Home Sweet Home

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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!

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Coaching how to fist jam. Photo Martin Chester

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Me leading Shadow Wall. Photo Martin Chester

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John Whittaker seconding. Photo Martin Chester

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Me on Western Rib, Dinas Mot. Photo Martin Chester

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

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On The Chain. Photo Martin Chester

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John Whittaker belaying me on The Chain. Photo Martin Chester

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

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John on the jugs. Photo Martin Chester

 

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

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

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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.

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

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Finally a couple of scenic shots and Michelle at Elevation!

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Black Crows 2015 Corvus Review

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A lot of people are starting to ask me what kit I chose and why. Anyone who knows me quickly comes to realise that I am really choosy about kit. The engineer in me looks for a well design product and the realist looks for a product that is robust and won’t let me down. On those big mountain steeps, you will only get away with kit failure if your really lucky and you never know when your luck will run out. Skiing is also a sport about sensations, and skis have to deliver a special combination of power, grip, dampening, agility and stability in just the right amounts to cut it. My skiing developed from an alpine slalom racing background to freeride and big mountain steep skiing. I’m definitely not into lightweight racing kit for ski touring and the chattery feel of those matchsticks. I’d rather put a bit more effort in on the up to be able to blast on the down without the worry of ripping the binding out or snapping a ski.

In the last ten years I have mainly skied Dynastar and Volkl before moving to Black Crows in 2013. I didn’t just move brand because they offered to support me, I went and tried out all their skis at an open day to see how they felt and if they could give me what I am looking for, just as you should. With the progression from cambered Dynastar pro riders to Volkl, Katanas, Kuros then Shiro’s you can see there is a general mix of performance with a growing trend of playfulness and agility. Long gone are the days you chose a big GS ski for stability at the sacrifice of agility, modern skis can do it all.

The Corvus has been Black Crows Sovereign ski since the brands conception, and with each year they have added some extra width to drive the market trend. We chose this ski to take on a 30 day expedition on Baffin Island to ski couloirs and here’s why. I wanted a ski that was reasonably stiff, had tip rocker a for forgiving nature, a classic tail for powering out of turns and edging, and at just over 4 kg for the pair light enough to do 1000 m a day, day in day out. This is a ski that likes to charge, and the harder you push the more impressed would will be with it stability as it shows its calibre. You can ski pow with dustbin lids but when its variable, crusty or firm then you start to appreciate the all round abilities. Its like a Mantra but with an extra 10 mm under foot fun added. It will be equally at home with alpine or touring bindings depending out what you want to do. I rated the ski on the 10 qualities I look for in a ski:

Corvus evaluationBlack Crows Corvus 2015 review Baffin-1Chasing Tom Grant – Ford Wall, Baffin Island