The enhanced post category editing page provides this function.
5. The post category editing page.
6. List of categories showing custom markers.

GPX Tracks & Elevation Graphs

Upload GPX files, say from your GPS device, to automatically show the tracks.

7. An uploaded GPX file automatically shown with mapping.

The GPX trace will show any named waypoints with a small green marker – waypoint. If the post that the GPX is shown in has location data the location will be shown with a purple marker – post-marker.

Accompanying maps of GPX tracks, graphing of the elevation along the path of the track may be displayed. Graphs are built dynamically by the user’s browser using Google Charts (so unlike some other plugins they do not cause lots of PHP processing on your server or blow PHP’s memory limits). Here’s an example of the graph that accompanies the track above.

8. A graph of elevation associated with an uploaded GPX file.

GPX files may be uploaded using the normal WordPress media upload and then embedded within a post. For example, the following simple markup will be automatically presented with a Google map showing the route described by the GPX file.

<a href='http://your-domain/path/file.gpx'>GPX Data</a>

If enabled (see options below) an elevation graph will be automatically included. However, if you want to suppress the elevation graph for a specific GPX track include elevation='off' in the markup. For example:

<a href='http://your-domain/path/file.gpx' elevation='off'>GPX Data</a>

Post Locations

Posts can show their location on a map. The map is easily embedded within the post with the shortcode [post_map] and you can optionally set the map-type to ROADMAP, SATELLITE, HYBRID, or the default TERRAIN and the zoom level (default 11). For example, [post_map type="SATELLITE" zoom="14"] will show the location associated with this post on a satellite map at zoom level 14.

The shortcode can also be inserted using quicktag buttons. In the WordPress HTML post editor the button is button and in the Visual editor the button is .

9. Example post location map.

There are several more additional attributes that can be added to the shortcode to show any number of other locations within posts. These are: location – a latitude & longitude comma separated pair; loc_name – a name for the new location; link – override the Include link to Venues map option; style – override the post_map CSS option; and current – show the current location. For example you might show a place of interest with:

[post_map zoom='16' type='SATELLITE' location='54.339,-2.743' loc_name='Playing Fields']

10. Example additional location map.

Show your current location (if your browser allows it) with:

[post_map zoom='16' type='ROADMAP' current='on' style='width: 400px; height: 200px; border: 1px solid #ddd;']

11. Show your current location - if your browser allows it!

Provide a table of locations associated with this post using the shortcode [locations_table]. There is one optional parameter title. This is the title to display before the table of locations (default is Venues or your customised name).

Geo-tagged Photo Mapping

The plugin also supports mapping of photographs (JPG images only) with geo-tagging EXIF data. The EXIF location data may have been added to the photo’s meta-data automatically when the picture was taken by a GPS enabled camera, manually, or photo organising software such as Adobe’s Lightroom or Apple’s iPhoto or Aperture.

12. Mapping showing geo-tagged photos.

Note, a default WordPress installation does not preserve EXIF data when uploading and scaling images. Therefore the plugin will not have access to location meta-data in photos uploaded before the plugin was installed and the Save image location data option was set. Photos that have had their geo-tagged location data successfully read will show with a Geo Tag in the WordPress media library list as shown.

An example of the WordPress Media library list showing geo-tagged images
An example of the WordPress Media library list showing geo-tagged images

Main Location Map & Options

Using the enhanced mapping features within a post is easy and highly flexible. Using the mapping is explained more here.

Mapping of all tagged posts (and Venues, see below) can be presented to your users on a nominated page. (The blog administrator can elect to not display the location of specific posts even when latitude & longitude values have been supplied.) Here’s an example location map. The page used to display the map is defined on the plugin options page. That page should have the following simple code within its text to show the map.

<!-- adventure-map -->

Note, the options page also provides a field to enter the CSS for the map canvas. It is essential that this sets, as a minimum, the size of the canvas. To kick-off try something like:

width: 600px; height: 450px; border: 1px solid #ddd; margin: 5px;

13. Options.

There are seven sets of options:

  1. Plugin – general plugin options including the title of the editing box, if the map should initially be shown or hidden on the WordPress post editing page, the scope of searches, etc.
  2. Venues Map Page – the page and style used to display the main venues map.
  3. Post Map – how maps are embedded, with a shortcode, in posts.
  4. Images – options to allow and show geo-tagged images to be mapped.
  5. GPX Processing – control processing of GPX files attached to posts.
  6. Elevation Chart – control elevation charts associated with attached GPX files.
  7. Markers – define the colours of the default markers used by each type of map, and also enable custom markers for venues and posts.

Geo RSS Feed

The Venues Map Page options allow configuration of whether location data, for posts and/or venues, are included in the standards compliant Geo RSS feed generated by the plugin. (Note, add ?feed=venues to your blog’s main URL to access the location RSS feed. You may wish to use this, for example, to submit geo content to Google as a geo site map.)


In addition to tagging posts with country and latitude & longitude for mapping the enhanced plugin provides a special type of post – Venue. These are great for recording specific details about specific locations. For example, a page of information for each country, or a page of details (e.g. pubs, clubs, and hotels) about a particular city. Venues are a blend between standard WordPress pages and posts. Venues are accessed from the new Venues menu. (Note that the list of countries moves with the enhanced version of the plugin from the WordPress Tools menu to the Venues menu.)

14. The new Venues menu.

Buy the Enhanced Plugin with Google Mapping

Buy the enhanced Post Country Plugin here for an insanely cheap price!

Buy the plugin and I will provide free updates forever as the plugin gets more and more features…


  • Are Google Map Controls failing to render properly?
  • Often WordPress themes makes a common mistake that stops Google mapping controls from being drawn properly. This is because the theme forces sizing for all images. I have suggested a fix for this with an alteration like the one I recommend on this Stack Overflow post. Just add the suggested CSS rule to your theme’s style.css, however, even then some themes have CSS rules that take precedence. In these cases I suggest you either get stuck in to working out the CSS in your theme, or you could try applying a sledgehammer (!important)...
    .gmnoprint img { max-width: none !important; }
  • Post editing only showing a single marker?
  • Make sure you have enabled the inclusion of Posts and/or Venues in the Venues Feed. These are two separate checkbox options available on the plugin's settings page, under the Venues Map Page section.
  • Are your geo-tagged photos failing to show on post maps?
  • Unfortunately some geo-tagged photos are not recognised by the underlying PHP read_exif_data function. This bug is trapped to allow the image to upload properly, but the latitude and longitude data for the image won't be captured by this plugin. You will know if your image has a faulty set of geo-tagging data as the WordPress media list will not show the image as geo-tagged. As soon as there is a fix for this PHP bug - either in a later release of PHP or by using some other geo-tagging information extraction mechanism - a new version of the plugin will be issued to all users.
  • Can I add GPS location data to JPG images manually?
  • If you digital camera (or smartphone) does not have the ability to tag photos with GPS location data it is possible to manually add the location meta data yourself using photo manipulation software like Adobe Lightroom. There other free tools too like Google’s Picasa (although I haven’t tried any of the free tools). Note, GPS data is embedded inside the JPG image file’s meta data.

Version History

Enhanced Plugin:

  • 18 Directions.
  • 17 – New short code ([locations_table]) to provide a table of locations.
  • 16 – Allow a custom name for “Venues”, e.g. “Locations”.
  • 15 – Post maps can show geo-tagged photo locations for all JPG images attached to a post.
  • 14 – Added option to center administration map on current location.
  • 13 – Include option to show featured image thumbnails in venue information bubbles.
  • 12 – Allow multiple markers at the exact same location.
  • 11 – Multiple locations per post.
  • 10 – Finished custom marker release – venues can use flags, posts and categories can have custom markers.
  • 9 – Options to select marker colours.
  • 8 – Include Venues (and/or Pages) in search results.
  • 7 – Added drag-zoom feature to venues page.
  • 6 – Internationalisation.
  • 5 – Option to include a map within a post page.
  • 4 – Mapping & GPX tracks.
  • 3 – Venue post-type to record location, beta, facts, links, etc. for given locations.

Standard Plugin:

  • 2 – Version without mapping and new Enhanced version with mapping.
  • 1 – Initial version.
With regret comments are closed on this post to avoid being deluged with “how to” queries and not genuine issues with the plugin. So, if you want support or advice use the feedback link. But please note I will ask for a donation before I’ll look at “how to” questions, I can’t teach PHP programming for free.

The Haute Route, Chamonix to Zermatt

Anna, Laetitia, Ian and Pete tackle the world famous ski mountaineering multi-day traverse from Chamonix to Zermatt; “the” Haute Route… How hard could it be? We’d convinced ourselves that mountaineering skills were more important than skiing skills, so it should be easy, right?

Anna, Ian & Pete looking fresh and ready to start, near the Grands Montets Lift Station (Mont Blanc behind).

Anna and Ian had already used their best French and pre-booked our huts, fending off all enquiries from the hut custodians asking who our Mountain Guide was. “Guide? No we don’t have one of those. Pah!”, what an insult, what an adventure…

Day 1/2 – Argentiere to Cabane du Trient via Refuge d’Argentiere
Loaded down with what seemed like impossibly heavy rucksacks, we left Chamonix (Argentiere) via the Grands Montets lift station, crossed the Glacier d’Argentiere through some freaky seracs bound for the Refuge d’Argentiere where we met up with “the Americans” (Harold, Leslie, Dan, Jo & Chris), who we’d bumped into on our training day. What an amazingly fun and motivated bunch, they were to be great companions along the route each time our paths crossed!

[Actually when I say “paths crossed”, what I mean is when we overtook them nearly every day! 😆
They started each day ahead of us, starting earlier and earlier day by day, eventually setting out several hours earlier at 2.30am just to ensure that we could never catch them.]

The American Team

The Argentiere hut is what you might expect of a remote mountain hut (i.e. basic!) with “squatty” toilets and “scratchy” blankets, but the dinner was good and it made for an easy start to the adventure.

The following day a monster slog (800 very steep metres) up the Glacier du Chardonnet to the Col du Chardonnet was a trial of our fitness. Luckily we passed. Abseiling and down-climbing from the col and on over the Fenetre de Saleina, our last climb before a nice shush to the Trient hut.

Laetitia descending from the Col du Chardonnet

After the slum of the Argentiere hut the superb Trient hut was a luxury. We discovered the comfy arm chairs and monopolised them all evening – resting our weary muscles ready for the next day…

Day 3 – Trient to Cabane du Mont Fort

Laetitia, Ian & Anna on the Trient Glacier

With an early start and an icy descent of the Plateau du Trient, passing a few crevasses, to the climb of the Col des Ecandies. Descending the Combe des Ecandies we helped a group of Germans on the way up… They’d accidentally kept their hotel room key, which we took with us and later dropped off; making a very grateful and happy hotelier.

Ian contemplating the route & weather

On down to Champex for lunch and to catch a mini-bus-taxi to Verbier. We shared this with the Americans; they thought the hairpin bends in the road and the fast driving of the taxi driver were just as exciting as the skiing. I guess this was because they’re used to dead straight American roads and a 55mph top speed?

Reaching Verbier we navigated the sprawling lift system (complete with escalators and tele-cabins that go up and down and around corners!) almost without incident – getting off then back on again straight away at one point. Leaving a short pisted descent we arrived at the luxury of the Mont Fort hut – and a shower!

One of the pictures on the walls of the hut was signed by the Sarah, Duchess of York – even Fergie has been here – we were in celebrated surroundings!

Day 4 – Mont Fort to Cabane de Prafleuri
Leaving the Mont Fort area via the Col de la Chaux and on to the Col de Momin, by lunch we were presented with an opportunity to go a little off route and summit the Rosablanche. Here we got our first remote look at journey’s end; the Matterhorn. It seemed a VERY long way away still – far too far to seem even remotely feasible – and we’d already covered three day’s of ground! This was a long trip…

Pete & Laetitia on the Rosablanche Summit, 3336m (a Panorama stretching from Mont Blanc to the Matterhorn)

A wonderful ski down from Rosablanche got us to the Prafleuri hut – another luxurious establishment. The patio area was a sun trap which soon eased our muscles and allowed a few hours rest before dinner.

Pete & Ian – Knackered!

Day 5 – Prafleuri to Cabane des Dix

Peter & Laetitia travelling near Lac des Dix

The journey from the Prafleuri to Dix hut involved climbing to the Col des Roux and traversing almost the entire length of the Lac des Dix. This traverese was quite flat and with the powerful sun, had poor snow. All in all, hard work with lots of pushing along with poles and bit of walking. Not a great ski day, as we seemed to be going up hill all day. However, the final climb of the day to the Dix hut delivered us at the most luxurious hut yet! Aperitifs before dinner, a salad course, and a meringue desert! Hut food isn’t supposed to be like this! Never-the-less, it was well enjoyed by all.

Oh, not forgetting the “douche panoramique”! An open air shower with a solar heated water system (nice!) and an unbeatable view of the Glacier de Cheilon to stare at while washing away the day’s grime…

Day 6 – Dix to Cabane des Vignettes

Anna climbing past a serac on the Tsena Refien Glacier

This day started badly! I felt like death warmed up – some food had seriously affected my insides! Most of the short night was spent running to the toilets…

The team pulled together though and helped with my load; with a much reduced rucksack I managed the longest climb of the trip (approx. 900m up to 3770m) up the Glacier de Tsena Refien and on up to the col below Pigne d’Arolla.

Pete with almost empty pack climbing with the Matterhorn in the distance… Still a long way away!

A lovely ski down to the final hut, the Vignettes, I was feeling a little better and we just managed to catch the Americans. The Vignettes hut is perched on a narrow and precipitous rocky outcrop – more like a scene from a WW2 film than an epic ski mountaineering trip.

The toilets here made me mad! In the days when the Alps were quieter, maybe an open hole with (pink!) toilet paper and ‘brown stuff’ simply poured down the mountain side was okay (ish). But today, with technologies like composting toilets and massive visitor numbers, we can do better! Today, surely a more environmentally sensitive and sustainable solution is possible?

Day 7 – Vignettes to Zermatt

Anna, Laetitia & Pete – making a very early start – but not as early as the Americans!

This is a LONG day! Up to now we’d been having about 6 hours days – and this was hard work. This day is about 12 hours long! Rightly described as the crux of the trip, and also as one of the best ski mountaineering days in the world…

We thought we’d lost Anna early on, but luckily her slip into the abyss lasted about 40 meters down an icy slope. Bruised, but able to continue, we marched onwards and upwards, over 3 cols towards the magnificent view of the Matterhorn.

Finally, the Matterhorn seems much closer!

We glimpsed the Americans in the distance, but there was no way could catch them today.
[Hope to see you guys again in the future! 😉 ]

After descending the glaciers below the Matterhorn, requiring some roped skiing across open crevasses, we arrived at the glacial moraines. With good snow cover these can be skied right to the Furi lift station and on to Zermatt. But not for us. The hot weather, poor winter snow, and the late season left us with a long and tiring walk! We found a little snow on the pistes which aided the descent, and we just made it, totally knackered, before the lifts closed.

We did it! The Haute Route was in the bag!!! Hooray … and doesn’t the Matterhorn look just fantastic from Zermatt?

haute route

The Matterhorn from Zermatt

I feel another adventure coming soon.

Not bad seeing as Laetitia and I had only started ski touring in January and this was only our fourth tour!