Turbulence in the Vortex.

Sometimes, living in Chamonix, spending most of my time pursuing my passions, feels a little like being in a vortex. A constant cycle of checking weather, looking after equipment, managing rest and having, what often feels like, some of the best days of my life hanging out with some of my favorite people in the world.  The more you do it the faster it seems to go. Friends come in with you for a while before returning to there own vortex. Life seems pretty good until something snaps you out of it…

Its been a tough month with the loss of two friends (Brendan and Dave) and also the passing of my Grandpa Den. Almost two different types of deaths. My friends on one hand were doing what they loved. Striving to live life to the fullest. It feels like an injustice for them to leave so early in comparison to most. There loss sends shock waves around the world, shaking the lives of those who they have met.  I for one passed a few pensive moments of wondering what I was doing and why. I’m sure I wasn’t alone.

On the other hand my dear old grandpa had lead a long and full life.  As I sat at the wake watching a slideshow of his life I was reminded of just how amazing he was. He’d been in the navy and then the mounted police in Africa, defending villagers from many perils and also going horse riding with our current Queen. After this he devoted his life to building schools in Malawi and other country’s around the world for which he later received an MBE. He was a fantastic football player, he once played against Bobby Moore and captained the Rhodesian football team many times.  He then moved onto teaching and later mountain leading. This is just a brief list of his exploits. He was a huge inspiration to me and my family and I have very fond memories of time spent walking on Dartmoor with him as a kid and listening to his endless stories of adventures.  I don’t feel like he was taken from us to early.  I feel he’s still here in someway.  I feel like he made the most of his life and also touched the lives of many along the way enhancing them with his teaching. He will be sorely missed of course, but the last few years he wasn’t his normal self, happy and full of life.  It almost feels like death was justice and the ceremony a fitting send off to a great man.

Before this news I passed one of the best weeks of my life.  I’ve spent a lot of time skiing in Chamonix and little time else where.  I traditionally don’t have holidays either…But why should I, my life is one big holiday, right? I’m not sure.. Holidays are supposed to be (correct me if I’m wrong!) stress free, relaxing (not having to worry about work etc) and fun! Yes I’ve been on a few expeditions but they are aren’t very relaxing and yes I get out most days into the mountains but its almost like work sometimes…almost.  I was invited on a trip by my friend Chippie (Stephen Windross) to ski in the Ecrins (Serre Chevalier, Montgenvre and La Grave) shooting for a Fall Line Magazine article. It felt like a proper holiday and despite the poor quality of the snow earlier in the week we had a lot of fun and got some good shots too.  Later in the week, whilst we were skiing in La Grave, we were  treated to a 80cm+ dump of snow that turned the bulletproof Sastrugi into skiing perfection.  I’ve wanted to go to La Grave for years and it was great to finally get the chance to ski there.  Somewhere I need to spend more time for sure.

A few weeks ago I flew back through the turbulence to Scotland to finish of my tick list for the British Guides Scheme.  After years of deliberation I’ve finally decided to put my application in.  Great conditions and company made for a really good, but tiring week, climbing some awesome routes.  My application is coming along and I really hope it gets accepted in May so I can move onto the next phase of my life. Here’s some shots from the week.

I’m back in Chamonix and starting a new job with Epictv.com and hopefully i’ll be back to the vortex soon.  With the conditions in the mountains this winter being pretty bad I’ll be bringing a lot of caution into the mountains, but I’m still looking forward to some big days out when things are stable.  Hopefully I’ll have some good stories to tell as the winter progresses. Keep it real. Keep it safe and keep on having your own adventures.

The Cullin Ridge AKA The flight of the Midges.

Scotland is an amazing place with endless adventures to be had.  There are two big problems with Scotland that have meant that my tick list up there (in summer at least) is rather pitiful.  The first problem is it is 9-12 hours away from my home in Devon and the second is the G-damn midges…  They really are spiteful creatures and their persistence and annoyance could only be matched by my partner for this mini expedition,  Emma Crome.  Ever since I’ve been back from Chamonix Emma has been hassling me to go to the Cullin Ridge on the Isle of Skye.  This week I gave in to her incessant nagging and headed up north with the hope to complete this wild and stunning mountain adventure.

We made the drive up from the south which took me 13 hours in total including swinging into Bristol to pick Emma up and a McDonnalds-carbo-loading stop. We got to Glen Brittle at 1.30 am on Sunday morning both feeling pretty wasted already. We managed a few hours sleep before getting up (after a prolonged snooze button session) and starting to get ready for the off. Inevitably we had a few false starts on the way up to the base of the ridge through weariness and this picture paints a thousand words…

LOL

LOL

This half an hour gave me the first real chance to get to grips with what was involved in the ridge and read the guidebook description which spans some 13 pages of the Skye Scrambles guidebook.  I can’t say that I was that mentally prepared for what was involved in the route and I didn’t really know what was involved until this point.  I’d heard it was long, and I knew it was a ridge, but I didn’t realise it was 13km and involved some 4000m of ascent and descent, usually takes a couple of days and covers 12 Munros ( peaks over 3000ft). Ok, so its going to feel more like an alpine route as opposed to a few days scrambling.

On the approach to our starting point (Sgurr nan Eag) the heavens opened which meant our motivation wavered and thoughts of retreat started to creep in.  We had a chat and decided to keep going, agreeing that if it got worse we would go down, but before long we were on the first summit and heading off down the ridge in the swirling clouds.

Heading off on the rather moist ridge on sunday at about 1pm

Heading off on the rather moist ridge on sunday at about 1pm

Emma exiting the TD Gap

Emma exiting the TD Gap. the VDiff climbing here hurt my knee quite a lot and was pretty wet.  not much fun but the toughest part done with..

The way through the mountains.

The way through the mountains.

On the Inpin

On the In pin. Don’t let go!

Higher up on the In pin

Higher up on the In pin, the great stone shoot in the background.

Abseiling off the In Pin

Abseiling off the In Pin

This down climbing to an abseil was greasy and scary!!

This down climbing to an abseil was greasy and scary!!

Settling in for the night

Settling in for the night.  

We settled into an awesome bivi after getting down from the In Pin. Of course I decided to continue with my long standing tradition of never taking a sleeping bag (Eiger, Grandes Jorrasses, Dru) and we shivered one out gazing out over the ocean and watching the setting sun.  It was only dark for a few hours (3 maybe?) and we were soon ready to get going after only being in the pits for about 5 hours.  The next day was just as stunning and we made steady progress along the ridge.

Fun rays of the day and an awesome cloud inversion.

Fun rays of the day and an awesome cloud inversion.

Emma on the Last peak, Sgurr Nan Gillean.

Emma on the Last peak, Sgurr Nan Gillean.

Happy times!!! finished and ready for the pub..

Happy times!!! finished and ready for the pub..

Still one more abseil to get there.

Still one more abseil to get there.

An top notch adventure all in all and a stunning place to visit.  We met a 80 year old man and his daughter on the ridge at the end (I’m sorry their names have eluded me) who thank fully gave us a lift back to Glen Brittle after we had had a few beers and some dinner.  A few was all I needed. Him and his daughter are only a few Munros off ticking the whole lot and I wish them the best of luck!!

I look forward to going back in the winter at some point!