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Originally posted on Ross Hewitt:
This week we Dave Searle and myself went back to the Miage Glacier under Mont Blanc’s Himalayan sized West Face with the idea to have a semi-rest day and camp on day 1 and then…
Dear The mountains of Chamonix,
It’s been nice to meet up with you again after such a long time and I’m sorry it’s been so long. I’m sad you’re going through some tough times at the moment with your low, unstable snowpack and generally grey weather. I don’t like to see you down and it makes me a bit sad to see you like this. I’m hoping things pick up for you soon and you start to have the winter you deserve. The crowds are all but gone for a while and well let’s be honest it’s normally a good time of the year now hey?
Anyway, I’m sorry it’s been so long I had to be away all summer working. The life of riley caught up with me a bit and well you know, sometimes you just have to pull your finger out and work. I’m looking forward to some good days with you soon. Do you remember the days up in the Argentiere basin? So many good memories of fun days with laughs and sunshine. How about that time I skied the Y Couloir with Liz. That was great! Or the times out on the Courtes, or on the Dent du Geant with Ross. So many fond memories and I’m looking forward to creating more with you soon.
Like I said I hope you feel better soon and I hope we can enjoy some good days out together like the good old days.
See you soon!
Its really has been an incredible winter. I really couldn’t have asked for a better one. Although I’m sure that people will be skiing out here long into May/June, no doubt making fearless and brave descents of the classic steeps, its time for me to call time. If I can sum up this winter with one word it would be “pow”. Pow as in short for Powder and by far and away the best type of snow for skiing. Today was no exception and after a false start up the Col Du Diable we turned our sights on the North Face of the Noire and found some prime time stable, deep, cold pow.
We got to within about 200m of the top of the Col du Diable (a long morning in itself) before the snow got too isothermal to continue. With each step I started to sink above the height of my ski boots in the manky heavy snow. We decided to turn back, which was the right move as it was already becoming too heavy and slidey to ski. The idea of being dragged down the face in a wet slide appealed to neither of us. After we skied down (passing some guys at the Shrund at 11am?!?!?! WTF, way to warm for a lie in on that one!) we turned our sights on the North Face of the Noire. I’ve never seen tracks down this thing and its always been something I’ve looked at with eager eyes. Today was the day for it and after a short climb up the south west facing couloir in the scorching heat we arrived at the top of the snow patch and got ready to ski. Some friends had got lost and gone up the wrong couloir and had to do some mixed climbing to get down to where we were. Oops!
The snow was perfect and we made our way down the face following the 4 tracks past a 30m abseil, some rocky side stepping, and a 3m down climb at the bottom. Proper ski mountaineering and proper good skiing. The line’s not super steep but it is exposed and steep enough that a fall could be quite serious.
So that’s it for a while I’m afraid folks. It’s been a good winter with many happy memories. I’m heading back to the UK for a bit to do some work but no doubt I’ll be putting some posts up of adventures back there and fingers crossed I’ll be back at some point this summer/ autumn for another alpine fix.
About a week or so ago I went for my 6 week X-ray to check to see if the bone had knitted together properly. The news was good and the doctor allowed me to start fully weight bearing as I felt comfortable. I was off the crutches that afternoon and working hard on the physio. Thing have continued to progress well and I have had three physio sessions in the past week (thank you NHS!!). Lots of standing on one leg, squats and walking up and down stairs. I’ll progress onto the one-legged-swissball-squats in due time but for the moment I’m just happy to have my freedom back. It’s been great to be able to take the dog for a walk on the beach again and carry hot food around safely.
I’m hoping to be back in Chamonix in the next week or so but skiing and climbing are still quite a way of. My physio has been very impressed with my progress even in the last week so she thought that if I worked hard I should be able to get back on the Ski’s again in late March or early April which is of course great news. I however am just looking forward to being back in the mountains again.
My pace of life has slowed down quite a bit in the last month. At this time of the year I would normally be working long days for the airport transfer company I drive for (Mountain Dropoffs) and on days off I would be enjoying some of the awesome tree skiing that Chamonix has to offer or having some sort of adventure in the mountains. Skiing deep, soft snow with friends has given me some amazing memories from past few years and It sounds like Chamonix is getting the Ski season it deserves this year.
For me though it was not meant to be. Instead fun (and hard work) has given way to boredom and a state of lethargy that is difficult to shake. Not being able to get out of the house easily by myself has forced me to concentrate on other things. It would be easy to kick back and relax into some good old day time TV. The problem is I gave up on the easy life a few years ago and I am not about to forget this because of a broken leg.
Getting about on the old crutches is hard…..but so was climbing when I started. I try to go for a hobble every few days and each time I go as far as the palms of my hands will let me then suffer my way back home. I have been on the pull-ups too which I hope will keep my climbing fitness going. My main focus, however, has been developing a new website.
The idea was simple. Bring information together for the most popular routes in the Mont Blanc Massif. I have started to compile blog posts, videos and topos for some routes and I currently have information for about 60 now. Some have just a link to a blog post or a video and some have both.
I have also made three minitopo’s so far which you can look at on the site and download for free if you want. I am looking to create more over the next few weeks and keep at it as time goes by. Rome wasn’t build in a day as they say. If you have any thoughts or feedback then let me know in the comments section below of if you want to contribute in anyway then send an email to; email@example.com
Apart from this my leg is doing well. I can bend my knee all the way now and I have been keeping my quads going with basic physio exercises which I do every few hours. Not quite the same as climbing a 1000m face or Skiing 2700m of vertical but I do what I can.
I have an Xray scheduled in a few days which should tell me that I can start weight-bear and will hopefully mark the start of me learning to walk again. I have a goal of skiing again before the end of this ski season in Chamonix which my physio thought should be achievable if I work hard. Which I will…..
I’ve been back in England now for a week and leg is doing well. This experience has really changed my perceptions of challenge and adventure. Before my accident I would feel pride in myself if I managed to climb one of the 6 great north faces of the Alps or redpoint a sport climbing project now, however I feel the same pride from climbing the stairs or walking (hopping) to the pub. It is kind of good in a way as It feels like I have to start all over again and to be honest I am really enjoying the challenge. I had never really spent any real amount of time in hospital before this and it was difficult to say the least. I didn’t sleep well and all the drugs and medications really wiped me out. I’ve been off the stuff for the last few days now and I’m starting to feel a lot better. I’m pretty much pain free now and I have a much greater range of motion in my knee. With the exception of carrying hot food and drink whilst moving about I can pretty much do all the things I need to for getting about the house now. I’m still struggling with…
Over the coming period I will be doing some gear reviews for Cold Thistle.
Its an internationally know blog run by a friend of mine, Dane Burns
Check out my rescent review of My Grivel G20’s and my Scarpa 6000’s.
Here my Grivel G20 review there:
Here is my Scarpa 6000 review there: