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.

Count down to the big 50

Mysterious request from the other half for my top 20 pictures of the Dru.

I think I did well and got it down to 40 but I only went back to 2018.

Here are the top Digital Black & Whites. I think my fave B&W will always be the one taken with the OM20 and lovingly processed by Fez at https://back2blackandwhite.com/about-us

I’ll do a proper scan and share the wonder that it is very soon including the voodoo magic developing map that Fez also produced. He is a wonder.

In the mean time here are the digital lovelies .. 3 from the Olympus EM5 before it decided to have an on off hissy fit and the rest from the glorious Nikon D850. Honestly if it wasn’t such an exercise in fitness to lug the thing about the EM5 wouldn’t get a look in .. plus the D850 is not actually quite mine exactly.

Just sharing the love….

And then there were 9

Waiting for friends to arrive and an aborted tour.

20th Jan with the rest of the gang showing up that evening we decided a mini adventure to Les Contamines was in order. A deserted car park and 5 Ski Randonnee passes later found us clinging onto the vicious Button lift (Thanks to the very galant lifty who helped me and Chris but left the boys to fend for themselves) then contemplating the entry to the skin up which seemed sketchy at best due to the aspect, angle and amount of snow.

One very wise decision later justified by the significant Avalanche just along from where we were due to ski but couldn’t see from our vantage point and the rapid decline in visibility left us testing my skinning ability back up to the top of the resort to enable us to find the picnic spot and the home run.

Suitably motivated we finished the day with some Avalanche Tranceiver practice and made it home in time to fish our newly arrived friends out of the nearest bar.

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And here comes the snow.

The garden has pretty much filled up with snow by 22nd Jan.

The snow meant another day of confinement to les Houches. Plenty of fluffy stuff to be found both in and out of the trees. A very fine welcome for the new arrivals.

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Rain stopped play

21st Jan and some shenanigans in the small car park for the apartment and rescue by the friendly neighbourhood digger followed by an aborted attempt to go skiing where we wussed out .. well no-one likes to ski in the rain.

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We are now tunneling out of the front door.

A touch of Italian

The search for sun took us to Italy and Courmayeur. For sure plenty of Sun to be had and some truly terrible off piste.

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Great spot for lunch though

And to feed the Obsession with the Dru, some morning light.

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Followed by evening light on the Midi

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To be continued …. Day 17 and the quest for fresh tracks ……