Home Sweet Home

Image

After nearly six months away from home this year its great to finally be home, wake up in the same bed, catch up with friends and enjoy the Fall in the Alps in the autumn. I love this time of year with the valley being quiet, temperatures better for riding, near perfect friction on the rock, early snows of the winter, first turns…the hardest thing can be deciding what to do! Its especially sweet that he hard work in Wales this summer paid off and past the British Mountains Guides’ summer rock test and will be going to Scotland for the winter test next. At the start of summer I had a bad bike crash when I dropped the front end off a jump a piled my neck into the ground.  There was a lot of heavy crunching in my back and while I spat out bits of broken teeth, my back muscles went into hard spasm stopping me from getting much air in my lungs. It was a pretty scary experience and with my back feeling weird I made a beeline for the emergency room. The doctor was pretty nonchalant about it, monitored my blood pressure for a few hours and released me armed with a paracetamol and the advice that I might be a little sore in the morning. Having played rugby and raced bike downhill for years I’m not unused to taking hard knocks but this was a new level.  A week of not being able to sleep and 3 weeks of complete inactivity had me thinking it was unlikely I’d get into shape for the guides exam. 3 months later and I was starting to move a bit better and not feel like I’d been hit in the back with a sledge hammer, but for a while there were some major doubts about getting over this injury in time! A big thanks goes to Martin Chester who spent a day giving me some great tips during my final preparation for the test. He’s a IFMGA mountain guide and a fantastic performance coach and all round nice guy so check him out at: martinchester.co.uk  Also a big thanks to John Whittaker for being the perfect mock client – hope to see you for some Scottish Winter action!

dsc_1436-2

Coaching how to fist jam. Photo Martin Chester

dsc_1441-2

Me leading Shadow Wall. Photo Martin Chester

dsc_1447

John Whittaker seconding. Photo Martin Chester

dsc_1470

Me on Western Rib, Dinas Mot. Photo Martin Chester

dsc_1488

Placing gear on The Chain, a quality crack pitch, Dinas Mot. Photo Martin Chester

dsc_1493

On The Chain. Photo Martin Chester

dsc_1508

John Whittaker belaying me on The Chain. Photo Martin Chester

dsc_1522

John getting the finger locks on The Chain. Photo Martin Chester

john-on-the-link

John on the jugs. Photo Martin Chester

 

The following biking photos are from Merlet, my home run.

598a2220598a2154598a2227

And Gietroz with Enrico Mosetti and Beatrice Michelotti (photo credits)

20161005_12453120161005_12440520161005_12431520161005_124935

Then to the Gabarrou route on the triangle with Phil Brugger who is over from Innsbruck to train in the high mountain. Its ultra dry and the crux would be way easier in rock shoes but feels like M6+ right now. Short and sharp.

img_20161006_090028img_20161006_090043img_20161006_100630bildschirmfoto-2016-10-07-um-09-08-02bildschirmfoto-2016-10-07-um-09-06-04img_20161006_145609img_20161006_151420

And skiing on the normal route of Mont Blanc du Tacul.

20160929_11544020160929_12495220160929_143815img_20160929_172441

Finally a couple of scenic shots and Michelle at Elevation!

img_20161001_182540img_20161002_120147img_20161002_185347

A Photo Essay- 1st Descents Down Under

With it starting to feel autumnal here in North Wales and seeing all the ski porn flooding in from the southern hemisphere, I’ve started to dream about skiing again and am looking forward to some sensual turns in the powder. Here is a short photo essay about trip Tom Grant and myself did last October to New Zealand’s Southern Alps.  We skied 18 days out of a 25 day trip, losing 2 days to lost bags and 1 to a blown camper van engine. The highlights were skiing on the east face of Mt Cook and first descents on Elie de Beaumont’s west face and Darwin’s south face.

A big thanks to Evan and Mandy Cameron, Mel Cash & Stefan Austin, Shane Orchard, Cam Mulvey and Beau Fredlund for your hospitality, beta and good times.

Skiwiland flickbook ver 0.2 1Skiwiland flickbook ver 0.2 2Skiwiland flickbook ver 0.2 3Skiwiland flickbook ver 0.2 4Skiwiland flickbook ver 0.2 5Skiwiland flickbook ver 0.2 6Skiwiland flickbook ver 0.2 7Skiwiland flickbook ver 0.2 8Skiwiland flickbook ver 0.2 9Skiwiland flickbook ver 0.2 10Skiwiland flickbook ver 0.2 11Skiwiland flickbook ver 0.2 12Skiwiland flickbook ver 0.2 13Skiwiland flickbook ver 0.2 14Skiwiland flickbook ver 0.2 15Skiwiland flickbook ver 0.2 16Skiwiland flickbook ver 0.2 17Skiwiland flickbook ver 0.2 18Skiwiland flickbook ver 0.2 19Skiwiland flickbook ver 0.2 20Skiwiland flickbook ver 0.2 21Skiwiland flickbook ver 0.2 22Skiwiland flickbook ver 0.2 23Skiwiland flickbook ver 0.2 25Skiwiland flickbook ver 0.2 24

 

Into the Mountains

Fantastic conditions continued in Cham and for day 7 on the trot we swapped freeride kit for touring skis and headed up to the Tacul to ski the shoulder. On the Midi, Minna and myself bumped into Morgan Salen and Isaac DVT and we teamed up to share the trail breaking and enjoy a ski run together for the first time. The snow was perfect both on the ascent and descent – we were able to ski all the way up the 40 degree entry couloir and it was a good short day to rest the legs from all the freeride. Thanks for the photos Morgan!

 DSC04270

Skinning in the entry couloir

P9220022

Sunshine and shadow

DSC04286

Isaac and Minna with Pt Yield in the background

DSC04298

Morgan at the top of the shoulder

P9220039

Me psyched to ski some cold, sloughy, powder.

P9220041

Me heading off down the ridge.

DSC04393

Morgan Salen on the first shot

DSC04465

Isaac enjoying the powder

DSC04485

Morgan finding the snow acceptable and to his liking

P9220071

Minna heading into the 3rd shotDSC04544

Morgan railing a turn in the sun with Minna below

DSC04560

Happy days, Morgan with Minna abseiling

DSC04569

Minna on the abseil

P9220089

Me and the Corvus Freebird

DSC04608

Minna on the lowers

DSC04579

Morgan starting off down the lowers

P9220117

Me enjoying the exceptional snow

P9220119

This lower section provides some very fast skiing

P9220120

The Corvus Freebird showing its pedigree at speed

P9220121

And on

P9220123

And on

P9220124

And on

P9220125

And on

P9220126

Been skiing more than 10 seconds now!

P9220128

Nearly there

After the active rest day I managed to talk Mikko and Jesper into coming for a long day to the Breche Nonne Eveque in the Charpoura basin. You can’t beat skiing below all the spires next to the Dru and its one of my favourite spots. I was last there in 2013 with Michelle behind Rosenberger and Minogue when it was super easy to get through the morraine. Times have changed, the Mer de Glace has dropped in height and the morraine become looser, steeper and more dangerous but with all the new snow I spied a route on skier left that would go with one rap over a step and one jump.

DSC04678

Mikko and Jesper trenching to the breche while I shelter on a ledge below.

12699291_10207393798874509_585380122_oDSC04690

Mikko starting off

DSC04743

Jesper in the powder

DSC04784

Deep powder in the line

12751742_10207393798834508_1284422514_o

Me catching up after shooting down the line

DSC04816

Mikko getting his skis on after abseiling the lower cascade. I downclimbed this for speed.

DSC04824

Mikko under the Dru

DSC04836

Now in the Charpoura basin

DSC04833

Les Drus, Sans Non and Y couloir

DSC04865

The Nonne Eveque is the central couloir, we skied through the slabs on looker’s right

DSC04848

Charpoura cirque

DSC04815

Jesper’s signature

DSC04838

Les Drus

DSC04857

I used my long Petzl Laser Speed Light ice screw to make a double Abalakov anchor for the rap through the slabs and backed it up with the screw while Jesper abseiled.

This was a long day with lots of tiring trail breaking and with a deteriorating forecast for the next afternoon, we decided on a quick lap of Breche Tacul for day 9 on the go. On the Midi we were surprised for find 6 inches of new snow overnight which despite making for an enjoyable few turns down the Gros Rognan, meant we (or it turned out to be Jesper) had to break trail to the bergshrund. It took me longer than usual to settle into a rhythm, clear my legs out, and get going, plus it was bitterly cold in shade and my hands, feet and nose were suffering. After the shrund we swapped leads trail breaking on the climb up to the breche before savouring a 30 second view of the Jorasses and skiing down.

 

DSC04876

On the bootpack.

DSC04892

The Grandes Jorasses looking somewhat dry

DSC04899

Jesper dropping into the pow.

DSC04916

And finding the line well filled in.

DSC04924

Me dropping onto the spine.

DSC04933

And popping back off it!

DSC04988

These last two are of Jesper.

DSC05033

With the weather breaking it was time for a well earned rest day and a beer or two before ending the week with a fun powder day on Plan de l’Aiguille where I met Espen Fadnes and his mate Tom, and an early morning run down the Marbree just before it got scorchio!

No Siesta

The week started with a full throttle powder day with Mikko, Jesper and Nikolina at Pavillion. After 8 laps there we moved across the road to Val Veni and did a few laps of the cable face. It was riding pretty sweet and I was psyched to get to ride this face again this season. For once the Scandos wanted to stop before it got dark and go eat pizza which was good too. From the comfort of my sofa that night with throbbing legs I felt pretty sorry for Nikolina who was working until 2 am!

The next day was sunny and a chance to get high. I hit Helbronner with Mikko and Jesper and we found the most amazing stable powder on the mountain. By lunch we had skied the classic cables line, Tassoti, straight line 3 times and Chesso twice, in total 7 x 1000m laps. Although it was still cool we decided to go back to darker Cham side and have a run on the Rond but once we got through the tunnel the light was flat and we called it at that not wanting to spoil what had been the best cables day for me for a few years.  These days were fast, furious, and focused on skiing so no photos! The only downside was hitting a rock at full speed on the Toula glacier that had me tomahawking to a standstill. It felt like my knee would explode as the tail bit on each rotation but I luckily got away with only strained medial ligament. I did exactly the same thing before going to Baffin so knew I could manage it.

After resting my knee all the next morning I got the code red from De Masi that it was apocalyptic in Italy. We arrived over there to find it snowing at 20 cm an hour with 50 cm of fresh on the ground. With 115 underfoot it was still chest deep. There was a ridiculous amount of snow coming out of the sky and continuous face shots of cold champagne powder. Well, we skied until the liftie asked if we had homes to go to! I haven’t seen it snow that intensity since ’99 when we got a few metres in 3 days and the avalanches were blasting through the towns in the Alps, something no one wants to see a repeat of. Only a half day but 5 laps in the bag.

Pavillion freeride was the order of the day for Saturday and Michelle met up with her friend Ian from UEFA who was psyched for sport with the Cham lifts shut with the Foehn storm. During the morning it continued to snow and cover the tracks then the sun made an appearance giving us the visibility to jump on the spines and have a laugh. The main problem was avoiding white rooming yourself while launching over the pillows and fish mouths on the aprons. It was supposed to be an active rest day but in the end 7 laps dont really qualify as active rest! By now the Border control cops at the Mont Blanc tunnel were only stopping the car to ask where the good skiing was.

Eat, sleep, repeat. Too good to stop. U guessed it we were at Pavillion on Sunday, joined by Black Crows team mate Minna. We had fun there there until the sun came out at which point we decided to put some distance between ourselves and those big faces above  that were loaded with powder after days of storm. Switching to Val Veni, the trees were still providing awesome skiing, so much so that we had to have one last run and went to the Church spine face. The approach through the trees was incredible with 3 deep foot sluff runnels between the spines in the steep terrain of the forest – WTF? Then we popped out on the spine face and wait a minute, whats this heavy wet mank? Not cool. I’m guessing there was enough reflected infra red radiation off the Helbronner side onto our north facing slope to warm the snow. Time to go home. 6 laps.

Monday dawned fine. Can’t stop, won’t stop. Oli Herren said ‘yeah skiing, its a lifelong addiction.’ I wanted more, and the more I got, the more I wanted. Helbronner uppers. Michelle, Minna and myself ride the bin with Capozzi, Rolli, Civra Dano,Wallace, Hachemi, Husted. The cable face looked loaded and wind effected so we started the day on the more sheltered lines. The lower approaches into Pavillion were skiing amazingly but my legs were  tired. 4 laps and coffee. 40 laps over 6 days.

The weather for Tuesday was perfect…time to go touring use different leg muscles!

DSC03680

DSC03684DSC03735DSC03738DSC03783DSC03786DSC03794-2DSC03794DSC03842DSC03819DSC03829

DSC03902DSC03965DSC03979DSC04010DSC04026DSC04029DSC04039DSC04040DSC04052DSC04055DSC04105

FullSizeRender

FullSizeRender-1DSC04119DSC04184DSC04185DSC04196

Mont Oreb North Face

Its been a while since I have skied on this face and last time I went we decided to climb it first and got a bit lost 2/3 of the way up trying to find the ‘exposed traverse’ to the summit ridge. This time Tom and myself wanted to ski top down onsite to avoid wading up chest deep pow. The cornice is similar to the one on Mt Buet and its tough to see into the face from above but eventually we committed to a traverse going in on the rope to test the snow stability.  The anchors are sparse a the top and the best I could manage was a no. 1 camelot and 2 ski anchors. Once Tom had found the snow was perfect we packed the ropes and got on with skiing this fantastic face.

DSC03364DSC03239DSC03250DSC03277DSC03292DSC03306DSC03316DSC03326DSC03343DSC03370DSC03378DSC03380DSC03394DSC03405

Couvercle

An early season trip to the gorgeous old Couvercle Refuge coinciding with the full moon and my birthday – as if you need an excuse to go there!

DSC01987-2DSC01996-2DSC01999-2DSC02004-2DSC02005-2DSC02007-2DSC02019-2DSC02021-2DSC02033-2

Christmas Eve on Chardonnet South Face

On Christmas Eve I had the pleasure of skiing with Jesper Petersson and returning to the Argentiere basin. We skinned from Bochard over the Col des Rachasses towards the Col de Chardonnet to have a go at the South Face. Rotten snow meant getting off the Argentiere glacier was really tough and we had been going for 5 hours by the time we got to the face. The weather was changing rapidly and by the time we climbed the initial couloir the wind was howling, tugging incessantly at the skis on our bags trying to lift us off the mountain. The decision to ski down was pretty simple!

DSC01926DSC01929DSC01942DSC01956