Thursday, 30 September 2010

Where have all the role models gone?

But then, if you want cycling to be a show, if you want to watch men perform the impossible on crucifying cols surely you can't expect them not to?
Besides they're all on it right?
But newsflash: IT'S CHEATING. I'm all in favour of making roadies more rock 'n roll (props to Mr Schleck for his drunk and disorderly) but come on chaps. Incidentally how many female pros get suspended for doping? Must look into this.
Man. Can't help but feel disappointed as another great crashes.

Wednesday, 29 September 2010

One for the road

I was in Chamonix back in March, faceplanting my way down the Valley Blanche (well hell folks! You try and do it on park skis ... ) and after one large plunder down a slope the Ski Club rep Ken who had joined our group, nonchalantly sat me down in the middle of a serac field and handed over a hot Thermos filled with ginger and honey tea. Ye gods that perked me up. Since then I've been a Thermos fan, now proudly owning two - one for my own backpack and a larger one for picnics with friends. Natch. Yesterday, overcome with the pressure of work I decided to fill the little Thermos (hey, I'm new in town and it's cold. No picnics just yet) and go for a hike up to Le Lac Blanc. I'm pretty new to epic hiking and I'm still at the stage where I get it all wrong. Lovely windproof jacket? Check. Wearing it? nope. Etc etc etc. Furthermore I don't own any suitable trousers despite my mum kindly proferring her beige Craghoppers. These will not do. I'm a firm believer in combining fashion with practicality. So I always end up hiking in my Carhartt jeans - good for the first hour, not so effective thereafter.
Starting from just below the Col de Montets it was a four hour round trip which started by turning you away from the valley and had you heading towards Switzerland but then which spun you back round by virtue of a path that began to resemble a tight corkscrew drilling its way into the sky. It skirted below the Aigulles Rouges and from then on the views were amazing. Lavancher bowl, Mer de Glace, Glacier d'Argentier - the whole valley and its legends on display. The path turned to ice on the patches where the sun was blocked and my boots sunk into the first snow of winter:

On arrival at the lake after a series of ladders and wooden steps I cracked open the Thermos, unwrapped a Bounty (yes I'm old school) and got stuck in. In August people had been swimming there but despite the dominance of the surroundings it was not the time to hang around. There was a bite in the air. Not a big slap around the face cold, more like a gentle poke, winter flexing its muscles. It's that temperature that makes autumn so exciting and expectant.
I'm off to buy some trousers.

Tuesday, 28 September 2010

Teton Ice park getting ready for another season

If you're finding yourself Stateside this winter - or indeed if you're already Stateside (damn you)- then you may  want to consider a detour through Teton National Park which sits proudly in the top lefthand corner or Wyoming. The scenery in the park is absolutely awesome and worth a trip anyway (can we recommend coming in over Togwotee Pass please?)

But since last year the park has also played host to the Aerial Boundaries ice wall which is getting ready to open for 2010/2011. Last season it was dogged with insurance controversy over who could and who couldn't use it but it seems like this has been cleared up a tad. You can see a gallery of images of the wall here to get you in the mood. Essentially it's 40ft manmade wall of ice - perfect for learning and practising on, and the backdrop is pretty special too. And when you're done there, hop over for a little ski at Jackson Hole. Your options from the UK are to fly straight to JH via Dallas with American Airlines or head to Denver on BA (do you dare?) hit up Breckenridge and drive on from there.

Monday, 27 September 2010

Where have all the people gone?

It's inter-season in Chamonix. This is the period of the year when the sun has gone but the snow has yet to arrive. Everyone who lives in the valley disappears on holiday, or off to their mates' weddings and the pavements are given over to toads and slugs. Ever trodden on a toad when running in the dark? Locals who stay love it because the colours are amazing apparently although a permanent shroud has covered the peaks for the last three days, rendering colour something for the imagination rather than the eyes.
The last time I was in Chamonix for more than a week I had a friend, Sara, who I think about quite a lot still despite a decade passing since we last spoke. Mainly because I can't remember why we lost touch and also because she said that she loved the Alps because they made popping out for a stamp an epic experience. Last night I went to post a letter and the cloud cleared for a second long enough to see the Drus briefly. It was a good day after all.
But a period of 'hunkering down' is upon me I feel. Bikes to ride, trails to run, pilates to go to. I've found Alpine Yoga run by the super enthusiastic Kelly Aikins (the bendiest woman in the world?) which means I can get practice in before the planned yoga and cycling course we're doing with Sweaty Betty Soho. I have also managed to secure a free kettle and toaster from the friendly valley folk meaning my new favourite pre-ride breakfast of Nutella on toast can carry on unhindered by oven grills which burn stuff. A lot.
Worth a mention too is Le Delice in Les Houches (not to be confused with a gentleman's - ha - club somewhere else in France) run by the very lovely Kate. Only she has now shut for a month. Last night I was greeted with a sign on the door that said: 'Shut. Ha ha ha.' I totally respect that girl's style.
It was necessary last night however, to watch Seasons in order to get psyched on MTBing again. And also because Sara at Flow is enjoying her 'inter-season' by riding in Whistler and I'm not ashamed to admit I envy her to a level I didn't think possible. I cannot wait until downhilling in Europe is as big as Canada and Morzine has no choice but to keep its lifts open through September. The Bellevue Bike Park here in Chamonix has improved from two years ago but its closing weekend was a washout. But the Shandro section as always got me in the mood for riding in the wet. Without him I would be a complete fairweather MTBer - clean mud off my bike for an hour? No. I don't think so. Damnit.

Friday, 24 September 2010


While I am sat in a rain sodden Chamonix there are a few thoughts that have been keeping my spirits high.
1) Saving up for summer in Whistler next year
2) New ski pants
3) Fixing the axle on my Norco
But none of them, nay none, can compare with the lovely thought of Interbike in Vegas next year. Bikes, gambling, sequins.
Except someone deemed it acceptable to move Interbike to Anaheim in 2011 instead. Anaheim. Near Los Angeles but a seven hour drive from Vegas. Ye Gods! Every day the bike industry kills me just a little bit more.