Tag Archives: avalanche


The avalanche risk estimate is currently set at five in the Trois Vallees. It’s the most extreme level of risk on the avalanche danger scale and indicates that large and very large avalanches are certain to be triggered by skiers travelling in avalanche terrain, which is any slope between 30 and 45 degrees (the slope angle on which slab avalanches are most likely to occur).

Since I don’t really fancy my chances in an avalanche I stayed home today and surfed the web, where I stumbled across Greg Hill’s Mountain Rules.

Greg is a Suunto sponsored ski mountaineer and guide who has five simple rules for mountain travel that I really identify with as follows:

  1.   Be Afraid
  2.   Be Prepared
  3.  Have a great team
  4.  Have a plan
  5.  Be vigilant

Greg’s five rules are the product of  20 years experience in the mountains. By contrast, I have just three rules for backcountry travel which were developed in 50°C heat on the plains of Afghanistan. But I reckon they’re just as good and there’s plenty of similarity:

  1.   Hope for the best
  2.   Plan for the worst
  3.   Prepare to be surprised

Of course, ‘Be afraid’ was not a rule in Afghanistan. It was a given.

SPIN ZHIRA: Old Man in Helmand. A true story of love, service and incompetence.
Over-matched, over-ruled and over-weight, Spin Zhira is a tale of one man’s personal battle against the trials of middle age set on the front line of the most dangerous district in Afghanistan. Guaranteed to make you laugh and cry or your money back.¹

Ten reasons to read SPIN ZHIRA.

‘Brims with authenticity and dark humour.’
Patrick HennesseyThe Junior Officers’ Reading Club

‘A must read.’
Richard DorneyThe Killing Zone 

‘The best book by a soldier concerning the Afghan War that I have read.’
Frank Ledwidge, Losing Small Wars 

‘First Class.’
Doug Beattie MC, An Ordinary Soldier

 ‘Absolutely fantastic’
Dr Mike MartinAn Intimate war

What others are saying about SPIN ZHIRA.

¹Check the small print first

I’m dreading the next snowfall

There has been no fresh snowfall in the Trois Vallees for over six weeks. Christmas and New Year passed by with not even a single, solitary flake.

Like everyone else I’ve been silently praying for snow and finally, it seems our prayers are to be answered. Snow is already falling in Verbier, Switzerland and Meteo France predicts significant snowfalls for the Trois Vallees in the coming days.

But now the snow is finally coming there’s a part of me that dreads its arrival – because I know it will be deadly. In the excitement of fresh powder caution will be thrown to the winds. Skiers will duck under the rope and venture  onto virgin snowfields without the correct equipment and without understanding or analysing the risks involved. I know this because, sadly,  it happens on every powder day. Last season I was in close proximity to two fatal avalanches triggered by the skiers who lost their lives. The year before I assisted in an unsuccessful avalanche rescue.

After such a long barren patch it seems horribly  inevitable that, in the next few days when the long awaited fresh snowfall finally arrives, tragedy will strike.

I will, of course, still be out on the mountain carving fresh tracks of my own, but this year my own elation will be tinged with a sadness that comes from the knowledge and experience of previous seasons.

SPIN ZHIRA: Old Man in Helmand is a unique account of the Afghan war as seen through the eyes of a middle-aged man thrust onto the frontline by a failed marriage, financial ruin and the words of John Stuart Mill (1806–1873). A true story of love, service and adventure, it is a compelling examination of choice that explores the landscape of war and commitment to cause and honour, juxtaposed against heartbreaking love for family and the persistent call of the untracked snowfield and its descent into the unknown.

‘The best book by a soldier concerning the Afghan War that I have read’
Frank Ledwidge, bestselling author of Losing Small Wars and Investment in Blood

‘SPIN ZHIRA vividly conveys the disjointed essence of modern warfare and the impossibility of balancing the adrenaline of combat with ‘normal’ life. This book brims with authenticity and dark humour.’
Patrick Hennessey, bestselling author of The Junior Officers’ Reading Club and Kandak

‘If you want to read about political and military success in Afghanistan, this book isn’t for you. If you want a fresh perspective from someone who is not a career officer and who is brave enough to bare his soul, then SPIN ZHIRA is a must read.’
Lt Col Richard Dorney, bestselling author of The Killing Zone and An Active Service

‘Five stars’
SOLDIER The official magazine of the British Army

‘A journey of love, service and adventure. Excellent.’
Amazon Customer

Ten reasons why you should read SPIN ZHIRA.