Wheres the snow?

It all started on the 6th November. Winter came…..so early….a record in fact, 70cm of snow in two days, you could feel the excitement in the air. ‘This is it, This is the ONE, this winter is going to be amazing’….. The dump of snow was perfectly timed for the Grands Montets opening weekend, if you didnt mind a bit of wind and storm with your snow! The lifts at the bottom of the Lavnche bowl were not open, so with skins in bag Alex, Pete and myself dropped in with zero vis…. bottomless blind powder. Amazing. Then, all of a sudden we popped into clear sky’s and a beautiful last pitch of skiing before the skin out. The clear sky was temporary! Lap after lap there was no one there. We had the place to ourselves. It’s great when they don’t open all the lifts!



But then…..that was it…..a confused super high pressure weather system sat on us for pretty much 8 weeks….blue sky’s and sunshine….for 8 weeks! Sounds lovely, and it was beautiful….just not great for skiing! Another record for the least amount of snow at the start of a season.

Undeterred we have been heading out when we can to make the most of what we could find…

As it was early season, a little light reminder of how to ski should be in order. First of all we thought a little foray up the Tour Ronde would be nice. The plan was to ski over from the Italian side and climb the normal route up the south east ridge with the intent to ski the same line down. After a bit of early Bergschrund negotiation we were heading to the ridge and in a short time we were at the summit. It’s a truly magnificent summit. 360° views up the Combe Maudit, down the Vallée Blanche and across into Italy. I could have sat there for hours. We peaked out heads over the west face and looked down into the formidable looking Gervasutti Couloir –  a long, consistently steep couloir which runs down to west side of the mountain. A big tick on any steep skiers list and certainly more steep and serious than anything I have ever skied. Pete said it looked it the best condition he had ever seen it and that we would get some many points for probably being the first people to ski the line this winter….it was only the 8th December. We left the summit and traversed the mountain round to the west side. As I was down climbing the rocky top section of the couloir I had a sudden stark fright that I was actually going to try and ski this beast. I carried on down past Pete, maybe 30m more, who had stopped to clip in at the top of a narrow section. If I was going to ski this I would need all the width I was allowed! The snow was lovely, soft but not deep, predicable and forgiving. Clipped in, I watched Pete, gracefully as ever, glide down and past me to a safe stopping point. With encouragement from below I took some deep breaths and started my tentative descent. Ski in control, plant the pole, hop and turn….easy….stay focused and in control I thought  to myself swearing repeatedly with terror. It was amazing….I was doing it, skiing the Gervasutti!

The bottom section is the steepest. Pete lead the way to find the rap points to get us over the Bergschrund, all I had to do was just concentrate on the skiing. With one rap down and the ropes plugged into the second I set off to see how big the schrund was….it was pretty big….. I was standing about a meter back from the edge….I was at the end of the rope…. all of a sudden there was a raging roaring noise and the world disappeared below my feet as the schrund collapsed. I gripped the ends of the rope tight looking at the slippery, icy, double Italian Hitch knots on my Carabiner (I had forgotten my belay device) and hoping they wouldn’t slip. I came to a crashing stop up against the new headwall of the schrund. Iv stopped, I thought, nervously giggling to myself …..now what… I was literally just before the knots in the end of the rope. The collapsed schrund had blocked up the gaping hole beneath me. My skis could just tickle the snow, I gave the snow the best kick I could and it seemed solid enough. Undoing the knots I tentatively lower myself off the remaining ropes, at the last minute lunging for the downward edge of the schrund. Nothing else collapsed. I stood up and smirked at Pete, he smiled back. He slid down the ropes further to the right. Pulled them free of the anchor and jumped a narrower section of the schrund. After a quick skin we were at the Torino lift slurping on thick hot chocolate and feeling very proud of ourselves.

The high pressure went on. The conditions got worse but we still ventured out…



Joys of Sprint Training

Awesome – wheres_georgie

Where's Georgie

Pick a spot
Focus narrowed to the spot
Nothing else matters
Go Go Go
Fists tight
Arms pumping
Breath sawing
Legs pumping
Feet pounding

Total focus
Push a bit more
Giving everything
Almost there!
At the spot
Stop! Stop! Stop!

Knees bent
Heart pounding
Legs shaking
Head bowed
Breath sawing
Arms still

Desperate for air
Different focus, deep breaths
Watching the watch, willing it to go slower

Rest Go Rest Go Rest Go

Oh the joys of sprint training

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Two Days on the Midi: Cosmiques, Rond, Passerelle, West

Our friend pete has been having an amazing week the week just gone! Here is his write up!

Pete Houghton

Cosmiques Couloir, 18/04/16

Charlie Edwards, approach to Cosmiques Couloir
Pete rapping into Cosmiques 180416

Swirling clouds with the occasional tiny patch of blue. A light on-off drizzle in town. There are six skiers in the nearly-empty first bin at the Midi, along with a few teams of climbers armed with either approach skis or snowshoes. Under a bright blue sky, Dan and I are the first to clip in to our skis on the ridge, perched high above the clouds down in the valley. We each have a go at knocking sluff down the south face before the traverse to the west, where the four of us take it in turns take it in turns to stamp down the new snow on our way up to the col.

We have a quick look at the Rond, but the entrance is dry and wind-scoured, a tangled mess of the old cable car wires and grey ice. The top of the glacier looks…

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Whymper Glacier

Today was another addition to the amazing snow we currently have! Dan and Pete had various plans for todays adventures, the first was annoying cut short due to a rail strike….no need to get up at 5.30 for the non existent 6.30 train… it was always going to be a long day! We sauntered home from the train station to re pack our bags as we decided to head up to the Argentiere Glacier to find something to ski tour up and then ski down. There were a few options but we decided on the Whymper glacier which leads up to Aiguille du Argentiere. Once that decision was made the next was the descent. We decided to come back down the way we went up but to hang a right and drop into a central couloir in the middle of the Chardonnet Glacier. Such a good choice it turned out!

We turned around at the top of the Whymper and skied some pretty hard unpredictable snow which constantly changed from horrid wind crust to soft powder for about 400m. We popped over a shoulder and from then onwards the snow was soft, cold and beautiful in the shade. Once we got to where the sun had been warming the snow for an hour or so it just started to change into spring snow, 30 minutes later and the couloir might not have been the best place to be, timing is everything! Once we had negotiated a way through the glacier we dropped into the couloir and blasted down 40º of loveliness to the Argentiere Glacier and then home for beers and lunch in the sun!


A Funny Winter!

There has been a lot of negativity about the winter we are having in the Alps and I can kinda see why, Christmas and New Year were pretty disastrous with warm temperatures and brown ski pistes. The ski shops had their mountain bikes out for rent instead of skis; it was that bad! The odd snow day has come with strong winds and general blergh kinda weather. There has also been much rain! Now, however, I think that we have had one of the best snow years for skiing in the 7 years that I have been here. Perhaps I’ve been out less than previous years (its quite easy to role over and hide under the duvet when its blowing a hooooley outside) but each time we have been up it has been absolutely wonderful! Yes, you have to accept that you may have to ski in zero visibility but thats surely a good thing every now and then?! Its all good practice at the end of the day! This week especially has been a week of contrasts but there has been a common theme and that is beautiful snow!

At the start of the season Dan brought some massive skis from a ski sale and picked up some second hand bindings and had them mounted a few weeks ago. They sat inside looking out the window feeling sad and neglected waiting for the next storm to bring enough snow to warrant taking them up the hill.

The storm blew in!  Dan, Pete and Aine all grabbed their enormous skis and ran excitedly to Grands Montets in the worst visibility that Dan has skied in (he could only just see the end of his skis), the snow was cold and bottomless and his big skis were purring excitedly. The next day the sky cleared so the three plus Georgie and Olly decided a Vallee Blanche was in order, again with the big skis. It was fantastic, we were the first down our particular route so had to spend a while wading through deep deep powder on the flatter sections, teaming up with some Frenchies, working together to put in the track. As soon as the gradient got up we let rip!


Today Dan and Pete headed up to ski the north face of the Belvedere. They broke trail to the col so were the first to ski the steep north face the other side. Beautiful blue sky on the way up but some murky cloud on the way down made the face look very atmospheric and slightly terrifying. Dan chose to absail the steep 50º section at the top, Pete blasted the whole thing! Another awesome day out in absolutely perfect snow!

There was also the Col du Passon x 2, an afternoon in Le Tour, two stunning mornings in Flegere……..all in amazing snow!

Lets hope this continues for the remaining weeks to come!






Ups and Downs

Such a long time between posts and quite a lot has happened!

This summer has been full of ups and downs hence not so much writing. We have still been out doing what we do though! Georgie has had a great race season, firstly finishing in a superb position in the CCC which is in the Ultra Trail du Mont Blanc series and then taking on her first competitive half iron distance triathlon, again finishing really well.  In the CCC (Courmayeur (Italy), Champex (Suisse), Chamonix (France))  she finished 149th overall out of 1900 starters in a speedy time of 17 hours 35 minutes. She was 12th in her category and 14th female overall which was 2nd British female! Two weeks later she entered the inaugural Evergreen Triathlon. This was a brand new event organised by friends of ours and was super environmentally friendly. Georgie entered the half distance which still was 2km open swim, 95km bike ride and then a 21km run! she came 3rd female overall! Stunning! She was even taking it easy under Dan’s orders as she had over done it last year and made her self poorly so she perhaps could have come 1st! All in all a stunning racing summer! She has a new running blog –www.wheresgeorgie.wordpress.com which you should all follow and keep an eye on whats she has been up to!


Dan has spent a lot of time in the UK over the summer as his dad was very unwell and unfortunately died at the end of October. So a rather up and down year for him and everyone close. Dan did still manage to get some adventures in the mountains which kept him a bit more upbeat! The last of which saw Dan and Pete climb up the crevasses infested Glacier du Milieu route on the Aiguille du Argentiere which is a very pretty peak of 3901m. A long slog up hill of 1600m from the valley floor with heavy packs took them to the Argentiere refuge. After a brief night there they climbed a further 1200m crossing glaciers, dancing on snowballs and climbing steep snow slopes got them to the top. The hot summer has taken its toll on the mountains and some of the crevasses were enormous. There had been just enough snow the days before to cover the smaller crevasses. After crashing through some weak bridges and falling into some of the smaller ons, then being shut down by some massive holes they found them selfs at the top. We would like to point out that this is rare for Dan and Pete to actually get to the top of anything they climb together! After the top all that followed was the knee smashing 2700m descent down to the valley! What a long day out!

We have been back in Chamonix for a few weeks. We have brought new skis each, Georgie has some ridicules Dynafit PDG super light weight uphill race skis to allow her to train and maybe do a few Skimo races this winter. Dan has a pair of Black Crows to hopefully find some nice snow with! After a massive dump three weeks ago that got all our hopes up we have had a massive high pressure system sitting and not moving, all we need is for it to go and some snow to come! We are sure that good things come to those who wait!






Chamonix is BUSY! July and August are the busiest two months of the year with more people visiting than the whole of winter. The thing about winter is that they tend to be skiing and town is still relatively quiet, summer, however, is different, they are everywhere! In the hills. In the mountains. In the swimming pool. By the lake. But mostly in the super markets…all the time…..in the morning…..at lunch time….in the evening……ALL THE TIME!

As well as being busy with people it has been oppressively hot, in-fact its been a strange year with weather. A relatively warm winter, a very wet spring and now a scorching summer. All of these have meant for challenging conditions in the hills. The rain in spring caused flooding and substantial land slides. The heat we have had for the last month is making the mountains unstable and dangerous. Rock faces which normally hold snow over summer are bare and dry, the glaciers are melting faster than normal with big crevasses opening up and large rock falls from the mountains are common place at the moment. The famous Goutier route up Mont Blanc which is the normal route up has been ‘closed’ by the authorities and climbers urged not to attempt it. The Grand Couloir on the way up this route tends to throw rocks at people at the best of times but the heat has turned it into a contest shooting gallery of rocks….not a safe place to play at the moment!


The above image is the Argentiere basin with Aiguille du Chardonnet on the left, looking up the Argentiere Glacier to the right, everything is looking warm and dry.

The sensible climbers at the moment are heading to the places which are always snow and ice free in summer, big classic granite climbing is the way forward at the moment. A few friends headed to the Grand Capucin, a big, famous pinnacle of rock between Italy and France putting up some lovely photos on the internet to admire. We however are not that hardcore but nevertheless we have had a few good adventures recently.

At the beginning of the month Pete suggested the Voir Normal route on Aiguille du Moine. This is generally the descent route off the mountain but can be climbed also. We got lost on the face and ended up climbing things that were much harder than we set out to do. We didn’t get to the top. The walk in over two glaciers, climbing exposed ladders, a lovely bivi with a great view, freeze dried dinners and some comical belays and rappel points were enough to let us have a fun two days. That is of course the whole point of this being outside malarky so we were happy!

The lead climbing would cup started its tournament in Chamonix in July with some of the big names in the climbing world showing us their stuff on the 20 meter climbing wall that is constructed in the the Place du Mont Blanc every year. Very impressive stuff!


The crowd warming up!

We were also asked to be models for the fantastic mountain training facility in Scotland called Glenmore Lodge and also for the British Mountain Guides. We headed up to the Aiguille du Midi with our friends Andy Townsend a IFMGA mountain guide who works at Glenmore lodge and the British Mountain Guides along with another friend, Howard King, who was the amazing photographer. We spent two days up in the high mountains with a night in the Cosmiques Refuge at 3630m. Being high without much acclimatisation took its toll on all of us and was quite hard work. Georgie was the main model as she is much prettier (more marketable!) than Dan. Dan mostly kept Howard safe, stopping him falling in crevasses or off rocks while he was taking the photos. Obviously a more stupid model was needed to fall in a crevasse so Dan was up for that one! With a traverse of Point Lachenal (avoiding the big rockfall in the middle), glacial rope work skills and a few pitches of good rock climbing this was a great two days up high with great people.

Signal Forbes – A Night In The Mountains

There is a magical point in the Chamonix Valley called Signal Forbes, it sits above Montenvers and the Mer du Glace and has the most spectacular views of the Drus the Grands Jorasses and the Grands Charmoz. We have thought for a while it would be an ace place to go to and watch the light show that the sun produces on summer evenings.

At the moment we have our friends Pete, Sarah and their little boy Freddie over from the UK for a short stay . Pete and Sarah have been here a few times before and each time we have found an awesome spot to bivi in the hills, this was to be Fred’s first alpine bivi experience so the Signal Forbes seemed like an awesome place to go!

Armed with all the cameras – the digital SLR, GoPro and a shiny new iPhone 6 (these things take pretty good pictures) we all made our way up. Dan’s climbing partner Pete also tagged along for the adventure, he fancied a gentle evening out after having just completing the Chamonix 80KM race. He absolutely smashed it placing 110th overall out of 1000 starters, go Pete! Petes’ Blog tells a magnificent tale of suffering and hardship, click here for a read!

Dan, the Petes and Fred caught the train up to Montenvers and walked the 45 minutes up to Signal Forbes from there. Georgie and Sarah walked up from the valley. The boys were using good excuses for not joining the girls in walking all the way up; Pete’s legs were tired, Fred only has tiny legs as he is three etc etc…. We all rendezvoused at Signal Forbes, fired up the JetBoil up for dinner and sat in awe watching the sun go down. It cast amazing colours, shadows and shapes on the mountains as it disappears behind the Aiguille Rouges, it really is a magical sight.

Dan had hoped to get some good start trail shots over the mountains but the moon was out it all its glory which made star trails hard to shoot as it was very bright. Instead Dan and Pete played with long exposures with some fun results, the Drus and Jorasses truly are very photogenic giants in any sort of light!