“off season” – Mt Blanc, Morocco, IOW, Jersey & Corsica

After my eventful Austrian Winter things did not slow down,  I went straight to Chamonix, France for 10 days, London for 7 days, Morocco for 8 days, then based on the Isle of Wight for a couple months, from there I traveled to Jersey to watch Soph in the Island Games and then 10 days in Corsica right before rolling straight into the NZ winter. Busy times.

 

MT BLANC ATTEMPT

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Skiing down from the peak of the Gran Paradiso, Italy (4061m). L -R: My brother Will Oswald, Hamish Smith & Marko Krzywon

 

I went to Chamonix to attempt an ascent and ski descent of Mt Blanc (4,810m) for an Epic TV production. A mechanical failure of the hard drive meant I lost all footage and photos, above is one of the only images I have left which was recovered from a Facebook post I did while on the trip. I have been through an expensive and time consuming recovery process. I stand to recover 55% of the data in 2 weeks, so here is to producing something soon and making the most of it! The edit will drop later this year on Epic TV

 

MOROCCO
From Chamonix I flew to London for a week of market research for a new business, but that’s boring. So after that I flew to Morocco to met my girlfriend Soph for an 8 day adventure and thaw out, and thaw out we did…

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Met this friendly local on the beach.

 

It was hot. For the first few days we just chilled on the beach, eat tagine, tried to surf (but we suck) and just caught up as I had not seen Soph in a month.

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Soph taking inspiration from the beautiful coast for her art works.

 

After a few days chilling we got restless and wanted an adventure. We had heard from a friend about Toubkal, a 4167m peak in the Atlas mountains on the very edge of the Sahara Desert. So inland we traveled on the cheapest bus we could find. A heat wave hit and we had to endure 50+ C° on an over crowded bus with no air conditioning and no windows for 4 hours all the way to the flat land city of Marrakech. There was no relief from the heat in Marrakech with temperatures still well over 50 C°, so we jumped in the first taxi we saw and left for the salvation of the “cooler” high mountain air.

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Sophie near the start of the trek up to the refuge from Imlil on the first day of climbing

 

Imlil at 1,740m was beautiful and temperate with uniquely but uniformly styled buildings terraced up hill sides surrounded by over bearing mountains. We were instantly relaxed and relieved, feeling far more at home in an alpine area. There we stayed with a very nice a friendly local guide, Alahiane Lahcen.

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Sophie at the Refuge du Toubkal, she can hold these for 2 mins!

 

We hike to the Refuge du Toubkal (3,207m) on the first day and stayed the night to soak it all in and rest good for the peak the next day.

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Sophie looking down on the Sahara Desert part way up the last ridge to the top

 

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Soph and I on the top 4,167m, the Sahara Desert in the background. Photo: some lovely random

 

The top is stunning, looking down on hundreds of kilometres of desert one way and endless mountains the other. A world away from the hectic and heinously hot Marrakech.

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Soph bossing the summit!

 

On the way back to the coast we tried a diffent route and method of transport; collective taxis. basically you wait until you have 6 people who all want to go to roughly the same place then all pile into a 5 seater car (7 with the driver) and of you go for a fee of about £2 per 100km.

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Sophie waiting for our next “collective taxi” in the middle of nowhere

 

We learnt about the wind heat effect phenomenon. This is where when the air temperature is well above that of the body’s (37.5°C) so in the 40’s the wind on your body actually intensifies the heat. To limit the effects of the heat in the taxi, locals keep all the winds closed. It’s bizarre and feels very unnatural but it works.

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sweltering in the back of a “collective taxi” with 4 other people

 

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Back on the beach and life was chill again

 

Once back on the coast we could relax and cool down in the sea at our leisure with feeling a sense of achievement. A great way to spend the last couple of days in Morocco.

This is short video summary of our Moroccan trip:

 

 

ISLE OF WIGHT
After Morocco, and via London to see some old friends, we went back to Soph’s home on the IOW to base ourselves from the middle of May for a couple of months – such a great place to chill and catch up on work.

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Soph and I at Compton Beach, one of her favourite places

 

The best thing about the IOW is the slow pace, having time to gather your shit after hectic times and of course the evening beach fires and BBQ’s!

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A good beach fire camping session for Jamie Richards’ birthday where clearly an epic story is being told! L-R: A nice bloke whose name I have forgotten, Sophie, her sister Ellie, and Chris Haysey

 

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We had yet another beach session fire BBQ camping party for Sophie’s birthday, and Tom Platts and I built her a beach bar! Photo: too drunk, don’t remember sorry

 

It’s a real pleasure every time I get to go spend some time on that epic island, most of this is due to all the great friends I have made there on my visits over the years.

Here is a short clip to give you a taste of island life…

 

In the time we spent back at Soph’s home we built a business from her incredible artistic talent and crazy creative mind. The business is called Little Difference and it is going well! Check out the website littledifference.org.

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The first sample prints which we used to take orders from retailers all over the IOW

 

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Soph sealing the first sample closed in its recycled and biodegradable packaging

 

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The finished box of samples, we signed up 13 retailers with these little gems!

 

 

JERSEY
Sophie was selected to represent the Isle Of Wight at the Island Games in mountain biking which was host on the Island of Jersey across the English Channel just off the the coast of France. I had to go watch!

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Soph training hard in Brighstone Forrest on the IOW

 

After she rode every day and trained so hard the scary thing for me was that I honestly could not keep up anymore – a humbling day for me.

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Soph in mid race on the Criterium where she got 6th!

 

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hugs from her proud Mummy straight after the finish

 

This was one of Soph’s first every races and was up against world cup athletes from islands around the globe. She did 2 events, the Cross Country where she place 9th and the Criterium where she got 6th. Two top 10 results was an awesome achievement against seasoned competitors!

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Signing an IOW flag for a fan!

 

After returning from Jersey it was back to working on the business, ski admin and of course more IOW chill time and fun activities, like watching the Round The Island Yacht Race with over 1500 yachts!

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Will Satterly, Cat Platts, Hedrix (the dog) and I having a cliff top BBQ breakfast watching the billions of boats!

 

To give you an appreciation of how many sail boats 1500 is, here is a couple of timelapses to give you some scale of it…

 

 

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Most days or nights we were either skating, biking or both!

 

Near the middle of July it was almost time for me to leave the lovely IOW and my gorgeous Sophie for NZ winter… But before I left for the Southern Hemisphere we had a few last beach BBQ’s and one more awesome holiday – Corsica!

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Just another awesome Beach Fire evening

 

 

CORSICA
Mum and Dad came from New Zealand, my brother and his girlfriend Alice from Dubai, my sister from London and Sophie and myseld from the Isle of Wight. We all descended on Corsica (the French island) for our first ever family holiday overseas!

Sophie and I arrived a day earlier than everyone else so we explored. We ended up on a beach for the night with a bottle of wine and a little fire to sleep under the stars. Just as we cracked our vino a group of teenagers turned up and gave us a boss fire works display! Then just buggered off again. Perfect.

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Soph and I on the beach just south of Bastia on the corsican coast where slept the night under the stars after enjoying an impromptu fireworks display

 

The next day the rest of the clan arrived. Mum & Dad in there 60’s came straight off a long haul flight from NZ and took up the challenge of a 9 hour trek up 2000 vertical metres the very next day!

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Me pointing out the route we were taking to Monte Cintu (2,706m), Corsica’s highest peak. Photo: John Oswald

 

The plan was to hike from Asco to Col de Vergio (a section of the GR 20 hike that took us past Monte Cintu (2,706m) Corsica’s highest peak) over 4 days so we could take it easy. But a tragic fatal landslide weeks before meant we had to change our route just hours before departure, we only received info the night before that a section of the route was closed. The new route meant a much longer and steeper first day but the whole crew took it like champs.

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Flat top Corsican pines in such a rugged and beautiful landscape

 

Corsica is an insanely beautiful island. Big burly, intimidating mountains and tranquil coast, it is often referred to as the Mountains in the Med. And you can ski here in winter!

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The enthusiastic clan at the beginning of the first day. L-R: Dad (John Oswald), Sophie Stevens, Alice Mckechnie, sister (Harry Oswald), mum (Jenny Oswald) and brother (Will Oswald)

 

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These little guy, the Tyrrhenian Wall lizard, are everywhere in the mountains there

 

The alternative route was even more of a challenge than what we had anticipated, some of the sections were steep rocky chutes where you needed to climb with you hands and some areas were exposed to big falls like this rock shelf photographed below.

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Looking for the next section of track and trying to find the easiest route up. L-R: Alice , Will, myself, Soph, Mum and Harry. Photo: John Oswald

 

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Sometimes the route was not obvious and several times we had to stop to find our location and the next direction to head. Photo: John Oswald

 

We got to the ridge top (2,604m) at a relatively late time of 4pm ish. Mum and Dad used to be high country farmers and handled the long day and higher vertical metres like troopers, even though Dad had not done such climbs in decades. But they left us “kids” detour to the Monte Cintu Summit without them while they made the long descent to the refuge in the next valley far below.

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Mum and Dad a the Monte Cintu saddle (2,604m), super good feat!

 

We carried on to the summit as we were so close to getting to the top of the “Mountains in the Med”. It is rumoured you can see the European Alps across the Mediterranean sea from the top, unfortunately for us we had a cloudy day but the view before clouds rolled in was still tremendous.

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My lovely sister Harry sitting on the summit quietly, and unknown to us a the time, about 8 weeks pregnant! Congrats Harry!

 

We made it to the summit by about 5pm after a horizontal scrabble over a rocky ridge then a short hundred metre vertical climb to the top.

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Soph and I cheesing it out on the top. Photo: Harry Oswald

 

Clouds rolled in and we had to descent quickly so we did not get disorientated, lost or walk off a cliff as you could easily do up there in bad visibility.

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A group shot of the summiteers, L-R: Soph, myself, Harry, Alice and Will

 

We got down to the Refuge at about 7pm, there we joined Mum and Dad for for a delicious Italian style pasta dinner (the locals tend to identify more with the Italians than the French).

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leaving our mark

 

The next two days we had not as far to go and could afford to take our time. Some of the views were just epic!

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Dad taking it in and striking a farming pose from days of old

 

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Dad looking like Sir Ed with his neck flap hat and Mum taking the piss. I’m pretty sure they enjoyed the hell out of the trip

 

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Soph and I on the last day with the Mediterranean Sea in the background. Photo: Harry Oswald… or maybe Will

 

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The group chilling in a mint spot with the refuge of our second night in the background on the right beneath the massive rock mountain. L-R: Harry, Alice, Dad, Will, Mum and Soph

 

On the last section of the third and final day we were treated with the most stunningly crisp, clear and beautiful swimming holes I have ever seen. We made time for each one.

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Harry, Alice and Soph enjoying the shit out of these epic pools! Photo: John Oswald

 

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Pigs. There are thousands of pigs in Corsica and are the source of Corsica’s famous pork meats. They are freedom farmed in a way that they are free to roam where they like but return to their homes (farms) in the evenings for food and shelter.

 

After we completed the big hike we dwelt on the coast, boating, cliff jumping, swimming, beach lounging, game playing, sight seeing and generally chilling the f*#k out. It was awesome to have the whole family together in such a magnificent part of our earth.

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Will and I send one of the cliffs we found, with Alice and Harry down in the water. Photo: John Oswald

 

Here is a little promo video for the business that Soph and I have started that gives a good sense of the vibe in those last days…

 

 

OFF TO NZ – BACK TO WINTER
After this amazing trip I only had one quick day on the IOW to pack bags and leave for winter in the Southern Hemisphere, sadly having to leave my Sophie behind. But was still time for one afternoon of fun!

 

Then back to NZ, but this is another story yet to be told…

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My first day back in NZ this year with Lake Pukaki and the mighty Mt Cook beyond…