My life in the outdoors has been pretty short, only four and half years ago did Sophie and I sign up to climb Mont Blanc and it was a little over 2 years ago that I came to the Alps for a winter trip to try out waterfall ice climbing. In that first trip, I fell in love with ice climbing and especially mixed climbing as we had one of the best days of my mountain life on a route called the Lillaz Gully. I would never have guessed that just over two years later, I would be back and climbing it, sharing the leads, with a friend.
Last winter, while still in London, my training consisted of strength and conditioning, and road running. The running didn’t provide the most inspiring of environments but it served a purpose. At the same time, I saw friends out in Chamonix waking up and setting off to go ski tour up a mountain, enjoy the alpine dawn, and ski down in time for work.
One of the biggest items on my Alps tick list has been to do just that, it was the last straw that made me want to through it all in and move to Chamonix. Finally, after a choppy start to the winter, Sophie and I set off on our first ski tour. I’m hooked!
“You know, I’ve not brought a beginner class over here before”. Mike, our instructor, smiles, shrugs his shoulders, and is suddenly off down a red run. 3 days into me learning to ski in Chamonix and things have suddenly got a little steeper.
I love being in the mountains. That combination of the physical, mental, and emotional pressures make me feel truly alive. To make the most of it, and to stay safe there, I want to be a mountain athlete. The buzz, strength, and determination I have developed in the mountains has turned into a true asset in the rest of my life both professionally and personally and, with this foundation, I believe I will be better prepared for life as a whole.
Sophie and I give each other a knowing look after dinner, saying ‘do we have any chocolate?’. I get up and find some stashed away for emergencies and we both smile guiltily. It’s well into 2015 and we are both trying to undo the inevitable Christmas indulgences but it is so easy to break when you’ve got a partner in crime.
I’m standing at a belay looking up at the clear blue skies as Pat and Graeme sort out the gear for the next section of the climb we are on. 7 months ago I didn’t know either of these guys but I’ve been working hard at making friends and, already, we have confidence in each other, a relaxed atmosphere, and enjoyable banter – key ingredients for an amazing day out.
Where to begin. Do I start with a summary of what an incredible year 2014 has been? The ideas and plans for 2015, Sophie and I have been hatching? Or the feeling that, even after so many experiences, I still feel like a complete beginner.
The arrival of winter is being very stubborn, with no significant snowfall and relatively warm temperatures, it was going to be a challenge for Matthias Scherer, Tanja Schmitt and Heike Schmitt with the Cogne Ice Opening Festival.
Winter has still not quite arrived in Chamonix but it is most definitely on its way. It has got me thinking about what I’m most looking forward to this winter and I just can’t wait for my first winter season in the Alps. Summer is wonderful here but there are some really unique and incredible things to do but winter is going to be a whole new ball game. Bring it on!
(Edit: Added a seventh, Something that helps others)
Christmas is fast approaching and the panic of getting the right present of Sophie is creeping in. Every Christmas, birthday, and anniversary is the same; she not-so-casually drops hints and I do my best to remember them. I do, however, like to get her something that she might not have thought of, something that I see as really her. This brings an element of risk into the gift giving scenario and honestly gives me sleepless nights.
As I have been thinking of what I can get her this Christmas, I’ve been remembering all the wonderful gifts we have given each other over the years. They have fallen into 6 sections and I wanted to share them with you here, to hopefully give you a little inspiration too.
Please do send any suggestions you might have as time is running out..!
Winter has well and truly arrived and, with a brief break in the snow, I decided I needed to check out this Microadventure game that so many people have been enjoying (Sophie’s night out and Anna McNuff’s many microadventures). With so much going through my mind recently, I knew some quality own-time would be greatly appreciated. It seemed an easy choice to make. It turns out the harder choice was staying.
It’s November, six months after I started my alpine apprenticeship, and we’re all still rock climbing in shorts and tshirts and, after an unseasonal summer, the Autumn has shown Chamonix’s true colours. It is beautiful here right now and, though the days are getting shorter and the mornings are certainly crisper, now seems as good a time as any to take stock of the summer.
After writing about my recent epiphany, the journey to finding meaning in what I’m doing, and decision to focus on a single mission over the next year, a good friend emailed me an article called Taming the Swarm by Oliver Emberton. Wow, this article really nails it!
This is a rather expansive question but one I have been wrestling with since moving to Chamonix. What is my purpose? What am I actually doing right now? And, am I happy with that direction?
Every great change is preceded by chaos – Deepak Chopra
When I’m about to make a big decision, I often take the time to ask myself, What is the worst that can happen? I don’t mean this in a throw caution to the wind sort of way. I mean this as; based on my judgement, experience, and intuition, what are the consequences of my actions and am I willing to suffer the worst case scenario. I’m not always right but I trust myself to make the best decision I can at a given moment.
When Sophie and I moved to Chamonix we exposed ourselves to a number of risks: our security, our careers, even our reputations. Likewise, when I set off on an alpine climb in the high mountains I am exposing myself to risk, this time: injury, or worse.
With so much on the line for either of these paths, why would anyone voluntarily put themselves into these positions?