Snow & Rock Back Country Ski Adventure with Squash Falconer & Freeflo

I love skiing and I’m passionate about mountaineering.  A few years ago I started ski touring (skiing across open country, walking uphill on skis as well as skiing downhill).

For me ski touring is the perfect sport – I can enjoy the thrill of skiing and get my kicks climbing the mountain too.  Attaching skins to my skis allows me to head deep into the back country, away from the ski resorts and lifts, to reach beautiful places and ski untouched powder.

IMG_8117I’m based in Tignes, France and last winter I was lucky enough to meet ski coach Floss Cockle from Freeflo ski.  Floss is an incredible skier and coach and she has shown me some of the amazing back country that is right on my own door step in and around Tignes.  Heading off the beaten track means that you have to have a good understanding of the mountains, the conditions and your own skiing ability.  I have some knowledge, but with 19 ski seasons under her belt Floss’s skill and experience has been invaluable and has taken my back country skiing experience to the next level.

Squash & Floss from FreeFlo

Right at the end of the season, this year, both fit from a winter of touring and skiing, Floss and I did a day that blew my mind.  We hiked for 4hrs to the top of the North face of the Pramecou.  Floss had been watching the weather and conditions closely and knew that it was a good day to ski the face.

IMG_0387Having never skied anything as steep, I was so nervous!  However, the conditions were good and I trusted Floss’s judgement about my skiing ability.  I watched, holding my breath as she skied the couloir perfectly and as she came to a stop my heart thundered in my chest, it was my turn!  I dropped into the deep, steep powder and felt the most incredible surge of adrenaline through my veins… I was skiing the North face of the Pramecou!!!  And it was amazing.

As I skied towards Floss, with the biggest grin on my face I shouted, “I love this.  This is incredible, we need to share this with everyone!”

IMG_0430And as we walked out and headed back towards Tignes we came up with a plan to do just that.

Squash & Floss in the back country

We’ve teamed up with Snow & Rock to bring you two unique one-week off piste and back country adventures in Tignes, France in January and April.

Anyone who books will get a £200 voucher for Snow & Rock!

We’d love you to join us in the mountains next season and take your skiing to the next level.

If you are an intermediate skier who wants to do more off piste and go into the back country then this trip is for you.

See all details below and if you have any questions please don’t hesitate to get in touch –

Floss Ski TouringDates:
Sunday 8th -15th Jan 2017
Package Price £1645*

Sunday 16th 23rd April 2017
Package Price £1745*

* Prices may vary subject to availability.

Package includes:

  • £200 Snow & Rock in store voucher
  • 5 days elite British back country coaching with FREEFLO
  • Sharing the 5 day Adventure with Adventurer Squash Falconer
  • Avalanche and transceiver workshops
  • Adventure evening with Squash Falconer
  • Video Analysis
  • Return UK Flights
  • Resort Transfers
  • 7 nights accommodation 4* facility Chalet Hotel L’Ecrins based on sharing a twin room
  • Welcome Drinks & Canapés
  • Hot and Continental Breakfast
  • Afternoon Tea
  • 3 Course Dinner & Wine

What the package doesn’t include:

  • Insurance
  • Equipment
  • Lunch and Drinks on and off the mountain
  • Espace Killy Lift Pass

Ski Ability Intermediate Level:
If you are an off-piste skier with varying success then this course is for you. If you can link turns without traversing, at least 5–10 turns together if not more with reasonable control, style and speed, down the fall line, in most snow types then this adventure is for you.

Training for the trip:
Fitness is paramount for this ski adventure. Good fitness will make the trip more fun and you will get more out of your week! Although the course will be tailored to the group’s ability, it is highly recommended for you to get as fit as possible before you start. You must be able to ski all day if not most of the day from the first lift to the last lift with a couple of short breaks.

Getting specialist travel insurance that covers cancellation, medical and mountain rescue is highly recommended. Make sure it covers skiing off-piste beyond the ski boundary and ski touring with an instructor or guide. Buying a Carte de Neige with your lift pass in resort or online is recommended as will cover any mountain rescue without payment. You can purchase the carte de neige in resort with your lift pass for around €2 euros a day or you can purchase it on line to beat the queues for a year at . You can also purchase the Carre Neige which is a similar product:

Make sure your insurance covers skiing off piste beyond the ski boundary with an instructor or guide.

The 5 Day Adventure:
This is an off-piste and back country adventure. If the weather doesn’t allow us to ski off-piste we will brush up our technique back on the piste. This is a course where we will be passing on our experience and skills and where you can learn how to ski and move safely off-piste and most importantly to have fun while skiing.  You also will be inspired and motivated by Adventurer Squash Falconer throughout the week.

Rough Itinerary:
This an example of the 5 day back country adventure itinerary.
Night of arrival:
Welcome drink and canapés . Discuss the week ahead, plans and individual goals for the week.

Day 1:
Warm up to find our ski legs. Technical focus on: Balance and fundamental elements. Introduction to the use of avalanche equipment. Skiing mainly in Tignes.
Evening: Video Analysis
Day 2:
Technical Focus how to improve your off-piste skiing.
Evening: Avalanche Workshop
Day 3:
Technical Focus skiing on off-piste steeper terrain and variable conditions. Skiing in both Tignes and Val D’Isere
Evening: Adventure evening with Squash Falconer
Day 4:
Technical Focus ski touring/hiking. With a short tour
Day 5:
Ski tour a full day with a possible stop at a mountain hut.

Kit List– What to bring?:
Skis: Ideally an all mountain ski that is around 85-110mm under foot. Anything wider under foot than that is a lot harder to make shorter turns and to influence the ski, especially when we are skiing the bumps amongst the trees.
Boots: If you haven’t got your own boots, a downhill boot without a hike mode is fine or a touring boot.
Skins: Skins for touring.
Gloves: Gloves or mittens are fine. I normally have glove liners as well as it can get cold.
Layers: Lots of thin thermal breathable layers are always good with a waterproof jacket over the top, so you can remove them if you get hot. A buff or snood is always very handy.
Poles: Downhill poles with bigger baskets are fine. Telescopic touring poles are better for touring with.
Goggles: Goggles are a must. Ideally two lenses. If you can make sure you have a yellow goggle lens or a lens which you can put in your goggles in case of bad weather and poor visibility this will makes a huge difference.
Sunglasses: A big yes for the sunny days.
Helmet: A helmet is paramount.
Backpack: If you have a comfortable backpack 25-35 litres please can you bring it. If you have an ABS bag please bring it as it is great for off-piste but can be heavy for touring.
Avalanche Gear: If you do have a pack, shovel, probe and transceiver (digital) please bring them. If not you can rent them in resort. ABS bag is recommended.
Water bottle, flask and snacks: Nuts, dried fruit and energy bars are always handy for slow release energy instead of chocolate.
Suncream: 30+
Beanie: To keep head warm and to cover up helmet hair when having lunch!
Camera/GoPro: Good to take photos and to make movies
First Aid Kit: Small first aid kit and foil safety blanket/blizzard blanket

For more info please contact

We look forward to stepping into your next adventure with you.

Floss & Squash!

Floss Cockle is a BASI British International Ski Teacher L4 ISTD with a wealth of experience having taught skiing for sixteen years and completed nineteen winter seasons.

Snow & Rock Backcountry Ski Adventures with Freeflo & Squash Falconer

Next week on Wednesday 19th October at 6.30pm I’ll be at Snow & Rock in Covent Garden with Floss Cockle from Freeflo inspiring your adventure.

Squash & Floss from FreeFlo
Squash & Floss from FreeFlo

Are you a skier who wants to take things to the next level, go off piste and ski tour into the back country?  If so, then this event is for you.

Floss Cockle is a BASI British International Ski Teacher L4 ISTD with a wealth of experience having taught skiing for sixteen years and completed nineteen winter seasons.  I met Floss last year in Tignes and she shared with me some of the best skiing I’ve ever experienced off piste and the back country.  It was amazing, I loved it and we want to share it with you!

Come and join us at Snow & Rock next week where I’ll be telling my story of how I got into adventure in the first place, the journey I have been on and how that has lead me to ski touring in the mountains.  Floss and I will be giving you an introduction to the back country and also details of two one week trips in Tignes that we are offering in January & April next year.

On the evening Snow & Rock will be fueling your imagination with complimentary drinks and nibbles, plus 15% off all in-store purchases. Perfect for prepping your kit bag 😉

Tickets are just £5 each and all money collected is being donated to Bowel Cancer UK.

Squash & Floss in the back country
Squash & Floss in the back country




The Matt Prior Adventure Academy

Two years ago an email appeared in my inbox from Matt Prior.

“Having recently spoken to our mutual friend about a few trips, your name came up and it reminded me, I still need to write to Squash.  Unfortunately we haven’t met face to face…”

Matt continued by telling about some of his projects and was reaching out to discuss other opportunities.  I had a look around his website and realised he was a pretty remarkable character.

Matt did a Q&A with me as part of a series of interviews to show what effect adventure can have on your life.

He also told me about his baby!  The Matt Prior Adventure Academy.

“A one week adventure like no other.  A no-frills, practical course designed to give you an introduction into Adventure, Travel and Overland Expeditions.
The aim is to show you the benefits of adventure to you and your life. Once you understand the mindset and how to implement what is required, you will be able to achieve anything you want to.”

It sounded remarkable and I thought to myself, I wish I could go on that.

Amazing how things work out!

I finally met Matt, in person at the end of last year and he said he would like me to join him on one of the trips to see what I thought and to see if we both thought this was something I could lead.

My ‘interview’ was two weeks ago.  Matt was very keen that I experienced the adventure academy as he delivers it, so armed with very little information I arrived in Indonesia with my kit and met the team.

The next six days would be off grid and without internet, that I relished, but not knowing what the itinerary was, that was tough!  Not knowing where or how far we would travel or for how long, not knowing when our next meal would be or where we would stay, for me this was a new experience.  I adapted quickly – we all did, we had to!

We were a small team of four and diverse in age and background but an expedition is a great leveler and friendships formed fast.

With a strap line of Live, don’t just exist, the academy packs a huge number of unique experiences into a short space of time.  There was motorbikes, active volcanoes, remote villages, things very few other people have ever seen before and tough times where digging deep and asking a lot of yourself is needed.

I hadn’t really thought about the fact that most of the expeditions I’ve done previously have been in cold environments in dry air.  The intense heat, high humidity and tropical rain storms were a shock to my system and I was so out of my comfort zone – which of course is where the magic happens.

If this trip was easy then everyone would do it, with very limited spaces available each person is interviewed and what follows is a week of tough, unforgettable experiences that show you who you are and more importantly what you are capable of.

If you have an adventurous spark but are not really sure where to start then click here and you’ve already begun and I might just be seeing you in Indonesia next year for an amazing adventure.




Ski Touring Adventure, Tignes

April 15th 2016

“I’ve got three days, the weather looks ok and there will be windows of opportunity.  Pack light and bring good snacks”, she said.  Floss from FREEFLO has a reputation; she’s an awesome skier, a great instructor and is highly skilled in the backcountry.  As ski tour buddies go, they don’t get much better.   I packed light.

All season I’ve been ski touring in Tignes, but I’ve been on piste and in familiar areas – this was the trip I had been hoping for – an opportunity to explore the back-country, expand my ski touring horizons and go on an adventure.

We were a small team –  Floss, myself and another friend Steve.  We met early in Val Claret in Tignes and drank tea.  Looking out at the thick snow falling, this was going to go one of two ways: the weather would clear and we’d go or we’d have to postpone.  We took the Col du Palet button lift, dropped off the back; the snow stopped falling and the cloud lifted.  It was on!  We were stepping into the back-country, the untouched mountains stretched out endlessly in front of us, it felt like freedom and it looked spectacular.

The view heading up to the Pointe de la Vallaisonnay
The view heading up to the Pointe de la Vallaisonnay

After a short exhilarating powder ski down we put our skins on to head up to the Pointe de la Vallaisonnay (3020m).  Knowing that Floss had previously tried twice to get to this this point without success made reaching our first peak in a little over two hours even sweeter.  On mountains in the back-country, nothing is a given: conditions, weather, team and individual fitness all must align in order to reach goals. 

Reaching the summit of Pointe de la Vallaisonnay
Reaching the summit of Pointe de la Vallaisonnay

With Floss finding the route it was a fun ski down off the back of the Pointe and lunch in the valley floor by a nice big rock was delicious.  Ski touring is hungry work and I’ve found that in the mountains, the harder you work for it, the better it tastes.  Steve whose background I discovered was in geography, told us a story about the glacier we could see retreating on the Grand Casse in the distance – apparently it once formed part of a natural dam and we were at the bottom of the lake it created until the glacier broke, releasing an almighty volume of water wiping out all the villages below!

Re-fuelled, our next move was to skin up and around the Aiguille Noir back up to the Col Du Palet where we had begun.  We had a good pace as a team but Steve had been pushing hard all day and decided he was going to finish here. 

Almost back at the Col Du Palet where our day had begun.
Almost back at the Col Du Palet where our day had begun.

Floss and I still had time to blast down to Val Claret and catch the last lift to the Grand Motte, so that we could reach the Leisse Refuge in time for dinner and our adventure would continue.

Reaching the Leisse Refuge in time for dinner.
Reaching the Leisse Refuge in time for dinner.

The weather was closing in but Floss was familiar with the route to the refuge so it wasn’t a problem.  We skated for over an hour and were delighted to reach the refuge, the lit fire and sit down to a hearty meal.

The next morning we woke up to fresh snow and no visibility.  We took a long breakfast.  We wanted to reach the Refuge Femma and from there we could attempt to get to the peak of Mean Martin, 3330m, Floss’s ultimate goal for the trip.  Floss had casually said before we set out that it would be amazing to get there.  It’s crucial on a trip that you understand each teammate’s goals.  I knew I had the fitness and ability to get there and could support Floss’s ambitions.  I also knew that in doing this I could achieve my goals of exploring the backcountry and having an adventure.   This was teamwork making the dream work!

Waking up to fresh snow and poor viability.
Waking up to fresh snow and poor viability.

The visibility was lifting a little but it wasn’t ideal.  Honesty within a team is vital – it’s no good pretending you can do something and finding yourself up on the mountain in a situation, stuck.  You can put your own life in danger and even worse put your team in danger.  My navigation skills are ok; Floss’s are very good.  Both aware of each other’s skill level, we set off South, touring up the steep slope of Cotes De Leisse dessus, stopping regularly to read the map and setting the reciprocal compass bearing in case we needed to back track.  We soon reached the Col De Pierre Blanche 2842m.  The cloud lifted for a short while and we enjoyed the day’s high point but we were both highly aware that we needed to get to the refuge. It was only 5km away and 380m down.  The thick fog set in and we were engulfed, we could only see a couple of metres in any direction.  We knew where we were on the map and I listened as Floss explained a plan.  She knew there was a river in the valley below; we could ski down to it, avoiding the cliffs beneath us and then it was simple – we could follow it all the way to the refuge.  It was a really good learning curve for me.  I was so fixed on following the route we had planned which was to traverse along the ridge and drop down to the refuge that I hadn’t considered another route.  We carefully made our way down the steep gully and reached the river, which we aptly named, “relief river” for obvious reasons and soon after we reached Femma.

Floss taking a break, happy & relieved at 'Relief River'
Floss taking a break, happy & relieved at ‘Relief River’

Refuges are wonderful places; simple, functional and warm.  There’s no tv, no wifi and no phone signal.  The outside world is a million miles away.  We drank tea, ate snacks and reflected on the day’s adventure.  It had been a really good day.

Refuge Femma
Refuge Femma

Both awake before the alarm went off, we were up and out early!  The weather was good and we both knew Mean Martin was within our reach.  There was fresh snow and no one else in sight. It was day three of our adventure and we had found a rhythm.  We silently made our way through the snow, stopping occasionally to take in the absolute beauty of our surroundings and to enjoy some of our remaining snacks! 

Leaving Refuge Femma in the morning.
Leaving Refuge Femma in the morning.

We reached the summit in under 3.5hrs.  It was windy and the weather was closing in once again, we had timed it just right. 

The ski down in the fresh powder was exhilarating and brilliant.  We were delighted – we had achieved our goals and we were rewarded with this incredible powder descent.

In order to get back to Tignes we had a little more touring to do – we had to head up and over the Col De Fours, make our way to the Manchet Valley which would take us into Val D’Isere and from there make our way back to Tignes on the pistes.

We took our time, stopped and sat in the snow for a while – I wasn’t ready for the adventure to end.  It was a privilege to have been touring with Floss.  What an amazing trip we’d had and I was now armed with more knowledge, more experience and a huge feeling of excitement about our next adventure.

If you’re interested in joining us on a ski tour adventure then please sign up to my mailing list on the homepage of my website or send me an email squash@squashfalconer.

 Click here to read Floss’s blog about the adventure.

The Red Bull X-Alps – Dawn Westrum Team USA3

The Red Bull X-Alps, a 1038km race from Salzburg to Monaco by foot or by paraglider, is less than two weeks away.

With a reputation as the toughest adventure race in the world all eyes are now turning to the athletes and their supporters as they reach the final stages of their preparation.

For the past 10 yesrs the bi-annual event has had an all male line up.  This year that’s different and we’re delighted to see Dawn Westrum from the USA and Yvonne Dathe from Germany.

This weekend I had a quick catch up with Dawn who arrived in Europe on May 5th.

How is training going?
Training is going well, a good mix of flat road hiking, hills, upper body training (via ferratas!), and flying.   With only a couple of weeks to go now I am starting to taper…better to be too rested than over trained.

How do you feel physically?
Physically I am ready for the race to start.  Bring it on!

How do you feel mentally?  Is it as you imagined?
Mentally I am a lot more confident than before we arrived.  Being able to see the terrain, fly it, hike it has been perfect.  Now I know what is coming and I know the fastest routes on the ground and in the air.

Have you been training with the other teams, how is that?
We traveled for a few days with Dave Turner and his supporters, which was fun.  We were able to help each other out by comparing notes and checking out the maps for the area.

Are you feeling a lot of pressure as only one of two women in the event?
No, I don’t feel too much pressure.  Well, I may be lying about that, as I think everyone in the race is feeling a lot of pressure!   But I’m going in with the idea that I’m competing against myself.  As long as I do the best I can then I will be satisfied.

What are you thinking about when you go to sleep each night?
I’m sleeping pretty well at night, actually.  I’m trying to store up a little although I know I can’t do that.  I think since I spend a lot of the day thinking about the race, I can let it go at night and sleep well.

Describe how you feel in three words about the race starting in just two weeks.
Let’s start tomorrow!


Big thanks to Dawn for taking the time to chat and Good Luck!

I’ll be arriving in Salzburg in a weeks time with the Powertraveller team who are partners of this years event – we will be following the race and supporting the athletes for their off-grid power needs.  New for this years race is the Powertraveller Prologue Race – on the 2nd July the athletes will take part in a mini X-Alps completing a triangle around Fuschl Am See, amongst the mountains made famous in the classic film – The Sound of Music!  Unlike the race itself the Powertraveller Prologue will allow fans to be really close to the action for the entire duration.   The first three athletes to finish will earn a five-minute head start in the main race and they will also win an additional Led Lenser Nightpass to journey through the night, which is going to make things very interesting!

The Red Bull X-Alps – Team GBR

With little over six weeks to go before the start of the Red Bull X-Alps the athletes are preparing for the race of their lives.  With it’s reputation as the toughest adventure race in the world the Red Bull X-Alps covers a straight line distance of just over 1000km, from Salzburg to Monaco, which must be covered by foot or by paraglider.

As proud partners of the event the team at Powertraveller (who provide the ultimate off grid power solutions and who I am an ambassador for) are getting excited about following this epic journey.  Each athlete has been given a Powermonkey Explorer 2 – the toughest portable charger providing off grid power whenever they need it; which could be above the mountain tops while flying high or in the depths of a valley running in the rain.

We’ve loved getting to know some of the athletes and getting their invaluable feedback about the Powermonkey Explorer 2 and of course while we support and are cheering on every team in the event Steve Nash and Richard Bungay, Team GBR, have a special place in our hearts!

Steve Nash

No stranger to this event Steve Nash competed in the 2011 Red Bull X-Alps so he knows precisely what he’s in for.  At 52 he will be the oldest athlete in the race but with age comes experience and a solid foundation of fitness and skill.  He has flown from the Vallot hut at 4,362m on Mt Blanc, from the summit of Elbrus and from 6,200m on Peak Lenin in Kyrgyzstan and he’s vol-bivvied across the Pyrenees during his 20 plus years of paragliding cross county.  With a reputation of being a running machine and doing mountain marathons for over 10yrs Steve completed the 119km Ultra Trail du Mont Blanc TDS race with 7,250m of ascent in an impressive time of 26hrs 5mins.

In his day job Steve is an engineer but now in training mode he’s taken a break from work and is in training full time.  He recently completed a Hike & Fly of the 15 peaks (3000ft mountains) in Snowdonia, Wales.  He took 10 hrs 18 mins to complete the challenge (44k with 3404m height gain) and it seems that this is the first time anyone has done this using a paraglider.  Currently Steve is in the Alps for a month to do a thorough X-Alps route recce and when we asked how he’s feeling about the upcoming X-Alps he had this to say…

“Since selection in October, my whole existence has been focused to the start of the Red Bull X-Alps on the 5th July.  I’ve been in the Alps now for 3 weeks traveling the route, exploring options and talking to anyone and everyone who has ‘local knowledge’ of the areas.  Richard has joined me to spend another week in the Austrian section, where we will fine tune all of our equipment and routines.  We now feel very familiar with the 2015 route and both look forward to a very expensive cup of tea in the Cafe de Paris in Casino Square.”

Steve Nash charging Richard with his Powermonkey Explorer 2!
Steve Nash charging Richard with his Powermonkey Explorer 2!


Follow Team GBR’s facebook page and Red Bull X-Alps diary.

Website – Team GBR



Helping Nepal with Toblerone

Nepal and it’s people hold a special place in my heart – I have been fortunate to visit four times and each time I’ve fallen more in love with the place, the people and their culture.

Shocked and sad about the earthquake I felt pretty helpless in the comfort of my home, wondering how I could help.  I have good friends who were out there at the time of the earthquake, some were even on Everest when the quake hit and through their charities I was able to make donations that I knew would be used wisely.

My donations felt like a tiny drop in the ocean and I wondered how I could encourage other people to donate and I hit upon the idea of rewarding donations to my friends charities with Toblerone.

A good friend had given me a giant bar of Toblerone for Easter.  And when I say giant, I mean 4.5kgs!  I decided I would deliver a chunk of Toblerone for each donation.  Where possible I would deliver in person; by foot, by ElliptiGo or by car.

I thought to myself, even if I only get a couple of donations it’s better than nothing.  I was overwhelmed by the response, in just a few days all the chunks were gone (there were 12) and some people even re donated their chunk so that I could put them up for delivery again.  Thanks to everyone’s generosity we raised £1,130.00!!!


I’ve almost delivered all the chunks and it’s been lovely to catch up with (and in some cases meet the people) who donated.  Thank you all xxx

Please check the links below to see the good work these charities are doing and also if you can donate, please do.  It all makes a difference.





Nepal, Everest Summit Anniversary, & Toblerone

It’s four years today since I was on top of the world, literally.

Summit of Mt Everest
Summit of Mt Everest

I’m careful where I use the word luck, because to hold luck responsible for something isn’t always accurate and can take away from the effort involved.  However, I can definitely say, especially in light of recent events in Nepal, I was lucky enough to reach the summit of Mount Everest.

This morning there was news of a second huge earthquake in Nepal and I wanted to help, I wanted to do something.  My single donation felt like a drop in the ocean but together with other donations all of a sudden ‘we’ can make a difference.

I had an idea to reward donations with Toblerone.  A dear friend, knowing my love for chocolate, had recently given me a 4.5kg bar of Toblerone and I thought, perhaps people will donate to the efforts in Nepal and in return I can share a huge chunk of chocolate.


That was this morning.  Just 10hours later through generous donations, the Toblerone is almost gone and the £500 target that I wanted to raise has been met.

I can’t think of a better way to have recognised my summit anniversary than to have contributed to the efforts being made to help re build Nepal.


There is still a few chunks of Toblerone left, so if you can donate, please do.  I have chosen the following four charities to support because I personally know the people who are responsible for where the funding is going.

I’m asking for donations of at least £43 for a chunk of toblerone, simply donate to one of the above charities, let me know and I’ll send you chocolate!

Thank you.



The Red Bull X-Alps 2015 Route Revealed and the Powertraveller Prologue Race

Last week I headed to Salzburg to the famous Hangar 7 to attend a press launch revealing the route for the 2015 Red Bull X-Alps race.

Known for being the toughest adventure race in the world, the race sees athletes cover a distance of over 1000km, by foot or by paraglider, from Salzburg to Monaco.

During the race athletes must pass certain designated turn points and this dictates the route.  For 2015 there will be 10 turn points, through 6 countries covering 1038km.

RedBull X-Alps 2015 Route
RedBull X-Alps 2015 Route

This year also sees the brand new one day Powertraveller Prologue race.  On the 2nd July the athletes will take part in a mini X-Alps completing a triangle around Fuschl Am See.  Unlike the race itself the Powertraveller Prologue will allow fans to be really close to the action for the entire duration.  The first three athletes to finish will earn a five-minute head start in the main race and they will also win an additional Led Lenser Nightpass to journey through the night.  The night pass could be a game changer and have a significant impact on the race results.

RedBull X-Alps Powertraveller Prologue Race
RedBull X-Alps Powertraveller Prologue Race

Attending the route announcement were four of the Red Bull X-Alps athletes.

Chrigel Maurer (SUI1) winner of the previous three races and race record holder (last year he finished the race in 6 days 23hrs and 40mins!).  Chrigel told me that whilst the route isn’t much longer he thinks it will be much harder, especially if the weather is bad.  I wondered if now he knew the route he would change his training plan but he said not, that the weather now will be very different to July and so there would be no real advantage.  Maurer told me that he uses a process to train that works for anywhere in the world – the process is “to learn what is needed to continue.  So taking small steps using the map, a weather forecast and feeling”.

I asked him if he was feeling pressure to win because of his previous race domination and  he said, “I  feel pressure because I broke my leg and the big question is how it will work in the summer”.  He continued, “my head is fast like last summer but my leg is slow and I hope I can perform like last year, I believe I can still be fast.  There are also many new athletes this year, 22 new teams, and we don’t know how they will do, maybe they have some new ideas and will be much faster, this we have to accept and to know it can happen and react smart – that will be the challenge.”

Christian Maurer
Christian Maurer

Not the only one with leg troubles, Italian athlete Aaron Durogati (ITA) and his team mate Ondrej Prochazka were also there – both recovering from broken legs!  Aaron, now well recovered told me about his Italian diet and said he can easily eat half a kilo of pasta! “…but it must be gluten free with just olive oil.”  He smiled and looked over to team mate Ondrej ” he has to cook a lot of pasta because I don’t like energy gels too much, I prefer real food.”

RedBull X-Alps Italian Team
RedBull X-Alps Italian Team

I was excited to get the chance to meet Yvonne Dathe (GER2) – one of the two women in the race this year – there hasn’t been a woman in the X-Alps for 10 years!

I asked her what her first reaction was when she found out she had been accepted into the X-Alps, “oh god!” was her reply with a big smile!  “I think it’s a big challenge and I want to do my best, concentrating on having my own race.”

Yvonne told me, “I think women have the same chances as men although less enter because they are fearful.  I hope to send a positive message to other women and more will get involved.”

RedBull X-Alps Yvonne Dathe
RedBull X-Alps Yvonne Dathe

Local pilot Paul Guschlbauer (AUT1) was also there, he’s been training harder than ever before and several people suggested that he would for sure be one to watch this year!

As the press launch came to an end Hannes Arch, the race mastermind summarised…

“The race will be fast if there is good weather and good thermals.  This is the 7th edition of the X-Alps and more than ever the athletes are learning and developing in every detail of the race.  One thing is for sure, every year there can be big surprises and the organisers are usually one step behind!”






Climbing Grande Sassiere

Twelve years ago resting on the side of a ski piste in Tignes, France, we were looking across the valley to the largest peak on the horizon.

“That’s Sassiere, you can climb that” announced my friend Jason and I thought that seemed like a cool thing to do and made a mental note that one day I might just try it.

…and finally last week that ‘one day’ arrived!

GoPro summit photo!

Earlier this year in June I did a recky for the climb with Kath; one of my best friends, mother of three and constant source of inspiration to me and last week I was back in Tignes for three days and the weather was looking good.

Our recky climb proved invaluable, it’s easy to go wrong at the start of this climb and we had done just that!  (From the car park near the lake, take the HIGHER path through the meadows!).

Our alarm went off at 4.30am and we had reached the car park by 5.20am and although almost a full moon, the cloud covering shut out all the light and it was pitch black.  We were so excited to finally be attempting this peak.

5.20am and ready to go!

It’s a steep ascent to the start of the West ridge. Our first hour was in darkness and looking back we could see the dimly lit Tignes villages.

Dimly lit Tignes behind us

As the sun came up we had reached the rocky ridge and welcomed the ease of some flat-ish ground to cover before the scramble leading to the snowy ridge and the final rock ascent.  Being late in the season most of the snow was melted so although we used ice axes we didn’t need our crampons.

Making good time we had a break around 7am, added a few layers and took in the views which were getting more impressive with every meter we climbed.

The final rocky section was trickier than I expected, it was icy and quite slippery.  I’d been focusing on my feet and looked up to see the summit was close.  Our route up was still in shade but as we reached the top at 8.44am the morning sun hit us and the incredible view over the Aosta Vally was breath taking.

Stunning views from the summit

In fact the entire view was breath taking and the moving cloud made it all the more dramatic.  For a few minutes we had glimpses of Mont Blanc but within 20mins the entire summit was in cloud.  We had been so lucky to have arrived before the cloud set in.

Views over the Aosta Valley

It was brutally cold at the top, so after a quick test of Powertravellers new Powermonkey Explorer 2 battery unit charging the GoPro and a few photos we headed back down.

Testing the Powermonkey Explorer 2Kath and I were both in very high spirits on the way down, it was brutal on our knees but it was such a great feeling to have finally reached the top of Sassiere.  We were back at the car before noon and by 1pm were drinking mugs of hot tea … Delighted!

Heading back down

Sassiere is 3,751m it’s a mountain in the Graian Alps on the boundary between the Aosta Valley and the French Savoie.