I often forget how lucky I am to have the Aiguille du midi 10 mins walk from my house, but days like yesterday really remind me of what a big midi day can offer. I headed out with Ross Hewitt and Drew Tabke (of Freeride World Tour Champion fame) for a few laps off the top. Things are shaping up nicely for a good spring with the snow starting to bond to the steeper slopes well. We started of with a Glacier Rond to Salopar which is fun and interesting variation to the exit couloir which spits you out almost at the bottom of the West Couloir. Its bit of a faff at the moment with abseils and some tricky rock steps, to quote mr Tabke “I’ve never had to use a hand jam whilst skiing before”. Ultimately it was worth it for the steep, untouched pow turns and just for a bit of adventure too. Unfortunately Ross’s back gave out half way down that first run and me and drew thought we would have to jerry rig a ski zimmerframe out of our poles for the poor chap. He still made it down and displayed some good freeride skills hucking out the bottom but the pain was written all over his face throughout the second half of the run. We must have looked quite the picture in the lift station when I was trying to help him stretch his back out.
After this Ross called time but me and Drew were still going strong and wanted more so headed up to do the Cosmiques Couloir which was also in good nick and very rippable. We traversed back to the mid station again and decided it was probably still worth skiing some more so headed up again to check out the Rond. It was amazing how much it had been scrapped of after 60+ people had been down it and it was alot more sketchy that second time but got better the lower down we got. In the exit couloir we were both getting pretty bad leg pump (glad it wasn’t just me) and it felt pretty hard going. On the traverse back we dropped into the Para Face which, as always, provided some incredible skiing to get back to the tunnel. We managed to keep our skis on all the way to the road and then a friend gave us a lift back to town (cheers Tim). All in all a good day with many 1000′s of meters of descent with some really good snow, adventure and good company. Cheers boys.
Drew at the top of the Rond
sidestepping after handjam.
coming off the first rap
we skied this bit of snow by mistake and had to hike out.
not doing bad for an old codger
the actuall traverse is above and right of ross
me on the salopar
coming to the final cliff band
drew lead the way on the freeride bit
ross about to seal the deal with a straightline to compression.
The dent the Geant is the rocky peak in the center. We skied down and to the lookers left to join the lower slopes of the Marbrees.
Today me and Ross Hewitt skied an awesome line down the south face of the Dent Du Geant. I wouldn’t recommend anyone to go and ski it now unless your prepared to stay in the Torino Refuge to get an early start. It was touch and go with the heat but we made it down before the snow pack got too warm. It was an awesome place to ski starting with a vague couloir which enters a massive hanging face which then joins the classic Marbrees couloir from the Col du Rochefort. . It was relatively easy to get to despite the deep powder snow we had to wade up and the short tricky mixed steps to get to the base of the Dent Du Geant. We put a rope on for the last section up to the col where you begin to ski as the climbing was insecure in places with loose, cold snow covering scree and rock slabs. Still a super fun day out and the spring corn in the lower sections of the Marbrees was super fast and fun!! It was good to get out with Ross again, its been a while.
With a long stint of work behind me and a blur of pow days and free-riding before that I felt like I needed a memorable day and a tough outing to remind myself I’m still able to go big. Yesterday reminded me of some of the things I’ve done in the past and also gave me motivation for the future. It feels like a long time since I have climbed anything over 60m and apart from an evening soloing at the Cremerie in Argentiere (small beginners Ice climbing venue) I haven’t wielded my Nomics for what seems like eternity. I’ve wanted to climb the Swiss route on the Courtes for years but as time went by the idea that I wanted to solo it turned more and more into reality. I find building things up in my mind can psyche me out so when the opportunity arose to try it yesterday I was surprised at how calm I felt about it. After skiing down from first bin at the GM to the glacier and beginning the skin up I nearly bailed due to the wind but something inside of me kept me going. I’m not sure whether it was arrogance but it should have been a sign of things to have come….
on the hike up to the face, Sastrugi forming….
Saying goodbye to my shadow for a few hours.
I headed up toward the base of the route breaking the skin track to the shrund whilst listening to my tunes. I was still calm and motivated and soon found myself strapping on my crampons and attaching my ski’s to my bag which felt pretty heavy already. Crossing the bergshrund was pretty easy (although you have to go far left of the route) and I began wading up the snow cone to the start of the ice. It was tiring work and I must admit I have never been as happy to pull onto 70 degree ice before. The first few hundred meters went smoothly with a couple of small spin-drift showers tinkling down the face. On the second and steeper of the two crux’s, about 200m up, I got nailed for about 10 minutes by a sizable spin-drift avalanche which left me gripping onto my tools looking down at me feet as they came in and out of view. It was good contemplation time and certainly got my pretty pumped shaking out on the 85degree ice. I kept telling myself it would stop and then wondering why it hadn’t. After it had I tentatively looked up to check properly and carried on up dreading the next one. This happened again a few more times and I lost a fair amount of time waiting them out. After a while I started climbing the ice out of the main gully line which helped a lot and meant I could keep going longer before my hands got to cold and I had to stop. The ice however was amazing Neve with perfect first timers every swing. It reminded me of previous routes and how much fun alpine ice is to climb.
Found a belay and took a little rest from the spin-drift and cold hands.
Looking down the route from about halfway on one of the only mellow snow sections.
The rest of the route went well apart from battling hot aches and numb toes until I reached the final 50m to the summit ridge. I hit some super hard, brittle ice which required a lot of care and attention. I ended up smashing my axes in well which took a few good swings each. Not ideal when your already mentally drained from 750m of climbing.
I took this photo accidentally at the top but the look on my face says it all…
Free ride. I’ve wanted to ski of this peak for a while. Glad to have a good pair of ski’s to do it with. Mont Blanc in the back.
My initial plan was to ski the South Face direct but I pretty soon went of the idea as I was feeling pretty tired and the snow looked pretty bad on the southerly aspect. I decided instead to traverse to the Col de la Tour des Courtes and descend from there to the Telefre basin and back to town. It turned out that I didn’t really need the 120m of rope I lugged up after all but I did do an abseil on the ridge to avoid a large patch of black ice. The snow was OK in places but crusty in others but I was pretty happy to be on my way down. the skiing went quickly and I got to the start of the hike up to the buvette (or the end of being in the mountains proper) just before the light started to fade and I managed to make it to town before needing my head torch. A pretty special day and a grand adventure by all accounts. My legs are certainly feeling it today and I was glad for the beer and burgers at the MBC afterwards….
Looking down at the Col des Droites South Face from the Col de la Tour des Courtes
I’ve wanted to ski this little gem for a while but I’ve struggled to find it in good conditions and having a motivated partner to go so deep into the massif. Dave to the power of 2, the second being Davide De Masi got together and headed out on Saturday 26th. Its a heck of a long way from the midi and almost warrants a night in a refuge but we were both struggling to get our heads around spending a night in the mountains to ski when we both have warm and comfortable apartments to sleep in in the valley. Naturally we decided to go from first bin in true fast and light Cham style. 1500m+ vertical in a day sure didn’t go down too well with tired legs from a full week of skiing and we nearly lost complete motivation several time whilst bootpacking in sometimes knee deep crust. We persevered until about 50m short of the summit ridge when the clouds started to roll in and the soft surface snow started to refreeze. The skiing was tricky and required concentration due to the breakable crust underneath and general variable snow conditions – not great fun but still a good day out in the mountains with good company in a spectacular setting….
Hiking up the glacier towards the wall of dreams and nightmares. the couloir is up a small glacier to the left. Lots of ice on the Petit Jorasses!
Dave boot packing the couloir. It was often very slow going.
Dave starting to ski. We thought it was going to be good but we were wrong…
Looking down the Couloir with the Grande Jorasses in the back ground.