As the year draws to a close I can’t help but reflect on what a vintage year it has been –  if I was lucky enough to be your guide then thank you for making it utterly brilliant for me – check out the photos below and revive some of those incredible memories. With the shortening of the days I’m sure you feel the craving to get out in the mountains just like me. It’s time to start dreaming and planning your next adventure whether it’s some specific life goal or simply getting a boost catching some winter sun in the Alps. For winter 19/20 I  will be guiding out of Chamonix from November to May and I still have  some gaps in my calendar so if you having been dreaming of that place where the magic happens then don’t delay, get in touch before its too late. It will be a pleasure to spend time in the mountains with you again or get to know you if its your first time.

December 1st winter kicks off on skiing the Toula Glacier with the opening of Skyway (Helbronner) on the Italian side of Mont Blanc. The Aosta valley has ALOT of snow right now with its huge option of early season touring and sidecountry. Mid-December I’m holding a 3 day avalanche awareness course for the new employees at Bluebird Cafe and Solocal who are Chamonix newbees. Aiguille du Midi opens on December 13th and Grand Montets is already open at the weekends.

January and February will be deep endless powder days based in Chamonix and Skyway including some Valley Blanche action. I am also guiding in the secret stash spot of Sainte-Foy for the second year running and can’t wait to get back for its legendary trees and easy access backcountry.

March and April I already have 2 steep camps with clients who are looking to access the steep and deep in the big mountains. Snow cover will be at its best and the longer days open up the classic ski touring possibilities. The mind boggles at the endless possibilities.

May sees the return of 2 clients hunting specific big lines in Chamonix which is always a great time of year for the high mountain.

Opening the Entreves Spur, Skyway, Chamonix

Early December days at Skyway are some of my favourite

Avalanche course crew on Brevent

Avalanche awareness and terrain management course on Brevent

Ross Hewitt enjoying deep january powder days

Deep endless powder days, Plan de l’Aiguille

Ice climbing in Chamonix

Ice climbing in December and January

Snow anchors and crevasse rescue

Teaching snow anchors & fundamental skills for crevasse rescue

building and equalising anchors

Teaching how to build an ice screw anchor and equalise it

La Sentinelle ski meet Chamonix

La Sentinelle ski touring meet was in Chamonix this year and Monte Viso in 2020

La Snetinelle with Bruno Compagnet

Good cop, bad cop at La Sentinelle

traditional dining, La Sentinelle ski meet Chamonix

Traditional mountain food at La Sentinelle

Snow Sport of Great Britain ski test at Pila Italy

Snow Sports of Great Britain ski test at Pila, Italy

safety and skier for a British independent fictional film

Thats a 70k camera! Working as a guide and stunt skier for a UK film

touring in the Vanoise

Ski touring in the Vanoise national park

bespoke ski guiding for an Australian based client

Bespoke ski guiding for Andrew

backcountry picnics in Sainte Foy

No rush for the powder in the Tarentaise, enjoying a backcountry picnic

steep camp for 2 British clients looking for the magic

Steep camp heading to ski Aiguille du Plan South Face

touring under the Giant Argentiere basin north wall

Returning for Aiguille d’Argentiere

snowboarding Mont Blanc

Deep day on Mont Blanc early May

col des cristaux, the classic big steep line in the Argentiere basin

Riding giants, those dream lines forming the North Wall of the Argentiere  glacier

Midi Plan traverse, classic alpinism

Classic alpinism on the Midi Plan traverse

Passing the Vallot shelter en route to Mont Blanc

Dawn at the Vallot shelter on the way to Mont Blanc

glorious sunrise near summit of Mont Blanc

Sunrise on Mont Blanc as we summit

classic Swiss ridge scrambles

Scrambling with stunning views

Jegigrat Traverse

Classic Swiss ridges, this one done in a day hit from Chamonix

Sunset on the Matterhorn

summit of the Matterhorn under 4 hours, winner!

Summiting the Matterhorn under 4 hours

sunset over the Matterhorn

The Matterhorn at sunset

Classic Italian ridges in a day hit from Chamonix

Classic Italian Ridges easily accessible from Chamonix

Christmas at Skyway

Christmas as Skyway

First Turns of the Ski Season

The Indian summer in the Alps came to an abrupt end overnight with the arrival of a monumental storm of the Med that battered the Ligurian coast, washed out roads, left many stranded without vehicles and sadly killed 10 or so people. I was away visiting my sister in Basel but was keeping a close eye on how much snow it would bring to the Alps south of the divide with Wepowder forecasting over 2 m. My friend Chipie who came on my last Baffin expedition was in Tignes and he keeping tabs on the snowfall as the storm progressed. Late Thursday night he sent me a note in the form of a photo of himself shredding powder – it took me about 3 seconds to text him back that I would be there in the morning. I spent the rest of the night feverishly searching for all my ski kit and packing the car, went to bed as excited as a kid the night before Christmas, got a few hours sleep and hit the road at 6am to make the 3 hour drive.

Arriving in Tignes there was certainly a couple of feet roadside but the visibility was poor and we spent the morning doing a very humid skin about 400 m vertical out of town. Once back in Tignes there was signs of the sun coming out and we decided to be positive about it and go up the Grands Motte. The clouds parted, the sun came out and so it began, with a little taste of the magic, hooning down the glacier whooping with delight, blowing up cold smoke behind us.

We were back the next day for more and found some good turns but strong wind was starting to do its dirty work on the powder and strip the glacier back to bare ice. The pistes up there have great corduroy and were perfect for carving turns, race training and getting the glutes back in shape. Hopefully this week will see more snow arrive from the south and build on whats there.

It’s great to get some preseason skiing in to see where the body is at and have a chance to work on the ski fitness before the season proper begins. It also reminds me what kit works and what I need going forward. This year I am  proud to have the additional sponsorship from the specialist online ski and snowboard shop who will plug my gear gaps and the Sapaudia Brewing Company for rehydration matters!