Archive for the ‘Downhill Skiing’ Category

Almost a week’s skiing in the Alps   14 comments

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

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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

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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

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

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

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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

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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

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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

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

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Some wonderful cloud inversions in the Isere valley

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And over towards the Ecrins

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

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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

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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

 

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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!

January

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!)

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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

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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)

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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

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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

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February

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

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A short walk with TBF on Hatterall Hill

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March

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

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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

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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!

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

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April

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.

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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

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

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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

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May

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

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

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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

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June

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

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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

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July

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

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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)

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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.

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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

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August

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)

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A monster thunderstorm in Turin

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My favourite seafront walk in Venice

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The Colloseum in Rome – of course

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

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

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

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And the railway bridge over the Rhine in Cologne

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September

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!

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

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October

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

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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

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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

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November

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

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And one of my favourite walks in the Black Mountain

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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

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December

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

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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

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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

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

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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

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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

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

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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

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A nice sunrise before a cloudy day

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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……

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Fun in the Winter Sun   10 comments

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

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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.

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Obligatory selfie

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Ski bums

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Blue skies

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Cold beers

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And some skiing

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Snow-capped peaks as far as the eye can see

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A proper mans drink and a ladies tea cup

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Blazing sunshine

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The roof of Europe

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Yet more food

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And we even squeezed in a little more skiing

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Mountains galore

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

Boys (and Girls) Weekend – Downhill at Glencoe   4 comments

Late February/Early March brings with it our now traditional get together of a group of friends from the past 30 years. Before we all gather on the Friday night, me and a select group always head up a day early to make a day of things and providing there is some snow this normally involves a day’s skiing at Glencoe Ski “resort”

glencoe, southern highlands, glencoe ski resort, skiing, downhill skiing

glencoe, southern highlands, glencoe ski resort, skiing, downhill skiing

glencoe, southern highlands, glencoe ski resort, skiing, downhill skiing

The past few years haven’t been terribly successful. We’ve had not enough snow, too much snow, white-out conditions and broken lifts. This year however, all the lifts were running, the snow was good (you could actually ski all the way back to the car park, rare at Glencoe) and the weather whilst not exactly glorious was not too bad.

glencoe, southern highlands, glencoe ski resort, skiing, downhill skiing

glencoe, southern highlands, glencoe ski resort, skiing, downhill skiing

glencoe, southern highlands, glencoe ski resort, skiing, downhill skiing

Any day skiing in Scotland when you’re not in a white-out is considered a good day!

glencoe, southern highlands, glencoe ski resort, skiing, downhill skiing

glencoe, southern highlands, glencoe ski resort, skiing, downhill skiing

glencoe, southern highlands, glencoe ski resort, skiing, downhill skiing

We even had some fleeting glimpses of sunshine, although there were some pretty nasty squalls of snow to make us feel more at home

glencoe, southern highlands, glencoe ski resort, skiing, downhill skiing

glencoe, southern highlands, glencoe ski resort, skiing, downhill skiing

glencoe, southern highlands, glencoe ski resort, skiing, downhill skiing

So a few photos and video of a fun day out.

glencoe, southern highlands, glencoe ski resort, skiing, downhill skiing

glencoe, southern highlands, glencoe ski resort, skiing, downhill skiing

glencoe, southern highlands, glencoe ski resort, skiing, downhill skiing

I’ve managed, through the marvels of SD card readers and cloud storage been able to grab a few photos from GM from this day and others in the weekend so you get the unusual privilege of seeing me in the shots. I’m the short one in the green jacket if you’re interested 🙂

glencoe, southern highlands, glencoe ski resort, skiing, downhill skiing

glencoe, southern highlands, glencoe ski resort, skiing, downhill skiing

Back to our fine hosts at Suie Lodge (via a cheeky beer at the Bridge of Orchy Hotel) to meet the gang. The weekend was off to a grand start

On the Slopes in France   9 comments

My annual ski trip to France and back to the same place as last year in Mottaret. I think we’ve found our spiritual home for our ski trips.

courcheval, meribel, meribel mottaret, mottaret, Three Valleys, Val Thorens, skiing, off piste, downhill

courcheval, meribel, meribel mottaret, mottaret, Three Valleys, Val Thorens, skiing, off piste, downhill

courcheval, meribel, meribel mottaret, mottaret, Three Valleys, Val Thorens, skiing, off piste, downhill

Some new pals this year. TBF who started skiing before I did came along for the ride. Equal measure of enjoying some time away from the day-to-day grind of mum and housewife and a love of the mountains in winter. Like me she loves the cold clear air of the high alps and the felling of warmth from a mountainous blue skies. Not entirely sure that she completely shares my passion for unsafe velocities on snow but there is hope

courcheval, meribel, meribel mottaret, mottaret, Three Valleys, Val Thorens, skiing, off piste, downhill

courcheval, meribel, meribel mottaret, mottaret, Three Valleys, Val Thorens, skiing, off piste, downhill

Also joining us was The Yorkshire Gardener. Like TBF she started skiing many years ago after spending some time in Colorado. She hasn’t been for many years but seeing as, like me, she’s approaching the half century milestone, decided to treat herself. Spending a week cooped up with me and Uncle Fester is debatable as a treat but it takes all sorts

courcheval, meribel, meribel mottaret, mottaret, Three Valleys, Val Thorens, skiing, off piste, downhill

courcheval, meribel, meribel mottaret, mottaret, Three Valleys, Val Thorens, skiing, off piste, downhill

As always we had a fabulous time. We were a little worried a few weeks before the trip. The Alps up to then had one of the worst snow seasons on record with several resorts suffering badly from a lack of snow. Even in the week before we went the slopes looked bare and rocky. Before and while we there though the weather delivered what for a skier is a perfect mix of regular snowfall intermixed with blue sky. By then end of the week there was metres of the stuff. Luckily we’d seen it coming and moved the car underground. Would have taken us a couple of hours to dig it out had we left it outdoors.

courcheval, meribel, meribel mottaret, mottaret, Three Valleys, Val Thorens, skiing, off piste, downhill

courcheval, meribel, meribel mottaret, mottaret, Three Valleys, Val Thorens, skiing, off piste, downhill

courcheval, meribel, meribel mottaret, mottaret, Three Valleys, Val Thorens, skiing, off piste, downhill

courcheval, meribel, meribel mottaret, mottaret, Three Valleys, Val Thorens, skiing, off piste, downhill

Having some new members of trip was rather nice. It was especially nice seeing TYG enjoying her first skiing for 20 odd years, it really was a special treat for her, although I’m hopeful that she’ll be able to join us on a more regular basis – she gets the croissants in the morning for a start! 🙂

courcheval, meribel, meribel mottaret, mottaret, Three Valleys, Val Thorens, skiing, off piste, downhill

courcheval, meribel, meribel mottaret, mottaret, Three Valleys, Val Thorens, skiing, off piste, downhill

TBF was less enthusiastic as she needed some lessons.

courcheval, meribel, meribel mottaret, mottaret, Three Valleys, Val Thorens, skiing, off piste, downhill

We hired a guide/instructor for a couple of days, the skilled and friendly Rab Macnab.

courcheval, meribel, meribel mottaret, mottaret, Three Valleys, Val Thorens, skiing, off piste, downhill

We split each day into a half day for TBF to try to get her up to Intermediate level and a half a day for me and UF.  TBF found the learning a little frustrating but by the last day all the tips were starting to click and things were progressing nicely. Now that both our kids are older, again, I’m hoping she can join us on a more regular basis. Whilst she sometimes got a little down on herself, she improved markedly from the start of the week and I think she enjoyed the week – at least I hope she did

courcheval, meribel, meribel mottaret, mottaret, Three Valleys, Val Thorens, skiing, off piste, downhill

courcheval, meribel, meribel mottaret, mottaret, Three Valleys, Val Thorens, skiing, off piste, downhill

Me a UF had a day on-piste with Rab to help us improve our own technique. UF has had a few lessons over the years but I’ve had just one half day, having been pretty much self-taught. Rab was very generous in his praise after watching us ski but you could see the “but” coming in his assessment from a mile away. Let’s just say I still have a long way to go. Our second half day was off piste and Rab took us to some new little known corners and into one terrifyingly steep drop that we both bottled out of. It was a cracking afternoon though. Rab comes highly recommended and I think it’s a given that we’ll be seeking him out again next year

courcheval, meribel, meribel mottaret, mottaret, Three Valleys, Val Thorens, skiing, off piste, downhill

courcheval, meribel, meribel mottaret, mottaret, Three Valleys, Val Thorens, skiing, off piste, downhill

courcheval, meribel, meribel mottaret, mottaret, Three Valleys, Val Thorens, skiing, off piste, downhill

The rest of the week was a mix of blue sky and heavy snow but we got out every day for a full day which is the main thing.

courcheval, meribel, meribel mottaret, mottaret, Three Valleys, Val Thorens, skiing, off piste, downhill

 

courcheval, meribel, meribel mottaret, mottaret, Three Valleys, Val Thorens, skiing, off piste, downhill

courcheval, meribel, meribel mottaret, mottaret, Three Valleys, Val Thorens, skiing, off piste, downhill

courcheval, meribel, meribel mottaret, mottaret, Three Valleys, Val Thorens, skiing, off piste, downhill

courcheval, meribel, meribel mottaret, mottaret, Three Valleys, Val Thorens, skiing, off piste, downhill

 

courcheval, meribel, meribel mottaret, mottaret, Three Valleys, Val Thorens, skiing, off piste, downhill

A trip to remember for all the usual reasons but also this time for the different vibe we got from having some new people with us to share the fun. If only I go skiing every week 🙂

Annual March Gathering of the Clans   25 comments

It was that time of year for ageing ex-students from the 80’s to heed the call of the wild and head to the Southern Highlands. It’s been a tradition for nearly 10 years to get together in early March and the weekend seems to go from strength to strength.

 

This year TBF joined the gang and the both of us collected GM to head up on the Thursday to make a longer weekend of it. Our home of the past few years, The Suie Lodge Hotel, welcomed us late and looked after us with their usual relaxed hospitality.

Like the previous couple of years we went skiing for a day at Glencoe Ski Area. Last couple of years there has barely been enough snow. This year there was loads of snow, tonnes of the stuff, meters deep. In fact too much. The tops lifts weren’t running as they were completely buried.

Glencoe, Glencoe skiing

Still, the skiing was ok and we had some glimpses of blue sky but all in all it was pretty wild, windy and cold and by 3pm we’d had enough for one day. TBH said she “quite” enjoyed it. Scottish skiing is something of an acquired taste 🙂

Glencoe, Glencoe skiing

Me a GM did a little impromptu off piste touring to bag a small bump near the piste and escape the crowds.

Glencoe, Glencoe skiing

The runs were not open all the way down to the bottom but they were the best of the day. While everyone else downloaded on the chairlift. We had an empty run with some nice views as we emerged from the cloud. A 10 minute walk through the bog at the bottom was a price worth paying

Glencoe, Glencoe skiing

We headed back (via a beer at the Bridge of Orchy Hotel to celebrate) to meet with everyone else for beers, food stories and catching up

The following day (according to MWIS anyway) promised to be a cracker. I have never seen a mountain forecast in Scotland with the phrase “severe risk of sunburn”. I think you can guess the punchline……

Tarmachans, Beinn Ghlas, Ben Lawers, Coire Odhar

Despite the promise of some blue sky as we left the car for a ski-touring day, it rarely appeared again

Tarmachans, Beinn Ghlas, Ben Lawers, Coire Odhar

We were hoping for a grand tour across the Ben Lawers range and had left a car at the far end. Once out of the nature reserve and onto the snow the conditions were great and we made swift progress up to Beinn Ghlas.

Tarmachans, Beinn Ghlas, Ben Lawers, Coire Odhar

Tarmachans, Beinn Ghlas, Ben Lawers, Coire Odhar

By the time we reached the summit the only severe risk was frostbite. Complete whiteout, high winds and spindrift. The ridge looked nasty and corniced. Spotting a cornice at walking pace is hard enough, spotting one at skiing pace was deemed far too risky so we cut our losses and went for a descent down Core Odhar. It proved to be a fine and long descent, my only regret not being close enough to GM to see him hit a wall of snow at full pace. Some people have no sense of theatre. We toyed with the idea of another ascent but the weather was pretty miserable so we headed back to the hotel. We ventured out for a stroll along the disused railway lines behind the hotel at the end of the day. GM recovered his sense of theatre by grabbing an electric fence and getting a nasty shock, much to my amusement (that’s what friends are for I believe)

Another evening swapping jokes and stories and catching up with old friends some of whom I only see on this weekend

Tarmachans, Beinn Ghlas, Ben Lawers, Coire Odhar

For our final day we headed south to tackle Ben Venue. I’d never walked much in the Trossachs and I was looking forward to the walk as Ben Venue has often caught my eye.

Ben Venue

7.6 Miles

The weather forecast wasn’t great but the sun was out when we parked up and the views along Loch Achray were grand.

The Trossachs, Achray Water, Gleann Riabhach, Ben Venue

The Trossachs, Achray Water, Gleann Riabhach, Ben Venue

It’s quite a long walk winding along by the Achray Water and through the desolate forest – desolate now its being cleared

The Trossachs, Achray Water, Gleann Riabhach, Ben Venue

The Trossachs, Achray Water, Gleann Riabhach, Ben Venue

At least you get to see the views now

The Trossachs, Achray Water, Gleann Riabhach, Ben Venue

These two remaining bare trunks caught my eye – looked like the place had been hit by a nuclear blast. Lets hope it recovers its former glory in years to come

The Trossachs, Achray Water, Gleann Riabhach, Ben Venue

Where the made path ran out and turned into the usual sloppy mess that passes for a path in the Southern Highlands we decided to head straight for the summit. As we climbed the snow both on the ground and in the air grew thicker and we were in full blizzard on the summit

The Trossachs, Achray Water, Gleann Riabhach, Ben Venue

Time for  brief summit photo and then off back down. The walk along the rocky ridge was interesting and I’m sure its a fine high level traverse in clear conditions but it was pretty grim this day.

The Trossachs, Achray Water, Gleann Riabhach, Ben Venue

The bad weather promised had really set in. As we descended, the snow in the air turned to heavy rain and the snow on the ground turned to wet slush and then sloppy bog. It turned into a bit of route march back down the way we’d come up and it was absolutely tipping it down by the time we reached the cars. Goodbyes were brief in the rain, everyone wet and tired and ready to start the long drive home. Another weekend over, another one to confine to the memory banks, another one to remind you do it all again next year

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