I’ve been a little behind everyone else in looking back at my 2015 highlights and thinking about this year’s goals. To be honest, January is such a rubbish month that I actually think February is where the real start of the year is for me anyway.
This winter has been a very strange one for me. Instead of the usual adventuring and travelling, I’ve been recovering from surgery on my shoulder back in November, and I’d be lying if I said it hadn’t been a tough few months!
Anyone who’s had similar surgery will know that the recovery period is long, frustratingly slow and painful, but essential to do it properly to hopefully ensure many more years of biking, climbing, swimming, and even just normal everyday shoulder use!
So planning for the year ahead has taken a back seat until recently when I could finally start to see the light at the end of the tunnel.
After a lot of hard work and more hours of rehab in the gym than I can count, I’m pleased to say things are looking good. I’m back on the bike and getting stronger every day.
The end of 2015
Despite the abrupt and disappointing end to 2015, when a little tumble from my bike in the last week of the guiding season resulted in a dislocated shoulder and the subsequent aforementioned surgery. All in all, 2015 up to that point had been a great year.
The most memorable highlight has to be my two-month road trip around the North and South islands of New Zealand. Exploring the country’s hugely varied bike trails, staying in mountain huts on overnight adventures, heli-drop rides, amazingly beautiful wild scenery, the incredible emptiness of the whole place, and the wonderfully friendly people I met.
I took part in the inaugural NZ Enduro in the Marlborough region; 3 days of challenging but fantastic riding, and my first Enduro World Series event in Rotorua, again, a super tough event but one that I love.
I hope it won’t be too long before I can get back to New Zealand. There are years worth of trails I have to go back for. I would recommend a biking trip there to any mountain bikers.
I spent a lot of the spring exploring in Scotland, especially further North, with trips up to Torridon and the Cairngorms, and even up to Lochinver, North of Ullapool. The more time I spend in Scotland, the more I want to do more there! It’s such a vast, wild place with a character unlike anywhere else…I love it!
I spent a great bank holiday weekend upon a bothy trip with good friends in horrendous weather. It could have been a disaster but being cut off from technology and the rest of the World for a couple of days was the perfect way to take time out, relax, destress and have some proper thinking time. Taking plenty of red wine and fuel for the fire helped with this too.
I know a lot of people are put off by its reputation for terrible weather, and it’s true, you do take your chances with the elements when you head north, but some of the best days I’ve had have been in the worst weather!
The light through the mountains when there is an approaching storm can be incredible, and there’s no better way to feel more invigorated and alive than by being out and battered in wild weather.Scotland does bad weather well, and you can be guaranteed of finding some cosy welcoming pub with a roaring fire to warm up beside, as well as a fine selection of single malts to warm you from within and toast your survival! Having said that, I’ve been sunburnt in April in Scotland before too!
It was also great to spend a bit of time-based in the Tweed Valley, working on Go-Where Scotland’s Mountain Lassies girls-only weekend, exploring more of the area’s great network of trails, and helping with the Tweedlove Bike Festival.
This was topped off with another round of racing the Enduro world Series. Whilst performance wise it wasn’t my best weekend’s racing, I still had a great time, and to be honest for me that’s the main thing!
The week of the Trans-Provence race is always one of my favourite weeks of the year, and 2015 was no exception. Held in June for the first time this year, racers and staff benefitted from longer days, better weather, and equally as amazing as ever trails and scenery on this epic 6 day race.
I say race but it’s actually more of a big journey of amazing riding with some timed stages each day. The downside was that some days it was actually too hot, making some of the climbs seem harder than ever
As the course sweeper, I got to be out on the hill for the maximum amount of time each day which I loved as it meant I got to make the most of the incredible places the race passes through.
Summer guiding the Maritime Alps
Of course, a large proportion of the summer months was spent out in France guiding. Guiding in the Alps is one of the best jobs in the World. Fact. Every day I get to take fellow mountain bikers on trails and through scenery that blows your mind, and share incredible days and experiences with them that will be etched into memories forever.
My ‘office view’ is constantly changing with the light, weather and seasons. Also, I’m outdoors doing something I truly love and being paid for it.
Believe it or not, there are plenty of downsides to the job too, but not enough to stop me feeling thankful every day that I am able to do something I feel so passionate about as my job. Several of the trails on 2015’s trips are currently in my top 5 trails anywhere ever list. They are that good!
So, now onto 2016 and the plans and achievements which I come it may bring.
In a few weeks time, I’m introducing some friends who have never stayed in a bothy before to the joys of winter bothy biking trip. In the Lakes in February! Watch this space for how that one goes
I’ll be speaking at the Fort William Mountain Festival Bike Night at the end of February…eek! My first public speaking event. I’m excited but nervous!
Following this trip, I’ll be speaking as part of my role as a Juliana Bicycles ambassador at a few of the Juliana demo days that UK importers Jungle will be running around the UK, getting to chat and ride with some lovely ladies as they test out the range of fantastic Juliana bikes.
Trans Provence Race Week
In June, it will be Trans Provence race time again, and this year I’ll be part of the Mountain staff race timing crew. There’ll be 4 of us heading out early each day to set up and man the timed race stages as the 75 lucky racers pass through. This will be the 4th year I’ve been involved with the race in some way, and I’m already excited about this year’s event!
This will be the 4th year I’ve been involved with the race in some way, and I’m already excited about this year’s event!
From here I’ll be based out in France again from June to October for the guiding season, with a few new trips to guide on as well as some that I’ve been working on for a few years now.
In between guiding trips I have a few of my own little adventures planned this summer out in various parts of the Alps. I won’t say any more than that right now, but more will be revealed as they draw closer!
One to look forward to – Yak Attack
I’m saving my biggest adventure for the end of the year when I’ll be heading to the Himalayas to race in the Yak Attack! This is a 10-day marathon stage race in Nepal that is billed as one of the toughest in the World.
As it’s the 10th year the race has run, this year’s route will be bigger and more special than ever, and will pass through the Forbidden Kingdom of Upper Mustang where only a limited number of people are given permission to venture each year.
At an average altitude of 4000m and a 5300m pass to cross, my biggest anxiety is how well I will be able to deal with the thin air….gulp!
There will undoubtedly be more opportunities and ventures that arise in what is already shaping up to be a busy and fun-filled year ahead. It’s nice to leave space for these unplanned and often exciting things so I can say “Yes!” to any that come up!
I’m hugely grateful for the fantastic support I have from Juliana Bicycles, Invisiframe, Bikmo, Sweet Protection and Maloja; the awesome companies for whom I’m an ambassador. I am hugely looking forward to working with each of them again through 2016, and all the adventures these will bring.Right, let’s get this year properly started!!