Monday, 31 December 2012

White Christmas

Leaving the top telesiege to the Puy St Vincent ski resort we slide to the top of a black ski run called Carmen. But this is not our destination. We kick off the skis and strap them to our rucsacs - our adventure is off the back of the resort......

Mark leads the way, after all this is his backyard (and what a backyard....). We stomp up for a few hundred metres gaining the proper summit of La Pendine.

Late afternoon on Boxing day 2012 - Mark approaching top of La Pendine

Fellow skiers approaching the summit of La Pendine (taken two days later to the above)
The day is sunny and clear with glorious views of the mountains all around. We stop to admire before clipping back into the skis. Mark had already been this way today and knew conditions were good. Just as well as the Col we needed to gain was still over half a km along the ridge either side of which are cliffs and rock bands. Not somewhere to get your ski turns wrong.

Skis on we follow the side of the ridge following the tracks made by Mark and a few others earlier in the day. A few easy turns are needed but they feel alot harder knowing that error is to be avoided! We slither between a few rocks and a bit of side stepping up is needed before the final section to the Col du Bal is reached.

Mark on the ridge line looking to the end of the Narreyroux Valley
At the col I look down. The initial snow head-wall looks pretty steep! Fortunately its only the first move that's the hardest. As we ready for our descent we are joined by two fellow Brits, both of whom are friends of Mark.

Looking back along the ridge form the Col
I leave the Col following Mark, sliding to the right and avoiding the rocks. The first turn is made on an easing of the slope and its off! The snow is superb and a few good warm up turns are made, before stopping to take in the atmosphere and the terrain we're in.

Leaving the Col

Enjoying great snow!

The descent into the Narreyroux valley continues with whoops of joy as the four of us making fresh tracks all the way. Powder turns are made all the way into the valley floor, and its only when we reach the bottom track do the snow conditions deteriorate.

Mark on the descent (taken two days later after some more fresh snow)

Making tracks in the powder...... we start to approach the tree line.
All that remained now was to skitter back to the cars and a celebratory beer for a fine trip! This proved entertaining in its own right. The valley track was frozen solid and uneven - a right old knee bashing on the skis.

Descending back to the ski station in the last light of the day.
Two days later we both went for it again. Some fresh snow and the snow pack looking stable then it had to be done again! Conditions had changed on the ridgeline and we left the ridge before reaching the actual col. The descent was again superb and fortunately the bottom ski out was much nicer with the fresh snow. A real treat to have such good back country conditions over the christmas period.

Leaving the ridge on the second run two days later. A few more skiers around this time!

The route in blue.

Sunday, 16 December 2012

Riding the Bore (at least trying to.....)

A 0430 start to meet Taran, Jay and Kate at Newnham for 0630. The reason - to have a bash at riding the famous tidal wave - the Severn Bore.

Saturday saw a predicted 3 star wave hitting Hewnham at around 0800, but many factors affect the wave such as weather, wind direction and water levels in the river. Thus height and time predictions are merely a guide - mother nature may well have other ideas....

Arriving at Newnham for close to 0630 I was surprised to find we were the only people there. However by the time the wave was due the place was buzzing with sightseers, kayakers and surfers!

This was he first time both seeing and riding the famous Severn Bore wave, and I have to admit to starting to get apprehensive about the idea. Was I going to simply get mashed up?

We got ready, sorted the shuttle, and got onto the river. Some experienced kayakers were on hand and I quietly quizzed them for advice!
Contemplating my fate..... Picture by Taran
The river levels were high and the current strong. Sand banks that were normally exposed were covered. Taran was in his sea boat and we joked about the expected bongo slid clearing a path on the wave!

You hear the wave before you see it - a distant rumble becomes apparent and then you see this river wide ridge of whitewater approaching. Ahead and amongst it a throng of surfers and kayakers.

Nerves clear as you get entranced by this amazing natural wonder thats sweeping towards you. No option now but to have a go.......

Taran of our group is first to greet the wave and is immediately swept into a bongo slide, all captured on his Go Pro. Enjoy the video!

Taking my cue from the other guys I start my paddle and the wave sweeps into me. An initial bit of bongoing and then I turn onto the top of the wave and hey I'm surfing... A bit of playing and I'm back on the wavefront and again sideways so get back onto the top of the wave. However I let myself drop a little too far back and can't regain the wavefront... My ride is over.

I regroup with Taran an we discuss options. Briefly we see if we can get back to Newnham on the current edges, but no chance against the tide. We notice Jay and Kate further upstream on the river edge and join them, and soon a group of us are whizzing along the tidal current to the get-out at the Severn Bore Pub.
Enjoying the 10 mile paddle to the get-out point. Picture by Taran

The paddle to the Pub proves an enjoyable trip, ripping along the tidal current and enjoying the scenery, company and varying weather. Both me and Taran finished with silly grins on our faces!
Journeys end. Picture by Taran

So whilst I was only on the wave for a few hundred metres it was a great experience and one I will try again. Well worth the 'stupid o clock' start!