10 Countries, 3 continents & 2 injuries

Tuesday, June 14th, 2016

This Northern Winter for me started late and was thwort with injury, work and time consuming travel. Yet somehow, it was still fun, adventurous, productive and full of great skiing!

Before I kicked off the Northern Hemisphere winter, Sam Murray and his lovely girlfriend Jazz hosted Soph and I on their family boat in the Hauraki Golf north of Auckland in NZ, good chilled times!

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The vessel “Deception” – the Boots family boat. Photo: Sam Murray (Boots)

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Getting my ski fix, jumping off the spreaders. Photo: Sophie Stevens

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A little yoga on the beach instructed by Jazz who is professional yoga instructor from Yellow Knife in Canada.

 

 

OFF TO THE NORTHERN HEMI 1ST STOP – ANDORRA

To kick off the season I was offered a job by Gopro as a filmer and representative on the Freeride World Tour. The first stop of the FWT was in Andorra so I flew straight their from NZ on the 21st of January. I landed in Barcelona and started the very next day. The following day was the competition day – the big day! All went well.

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The view from the top of the first stop of the Freeride World Tour, Andorra

 

That night as we celebrated I had a bad accident, I fell down some stairs and got a bad concussion with a brain haemorrhage (bleeding in the brain). I spent the next week in the Neurology department of Innsbruck Hospital. Not a good start to the season.

To see the summary of the Andorra FWT competition click here.

 

 

TIME OUT RECOVERING WITH SOPH AT HER HOME

Needless to say Sophie, my girlfriend was worried so she flew out to see me. Before she got there my good friend Lukas Zögernitz and his partner Betty Larl took great care of me. Once Soph arrived and I was out of hospital it was clear that I was not yet ready to ski so I returned with Soph to her home on the Isle of Wight, UK to rest and recover. Damaging your brain to the point of behaviour change and physical incapability is a very real demonstration of your own mortality, it was a difficult time and would have been very hard to cope with out Soph’s support. I was able take my mind off absolutely everything to do with winter and skiing and rehab with smaller physical activities like biking.

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Sophie when we went back to her home on the Isle of Wight

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Night ride building up the activities after the head injury

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

STARTING TO SKI

After a few weeks off it was time to get into it, but I had to start small. I went back to Innsbruck, Austria and spent a lot of time shredding at Axamer Lizum ski resort to get the ski mojo back.

 

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Getting some pow with Neil Williman at Axamer Lizum. Photo: Neil Williman

 

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The view of the terrain over the back of the main Axamer Lizum resort. Photo: Christoph Schöfegger

 

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The top of Axamer Lizum resort shot from my Hexo+ drone

 

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I had a great first day touring since my injury with this great guy, Christian Unger

 

 

ST ANTON

After getting my ski feet back Charlie Lyons and I went off to St Anton to make the most of an approaching storm and try out the new Hexo+ auto follow drone. However on day one of filming with the drone we had an accident.

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The moment just after the propellers shredded my fingers as shot from the drone

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An hour and a half later when Charlie’s handy bandaging was taken off

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I almost lost the drone over a cliff, so I grabbed it. In doing so I saved the Hexo+ but serverely cut my fingers, it cut so much off one of my fingers that we were looking for my finger tip in the snow which we did not find. At the time of the accident Charlie and I were well outside the ski area boundary and about an hour from help, it dusk and storm clouds were coming in. I was very lucky to have Charlie there who controlled the situation and did a good make shift bandaged job on my hand.

After getting patched up I was back skiing with Charlie the next day. But very unfortunately Charlie also suffered an injury. This time it was his ankle and was quite severe, he had to return to Innsbruck while I remained in St Anton.

After Charlie’s cruel exit I found some great Dannish guys to shred with and show me around.

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Martin Schøber and the Dannish crew on a tour they took me on

 

In the following days the storm came and clouds parted…

 

 

FIEBERBRUNN FWT STOP #3

After injuring myself at the first Freeride Wold Tour stop in Andorra while working for Gopro I sat out the second stop in Chamonix while I needed to rest. Now I was back to work on the third stop in Fieberbrunn, and the snow was good with time to shred.

Here I am trying out one of the elaborate Gopro mounts.

 

As it kept snowing each day the organisers had to keep delaying the competition day for better weather, leaving me and the competitors to shred and get photos.

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Ralph Backstrom smashing through the trees on one of the down day pow days

 

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Finally the weather cleared and comp day happened

 

To see the summary of the Feiberbrunn FWT competition click here.

 

 

ALASKA FWT STOP #4

After Fieberbruun I was asked to be the only Gopro representative to go to the Alaska stop of the Freeride World Tour in Haines, Alaska.

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The 6th and final flight in the journey to reach Haines, AK, USA from Innsbruck, Austria. Just the pilot and me in a very small plane

 

Its true about the weather in Alaska, there is a lot of down time… But there are no resorts there so if you want to go skiing you have to pay for a commercial heli or snowmobile or go touring, and the touring on the lower slopes is not so good around Haines. We ended up goig  across the Canadian boarder in to the Yukon Territory.

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A day out touring with this fine crew (L-R): Reine Barkered, Jackie Paaso, Hugo Harrisson, Davide De Masi, Drew Tabke & Stefan Hausl

 

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Sunrise on comp day in Haines, over 100 people had to get heli lifted to the remote venue location

 

Basiacally my job for Gopro at these stops is to be at the top of the venue on competition day and make sure every competitor has the correct Gopro gear, correct angle and records their run. After the competition I select a few of the best runs, edit them a little and send to Gopro for publishing. There is more to it than that but thats it in a nutshell.

For an example of the runs a I select edit and send in, see this link of Drew Tabke taking 3rd in Alaska.

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Myself on the top of the venue with some of the epic terrain in the background. Photo: Davide De Masi

 

After all competitors were down and done on the competition day it would heve been rude of me not to ride the face, so I did!

2 days after the competition day I managed to book myself on a local heliski operator at a discounted price with Head FWT judge and long time friend through the NZ ski scene Dion Newport, competitor Julian Lopez and one of the competition interviewers, Mike. It was a fantastic way to finish the trip.

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The first face we rode on our Heli day

 

That afternoon after my heliski I had to go straight to my flight and back to Europe after 10 days in Alaska. On the flight out of Haines I saw whales in the fjords!

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A view from the flight out of Haines of a massive glacier that terminates in the sea… or used to

 

To see the summary of the Alaska FWT competition click here.

 

 

VERBIER XTREME FWT STOP #5

Just days after returning from Alaska I was off to Verbier, Switzerland for the Verbier Xtreme and the 5th and final stop of the Freeride World Tour. But it was not drawn out like Fieberbrunn or Alaska, it was over in just a few days.

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The heli ride up to the formidable Bec De Rossa competition face

 

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Past winner of the Vieber Xtreme and Hexo+ Drone co-founder Xavier De La Rue about to drop into 3rd place

 

When it came to the final category of the ski men the weather halted the show. When it became clear that the weather would be not be crack for some time, hot drinks and food was delivered to us by heli.

Soon after organisers determined that this storm was not going to clear but remain for the remaining days in the competition window. So the competition declared as finished and there was no result for the ski men category for that stop and current rankings stood as final tour results.

But I was still able ski the Bec De Rossa face down the dog leg flank! Although it was not in fantastic conditions it was still good times!

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Ski men competitors getting hot refreshments while waiting for a weather window on the freezing summit that would never come

 

To see the summary of the Verbier Xtreme FWT final click here.

 

 

BACK TO THE UK

After all the hectic travel and skiing I needed a rest and I wanted to see Soph. So off I went to her home on the ever relaxing Isle of Wight.

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Country bike ride with Soph (R) and Will Satterly (L)

 

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Looking over the island to sea and the mainland beyond. Photo: Sophie Stevens

 

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Evening skate sessions on the water front under a sunset drinking tea!

 

 

 

SALCOMBE, DEVON MEETING MY FIRST NEPHEW

My lovely sister Harriet gave birth to Max Bond, my awesome new nephew! Our Mum flew out from NZ especially to see him and we all went on a holiday to Salcombe, Devon across the water on the mainland of the UK. Its a cool place!

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Balancing on some of the cool rocky coast looking south to the English Channel. Photo: Sophie Stevens

 

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Holding 10 week old Max, my new Nephew with my sister harry

 

 

 

ONE WEEK IN NORWAY

One thing that Soph really wanted to do this winter was to go skiing in the north of Norway. So we went. Soph organised everything, we asked our good friends Hamish Smith and Heidi Cochran to join, I packed some Gopro cameras and my new Hexo+ auto follow drone. The result was one of the best adventures we had ever done!

The short film I subsequently produced has had over 17,000 views on Facebook and over 55,000 plays on Epic TV.

 

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Lofoten from the air on dusk

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taking a day off skiing chilling on the beach. Photo: Sophie Stevens

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We struck such great conditions with stable dry powder on north aspects and at least some sort of sunshine on 6 of the seven days. As the saying goes in Norway, “if you don’t like the weather, just wait 5 mins…”

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Hamish Smith slays a pow ladened spine. Photo: Sophie Stevens

 

One of the best bits of the trip was coming back to our fishing hut accommodation over hanging the sea after a long days skiing in the mountains and eating fresh fish for dinner. It was super cosy.

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Our little fishing hut home for the week, situated over the sea with an ocean view

 

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Half way up our first summit. Mountains and sea, Soph’s favourite things together

 

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Sophie just stoked to be there!

 

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Bombing the hill to a tiny village on the coast. Photo: Sophie Stevens

 

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Hamish Smith touring up one of the island mountains in beautiful conditions

 

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Sophie Shredding down an isolated ridge

 

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Hamish and I with Hexo+ on my back debriefing the awesome lines we skied in the background. Photo: Sophie Stevens

 

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Hamish and I shredding down with the Hexo+ in faithful tow. Photo: Sophie Stevens

 

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The last afternoon after skiing and before leaving Norway there was time for a bit more beach foolery. Photo: Hamish Smith

 

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My last line of the season was also one of my best. Photo: Sophie Stevens

 

It was such a great way to finish a season full of set backs. Skiing in an isolated, beautiful place with great friends shredding low stress fun terrain. My very last run was one of the best, a small cliff drop into a hanging open field that funnelled into a high speed chute twisting out into the plateau below, all in nice dry powder.

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A happy Sophie, after an amazing Norwegian adventure

 

The adventure in Norway was one of the best we have had and we plan to be back next year.

 

 

 

BACK TO THE UK TO PREPARE FOR NZ!

After Norway it was time to get back to the Isle of Wight and get back into work. Hamish and Heidi joined us for a long weekend of camping and chilling.

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Hamish Smith leaping the fire on Compton beach

 

Some of the work we needed to do was prepare for a major trade show we were exhibiting in with our new design business Little Difference. Since the tradeshow we now have a fast growing profitable business!

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Our Little Difference stand at the Progressive Greetings Live greeting card trade show

 

And of course I need to stay fit and prepare for the best season of all, Winter in NZ!

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Front flip on the grass on Cowes Green, Isle of Wight UK. Photo: Sophie Stevens

 

By the 3rd of July I’ll be back shredding the NZ snow, and it’s shaping up to be a great season! Oh, if you were wondering what the 10 countries were: New Zealand, Andorra, Spain, Austria, UK, Germany, USA, Canada, Switzerland and Norway.

NZ POW – It’s real!

Wednesday, January 6th, 2016

I rolled into NZ on the 1st of August fresh from Corsica and a taste of summer. Off the back of the Austrian winter I had just had 20 pages of publishings of my skiing and 2 double page spreads published of my photographs – things were going well!

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A five page article on freeskiing for NZ Ski and Snow Magazine, click to read. Photo: Jakob Schfwieghhofer

 

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Lukas Zögernitz slaying it at Hochfügen, Austria

 

 

 

Once back in Queenstown I had one short nights sleep then off to the Icebreaker team weekend at Mt Nicholas Station at the head of Lake Wakatipu. The party got a little out of hand and I woke up at the neighbouring farm station, Walter Peak – whoops.

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Taking the boat to Mt Nicholas station on the Icebreaker Team weekend, L – R: Byron Wells, Scott McNab, Jackson Wells, Stu Robertson, Kate Holmes, Finn Bilous, Richie Johnston, myself, Britt Hawes, Steph Whitaker, Sam Lee and Beau James Wells. Photo: helpful Southern Discoveries boat staff

 

 

 

Then it was time to ski! I had 3 Austrian friends in town; Christoph Schöfegger, Christian Unger and Lukas Zögernitz. It’s hard to impress Austrians when it comes to skiing but Treble Cone turned on 4 epic days of pow days in a row and impressed the schnitzel out of them!

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Christoph getting pitted after sweet little chute drop, Sam Lee looks on

 

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I took a cheeky fresh line over the back of the Saddle Basin. Photo: Lukas Zögernitz

 

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Powder wheelie celebration above the saddle basin chair. Photo: Dan Power

 

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Taking a small cliff long out the bottom of some Treble Cone backcountry. Photo: Lukas Zögernitz

 

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Alone in the Treble Cone backcountry making my mark. Photo Zögernitz

 

Here is a little video taste of what we had each day…

 

 

 

I had many great days at Treble Cone this NZ season but the most memorable was the Wednesday pow day with this big backy that went on to get over 200,000 plays over various uploads…

 

 

 

I showed the Austrian boys around some other resorts too…

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Getting upside down with sunset under lights at Coronet Peak. Photo: Dan Power

 

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Sending a stormy one in the Alta Chutes at The Remarkables. Photo: Lukas Zögerntiz

 

 

 

I even managed to get the boys on a Heli day with Southern Lakes Heli Ski!

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Our bird for a great day heli with Southern Lakes Heli Ski and great guide Michael Shynkaryk. Photo: Dan Power

 

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Powder cloud! Michael finding us the goods with Black Peak in the background. Photo: Lukas Zögernitz

 

 

 

On the Austrian boy’s last few days my good friend, Hamish Smith took us all on an experimental back country mission. The resulting short film below has one an award and had over 40,000 views on Epic TV.

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The Boys and their pretty bird from Heli Glenorchy. Photo: Pilot Nick

 

Temple Peak Tepee Skiing – Through The Lens short film winner

 

 

 

 

After 2 of the Austrian’s, Christian & Lukas went home, I took a quick trip to Ohau Snow Fields with Hamsih Smith, Heidi Cochran & the remaining Austrian, Christoph Schöfegger.

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Hamish and Heidi boot packing up out of a picturesque slack country line

 

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Hamish slaying the ridge in front of Mt Cook, NZ’s highest mountian

 

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Christoph slashing the steeps

 

 

 

2 more good Austrian friends turned up in NZ, Joi Hoffmann & Jakob Schfwieghofer. They were in the country to shoot a film production about climbing and skiing the west face of Mt Aspiring. I was very honoured to be asked to join as one of the skiers! Unfortunately strong winds and very unstable snow conditions hampered our efforts  and were forced to abandon the attempt

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Me, slightly apprehensive but excited before the attempt on the steep face. Photo: Jakob Schfwieghofer

 

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Jakob, snaps some pics of a desolate but beautiful and somehow surreal glacial landscape

 

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Joi looks longingly back as we have to abandon our goal

 

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After our failed attempt we had quite a large night out. I lost a bet on a game of pool, resulting in having to monkey in the world famous tree in Lake Wanaka naked while tourist shot photos form the shore. Photo: Jakob Schfwieghofer

 

 

 

Late in the season Icebreaker were kind enough to lend me a company car for a month!

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Taking the new wagon for a wash. Photo: Malin Karlsson

 

 

 

Spring hit in September so it was time for good old Treble Cone slush days!

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My old ski bro form back in the day, Nick Kingston takes slush to the face like a stone face lumber jack. Photo: Shelley Kingston

 

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Nick Kingston savouring the day and the stunning view at TC on a perfect day

 

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Nick Kingston reminding us he was/still is a hell of a freeskier

 

 

 

The weather aligned once more so we pulled together another mission in Hamish Smith’s Tepee, this time much deeper into the backcountry with Nick Kingston and talented photographer Mark Bridgwater.

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Relaxing briefly after erecting the tepee

 

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Finding soft snow was challenging in the super variable condition. Photo: Mark Bridgwater

 

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Coming home to a warm dry tepee after hard hunting pow makes such a pleasure. Photo: Mark Bridgwater

 

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Our cosy nook for 3 days. Photo: Mark Bridgwater

 

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A breakdown .222, and some Speight’s can targets helps pass the afternoon after touring and skiing. Photo: Mark bridgwater

 

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On the last day while waiting for the chopper, once we had packed up the tepee early (and since it was Nicks 30th birthday) we decided to try something different with the airbed…

 

 

 

The last few days of Treble Cones season was nothing short of springtime perfect with a big base and fantastic corn snow… This is a snippet from my last run of the season at TC:

 

 

 

From late September the hot weather took its toll very quickly, and while I was working hard on our new business www.littledifference.org, I only had time to squeeze one small spring mountaineering mission.

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I quick Jaunt up Single Cone in The Remarkables range near Queenstown with Jeremy Lyttle and Hamish Smith. Photo: Hamish Smith

 

Here is a clip of a line down a whiteout chute near the summit of Single Cone on the East face. Just as I skied out the choke a small slab avalanche ripped out from beneath me, luckily my speed took me out the bottom with no worries:

 

 

 

Once most of the snow was gone and there was little skiing to be done, there were still heaps of rad stuff to do in NZ…

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Mountain biking with Hamish Smith up Ben Lomond near Queenstown. Photo: Hamish Smith

 

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Rowing in the Marlborough Sounds with Sophie

 

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Rope swing at Lake Hayes, Queenstown. Photo: Hamish Smith

 

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Kayaking in Milford Sound with Sophie

 

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Trying out our new MSR Hubba Hubba tent, thanks to Torpedo7. This is the morning after a brutal storm – the tent (and us) survived!

 

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Trying to climb Mt Arthur, Kahurangi National Park, Nelson but getting bashed back by a snow storm… in mid summer!

 

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One of the best wake ups ever – a beautiful sunrise on a secluded beach in the Abel Tasman National Park, Nelson with my Sophie

 

 

What a winter! Thanks to all I got to share it with and who helped me out.

There are a couple summer missions left, then Euro winter from 20th of Jan, let it snow!

 

 

 

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

Friday, October 2nd, 2015

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…