Ski Bums – The Photo Album

For me the last few years have been completely dedicated to skiing, following the snow around the globe in the eternal hunt for powder as the seasons change and clocking up close to 200 days a year. This search has taken me to Patagonia, Chile, Japan, Norway, New Zealand and included 2 major exploratory expeditions to Baffin Island. This has been a phenomenal experience, meeting and making many close friends who share the same obsession and also clocking up 36 first descents in the process. Glen Plake said ‘skiings a life sentence’ and those smooth weightless turns as you float down a mountain amongst a sea of slough is something most of us can’t get enough of. Its always been interesting to see how the rest of the World rank the Brits pretty far down the skiing ratings and since we aren’t an alpine nation its not surprising. Without a heritage of producing big mountain skiers it means that opportunities for funding ski trips are few and far between in comparison say with alpine climbing. Hopefully that will change with time and I live to see some Brits skiing AK in TGR or MSP films. To emphasise that point, I write as I find myself without a clothing sponsor for the first time in five years!

A big thanks goes to my current sponsors for helping me realise many of my dreams and going out their way to help and support me; Black Crows Skis, Scarpa, PLUM fixation, Julbo Eyewear, Birdwhere, Lyon Equipment, Petzl, Lenz Products, Exped, Hydrapak and Davide at Concept Pro Shop Chamonix. Another big thanks goes to Berghaus, Gino Watkins Memorial Fund, Arctic Club and Craig Stenhouse who helped fund the trips.

After so much time feeding the rat its now time for a change in emphasis as I continue with the guides training with a view to being able to share some of these fantastic experiences in the future with clients.

So here is a collection of photographs which reflect the incredible days shared with friends that have a particularly special place in my heart.

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Jim Lee slaying Grand Envers in a metre of fresh. Aiguille du Midi

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Adam Fabrikant a few turns in to the sunny east face of Mt Darwin, New Zealand. Tom Grant and myself hooked up the amiable Americans Noah Howell, Beau Fredlund Adam Fabrikant and Billy Whass to share a few turns and a lot of laughs while down under.

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Michelle Blaydon under biblical skies in Lofoten

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Polar Star Couloir looking majestic on the Beluga Spire, right after we skied it. Dubbed ‘The Best Couloir in the World’ by McLean and Barlage, its certainly and icon of lust

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Don’t be fooled by the warm evening light, brass monkeys at camped on the sea ice under Beluga Spire. With Michelle Blaydon and Marcus Waring

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Morgan Salen skiing to Minna Rihiimaki on the shoulder of Aiguille du Tacul. The snow was so good we skinned up the 45 degree approach couloir.

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Bird speed flying over the Frendo serac the same day we skied it

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The incredible 1500 m high north facing wall of the 70 km long Gibbs Fiord in Baffin

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Marcus Waring with a 1000 m to go, Gibbs Fiord, Baffin

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Oli Willet, Tournier Spur entry to Col du Plan

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Mika Merikanto, Ross Hewitt and Stephane Dan, Mallory, North Face Aiguille du Midi

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Michelle Blaydon in a very deep Bonatti Couloir

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Powder Panda getting over caffeinated for Palud lowers

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Roger Knox, Arete Plate, Aiguille Rouge

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Minna Rihiimaki, in the starting gate, Aiguille du Midi. It has been know for her to pose naked here!

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All time conditions on the Para Face. I miss those days.

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A first descent on the complex South Face of Mt Darwin, NZ. We took the steep headwall to the spur with a jump through the rocks near the bottom. As usual Tom got over excited and nearly skied off the bottom cliff. Photo credit: Ryan Taylor

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Just landed at Tasman hut and we sneaked a quick afternoon shot down the diagonal in the background. A nice wee leg loosener.

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Oo-La-La, Bird out of his cage and mind. Frendo Spur, Chamonix.

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Tom and myself started the day at Tasman hut about 20 km up glacier beyond the white ice in the background. This gruelling 9 hour torture session is not recommended except for the masochists out there. We didnt have a satphone to call a chopper to the hut and ended up doing this walk twice, being pretty dumb and not learning the mistake first time round.

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Argh. Hours in the pain locker. Tasman morraines

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Beau Fredlund harvesting perfect corn on Mt Hamilton, New Zealand

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After skiing a first descent on Elie de Beaumont, we got stranded in the fog trying to get from a glacier bench to the Tasman. Finally a window appeared and we took this ‘Brenva’ Spur type feature home

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Skiing a first descent on Elie de Beaumont’s West Face as cloud threatens from the West. We kept getting bumped off choppers so it was after noon when we got to Tasman hut forcing us to haul ass up Elie for 3 pm corn time. Tom Grant skiing on 45 degree slopes

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Mount Cook’s stunning east face illuminated under full moon. This will be one of the modern ski classics of New Zealand

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Dawn hits as we start the climb up the east face of Mt Cook

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On the East Face of Cook with uniform compact powder. A modern classic in the making

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Vivid, rugged and very beautiful – myself taking in the landscape above Mueller and Pukaki

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For once the wind wasn’t howling and we were able to enjoy a morning coffee without everything blowing away. Tom and myself at Wyn Irwin Hut

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Michelle Blaydon and Marcus Waring at base camp in Gibbs Fiord. This first trip to Baffin was rock n roll style as we travelled fast over hundreds on kilometers using kites, armed with rifles and pump action shot guns for bear protection,  and skiing every line that took our fancy

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Sheltering from a biting wind a cooking up some hot soup under the magical Great Sail Peak in Stewart Valley of Baffin Island. L-R Michelle Blaydon, Ross Hewitt and Marcus Waring

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The hard part of Arctic travel – sled hauling. Luckily good tunes and magnificent scenery provide suitable mind distractions to the 120 kg load

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North West Passage, a 1200 m. McLean – Barlage classic. Had to be done

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After a massive 10 hour walk out down the Tasman moraines we woke up feeling it and went for extra everything on our cooked breakfasts, washed down by a litre of cappuccino

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Michelle Blaydon smiling at the relative warm evening light on the plateau of Scott Island, Baffin. Descending into the fiords is like going into a chest freezer as the temp drops about 30 degrees

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We were skiing some sketchy icy section on Tournier Spur when a wooshing noise spooked us. A moment later that speed flyer went through the middle of our group. Scary

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Return to base camp after a day new routing on Scott Island. It always amazed me that the tent disappeared from view on flat sea ice once you were over a kilometer away

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Exit couloir on the Mallory, Aiguille du Midi. All the stress has gone by this point and all that remains is an easy 50 degree shot to the bar

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Marcus Waring in the 1100 m Polar Star Couloir, Baffin Island

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The late, great Liz Daley on one of those relaxed Palud days where we gourged on coffee and powder in equal amounts. Always missed, never forgotten

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Andy Houseman and Tom Grant on the Mont Mallet Glacier

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Myself on another massive Baffin line. This one came in at a hefty 1450 m vertical, 5000 ft

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May and a predawn start for the Diable Couloir with Tom Grant. We climbed the icefall, bailed due to the heat and then put plan B into action – skin to the top of Tacul and drop into the Grand Gerva – that saved the day

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Tom and Marcus with the 1500 m East Face of Walker Citadel where Superunknown is situated. We were on our way back from Mugs Stump Spire and just chilling in the sun before hauling through the night to Ford Wall

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Sunshine and shade as Minna makes those special turns on the North Face of Aiguille di Midi

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A first descent on Mugs Stump Spire. We also skied the background left hand line which was 1500 m to the top of Walker Citadel

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Cedric Bernardini, Bird, Brett Lotz and myself as the Foehn threatens on Eugster. Cedric’s eyes give away the seriousness of the situation while the visiting Brett is oblivious to the shit storm thats about to happen

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Caught in a Foehn storm on Eugster, Aiguilled du Midi. Bernardini and Lotz on the wrong side of the slough trains. One of those days you hopefully regroup at the bar

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Polar travelling for free (low calorie expenditure) using kites in Baffin

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After a 2 am start from a low camp, Im getting ready for my first turn down the East Face of the Matterhorn at 7 am

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Fresh water ice on the isolated Stewart Lake, Stewart Valley, Baffin

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Me on good corn on the East Face of the Matterhorn and carrying my SLR camera

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Me traversing the Aiguille Verte. We climbed Couturier and descended Whymper. What you cant see is the strong gusty wind that was trying to pluck us off the ridge. At the col we met Nate Wallace and Seth Morrison who had come up Whymper in downhill kit. With the snow staying frozen all they had to say was ‘you are going to struggle in touring kit’

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After a month on the ice we arrive cold and damp at Ellington Fiord hut after 10 hours on a komatik sled with 3 hours to go to get back to Clyde River. 2 of our friends are stuck in the fiords after 1 skidoo broke down and the responsibility for their safety as expedition leader weighs heavily on my mind. I’m completed beat after pushing my physical limits beyond the max trying to ski everything and mentally wanting to unwind. Deep in the Arctic rescue options are limited to skidoos

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Skiing in grand locations

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Ski kiting to the lines was run and saved loads of precious calories. The ramp next to the wing was my favourite line we skied. Big wide open exposed slopes led into a twisting couloir exit

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Showing Chipie how to load our 1942 303 enfield in case we get attacked by a bear. A nice light reliable weapon, perfect for skiing

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Enrico Mossetti with the slabs of the Droites in the background

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After a couple days waiting on weather we get dropped at the Tasman hut for our final hit of the trip, aiming to ski a first descent on the South Face of Mount Darwin. Tom trying to pull me down to his level!

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Another monster line in Gibbs Fiord on Baffin. in 2016 we were blessed with regular snow falls providing primo ski conditions. Wading up the lines was hard work!

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Playing mini golf above Plateau hut in NZ

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Approach to the East Ridge of Cook with her East Face and Tasman’s Syme Ridge behind

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Gazing up the Hooker Valley with my ‘rig’. Adventure skiing in NZ is not a light affair once bivi kit and stoves are added to the pack

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Late afternoon golden rays on the Mothership in my backyard

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The beautiful fan at the start of the Gervasutti. Tom Grant negotiating the cornice

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October, preparing for NZ

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A late night session to savour the evening light in Crosshairs Couloir in Steward Valley. We had spent the day triple carrying across faceted moraine and finally decided it was time to go skiing to boost moral

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The East Face of the Matterhorn after we skied it

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Stormy weather in Couloir de la Dent Jaune, Dents du Midi, Switzerland

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Michelle Blaydon at the cute Dents du Midi refuge

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Nate Wallace in the steep entry to the Grand Gervasutti

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Tof Henry in the Col du Plan exit couloir, North Face of Aiguille du Midi

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Enrico Mosetti making steep turns on Col de la Verte with the North Face of Les Droites behind

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Extreme coffee drinking while sheltering out the wind at the extrance to the 1200 m Mel Gibbs couloir, Gibbs Fiord, Baffin Island

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Steep and techy as Enrico Mossetti negotiates the lower ramp off Col de la Verte

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Michelle in the approach couloir to Aiguille du Tacul

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1100 m of May spring snow in Gibbs Fiord, Baffin. Another first descent.

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Summit of Mont Blanc on a frigid day late May as we head off down the Bosses Ridge and prepare to make the big turn left down the 2000 m West Face. Exciting times.

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The West Face of Mont Blanc

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Tom Grant dropping into the Mont Mallet Diagonal

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Happy days. This was my final day in Cham in 2016 before I headed to Baffin Island and I wanted a big day on the Midi but things hung in the balance as the opening time continually got pushed back as they dealt with the overnight snow. When it finally opened mid morning we managed to ski Col du Plan, West Couloir and Salopar.

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My team mate and good buddy Enrico Mosetti on the lower ramp of Col de la Verte

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Me skiing into the top of Breche Tacul with the North Face of Grandes Jorasses providing the backdrop

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Col du Plan in all time conditions

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Enrico Mosetti in the Brenva cirque with Col Moore behind while Italy sleeps under a blanket on cloud

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The Plan de l’Aiguille at its best. Michelle Blaydon in perfect pow

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Skiing on the Saudan route on the West Face of Mont Blanc. The seracs threaten the routes to the right and also the exit of our route focusing the mind on putting some distance between you and the face.

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Good snow on the Mallory as Tom drops into the steep couloir off the tower

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Stunning days on Lofoten as I get a look down into the line we want to ski

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I did a traverse of Les Courtes solo on day from the NE into the South Face. The ridge along the top of the North Face was slabby on one side and corniced on the other so slow going. Plus it was -30C but the skiing was good!

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Minna and Bird in the wee Gerva of Tour Ronde on the way to ski the North Face top down

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My turns on the Cordier Gabarrou of Les Courtes

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Playtime off Plan de l’Aiguille back in the days when it snowed

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Johnny Collinson spine riding in Gressoney

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Happy days. Mikko Heimonen on the walk out from Mont Blanc’s west face late May

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De Masi spine riding Palud lowers

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Oli Willet exiting Col du Plan. The shrund was like a catchers mitt

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Palud. Deep. Jeremy Bogen

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Bird. Midi North Face

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Me contemplating the steep rocky, icy section from Tournier Spur into Col du Plan and working out the acceleration on 50 plus degrees before committing to straighlining through the gap

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Flat light storm days in Lofoten confined us to couloirs  but I wasn’t complaining

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On the Mallory with Tom below

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Tom Grant on the Mont Mallet glacier

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Maybe a thing of the past. Deep days on the Plan with no one

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Late at night. Michelle Blaydon in Crosshairs Couloir, Stewart Valley, Baffin

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Michelle taking it all in, Lofoten

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Minna Riihimaki checking out conditions before we commit to skiing the North Face

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Michelle on the volcano  Llaima

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Dave Searle learning the steep game and making tentative turns on Col des Courtes in his first skimo season back in 2011

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Bird slaying it on the North Face of the Midi

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Me high on the West Face of Mont Blanc

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The Frey Hut and its superb backyard, Bariloche, Argentina

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Sunset from the Cosmiques hut as we prepare to go to the Brenva Spur

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Minna, Michelle and Cedric in Lofoten

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The road to Lanin, Argentina

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More than a lifetime of exploration back there in New Zealand

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Me amongst the granite spires of the Frey area, Bariloche

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Final rays at sundown on the Midi

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Searching out the entrance of Couloir de la Perche with the Griaz Glacier behind

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Tomasso Cardelli in the Vallencent

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Si Christy chest deep in what was dubbed Clit Route due to the topography. Photo Chipie Windross. Probably the shot of the trip for me

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On the easy ground of the Miage after crossing the chaotic glacier behind on our way down from skiing Mont Blanc’s West Face

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On stove duty at 5 am in Gibbs Fiord. I needed an early start to catch the sun on the 1300 m Canton Couloir before it refroze.

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The perfect backdrop as Searle drops in off Tour Ronde

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On the Brenva Spur with a snow lynx track on the crest. I hope it enjoyed it as much as us

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Perfect snow in this Baffin masterpiece allowing me to ski in front of the slough

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Bouldering at Castle Hill after 3 weeks in the Cook Range skiing

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Griffin Post riding pillows in Gressoney

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Going for a flyby of the Caroline Face to check conditions

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Gotta have a Midi North Face bin shot somewhere in your collection. Bird waiting for his hangover to clear.

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Summit of Lanin with Michelle in volcano country of South America

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Seth Morrison opening Col d’Entreves

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Tom Grant in the Fransson line, Footstool. We used this to stretch our legs after several days travelling and get a feel for the snowpack. What you cant see is the severe gale force winds that are a big feature of NZ skiing.

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Michelle Blaydon lining up to pass through the choke on this first descent in Lofoten

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Dawn on the Midi

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On a fly past the South Face of Darwin. This was the closest look we got of it before deciding it was a goer.

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A cheaky ice bulge guarded the entrance to this 500 m virgin couloir in Lofoten. Well worth taking a second tool for making it all to easy.

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Aperol spritzers at one of my favourite bars in the world, Riva del Garda, Lake Garda Italy.

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Sylvain Renaud in Couloir Cache leading into the Brenva Cirque

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Luca Pandolfi, Col d’Entreves

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Me on the aesthetic Tacul shoulder

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Si Christy heading off on a 1200m shot to the fiord in Baffin

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Michelle Blaydon en route to Marbree one blustery day

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De Masi looking for something to make the Toula more interesting

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A psyched team of Evan Cameron, Chipie Windross and Si Christy doing a final repack of food into week bags before heading into the Baffin Fiords. Somehow Evan persuaded Chipie to swap out the normal sausage for ‘damn hot’ sausages which our guts weren’t that enamoured with and often had us sprinting across the fiord to drop our trousers

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Me enjoying perfect conditions on the Tacul shoulder

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Sunshine powder days on the Toula with Davide de Masi

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My best buddy from school days, Paul van Lamsveerde, on a late afternoon down Cosmiques and spooky avi conditions on the Para face.  Paul passed away in a crevasse fall on Grands Montets in 2013

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Geitgalien, Lofoten

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Full moon silhouette of the Chamonix Aiguilles

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The Merlet trail with its stunning backdrop

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The Brits getting stuck into Digital Crack

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When Brevent is good, its simply the best. Michelle Blaydon about to drop

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Camp 2 in Gibbs Fiord. The couloir centre picture ran 1000 m to a col behind the tower

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The rock spires and couloirs of Gibbs Fiord, Baffin

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The Frendo Spur right after we skied it by the Hausseman Boulevard variation

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A very happy team of Pandolfi, Briggs, Rihiimaki, Bird, Hewitt after skiing the Frendo in AK snow conditions

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Skiing miles of white ice on the Tasman to avoid carrying any more weight on my back

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Sundown behind the prelimary points on the Dent de Requin after a dawn to dusk day

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Jim Lee, Roger Knox and Yann Rousset wading to Grands Envers on a rare day the Kuros found deep

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Jackpot. 1200 m of boot deep powder on day 1 in Baffin. Si Christy skiing with Chipie above

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Emerald waters in the Arctic waters of Lofoten

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Deep. Jim Lee with overhead blower skiing towards Roger Knox on Grands Envers.

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We got lucky with clear skies on several nights to watch the Lofoten light show

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Another one from Mont Mallet

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Norway and the beautiful bay that surrounds the Lofoten Ski Lodge

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A tired and happy crew after a 15 hour day skiing the West Face of Mont Blanc. L-R Ross Hewitt, Mikko Heimonen and Jesper Petersson

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A rare opportunity to sit outside Wyn Irwin hut on windless morning. Sefton and Footstool behind.

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Big Country under the Dent de Geant seracs after skiing Mallet diagonal

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Sunrise hits Aiguille du Midi while we climb Mont Blanc for the West Face

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Tom Grant harvesting corn on the Brenva Spur lowers with Col Moore behind.

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5 am start in Gibbs Fiord to go corn skiing in a sunny line

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Our camper van in NZ packed to the brim with those amazing green Navis skis under the bed. Luckily Tom is pocket sized which left plenty of space for me to stretch out.

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Enrico Mosetti above the arete on the Brenva Spur

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Dolomite days with Minna Riihimaki and Christian Dallapozza  on the Cristallo as we decided to head to the Vallencent Couloir

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Dawn catches us on Col de la Fourche en route to ski the Brenva Spur

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Quite possibly my all time favourite run as a ski mountaineer on the West Face of Mont Blanc

Baffin Island

Here it is, finally, my favourite Baffin photographs from the 30 days I spent camping and travelling on the sea ice skiing the gullies of the Gods with Michelle Blaydon, Marcus Waring and Tom Grant.

In total we skied 26 lines, 13 are first descents, kited and skinned 230 km and pitched 7 base camps. This was one of the most beautiful and remote places I have been to with the best concentration of skiing I have found on the planet. It’s also got some of the best kite skiing with flat playing field extending 10 km by 70 km which you can rip around at 40-50 kph. And did I mention the 1500 m walls soaring straight out of the sea? If only I was younger I would try wing suiting. I can’t wait to go back for another adventure and explore some more.

 

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 Flying to Clyde River                                                                                                    We got our first glimpse of the mountains from the plane and the excitement starts to  build.

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Travelling with 150 kg each                                                                                    Sometimes just getting through doorways was a challenge. Marcus and myself travelled in advance of the others in order to sort food and logistics. We checked in at Ottawa with 7 duffle bags, a ski bag, a shotgun and a rifle. By the time we got checked in our feet were roasting in our winter boots and we cooled them on the -5C pavement outside the terminal.Baffin Berghaus Black Crows Ski Mounatineering Expedition-4

 Getting Acquainted with the Locals.                                                                   Michelle checks out this polar bear pelt and starts worrying about the size of the paws.  The local children have seen it all before and are more interested in lollipops.

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Seals on Ice.                                                                                                              Since they don’t fit in the fridge its handy having outside storage. Photo: Marcus Waring 

Baffin Berghaus Black Crows Ski Mounatineering Expedition-9The Komatic Sled Ride                                                                                                    The komatics packed with our gear and loaded with gas for the 24 hr round trip. The open komatic was particularly uncomfortable with no wind break and forcing you to sit flat legged which drained the blood from your feet. Baffin Berghaus Black Crows Ski Mounatineering Expedition-10

 Cold                                                                                                                                 On the komatic trip we wore everything we had. My feet got really cold and I was worried  about managing them over the next 30 days. Once out of the exhaust fumes of the  skidoo my circulation was a lot better!Baffin Berghaus Black Crows Ski Mounatineering Expedition-11

 When the Hunters Become the Hunted                                                               Tracks from mother bear and her cubs bring the realisation that we aren’t the top of the  food chain out here and remind us to keep our vigilance.

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 A Seal Pup Killed by a Polar Bear                                                                             The noise of the skidoo approaching must have scared the bear away from the fresh kill.  Nothing goes to waste in the Arctic and Ilkoo and John took it for their dinner.

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Ship’s Prow                                                                                                                    This was the first big wall we saw on our adventure. The 600 m Ship’s Prow serves as a landmark for Scott Island to the Inuit and marks the  entrance of Scott Inlet where we were headed.

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Brass Monkeys at Base Camp 1                                                                                After travelling all day we spotted some sensational lines on the South side of Scott Island and asked the Inuits to drop us off just before nightfall. Ilkoo had lived in a tiny settlement here for the first 26 years of his life and gave us some valuable knowledge before leaving us in the playground. Baffin Berghaus Black Crows Ski Mounatineering Expedition-15Kite Skiing                                                                                                                        The first morning there was wind down fiord and I learned to kite ski pretty quickly in order to keep up with the others in search for our first ski lines.

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Base Camp 1                                                                                                                 Our first base came near Scott Island felt very exposed with nothing beyond it and Greenland over the frozen Baffin Bay.

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First turns on Scott Island                                                                                          After weeks of preparation, admin, travelling, packing and sorting kit, it suddenly felt worth it with those first turns. The S Couloir above was one of 5 lines we skied on the Scott Island which we believe were first descents.Baffin Berghaus Black Crows Ski Mounatineering Expedition-19Ancient Hallways                                                                                                          The rock on Baffin Island is several billion years old. Overtime the granite has cracked and eroded leaving ancient hallways between the big walls that provide the best couloir skiing on the planet.

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 Smiles All Round                                                                                                          Happy people after finding good snow in this Couloir on Scott Island.

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Aesthetic Lines                                                                                                      Michelle Blaydon enjoying a first known descent on Scott Island.

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The Warm Glow of Evening Light                                                                                 The team returns to camp in gorgeous late afternoon light.  

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 Gibbs Fiord                                                                                                                        Lined with magnificent rock features this zone is truly stunning.Baffin Berghaus Black Crows Ski Mounatineering Expedition-26

Getting the Angle                                                                                                Sometimes the opportunity presented itself to get on a ledge for overhead shooting down couloir. A couple of cams would have been useful for added security while looking through the view finder. Marcus skiing in a first known descent in Gibbs.Baffin Berghaus Black Crows Ski Mounatineering Expedition-1-2

Gibbs Fiord                                                                                                                     The iconic cliffs in Gibbs could be seen towering above the fiord from 35 km away beckoning us to come explore. Shame those lines opposite had breaks in them but there were plenty stella 1200 m + lines to chose from like this one abobe.

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Tight and Technical                                                                                                    One day Marcus and myself skied an 800 m line on the North side of Gibbs Fiord, which turned out to be the the most technical and steepest line we skied with off camber skiing and a couple of steep steps on wind sculpted snow. First known descent.Baffin Berghaus Black Crows Ski Mounatineering Expedition-29

 Seal Holes                                                                                                                     The seals depend on breathing holes and keep them open all winter long. We disturbed a  seal here which had been sitting eating fish on the ice. It was the first living thing we had  seen in 3 weeks.Baffin Berghaus Black Crows Ski Mounatineering Expedition-31  The Fortress, Gibbs Fiord                                                                                           We took the left hand couloir which was dubbed ‘Stairway to Heaven’ as it spiralled           through the rock to the summit plateau 1200 m later.

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 The 1200 m Stairway to Heaven                                                                                This was our second route of the day and we topped out on the plateau around 11 at  night excited about dropping into this line. Baffin Berghaus Black Crows Ski Mounatineering Expedition-30

 The Best Couloir in the World? Probably                                                                       With tired legs after 1800 m of bootpacking during the day, this line required precision  turns in the upper half where the walls kept it tight. The overnight snow mean we found  cold, sluffy powder that was sensual to ski on. First known descent and one the best lines I have ridden anywhere.Baffin Berghaus Black Crows Ski Mounatineering Expedition-33

Base Camp 2                                                                                                                      In Gibbs Fiord we were surrounded by dream lines and incredible vistas. The morning sun was a welcome addition to the breakfast table. Goal Zero solar panels combined with a Yeti 400 and Sherpa 100 system kept our electronics powered.Baffin Berghaus Black Crows Ski Mounatineering Expedition-34

Local Wildlife                                                                                                                      We were always on the lookout for polar bears but this brown bear caught us off guard. Actually, Michelle was so cold she grew a beard. Baffin Berghaus Black Crows Ski Mounatineering Expedition-35

Into the Wind                                                                                                                   For 3 days we sled hauled into the wind. Sometimes it was downright cold and I wore every single item of clothing I had with me. A continual supply of High5 powered us and I kept my camera and batteries in plastic bags within my mid-layer pockets at all times to protect them from moisture and ice.

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 Fresh Water Ice on Lake Stewart                                                                                   It took a while to get used to walking across this clear fresh water ice. You had to remind  yourself that it is a couple of metres thick. Baffin Berghaus Black Crows Ski Mounatineering Expedition-37

 Sled Hauling into Stewart Valley                                                                                 We gained access to the Stewart Valley from Refuge Harbour with relative ease as we  followed a channel of ice through the moraines. The unravelling mountains that lined the    lake kept us entertained as we progressed with the glimpse of Great Sail in the far  distance.

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Base Camp 4 Stewart Valley                                                                                       Sheltered in a snow scoop we savoured the time out the wind were able to enjoy our morning coffee from the relative comfort of seats dug into the snow drift. It was also our first boulder toilet which was a relatively civilised affair in comparison to exposing your bum to the Arctic elements.

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 Features in the Ice                                                                                                       The sea fiord ice is opaque but on this freshwater lake you could see deep into the ice. It held millions of air bubbles and other features  like this dove like image which kept the mind occupied while sled hauling.

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Great Sail Peak                                                                                                             We sat in a wind scoop sheltering and preparing hot soup while celebrating Marcus’s birthday and taking in the stunning view under Great Sail Peak. The guns were always ready just incase we got any uninvited gatecrashers.

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Stewart Valley                                                                                                                 The absence of snow from the ice gives an idea of the strength of wind that is drawn down this valley from the Walker Arm. We donned crampons while sled hauling through the valley over 3 days.

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Crosshairs Couloir                                                                                                       The top of this classic 1000 m couloir offered a commanding position over the Walker Arm and Stewart Valley while the Couloir was a very worth ski.Baffin Berghaus Black Crows Ski Mounatineering Expedition-47

The NW Face of Walker Citadel                                                                              Home to classic ski lines like Debris Couloir on the left and Broken Dreams on the rightBaffin Berghaus Black Crows Ski Mounatineering Expedition-48

Sled Hauling in the Walker Arm                                                                                  We all had enough kit, food and fuel for a couple of sleds each. Here Marcus is hauling in the Walker Arm with the Ford Wall 20 km away in the background. Baffin Berghaus Black Crows Ski Mounatineering Expedition-49Base Camp 6                                                                                                                Our First base camp that caught the evening sun that made for more pleasurable meal times.Baffin Berghaus Black Crows Ski Mounatineering Expedition-50Debris Couloir                                                                                                        Another McLean and Barlage classic which provided 900 m of powder for Marcus and myself. (above & below).Baffin Berghaus Black Crows Ski Mounatineering Expedition-51Overhead Blower                                                                                                         Don’t going to Baffin with expectations of overhead blower as it usually chalky snow and the area is effectively a desert. We got lucky on a few occasions and found some great snow.

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 Our Guide Ilko                                                                                                               Ilko enjoying a meal of Arctic  Char the way he likes it – frozen. Ilko and his son’s John and  Michael took us into the fiords. Ilko grew up in a tiny settlement surviving by solely by  hunting until he was 26 years old when he moved to the  larger settlement of Clyde River  (population cicra 900 now). Baffin Berghaus Black Crows Ski Mounatineering Expedition-53

The Walker Citadel                                                                                                      This enormous rock bastion is surrounded by the sea on 3 sides with a neck of land connecting it to Stump Spire on the 4th side. Home to hard core grade 7 big walls like Superunknown and Mahayana Wall. Debris Couloir is seen on the right. We skied off the summit plateau down the South side in a probably first descent.

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Happy Smiley People                                                                                                     Tom Grant, Marcus Waring and Michelle Blaydon in Broken Dreams Couloir.

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Broken Dreams                                                                                                        Michelle starting off skiing down Broken Dreams couloir just as the sun set fire to the NW wall of the Walker Citadel.

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The Berghaus Team                                                                                                        Standing in front of Walker Citadel, (L-R) Ross Hewitt, Michelle Blaydon, Tom Grant, Marcus Waring. We all felt immensely privileged to get the chance to go to Baffin which would not have been possible without the sponsorship from Berghaus, High5, Black Crows skis, Julbo, Gino Watkins Memorial Fund, The Wilderness Fund, The Alpine Ski Club, and many others. Baffin Berghaus Black Crows Ski Mounatineering Expedition-58

Polar Star Couloir, Beluga Spire                                                                                 Possible the most hyped couloir on the planet which has become an uber classic. 1100 m to the col. First descent by Maclean and Barlage. This summer saw a Canadian team free climbing the first ascent of the North Face by the pillars bounding the left edge of the couloir. Baffin Berghaus Black Crows Ski Mounatineering Expedition-59

Bootpack Torture Sessions                                                                                         These couloirs are long but fortunately start at sea level with firm snow so the going is fast.
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Skiing Polar Star Couloir                                                                                             With all the hype surrounding this line it was definitely top of my adventurelist heading out to Baffin. Close to the top we found a thin veneer of snow over the glacial ice and down climbed a few metres to a point that allowed us to transition. The skiing up there is steep and with low margins for error our initial turns were cautious. but as the snow thickened we were able to ski more aggressively. Baffin Berghaus Black Crows Ski Mounatineering Expedition-64Post Polar Star Celebrations                                                                                    Even with Tom on tip toes he still couldn’t reach our shoulders.

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 Arctic Fox                                                                                                                     This guy came to visit us one night and started hoovering up the scraps from Ilko’s Arctic  Char. They normally scavenge from bear kill’s and we instantly increased our vigilance.

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On the Sunny Side                                                                                               Opposite base camp 6 was a south facing line that turned out to be a 1450 m monster. We were not used to the heat and sweated buckets on the way up. Marcus caught this shot of me skiing as I hurried down to get the stove on a drink some water.Baffin Berghaus Black Crows Ski Mounatineering Expedition-68

The Walker Arm                                                                                                             View of the Walker Citadel, Walker Arm and Northwest Passage.

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The Vast East Face of Walker Citadel                                                                    Home to the grade 7 big wall adventure Mahayana Wall. The first ascentionist ran out of food after completing their new route and with the sea ice gone they were too weak to walk out the 160 miles to Clyde River.  Without a satphone they waited over a week after their last food before some Inuits out fishing rescued them. this summer the Favresse brothers put up the 1000m E6 6b Shepton’s Shove on the SE (Drunken) Pillar. Sean Villeneuva and Ben Ditto climbed a 1000 m E3 5c on the Superunknown Pillar which is a pretty remarkable grade for the terrain.Baffin Berghaus Black Crows Ski Mounatineering Expedition-72 Hanging Out on the Tops.                                                                                           The summits tended to be a lot warmer that the fiords giving us the chance to sit and  savour the views after the long bootpacks. Here Marcus and Tom check out the South  Couloir on the Walker Citadel which we are about to ski.Baffin Berghaus Black Crows Ski Mounatineering Expedition-71Judging Scale                                                                                                                The 1450 m South Couloir on Walker Citadel. The small dot in the couloir left of centre is me skiing. Photo Marcus Waring. First known descent.Baffin Berghaus Black Crows Ski Mounatineering Expedition-73Wet Dreams                                                                                                            Marcus skiing the first known descent of the South Couloir on the Walker Citadel. The Stump Spire sits in the background and the obvious couloir was next on our list.Baffin Berghaus Black Crows Ski Mounatineering Expedition-75North West Passage                                                                                                Another uber classic first skied by the Maclean-Barlage partnership. It hangs ominously over the Walker Arm. From head on it looks improbably steep.  We skated 10 km there from our base camp under the Walker Citadel and another torture session landed us on the summit where we hung out on in the sun and trundled some rock in an attempt to hit the fiord below. Tom Grant skiing.

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Low and Fast                                                                                                                 After 3 weeks of continuous boot packing and skiing we were joined by Tom Grant whose fresh legs still allowed him to get low.

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 Powder                                                                                                                          We went to Baffin with low expectations of snow quality but were pleasantly  surprised to  ski a large proportion of lines with great snow. Looking back up North West Passage  makes it look decidedly mellow but the top was steep enough to make you think.
Baffin Berghaus Black Crows Ski Mounatineering Expedition-78Scoping the Joint
                                                                                                              An Inuit hunting party stopped by our camp on the way inland to let us know they had seen a Polar Bear not far away down fiord. Marcus spent the next hour scoping the area and we double checked the ammunition and placed our weapons by our beds that night. Baffin Berghaus Black Crows Ski Mounatineering Expedition-79

Frozen Nutella                                                                                                      Sometime simply getting at your food required special tools. Here Tom scrapes slivers of frozen nutella from the jar with his ice axe. Baffin Berghaus Black Crows Ski Mounatineering Expedition-80

Wet Dreams                                                                                                            Marcus shared this couloir on the South side of Walker Citadel with us. He had a go at it on his previous trip but the top section wasn’t skiable. This time it had snow top to bottom and is the only continuous line on the 1450 m high rock bastion that is The Walker Citadel. With a line called Broken Dreams on the North side, surely this should be Wet Dreams. First known ski descent.Baffin Berghaus Black Crows Ski Mounatineering Expedition-82Milky Evening Sunshine                                                                                                 Tom Grant enjoying the descent from Stump Spire. First known descent.

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Basking in the Sun                                                                                                   Whenever we found a sheltered spot in the sun it gave us a chance to relax and soak up the little heat there was in the rays.  We had a long way still to go to collect our sleds waiting at the corner of the firod where sun meets shadow and then haul another 15 km towards Ford Wall.

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 Polar Star Couloir, Beluga Spire                                                                               After a long day which started with breaking camp under the Walker Citadel then skiing  Stump Spire, we hauled through the night watching the sunset on the Beluga Spire and  Polar Sun Spire until eventually arriving at Ford Wall at 3 am.Baffin Berghaus Black Crows Ski Mounatineering Expedition-84

The Boys                                                                                                                 Marcus Waring, Tom Grant and myself Ross Hewitt at the top of AC Cobra on Ford Wall. By now it was warm enough for the Go-Pro to work more than 5 seconds!

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Cold Sluffy Powder                                                                                               Throughout the trip we were blessed with both great weather and often amazing snow.Baffin Berghaus Black Crows Ski Mounatineering Expedition-86

AC Cobra                                                                                                                   Marcus Waring powering a turn on the steep upper section of AC Cobra Couloir on Ford Wall. A cornering couloir named after the Ford car that cornered well. We skied the 2nd couloir from the right from an impasse at 1000 m on the towering buttress across fiord which was a first known descent.Baffin Berghaus Black Crows Ski Mounatineering Expedition-87

 Inuksuk                                                                                                                             A cairn at the top of Mustang Couloir on Ford Wall. Another great classic. The Corvus 184s were the perfect ski with slight tip rocker and a real tail for power and edge  ability. Think Mantra but 10 mm wider and you get the idea.Baffin Berghaus Black Crows Ski Mounatineering Expedition-88

 Icons of Lust                                                                                                                 The eclectic collection of incredible mountains that formed the backdrop to base camp 7.  The Beak, The Turret, Polar Sun Spire, Beluga Spire and the Walker Citadel some 20 km  away.

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Base Camp 7                                                                                                                Our final camp and what a relief not to have any more sled hauling to do.Baffin Berghaus Black Crows Ski Mounatineering Expedition-90

Kite Skiing                                                                                                               The wind could be infuriating, there one minute gone the next. But when it did work we travelled for free, free in the sense of calorie expenditure.  Our first camp move of 35 km was kite powered. On our last day skiing Marcus and myself kited 10 km down fiord where we met Tom. He had to walk because he couldn’t fly. After skiing a 1000 m line we found the wind had changed direction and we kited back to camp. The near flat sea ice is a perfect medium for kiting around at 30 mph.

Baffin Berghaus Black Crows Ski Mounatineering Expedition-91 Model T Couloir                                                                                                               Another classic. The 2nd line from the right on the opposite wall caught our attention and  was another  possible first descent. Photo Marcus WaringBaffin Berghaus Black Crows Ski Mounatineering Expedition-92

The Base Jumper Wall                                                                                                 This incredible wall overhung so that any rocks trundled took 8 or 9 seconds to explode on impact. The gully below formed a natural amplifier transmitting the incredible explosions up to us. In total we must have trundled a tonne of rock and laughed till we were sore.

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Arms at Hand                                                                                                                    The threat of Polar Bears was ever constant. Even with a perimeter fence rigged to an air horn, we slept with loaded weapons by our sides. Baffin Berghaus Black Crows Ski Mounatineering Expedition-94

 Bronco Couloir                                                                                                                Me setting off down the rough riding Bronco Couloir. Photo by Marcus Waring.

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 Flying in High Winds                                                                                                          We rigged a tow line so that 3 of us could piggy back onto Marcus and provide some  ballast so he didn’t land in Greenland. Baffin Berghaus Black Crows Ski Mounatineering Expedition-96

 Marcus Waring                                                                                                          Skier, hunter, kite rider and 2 times veteran of Baffin ski trips.

Baffin Berghaus Black Crows Ski Mounatineering Expedition-98

How Far and How Long                                                                                                 Tom ponders the boot back as we begin to get cooked by the warm mid May sun.
Baffin Berghaus Black Crows Ski Mounatineering Expedition-97

Skiing the Sunny Side                                                                                                     This was a novelty for us since we spent the majority of the time skiing North Facing lines which for me held the best snow.That said, this was a lot of fun too.Photo: Marcus Waring.Baffin Berghaus Black Crows Ski Mounatineering Expedition-99

 Last Turns                                                                                                                    And oh so sweet. Our 1000 m East facing line down Fiord from Great Cross Peak  provided and a suitable finale for our trip. Ford Wall is in the background.Baffin Berghaus Black Crows Ski Mounatineering Expedition-100Break Up                                                                                                                        Ilko looking for a safe route for the skidoo and komatic through the cracks. 

Baffin Island Ski Mountaineering Expedition-1-60 Ilkoo and John                                                                                                                 On the way out the guys stopped at the half way hunters hut. Photo: Michelle Blaydon.

Baffin Island Film Teaser

In April 2014, Marcus Waring, Michelle Blaydon, Tom Grant and myself travelled to the North East Fiords of Baffin Island which are situated between mainland Canada and Greenland. There we spent 30 days unsupported in the fiords, travelling 240 km using kites and skins and skiing 26 couloirs along the way. Many of the lines were first know descents.

Here is a teaser for our forthcoming film:

 

The North Face of Aiguille du Midi – Eugster Couloir

The plan was to go to the Grand Gervasutti on Tacul with sunshine forecast. Tom and myself had bivouacked the previous night to get an early start but half way up Tacul in 20 m visibility it became clear that the weather had changed and we turned round and returned to the Midi completely rimed up battling the cloud and wind. Arriving at the Midi the next morning we found out that opening was delayed till 1030 so that put and end to that Gervasutti attempt. Instead we settled for a run down the North Face in Eugster Couloir. Back at the mid-station there was some technical hitch and we waited several hours until 1830 to get down. Not a good logistics day at the Midi!

Thanks to Tom, Mika and Marcus for a good day out. Eugster-2 Eugster-12 Eugster-16 Eugster-21 Eugster-28 Eugster-31 Eugster-32Mika took the following photos – Thanks Mika!

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