Friday, 26 April 2013

Spring time in Chamonix

I've just got back from a couple of weeks in Chamonix and the late season skiing has been amazing.  Although I’d wanted to head out and get some climbing in I ended up skiing all the time with the only climbing action been a quick nip up the Swiss Route on Les Courtes on the last day.

So lots of days skiing of the Midi and up at the Grand Montets along with some big days out touring trying to get some miles back in the legs with amongst others a trip up the Aig d’Argentiere which gave a great ski down from the summit on spring snow and a quick sprint up the Col du Tour Noir (although snail pace compared to Killian Jornet and friends who arrived just after me – very inspiring to see how fast those guys move).

Josie and I made use of one of the short weather windows and headed through to Italy to the Gran Paradiso 4060m, the highest peak solely in Italy.  We only had one good weather day so decided to go from the valley to summit in a big day, great effort from Josie considering she’d just spent the last two weeks at sea level in Norway!  We stayed at the Victor Emanuele hut on the way down to ski out via the TĂȘte du Grand Etret the next morning before the weather came in.  As long as you leave relatively early this is a much better option for getting back to the valley rather than skiing straight down to the approach track from the hut in the late season.  Back in Chamonix the next day we woke up to 20cm of fresh snow in town so more powder days – you got to love spring in the Alps.

To round off a great trip Charlie Boscoe ( I nipped up the Swiss route on the North Face of Les Courtes, a classic face in the Chamonix range I’d never got round to climbing.  Although it’s not a very technical route it had a couple of good steeper pitches and was just so fun to be back climbing in the mountains again with amazing weather and some good banter from Charlie.  It was obvious I was going to be really late for a final meal with friends in Chamonix that evening so we skipped the summit and traversed just right and high tailed it back to the valley as quick as Charlie’s little approach skis would allow!  I’d taken my Black Diamond Verdicts up the route which at 102mm under foot aren't exactly a light weight mountaineering ski but made the ski down a lot more enjoyable in the saturated afternoon snow pack and where Charlie had been glad of his short approach skis on his back on the climb up they were giving him a proper run for his money on the decent, I'm sure he was still loving it though?!  Really it is way too hot to be coming off the south sides in the late afternoon at the moment and we had a pretty spooky and slow decent trying to manage it safely in the roasting afternoon sun with wet snow slides everywhere.

It was quite surreal to be fighting my way through the London Underground the next day on the way up to Manchester for the first of the two Ellis Brigham Adventure Talks – definitely know where I feel most at home.  The evenings in Manchester and London went really well with a great atmosphere and big turn out last night in Covent Garden, thanks to Ellis Brigham for putting on the events and to the other inspiring speakers who took part.

Next up is the Fellsman tomorrow – a 62 mile ultra trail round the Yorkshire Dales.  Signing up to this back in December seemed like a really good idea at the time… forward to t-minus 1 day before the event and I've got no idea of why I signed up!  I've managed a fraction of the running I’d hoped for over the last few months and the longest run I've done up to now is a mere 17 miles so my plan of trying to get a reasonable time is definitely out of the window and coupled with a sprained ankle last week whilst running in Chamonix think I’ll just be settling for completing it at a fast walk if atoll.  

IF – and looking at the forecast its a very big if -  the rain holds off it sounds like it should be a fun and social event and will hopefully give me a bit of incentive to have a proper go at a ultra trail one day.  And if/when it does rain its just going to be dam right miserable!

Storm clouds rolling in skiing off the Midi

Heading up to ski the Col du Diable with Ross, Dave and Davide - we bailed due to the temperature, so hot!

Having bailed on the Col du Diable Ross headed off to ski the shoulder of the Aig du Tacul and Davide, Dave and myself went sniffing out powder....

....and found it, eventually

Dave following Davide's big GS turns

Josie heading up from the valley to the Gran Paradiso, 4061m

Josie enjoying the final summit ridge of the Gran Paradiso

well earned turns in good spring snow after a big day from the valley to the Gran Paradiso

Josie heading up to the TĂȘte du Grand Etret before heading back down the valley behind to Pont

Charlie starting up the Swiss Route on the North Face of Les Courtes

Charlie approaching the steeper section on the Swiss route

The upper part of the north face - bailing out right under the summit trying to not be too late for dinner!

the mighty Grandes Jorasses

Mont Blanc sitting above an afternoon cloud inversion

Sunday, 21 April 2013

Ellis Brigham Adventure Talks

Next week Ellis Brigham are hosting two evenings of adventure talks in Manchester on the 24th April and London on the 25th April.

There will be four speakers at both venues each chatting about their sports and I'll be chatting about my time on the Slovak Direct on Denali at both.  They should be great evenings with very varied speakers.

More info on the Manchester evening here:

and the London evening here:

Nick firing up one of the crux ice pitches on the Slovak Direct

Nearing the top of Denali - happy to see blue skies after spending the last 16 hours trapped in the tent
(photo - Nick Bullock)

Thursday, 4 April 2013

The Winter gone and plans for the Summer

Well it's been a long time since I wrote anything on here.  I don't really believe in putting stuff on here just for the sake of it which really is what this probably is but its been a while and lots of exciting plans coming up.

It's been a pretty quiet winter for me on the climbing front, in fact I've done more talking about it than actually doing it, and quite enjoyed it which surprised me - the talking about it that is not the not doing it bit!  Slide shows/lectures/talks what ever you want to call them are something I've always shied away from but the ones I've done this winter I've really enjoyed and hopefully managed to passed on some of the passion I feel for the mountains to others.

Christmas in Chamonix saw me properly rediscovered my love for skiing.  That and discovering that I could be in Chamonix just as quick and for the same cost as driving up to Fort William might be another reason I haven't headed north and done a single Scottish winter route this year (it does seem like my timing might have been out though and it probably wasn't the winter to miss, some amazing stuff been done!).  Well in fact it was simple - I just wanted to ski more than I wanted to climb this winter.  It was skiing that first opened my eyes to the mountains as a young lad and being based back in Yorkshire for the last few years its definitely been missed, even though it was only 6 days in 3 months it felt great to be putting some time in on the skis again.  Its just so much fun!

I lost my camera over Christmas so haven't got any pics form the ski days but heres a few thanks to Ross Hewitt from one of our days out on the NW shoulder of the Aiguille du Tacul.

Max, Tom and myself booting up the final colouir to the shoulder (photo - Ross Hewitt)
Remembering how much fun it is!
(photo - Ross Hewitt)
Max making the most of the amazing snow conditions
(photo - Ross Hewitt)

Anyway, things are a changing and there's a busy summer ahead that hopefully involves a lot of climbing.  My major trip for this year is a big expedition with a good friend Jon Griffith to the Charakusa Valley, Pakistan in mid July.  There is so much to do in this valley it just looks amazing, Chamonix on steroids, so looking forward to this and Jon's even promised me a warm sunny base camp, psyched!  

Our soon to be home for the summer in the Charakusa Valley, Pakistan - K6 massif dominating base camp (photo - Jon Griffith

Our main objectives will be K6 West and Link Sar both 7000+m peaks, I'll put more info up nearer the time but for now just a big thank you to both the Nick Estcourt Award and the BMC who are supporting our expedition and helping to make it happen.  For more info on the Charakusa Valley check out Jon's trip report and stunning photography from last year

Before that I'm heading back out to Chamonix in a weeks time for a couple of weeks of spring time skiing and climbing with an aim to start getting some big days in the legs and really kick off the training for Pakistan.  Spring time in the Alps is a special time of year, good friends, quiet, good weather, ski in the morning BBQ's in the afternoon, really looking forward to it.