Its certainly been a while since I posted anything on here. Where to start I would keep asking myself. A lot has happened since the start of 2017 and I’ve either been too busy or too lazy to write about it. So here goes… Part one of three blogs about what Ive been up to so far this year covering Climbing, Running and Mountain Biking. Yes Mountain Biking!
At the start of January I headed out to Scotland for the 2nd part of my journey to become a IFMGA British Mountain Guide. After a few weeks of warming up on some classic mixed routes in the northern Cairngorms it was off to Fort William for the winter training course ran by Tim Neill alongside Paul Warnock and Matt Stygall. Things were pretty lean but we still managed to get some good Ice climbing on the Little Brenva face of Ben Nevis to start the week off nicely. We all got a lot from the training course and I was particularly impressed with how well everyone dealt with the less than ideal conditions we faced. We all went away and had plenty to work on for the 6 or so weeks leading up to the Assessment in early March.
This winter in Scotland was one of the worst in recent years. Some even said they hadn’t seen one this bad for 20 years. This made practicing to be a winter mountain guide pretty tough, but we still got out most days to practice skills and learn the routes we would likely be climbing on the assessment. Some good conditions were found around the turbo thaws and highlights of the winter included big days out on Carn Etchachan and Hells Lum.
With the winter test approaching I was feeling well prepared and ready to take it on. Everything was in order and I felt fit and ready to go. On the coming days before the assessment started it was becoming pretty clear it was going to be a tough week as we had landed on one of the thaw cycles of the season. At one point we thought that the whole test was going to be canceled and it was going to be bye bye till next year. As it stands only one day, the personal mixed climbing day, was canceled and one of the client days was very not winter conditions. Unfortunately I made a total hash of this day and found myself battling through loose rock and trying to keep things as safe as possible whilst under pressure to give my client and fun and rewarding day. The rest of the test seemed to go fairly well for me and after taking 5 days of the 6 day assessment we received our conditional results, the condition being we had to retake the Mixed climbing day within the following week if conditions allowed. I was given a two day deferral to be taken the following winter. I was devastated. After feeling so ready and putting my all into the week only to be told that I had to put a stop to my chosen career for a whole year was a bitter pill to swallow. However, as much as I just wanted to head home to Chamonix I still had one more day to complete this time with the added pressure that if I made a mess of it or it was cancelled I would have to resit the whole 6 days all over again next year.
A few days later we headed into the Corie an Lochain with the wind gusting 85 MPH over the top and got stuck into the Savage Slit (V,6). The day was tough but ultimately went well and I was given the all clear at 5pm and immediately got in my car and drove down south to catch a ferry in dover after sleeping in a car park in the peak district for a few hours, not in my car which for some reason was completely full. I think that was one of the toughest and longest days I’ve ever had.
Back in Chamonix and I was wasted. I needed a few weeks off the mountains and climbing so headed out for some easy ski days and just generally took it slow for a few weeks. Winter passed into spring which was very quickly replaced by summer and time to enjoy some classic granite climbing in the mountains. I climbed a handful of routes in early summer including the Contamine route on Pointe Lachenal (I think this might be the 10th time now, it’s that good) , L’eau Rance D’arabie, Deux Goals and Adriene Eturnue on the Red Pillar of the Aiguille du Blatiere and Indurian on the Trident du Tacul.
I’ve also been out for some more classic Alpinism with highlights including the North ridge of the Wiessmies in switzerland with Ben Tibitts getting some shots for his new book. The Normal route on the peigne with Joel Evans which was the first time I wore shorts doing a proper alpine route and recently the Voie Normal on the Dent du Geant with my girlfreind Irene Munguía. We climbed up to the base of the route at 1pm and climbed the route in the afternoon to be in the sun and avoid the crowds. We then camped at the base of the Dent and enjoyed an amazing sunset over Mont Blanc and clear full moon night. Definitely the best way of doing this mountain in my humble opinion, even if it was a little cold that night!
This Summer had been pretty hot and dry with the odd big storm rolling through often leaving the mountains even drier as its rained so high or totally plastered them in snow (which is always a good thing). I’m hoping the next few weeks keeps the snow and ice conditions topped up in the mountains so we can enjoy some good high mountain ice and mixed climbing conditions in the Autumn but for now I’m working most days and keeping my eye on the mid to long term forcasts..