That was 2020

Despite it all 2020 had some amazing moments and all the pandemic craziness taught us cherish who you have, what you have on your doorstep and celebrate the little things.

So to honour all that here’s my 2020 highlights. Consider it a personal kick in the pants to stop moaning about the fact it’s January 2021 and spending some time in the mountains any time soon on some lovingly serviced planks courtesy of the other half (talking of cherish who you have) is looking like a remote prospect.

It started with a bang in Weymouth crewing for Sirotechnics fireworks on Fort North and miraculously ended with fireworks crewing for Northern Lights Fireworks in Bath, thanks to the amazing crown funding efforts of Michael Eades in memory of his parents and on behalf of the Royal United Hospital Critical Care Unit.

We got some brilliant Skiing in early season facilitated by the ability to hop between work locations thanks to Alpy Bus and Easy Jet … oh my how things have changed. I actually learned to enjoy the human powered up .. sort of!

Les Roches Des Enclaves ski tour with visiting friends .. team white dot.
Plenty of hard earned turns post Les Grands Montets skin up.
A week in the deep with mates in Chamonix
A colourful line up in Pila in search of open slopes post epic storms in the Alps.

Things were starting to go awry with tales of virus in China and how oblivious we were about what was to come squeezing in a sneaky weekend in Sainte Foy

And some incredible powder all the more wonderful as it was completely unexpected

The world was shutting down and we are still in Chamonix and insanely on what was to be the last weekend of the official season friends jumped on a flight for the weekend. They do have 3 kids though and rarely get the chance for some grown up slope time so motivation was high.

Skinning up
Screaming down

They shut the mountains that day and then flight traffic all but halted the week after and we found ourselves in Lockdown Chamonix style and home office was a little more exotic than expected.

Difficult to complain about being stuck here though.
Early mornings to catch the sun pop over the Dru

I definitely had the best view from the home office ever!

We finally made it back to the UK after Easter to the UK lockdown and a riot of colour in the garden.

Tulips are running riot

A purchase of a Bird feeder and some RSPB buggy nibbles as recommended by my bird loving sister and the new home office view changed to this.

The Starlings that hang out on the Church tower opposite found it a big hit.

The Blue tits like to surf

And this wee fella was so cute and fluffy

The 30dayswildphoto challenge for June thanks to the Cumbrian wildlife trust kept a few of us focused on the little things while on our lockdown sanctioned daily excursions and was great encouragement to stretch the legs during 6 weeks of furlough.

Solsbury hill saw lots of ups as did several of the local downs.

Solsbury hill sunset timelapse
There had been a glass or two of fizz consumed while watching the sun go down.

A couple of those glasses were to celebrate the big 50!

Exploring the local footpaths we discovered, in some cases re-discovered, the local hidden wild places and reminded ourselves what a beautiful part of the world we are lucky enough to live in.

and the garden is getting even more colourful

The 60 plus sunflower hatchlings are growing and some have been given away to new homes.

We even have our own Sunflower field nearby .. feels like the South of France

We entertained in the Garden, once or twice in the rain

We made it a little further afield to see friends down South and explored their local trails.

And when it was allowed headed to Wales to see family.

Helping with winter preparations

I managed to get to see the folks down south while infections were low in between lockdowns and tier prohibitions.

The Badbury rings tree lined Avenue

What was supposed to be a friends 50th birthday celebration by way of running the Marathon Du Medoc (yes I know crazy people) turned into the Marathon Du Mendip and this was the resulting souvenir.

This is now planned to be an annual event.

A surprise fireworks show on the Thames for Sirotechnics fireworks was a unexpected bonus and some compensation for a missed trip to Monaco for an international competition.

And a few days in the Lake District when it was ok to go to Cumbria and the campsites were open was something to celebrate.

The trips up Solsbury hill became a regular thing whatever the weather

The much explored Bathampton woods turned Autumnal

And two more fireworks shows came our way. One celebration of life where we hope we provided a fitting send off.

One for Bonfire Night with a socially distanced watch from your garden event for Batheaston Scouts.

We finally got to see what ended up being the only live Ruby with a crowd at the Rec since the virus took over our lives.

Bath lost but it was an epic match.

There has been many hours spent socialising by video with virtual pubs, wine tasting as an excuse to get merry with friends and share meals from a distance and Christmas was far from the traditional family gathering but it was a gloriously sunny day.

We did get to blow stuff up on a very chilly New year’s eve. Always good to top and tail a year with a bang.

Come on 2021 …… bring it on.

The day they shut the mountains

March 15th and 16th 2020 Chamonix. It was supposed to be two days of a little bit of up but mostly all about the down with a couple of good ski friends who’s snowy hols are typically punctuated by corralling their three kids.

March 15th went according to plan with some fluffy then crunchy then slushy descents of the GM and a sneeky up to get over the back. For once I wasn’t last as our friends were somewhat hampered by their down hill boots .. hurrah!

These were some of the best powder turns of the season.

In the run up to the weekend the resort was rife with rumours of the hills being shut at the weekend as the French nation braced themselves for some critical measures to manage the new coronovirus which seemed to be spreading fast among the population. Our friends came out on friday evening in any case. The lure of some kid free adventuring was too great to resist.

The GM had signs up suggesting skiers to reduce the numbers of people in individual cable car bubbles but no-one was taking it all that seriously. Looking back on it now it seems difficult to believe we were so blasé.

The Dru even popped out to wish us a happy evening.

Sunday morning dawned and everything was shut. I guess sense had prevailed in the end although it didn’t feel like it at the time. So a slightly lazy start and a nice walk up towards Argentiere as far as Le Lavancher and back in time for a glass of Rose in the sunny sunny garden and Alpy bus or was it Easy bus back to GVA. Amazingly despite somewhat chaotic scenes at Geneva Airport our friends made it home to the UK safe and sound .. more or less .. but that’s someone else’s tale to tell.

I was supposed to be flying to Spain for work that week direct from GVA but that was looking altogether dubious as Spain seemed worse off than France and then off to Germany the week after .. Hmmm

And that was the start of the take each day as it comes, several easyjet flight shenanigans and wondering exactly how long we’d be “trapped” in Chamonix. Well there are worse places to wait out the apocalypse.

A sneaky weekend in Sainte Foy

Luckily for us before the world succumbed to a pandemic and retreated into lockdown we had what turned out to be one of the most amazing powdery weekends of snowy fun when we went to visit friends who have a lovely spot in a village called La Masure just down the hill from the Sainte Foy station ski hill.

We had skied there once before for a weekend in 2019 when there was, at some points, very little snow. to be fair it was the last day of the season.

It’s a fantastic spot. The resort itself has only a handful of lifts but some amazing off-piste and touring adventure possibilities. We didn’t explore it much in 2019 due to the epic melt in progress but had a fun few days .. which included a 3 hour lunch in Sainte Foy and a race to catch the last lift, a more snowy blast in Tignes, which is about an hour drive up the valley and a day of fabulous views and tarte aux framboises in Les Arc, which is accessible via a series of chairs from Villaroger.

The run down from Les Arc back to Villaroger was a bit exciting as the piste was, in places, just a 2m wide strip of snow snaking down the mountain. The glass of Rose part way down helped a lot.

Anyway this year, last weekend of February 2020, was a whole other ballgame. We drove through the night with a couple of like minded friends and arrived to a fresh dump of snow and blues skies and a wonderful breakfast Thanks to our La Masure buddies.

We spend three incredible days in Sainte Foy station and despite the fact it only has 4 lifts we never ran out of entertainment.

Sainte Foy 2020

and here.

Sainte-Foy-1

Day 3 we decided to do a route our hosts think they might have done with a guide before but they didn’t seem entirely sure which involved a big loop round from the Col de l’Aiguille to the historic village of Le Monal without too much human powered up.

A little movie of the adventure is here

And a few of B&Ws with the trusty little Olympus EM5 of Le Monal which was all snow bound and gorgeous.

Great spot for lunch.

Three of us got dropped at GVA to fly home on Sunday, Our Hosts headed back to their UK base a little later that day and my other half headed to Chamonix to finish off what was to be a rather curtailed season.

The mountains are still there though so high hopes for some more adventures here in years to come.

January 2020 in Chamonix

Another video from this ski season. OK it is starting to look like we only skied the Grand Montet.

Well that is almost true for the first couple of weeks of the season.

This was the best day ever with one of the most memorably fabulously fluffy runs down the back face after the heart attack inducing skin up to the top.

I may be almost getting used to it … almost

If you want evidence that we did do other things then check out the Flickr collection from our habitual 2 weeks with the usual suspects.

The Dru and friends

Eventually there will be a movie. One of the projects for the three weeks of furlough I am about to be sent on on account of the new coronovirus economics.