Archive for the ‘Skiing’ Category

Skiing in a Winter Wonderland   18 comments


Just in case any of you are pining for a taste of winter, deep snow and blue skies let me fix that for you. A few photos and tales my my ski trip to the French Alps a few weeks back with some gratuitous food and beer pictures thrown in.

This was the view from the balcony on our second full morning.


Took a while to reach this point after some travel hassle. We do this same trip every year and its normally gone without a hitch. This year we all faced delays and cancellations and losses. Me and THO had our outbound flight cancelled (ironically due to snow in the UK) and had to fly out the next day from a different airport (that flight itself was over an hour late). MM had his flight from Copenhagen cancelled and UF only just made it. Instead of all arriving in Geneva at the same time on Friday we arrived in 3 stages across 24 hours adding to the grief with transfers and car hire. And as final gesture EasyJet and its partners lost UFs bags for a few days!


Despite all this we only lost one rather foggy day of skiing and the rest of the week was a cracker. Fresh, deep snow and abundant blue skies, cold enough to keep the snow light and fluffy, not so cold as to be unpleasant.


Magnificent conditions and views.


And the company of like minded souls (although this is MM and he’s a bit mad!)


Probably the best day over in the quiet far reaches of Courcheval 1650.


Fabulous weather and some awesome untracked powder runs.


Skiing is energetic and much intake of food is required.


Haven’t really got the hang of selfies and the ability to smile at the camera – I was happy, honest.


Beer is not essential but it would be rude not to.


After lunch we took on the off piste route down into the Vallee D’Arval. Its down the valley to the snow covered lake in the photo below.


Amazing route away from the lifts and more deep untracked powder to play in.


Looking back at our own tracks


THO had done this before and was a little disingenuous is stating there was a “bit of flat stuff to exit the valley”. For that read a couple of miles of skating and walking in the sunshine. It was well worth it though!


An evening shot while on our way to do the shopping.


Shopping is a tedious activity at the best of times. We’ve discovered the best way to dull the pain is with a beer in a very friendly and convivial bar around the corner from the supermarket. We went shopping quite often.


Look closely at the photos below and you can see the zip wire cables that cross well over 1,000 feet above the valley.


Its been here a few years but this is the first time I’ve seen it in use. Here’s someone giving it a go, not sure I’d want to!


We’ve had a few leans snow years but this year was superb. Its rare to see the area looking this white.


Evening shot of the Aiguille de Fruit from the balcony.


Not every day was blue sky.


More off-piste fun off the back of Mont Vallon. Utterly horrid at the top, superb at the bottom.


Off-piste skiing is hard work, more food was required. My second favourite eating place this one at Cafe del Mott (don’t remember the name of the best one but it was good)


Our last night saw a superb show of pink Alpenglow from the balcony.


And one final day of skiing through to the last lift before a rather more trouble free journey home.


Superb trip with great mates. Hope I’ve not been too smug. I hear winter may be returning to the UK soon 🙂


Almost a week’s skiing in the Alps   14 comments


January brings my little treat of a week-long trip to the Alps for some skiing.


After a couple of years of less than perfect snow conditions this year was set to be a good one. Tonnes of snow right down to the lowest levels, cold sunny days with a top up of snow forecast for midweek. What could be better


Not having the flu for the entire time I was out there would have been better. Instead of being out every day I had to try to catch a few hours when I felt well enough to crawl out of bed. For the first few days this was pretty much all the skiing I saw – the view from the apartment balcony


It probably wasn’t the best idea to head out into -19C cold dry air with flu but I had to try


I managed a few half days in the first half of the week.


My friends were the best, they never complained about sharing a flat with a seriously sad and ill-looking mate and were saintly in the way they encouraged me to head out, kept my spirits up and did all the shopping and cooking


There are worse places to be ill I suppose and many, many people worse off than me so I put a brave face on things, savoured the great skiing that I did manage and accepted the long lay ups in bed to recover. Good company and many laughs still made it a great week



On the last two days I managed to summon enough energy to ski all day. I paid for it in the evenings but the conditions were superb and as you can see the views magnificent




The classic view of Mont Blanc to the north, showing just how much bigger than the rest of the Alps it is


Some wonderful cloud inversions in the Isere valley


And over towards the Ecrins




I normally take videos but this year it was as much as I could manage just to get out.


As I was trying to keep my exertion to a minimum I was skiing much more in control and strangely felt I was skiing better than I ever have done



It would be easy to look back and be frustrated at how things turned out. seeing the photos now, makes me think of all the good days and half days I enjoyed rather than any regret for the days I missed.

I think I paid a hefty price with my health though. One week after coming back and I’m still not fully recovered although I’m hoping I’ve now seen the back of it. Today has been my first day without painkillers, headaches and a hacking cough. Time to plan some summer holidays in the sun


A Review of 2017   18 comments

I’ve read quite a few blog post in the past few days reviewing other peoples 2017 exploits. I enjoyed them so much I thought I’d do the same. Good excuse to look back through my photos and remember what we got up to. At my age I need help remembering stuff!.

Acutely conscious of the modern trend for these awful “round robin” letters you get at Xmas (we get one of these smugograms every year) I tried to select photos that bring back a particular memory for me so its more a personal, family introspection on outdoorsy stuff, than a blow by blow account of the year. As its based on my photo collection if I didn’t photograph it, it ain’t here!


We started the year off in Tenerife and New Years Day was spent on this rather splendid beach (the earlier part of the day was in the mountains but I cocked up the photos from that part of the day!)


Returning to the British winter, a walk along the Cats Back in the Black Mountains with TBF, memorable for a cloud inversion after a very wet morning. A reminder that despite our travels we are lucky to have some stunning scenery on our doorstep


A solo day out in the Brecon Beacons, the first snowy walk near to home and pretty much the only one with significant snow during the early part of the year (made up for it at the end)


A glorious day out in the Black Mountains with TJS and a cooked breakfast on a cold Table Mountain. I like this photo though as it has Mynydd Troed in centre shot, my very first mountain climbed when I was about 10


And my usual skiing trip (only a weekend this year) to finish off the month. Snow was a bit rubbish but we had a laugh nonetheless



Another solo day on Fan Fawr in the Brecon Beacons. I remember this day for a very mild Friday afternoon (16C) and snow in the mountains 18 hours later


A short walk with TBF on Hatterall Hill



The first weekend of the month is always spent in Scotland with friends of long standing. A new location at Bridge of Orchy and a two out of three days were magnificent winter days. The walk along this ridge high above Rannoch Moor on the first day was superb


Me and TJS also managed a cheeky backpack into the Black Mountains. Straight from work on the Friday for a one nighter in my new tent. Need to do more of these this year


2017 is the year I rediscovered cycling – mainly to help my knee and also to be less of a lazy layabout during the week. The Hardman – a VERY keen and VERY fit cyclist caught wind and insisted we meet up in the Peak for a trip along a couple of the old railway trails. A cracking sunny day and I survived cycling with the Hardman!


And we finally managed a meet up in the Berwyns with Uncle Fester after a few aborted attempts



More cycling and solo trip through the Brecon Beacons on the “Gap” route. Cycling to over 600m was a first for me and I started to feel that I almost, might, actually enjoy cycling.


Easter and a major backpacking trip with TJS to the Cairngorms. The weather was wild and windy but we had a couple of superb wild camps and TJS bagged his first Scottish 4000 footer


I even coaxed TJF out for a bike ride along the Brecon and Usk canal


May Day weekend was mostly in April. Mixed weather but we had a fine gaggle of friends on a hike around Greendale, taking in Buckbarrow and Seatallan



No finer way to celebrate a birthday than a lunchtime hike. This one was on one of my local hills, Bryn Arw with TBF


Followed by a weekend away in Cornwall. It almost felt tropical on the white sands just north of Padstow on one of our walks


Whitsun weekend was spent with our good friends in Silverdale. The Sunday was a real winner with a long but easy stroll and a fantastic pub lunch. Weather was mixed the rest of the time but great company, many laughs and a chance to relax



A different walk from the usual mountains. One of the small hills that overlook Gloucester and across to the Cotswolds. Not something I’d do every day but a nice change


One of the highlights of the year was the long-planned backpacking trip with the kids into the Howgills. Despite poor weather we gave it a go and it was a huge success. The kids really enjoyed the adventure and I’m hoping they have caught the wild camping bug



After the backpack trip I was out of action for a few weeks recuperating and resting after a minor knee op. Didn’t affect my water based fun though, a nice albeit far too long trip down the river Wye


By the end of July I was back in the hills again (the knee op has been a great success I’m pleased to say). A fine evening stroll with TBF and TJS on Ysgyryd Fawr (we even took a cheeky cold beer to drink on the top)


Another “local walk for local people” – this time Garway Hill where we reached the top, saw this nasty storm approaching and raced it back to the car. We won.


Late July brings the annual camping trip to Towyn Farm on the Llyn Peninsula. We packed in lots of walks and beach fun in a very mixed few days of weather. My abiding memory though was this game of Kubb which was huge fun with both adults and kids alike taking it far too seriously and larking about in equal measure. A happy afternoon



The big family trip of the year, a rail trip around some of Europe’s finest cities. An real change from our usual outdoor camping trips and it was real success. We all took took to the city life rather well you might say. One of my best ever holidays. A few photos that made me smile

One of the many fountains in Paris (we called this one the fountain of throttled fish)


A monster thunderstorm in Turin


My favourite seafront walk in Venice


The Colloseum in Rome – of course


Schloss Belvedere in Vienna (courtesy of an unplanned extra couple of hours from a very late train)


The thermal baths in Budapest – “like taking a bath in a wedding cake”


A stroll along the Spree river in Berlin on a sunny Sunday afternoon


And the railway bridge over the Rhine in Cologne



Back to earth with a bump. A few days after the heat and sun of Europe we were walking in the Black Mountains in driving rain and cold winds!


But there was still enough warm weather left for a round of the hills near the Talybont Reservoir in the Brecon Beacons



A walk with friends in the Roaches on the dreariest day of the year (when everywhere else was sunny – I’m not bitter)


More evidence of my new found cycling passion (probably too strong a word). A ride around the tracks of the New Forest while TJS took a look around Southampton University


And why settle for one trip to see major cities when you can do it twice. As a special treat for TJS 18th Birthday we spent a week in Barcelona. Probably my favourite city but despite all its famous sights, this little known hill and its view overlooking the city was my favourite spot



After sunshine comes the reality of winter. A couple of cold but beautiful days. One in the Black Mountains on the Sugar Loaf and Crug Mawr


And one of my favourite walks in the Black Mountain


A delayed birthday treat weekend for TBF saw us in Padstow for a couple of nice meals and walks along the Cornish coast and Dartmoor



And last into the proper depths of winter. The first snows saw me and TJS head into the highest peaks of the Black Mountains


The day after saw the biggest dump of snow I’ve seen in my own backyard for many a year. Walks around my village in deep snow under crisp blue skies were wonderful


The start of the Xmas holidays is marked with an annual get together of my University friends and their families. Always great fun but this year we could climb the hills in snow (rather than wet rain) and play at snowballs


Finally coming full circle with a return to the Canary Islands to spend Xmas in Lanzarote and Xmas Day sunning ourselves on the beach


Well I enjoyed looking through my photos, choosing a few and reliving a great year. Hope you enjoyed it too. All the best for 2018 🙂

Annual Trip to See the Snow?   6 comments

End of January means my annual ski trip treat. Just a long weekend this year as TJS wanted to try it but can’t take a week out of college so I thought it a bit harsh to go for the full week while he stayed home.

In truth not best skiing trip I’ve ever had. The runes were bad after a journey to the airport involving a puncture, a closure of the M1, getting the flight time wrong in my head and me making my flight with only 10 mins to spare (exaggerated a little for effect – the flight was 30 mins late so that bought me some time) There has only been two major falls of snow in the Alps this winter and slopes were amazingly bare and thin. Looks like there is plenty of snow from the photos but trust me this is bare by Alpine standards. It surprised me greatly to see such a change in the usual conditions. Perhaps global warming is to blame but my Uncle Donald in America told me that’s just a hoax perpetrated by the Chinese so it can’t be that


We did have some nice sunny days though and even if the skiing wasn’t as good as it could be it was still great fun. Clear skies and winter air is always a treat and any day spent away from work is a good one







This does of course leave more time for convivial eating and lunchtime drinking in the sun



My camera had another fit and went into strange mode for the next few pictures. Not exactly representative of the views at the time but an interesting effect






A nice sunrise before a cloudy day


It even rained on my last day – skiing in the rain is even more miserable than walking in it. I’ll leave you with my abiding memory from the trip. The Le Red Wine bar which is now my spiritual home. Gave us a decent excuse to go shopping as its next door to the supermarket. If Carlsberg (or Grimbergen in this case) did supermarkets……



Winter Wonderland – Six Go Mad on Ben More   2 comments

Another day and another superb clear blue sky morning. Hopes were high that the sun would stay with us all day and deliver a classic. More Ski Mountaineering was on the cards so we ramped things up a notch and decided to tackle Ben More, the highest of the Southern Highlands at over 3,800 feet and a “serious” ski route according the guidebook.

Downside was a low start that involved a long trudge up the forestry tracks to reach the snow in Coire Chaorach. The heavy packs (carrying skis) and heavy ski boots on the feet makes for hard work but the views and awesome weather kept us going




When we finally reached the open corrie and the snow we were indeed walking – or rather – skiing in a winter wonderland. Ben More beside us and Stob Binnein ahead


Skis on and it was a sheer delight to slide effortlessly – well not effortlessly but you get the idea – over the perfect snow under a deep blue sky in blazing sunshine



The perfect winter day with many stops to take in the views across the Southern Highlands, Lochaber and the Cairngorms glinting in the distance




We reached the ridge and the views were just immense. Distant mountains and the light making waves on the sculpted frozen snow.



It was full winter conditions, hard packed frozen snow dominating. The NE ridge of Ben More has a couple of steep rocky steps, far too steep for skis so we switched to crampons. You can see one of the steps in the photo below


I found this especially tough. Steep snow in very heavy boots with an awkward and heavy sack and I was left way behind. As I trudged, wearily up the easier slopes you can imagine my “disappointment” as most of the group started off again just as I reached them rather than let me catch my breath. I was bloody furious. Luckily MM, who is a very kindly soul, waited for me to recover (and have a serious rant) and then walked with me to the point where we could put skis back on and I’d calmed down a bit. Once back on skis I realised pretty quickly that it wasn’t a day for temper tantrums and I was soon back in the groove and “at one” with the mountains again


The views were still sensational and the final slopes to this high summit were a delight




As we celebrated the summit with some of our other friends who attained the summit the old fashioned way on foot, it looked like the weather might be selling us down the river again. Clouds gathered and for a while we had some rather moody views



It was short lived though and almost as soon as the cloud appeared it seemed to vanish, We left the summit to a group camping there for the night (must have been a chilly night!) and started our ski route down


It was tricky descent, steep, with a serious drop off to the left and mix of ice and rocky slopes. A couple of the group tried to head straight down and ended up having to remove skis and climb down. Me and JC headed right and found a decent route down (scarring my skis on the bare rocks) and down to the col.


The plan had been to go over Stob Binnein as well but I announced that my climbing for the day was done and I intended to chill in the warm sunny col and top up my tan before what looked like a magnificent cruise down Coire Chaorach. Reports from other walkers seemed to indicate the slope to the summit was hard and icy making a ski ascent very difficult. GM decided to join me a more leisurely way down. In fact the others only managed to ski up a few meters before the rock hard icy slopes forced them to revert to boots and crampons and climb to the top on foot


As an aside, I’ve always referred to GM as, well, GM (Geordie Munro). ED has pointed out that he is neither a Geordie or Scottish and as this is self appointed moniker we felt he needs a new one. ED provided several suggestions but seeing as GM is now growing an appallingly daft looking beard and has a appetite for plain boring oat based biscuits then The Hairy Oatcake seems more appropriate and will remain his identity on the blog until I come up with something funnier or more annoying, or hopefully both


So, after an extended scoff of goodies me and THO headed down. The corrie wasn’t steep but it was completely plastered in snow and was a truly magnificent easy cruise down on perfect untouched snow. The earlier descent almost meant we were in the sun the whole way down.

I reset the exposure on my camera to a more average setting, hence the much brighter shots from hereon. I think I prefer the lower exposure ones from the first part of the day

You even get the added delight of some photos of yours truly looking like the hard mountain enthusiast he is




The skiing brought many shouts of delight as we cruised down without a care. One of the finest hours I’ve ever had in the Scottish mountains. Wonderful skiing, blue skies and bright sunshine



I like this photo for the rather bizarre fork-like shadow that THO seems to have created


One of the fun parts of Ski Mountaineering is picking a route as the snow starts to thin out. We had a great time weaving in and out of snow filled peat hags on ever patchier snow, desperately trying to find the last possible spot to take off the skis. Eventually you end up on slopes more grass than snow with patches only a foot or so wide in places.


All the while the views and the situation were unrivalled in recent memory


When at last we decided skiing on boggy grass would be rather foolish we reluctantly took off the skis, fixed them to the pack and set off for the long trudge back to the car. Despite the weight and the distance to go we were all beaming smiles and feeling pretty damn good. Could we finish the day off to make it even more perfect? Hell yes:

  1. We managed to hitch a lift all the way down the forestry track with one of the guys working on the Hydro Scheme in the valley.
  2. We were back early, decided on a cheeky beer before we went back to the room to change and ended up staying a couple of hours (and several beers later) chatting with a group of very friendly locals in the bar
  3. When everyone else was back we enjoyed a fine evening of great food, more beers and  tales old and new with friends and friendships going back 30 years

That was a great day!

Winter Wonderland – Ski Touring in the Tarmachans   4 comments

Our winter trip to the Southern Highlands has been a fixture now for 10 years. In that time we’ve had a few days of sunshine and a couple of days of proper winter conditions. We’ve never had both together and the weather has always been mixed although the weather has never been a complete washout.

This year, our 11th, the forecast looked promising with high pressure and cold weather following a snowy spell giving much hope for a great conditions. Drawing back the curtains on the Friday morning gave substance to that hope.


Lots of deep fresh snow equals a chance for some ski touring. I abandoned TBF to the tender mercies of the Sheffield Boys while we headed to Lochan na Larige for a high start. We had park below the reservoir as the road was blocked by snow and ice.



Spoilt for choice with the mountains plastered in snow above 500m, and after much debate we settled on Meall Nan Tarmachan.



The weather and views were just breathtaking. How often is it you’re glad you remembered sunglasses on a day out in Scotland. We ploughed our trail up towards the ridge that carries the baggers path to the summit




Alas the Scottish weather nipped at our heels as a bank of grey cloud drifted in and started to cloak the higher summits. We were even treated to the almost unheard of sight of MM struggling with tiredness (he had just flown back from a business trip to Brazil!)




By the time we reached the summit it had reached us as well so it was the briefest of stops, tinged with a little disappointment that the fine start to the day had petered out.


Luckily skiing downhill is great fun even in the cloud. This descent enlivened by my attempt to ski an extremely steep gully badly broken by deep footprints and with boots not adjusted properly. Ratio between ski and fall about 20:80! 🙂

We skied down to the track and then back up to the ridge for another descent back to the car. The fickle Scottish weather turned again and the sun came out


Not sure what I did with the camera settings but they came out rather dark and broody looking but still capture the essence of what was a cracking ski descent



The snow was a little heavy but fluffy enough for some wonderful easy turns as we picked a superb route through the crags and gullies


I seem to have lost the ability to keep a camera aligned to the horizon as I’ve got older. However this particular shot seems to be best yet. Pretty sure Loch Tay would empty rather quickly at that sort of angle. 🙂


The patches of blue and the sunlight on the mountains, backed by dark clouds was just magnificent



This shot of GM in action is my favourite from the day


The descent went on all the way down to the dam and the massive water pipe that pops out from the base



For most of us climbing under the pipe was the only time we took skis off all day. MM made a very brave effort at trying to limbo underneath without taking them off. A then made it look easy!


Blue skies, a ski munro, two cracking descents, and ski to/from the car on excellent snow with great company. Does a day get better than this? Watch this blog to find out.

Fun in the Winter Sun   10 comments

Back to late January for some rather nice photos of mountains, snow, selfies and over-indulgence



For the first time I went for a whole week’s skiing when fresh snow never fell. Not great for off piste powder skiing but rather good for cruising in the sunshine and topping up the tan.



Obligatory selfie



Ski bums




Blue skies


Cold beers



And some skiing


Snow-capped peaks as far as the eye can see


A proper mans drink and a ladies tea cup


Blazing sunshine



The roof of Europe



Yet more food


And we even squeezed in a little more skiing





Mountains galore



And a slideshow with video footage thrown in for free…..

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