Alpine Biking

These days Alpine summers are somewhat different to what they used to be. I grew up reading about climbing on the big North Faces and summers so rainy and snowy that impatience got the better of many and they packed up and went home in disgust. Now its all about just how hot its going to be and how long the drought will last. Temps soar into the high 30s during the day with the sun so strong that shelter is required. At night the temperature barely drops and I find myself unable to sleep before midnight with the thick granite walls of our 200 year old house radiating heat. The idea of actually pedalling a bike uphill is my idea of a heat stroke inducing sweaty hell and its restricts me to lift assisted enduro through July and August. Then in September the temperatures drop below 30C and the magical world of Middle Earth opens its doors to riders willing to explore where the winding singletracks will lead. Valais, Savoie and Aosta all hold and incredible network of trails that linked one region to another switchbacking up and over Alpine cols for mile after mile. I  spent so much of my life dedicated to racing bikes and the restrictive nature that entails of training hard, resting more than riding, not drinking…alpine biking offers a world of fun where I could probably avoid riding the same trail twice in this lifetime even though I’m riding almost every day. So as this season draws to a close with the first large snowfalls due at the weekend, here’s some of the good moments from another absolutely brilliant alpine biking season.

A big thanks to Oli Herren, Tim Nickles, Tim Longstaff, Graham Pinkerton, Minna Rihiimaki, Rosanna Hughes, Davide Capozzi and the donkeys for all the good times.

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Vallencant – A Different Perspective

Photos from Tommasco Cardelli (White Spirit Guides, Dolomites) of your recent trip to Cristallo and the Vallencant Couloir.Ross Hewitt Canale Vallencant-10Ross Hewitt Canale Vallencant-1Ross Hewitt Canale Vallencant-2Ross Hewitt Canale Vallencant-4Ross Hewitt Canale Vallencant-7Ross Hewitt Canale Vallencant-11Ross Hewitt Canale Vallencant-14Ross Hewitt Canale Vallencant-21
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Dolomiti Freeride

When Minna first sent me a note asking if I wanted to deploy to the Dolomites for the weekend, I have to say I was less than enthusiastic. I’d just finished a heavy week training on skins, bikes and pushing weights, I had work to do and DIY to finish. The perpetual climate change hurricane was destroying the snow in Cham and I felt like I could use my time more efficiently at home than getting up at 4 am and driving half the way to Kalymnos and back in the hope of some snow. Its been a long time since we spent every winter weekend driving through the night chasing Scottish winter climbing conditions and I have to say I don’t miss the driving. Then she mentioned 80 cm. And no wind. Well maybe!

Arriving at Passo Rolle we set of for the Burreloni Couloir and at this point I found the plan was to climb the line rather than ski to the top. I’d left the spanking paddles at home and with so much snow about I didnt have much hope of success which was fine as my body was tired and sore and it was nice just to be in the sunshine discovering a new place. As we entered the cirque, the slide path of a Cat 5 avalanche triggered in the hot afternoon sun the day before confirmed how much snow was about. We skinned up towards the couloir and started the monumental task of swimming up the couloir.

The ski down held super sluffy powder on the left bank and it was a real pleasure skiing with the snow running all around – we havent had much of that this season.  Those Dolomiti lines really are ancient hallways gouged through the big walls, very Baffinesk.

Next day Domolmiti Guides Tommasco Cardelli and Cristian Dallapozza joined us to ski on the Cristallo. Conditons were perfect with no wind so we decided to climb along the ridge and ski the Vallencant. I’ve been wanting to ski this one for about 20 years so it was great to finally go. After a firmer top section we hit the pow and the fun started. In the afternoon we skied the beautiful Bus Tofane under the big walls and finished the day with a well earned beer and Pizza.

Our last day out was on the Marmolada where we skied some complex line avoiding limestone slabs down the North West Face. It was a real Cairngorm howler of a day with low vis so I didnt bother taking a camera.

A big thanks to Minna for doing all the driving, to Tommi for letting me stay and to both Tommi and Cristian for showing us some great stuff.

Domoliti Vallencant Burreloni Rihiimaki Dallapozza Hewitt Cardelli-1 Domoliti Vallencant Burreloni Rihiimaki Dallapozza Hewitt Cardelli-2 Domoliti Vallencant Burreloni Rihiimaki Dallapozza Hewitt Cardelli-3 Domoliti Vallencant Burreloni Rihiimaki Dallapozza Hewitt Cardelli-4 Domoliti Vallencant Burreloni Rihiimaki Dallapozza Hewitt Cardelli-5 Domoliti Vallencant Burreloni Rihiimaki Dallapozza Hewitt Cardelli-6 Domoliti Vallencant Burreloni Rihiimaki Dallapozza Hewitt Cardelli-7 Domoliti Vallencant Burreloni Rihiimaki Dallapozza Hewitt Cardelli-8 Domoliti Vallencant Burreloni Rihiimaki Dallapozza Hewitt Cardelli-9 Domoliti Vallencant Burreloni Rihiimaki Dallapozza Hewitt Cardelli-10 Domoliti Vallencant Burreloni Rihiimaki Dallapozza Hewitt Cardelli-11 Domoliti Vallencant Burreloni Rihiimaki Dallapozza Hewitt Cardelli-12 Domoliti Vallencant Burreloni Rihiimaki Dallapozza Hewitt Cardelli-13 Domoliti Vallencant Burreloni Rihiimaki Dallapozza Hewitt Cardelli-14 Domoliti Vallencant Burreloni Rihiimaki Dallapozza Hewitt Cardelli-15 Domoliti Vallencant Burreloni Rihiimaki Dallapozza Hewitt Cardelli-16 Domoliti Vallencant Burreloni Rihiimaki Dallapozza Hewitt Cardelli-17 Domoliti Vallencant Burreloni Rihiimaki Dallapozza Hewitt Cardelli-18 Domoliti Vallencant Burreloni Rihiimaki Dallapozza Hewitt Cardelli-19 Domoliti Vallencant Burreloni Rihiimaki Dallapozza Hewitt Cardelli-20 Domoliti Vallencant Burreloni Rihiimaki Dallapozza Hewitt Cardelli-21 Domoliti Vallencant Burreloni Rihiimaki Dallapozza Hewitt Cardelli-22 Domoliti Vallencant Burreloni Rihiimaki Dallapozza Hewitt Cardelli-23 Domoliti Vallencant Burreloni Rihiimaki Dallapozza Hewitt Cardelli-24 Domoliti Vallencant Burreloni Rihiimaki Dallapozza Hewitt Cardelli-25 Domoliti Vallencant Burreloni Rihiimaki Dallapozza Hewitt Cardelli-26 Domoliti Vallencant Burreloni Rihiimaki Dallapozza Hewitt Cardelli-27 Domoliti Vallencant Burreloni Rihiimaki Dallapozza Hewitt Cardelli-28 Domoliti Vallencant Burreloni Rihiimaki Dallapozza Hewitt Cardelli-29 Domoliti Vallencant Burreloni Rihiimaki Dallapozza Hewitt Cardelli-30 Domoliti Vallencant Burreloni Rihiimaki Dallapozza Hewitt Cardelli-31 Domoliti Vallencant Burreloni Rihiimaki Dallapozza Hewitt Cardelli-32 Domoliti Vallencant Burreloni Rihiimaki Dallapozza Hewitt Cardelli-33 Domoliti Vallencant Burreloni Rihiimaki Dallapozza Hewitt Cardelli-34 Domoliti Vallencant Burreloni Rihiimaki Dallapozza Hewitt Cardelli-35 Domoliti Vallencant Burreloni Rihiimaki Dallapozza Hewitt Cardelli-36 Domoliti Vallencant Burreloni Rihiimaki Dallapozza Hewitt Cardelli-37 Domoliti Vallencant Burreloni Rihiimaki Dallapozza Hewitt Cardelli-38 Domoliti Vallencant Burreloni Rihiimaki Dallapozza Hewitt Cardelli-39 Domoliti Vallencant Burreloni Rihiimaki Dallapozza Hewitt Cardelli-40 Domoliti Vallencant Burreloni Rihiimaki Dallapozza Hewitt Cardelli-41 Domoliti Vallencant Burreloni Rihiimaki Dallapozza Hewitt Cardelli-42 Domoliti Vallencant Burreloni Rihiimaki Dallapozza Hewitt Cardelli-43 Domoliti Vallencant Burreloni Rihiimaki Dallapozza Hewitt Cardelli-44 Domoliti Vallencant Burreloni Rihiimaki Dallapozza Hewitt Cardelli-45 Domoliti Vallencant Burreloni Rihiimaki Dallapozza Hewitt Cardelli-46

Bel Oiseau SW Couloir

Corn harvesting on Bel Oiseau south west couloir  from the summit to the dam with Minna Riihimaki and Tommasco Cardelli. The day got weird near the end.SAM_165020150324_11473211082786_1035299126498934_46938582_n11086986_1035299099832270_1295628945_n
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Getting the angle on the line to see if there’s enough snow.
11081558_1035299069832273_1919977922_n11075852_1035299046498942_625539789_n (1)20150324_125203 20150324_125205 20150324_125333 11080052_1035299039832276_359607625_n11079740_1035299013165612_1320488062_n20150324_125920 20150324_125920(0) 20150324_125920#1 11081761_1035299003165613_813811992_nComplicated terrain below, looking for the deepest gully that will have snow. Guides training coming in useful!
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Bush trimming done.20150324_132530

 

Into the Hobbit hole.11082714_1035298873165626_985351346_n11094373_1035298829832297_192090_n

 

A long walk in the dark with only a phone as a torch. We found some strange things. 11051230_1035298863165627_1692623301_n20150324_134932Before Tommi opened the door to freedom we were climbing this ladder in the pitch dark trying to hold our only source of light, a phone!

Sunny Days and Hot Nights at the Couvercle Refuge

The Black Crows posse of Bruno Compagnet, Minna Riihimaki and myself headed up to stay in the sweet Couvercle refuge for a night.Bruno Compagnet Minna Rihiimaki Couvercle-1 The team excited about a trip to the mountains and the beautiful Couvercle refuge.Bruno Compagnet Minna Rihiimaki Couvercle-2 Bruno pointing out linesBruno Compagnet Minna Rihiimaki Couvercle-3 Still some good flat snow with no sastrugi on Gros Rognan.Bruno Compagnet Minna Rihiimaki Couvercle-4 Beautiful late afternoon light on the Mer de Glace.Bruno Compagnet Minna Rihiimaki Couvercle-5 The 2016 Corvus Freebird and the Navis Freebird, both amazing touring skis.Bruno Compagnet Minna Rihiimaki Couvercle-6 Bruno Compagnet Minna Rihiimaki Couvercle-7 They say you should always be doing something with your hands in a photo, the weirder the better! Bruno Compagnet Minna Rihiimaki Couvercle-8 Bruno Compagnet Minna Rihiimaki Couvercle-9 Bruno Compagnet Minna Rihiimaki Couvercle-10 Some people still dispute climate change. Here we have June snow conditions in mid March!Bruno Compagnet Minna Rihiimaki Couvercle-11 The last rays of the afternoon before the sun sets behind the Chamonix Aiguilles Bruno Compagnet Minna Rihiimaki Couvercle-12 Minna on the boot pack to the Pierre a Beranger.Bruno Compagnet Minna Rihiimaki Couvercle-13 I’m getting on well with these glue less Evotec skins – time will tell for the final verdict. So much faster putting skins on and off without the cheat sheets. Bruno Compagnet Minna Rihiimaki Couvercle-14 Hut nights at the Couvercle, Bruno enjoying a glass of red.Bruno Compagnet Minna Rihiimaki Couvercle-15 We were joined by French Alpinists who had been on Viva Gel and Whymper. They were obviously feeling the cold and put a lot of wood on the fire. It was so hot that I went to bed on my boxers and couldnt sleep until 3 am.Bruno Compagnet Minna Rihiimaki Couvercle-16 Bruno Compagnet Minna Rihiimaki Couvercle-17 A bit of digital art to show off the partial eclipse of the sunBruno Compagnet Minna Rihiimaki Couvercle-18

Drawn to the Dark Side

Minna Rihiimaki Aiguille Rouge-1

Hotter than the Sahara.Minna Rihiimaki Aiguille Rouge-2

Its times like these you need spanking paddles on your feet. Born in the Chamonix Valley these preceded poor imitations such as ‘verts’ and enable easy bootpacking in chest deep powder. Minna Rihiimaki Aiguille Rouge-3

Minna about to cut the snow on the rope.Minna Rihiimaki Aiguille Rouge-4

Making the turns count in the hanging couloir above the cliff before we went over the marshmallow on the left to the hanging snowfield.
Minna Rihiimaki Aiguille Rouge-5

 

Someone needs to put in a bolt anchor in these climate change years as the old one on the spur is out of reach with skis on now forcing a tough transition to boots to bounce test the dark age slings. There’s good rock on skiers right that doesn’t have water ice under the snow like old anchor on the rib, perfect for skiing into the anchor.  Minna Rihiimaki Aiguille Rouge-7Titty deep, you can’t argue with that.Minna Rihiimaki Aiguille Rouge-8 Minna Rihiimaki Aiguille Rouge-9 Minna Rihiimaki Aiguille Rouge-10 Minna Rihiimaki Aiguille Rouge-11 Minna Rihiimaki Aiguille Rouge-13

Cold snow lying undisturbed with handfuls of hoar frost, above and below the last layer.Minna Rihiimaki Aiguille Rouge-14After the technical turns in the couloir it was stunning to just let rip down the meadows to Buet.

 

The Italian Job

This week we have been camped out in Italy and skied about 40000 m of vertical in incredible terrain. These are the days I dream about all year, skiing with friends, untracked powder, no one around and the just doing lap after lap. I also had the pleasure and honour of skiing with Italian big mountain ski legends Luca Rolli and Davide Capozzi.

My 5 days riding abruptly came to an end when my ski pre-released and launched off a the cliff under the cables and landing on a ledge.

 

pow-1-3pow-2Luca Pandolfi-1 Luca Pandolfi-2Italians-1 Italians-2 Italians-3 Italians-4Davide Capozzi-1