Category Archives: Event Coverage

Reportage sur la Vallée Blanche

Avril 2016 à Chamonix a apporté de la belle neige fraiche en fin de saison et le soleil brillant également. Tous ayant pour résultat, une belle série de photos d’une récente descente de la Vallée Blanche que je posté sur Flickr.

Vallée Blanche 2016

Cette itinéraire de ski hors piste  mythique se fait à partir de l’Aiguille du Midi à Chamonix et se terminant soit à la gare du Montenvers à la fin de la saison, ou à Chamonix par un l’escalade pour sortir du glacier et une descent par voie de Mottets jusqu’aux Planards pendant la mi-saison s’il y a de la bonne neige.

Il est normalement préférable de le faire avec un guide de haute montagne. Il existe de nombreuses variantes de la route, mais chacun d’entre eux impliquent en descendant la crête étroite du Midi, puis un ski sur un glacier ouvert avec les dangers objectifs de crevasses, ponts de neige faibles, la chute des séracs et les avalanches.

Il est en haute montagne, et il ne soit pas sécurisé en aucune façon – votre sécurité est de votre responsabilité. Pas pour les debutants ou des gens timides !

Comme vous pouvez le voir sur les photos, nous avons repéré plusieurs avalanches et négocié tout à fait quelques crevasses sur notre chemin. Et nous avons eu quelques traces fraîches étonnantes dans la neige dans la première partie de la descente. Le risque d’avalanche était de niveau 3 sur la journée, et nous avons fait la descente en suivant un itinéraire qui n’a pas été trop raide pour atténuer le danger.

Cliquez sur la photo pour voir l’ensemble.

Et ne hésitez pas à me contacter si vous souhaitez que je documente votre descente de la Vallée Blanche ou autre aventure de ski à Chamonix ou ses environs!

Also posted in Photography, Ski Touring

Fun in the Sun

OK so this year has indeed been the rainiest in the Alps (in recorded history, according to recent news articles) – but on one of the few sunny days, I was lucky enough to have scheduled a photo shoot with Alison Culshaw’s Gold Expeditions in the Italian Alps. I followed a group after their D of E Gold level award while they hiked the last day of their trek around Mont Blanc.
Leaving my house in a rush at 6:05am (my alarm was meant to go off at 5am, and it didn’t — I popped awake at 6am, thankfully I’d packed the night before !) I headed through the Tunnel du Mont Blanc, dropping off my car at Dolonnes and met Alison who drove me to the barrier at Lac Combal (Lago di Combal). I power hiked the hills and ran the flat bits (OK, jogged as I had my camera gear on my back) to the Elisabetta hut, where I met 2 groups heading down. We walked together to the lift down to Courmayeur.

Also posted in Photography

Manifestation contre pollution d’air à Chamonix et la Vallée de l’Arve

Quand les gens pense de Chamonix, souvent ils-arrivent d’imaginer de ski extrême, de la poudreuse, les haute montagnes et aiguilles, le Mont Blanc, les randonnées très belles et vues impressionnants, courses de trail de montagne etc..

Mais ils seront peut être très surpris d’apprendre qu’à Chamonix et la vallée de l’Arve en bas, on respire l’aire avec une qualité parmi les sites le plus pollué en France.

La pollution de l’air à Chamonix et dans la vallée de l’Arve dépasse les normes légales (40+ jours/an), avec des conséquences néfastes sur notre santé. Cancer, troubles respiratoires, sinusite etc. sont quelques des conséquences.

Cette manifestation a demandé le Préfecture de la Haute Savoie de prendre action contre ce problème. Les associations Inspire et ARSMB ainsi que les mairies de Chamonix et Les Houches ont soutenu cet manifestation.

Si vous voulez nous aider, réagissez et signez cette pétition qui demande toute simplement que toutes les points dans le Plan pour la Protection de l’Atmosphère (créer par l’état en 2012) seront mis en place dans l’ immédiatement.


Also posted in Photography

Mission WOW Women of Winter Ski Touring Weekend

Scott Mission WOW

Women of Winter Ski Touring Weekend in Italy

I had a fun weekend as the photographer for the Scott Sports sponsored Mission WOW Women of Winter introduction to ski touring and the back country event in the Val Ferret Italy on March 23rd and 24th. I worked the still camera, and Rachel of Seven Twenty Productions did the videos … the result of which you can find here on You Tube.

25 women joined in for the event, which aims to introduce women to ski touring and develop back country safety skills in a fun safe environment, accompanied by 3 IFMGA/UIAGM female mountain guides (Ulrika Asp, Caroline George and Isabelle Santoire ) and one ISIA ski instructor (Pia Palm).

The ski touring weekend attracted a range of ages, with most women falling somewhere in their 20s. Jo Guest from Mission WOW organised the event, and Scott Sports was happy to offer extensive sponsorship. The purpose of Mission WOW is to introduce women to activities they may not otherwise do on their own, promote more women to participate in sports, and create a great women-friendly environment for networking, friend making and skill building. They also run summer Women on Wheels and Women in Water WOW events.

The weekend started  at Ravanel Sports in Les Praz with ski and boot-fitting for women who wanted to try out the latest Scott Sports ski touring set up. Some women who were boarders were given split boards to try out for touring. Other women brought their own personal ski touring gear.

The guides and instructors came along to give advice and meet everyone. Scott provided skis from their Mountain and Freeride ranges (Crus’Air, Powd’Air and Pure models for example) fitted with Dynafit touring bindings, and climbing skins from Colltex. Ravanel provided ski touring boots to match the Dynafit bindings for those who needed them. The Ravanel ski techs made sure to set up the ski bindings’ release setting properly for the technical ability of each skier. The women who signed up included English, Swedish and French speaking women and the guides were all either bi or tri-lingual to give instruction in English, Swedish or French.

The next morning, we met up at the Montenvers car park in Chamonix. A Scott Sports car brought along the skis and boots from Ravanel, and the guides and instructor made sure everyone had the correct equipment before setting out, including avalanche safety gear (transciever, shovel and probe),  lending transceivers where required.

We car-pooled to go under Mont Blanc, the tallest mountain in western Europe via the Tunnel du Mont Blanc and into Italy. From the car park at Entreves, we hopped a bus which shuttled us boldly up some steep switch back turns to Planpincieux and into the beautiful Val Ferret which is part of the town of Courmayeur Italy.


This small village at 1400m altitude is the start of cross-country track in a long wide hanging valley, and was also the start of our ski tour. A good general description of the many routes, hikes, climbs, snow shoe trails and ski tours you can find in that area, as well as a topo map is on Camp to Camp website.

The ski tour follows near the cross country trail and goes gradually 200m uphill over around 10km of distance until it reaches the small town of Lavachey. From Lavachey the trail goes steeply through the woods for another 200m to reach the Walter Bonatti hut at 2025m altitude. We did take a break along the way for some thick hot chocolate and great Italian coffee

Everyone reached the hut at their own pace, some guides taking the faster tourers, and others staying back with the slower groups. No one felt rushed. After a short break at the hut for lunch, it was time for the kick turn clinic back on the hill behind the hut.

Kick turns are the way that ski tourers get up steep hillsides, turning the skis quickly and efficiently around sharp corners when the hill is too steep to allow a « 5 point » style gradual turn around a corner as one can do in flatter terrain. The first step of a kick turn involves nearly a ballet move, as your upper foot is brought quickly around in the opposite direction to your lower foot to rest above your current track. Then you move your poles uphill and shift the weight onto the upper foot, potentially kick the back foot out to release the toe (the heel of your foot is not attached to the ski when in touring mode) and turn the lower ski around your upper leg’s boot cuff to bring it into a parallel track. And off you go. These turns are known as « conversions » in French. Once the technique is firmly mastered, you do not need to even break stride to complete a conversion turn.

The day was completed with a lovely four course hot meal at the Bonatti hut (the salad included fresh pomegranate and apple !), as well as hot showers ! Climbing skins were hung up to dry and boot liners were pulled out to allow for drying overnight. The Bonatti hut is a rather cush example of a mountain hut compared to many – the beds and pillows are nice, with a decent amount of personal space (despite sleeping dormitory style) and most of us got a good sleep.

The weather forecast was not ideal to do a long ski tour on Sunday so the guides proposed doing many technical workshops or a smaller tour as a choice. So everyone was spared a super early alpine start as would have been required for a longer tour, meeting at 9am after a leisurely breakfast and many cups of tea and coffee. After a pep talk from Jo on positive thinking and learning something from every day you have, even challenging days, everyone split into groups.

Some chose to stay with one guide and learn more mountain skills such as crevasse rescue and other mountain safety techniques and others went on a short ski tour with the other three guides, up to the Tête Entre Deux Sauts above the Bonatti hut. The ski back down to the hut was challenging for most everyone, as the day was an entire white out with little way to tell how the hill was falling away from you. The snow was fresh, deep and heavy rather than light and powdery. But everyone had fun and the guides were sure everyone stayed in a sight line due to the fog. Once back at the hut, everyone did a transceiver search  workshop. The women learned to use their transceivers to find buried avalanche victims, and the proper technique to probe for someone buried under the snow and then dig them out.

At the hut we ate sack lunches (the hut packed lunches for those who did not carry their own) and put skis and packs back on to head through the woods and down the hill.  The snow became heavier still in the woods, and after a break for some play and group shots at Lavachey we headed in « skate ski » mode down the trail back the 10km towards Planpincieux. Some women had developed blisters during the ski tour, but more importantly everyone developed their back country mountain skills and their friendships.

Once back in Chamonix, we all headed to the MBC to enjoy a round of beers, nachos and the raffle that gave away some grab bag goodies from Swatch, Colltex and Scott. As a grand prize, Scott gave away a pair of freeride skis. Rather than simply picking a number out of the pot, the winner was decided via several rounds of very animated « rock, paper, scissors » ! A fun weekend for all.
Scott Mission WOW Women of Winter

Also posted in Photography, Ski Touring

Gemmi Triathlon 2012 – Leukerbad Switzerland

I had a great time shooting the tough, nearly all uphill Gemmi triathlon in the Swiss Valais this past weekend.

The course started at Lac de Géronde in the town of Sierre, and then bikers went uphill to the spa town of Loeche-Les-Bains (in German Leukerbad), and then runners gained 1km of height in the 4km of distance on the run (that is steep!!) up to the beautiful Gemmi Pass from Leukerbad. In other words, apart from the swimming, the rest of the triathlon is uphill. It has a small town feel, but attracts some amazing quality athletes due to the naturally tough nature of the event.

The photos in the Flickr set include some « atmosphere shots » as well as some shots of the top men and lots of the women athletes.

I would not have known of the event if not for my multi-sport friend Lyndsay Meyer who also participated in the triathlon.  There were some top Swiss world-class triathletes in the event, even though it is only small ! The Gemmi is run yearly in early September and for the moment you can still sign up within just a few days of the event.

Also posted in Photography

It was not to be … Patrouille des Glaciers 2012

Since the FFME Championnat de France épreuve de sprint race in Chamonix in January, I had not been able to arrange my schedule to photograph another ski mountaineering race all season. Finally, it seemed I would be able shoot the Patrouille des Glaciers, a race in the Swiss alps from Zermatt to Verbier via Arolla, held every 2 years. There are several courses (and some shorter versions from Zermatt to Arolla or Arolla to Verbier) and I wanted to photograph the long course with the national teams competing.

I left Chamonix by car at around 4am, but would still reach the La Chaux chairlift check-in station in plenty of time to catch my hard core skimo racing friends in team 2338, Lyndsay Meyer and Nina Silitch who hoped to be passing through with their teammate Sari Anderson just after the fastest men in the race.

The Patrouille des Glaciers is run in teams of 3 and much of the course has to be skied while roped together. The race is fully manned by the Swiss Army and places in this prestigious and historic race are hard to come by, so coveted by the ski mountaineer racing crowd. The start times for the teams are staggered. The earliest times for departure are given to teams expected to go slower, and later starting times are given to the fastest teams (such as Killian Jornet, the eventual winner this year).

This year’s US women’s team have competed in other skimo races previously and formed their team for the PDG with Sari flying out from Colorado especially for the race (Nina and Lyndsay are Alps-based Americans). They had a departure of midnight and hoped to get to the areas above Verbier by around 8am.

I checked their progress before I left Vallorcine to enter into Swiss phone territory using the PDG Android app that the organisers had been kind enough to invent for their race. They seemed to be moving along well, as did another team of women that I was following who included my friend and local awesome ski instructor and BASI Level 4 European Mountain Safety trainer Alison Culshaw, as part of a British women’s team doing her first PDG, having recently been bitten by the bug of ski mountaineer racing.


As I drove up the Swiss Val des Bagnes, there seemed to be an awful lot of traffic coming from the direction of Verbier … I hoped it was just traffic coming from the Grand St Bernard tunnel, but as I approached Le Chable below Verbier, the headlights kept coming in streams. The car park was still full when I pulled up, and loads of people were getting out of their cars and putting on their touring gear – so I did the same.

I went up to the cash desk to get a lift ticket but was told that the race had been cancelled due to an avalanche at Pas de Chat, a check point between Arolla and the Rosablanche at Verbier. They did not think anyone was hurt, but said the race was stopped. The decision to stop the race was the right one , but heartbreaking for the athletes who had trained so hard. We had two weeks of snow/rain in a rather cold April, followed by a sudden intense warming in the day before the race. The freezing point the night before the race was above 3000m. Also, very high winds were forecast – up to 90km/hr at the altitudes the racers would be going.

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Also posted in Photography, Ski Mountaineer Racing Tagged , |