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It has been a long time indeed. Lots of things have changed.

Competitive racing has finished for me. I feel I got what I came for in the 2 years of training and competiting. It was fantastic but its a time to return to just riding, adventuring and exploring. With that I undertook, as is my norm, a slight obsession with building a local trail. Its something Phil and I have wanted to do for a longtime and now, it is done. We weren’t expecting to complete it before the winter came but with the very late winter and awesome Autumn we did. I enjoyed every moment of it and have to say that the first rides on it were very satisfying. Seeign other peoples reactions were almost better than my own.

Part of the reason I wanted to make my own trail is that I wanted something very exacting so that with my future of less riding I would know where I would go and what I would get. Less riding? Yes, Kate and I will be (fingers crossed) having a Little HS in March. Life change but for all the good things.

Anyhow, Winter eventually rocked up with a few little snowfalls before the big storms rolled in. Before the big storms I met up with a guy called Adam Craig (www.adamcraig.net). Its the ol’ American Switcheroo trick, they come over and somehow they end up on my doorstep (its a small world). Adam is one hell of an XC racer (US Nat Champ), kayaker, skier and general adventurer. We got on. I thought I’d show him my fav place of Sex Carro.

As is normal, the snow pretty much sucked (got blow somewhere else) but it was great to be up there, seeing the mountains and checking in at the hut. Doesn’t feel like a winter without it. I have to say I wasn’t really feeling skiing. A funky knee made me feel very defensive and what with my change in mindset (Clips to Flats on the bike) I decided I was going to snowboard again….

I’d thought about this while I was in Costa Rica surfing (post to come), I like boarding, I like the feeling and the approach. I also snowboarded on the last day of the winter last year and loved it. There is a certain playfulness about it.

The big storm: Tempest Joachim rolled through Europe and precipitated an awful lot of snow on the Alps. Infact, it was more in 3 days than the whole of last season! I luckily got to sample it when Christmas Break came around and I choose to do it on a board. Also, my buddy had let me borrow his Burton Fish after I spent a day in Deep Conditions in the trees. I can’t believe the difference. Its really like snowboarding should be.

I got a GoPro Hero 2 from Kate for Chrimbo so this was its first outing:

 

I short Christmas break in the UK brought us back for more snowtime. With Kate pregnant but still wanting to ski meant we needed to find quiet skins and skiing. Nice trips up to Savoleyres when it was shut and Bruson made for great outings. Its pretty cool to think LHS is getting his first outings already!

Kate wanted to goto the Grand St Bernard Monastry and a sunny day dawned. It was go. I dragged poor Menso up there with the promise of some powder turns. That place is windy indeed. We had mandatory wine, cheese and soup and then I forced him up another 300m of steep, sunny, hotness. He was loving it (possibly not). The ski down was absoulutely shit. Very, very funny as it was full on carton snow with huge wind blown ridges. Still, it was fun. Sort of.

Another big storm rolled into Verbier and closed the lifts down. I managed to drag Menso up to Ruinettes in a tempest. Again, he loved it (possibly not). We skied the trees with 20cms of the light and fluffy stuff on boiler plate base. It was scary fast. Again. Top notch fun.

The freezing level went up and up and the rain/snow came down. I hit up Bruson with the Frennette crew. I have to say it may have been one of the few times where it was a wrong call. 50cms of Elephant snot BUT it really was fun. A lot of people having issues with the depth and weight of the snow.  A early finish for NY.

A little vid of what it was like. The GoPro was covered with snot most of the time.


 

Jonas and I started a 1st of Jan tradition last year and thus continued but this time with Jerry. Early doors and a road trip to a lesser known and high resort in the Valais. The sun didn’t play ball for a while but we had great fun and stress free riding. Easy hikes and no ‘Helmeted’ freeriders to speak off meant we had our pick of the terrain. We were just about to head in for lunch when the sun came out and we spotted a line. The day just got better and better. A perfect amount of riding done before we headed back to Planet Verbier.

The video to go with


 

One last skin in yet anther snowstorm with Kate for a cheese based lunch brought our Christmas period to an end. It left me with the terrible Snow Addiction again. Luckily, as I write yet another storm is pounding the alps.

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What a weekend. Proper Summer Time. Hot, hot and hot. A long weekend in the canton of Vaud so bring it.

Saturday Chores completed then a idyllic road ride from Rolle up to Col De Marcheriux. After all the rain it was green as you like with stunning Rapeseed and views of Lac leman. Not alone on the way up but very pretty and some solid work completed. A zing back down the hill and a quick tour of the plateau and back in time for a BBQ. Lovely. 50km, 1200m up, 2hrs and a bit.

Sunday upto Verbier. The mountains in late may are heaven. Its so green, snow capped mountains and a great temperature. Out on the new bike after some fettling. What a machine. Powers up really well and feels like a minimum of effort is wasted. Considering its not an XC bike it does it good.

Spotted Kate 2/3rds of the way up and gave chase but to no avail. That girl is shifting! Down Shrek, Trans Continental and then African. At the bottom a lovely Deer ran up the hill to be struck down by a twat of a driver. threw it into the gutter where he painfully tried to run away. A broken leg stopped him. Was horrible to watch. Driver came back and called police to do something. I couldn’t watch anymore so headed off up the hill again. Hit a spot of Jack of Clubs, back up and Cheeky Chez Danny to Conniseurs. I really found the groove with the bike. Amazingly responsive,. lively and aggressive. Love it. 1000m up

Bank Holiday Monday. In the sun, sweating. Nice. Meadow Gullies, Lumberjack trail. Kapow. Suprised myself by cleaning steep bit in middle ring. Impressive traction from the Felt.

Met up with kate and climbed up to Silly Arete. Down into a changed trail. Very much for the better. 500m of direct, twistyness.

One last little ride. Up and down Amy’s Trail and back to Chable. A nice 1300m of climbing and a great Farmers Tan.

Not one picture. Sorry

After floating on a wave of power and endurance I was left feeling listless and plain tired on Friday/Sat. A little snowboard in the morning was fun in the slush but had a bit of neck snapper…Still feeling that!

Head off in the afternoon to try and get a load done but my tube had other plans. First rocky section I found I got a great snake bite. Went to fix and all the glue had leaked/evaporated. Booo Hoo.

I went for the moss, dirt, pine needles in the tyre and limped down. Took a while to get down 600m. Popped into see Phil and Lucy from BikeVerbier but no joy for glue. Eventually tracked down a tube and headed up to do Toboggan as time and choices were limited. Pretty slow on the way up…just no grunt or omph so steady, steady with some tunes. After 1 hr and 12 mins I rested, watched the Air Display and head in the direction of the trail.

A few snow blockages but nothin major. Set the clock and off I shot.

Toboggan is THE most direct trail around and I wanted to know roughly the time it takes to do in one, 617m drop. The super fast section then goes into the Togoggan and luckily for me, the trail pixies had raked it and cleaned it! Like a pow day!

Taking it at about 85% as I was on my own I screamed to the bottom. This trail favours the bigger bike. The meta 6 was not out of depth but it was a firm ride! 5 mins 44 secs later I was at the bottom with a burning back leg and screaming hands and forearms! Definitely not the best Ratio of effort to reward but what fun it was!

The Suunto T6C tells me that I spent 4 mins, 42 secs over 157bpm (this gravity assisted sport is easy huh?) and descended 617m at a rate of 7020M/hr means I was dropping 1.95 M a second! (if my calcs are correct…crikey. That is steep)

Sunday I met with Phil and we did a local ‘XC’ loop. I was still pretty tired and was hoping for a easy up but new that wouldn’t happen. Off we went, out of the door and within 5 mins was in the granny ring sweating and puffing. 350 meters up and then into the funtastic ‘Amy’s Trail’.

Up through forest and then hot road to Levron, through the quarry, little trails, Back up, little trail, Parcours, scream back down, little climb, Parcours again and Amy’s trails to finish.

A little over 2 hrs and 1000m climbed and some great trails all under blazing sun. Ace.

People say that Christmas is the premier holiday but that can’t be true. Easter surely must take the prize for almost winter and almost summer potential. The evidence:

Good Friday: A blessed day indeed. The mountains had received 40cm’s of fresh snow and the sun was shining. Temps were normal so a bit hot for south facing slopes but great for north. I’d tell you about the conditions but I was biking. In shorts and t-shirt down in the valley away from the hordes of revellers.

Ash and melissa had come over from France, Phil and Lucy from Chable. We met in the COU (Centre of Universe) and decided on the plan. Too much snow at 1500m upwards ment we kept it low and headed to the Bois Nois centre for keeping handlebar width less than 700mm! A good little play around there to get the juices flowing led us to a new trail.

Police Academy: A short, sharp 300m climb led us to the entrance of Swiss version of the Movie classic. Heading int the trail that I had only seen on chest cam it was a lot steeper than I expected. Pretty commiting tight corners that held that perfect balance between too tight and not wide enough. Technical turning that Flo gave us a master class in. Its here where Flo asked me why I set my Meta 6 up in its steepest position!!???

What an idiot. I have been running it with a steep head angle and wondering why it felt like its  diving through the front travel on steeper terrain! I suppose its been good for my riding though (putting a positive spin on it).

An uplift up 29 switchbacks to a little village perched above the Rhone valley and beneath the high mountains we sped into a Police Academy 2: Their First Assignment. Slippery from the snow and rocks it was not a trail to get wrong!!!

Saturday: A spot of skiing with some new snow, okish light and quite a hangover. Mt Gele was fun and some fast punter runs on the piste. Highlight must have been when angry dad/man hit me with his ski pole. A slight over reaction!!

Easter Sunday: Wintery weather. Kate and I skinned from the apartment for a spot of exercise. Past Chez Dany and through the trees. Good to be out for a couple of hours. Sunday lunch was had with the Gents where wine and food was consumed.

Monday: A visit to a new and exciting valley. Its always to get out and see new places and this one is a gem. I have been instructed to keep it quiet though…invloved excellent skiing, steeps, powder and even for a busy, busy day we rarely queued for more than 2 mins! A return to the Valley of the Giants will be swift!

Pizza, catch up and the long Easter weekend finished. Giving me high class biking and skiing and a brown face! Easter rocks!

Many years ago (about 5 or 6) I came to Switzerland. It was incredible. Things that my boyhood dreams were made of. Big mountains, glaciers, lakes etc, etc. Living the Dream.

Now the last weekend was ‘Livign the Dream: The extended version’. It takes a long time to get to know these mountains, get the skills to ski them, navigate through them, make the right decisions and have the right people around you. I am feeling incredibly blessed to have most of these in my life.

Saturday

Saturday started early (too early for some) and with variable weather. Forecast was for snow but the view was mid mountain cloud and relatively clear up high. Bonus. Met Anders and we headed off to get some proper skiing done. Hidden Valley was on the agenda for the afternoon but due to some very cold temps the south facing couloirs might still be good. Heading up the Jumbo lift towards Gentianes and Stairway I probed Anders for more details of our route.

‘Traverse, then do a run caled Nursery. Its like a mini Bec De Ross. Then we’ll take a couloir all the way down the front. To be honest I am quite nervous!’

Hmmmm. Now when Anders get nervous, I get nervous. I laughed a little but my sphincter tightened just a little bit.

The wind had been very strong the dy before and made some aspects very firm. I had to remake steps up Stairway which was a wake up and then we traverse the bowl. Anders was clearly worried about the avalanche risk and we had good distance between ourselves. The bowl looked lovely but we wanted something a bit different and as Anders said ‘I’m here to learn’.

Skinning round a little peak and up to the top it was hardwork. Not steep but the altitude of 3000m was putting th epuff on. Reaching the top I peered into the abyss. Wow. That drops off. After the initial shock the logic kicks in and the mind automates what it sees. A tricky entrance and then some rocks to negotiate. No problem.

Anders drops in and positions himself to ski the face. I am nervous as is he. He clips his SnowPulse bag through the legs just in case. I don’t take a picture as I want to be ready. Just in case.

He ski’s off and no problem. No signs of movement just good snow. Face done and he makes his way to the min col before the main event. I drop in and make steep turns. All going nicely intil I hit a big submerged rock. No damage but I get down it and am relieved/excited.

A short hike to the col reveals the Plat Du Jour. A couloir all the way down into the bowl of La Chaux with Cabane Mont Fort right below us by a good 500m vertical. What a view! We were still unsure about if we were going to run it so we stepped in and got a feel for the snow. Unfortunately the wind had been very strong on this aspect and slabbed the snow. A day earlier and it would have been all time. We were comfortable with inch and half of firm snow so Anders dropped in. Once I get a Snow Pulse bag i guess I will have to go first more often!

Skiing in control and relatively slowly it looked good. 15 mins later he popped out at the base. My turn. Off I went and what a place to be! The turns weren’t the best due to the slab/crust but that was no issue. Taking my time and resting when needed I came out into the wide bowl and the sun. The snow got really good and effortless turns down to Anders. Some approriate Extreme Hand Gestures were made, photos of our peice and off we shot, like goons! Job done. Incredible!

Meeting up with Kate we head off to do Hidden Valley. Weather was coming in so we made very swift progree over there. Quite flat light met us but it was no real issue and we had good turns and steeper, fun terrain to skiers right. I had wanted to skin backup to the ridge to then ski down into Vallon but the valley cloud put paid to that as we couldn’t see shit. We did well to find the exit track and skied ‘variable terrain’ all the way down through the forest and reached the road at Oddes. A long way down. Normally a short and inexpensive taxi rides to La Tzoumaz but today was a very expensive 50chf’s.

This went against my morals. We were a strong group, with skins and with time. I wanted to skin up to La Tzoumaz. After some negotiation we set off, Anders battled through low blood sugar and Kate through the ‘I hate Rob the Nazi’ demons. 1 hr later we arrived at the lift, The Best Doughnuts in the world and coke purchased and we made the lift with minutes. I think if we’d missed the lift I would not be writing this today!!! Some nice beers in Apres and a good meal followed.

Sunday

The day dawned bluebird with an a perfect inversion cloud in the valley. Incredible. This was not forecast! A relaxed start and Kate and I headed up to a Verbier classic: Catwalk. Easy access in (20 min skin) with about 900m of steady gradient. Nothing steep but fun and enjoyable skiing for sure.

Along the way we stopped at Cabane glacier de Tortin. What a beautiful cabane! Sitting at 3000m its just stunning. A very warm and friendly guardian gave us coffee and biscuits. Bouyed by the magic of the spot we headed over to the skin.

The skin really is great. Very easy with plenty of opportunity to take the views in. We could clearly see our traversing tracks from the day before and far beyond. The skin track was solid but I was not expecting only 2 tracks in the bowl when we reached the shoulder. What a treat!

The snow was perfect. Bouncy and positive. You could really let it go and be free to carve where you wished. I did a particulary fine display of how not to do aggressive skiing for Kate! Most amusing rolling down the mountain to see her bent over laughing. That will teach me!

Reaching the lake we had been turned into hysteric skiers on a high of 900m of perfect snow and big terrain. I think we may have said ‘Ican’t believe how good it was’ 20 times. The only downside was the camera’ sbattery had gone so no pics just memories. A short skin out and the old Cleuson traverse and we were done.

Well, I wasn’t as I went for an evening skin from Carrefour to Attelas. Stunning light fading on the rock and pure tranquility without a person in sight. Left to dwell on the weekend I was left with a overwhelming feeling of euphoria. the season seems so new but we have done so many good things and so many more to do.

We’ve had some polar air around these parts this week. Its been chilly on the plain and reports of -17 mid mountain with god knows what temp at the top.

The weather patterns of the Alps always interest me. The Rhone Valley (Valais) has the Foehn effect wind which is a good thing in the summer but definately not brilliant for the winter. It can be very annoying to have sun when its snowing over THAT mountain over there.

Driving to work today through -2 degrees celcius and driving snow on the plain I check the web cam for Verbier. Sunny and clear. The forecast says its going to come up and drop some of the white stuff but you never know.

Not today but another day. Similar to this

Original plans for the Sunday were to go ski touring over near Bruson but after a inpromptu hike up Mt Gele at 4pm, Saturday that found good snow and a good view into the back bowls of Stairway/Highway the plan was changed.

Up early Kate, Anders and I set off to check out what was on offer. Col De Mouche was ok. Very skied but a good warm up. The traverse in was classic early season rocks but not too bad.

Backupto Col de Chassoure. Anders and I talked of the time last season we hit Tortin Central Couloir in unbelievable conditions. We looked at it from the lift and it was untouched and looked good. Hiking in both Kate and I could really feel the altitude.

Got to the opening into the couloir which was blocked by a fairly substantial cornice. Anders dropped in and there was a lot of snow. The sounds of Norlander whoops were heard!

I then sent Kate. 2nd run of her 2nd season on ski’s. Slightly tentative first turn but after that she skied a steep and narrow couloir very well! Chapeau…

I dropped in and it was lovely. A great place to be and felt amazing to be opening it up!

A quick coffee and a snack then we had sights for another first. Due to me seeing the backside of Mt Gele by hiking it the day before I could see that things were good in there hence why there was a lack of traffic (and lots of drinking the night before probably). Getting to Col des Gentianes there was somebody putting the bootpack up Stairway. A bit disapointed we head to Highway which was untouched. As I cam past Stairway I spotted Clive as the second person up. He’d moved about  ameter in 10 mins and kept getting stuck in holes. Kinda glad that we’d had the coffee otherwise I would have been the person sweating up it!

Anders stepped round to Highway with a normal rocky traverse and it looked good. Anders went to his line and skied well! Kate went and then me being last again. I felt nervous by the hidden rocks and didn’t take my own advice of soft turns and hit some rocks. Think I tweaked my knee then a bit. Nothing serious.

Caught up with the others and I skied the rest of the face first. Lovely it was and no more rocks all though I wasn’t relaxed. Kate ripped it and skied so strongly! Then the Beast followed with a cliff to classic Anders power skiing. Always a pleasure to watch!

Poled out across a frozen lake and it was a beautiful place to look around and take a snap (on the phone) or 2. Still no sign of Clive down Stairway (he was fine as I met him at the end of the day). A horrible rocky gentianes, a look at Super Mouche and back up the lift to start our 1hr 20 min hike up Mt Gele and along the ridge.

A beautiful hike that took a long time. The ignorant guys on the hike that we helped to get up the rocky face didn’t make things as nice as they could have been but hey…we were the winners.

Very tired and dehydrated by the top. It had really taken it out of us. We got into the rocky and very hard couloir and were pretty dissapointed. I laughed at it but once were out into the bowl the snow got better and better. Really creamy and no rocks.

Got on lift and dragged our seriously tired bodies down the mountain, pub, drink and food. Happy people!

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