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The Grande Charmoz North Face seen from Montenvers. Current Conditions.
For years I’d looked up at the Grande Charmoz north face and never seen it in “good condition”. I’d heard that the first third needed good cover to make it viable and in the past it always seemed that the crucial ice was never there. This year however it has been “in” and some of my friends had already been and climbed it earlier in the winter and in the past week. No chance of a true onsight as we had some beta from them about the descent and the conditions on the face but we still wanted to do the route despite the adventure being mostly taken away. With snow conditions deteriorating out here and motivation for skiing dwindling it didn’t take much persuading from Mr Psyche himself, John “spoon” McCune to give it a punt. Johns been tearing it up in the past few months with ascents of the Eiger, Droites and Petit Dru to name a but a few so I knew we was going to be fit for it.
We meet up the day before to discus our plan of attack. We both decided we like our beds so quickly came to the conclusion we’d rather try and go from first cable car at the Midi than from the Plan d’Aguille refuge. I toyed with the idea of borrowing some approach skis from some more dedicated climber friends but pretty soon convinced myself it wouldn’t be the best time or place to try and learn how to ski short skis in my climbing boots.
After dealing with the usual Aiguille du Midi morning clusterf*#K we were soon skinning our way over to the bottom of the Col de la Buche where we ditched our skis and ski boots and raced up the ladders and snow. Down climbing and wading through knee deep (in places) snow from the col to the bottom of the face was pretty hot work with the sun beating down on us pretty much the whole way.
Once we passed the bergshrund (not difficult) we were on our way and both feeling pretty good. We moved together through the first two thirds minus 1 short “chimney pitch” where we decided it would be a lot easier to haul our bags as it looked pretty tight from bellow. It was pretty tight and it was and well worth the extra few minutes of faff. After the long snow field and some more perfect neve, 4x60m pitches brought us to the summit Col of the Grande Charmoz. Not perfect conditions on these pitches but enough ice to cover the loose rock and some run out sections. That said it was pretty fun mixed climbing and in a cool situation with the clouds starting to bubble away in the valley bellow.
The descent was pretty straightforward abseiling down to the Natillons Glacier with mostly 55m abseils. We walked, down climbed and abseiled our way back to our ski’s that were waiting for us at the bottom of the Glacier. A 1000 vertical meters of slush and the plan track brought us back to the valley and naturally straight onto Midnight Express for a much needed Steak, Frites, Fromage and half a liter of Coke….as a starter.
It’s been a while since I’ve done any big routes in the mountains not counting the Courturier. I’ve either not been in Cham or I’ve been more psyched on skiing which is my poor excuses for not doing more big routes in the past years. I also haven’t mixed climbed much in the last year so yesterday was the perfect shake down for another season of climbing! Psyched!! We were also pretty pleased that we manged to climb the route in 5 hours and complete the whole trip from car to car in 13. All in all a super fun day to remember. Cheers John for the good company and banter.
Grande Charmoz North face Taken from Pas de chevre Earlier this winter.
Descent Topo taken on the way up to the Col de la Buche.
Heading up to the Shrund. Hot work.
just over the shrund
Moving together through the perfect Neve.
Sun? On a North face?? Hmmmm.
The Chimney Pitch
In the big gully
coming out of the snow fields.
Nearing the top of the face.
looking down the penultimate pitch.
Stunning alpine scenery.
Looking over at the Aiguille verte with the top of the Aiguille de Republique in the sun in the foreground.
The Col where you top out and the top of the Cordier Pillar on the left.
Two french guys who had stayed in the hut and were on the face at the same time showed us the way of the Natillons
Originally posted on Ross Hewitt: This week we Dave Searle and myself went back to the Miage Glacier under Mont Blanc’s Himalayan sized West Face with the idea to have a semi-rest day and camp on day 1 and then…
NE Couloir of the Tricot taken from the hike up the Trappier.
With the much needed return of the pow at the end of last week we were all ready to hunt out the goods. After a few days squeezing midi laps between the clouds we had a hankering for something a bit bigger and less crowded. Sometimes the amount of people out skiing the midi astonishes/frustrates me. It’s great to see so many psyched people, don’t get me wrong, but its not fun to have them all pilling in on top of you into a couloir sending down rocks and snow. Anyway…rant over!
The last few days ski touring have been super fun and it’s been great to get away from Midi lift for some mini adventures from the Bellevue cable car in Les Houches. Still with a non-splitter forecast on Thursday we managed to fit in a lap of the Trappier Couloir in pretty epic conditions. I’d done this line a few weeks ago but It was good to go back and ski it in near perfect pow. On the way up we had scoped an awesome looking couloir in the Bionnassay Basin and decided that it would be the objective for the day after.
The access to the NE couloir of the Tricot was fairly straight forward. A short skin from cable car up the train tracks brings you to a point where you can ski down onto the lower glacier. From here another 1.5 hours worth of skining up the glacier floor (on the left bank/lookers right) leads you up to the base of the couloir. The basin itself reminds me of my time in the Himalayas (except with more snow) with towering glaciated faces all around which gives you a feeling of insignificance compared to the massive mountains. We changed to crampons and booted our way up the couloir marveling in the quality of the snow and the stunning surroundings. Here’s some shots of the Trappier and The NE Couloir. (Click on a shot to take you to a slideshow format).
Liz and Ross on thier way up to the Trappier Couloir
Ross Hewitt above Chamonix
West Face of the Midi. A skiers paradise.
Liz Daley Shredding the Trappier
Me in the Trappiers Midi in the background
Out the bottom of the couloir.
NE Couloir of the Tricot Pointe Inferierue. 5.1
Hiking up the glacier.
Liz Daley and with the Aiguille and Dome du Goutier
Me on the Bootpack up (Photo: Ross Hewitt)
Me putting in the first turn. (Photo Davide de Masi)
Ross Hewitt skiing hard on the near perfect snow.
Davide De Masi.
(Photo Davide de Masi)
Getting a good feel for the speed. (Photo Davide de Masi)
Davide De Masi
Me and Liz after the Couloir. (Photo Davide de Masi)
Looking back up at the Bionnassay and Tricot
All told this was one of the best descents of this season so far for me. Good friends (Ross Hewitt, Liz Daley and Davide de Masi) good powder, good surrounding and above all a good sense of adventure. It was super nice to feel really comfortable ripping GS turns down steep snow again. Looking forward to more big days in the hills soon but for now I need to give my legs a rest!