Its dangerous out there…..but so much fun!

Well, what a funny start to the 2014/15 ski season in the French Alps! No real snow until the end of the opening week had people worried. Then the first dump came and it caused havoc! It came on the day the holiday makers were leaving after their Christmas skiing holiday. People were stranded for hours, almost days as gridlock hit the French roads around the Alps.This snow came with a lot of wind, then rain, then warm then cold and a bit more wind. This mix of weather has made for a particularly dangerous, unstable snow pack on every ordination of slope. Not what the avid off piste skier wants!

It has only just stopped snowing after 5 days! Chamonix has seen around 2 meters of glorious fresh snow! This has, unfortunately, made the conditions all the more scary. The danger warnings have been spilling out from every organisation. Ski areas have been posting avalanche warnings of 4/5 on the danger scale (the resort is generally closed when it gets to 5/5) the amazing PGHM rescue service have been sending out warnings as have the councils and other mountain information services. There have been many naturally propagating slides around the Alps and unfortunately some set off by skiers and snow shoers who perhaps had not heeded the warning set out.

But despite all this scariness one cannot just sit inside and not have fun! We stole a brief lull in the falling snow and headed up to Grands Montets to see what we could see. Amazing powder was the answer! Trying to stick to lower angled slopes and skiing on well skied areas to help minimise the risk we had an awesome few hours! Dan has decided now though that he needs new skis – bigger and fatter! With big smiles and tired legs we had a last run in sunshine and headed back to the valley for lunch before the sun had its way with the snow.

If your heading off piste in the European Alps any time soon please be careful and listen to the warnings, ski safe and reserved and have a blast!




Le Pouce: Voie des Français


Dan and Pete have been on a high climbing adventure, pete has written a lovely blog about their adventure.

Originally posted on Pete Houghton:


P1080595The towering south face of the Pouce glows grey in the moonlight against the night sky,  the only thing I’ve seen for the last six hours as I drift in and out of consciousness. I can even see it when I close my eyes; its scars and cracks, the dark shadows of its roofs, have burned their image onto my retinas. Dan’s alarm sounds – we can stop pretending to be asleep, but the slightest movement puffs the warm air from our down jackets. We continue to lie perfectly still for a few more minutes, delaying the inevitable. Eventually, Dan, closest to the stove, puts the water on to boil for our first cup of tea, setting up the pizza box windbreak to quiet the hungry spluttering of the gas flame in the surprisingly-cold dawn breeze.

We quietly gulp down our steaming tea, contemplating our immediate future. With nearly four…

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Flying Squirrels!

Dan and Pete caught the lift to the top of Brévent the other day for a spot of gentle sport climbing. As they got into the lift two chaps also jumped in dressed in wing suits! Knowing exactly what they were about to do Dan and Pete sprinted from the lift to get a great spot to photograph them hurling themselves off the top of Brévent. The jump the squirrels did is renowned as being one of the most technical BASE jump exits in the world. It was first jumped a year or so ago! A truly impressive, crazy sight to watch!

A quick trip up the Petite Verte, 14/03/14


Pete tells a nice story of new adventure 6 for Dan!

Originally posted on Pete Houghton:


Dan has his eyes firmly set on one particular mountain, he wants to go up it with skis at some point in the spring.
“You know that’s a TD descent, right?” I ask.

Quick! To the north face of the Petite Verte, to practice skiing some really steep stuff in absolutely horrible snow!


The Petite Verte, easily accessed from the top of the Grand Montets cable car, is one of the two or three things here in Chamonix that people first have a go at when learning their mountaineering. I’d never been up it; when I was starting out, Dan showed me the ropes over on the Cosmiques Arete. So I was keen when he suggested that we go and have a look with skis, to both get a bit of practice carrying big bags on exciting terrain at the top, and to give Dan a taste for steep…

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Always Something New!

Wow what a long time since we posted anything! We have been busy bees this winter. Mostly working so we have tried for quality over quantity when we have had the chance to go outside!

Chamonix is such a big playground that the potential to find new things is limitless, be it climb new routes, ski new lines or run new trails. So far I have managed 5 new ski adventures; well its five if you count the ice climbing fail Jack and I went on!

Two of these new adventures were on the same day and my first proper ski of the season.  Pete and myself planed to ski a couloir under the main cliff of Brevent but the lift gods were against us and the top lift was closed. We decided to ski a lower gully where our planned line would have fed into, the snow was amazing but with the sun beating down and it was quickly turning heavy, odd for January when its supposed to be cold keeping the snow light and fluffy! Not happy with just that, we took a chance that the midi would open by now so we jumped on a bus and dashed across the valley. Arriving just in time to jump on the first lift of the day we were very happy that our decision paid off. We got off at the mid station and flew down untracked powder with some tree assisted rappelling in the middle of the descent back to town, this was made even more amazing as I was watching pete tear around on his water skis that he had mounted ski bindings on! Click here for more about Pete’s water skis.
New ski adventure three was supposed to be an ice climbing adventure with Jack. After an interesting ski approach that involved using outstretched poles to work out what was up and down we saw that our intended route, well,  just wasn’t there and the others around it were falling apart! We bravely turned around and skied away down the Argentiere glacier battling with crusty snow, avalanche debris and chamois who seemed to be able to ski better than us! So not intended but a fun new ski adventure nevertheless!

Then came the time for me to be brave, get my balls out of my purse and be out of my comfort zone and enjoy some steep skiing. The Rectaligne couloir is a 300 meter couloir with a short section for 45 degrees at the top, that’s starting to get pretty steep – well I think so anyway! The scratchy steep entrance led into a beautiful open couloir with lovely snow, ending in the lower gentle powdery slopes of the Pas de Chèvre above the Mer du Glacé. Pete, Aine and myself had a thoroughly enjoyable morning, especially as we were the first to ski the line that day! Thats two days so far being the first people down lines, this surely can’t be Chamonix I’m writing about!

My most recent ski adventure was an amazing journey over four glaciers in the high mountain. A ski tour over the Breche Puiseux deep in the the mountains. Starting on the Gros Rognon descent of the Vallee Blanche we skied to the Salle a Manger then skinned up the Glacier des Periades under the wonkerly magnificent Dent du Geant. Putting skis on our backs, we climbed a couloir at the top of the glacier to the breche in appalling heat, at the top the heat suddenly disappeared as a freezing wind was briskly blowing from the North East. Quickly setting up our ropes we rappelled with frozen hands down into the shade and cold. It was definitely worth lugging the 50 meter ropes up as we could whiz all the way to the bottom of the cliff and not have to worry about touching the old frayed in situ rope that was half frozen into the mountain. The hot aches kicked in with vengeance as our hands came back to life as we basked of a short while in a spit of sun cresting through the ridge we had just descended. We skied down under the famous north face of the Grands Jorasses, it felt like there was a giant standing over us carefully watching us ski down to its toes. The crevasses in the Mont Mallet glacier were ginormous so taking care we flew down in beautifully cold powder snow to the Leschaux Glacier, from here we finally met up with the normal Vallee Blanche route onto the Mer du Glacé.
Georgie hasn’t been hiding in a cave! Just working! However she stole a few moments, got lucky and skied some stunning snow! She has also finally come round to the fact skiing can be bloody amazing! She has been borrowing big skis and for the first time felt that magnificent feeling of floating in snow rather than sinking with her current little needle skis.
We skinned up to the beautifully situated Chalet du Loriaz high above the Vallorcine valley. Once at the chalet we were starving so ordered some superb home made sausage, bean and lentil soup followed by fromage blanc and red berry magic for pudding, this made Georgie a happy bunny! We also said no to work one morning and with Pete and Aine headed through the tunnel for a day of Italian coffee, hot chocolate, a long lunch and a touch of fabulous skiing on the sunny side of the big white hill!
Thanks to Pete and Jack for the pictures of Dan and fun times!
Long may the new adventures continue!

Big skis in small spaces; Rectiligne 22/02/14


A lovely day out with lovely people!

Originally posted on Pete Houghton:



They are a blessing, they are a curse. A constant parade of what-ifs, of if-only-I-hads. The problem with having big fat powder skis is that when you are skiing on anything slightly more sensible and the snow suddenly comes up above the top of your boot, you can’t help but think “Man, I wish I had brought the big skis!”


So yesterday we did just that – we’d usually take the normal planks down the Rectiligne, just because of the scratchy bits towards the end to get back onto the glacier. But Aine, having been back in Ireland for five weeks, was keen to get out on her brand new Pontoons as much as possible. We set the alarm, inhaled the coffee, met with Dan, and sat in the queue.

A group of five had peeled off left to the Couloir des Autrichiens, and half-a-dozen tracks went straight to the…

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Morocco – An interesting place!

Morocco is a crazy place, so many smells, so much noise and vibrant colours. The people we met were really friendly. We travelled around the country with our friends Pete and Àine in our hired car – Fanny the flying Ford Fusion Fiesta!

We slowly wound our way across the country watching the endless burnt orange countryside pass by.  We meandered along crappy roads not quite wide enough for 2 cars, round the pot holes (we only needed one wheel fixed!) dodging goats, donkeys, mopeds, mules, horses and carts and the odd dog!

We visited the mountains (visit Pete’s blog for a detailed, if graphic, account of our attempt at North Africa highest peak), walled market towns, the seaside and cities. We got really bad tummy upset, did some high altitude bouldering, saw goats on mules, brought new slippers, learned that riding a camel is like sitting on a boat, ate tagine and drank lots of sweet mint tea that was poured from a great height, which, we found was harder than it looked!