DecemberPow

I have to admit that as we approached the ski season I was more than a little demotivated. The last two seasons have been dusters and we were enjoying the most incredible Indian Summer,  starring a possible 3rd winter duster in the face. The biking and cragging were incredible and my only motivation to ski was for an October ski trip to pick off the Caroline Face of Mount Aoraki/Cook in NZ.

Then in mid September a chunk separated off my L5-S1 lumbar disc and logged itself against my sciatic nerve. This caused high frequency electrical pulses down the leg, loss of muscle control and rapid loss of muscle mass. For the first of weeks I was unable to sleep or sit down. I’d walk around the house in the middle of the night until the next cocktail of pain killers kicked in allowing me to grab a couple of hours rest. I’d then lie still on my back with anxiety gnawing at the thought of the pain returning. As soon as I turned onto my side or front the electricity would start and my hip felt it would dislocate from the muscle contractions. My butt ached from lying on it all the time. It didnt take long for me to run out of pain killers. Walking to the pub for some liquid pain relief would have me willing my bad leg to move as quickly as the other, but it was like dragging it through treacle. That was the Uma Thurman moment from Kill Bill where she tries to wiggle her big toe. Sitting in the car was impossible. Eventually the need for food drove me to trying to ride to the supermarket. I discovered cycling provided some relief and got the nerve moving through the muscles and tissues. I immersed myself into two months of rehab on the bike desperate to get my calf and glute working and thinking that getting blood flow, nutrients and movement into the muscle would counter the wastage in the areas affected by sciatic paralysis.

After a few weeks my calf started working, the feeling returned in my foot and I could stand on my tip toes which gave me hope about climbing again. But my glute just withered away and sitting became very uncomfortable with no muscular padding for the nerves. I was sure that I’d be able to sorta ski like that but without the glute stabilising the pelvis there would just be more damaging load going into my lumbar spine. Weeks of exercises followed under the supervision of resident Osteo Carlton Rowlands to isolate the glute and get the neurology to fire. Initially I just couldn’t do the simplest leg lifting movements no matter how hard I tried or willed the glute to work. I kept positive but was realistic that the ski season could end up being more about guiding and very little personally skiing unless I could back to a level of fitness to support the loads free skiing exerts on the body.

The injury was a big wake up call for me in many ways. Over the summer guiding I hadn’t eaten well with nights in the refuges and often had too little sleep over the week. These things are fine for the odd week or two but if the basis of your daily life reduces to this then soon cracks will appear somewhere. However fundamentally there was a weakness through my lower back that had severely limited the way I skied over the last decade. I sensed it and new something was weak there. When I say weak I mean weak relative to my stronger legs which had put me on the podium in the Scottish Junior MTB Series.  But I didn’t know how to strengthen it. Like most of you focused on ab/oblique exercises and the usual gym routines which gave a strong exterior but neglected the core.

The biking through October and November was incredible with dry warm conditions in Aosta allowing rides over 3400 m cols in a t-shirt. For days with 2500 to 3000 m of climbing I’d go alone or hook up with Davide Capozzi and then ride with my Chamonix friends on my rest days. The larger rides showed the difference in strength in my legs as the muscles were taken to fatigue, but with no ill effects or set backs, my confidence started to grow.  Meanwhile I continued to work on rehab exercises and start the slow process to rebuild the muscle, all to aware the ski season was approaching fast and a compensating body would cause a lot of problems.

10 days in Finale brought an abrupt end to the biking season at the start of December and I returned to a frigid cold and austere Chamonix wondering what I’d do next. The phone rang and it was Tom asking if I wanted to go to Bel Oiseux touring. To be honest I hadn’t even thought about skiing but when I considered it I thought I didn’t have any excuses not to give it a go.  As we set off on our very late start we met a bunch of the Cham crew who had already done a lap and the smiles gave away the good the conditions.  Tom, Johanna and myself talked the whole way up the hill, taking in the scenery and enjoying being back in the mountains.

I took them to the top of a line I knew that was a bit hidden from the others. Once I confirmed we were in the right place the other two jumped in before me. Tom was straight back from skiing the Caroline and no doubt they were thinking the old man was going to ski like a grandpa. I was certainly thinking that. The gnawing fear of a set back and a return to that hateful nerve electrocution torture was holding me back. The thought of hitting a rock on my bad leg and the shock blowing more of the disc contents against the nerve root weighed heavily on my mind. I made two hop turns like an octogenarian, getting the feedback for how well my leg would cope with the shock, and then decided to point the skis downhill and ski the way I wanted. The line was filled with smooth consistent powder which skied beautifully and was gentle on my body. I didn’t stop where the others had held up and continued down to the terminal cliff. What an amazing feeling, hope crept through my mind that I could get back into skiing.

A week later and it was opening day at Grands Montets. A bunch of us Crows had partied hard the night before and I woke up with the feeling that my head was in a vice. Hungover, stiff, dehydrated and with a battered central nervous system I joined the crew at GM and went for a run on the piste in the flat light. It was awful, every unseen bump pinching the sciatic nerve and causing my hamstring to fire and stiffen further affecting my ability to flow over the terrain. I was also struggling to control my direction going through the bumps and initially thought this was a proprioreception problem but in the end worked out that the flexibility in my left leg increased as it flexed up and outwards, rather than straight up. Through the bumps my ski would always track left, just when you wanted to turn right. It all felt a bit pointless and I went home despondent thinking that those days of skiing 15-20 k vertical metres off the lifts were behind me and future skiing might be limited to untracked touring lines. The Mountain Boot and Scarpa crew were in town for 2 days and keen for a second day on GM but I knew I couldn’t handle  that and guilty bailed on them.

The next day Bruno, Layla, Simone, Enrico, Bea and myself headed up a dry looking Skyway for a look around. Below 2100 m was dust after a five month drought and above just had one 30 cm layer. The north wind was howling but as we exited the lift station Bruno announced he thought it wasn’t that cold. As the bitter wind froze my face off I was thinking to myself that I had gone soft hanging out in Finale. Later it emerged Bruno had run back to his van for extra clothes and was still cooling down.

Very quickly skins were falling off and we only made Col d’Entreves using a combination of ski straps and duct tape on the skins. Bruno was keen to go up the ridge and as I set off no one else left the sanctuary of the windscoop at the base. Somewhere on the ridge my hat got sucked off my head but before retreating I spied a lot of snow on Col d’Entreves. For sure it would be rocky getting in but after that it looked sweet. Time to propose a different plan that would get us out of the wind quickly. After passing through the rocks it was time to ski light and cautiously with tips up…these were still shark infested waters with a big cliff below. The headwall was sweet with cold slough and my body held together despite a couple of large rock strikes to my bad leg. Below lay a couple of kilometres of untracked rolling terrain which is a pleasure to ski at full throttle. Full of joy we head back to the bar for a celebratory beer.

That was the turning point for me where I started to believe my body could recover enough to ski the things I wanted, in the way I wanted and as much as I wanted. Sure I still had loads of rehab to go but I could also see the opportunity to to correct a problem that I’d coped with for some time and build a stronger core to match the strong external muscles which could support the loading I’d throw at it.

The timing was near perfect. As the storm cycle moved in it became clear we were in for some pretty special low level conditions to the valley floor. I skied some pretty special days during this period, all different and memorable for different things. 13 laps on Val Veni with Tom, touring the Signal with Michelle and Cedric in the afternoon, plan laps galore with anyone willing to ski with me. One more after a big run of days I was crammed up against Sam Favret in the Midi bin. I asked how he was and he admitted to be tired. We all got pretty tired that week, it was one of the best in my 20 years in Chamonix.  For sure we could have taken some amazing photos and film. But I just wanted to ski.

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Hoods up, bitter north wind, -25C. Enrico, Simone, Bea, Bruno

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After a hot summer the glacier is very open and only covered with a veneer of snow

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Enrico, Bruno and Layla

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Bruno enjoying the drawn to the light after the dark oppressiveness of mid winter alpine valleysDSC00322

Bruno, Layla, Enrico, Bea, Simone

24474876_1884517945199119_1259260048_o (1)Me opening Col d’Entreves well aware of the sharks hunting below the surface and the big cliff at the base

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Bruno in his element

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and playing with his slough

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Layla

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Bea

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Enrico with his smooth style

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Simone about to hit the afterburner. The whole valley skied beautifully.

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Happy people after a sweet descent from Col d’Entreves that blew away the cobwebs from the previous days parties.

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Flying solo on one of the favourite preseason tours

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The start of December and already over a metre above 2000m but more importantly an absence of the huge ground level facet layers experienced in the last few seasons.

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Always exciting to drop into a new line, especially when you havent been able to scope it from below. Without a rope I expected some dry skiing in the steep lower section. In the end I was able to ski through easily but I did have some snow plates in the pack in case I needed to wade back up to the ridge.

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Another glory day early December

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T-shirts on the up with Douds Charlet, Vivien Bruchez and Graham Pinkerton

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Vivien and Graham. So nice to have someone else do the work. Vivien likes to use much lighter kit than me and is the only person I know that has a completely different style for skiing alpine kit to touring kit.

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Me pysched about the prospect of perfect pow below.

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It was my plan to come here so I get first tracks

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Another gorgeous day, another solo mission to try something new. Excited about the prospect of dropping.

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My line started top right of shot and came down the sunlight ramp. Never hard but always rolling over so the way was not evident. Amazing skiing down the apron where another tourer had skied the hidden couloir on the left. I was really pleased so have managed to explore this area before the high pressure moved off as it was about to get crazy in the valley.

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Then we moved into a five day storm cycle. The 0 iso continued to bounce around which created a thick blanketing base over fallen trees and stumps and bringing all time tree skiing to the valley.  Tom Grant may be small but these days were deep.

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Tom blasting through the forest, chest deep on Noctas

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Me having fun popping off tree stumps

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Tom charging hard in the trees

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This day it snowed about 1 metre while we were on the day. We all had 3 pairs of goggles and came back soaked to the skin to find the car park had been allowed to fill in during the day. My car was at the end of the line and being 4×4 I though it would be easy to get 5 ft onto the ploughed road. An hour of digging saw us clear.

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Another hour to get 5 miles down valley to Bossons with the wet storm icing wipers and windshields as fast as you could clear them. On my street no where to park, 2 m snowbanks and a lot of digging.

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Next day in Courmayeur. A car with 2 m of snow. The road from Entreves buried under avalanche, Courm closed. We head up Pavillion thinking we could ski some ridges safely but full depth propagation triggering convinced us to retreat.

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Things settle in Courmayeur and Tom and myself head back for a fast lads day. The snow is all-time and I mean all time. We stop take one shot on the first run and never stop again. Pillows, stumps, spines, glades…13 laps on Val Veni.

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On one of the spines skiers right of the Val Veni cables. About enter the white room

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Michelle arrives, the weather improves and we hit Montenvers. I love it up there in the milky mid winter afternoon sun. The wind has been out but in the trees its primo.

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Michelle enjoying the sun and views

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Me enjoying a moment in the sun

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Oh yeah, this is going to be sweet

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Me kicking off

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Dave Searle with his characteristic photo powerlide

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Me a bit lower

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Michelle

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Michelle

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The temps were rising and I wanted to get as much as possible before the snow went off. I managed to convince Michelle into another lap to the L’M but Cedric was wiser and went to Moo for a big lunch. After a hours skinning and teasing Michelle onwards with its just over the next morraine we were in a position and Michelle was very grumpy with me.

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Changing weather as the sun goes down but a lush time to be up high

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It was still quiet in the valley so we were able to move around. This day started on Brevent, moved to Grands Montets and ended on Montenvers. Michelle here in Chapeau

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Me in Chapeau

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Me scoping out some potential lines

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Michelle at the Chapeau buvette, always after a cheeky beer 😉

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Riding Montenvers and refueling

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Michelle

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Changing venue, Tom Coney and myself have dawn run down Cosmiques

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Warm milky light as Coney drops off the Midi arete

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Amazing inversions over the Aravis. I have the lurgie and am soaked in sweat by the bottom.

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After a coffee and a change in clothes, Michelle and myself do a few GM laps. The wind had buffed the snow but it was consistent and grippy providing good piste like skiing

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Christmas Eve. Warm temps, find fucked offpiste but great piste skiing.

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Christmas Day. Time to tour

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Scoping alternatives

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Michelle skiing into Belvedere

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The dry summer has revealed a step on the Belvedere. It was a bit of a pig to dry ski through.

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Michelle swooping down the Berard valley

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Happy times waiting for the little train at le Buet

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27th. My birthday. Its been warm but the snow is coming. We wait until 2 pm and hit the Midi. Its real good and just the 2 of us there

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Me again

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Another reset overnight and on the 28th its open by 1030. Easily best day of the season. 9 laps of the plan with various people joining me during the day; Michelle, Tom Coney, James Sleigh and Ian Wilson-Young. No time for photos until we were cruising down the Pre de Rocher track into town  as the sun went down. This made me a happy man as the Plan is a real tester for your body with loads of shock and impact. Having a long day there is a good test to see where you are at and if the body will cope with the mega days in the big mountains.

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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

Lofoten 3 Geitgalien by Ross Hewitt

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

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.

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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.

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Y Couloir

The traverse of the Aiguille d’Argentiere is one of my favourite trips. Its a big mountain with lots of different lines to ski so there is always a plan B,C and D and when the track is in on the Milieu its pretty quick to get to on skins with a shortish bootpack up the headwall. The summit offers a commanding position with the north wall of the Argentiere basin lined up in front of you and unparalleled views of the Chardonnet south face and into Switzerland across the Trient plateau. Its no wonder Emile Allais was attracted to ski the Milieu in the 1940s.

Tom and myself originally wanted to ski the south west face of the Droites but unseasonally high temperatures kept us off the big steep faces and we decided to go to Y couloir. After having a look at the north face and Barbey (both look terrible) we tagged the summit at noon after climbing a short exposed steep wall of hard ice and wandered over to the top of Y couloir. We found the couloir well filled in for this time of year and conditions were just on the warm side of perfect with not a breath of wind allowing us to ski really quickly and get down out of the heat. Once again the summer heat wave has caused the glacier to drop and 45 m ropes are optimal for the skiers right abseil.

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Preseason Powder Hunting

With the first snowfall of the season kicking things off in mid November its been a crazy busy period searching for powder stashes. The stable snow conditions have allowed me to go and explore some new areas and revisit some that were long forgotten years ago. The biggest challenge has been finding motivated partners and I’ve already racked up 50K vertical touring metres this autumn and 162 ski days for the year. Luckily I have a few trusted partners available on different days so I’m not always on my own. The highlight was finding 3 couloirs that don’t feature in any of my guidebooks which were filled with primo pow. I’ve also spotted a couple of cool lines which should be good to go once we get some more snow.
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sKiwiland – Going Big Down Under in New Zealand

Kiwiland. Snowy ridges and elegant ice aretes. Big wild mountains with hard core, ever changing access thats probably more difficult and way scarier than most routes. Out of date guide books and maps that don’t reflect what climate change has done. Limited beta and history held in the minds of a few in the know. Rapidly changing weather and wind, wind that has picked up huts and killed all those sheltering within. The latest Plateau hut is rated to 400 kph. One night there I got up to pee and was greeted by a scene from Hell freezing over with a raging ice storm. Hostile. It took everything I had to get the hut door shut. It always takes me a while to adapt back to weather thats akin to Scotland’s wildest winter storms. My local mountain range Cairngorm clocked 315kph in 2009. November in the Alps is slightly chilly in the morning followed by a 18C afternoon of sunshine with no wind. All very civilised and benign. A couple of days a month it might precip or have a breeze necessitating something other than a thin softshell.

That said, once you get to grips with taking advantage of the weather windows, New Zealand has such a unique, spectacular, rugged and colourful landscape that will have you check yourself several times a day and wonder how that was formed. It also snows nearly 3 times what the Alps get these days and you will have the mountains to yourself to explore and do as you please. The mountains are also bad ass with a plethora of faces bigger than 800 m and all the features you could imagine, spines, faces, couloirs, and glaciers.

Tom Grant and myself spent 3 weeks exploring and ski mountaineering there. We skied about 15 days in total despite waiting for lost bags for 2 days at the start of the trip and dealing with a blown van engine another day. The skiing we did varied from low angled glacier bumps on perfect corn to getting committed climbing and skiing a couple of 1st descents on sight with the common theme being adventure skiing. You never knew what you’d get or what the weather would actually be.  It definitely ranks up there in my all time trips and wouldn’t have been possible without the help of some of my friends down there who we owe alot; Evan Cameron, Niki Begg, Mel Money, and Cam Mulvey.

 

An hour off the plane and Evan has us at Jane Fonda’s Work Out Wall
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Hiding from the gales. Evan in The Cave, Port HillsNew Zealand skiing Ross Hewitt Tom Grant-3-3

A fisherman on Lake Tekapo. Gales prevent us driving over 80 kphNew Zealand skiing Ross Hewitt Tom Grant-2

 

Trip 1 – Sefton Biv

Sou Westers still hammer over the divide, pinning the cloud. Low chances
New Zealand skiing Ross Hewitt Tom Grant-4-2Mueller lake en route to Sefton Biv hoping to dodge the rain
New Zealand skiing Ross Hewitt Tom Grant-5-2The wind buffeting Tom causing him to stagger as if he’d had a few too manyNew Zealand skiing Ross Hewitt Tom Grant-6-2On the bluffs below Sefton Biv. The moraines testamont to what once wasNew Zealand skiing Ross Hewitt Tom Grant-7-2Tom near Sefton Biv as the wind continues to hammer us with gusts
New Zealand skiing Ross Hewitt Tom Grant-3Sefton Biv – you really don’t want t to slip hereNew Zealand skiing Ross Hewitt Tom Grant-4Enjoying a hot drink in Sefton BivNew Zealand skiing Ross Hewitt Tom Grant-5En route to Footstool with Sefton Biv in the backgroundNew Zealand skiing Ross Hewitt Tom Grant-6Skinning on the Te Waewae GlacierNew Zealand skiing Ross Hewitt Tom Grant-7A chance to take in the unique landscape laid out below us
New Zealand skiing Ross Hewitt Tom Grant-8About to drop into the what Cam has dubbed the ‘Fransson line’New Zealand skiing Ross Hewitt Tom Grant-9Setting up to shootNew Zealand skiing Ross Hewitt Tom Grant-10Tom in the ‘Fransson line’New Zealand skiing Ross Hewitt Tom Grant-11Aoraki Mt Cook, Nazomi, Pibrac, Ball pass, Hooker lakeNew Zealand skiing Ross Hewitt Tom Grant-13Lenticulars over Aoraki Mt Cook denoting strong winds at altitudeNew Zealand skiing Ross Hewitt Tom Grant-15Tom taking it all inNew Zealand skiing Ross Hewitt Tom Grant-14Sunset on the south face of Aoraki Mt CookNew Zealand skiing Ross Hewitt Tom Grant-16Aorkai Mt Cook and Godley Valleys across Lake PukakiNew Zealand skiing Ross Hewitt Tom Grant-17Hanging out at Peters Lookout for a sundown beerNew Zealand skiing Ross Hewitt Tom Grant-18Sefton and FootstoolNew Zealand skiing Ross Hewitt Tom Grant-19

 

Trip 2 – Plateau Hut

Adam Fabrikant and Bill Hass psyched to get goingNew Zealand skiing Ross Hewitt Tom Grant-20Jumping into the Porter ski plane. High wind at Grand Plateau soon has us transfer to a chopperNew Zealand skiing Ross Hewitt Tom Grant-21Approaching plateau hut and the classic east face of Aoraki Mt Cook New Zealand skiing Ross Hewitt Tom Grant-22Noah Howell and Beau Fredlund of team Voile USANew Zealand skiing Ross Hewitt Tom Grant-24Billy, Adam and Tom under the East Ridge of Aoraki Mt CookNew Zealand skiing Ross Hewitt Tom Grant-25Cinerama ColNew Zealand skiing Ross Hewitt Tom Grant-27Tasman, Lendenfield, Haast, Dixon and HaidingerNew Zealand skiing Ross Hewitt Tom Grant-28A late afternoon weather lull allows us to get some turns off the knoll near Anzac Peak
New Zealand skiing Ross Hewitt Tom Grant-29Returning to the hut. We decided to ski the mini-golf 700 m line just left of the sun-shade line off the East ridge at some point. Everything is dwarfed under the massive east face of Aoraki Mt CookNew Zealand skiing Ross Hewitt Tom Grant-30Skinning with Silberhorn in the backgroundNew Zealand skiing Ross Hewitt Tom Grant-31Adam Fabrikant, Bill Haas and Noah Howell crossing the shrund at Zurbriggen’sNew Zealand skiing Ross Hewitt Tom Grant-32Beau Fredlund at the start of Zurbriggen’s which was our entry to the east faceNew Zealand skiing Ross Hewitt Tom Grant-33Dawn hues over the Grand PlateauNew Zealand skiing Ross Hewitt Tom Grant-34The start of the treadmill on Aoraki Mt Cook’s east face. Beau Fredlund, Billy Haas and Adam FabrikantNew Zealand skiing Ross Hewitt Tom Grant-35Sunrise over the Aiguille RougeNew Zealand skiing Ross Hewitt Tom Grant-36The summit ridge of Aoraki Mt Cook on fire in the morning lightNew Zealand skiing Ross Hewitt Tom Grant-37Sunrise. Anzac Peak mid shotNew Zealand skiing Ross Hewitt Tom Grant-38Beau Fredlund traversing over ice high on the east faceNew Zealand skiing Ross Hewitt Tom Grant-39Good Cold Chalk on the east face. I skied from a point a bit below the others as with a heavy cold and fever I didn’t need to summit again!

New Zealand skiing Ross Hewitt Tom Grant-1-2High wind at altitudeNew Zealand skiing Ross Hewitt Tom Grant-40Heading for the east ridge and some shelter from the windNew Zealand skiing Ross Hewitt Tom Grant-41Climbing a subsidiary ridge to the east ridgeNew Zealand skiing Ross Hewitt Tom Grant-42We followed this little spine to the junction with the east ridge of Aoraki Mt CookNew Zealand skiing Ross Hewitt Tom Grant-43Approaching the east ridge. Fine ski mountaineeringNew Zealand skiing Ross Hewitt Tom Grant-44Climbing up towards the east ridgeNew Zealand skiing Ross Hewitt Tom Grant-45700 m of sweetness belowNew Zealand skiing Ross Hewitt Tom Grant-46The moon over Malte BruneNew Zealand skiing Ross Hewitt Tom Grant-47Aoraki Mt Cook’s east face in the moonlightNew Zealand skiing Ross Hewitt Tom Grant-48

Tasman in the moonlightNew Zealand skiing Ross Hewitt Tom Grant-49Plateau hut in the moonlightNew Zealand skiing Ross Hewitt Tom Grant-50Chudleigh in the moonlightNew Zealand skiing Ross Hewitt Tom Grant-51Resourcefulness. A chess set made from plastic tubing with a quizzboard on Kiwi AlpinismNew Zealand skiing Ross Hewitt Tom Grant-52Passing the time at Plateau hut while the wind blows New Zealand skiing Ross Hewitt Tom Grant-53Tom avoiding the rollerballs as the snow gets greenhoused in the cloudNew Zealand skiing Ross Hewitt Tom Grant-54A sneaky shortcut to the Boys moraine?New Zealand skiing Ross Hewitt Tom Grant-56A brief break in the weather allows us out for some turnsNew Zealand skiing Ross Hewitt Tom Grant-57Helmet on for the walk out. The looseness of makes my stomach tightenNew Zealand skiing Ross Hewitt Tom Grant-58Tom scree running below the Boys Glacier. Ankles suitably batteredNew Zealand skiing Ross Hewitt Tom Grant-59Safely? on the flat Tasman and dealing with the next Jenga pile of choss. Flying in and out is a worth every pennyNew Zealand skiing Ross Hewitt Tom Grant-60After 7 hours of moraine warfare we are an hour away from the road head. My Ipod was essential for the mindless soldier style route march with a 50lb backpack. We could remember if the streams held giardia and without purification tablets went dry for the last 3 hours. New Zealand skiing Ross Hewitt Tom Grant-61Greg Child once said of his ice axe ‘the fuckin fuckers fuckin fucked’. Same could be said for either of us. Our next walk out was worse and a couple of hours longer. New Zealand skiing Ross Hewitt Tom Grant-62

A throwback to an era when they could get the bus up to the 100 person Ball Lodge to ski up there. The moraine collapse has made access a whole different game.New Zealand skiing Ross Hewitt Tom Grant-63

 

Trip 3

Our preferred method of accessing the mountains New Zealand skiing Ross Hewitt Tom Grant-64Tasmin lake and the Caroline FaceNew Zealand skiing Ross Hewitt Tom Grant-65Moraines amid moraine. Maybe a hang over from the 1991 mega rockfall when 12 million cubic metres fell off down the east face to the Tasman glacierNew Zealand skiing Ross Hewitt Tom Grant-66Tom and myself back in the zone at Tasman saddle hutNew Zealand skiing Ross Hewitt Tom Grant-67Negotiating crevasses on route to Elie de BeaumontNew Zealand skiing Ross Hewitt Tom Grant-68Tom on the 1st descent of Right Flank, West Face of Elie de BeaumontNew Zealand skiing Ross Hewitt Tom Grant-69Descending into the cloud on Elie’s West FaceNew Zealand skiing Ross Hewitt Tom Grant-70Elie de Beaumont’s Right Flank is the snow covered slab mid shotNew Zealand skiing Ross Hewitt Tom Grant-71Elie de Beaumont’s west face with our lineEllie copyThe spine gave us safe passage out of the cloud near the divide and down onto the Tasman GlacierNew Zealand skiing Ross Hewitt Tom Grant-73We made it back from the unknown on the wild west sideNew Zealand skiing Ross Hewitt Tom Grant-76An afternoon corn run on the Hochstetter DomeNew Zealand skiing Ross Hewitt Tom Grant-77Islands in a sea of cloudsNew Zealand skiing Ross Hewitt Tom Grant-78Chilling in the afternoon sun at Tasman Saddle hut
New Zealand skiing Ross Hewitt Tom Grant-79Sundown over Aoraki and HorokoauNew Zealand skiing Ross Hewitt Tom Grant-80Dinner timeNew Zealand skiing Ross Hewitt Tom Grant-81Aoraki Mt Cook, Tasman and Minarets
New Zealand skiing Ross Hewitt Tom Grant-82Sunrise on the MinaretsNew Zealand skiing Ross Hewitt Tom Grant-83Beau Fredlund harvesting some sweetcorn on Mt Hamilton
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We convened at Darwin corner with the Voile team and 10 mins after making a satphone call the air taxi came to collect us

New Zealand skiing Ross Hewitt Tom Grant-86Flyover the Hochstetter Ice fallNew Zealand skiing Ross Hewitt Tom Grant-87

Drying kit outside the Wyn Irwin, pretty much the only day it was warm
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New Zealand skiing Ross Hewitt Tom Grant-89A rare windfree coffee morning New Zealand skiing Ross Hewitt Tom Grant-90Our van’s engine blew a couple of cylinder heads en route to Wanaka so after a tow to the nearest town and and afternoon waiting for a new van we ended up in a lay by in the back end of…New Zealand skiing Ross Hewitt Tom Grant-91

Tom enjoying beer and curry. He eats slower than a tortoise so I’d usually finished, done the washing up and gone to bed before he had chewed his first mouth-full.New Zealand skiing Ross Hewitt Tom Grant-92Van life. Tom catching up on his sleep. This gives the impression it was quite tidy. In reality we were endlessly rummaging round looking for stuff. We head back to Mount Cook Village for a final tripNew Zealand skiing Ross Hewitt Tom Grant-93New Zealand spring and snow down to 900 mNew Zealand skiing Ross Hewitt Tom Grant-94

 

Trip 4 – Tasman Saddle Hut

Heli-waiting at the airport. 1000 hrs – standby boys. Drink more coffee. 1200 hrs – super standby. Eat a sandwich and drink more coffee. 1500 hrs – looking good boys – standyby. Final coffee. Caffeine poisened. 1800 hrs – come back tomorrow for another exciting day in the airport carpark
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Mt Sefton and FootstoolNew Zealand skiing Ross Hewitt Tom Grant-96Sharing a flight with NZ backcountry splitboarder Shane Orchard and skier Ryan TaylorNew Zealand skiing Ross Hewitt Tom Grant-97The ski plane departs under Mt Green and WalterNew Zealand skiing Ross Hewitt Tom Grant-98We skied this line on Mt Abel after climbing Pencil Dick Gully and traversing the ridgeNew Zealand skiing Ross Hewitt Tom Grant-99Tom climbing Pencil Dick GullyNew Zealand skiing Ross Hewitt Tom Grant-100Me traversing over the summit of Mt Abel New Zealand skiing Ross Hewitt Tom Grant-101Finding our lineNew Zealand skiing Ross Hewitt Tom Grant-102

Tom dropping inNew Zealand skiing Ross Hewitt Tom Grant-103SweetcornNew Zealand skiing Ross Hewitt Tom Grant-104HalfwayNew Zealand skiing Ross Hewitt Tom Grant-105Rippin some corn in the bowls behind the hutNew Zealand skiing Ross Hewitt Tom Grant-106The ski line for the 1st descent of Mount Darwin’s south faceNew Zealand skiing Ross Hewitt Tom Grant-84Lush morning light as we start to climb
New Zealand skiing Ross Hewitt Tom Grant-107Approaching the summit ridge
New Zealand skiing Ross Hewitt Tom Grant-108Hanging out for a few hours waiting for the sun to come onto the upper pitchNew Zealand skiing Ross Hewitt Tom Grant-109Looking down the ski lineNew Zealand skiing Ross Hewitt Tom Grant-110First turn
New Zealand skiing Ross Hewitt Tom Grant-111Start of the second pitch down past the upper seracNew Zealand skiing Ross Hewitt Tom Grant-112Before the traverse
New Zealand skiing Ross Hewitt Tom Grant-113Freeride over to the spurNew Zealand skiing Ross Hewitt Tom Grant-114Heavy wet snow on the spur needing careful negotiationNew Zealand skiing Ross Hewitt Tom Grant-116Sticking to the apex of the spineNew Zealand skiing Ross Hewitt Tom Grant-117Approaching the lower rocky cruxNew Zealand skiing Ross Hewitt Tom Grant-118The foreshortened face from belowNew Zealand skiing Ross Hewitt Tom Grant-119Skiing out. High winds preventing flying and bad weather threatening
New Zealand skiing Ross Hewitt Tom Grant-121An abandoned tracked tractor on the white ice of the Tasman glacier. In the 1970s the ski planes didn’t have as much power and sometimes needed a tow New Zealand skiing Ross Hewitt Tom Grant-122Every kilometre skied on the white ice was a kilometre less to walk with the additional weight of skis and boots on my pack which was already heavy by euro standards. In the end I must have skied 4 of the 5 km of white iceNew Zealand skiing Ross Hewitt Tom Grant-123Off the easy going white ice and into the rubble. Thankfully its overcast and the rock is not reflecting heatNew Zealand skiing Ross Hewitt Tom Grant-124Getting hotter as the sun comes out and we get baked in the moraineNew Zealand skiing Ross Hewitt Tom Grant-125About 5 hours of staggering around on rubble after leaving the white ice. We left the hut with a couple of litres each and drank another couple shortly after this section. Only 7 km to go but hands (from poling for stability) and feet are raw and roasting.  Thanks to the Irishman who gave us a lift from Blue Lakes to the airport to collect our car.New Zealand skiing Ross Hewitt Tom Grant-126Moody weather as we head towards ChristchurchNew Zealand skiing Ross Hewitt Tom Grant-127New Zealand skiing Ross Hewitt Tom Grant-128Tom discovering the almost unique style at Castle HillNew Zealand skiing Ross Hewitt Tom Grant-129