Tuesday, 6 May 2008

Not quite the end of the season!


Finally winter 2008 really seems to be drawing to a close. Although there's still loads of snow up high, the valley really feels like summer time and Chamonix's suddenly ultra quiet. I love interseason! It has been the best winter I can remember in so long. Big thanks to all the people I've had the pleasure to ski with this year - it's been fab!

Recent ski highlights have included an awesome awesome powder day in Courmayeur with the hard core girlie group, including skiing the Passarella Couloir from the top of Helbronner with Susannah and Charlotte.

Guy and my little adventure to the Chevalier Couloir in Chamonix didn't quite work out as planned. We didn't actually make it into the couloir - thin blue ice, aluminium crampons, and suddenly the whole thing didn't look so inviting - so we skied back down the way we came.

I was only slightly concerned that my boyfriend was going to throw his ice axe off a cliff because it was so useless, but that drama over, the ski down was short, but very sweet! Pretty mad to be putting skis on while hanging off an ice screw though.

We've also been on a road trip to ski the Petit Face Nord of the Grande Casse (3800m) in the Vanoise National Park. Charlotte and Andy came with us, but opted for the classic Grand Couloir route instead. A long day, but an amazing face and great conditions. Bit of a shame I wasted the first few turns by having snow and ice balled up on the base of my skis (time for a wax!), but luckily managed not to bin it - and Guy made himself useful and cleaning them up for me. Thank you :o) ... All good after that!

The Grande Casse was swiftly followed by climbing and skiing from the top of Grand Paradiso in Italy (4060m) with Mark & Charlie, Chris and Siobhan ... The view from the summit is one of the best I've seen in the Alps - you can see everywhere! And was cool to look back across at the Petit Face Nord we'd skied just 2 days before. Feeling quite smug as it looks impressively big and steep from a distance.


4 big mountain days back to back left my legs pretty much in tatters so took a few days off to head back to London for a wedding. Susanna and Will's big day was a glitzy, glam black tie affair. Had to work my way through an entire bottle of fake tan just to even up the colour difference between my face and neck (I am still a girl!!), but it was worth it - even if I can't walk in heels. It was awesome to see them finally get married, after so many (on-off) years, and also catch up with a lot of old faces from uni.


I seem to have spent more nights in mountain huts in the last few weeks than in my own bed, so I'm now just chilling out at home, actually doing some work (skiing just seems to take up so much time), and getting ready for our adventure to Norway next week. Really looking forward to it - mainly just the novelty of being on holiday in a place where someone else looks after you, cooks and cleans, as well as the adventure of getting to where you're skiing by boat. Check out where we're going!


I heard recently that Emma and I have been shortlisted for the Sun's 'Britain's Most Inspiring Fundraiser' ... thanks so much to everyone who voted for us. We'll find out at the start of June. FINGERS CROSSED! Would be a totally awesome way to raise £20,000 for the Samaritans.

There's also a feature just about to come out in She Magazine's next issue about my experiences of Oggie's suicide. It's quite weird to read an article about yourself, and I expect Oggie would be mortified at the idea of being featured in a women's glossy mag ... but I think it's a really good piece.

And Powder Magazine have been in touch too about writing an article about our Cho Oyu adventure. Which I'm stoked about - Powder is the Ski Magazine bible. Plus it's so nice to be in email contact with other girls who love skiing.

I've been trying to keep as fit and healthy as I can, and went down to Annecy to run in the half marathon down there a couple of weeks ago. Was good to push myself a bit -really enjoyed it and was pleased with my time too - 1.41. Nice to know my fitness has improved and I should stay in shape for running the Chamonix half marathon and the Alpe d'Huez Triathlon in the summer. It's easier to give myself small goals to work towards rather than just trying to be strong for Cho Oyu - it's only 4 months now but it still feels a long way away!

Better get out and start running up some more hills.

Seeya, stephx

Monday, 7 April 2008

Happy Powder Days!

It's been one of the best spring ski seasons I can remember - the snow just never seems to stop coming. Yet another 20cm fell overnight last night, and it's still cold today. Crazy April weather, but really I should know by now - April's ALWAYS awesome. And to make it even better, the mountains are empty of tourists as the ski season's officially nearly over. But the touring's only just begun ...

Guy and I have just got back from the Haute Route (Chamonix to Zermatt on skis) with Mike, Kath and Susannah. Great company, good laughs, stunning views and 6 days skinning wasn't TOO much like hard work.Good training for Norway, and our fitness in general, and I was pleased to find it a lot easier than last year.

I love the whole huts adventure - it's just magic waking up in a mountain refuge in the middle of nowhere. You really feel like you've earned the 3 course meals they serve, and Swiss huts are so much better than the French ones.

Unfortunately we had to bail out of the penultimate day between the Dix and Vignette huts. It was -20, really windy, and with grim visibility - not the ideal place to be stuck on a glacier at 3800m. The forecast for the next day was looking crap too, so we opted to turn round and ski down to Arolla over the Pas de Chevre. Shame not to finish the journey, but we wouldn't have made it to Zermatt with the weather, and had a great powder day to make up for it.

We've also been skiing over in the 3 Valleys a couple of times, including nailing a lovely 400m couloir on the Aiguille du Fruit with Emma, more of the Toule Glacier steeps, as well as some mind blowing powder on the Aiguille de Midi (WOW!).

Our girlie day last week was fab ... headed back to the Rectaligne Couloir, which was in amazing conditiion. Perfect powder turns all the way down, as well as avoiding the biggest avalanche I've ever seen (skier's left of the Rectaligne). Fortunately by the time it happened, we were well away and watching the powder clouds from a distance. A pretty impressive spectacle and amazingly no one was caught. Makes you realise how small we are, though - especially watching one poor guy make a narrow escape being chased by the slide over the moraine. Luckily he made it up onto a ridge and out of harm's way just in time.

April looks set to be a great month with lots more touring on the cards. Guy and I are planning on heading to La Grave next week to check out the Southern Alps steeps. Plus there are lots of lines around Cham we've been vaguely eyeing up.

We went to check out a couple of couloirs near the Amethyste glacier yesterday - 2 hours skinning in baking sun and crusty snow, only to find that the routes we were originally thinking of had no absolutely snow in at all. Not what you need! But, not an entirely wasted effort as the classic Y couloir and another line on the Col de Passon both look in pretty good nick. Unfortunately we were too late in the day to give them a go (as well as just plain knackered from the Haute Route), but the ski down was actually great as the snow had softened up. Hopefully later in the week we'll be more psyched for it and get lucky again with the weather (as well as our arses in gear a bit earlier).

It looks like a gorgeous powder day today, but unfortuntately I'm sat inside nursing a sore knee - a silly twisty fall on the Haute Route followed by an over ambitious run yesterday means I'm hobbling around a bit. Clearly Chartreuse seemed a good option for curing my aches last night, so my head's not feeling too hot today either. But hopefully it will be all healed in time for next weekend's half marathon in Annecy!

Monday, 18 February 2008

Winter in Chamonix - Jan / Feb 2008

An Epic Start to the Winter

It was a magic start to the winter season, but I missed the beginning of it. Quite bizarre to be boiling hot in Thailand, getting loads of reports and photos of waist deep powder in Chamonix. I totally loved the massage course I was doing over there, but typical that the one season I'm not there at the beginning, is the one that's totally epic.

But I've more than made up for missing the first few weeks! I've been skiing and touring loads, and generally wondering how it's possible that, even though I'm not managing Planet Subzero any more, there still aren't enough hours in the day!

Skiing highlights so far include some properly deep deep champagne powder on the Glacier du Toule in Courmayeur, skiing the Rectiligne couloir from the top of Grands Montets, a lovely day-tour to the Floria couloir and Les Buets, and some awesome powder turns in St Anton. Plus my first big fall of the season - in front of clients, obviously - a proper rag doll, 10 cartwheel, yard sale, which was miraculously totally painless. Fingers crossed I've got that out of my system and won't be repeating it.

Other than skiing, I've been home for Christmas with Mum and Archie's family, which was lovely - massive turkey and trimmings dinner, and Archie's grandchildren to keep Santa alive and stop us dwelling on who was missing. I've been working part time on corporate events for Mountain Leap, so had a few days in Courchevel 1850 (breakfast with Gordon Ramsay no less), and 10 days schmoozing with airline execs in St Anton. Pretty hard work, but good fun, and got to see how the other half live. I really have to work out what I'm going to do with myself after Cho Oyu. It's all very well not really working ... and far too easy to fill my days ... but it doesn't exactly pay the mortgage.

Get Fit Mission:

In the mean time, I'm on a mission to get as fit as possible so I'm strong for Cho Oyu. It's already starting to get lighter in the day for longer, and sunnier in the valley, and even though it's still mid winter, time is flying, and Cho Oyu is getting scarily close.

I've somehow been persuaded to sign up for a triathlon in Alpe d'Huez in July, as well as the Mont Blanc half marathon in June. It's all Phil's fault. So I've been running lots as well as skiing, and have splashed out on some cross country ski kit. Guy nearly kills himself laughing every time I go 'skiing the fun' in lycra tights and silver spangly boots, but I figure if you're gonna do a ridiculous sport, may as well embrace it and look ridiculous too. I'm also starting to turn into a triathlon geek, working out training schedules and scouring the internet for tips. I don't even have a road bike yet, and I hate swimming in cold water, so I'm not quite sure why I thought this would be a good idea. Watch this space!

Plans and Adventures:

Soooo excited about going to Norway in May with Guy, Oli, Dom, Tom, Andy Egg and Rhi. Can't wait! We'll be staying in Lyngen Lodge, well into the Arctic circle, and ski touring from a boat every day. Will be pretty similar to Greenland last year, looking for interesting steep lines, maybe some first descents, BUT none of the roughing it in a tent at -30 degrees. This time we're going in style, and get a bed, hot water, and yummy food cooked for us in a lush luxury cabin. Bring it on!

Emma and I were also planning on going to ski tour Elbrus in Russia in May, but looking at dates and our work commitments, we don't think it's going to happen this year. So now thinking of joining her, Will, Roz & Tim and travelling to Iran to ski tour Damavand (5600m) in April. It's still up in the air, as we're waiting on visa info, but it sounds like an amazing trip, skiing in a largely unexplored area. Quite strange that we'll have to ski in veils though!

Cho Oyu Fundraising:

It's been a year since Oggie died. Amazing how fast it's gone, and still as hard to understand. Strange that 12 months ago I was running around Cambridge sorting out his funeral. It still doesn't feel very real. Although I am coming to terms with the fact that he's just not here any more. Very sad!

I recently read an article in The Times about depression in the workplace, which brought it home again how common mental illness and depression are. Apparently 1 in 3 people will suffer some form of mental illness in any one year. Yet no-one talks about it. Perhaps I'm being naive, as I'm very lucky that I've never suffered personally, but surely it's possible to help people more easily if the problem is recognised and treated earlier? Part of that is to increase awareness of the symptoms, and make depression a less shameful subject.

I really hope that our project to raise money and awareness for The Samaritans will help remove some of that taboo.

Our sponsorship mission is well underway and we've received great support from Salomon, Suunto, Dream Guides, Smartwool, Ski Club of Great Britain, SHE magazine, and Cooler magazine, who have just re-launched their website. We're hoping to secure an airline sponsor, which would be a total result, and are about to start the next phase of letters targeting anyone we can think of who may be able to help.

The support from friends and family has been amazing and the interest elsewhere has been brilliant!
Thank you :o)