Wow, the season is flying by!
It’s been a while since I sat in the office and had the time to think about writing a blog post, (as is evident by my lack of posts I guess).
Once the season starts things get pretty full on here in the McNab house and most of my spare time is spent prepping splitboards, repairing Splitboards or repairing myself and keeping my body running with a little weight training here and there but mostly Yoga and stretching.
As I get older looking after my body has become a major priority and something that requires daily work. I now spend a full hour every morning from 6 until 7 working on Yoga and stretching just to prep myself for the day ahead. I have a good routine now, one that frees up my spine, hips and legs nicely and after creaking and groaning my way stiffly down the stairs at 6 I can usually bound energetically back up them at 7 (my energetic bounding is of course relative to age and lowered expectations).
As well as riding everyday, twice a week I train Hapkido. This seems to be harder on my body than anything else that I do and I’m still waiting for my body to adapt to the twice weekly poundings and work outs that I’m forcing upon it. The previous nights run through the full 74 different combination kicks that are required for the 1st dan Blackbelt (whilst I’m only a Hapkido novice) were definitely felt the following morning and during my days Splitting up high off the Helbronner, but I’m also pleased to note, that as I approach the big 50 (I’m 49 this year!) I’m still able to perform, recover and do all the things that I need and want to do and this gives me confidence that it’s still never to late to start something new and to keep enjoying doing all the things that I love.
So back to the season!
It’s been a strange one for sure.
January was cold, sunny and dry! Fortunately, because it was so cold, the snow we had stayed around and made for some great riding as long as you were up for the search and the hike. Italy, as always these days in the early season, got the better snowfall and I quickly burned my way through two season tunnel passes (20 passages on each) greatly benefitted from the conditions over there throughout January.
As I progressed from my Slackcountry courses into my BC season the snow came and I had an amazing couple of weeks with my BC Intro and my BC Freeride exploring some lines that I’d not ridden for years, notably the big day hiking and riding Glacier Mort from the Pointe Alphonse Favre, which had not yet been ridden this season.
February arrived and just before the start of my Steeps course it snowed again!
Chamonix is world famous for its steep terrain, but riding the steeps is a fickle business and things need to be ‘in condition’, probably more so now than in previous years as lines that used to be snow and ice year round are now melting out in the summer and taking longer to fill in and stabilise.
During the run up to my Steeps course I always keep a close eye on what is coming in and what is looking good. Things change day by day these days though and so what was good yesterday or today might be completely out of the question tomorrow. Riding in Steep terrain on good snow is amazing, riding on steep terrain on firm or icy snow is a completely different story. Whilst my Steeps course is obviously all about getting out an riding steep descents, if they’re not in condition, I’m not the one that is going to push it hard to get on them. Fortunately, this year, things seemed to be come into condition right on time and I had an amazing week of ticking off some of the ‘Chamonix greats’ in ‘perfect’ condition with my regular stompers Richie P and Salvatore.
Things stayed in great condition for my Advanced BC course and then a few days following this I headed off with Ruth and the girls for my annual winter Surf trip to Feurteventura.
FV marks, for me, the halfway point of the winter. By mid Feb I’ve already done 9 pretty solid weeks of Freeriding and BC Splitting and my body is in need of a well earned change of scene (I’d say rest, but my manic Surf addiction and low standard of efficiency in the water makes my 2 week Surf experience anything but a rest). It’s nice to completely switch off from the mountains every now and then, hang out in shorts and tee shirts, get your feet out of tight Snowboard boots and get pummelled by waves for a while whilst using completely different muscle groups, but who ever said a change is as good as a rest wasn’t completely on point in my book. After a first week of trying to get my arms working again and find my feet during one of the biggest swells of the winter, I finally felt some progress in my ability during week 2 and as usual felt things clicking back into place just as it came time to return to the mountains.
Into March and from 20 degrees C back to negative degrees C in a 4 hour flight!
We returned to a heavy winter swell in Chamonix and went straight back to digging the van out the following morning.
The snow continued to fall and conditions became quickly epic. This is it, the storm we had all been waiting for and as the snow depth crept up and the avalanche risk sky rocketed the frenzy began. The news became full of avalanche activity as 1 meter of snow fell with strong wind onto of a shallow crystallised snowpack of little stability. With a few days off before my Slackcountry course I waited and watched, snatching some runs on the Pow surf up behind the house as I assessed the conditions.
My Slackcountry course started with a storm day running a couple of laps off the top of the GM, something I absolutely love as the storm and Bad Vis keeps the crowds away. It continued to snow most of the day and into the night but by morning the temps had shot up and rain was hitting well above 2000m. Heading high again to get to the good snow we hit the GM again, staying safe above the saturation point as the lower level snowpack went ballistic and whole mountain sides slid in giant slabs into the valleys below.
After the craze of the mid winter snowfall that lasted at most 1 week, 2 days later it was over and spring was back in business. I finished off my slackcountry course (after the first 2 days of Pow riding) with a beautiful sunny Splitboard tour up high off the Helbronner riding Glacier Vierge in cold winter snow before hiking back up for a warm spring descent of Glacier Toule in the early afternoon… A full spectrum of the winter in a 4 day course!
It looks like we’ll have some great spring conditions coming in over the next week or so and things up high are super well filled in. We now need some clear nights to freeze the lower snowpack deep for stability and then the warm temps of the day can soften it from the top down bringing us some of that great spring corn riding that we all love. If things stabilise quickly then my High Mountain skills and Advanced BC courses should be great fun and I’m looking forward to getting out Splitting to some of my fav spots with cold snow up high and spring corn below…
Things change day by day these days though and so its a case of planning and re planning day by day and hour by hour!
Coming up in April I have my BC Voyager trips, Lofoten/Norway, Ryksgransen/Sweden and finally Iceland in May.
My winter season is far from over and the best is still to come!
Hope the winter is treating you all well… Until next time, ‘be safe and have fun’.