As I sit on a lift going back up for another ski run, tie onto the rope for another lap, or catch my breath before running up another hill I can’t help feeling like I’m cheating, that I’ve given myself an advantage over myself in previous years. Strength has given me a capacity to do just one more route, one more lap, and these extra efforts are what are allowing me to improve. Step by step. Is it cheating?
“I can’t work out if this was a good idea or a bad one..” said Matt. Tomorrow the Cabane des Dix, high in the mountains above Arolla would have a full staff, prepared food, and be a hive of activity as a key stop on the Haute Route, a classic alpine ski tour. Tonight, however, we were tucked away in the winter room, burning wood to stay warm, heating boil in the bag meals, and we are completely alone.
What are you training for right now? What is on your wish list that, maybe, you’ve not started training for yet? I’ve been ticking along recently, which has been a much needed gear to be running in but I’ve recently been feeling the need for something more. For picking an objective and committing to the work that will be required to get from where I am now, to where I need to be then.
I have dreams to climb big mountains, via big routes, over big days in the hill, and that means I need to get in shape.
I’m grinning ear to ear and I can hear Steve laughing out loud ahead of me. We’re skiing the Vallee Blanche, it’s my first time, and I’m loving it. The winter is just getting better and better with everything building up to this moment where I am making fresh tracks in knee deep powder, weaving between bottomless crevasses, and not another soul in sight.
The mind is a muscle and, if you don’t use it, it atrophies.
I have taken the foot off the gas a little recently in all aspects of my life. I’ve needed to regroup and also just take it easy for a while. I’ve been focussing on fun things like skiing, moderate climbing, and just having fun. The New Year, as with everyone though, was a kick up the butt to get back onto things and start making progress on long-held goals.
But I keep failing, falling off the wagon, and getting angry that I’m not committing to things in ways I have before.
Out of my depth? Me? Again? Never.. well, of course I was. Sitting in a room with 40 highly experienced personal trainers and coaches, all silently absorbing every word Dan John, this animated and open American, was saying and I was quietly wondering how I had ended up here.
Amazon, Apple, and Google are just a few of the many great businesses that started in garages. Now we can add to that illustrious list: The.. um.. Mountain Foundry. Joking aside, this feels like very big moment for me. From the moment I started training people, the idea of having a space with my own equipment and vibe was constantly been at the back of my mind, now it is a reality.
Ski touring in Chamonix is mandatory and not having a touring set up limits not just where you can go but who wants to ski with you. It might sound strange but I now fully appreciate where this comes from. The phrase ski touring was completely unknown to me just a few years ago. I remember watching from ski lifts, people slogging their way up mountains, completely unable to grasp why they wouldn’t just get on the lift and save themselves some trouble. Now, however, I am a total convert, with my eyes opened to not just the health benefits but the scope that getting yourself up a mountain provides.
‘Tis the season, on social media, for celebrating the year gone by and making grand declarations for the year to come. Posts sharing users’ most popular photos, highest viewing blog articles, or just favourite moments are everywhere and it is wonderful to see. Promises of new regimes, hopes and dreams are flooding my feeds and everyone of them is an inspiration. I’m afraid this post, however, is a little different.
Fear. The persistent feeling that I’ve not been able to shake for the last week but we’re here now and there is no way out. It’s the night before we set off to climb the Comici on Cima Grande, one of the classic Great North Face routes but it isn’t the route I’m scared of, it’s letting my partner down.
In June 2015 I officially launched The Mountain Foundry, my new business that is working with everyday athletes to elites by training them in strength and conditioning for the mountains. Training both face-to-face in Chamonix and remotely via the magic of the internet, my goal is to make people stronger, more confident, and safer in the mountains by providing their bodies with a suit of armour.
Climbing the Frendo Spur is high up on many alpinists dreams when they arrive in Chamonix. A striking line that towers over town, rising right underneath the Aiguille du Midi telepherique in full view of all the camera happy tourists. Described as a mid-grade classic, I’ve had my eye on this route for several years and finally had my chance.
The weather in Chamonix is typical early summer weather – amazing sunny mornings then, between 1pm and 2pm, the clouds come in and shortly after a storm kicks off. It is pretty much like clockwork. Jesse and I set off on a rock climb up high that would easily get us back to safety in time. Until it didn’t.
People travel from all over the world to come and climb in what is now my back yard, Chamonix – it is truly exceptional with so much variety; from sport climbing to ice, to alpine mountaineering to alpine rock climbing. It truly is a climbing Mecca.
One thing I’ve missed, however, is single pitch rock climbing in the Peak District – the sort of climbing where you can go and experience so much variety, really challenging yourself both physically and mentally. Nowhere – well, at least according to most Brits – is that more true than in the heart of England on grit.
I have been so excited about coming back to London to study and hopefully qualify as a personal trainer – it is the culmination of several years hard work, life changing decisions, and listening to that little voice deep inside me. As exciting as that is, I knew I was going to be missing Chamonix, the mountains, and the training that being based there enables. Not one to be dissuaded, I have managed to keep on top of my training with the awesome help of some people.