So Long 2015, Hello 2016!

First off… Happy New Year and thank you for following this blog or even reading it from time to time.  It means a lot to me that anyone at all cares what I have to say and this gives me reason to keep going!

2015 was a bumpy year with a rough start.  With the loss of friends from skiing accidents and also my dearly beloved Grandfather who was a great inspiration to me, motivation for skiing and general mountain activities was low.  Ordinarily I’d expect to ski off a mountain or two and have at least a handful of long days in the mountains with friends. Looking back I realise that I hardly had any stand out days last winter due to work commitments, lack of snow and lack of psyche.

Continue reading

Whet Your Arpettetite

Its been awesome to kick the winter off out here in the best way we can with what we have.  Here’s some shots from our sweet little tour up the Arpette valley in Switzerland. Not loads of snow but super fun skiing none the less and a great little day tour.  Well worth the slog up to ski the lines up there. Thanks Ross for another great day.

We could do with some more snow for sure but I’m hoping for more of this kind of stuff throughout this winter!

Pictures speak a 1000 words. Click one to see them in Chronological order in Gallery view.

Some Extra Info

We took the lift up Champex which cost us 14CHF each one way to the top.

Total Height gain for the day was about 1500m

Here’s a handy map I made for the area so you can get to grips with it.

Eclipse

To say that I’m jealous of this trip is a huge understatement.  This is the kind of trip (minus the Solar Eclipse hunting) that would be a dream for me to take part in and eventually guide.  Adventure, uncertainty and solitude are huge parts of what inspires me and this really shows those aspects.  Good work to all those involved, this is so much more than your average run of the mill powder skiing film and well worth the watch even for non skiers.

When It Comes…

If your a fan of reading Chamonix based blogs it’s likely that you’ve not been reading mine very much recently! But why would you? I’ve not written anything for a while and there are surely some better options for you out there right now.  First off I’d like to apologise to anyone who genuinely cares what I’ve been up to (Mum and Dad?!) and say that I’ll try harder to put some content up on here for you. What follows is a wingey paragraph of why I’ve not done much and why I haven’t blogged. Feel free to skip to the one after.

Its been a tough winter to get out skiing and climbing. The weather has been all over the place, the snow has been weird and I’ve dealt with some tough emotions due to the loss of friends and changing circumstances.   After a reasonable successful period in January and February, March has been a slightly frustrating month. I’ve started a new job For EpicTv.com which despite being an awesome job (ski reviewing!) its taken a lot of energy out of me. When I have had days off it’s either been poor weather or I’ve been feeling clapped out! BLAH BLAH BLAH…What a winger, geez.

I started with epictv back in Feb and was originally taken on as there web master for climbing and skiing content. After a few weeks they asked me to do a screen test for being the ski reviewer for their online shop.  Somehow I got it and a few days later I was out on the hill skiing, shooting and reviewing skis for them.  This gig should last for at least a few more weeks and its been awesome to have the chance to test so many different pairs of skis and get paid to do it! Sometimes skiing chairlifts can get a bit dull (I cant really help the fact I’m used to more excitement than that) but on the whole its been great fun and certainly the best work I’ve ever had!

When the stars align and I get a day off with good weather, snow and energy I feel pretty lucky that I have some super stoked friends and one of the best ski lifts in the world to harness my lust for big mountain skiing. Sometimes I think I’ll never forget the feeling of blasting fall line on some big skis in steep powder but it felt like a almost new sensation yesterday. Grinning ear to ear as I pushed down on the tips of my skis with my toes to give myself another face-full of cold snow.

Nothing new went down and it was really just another Midi powder day but it felt so so good to be out skiing for myself and with a pesky layer of cloud sat around 3000m it felt pretty adventurous navigating 20 or so lost freeriders back to the mid station after the first lap ;-).

More of the same soon please!! 🙂

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.

FOMO

“Fear/Feeling Of Missing Out”. The fear that if you miss an event you will miss out on something great.

Dave Searle

Me Skiing on the North Face of the Gros Rognon. Courtesy of Davide de Masi.

A phrase which has only, in the last few years it seems, come to fruition.  Most likely because of the massive surge in popularity of social media sites over the past decade.  If you ain’t bloggin, instagramin or updating your facebook status with all the rad stuff you’ve been up to how will people know you’ve had the best day ever skiing neck deep pow or climbing a perfect splitter in the sun? Without this huge and constant stream of media coming our way every minute of every day would we even have the sensation of FOMO? Would we live in the here and now more? Would we be happy with what we are doing and where we are?

I’ve had massive bouts of FOMO in the past when I’ve been stuck someplace I didn’t want to be, working a job that I didn’t want to do.  I would live vicariously through my friends and those I follow on social media, wishing away my time to something better.  I can’t complain though.  This past year alone has been pretty damn good with lots of fun skiing and climbing memories behind me. I’ve had a pretty good innings this far!

FOMO is and will always be intrinsically linked to weather and conditions in the place you’d rather be. No snow = No FOMO.  Since the end of my autumn of climbing I’ve been working, nearly every day, in somewhere that I wouldn’t necessarily choose to spend my time. I’m back in Cham now and yes there hasn’t been much snow…or ice but times are changing (its dumping). I’m still working for the next week and I suspect that what is typically my most FOMO intense period will in fact pass quite easily. Yeah there’s people getting after it and I would rather be skiing or climbing if I wasn’t working. The thing is, I have to work.  I’ve spent too long avoiding it and its caught up with me. I’ve just left one of my worst financial periods behind (all be it self inflicted) and I’ve promised myself that I won’t be back in that position ever again.

The key thing that has changed in my mentality over the past year is trying to live more in the here and now. Wishing I was somewhere else doing something else seems like a complete waste of my time when I really think about it.  Better to accept life for what it is and find happiness in the small adventures or moments spent with friends and family.  Good times come and go and without the bad (or even not quite as good times) I’d never really appreciate the best days to the fullest.  Soon it will all kick off for me and I’ll be out doing the things I love again and it’s the knowledge of that that keeps me happy and sane.  Feeling like your missing out? Book a trip to go climbing or skiing or whatever you really want to do.  Even if you don’t have the time or money just do it. It will happen if you really want it to. 🙂

…days like these… Trappier and NE Couloir of the Tricot.

More days like these..please.

SAM_2597

NE Couloir of the Tricot taken from the hike up the Trappier.

With the much needed return of the pow at the end of last week we were all ready to hunt out the goods. After a few days squeezing midi laps between the clouds we had a hankering for something a bit bigger and less crowded. Sometimes the amount of people out skiing the midi astonishes/frustrates me.  It’s great to see so many psyched people, don’t get me wrong, but its not fun to have them all pilling in on top of you into a couloir sending down rocks and snow. Anyway…rant over!

The last few days ski touring have been super fun and it’s been great to get away from Midi lift for some mini adventures from the Bellevue cable car in Les Houches.  Still with a non-splitter forecast on Thursday we managed to fit in a lap of the Trappier Couloir in pretty epic conditions.  I’d done this line a few weeks ago but It was good to go back and ski it in near perfect pow. On the way up we had scoped an awesome looking couloir in the Bionnassay Basin and decided that it would be the objective for the day after.

The access to the NE couloir of the Tricot was fairly straight forward. A short skin from cable car up the train tracks brings you to a point where you can ski down onto the lower glacier. From here another 1.5 hours worth of skining up the glacier floor (on the left bank/lookers right) leads you up to the base of the couloir.  The basin itself reminds me of my time in the Himalayas (except with more snow) with towering glaciated faces all around which gives you a feeling of insignificance compared to the massive mountains.  We changed to crampons and booted our way up the couloir marveling in the quality of the snow and the stunning surroundings.  Here’s some shots of the Trappier and The NE Couloir.  (Click on a shot to take you to a slideshow format).

All told this was one of the best descents of this season so far for me.  Good friends (Ross Hewitt, Liz Daley and Davide de Masi) good powder, good surrounding and above all a good sense of adventure. It was super nice to feel really comfortable ripping GS turns down steep snow again.  Looking forward to more big days in the hills soon but for now I need to give my legs a rest!