Posts tagged off-piste Skiing
Skiing or climbing? Which one do you prefer?
Last year snow problems

Last year snow problems

Due to a client unable to drive in the deep drifting snow, we have postponed our days climbing today. It’s too late to find a partner so instead the kettle is on and I’ll be having a day at home! Maybe a good idea as it has been non-stop in the last wee while!

Fresh tracks on the Vallee Blanche last week

Fresh tracks on the Vallee Blanche last week

This time of year does beg the question, climbing or skiing. I have been fortunate to do both in the last month. Climbing in Scotland and skiing in the Alps.

It has been a slow start to the winter, it came, it went, it went cold, went warm. it thawed and froze…and so on. However, today, Tuesday 22nd January it feels like winter is here to stay for a while. Currently having substantial snowfall on the West Coast where the East is slightly nicer with less snow. The mixed climbing conditions are very good at the moment, the ice routes need a little more work.

Louisa keeping warm on Swan Song V,6, Cairngorms.

Louisa keeping warm on Swan Song V,6, Cairngorms.

Last week I was in Chamonix for 10 days skiing with friend and with clients. We had great conditions, I was fortunate as it snowed as I landed in Geneva and gave plenty of good powder skiing. As time went on, the snow was topped up almost every other day meaning we found great powder in the resorts and well away from the piste. We were fortunate to ski some amazing snow, some routes we had to skin up, such as the Glacier Mort and the uber classic Crochues-Berard Traverse but others we made use of the lifts. Saint Gervais, Combloux touring and tree skiing, 3 days on the Vallee Blanche, Off-piste at Le Tour, steep skiing off Brevent Hotel Face.

If you know where to go, you will be rewarded!

If you know where to go, you will be rewarded!

So back in Scotland for a while now so getting fully embraced into Scottish Winter which will mostly be climbing as well as a two week Ice climbing trip to Norway ice climbing. Yesterday I was out on Swan Song V,6 in the Cairngorms with Louisa and despite being a very windy day, we tucked in avoiding the worst of the gusts. I’m pretty excited as to what the rest of the season brings. Happy climbing everyone and stay safe!

Looking ahead, my Scottish winter is fully booked.

I have availability for Ski Touring and Off Piste skiing between 8th -17th April 2019

I also have availability for Rock Climbing and RIdges between 1st - 24th May 2019

Rock climbing and Ridges availability 4th - 6th June 2019 (Snowdonia based)

Alpine Climbing availability 14th - 17th June 2019 (Chamonix based)

Rock climbing and Ridges 8th - 13th September 2019

For more information and inspiration click on the boxes below or get in touch.

Winter is over, spring has begun, the end is nigh!

After 4 months away, I am finally back home.  The house is still intact and only a few jobs to do while I acclimitiese to living at sea level again. 

Finding fresh snow on a hut to hut trip

I finished on a high in the Alps, I passed my exams for the ski test, so when I say the 'end is nigh', I mean for me completing the Guide's scheme, not the end of the world!  In 4 months time, I will carry out my final test, which will be in the Alps and then I am done!  Wish me luck!

In the meantime I will be back home for a wee while.  Looks like a busy spring coming up with several requests to do one day Cuillin Ridge traverses so I'm hoping the weather plays ball and we have a successful season.

The last part of my Alpine ski season was mostly spent hut to hut touring with various different guides.  We generally had nice weather but some plans weren't carried out due to the constant changes we were experiencing.  It wasn't until my final week (The Test!) where the weather was settled and we could enjoy the summits and cols.  It was a total relief to 'finally' get the word 'pass' and I could come home knowing I had learnt enough to pass what I thought would be the hardest test for me.

I came away pretty inspired about ski guiding.  It is something relatively new to me and I'm looking forward to spending more time guiding folk either freeriding or ski touring. 

So...lets see how the climbing has been affected by taking 4 months off...!

Goodbye Mont Blanc.  See you in the summer

Alpine part 2 (and 3 - 6)...when will the season end?

This winter, what a season!  April has started and here in the Alps, it doesn't look like it's slowing down...or warming up as we would expect or hope for.  Even back at home it is looking to be a superb season and with no signs of slowing down either.

Since my last post there has been quite a lot going on.  In February I jetted off to Aurland in Norway working for Moran Mountain.  I had some of my regular clients along and working alongside some great friends made for a brilliant trip.  Ice climbing is always good fun.

Skiing in the Alps has been close to non stop.  Im just back from two hut to hut tours where we found some great snow but some rotten weather sometimes.  Before that, I was observing guides with their clients, helping out and trying to learn as much as possible from them.

Rock climbing season doesn't seem that far away so I have managed to squeeze in a couple of cragging sessions in after skiing...to hopefully remind myself of how to do it!

The winter season is very close to the end for me.  My final winter challenge is to pass my ski test.  This is a 6 day assessment based in the Alps.  Hopefully, the next time I post, I will be back in the UK with a big smile on my face.  Results on the 20th April.

After that I will be back in the UK working my socks off before I go into the final stage of becoming a fully certified IFMGA Mountain Guide.

Here are a few pictures...but in no particular order!

Tom topping out on a brilliant WI4

Day off with Donald.  Always an adventure.  Unfortunately we DNF this route.

Katya making her way up to join me on the first ascent of this route

Natcho bring some colour to yet another first ascent

A super WI5 with the strong Irish youth Neil

The WI5, mega route

A spot of leading for Neil (the youth)

Natcho and Neil organising themselves whilst leading Dambusters WI3

Natcho on the sharp end

Dream team from Alpine Guides.  Just before we set of on the Silvretta tour

The hut is this way....honest

More like it...

Good snow, good skiers, good times

Lori contemplating where to go next

Deserted ski resort in Val Stura in Italy

Neil pausing to take it all in

The team join me ready for the freshies on descent

Another day, another blank canvass

Great snow

Freshies, an overused but relevant word this season.

We found a hidden bunker...took some digging to get in

Filling the gaps

They were arguing about who gets to go next...there was plenty for everyone

a snowpack evaluation session

When the bed bugs hit!

Powder in Italy

More powder in the 'magic woods'

Vallee Blanche team

Skiing down to Italy with my mentor Andy Nelson

The client get to lead

Alpine season part one

This is by far the longest I have been away from Scottish winter and despite there being very good conditions back home we are equally having great conditions here.  Yes, we have had Category 5 (very high) twice this season and the 'worst' conditions (in regards to avalanches) since 1991, and we have had fluctuating temperatures but there have still been countless days where we have had great snow and ice.

This season is (hopefully) the last winter season before I become a full IFMGA Mountain Guide.  So the aim is to observe as many guides as possible as well as build a great deal of experience and knowledge before I am let loose on my own.  So I have spent some brilliant days, skiing, ice climbing, observing guides and getting to know new areas.  Bring on a good season.

Skiing the ENSA couloir with Lou while she was out on holiday

Here I'm abseiling into the top of the ENSA.

Christmas day skiing with Lou and familiy

We thought we would try a day of snowboarding.  It has been 6 years since I last snowboarded, still great fun.

First bit of observation work, navigation for skiers

Some great ice in Cogne.  This was our 2nd trip to the Valley in Italy.

Another day skiing with some local friends.  Great to get their knowledge and enthusiasm on a blue sky day

Jack, Fat boy and I shared Rachel Kerr for the afternoon for some ski instruction to brush up our technique.  A well worth afternoon.

A great day on the Vallee Blanche.  We did two laps today with a good team of guides and friends.  A great way of absorbing their knowledge and having a great laugh.

A great week observing Graham Frost from Frost Guiding.  We went on some tours...

My home got buried...

...the group go instruction...

...we skied powder in the trees...

...with blue skies...

...

...

So, a great start to the season, Im looking forward to the next part.  I have just returned from an avalanche course ran by the legend Alain Duclos.  This week, I will be on a course run by the BMG on 'Off-piste guiding' so looking forward to learning all about it.

Alpine Ski Training and consolodation
Avalanche forecasting above Arolla

Before I could even blink the next BMG training course was here.  It was the Ski touring training based from Arolla in Switzerland so I managed to get a couple of days skiing to acclimatise before the course commenced.  The week was brilliant and headed up by 3 brilliant guides Graham, Jon and Ric.  It was a very chilled atmosphere and I learnt a great deal about ski guiding and it is definitely something I look forward to doing more of.  We split the week into two...a 3 day hut to hut tour then and 2 day hut tour looking at all aspects of ski guiding and dealing with issues that we will come across when we guide.

Sunshine and snow....must be the Alps

Skinning up towards the hut...can you see it?

Jon Bracey teaching crevasse rescue

Spot the flying pole

Nice morning

After the ski course we were asked to carry on skiing to consolidate what we have learnt.  I Skied in Austria for a week before heading to Chamonix to link in a bit of climbing and skiing.  Lou and I climbed the North Face of Les Droites which was cool, my second time up that face.  We then did a few days skiing and valley cragging getting to know some of the local areas for the coming seasons.

Lou leading on Leguard Direct on Les Droites

My office one day..

Lou showing me how to look cool

Taking layers off after some whiteout skiing

Great day on the Valley Blanche
Im back in the UK now and will be here for two months before heading back out to the alps for the summer Alpine training...it is going so fast!  I think I can just about keep up!  Feel free to get in touch if you fancy some climbing in Scotland over the next couple of months.
Skinning up

Skiing down into Italy

Back on the Valley Blanche

Mint
Calm before the storm
Not a bad place to ski
Mont Blanc and Les Drus
As the winter conditions have been few and far between this December I thought it was the perfect opportunity to book a quick hit to the Alps for a nice relaxing skiing holiday before the onslaught of Storm Barbara, Christmas and a very busy winter season.  Lou and I headed to the base of Mont Blanc and skied on both sides of the tunnel.  Some days in Italy, some in France.  This time Italy was holding far more snow and became a good option so we visited a few resorts as well as a wee ski tour to get some fitness.  Like last December when I was out, the hills and slopes were almost deserted, sometimes it felt we had the resorts to ourselves!  With several other friends around it was like a British takeover.  Despite the lack of fresh snow, it was a super fun trip and now I'm ready for getting stuck into Scottish winter.
Lou boot packing on our wee tour from Courmayeur

Lou skinning with Mont Blanc in the background
Lou showing me how it's done
Empty pistes
Becca, Lou and Kev after our tour from the Argentier Glacier
Combat skiing down the glacier

Is it winter yet?
Damn right it is!  Just looking out the window is enough evidence to suggest we are fully embraced in my favourite season of them all.  It seems like a silly question for mid January but as I have no winter routes under my belt so far it feels like winter hasn't even started yet.  A result of poor weather and condition's have meant I haven't been out climbing but also because I have been focussing on the next phase of inductions for the British Mountain Guides scheme.  Over the last two week I have been in the Alps working on improving my skiing technique, proving that I can ski at the required standard and then followed up with a 5 day avalanche course.
Guess the mountain game
We started of at a brilliant resort in Leysin in Switzerland for a 3 day ski technique course ran by Alex and Ivan.  These two guys are something else on ski's.  Its hard to describe how good they are but imagine skiing down as fast as you can, then look ahead and you will see Alex skiing backwards giving you tips on your technique as he weaves through the crowds on the piste...one one ski as well!  That is what 30+ years on skis will do for you.  He is also a coach for the Swiss ski teams.  We were in good hands.
Ivan strapping his boot up for an intense warm up!
Our group has 12 members, all of different abilities and backgrounds, some climbers, some instructors and some pro skiers.  Everyone was picking up good tips and knowledge off Alex and Ivan no matter what their ability.

After the 3 days in Leysin, I went to Samoens in France with Calum for two days skiing.  Unfortunately it was raining at all levels so we just did one day skiing and then had a late start and headed over to La Grave for the rest of the trip.
Who knows how to ski?
Our first day in La Grave was the Ski Induction.  A one day assessment of our skiing ability to make sure we haven't falsified our logbooks and that we are a suitable standard for the scheme.  Phew, we all passed and can continue onto the next stage of the scheme.

Misty conditions at La Grave
After we all passed our assessment we then went on and started a 5 day EAS avalanche course run by Mark Diggins (Top Man at SAIS), Bruce Goodlad (BMG Training officer), Nick Parks (BMG) and Peirre (Local Guide).  A collected wealth of experience and expertise meant we had a very informative course and we all took a great deal away from it.  I always believe it is worth doing as many avalanche courses as possible.
Digging snow profiles
Its getting cold, lets go!
Not only were we digging snow profiles and writing avalanche reports, we were also looking at safe travel through the mountains with groups and on skis.  So during the week we went on two mini ski tours looking at route choice, hazard identification and group management amongst many other topics.
Hands up for breaking trail? 
A safe place to be
A bit Scottish today
Le Meije.  A beautiful summit.  Cant wait to come back and climb it,
 So all in all, a great couple of weeks in the Alps but to be honest I am really glad to be back in Scotland.  The snow is here, routes are in conditions and I have a few days off before work really kicks in.  More pics HERE. 

One another note, I am very sad to hear two local climbers who I knew lost their lives in the mountains of Glencoe yesterday.  Thoughts and prayers go out to their families at this very tough time.  Rest in peace Simon and Joe, two very enthusiastic young lads.



Early season sliding on snow
View of Mont Blanc to the Grande Jorrasses from La Thuile
Lunch break with Rudders and Neil
I did think I should stay out for longer but on reflection it is good to come home and get into the Christmas spirit.  You know...wind and rain...very Chrismassy!  Fortunately whilst I was away this last week we had fantastic weather in and around Chamonix where we based ourselves for the 9 days.  This trip had been in the pipeline for quite a while as I had booked onto a Off-Piste Performance with the highly decorated Alison Culshaw.  As I am now working my way through the BMG process, I want to make sure that my skiing is up to scratch and I don't catch an edge through the process.   

Practising drills off piste
John ripping it up
We had a great week of skiing with friends at several different resorts; Le Brevent and Flegere, Grande Montets, La Thuile and Verbier.  During the course we covered both piste and off piste terrain looking at drills to work on weaknesses and iron our any bumps in our ability.  A great way for anyone to start their season with a few top tips from the experts.  The Alps have lacked their early season coverage but it resulted in very spring like snow, a little bit of rock avoidance but generally very good snow.  Some routes were getting climbed in the mountains in the Alps which led me to get psyched for climbing and getting back to Scottish winter.  Unfortunately, I have no winter ascents under my belt just yet but hopefully will get a leg stretch soon.
John keeping it cool, me being an idiot as usual
Blue skies...White snow
Alison working her magic
Alison and Sophie talking to the invisible skiers
Love this place!









Alpine trip so far
Great Skiining conditions
The team. Jamie, Ben and Calum
I feel as I am going through a little transition with this Alpine hit.  I'm starting to look forward to reaching for crimps rather than swinging into ice, walking in trainers rather than sliding on ski's.  It does feel a little premature as there is plenty of snow and ice in the mountains but maybe 4 months on snow is enough for this season.  Since leaving Scotland the trip has been fantastic.  I drove out to the Alps with my good friend Ben Cooling, he is a bit like a strawberry blonde Duracell bunny.  He wanted to do everything in the Alps!  We had 10 days before he returns home.  From leaving my mums house in Cumbria, we drove flat out to Dover, then non stop to the start of the Grand Paradiso Ski tour.  In 25 hours from leaving Cumbria, we had skinned up to the Sella Hut to start an amazing 6 day ski tour.

Making a new plan

Ben on Frendo - Ravanel

Ben again


Me on Frendo - Ravanel

In the Sella hut we met Calum and Jamie who had the same idea so we joined forces and completed the 6 day tour together, driven on by Calums endless cheese related jokes!  I had been on this tour a couple of years ago but bailed due to bad snow conditions, this time I was keen to complete.  The tour started with some very difficult conditions, high winds and knee high sastrugi (wind erosion).  Word had got around that several teams hadn't made the summit of Gran Paradiso (4061m) so we hoped our attempt the next day would bring results.  Fortunately the wind eased, the clouds parted and the summit was there for the taking.  A brilliant day and a great ski down.  This was our high point of the tour, everything we did was slightly lower but we were blessed with fresh snow every night.  Each of the following days we had fresh tracks, Calum and I hit some sweet jumps and the final day completed the best week of ski touring I have ever done.  I can't wait to be able to do a week like this as work!
Great company, great condition's and a brilliant tour.
Uisdean on the Swiss route
Ben and I on the summit Les Courtes
View of Mont Blanc and Jorasses on the left

After our week in Italy, Ben and I headed to Chamonix to make the most of Ben's last 4 days.  We thought no need for a rest day, lets just get up high again and climb Supercoulior!  We were psyched, first in line for a lift up the Aiguille du Midi, we had ski's, climbing gear and some grub.  We also met up with Uisdean and Tim. All we needed is for the lift to open.  Guess what!...it didn't.  Damn it, we had to have a rest day.  New plan had to be formed!
Swiss route

Swiss route
We decided to make the most of the good weather by heading up to Argentiere Hut and having 3 days climbing from there.  We all made use of mechanical uplift and then went straight into the Frendo-Ravenell Gully (TD-) which was a brilliant 540m route with abseil descent.  Perfect for getting up to the hut in time for dinner!  The next day we all agreed on doing a 'Grande Course'.  Uisdean, Ben and Tim were keen for their first long tick and I was keen for my 7th so we opted for the 'Swiss Route' on Les Courtes.  A great day which only took up 5 hours as 2 roped teams.  When we returned back to the Argentiere hut to find that my ski boots, rope, cams and wires had been removed from the hut!  WTF!!  It turned out that my stuff had been scooped up by a film crew and taken for a helicopter ride down the valley!  I needed to get this back ASAP.  Fortunately the guardian of the hut lent me his ski boots and despite being a size too small, we still managed to ski down.  I retrieved my kit and with one day to spare before Ben fly's home, we headed up the Aiguille du Midi and climbed the Perroux-Proffit Gully (TD) before driving Ben to Geneva.  Despite a few hiccups, it all went well, we were active for 9 out of 10 days and had some fantastic days in the mountains.

The following day Uisdean and I met up with Paul Swail and John Macune for a spot of relaxing sport climbing, to be honest we only did 3 routes as we were all pretty tired from the last few days.
For us all, it was back to the weather forecasts, back to the drawing board.  Our research showed that the weather looked good so John, Uisdean and I planned for an ascent on the Colton Macintyre on the Grande Jorasses.  Surely 3rd time lucky for me on this North Face?!  We took the afternoon lift up to the Aiguille du Midi and skied into the face, carrying all out climbing equipment, bivi equipment, winter boots and plenty of food.  We dug bed space below the face, away from any fall lines, brewed up and settled for the night.  I remember thinking that this time I would make it to the top!  Everything was falling into place in the morning, we started on time and we were all feeling pretty fresh.  We made good progress into daylight and found ourselves at the midway point...at this point we hit our brick wall!  The 90 degree ice was cruddy snow.  No placements, no ice screws.  OK not to worry, lets take the harder variation...cruddy snow.  No placements, no ice screws.  I couldn't believe it!  Why does this face not let up for me!?  After several attempts we decided to call it a day, retreat back to our ski's, retreat back to Chamonix.  I knew this was going to be my last window for a big route on this trip and as I am writing this I am now on the wire...I want to climb another big route but maybe I will save it for another time, should I just go rock climbing or should I endure another big committing North Face...only time will tell!  Either way, I'm sure it will be fun.
Jorasses...one day!

Cruddy 90 degree snow!



Skiing in the Alps
Chadders doing what he does best....looking cool.

The trip started with a random meeting of Chadders in the airport, at 6am in the morning we didnt make much chat but we did agree we would Ski in the afternoon when we got to Chamonix.  After feeling a little more awake we grabed our kit and hit the Grand Montet, bumping into Andy Nelson, Mike Brownlow and Kenny Grant.  We had a great day hitting the off piste from the lifts and a perfect warm up for me.  
Ali and Kirby in a ping pong ball
From Cham, I hooked up with School friend Kirby and Ali for 3 days in the Ecrin.  Conditions started pretty wild but soon improved form white out and windy one day, clear but windy the second then calm and clear the third day.  Perfect!
Windy and Clear

Proper windy, no ridges today!

Clam and clear...climbing, ridges and steep descents on ski's.

Kirby leading up to the summit crest.
 From the Ecrin, we headed back to Chamonix and were based there for the rest of my trip.  From here I did several day tours seeking out some great snow, steep descents and some great summits.


Ali overcoming her fear of climbing

Ali in her element on skis

Touring with Andy, Mike and Brains

Abseil descent before skiing out

Touring from the Midi

Not much pow!

Glacier!