Monday, 23 August 2010

Zermatt - 21st & 22 August 2010

8.07am. On the lift to Trockner Step. Not a cloud in the sky, hopefully not to busy up top.

Looking down at Schwarzsee

Now it's 10.10am and I'm at Plataeu Rosa having a coffee and desperately trying to work out the physics of snowboarding. Combining ultra stiff boots, an extra 8cm of board length plus rocker camber in one change was possibly not the easiest of things to get to grips with. The rocker is just odd if you are used traditional camber, the board floats around all over the place. Add that to extra length on the back and front of the board you really have to throw the board into the turn. Once on the edge it holds magnificently until the transition when you really have to concentrate as the front of the board realeases, if you don't fully control the rear then you are
> off. There is no lazy leaning to snake down the ice at high speed, if you are not actively riding her then your fate is in her hands. That being said, i bet powder is fun. Even on ice it feels like you have a hovercraft strapped to your feet.

View from Plateau Rosa

Okay, 1.30pm and done for the day. Bugger the physics of it, trial and error is more to my taste. She is great, still a bit frightened of her but she behaves a little better when I get my weight forward. Actually the set up is a huge amount of fun, and it's nice to have to learn again.

Down at Furri for a late lunch and a beer, it's mid afternoon and the sun is shining, actually it's bloody hot!! I'm glad I dressed light today. Base layer, TNF soft shell Alpine pants, long sleeved T and a thin TNF zip up hoodie. The pants I am most impressed with. However they don't afford much in the way of protection when you go for a slide arsewise down the glacier (which I managed twice).

A colourful picture and a large late lunch

All in all a good morning, got chatting to a German girl on the T-Bar as we travelled up who was complaining she was a little rusty and her carving was not quite right. I'd hate to see how fast she travelled when it was!! A quick Ciao, and she was gone. Frightening speed.

So back to the hotel, 40 winks and a shower before a wee walk round town. Having a swim, sauna and jaccuzi before heading out to find food.

I need to get some fitness back, could feel the extra pounds I have mysteriously accummulated since May. Also I felt the altitude today, especially above 3600m when working hard. I seem to recall the same last October, doesn't take long to get used to it.

Oh, and I got sunburned.

So early Sunday morning and back on the lifts. Got a late checkout, so can ride till the drags stop get a shower and go take a look at my new hone at 4pm. The sun is already blazing but I am plastered in SPF 20 and dressed lightly.

Last night was interesting. Got chatting and had a couple of beers with a Scottish climber hoping to do the Matterhorn in the next week or so. Quite a bit of snow on it right now. Funnily enough he turned out to have the same proffession as my better half.

Taking in the view

This is bloody difficult. You can't relax for a second on this thing, aside from the big changes I mentioned the 88deg edge with 1deg bevel is unforgiving if you do.

This is the second Prior MFR I bought, the other shorter with traditional camber. This one is for a more advanced rider, as it keeps pointing out rather rudely. Fabulous day up here and quieter than yesterday.

So, I got what I assume is mild snowblindness today. Interesting how that happened considering I was wearing sunglasses all day!! Can only guess that they were not full enough and I was getting glare from below. Started with an irritation in my right eye, then my left. Them I couldn't stop blinking and they were watery. This came close to packing in time so I headed back to the Kleine Matterhorn to begin the long drag back to town. Intermittent pain then a strange sensation of being able to focus immediately after blinking then losing focus. All a bit strange, still have the pain now.

However back for a bath, pack and change before going to view the appartment one last time before moving. Getting very excited now.

View from my soon to be terrace doors

8.20pm. Zermatt was heaving this weekend, as are the mainline trains I am on now. Stayed at the Hotel Sonne which is very nice indeed with great personal service (picked me up at the station at midnight on Friday), a wonderful pool area and lovely rooms with great little touches. A definate recommendation.

View from the Kleine Matterhorn

Not a lot else to say really. Have not decided a name for the board yet, maybe a beer on the Basel-Karlsruhe train will help.

Saturday, 31 July 2010

End of Season Wrap Up

Well, along came the New Year and since then I have had snowboarding trips to Zermatt, Grindelwald, Wengen (for the Lauberhorn GS), Mayrhofen, Feldberg and Engelberg. All of which memorable for many reasons, which I will put a few highlights of in this post. In amongst that I was in Poland for work, Helsinki three or four times to see my fiance as well as a long break in Madrid for Easter and two weeks in Costa Rica in June (this will get its own post). With all that travel I neglected to update the blog as much as I should.

So I only managed 42 days of snowboarding which was 18 days short of my ambitious 60. However I was a great season with some true highlights.

1. Missing most of the Lauberhorn GS due to the fact I was stuck in a ravine, armpit deep in snow.

2. A massive powder weekend in Engelberg with the most extreme off piste I have done so far.

3. A warm and hedonistic 5 days in Mayrhofen for Snowbombing. Collecting both the XXL Runde and the 13,000m certificates and falling down the Harakiri

4. Last weekend of the season in Zermatt, mountains to myself and a badly damaged board as a consequence.

So where to start then? Wegnen seems as good a place as any...

Off-Piste, enetering the ravine....

The snow was fantastic and the off-piste a little too inviting, I tried to take a direct line to the lift at the bottom and ended up in a ravine with 20ft high sides and soft snow to my waist in general, but up to my armpits on occasion. After 2 attempts to climb up and out, I realised I was committed and I for the sake of safety I had to hike down the path of the ravine until it flattened out next to the botom of the piste. 1 hour 25 in total, heart racing and soaked in sweat I collapsed at my mates feet.

Trying to hike out of the ravine....

So back up on the lift to discover there were only 2 skiers left to run the course! I had missed almost the entire race. What else to do apart from ride down to Wengen and savour some of the atmosphere. Herds of cows in the streets complete with bells, a marching band dressed in kilts, thousands of skiers/snowboarders/spectators and locals all drinking and having fun. Couple of beers and a sandwich later we boarded the train back up to Kleine Scheidegg to do a twylight desent to Grindelwald.

Top of the course in Wengen...

A fantastic evening for snowboarding...

So onto Engelberg, and unfortunately I have no photo's available from this trip as I broke my camera in Wengen. The first time I had taken a backpack up the slopes, usually ahering to the philosiphy that if it don't go in your pockets you don't need it. Anyway, backpack packed with spare layer, bottle of water, hipflask of rum and my camera and I'm off boarding. First fall on my back breaks the camera, typical as all those years in my pocket it never suffered. So I am gonna shamelessly steal from the web and post a piste map for reference.

Engelberg Piste Map

Engelberg is an off-piste heaven. Actually, the resorts tagline is "it's heaven", and it's not wrong. Saturday morning, first on the lifts and there is just miles of untracked off-piste powder. With about 50cm of snow overnight this was gonna be a hell of a day.

So for those of you familiar with the resort, or who are inclined to look at the map, I can tell you that the Black 12 on the Graustock is simply amazing with half a metre of powder on it. Not that is was open with half a metre of powder on it, but that didn't seem to be putting off a few die hards. I did it accidently without realising it was closed, look up at it from the bottom with a big smile and had to do it again. I know, I know, not the wisest thing in the world, and I stopped short of doing it 3 times, but quite possibly the best two runs I have done to date. Steep and deep.

Sunday threw up another challenge, the itinary run from the glacier to Stand, this is just hilariously bumpy and steep, a true work out for the legs. It got to tiring for me on the board, so I went seriously off-piste to get a layer of powder under the board. When my mate got down on his skis a couple of minutes after me I thought he was going to expire!! Huge fun.

In between these two great moments of riding, and on a true high, I decided to pop the question to my girlfriend, who was not there. Not one for drawing out decisions, I called her to ask. After establishing that I had in fact been drinking, but was compos mentis enough to know what I was doing she agreed. Now we are moving to Zermatt together in October, and there might be a mountain wedding on the cards in the next 9 months or so.

So for many reasons Engelberg has a place in my heart, it's definately going to become an annual pilgrimage, I have even started to look at "buy to rent" property there!

Don't think I need to write much about various weekends in Zermatt, as this blog is soon gonna become rather Zermattified. That being said there is no reson not to have a few pictures from my trip down in March.

A view down the empty Black run between Furgg and Furi...

My favorite coffee stop at Riffelalp...

Flat runs out to Furi...

Where next? 5 days in Mayrhofen, for the fun and games that is Snowbombing. My fourth year at this festival in the snow (and sun). I am getting to old to do the package with wristband included, so usually we sort our own accomodation, do the traditional apres ski thing, and only really get involved with the mayhem on the slopes and the night of the street party. That being said the atmosphere is always great fun, wether you are raving with Zippy or sleeping off the excesses in a field, there is something for everyone.

The madness starts here....

It just gets stranger...

There was a five point challenge issued early on in the holiday consisting of the following:

1. To get a certificate for the Gaining Elevation Tour, 13,000m of vertical in one day.

2. Get a kiss from a robot (harder than it sounds)

3. Get down the Harakiri (78% gradient and Austria's steepest prepared piste)

4. Not suitable for family reading unfortunately, sounds much worse than it is, which is what made it so funny!!

5. Do the XXL Runde ski safari taking in every corner of the surrounding mountains

Well, with a challenge like that who would decline. Out of the 4 of us, I was the only one to complete all 5 challenges, if you can count sliding down the bottom half of the Harakiri head first on your back as completing the challenge. The top half was fine, even though the condition of the piste was somewhat questionable.

Hmm, looks okay to me...

And if anyone is in any doubt what it is like to come off half way down, as I did, this gives you a little insight into the difficulty of stopping.

...a little tumble on the hill

Funnily enough thats near enough where I decided a wee lie down might be appropriate.

So after the chaos of Mayrhofen with the lads, the rest of the season was played out on various weekends in Zermatt. The last weekend I did was in May, the main resorts' last weekend and it was great. Quiet slopes, no lift lines anywhere, sunny and warm. I didn't know it at the time, but the Sunday was to be the last day of my season and one of the best in terms of really letting rip on the mountain. I had no idea that when starting next season I would be living here.

Roll on October 1st, new job, new home, new country, new start,.....