Wednesday, 28 January 2015

New Year, New Adventures......

It's a bit late, but Happy 2015!

The sun sets on 2014 in La Grave
2014 was packed full of exciting trips, adventures, races and guiding in some wonderful places, and I'm hoping 2015 will be equally as fun. With some new projects in the diary already, and new partnerships with great companies, I’m optimistic that’ll be the case!

Riding during the 2014 Trans-Provence race....can't wait to be back here in 2015! Photo credit: Gary Perkin
I was recently asked to write an article for an online magazine and despite finding it hard to find the time to sit down and get started, once I did it actually turned out to be a really fun way of looking back and reminding myself what I'd done over the course of the year! It was also a confidence boost to see that I AM making this new life I have been slowly rebuilding work, and it is becoming a life I am proud of, and that I know Gareth would be too. It's not always easy, far from it, and it's often lonely despite the number of people I come into contact with through my work and play, as well as being unstable, uncertain and impossible to plan too far ahead....But those factors can be turned into positives and I'm determined to keep working as hard as it takes to make it work!
Here's the article for anyone who's interested in reading it!

Welcome to my "office"!! Photo credit: Ian Robertson
I’m looking forward to continuing my role as an ambassador for Juliana Bicycles on my beautiful Roubion, as well as joining local insurance company BIKMO Plus as an ambassador. These guys are cyclists themselves, and provide insurance cover for you and your bikes and kit both home and abroad. After years of trying to persuade insurance providers over the phone that yes, some people do own bikes worth more than their cars, it's refreshing to see a company enter the market who understand real cyclists! It's well worth a look at their uncomplicated site to get a quote!

My working season is shaping up to be a great one too. From April I'll be joining the Go-Where Scotland clan to guide with fellow Juliana Ambassador Aneela McKenna on some awesome womens only Big Mountain Adventures! The "Mountain Lassies" trips promise to be a LOT of fun to work on and I can't wait to share some of Scotland's incredible trails with other like-minded female shredders.

Can't wait to guide with fellow shredder's going to be a hoot! Photo: Aneela McKenna
From there it'll be back to the sunny southern Alps to work on the Trans-Provence race, before guiding both Morzine to Alpe d'Huez and Mont Blanc Enduro trips for Ben Jones MTB Adventures, and then Trans-Provence guiding....Can't wait!

This time last year I was skiing in Chamonix, at the end of a 5 week trip that had started with some friends in La Grave at New Year. Although different plans this year have meant I've only had the time (and money!) for a weeks skiing, it was great that it could be another New Year trip to La Grave. With many of the same faces from last year, as well as a few new ones, a big group of us took over 2 apartments in the small town for a week of action packed adventures, which included skiing, climbing, cheese eating and wine drinking!

Crazy clouds on a tour above the Col de Lauteret
We had an interesting journey to get there with snow arriving on the Saturday between Christmas and New Year, causing travel chaos as hundreds of drivers tried to get up steep, twisty snow covered mountain roads without the necessary equipment. For those of us sat stationary for hours in a queue, ready to get snow chains on when we finally got to the snow covered roads, it was more than a little frustrating!

We finally made it though, and the fresh dump of snow was much appreciated as it had been looking incredibly lean in the days before we arrived.

At least we didn't have to dig our car out!
With the excitement that only a group of mountain/snow deprived Brits can muster when first released into the hills on a powder day, we charged off-piste in the search of fresh tracks….we found them, but we also found that the 30cm of fresh snow which made everything appear in good-skiable condition had deceived us. What we couldn’t see, but quickly discovered, was the snow had fallen directly onto the rocky slopes underneath, luring unsuspecting skiers in, and then shredding their ski bases with every turn. I could almost hear my skis crying…..

Bluebird day and great snow on the Pic Blanc de Galibier
Learning our lesson, we headed higher and soon found some great skiing. The first few days of our trip were beautiful blue sky days, but bitterly cold. On one hand this meant the fresh snow was staying soft and great to ski on, but on the other, La Grave is all North Facing, and hence stays in the shade and with air temperatures of minus 21 degrees Celsius plus windchill, it was about as cold as I’ve ever been! The exposed skin on my cheeks even became frost-nipped on our first day…something I’ve never experienced before. Fortunately the others in the group recognised it and I was able to get inside, warm up and encourage some circulation and warmth back into the area…mainly with medicinal Vin chaud! 

The rest of the week was spent seeking the sun and more good snow on some ski tours on the south side of the valley.

Jody carving some turns in the sun!
La Grave is a brilliant area as it’s not really a resort like other spots in the Alps. There are never any queues, few people around, and the variety of terrain to ski is fantastic. It’s not a spot for beginners, or anyone who likes their runs groomed, as there are none! But if you like adventure, interesting terrain, and the potential to be finding fresh tracks even days after it’s snowed then this is the place for you.

Roccio drops into the Banana couloir at La Grave
Jake, Roccio, Owen and I had a great day on New Years Day, after managing to avoid drinking too much Chartreuse the night before. We skinned up onto the glacier for several pitches of untouched snow and incredible views, and didn't see another person most of the day, fabulous!

What a way to start the year! Jake puts in some fresh tracks on the glacier above La Grave 
The last few days were a complete contrast to the first! The temperature had suddenly risen, and we were skiing in a single base layer, sweating profusely on the climbs up! We managed to keep finding good skiing though, and Jonny, Jake and I even squeezed a nightime ascent of one of La Grave’s classic Ice routes La Pylone, on the last evening of the trip!

Despite the lengthy queues on the way there, it was a great week, and we were really lucky with the conditions, as the following two weeks saw warm temperatures and no fresh snow!

Since then my time has been spent planning my trip to New Zealand, organising my spring and summer work schedule and some CPD courses, DIY work at my house in Sheffield, and the ongoing and never ending task of maintaining my bike! And it had looked like January was going to be a quiet month a few weeks ago!

That's all for now....Next update will be from the sunny side of the globe...!

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