My New Badge – Proud

Guides badge

Its been one hell of a summer preparing meticulously for my final guides exams. As with all things, not everything can go your way and there were some ups and downs in the lead up. First Michelle’s Father sadly passed away unexpectedly from a heart attack. Being Chamonix based you are surrounded by death and loss, I would never go as far to say we are hardened to it but more that we are used to the strong emotional feelings of loss, sadness, stress. Its hard to comprehend the feeling of loss her Mum has after 50 plus years together.

After the dust started to settle I put my head back to the grindstone and was in the mountains training nearly every day practicing guiding techniques with peers. Then I caught a nasty D&V virus that had me feeling nauseous, weak and sleeping for hours after work. It seemed to go away after a week but after a Grand Paradiso and Mont Blanc week it made a return and I started to get nervous that I’d get my strength back in time. Another week went by before I felt better enough to try a 2 day alpine route. On the walk in I sharted, all was not good and that was a stinky couple of days.

With 10 days to go the viral fatigue disappeared and I started to eat properly again. Back on track. Then I took a call from my sister that started with ‘are you at home?’ and ended with the shocking news my Mum had died unexpectedly. The funeral couldn’t be delayed and I flew back to Scotland to be with my family on this sad occasion. With only a few days to go before the exam I needed to get back to Cham quickly, sort gear, prepare, acclimatise and gain some head space. On the way to the airport in Aberdeen I got a text from British Airways to announce they had cancelled my flight from London to Geneva. I couldn’t imagine anywhere more lonely than stuck in a airport hotel at heathrow on my own the night of my Mum’s funeral.

I made it back to Cham the next day and had to wait until the day before our exam briefing before there was weather to run up Tacul to acclimatise.  I carried quite a bit of emotional stress into the exam but after a couple of days my motivation returned and it was a good weak with a great bunch of people. Somehow I made it though it hasn’t quite sunk in yet.

 

Col des Cristaux

I teamed up with Ben Tibbetts and Chris Booth to go ski the north east face of Col des Cristaux in the Argentiere Basin just after the prolonged spell of foehn that brought heavy snow to the area. This line is the easiest on the north wall at 5.1 but its still around 600 m of 40-50 degrees with some no fall terrain mixed in up high but generally relaxed enough to make some big turns. Ben has invested in a fancy powered gimble so it was an interesting project to go and simul ski while filming! In the cable car we met Loic Thivierge and Guillaume Mars who were headed in the same direction so we teamed up them for a social day.

Check out Ben’s superb photos on his website and videos on his facebook site:

http://www.bentibbettsphotography.com/

Ben Tibbetts Facebook

 

 

Col de la Verte

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This was an attempt early April…possible a weak one at that, my head was full of Baffin preps and Lambert had just fallen 600 m down this slope a few days before and was lucky to live. He is still in hospital months later. I hope he makes as good as recovery as is possible.  I went  thinking it would be good skiing but the wind blew away our dreams of powder.  At mid height we encounter sections of neve which doesn’t really rank as fun skiing in my opinion, risking it all when the margin is that slight is something I will leave for the lemmings.

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Enrico at the turn around point, patches of neve glistening amongst the snow.

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The Final Day of my Chamonix Winter

I really wanted to ski badly…it was the last day of my Chamonix season and it felt like months since I had tired legs from big days out. I spent most of yesterday deciding what to do, would there be enough new snow for a rematch on col de la verte? But as the rain poured down last night, focus switched to the Midi North Face, a sure bet and no worries about getting sluffed climbing up something.

So I met Dave at 0730 , got first bin tickets…all looking good. Then that ding dong of the PA system…oh no, here we go, FFS, they never announce good news like we were all happy this morning and got to work to open the lift early because its a powder day and we are here to serve. Problem technique, next info at 10 am. Too late and too sunny to hit the Argie basin and besides Dave had DH kit. So we gave up our dreams of freeriding powder all day long and did the next best thing (well not really but options were low) and went to the bakery for a pain au chocolate. After wasting another couple of hours of my life, and just before I went home to get on with packing for Baffin, the Midi did open. CMB redeemed themselves!

And I am glad I waited. Col du Plan gave me the best powder I ever skied on the North Face – I think its fair to say we were all buzzing after sending the top pitch in 10 seconds – Tof, Christopher Baud, Arthur Ghillini, Dave Searle – thanks for an all time run. After that we we went to Rond – West Couloir combo, with that riding beautifully. But then we lost 10 minutes at the lift as one of the lifties wouldn’t let Searler on a bin that was far from full. What was that about? Our final run was Salopar was pretty good too and after red lining the last half hour and nearly breaking down the locked door at the Plan, we made the last lift down. Overall CMB is forgiven. A day to remember. When Cham is good, its real good. I was sad to be leaving but glad it was on a high!

A big thanks to my friends for fun times this winter and looking forward to more this summer. Time for guides training and the couloirs of Baffin!

 

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Lofoten

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The magical mystical Lofoten Isles in the Norwegian Arctic. Broody dark peaks in the swirling mists, ever changing light creating dramatic vistas, laser beams from the sun turing the fiords to gold. Here we rediscovered the natural rhythm of life at Lofoten Ski Lodge under the fantastic hospitality of Seth, his wife Maren and team of guides and chefs.  We watched the sun rise over the Norwegian Sea, ate big breakfasts at a relaxed pace while choosing our dream adventure, skied from summit to sea, returned to the lodge for afternoon tea and waffles, shared the stoke with all the other excited skiers, took saunas and jumped into the sea, drank as much beer as we could afford, ate catch of the day at dinner, spent the evening talking in front of the fire, marvelled at the aurora borealis, fell asleep, woke up and did it all again.

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Morning glory from the lodge

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The aurora borealis

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Michelle skiing the classic south couloir of Geitgallien down to the teepee in the lush afternoon light

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The girls excited about the sun coming out

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Cedric booting up Geitgallien

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Minna and Michelle

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Michelle on Geitgallien

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Looking into Tollfjordvanet

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Panorama from Hivgratinden – Geitgallien col

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Minna, Michelle and Cedric

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Michelle

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Michelle and Minna heading into Juviktinden

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Our high point on Juviktinden due to poorly bonded snow

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The light show above the lodge

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From Juviktinden I spied this zone 2 valleys deeper so after borrowing some tech tools from Northern Guides Guido Sami Modenius we went to check out these 3 500 m lines which were probably unskied. They dropped a further 150 m below the photo on the fan to the lake.

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Climbing up to the ice step in the right hand line

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Michelle arriving over the steep ice step

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Boot packing the steep lower section of the couloir

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On the boot pack in deep pow

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Skiing after the upper narrows was perfect snow with the couloir providing visibility on this storm day

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Deep powder but no where to hide from the slough

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Faster skiing in the mid section where the left bank provided a safe zone from the slough

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Last turns approaching the ice steps

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I equalised a icy thread and a no.4 nut to abseil over the ice. With a little more snow it might be possible to hop onto the spine skiers left.

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Michelle on the abseil.

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Michelle bootpacking up to the next line

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Climbing into the central line.

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Michelle arriving over the small ice step

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Deteriorating weather and light as we wallow up deep pow

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At the col, the visibility was terrible and I was pleased to actually find the col

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After popping out of the cloud the visibility for skiing became good

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In the upper couloir

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On the dividing spur sheltering from Michelle’s slough

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Entering the lower couloir

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Michelle threading her way through the choke into the lower line

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Great skiing in the lower line

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Deep pow in the lower line. I put in an a abolokov to abseil the lower ice step but it would be an easy jump in good visibility

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On the abseil

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Sunshine on the beach

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Leaving the car to head into Breitinden / Stauren group

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The approach has us skinning across fields, marsh, lakes, streams and boulder fields

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Our line on Breitinden

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Not so steep allowing us to skin but atmospheric

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A little exposed here above the dividing spine, time to bootpack

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Michelle and the view to the north

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Topping out after cimbing a litle steep turf on the wind scoured col into the sun

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Soaking up the rays after days of storm

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Taking in the views – a perfect lunch spot

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Panorama from Breitinden

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Very narrow for 10 m

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Wider here

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No argument about the snow

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Michelle in the upper and lower couloirs

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Me in the lower line

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Michelle in the lower line. The wall above would be beautiful to climb on

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Exiting the couloir

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Our line on Breitinden is the lower col just riht of centre photo

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Owl strike!

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Funky clouds as the sun goes down on the Straumnes peninsula

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Someone arranged for the evening entertainment watching the light show

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Our cabin by the sea

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The beautiful bay at Kalle where the lodge is situated is surrounded by these lush peaks

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Seth Hobby runs Norther Guides specialising in Lofoten, Greenland, Svalbarg

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The view southwest across to the mountains on the mainland

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Lofoten Ski Lodge

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Michelle has a soft spot for white fluffy things and Seth’s dog was spoilt all week

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Morning coffee at the lodge

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Sunrise near Svolvaer

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Looking south from Laupstad

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The beaches at Morfjorden

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Morning light on the mountains near Svolvaer

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Looking over toward Litlmolla

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The next day the weather was poor so we went to the 900 m SW couloir of Geitgallien

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Nearing the top

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No more snow as I reach a little col on the ridge, 900 m of couloir below

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The cloud lifted and we were treated with creamy pow to the ocean

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Me skiing

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Our friendly Black Crows bar part time tender come guido – Mark

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Fish are the staple diet and nothing is wasted – even the lamps are made from Cod (fish)

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Cod heads drying on racks – they will be turned into stock cubes

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A dark wild day at the beach with freezing rain, we almost died of hyperthermia walking 50 m from the car

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Surfers getting swept on the rocks. Seeing this persuaded me these weren’t the right conditions for a novice like myself

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Head leant forward and braced against the wind, the surfers strive to get back to their vans

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Under attack

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The sandy beaches way out west are beautiful

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Michelle enjoying the sightseeing

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Colourful village of Utakliev situated under the classic mountain Himmeltinden

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The beach at Haukland

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Sea urchins for sale

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Sailing off on a fishing trip

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Volkl Explosives – one of the good early wide skis

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The picturesque village of Henningsvaer is worth a visit with the nearby Preston couloir

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Cod racks in Henningsvaer

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Typical wooden houses in Henningsvaer

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Michelle and the everchanging afternoon light on Geitgallien South Couloir

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