A Fine Link

Ski Mountaineering for me is about finding great link ups involving climbing, and skiing and traversing peaks. Last Sunday, after a cruzy day exploring Les Contamines with Irene, me and Josh Fawcett headed out to make some SKIMO (ski Mountaineering) and scored a pretty good day almost by mistake.  With a vague plan to hit the Traverse of the Noire and “possibly something else” and a even vaguer forecast suggesting some wind and precipitation at some point during the day we went into the day with an open mind.

We headed out from the Aiguille du Midi down the classic Vallee Blanche and over to the Italian side.  Hiking up the glacier to the start of the climb through the cold gusty wind with flakes of snow whipping past our noses we were slightly hesitant and came close to turning back a few times.. The weather was clear on the french side and we hoped the small localised weather spilling over from Italy wouldn’t follow us into the Traverse of the Noire. Thankfully by the time we reached the boot pack leading up to Pointe Yeild things were dying down so we carried on over the ridge to the top of the face.  I’d been here a few years ago with Tom, Ross and Michelle.. We got spooked out by wind slab and decided to head back. This time however there were about twenty tracks, ten going skiers left and ten going skiers right down the convex face. We opted for right hand option and skied down a little way to the steep choke which is normally pretty icey.

We side stepped down through this which was both tiring and intimidating due to the nature of the crumbling snow, but managed to score some pow turns on the lower face before busting hard skiers right through the glacier and over to the bottom of the Breche Puiseux. From here we decided we had enough time and psyche to go and ski the NW shoulder of them Aiguille Tacul aswell. The climb up the final gully was roasting hot but it was worth suffering the heat and softening snow as we found a few good turns on the way down this line. The best snow however was on the moraine bench hard skiers right going down to the Leschaux Glacier at the end.

A great little link up of about 1200m vertical ascent with some really good snow on the descents and with a variety of different terrain and views to keep us amused. All in all a good day out on the hill!

Click on the Pictures bellow to see them in gallery format.

 

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So Long 2015, Hello 2016!

First off… Happy New Year and thank you for following this blog or even reading it from time to time.  It means a lot to me that anyone at all cares what I have to say and this gives me reason to keep going!

2015 was a bumpy year with a rough start.  With the loss of friends from skiing accidents and also my dearly beloved Grandfather who was a great inspiration to me, motivation for skiing and general mountain activities was low.  Ordinarily I’d expect to ski off a mountain or two and have at least a handful of long days in the mountains with friends. Looking back I realise that I hardly had any stand out days last winter due to work commitments, lack of snow and lack of psyche.

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Weekend Bliss And Suffering.

I’m really digging having an extra day off a week. This weekend was a good mix between sublime autumnal adventures and purgatory suffering, topped off with great weather and alright company. I guess.

Friday

Psyche was high and the weather was good.  The plan was to meet up with fellow Salomon athlete (ahem) Philipp Brugger for some easy mixed cragging on the Triangle du Tacul.  I haven’t swung tools in what feels like a year so I  was glad for an easy re-introduction into mixed climbing. We climbed most of the German gully then finished up the Cosmiques Arete.

Conclusions: Mixed climbing is in fact like riding a bike.  Even if you never do it, you still remember how its done. Got cold toes and fingers but I remembered how to suffer.  Drank 6 pints to try and forget the pain.

Saturday

Woke up with inevitable hangover as Midnight Express was shut and we couldn’t buy cheep burgers to absorb the beer.  Drove to Italy (where the weather is always nicer) with Ally, Ross and Tom (who seemed less hungover than me (perhaps not Tom)). Flailed about on some rock climbs that I shouldn’t have been flailing on.   Enjoyed the sunshine and amazing scenery of the Valgrisenche. Ate pizza, drove home.

Conclusions: Beer is bad, especially for my guts. 6b+ is hard. Italy is beautiful.

Sunday

When the alarm went off at 6.45 I thought it was a bad joke. Driving to the Midi my psyche was low but the can of red bull helped a lot. The plan was to climb the Eugster Direct on the North Face, again with Phillip.  Stumbled over the moraine to the bottom and got to the Bergshrund in good time.  Spin-drift hell was pouring down the gully and we decided it wasn’t  for us. We ummed and arrred about what to do and took a look at another entry to the face to the right (about 150m to the right). It went and we were soon (but not that soon) in the gully.  The crux pitches looked kinda dry and we didn’t want to sleep in the toilets (we have jobs don’t you know) so we bailed up the Diagonal instead.  I was feeling the burn in the top half but we made alright time. Cheese burgers at Macky D’s afterwards.. Cus we are true athletes.

Conclusions: 4h 30m  on the stair-master-3842 is tiring.  Weekends are great.  Water is overrated.

Here’s some proof!

BUY YOUR CLIMBING/SKIING KIT HERE!

Summer…..Done?

Irene Munguia Exiting the Tunnel from the Aiguille du Midi, Grandes Jorrases in the background.

Irene Munguia Exiting the Tunnel from the Aiguille du Midi, Grandes Jorrases in the background.

Its been a funny kind of summer.  My residing memory of it has been extreme heat from which the mountains have really taken a hammering.  Big crevasses, deep instability and a general grey feel means that this winter needs to be a good one otherwise the classic Ski descents like the Vallee Blanche might not come into condition until early spring.

For me though, I’ve not had much of a chance to get into the Mountains this summer for various reasons.  Mostly because I had a full time job, but also because I spent a few weeks back in the UK ticking off Multipitch E1+ routes.  In little over a week I’m going to be in North wales with 10 other eager beavers doing the first part of the British Mountain Guides course, the rock climbing induction.  The powers that be (the BMG Committee) decided to give me a chance and let me start this year despite picking up on my lack of British climbing experience.  They told me I had to climb 25 more Multi-pitch E1 or above routes in serious or mountainous crags before I could start the course in September.  When I heard the news I was worried.  I desperately wanted to start the course but I had commitments with work and I know how fickle the weather in the UK can be.  I completely agree with the committees decision and in hindsight it was awesome to get a load of amazing trad climbing done and now I feel a lot more comfortable going into the test. I managed to pack it all into two weeks, where I often climbed 3 or 4 per day but always did at least one route a day despite the mediocre weather.  E2 in drizzle isn’t my idea of fun but needs must and it was a relief to finish all the routes and get the all clear.

Apart from this I have been operating at full “Weekend Warrior” status and despite not doing anything major or massive I’ve racked up a fair amount of millage all over the place as well as rock climbing and running.  I’m feeling fit and ready for the Autumn, but one thing is for sure, it won’t be as good as last years conditions. Hopefully there will be some routes to scratch up and some big adventures to be had.

Routes I’ve done this summer include The Traverse of the Perrons, Aiguille Entreves traverse, Cosmiques Arete, Rochfort Arete, Papillons Arete and the South Face of the Moine. Great experience for guiding I think you’ll agree and a lot of fun too!

I also bought a new camera which I’m pretty excited about because I’ve been a bit uninspired by photography recently so its been great to get an upgrade!

Pictures tell the story the best so here’s some shots for you! The first three are Iphone Photos BTW!  Click one to see them in gallery format!

I guess the remaining question is will we get to climb on chamonix’s best crag this autumn….?

Dave Searle

FOMO

“Fear/Feeling Of Missing Out”. The fear that if you miss an event you will miss out on something great.

Dave Searle

Me Skiing on the North Face of the Gros Rognon. Courtesy of Davide de Masi.

A phrase which has only, in the last few years it seems, come to fruition.  Most likely because of the massive surge in popularity of social media sites over the past decade.  If you ain’t bloggin, instagramin or updating your facebook status with all the rad stuff you’ve been up to how will people know you’ve had the best day ever skiing neck deep pow or climbing a perfect splitter in the sun? Without this huge and constant stream of media coming our way every minute of every day would we even have the sensation of FOMO? Would we live in the here and now more? Would we be happy with what we are doing and where we are?

I’ve had massive bouts of FOMO in the past when I’ve been stuck someplace I didn’t want to be, working a job that I didn’t want to do.  I would live vicariously through my friends and those I follow on social media, wishing away my time to something better.  I can’t complain though.  This past year alone has been pretty damn good with lots of fun skiing and climbing memories behind me. I’ve had a pretty good innings this far!

FOMO is and will always be intrinsically linked to weather and conditions in the place you’d rather be. No snow = No FOMO.  Since the end of my autumn of climbing I’ve been working, nearly every day, in somewhere that I wouldn’t necessarily choose to spend my time. I’m back in Cham now and yes there hasn’t been much snow…or ice but times are changing (its dumping). I’m still working for the next week and I suspect that what is typically my most FOMO intense period will in fact pass quite easily. Yeah there’s people getting after it and I would rather be skiing or climbing if I wasn’t working. The thing is, I have to work.  I’ve spent too long avoiding it and its caught up with me. I’ve just left one of my worst financial periods behind (all be it self inflicted) and I’ve promised myself that I won’t be back in that position ever again.

The key thing that has changed in my mentality over the past year is trying to live more in the here and now. Wishing I was somewhere else doing something else seems like a complete waste of my time when I really think about it.  Better to accept life for what it is and find happiness in the small adventures or moments spent with friends and family.  Good times come and go and without the bad (or even not quite as good times) I’d never really appreciate the best days to the fullest.  Soon it will all kick off for me and I’ll be out doing the things I love again and it’s the knowledge of that that keeps me happy and sane.  Feeling like your missing out? Book a trip to go climbing or skiing or whatever you really want to do.  Even if you don’t have the time or money just do it. It will happen if you really want it to. 🙂

Touring Time in the Aiguille Rouge by Ross Hewitt

Broke my pole basket, snapped my tech binding leaver off and forgot my SD Card….Total fail from my part but hey it was a fun day all in all..

Ross Hewitt

It was pretty exciting waking up yesterday to a fresh coating of 40 cm of powder when snow has been so scarce this season. But that feeling was quickly replaced by anxiety knowing the lifts would open late and by that time everyone will be out of bed and queuing. We took the magic tunnel through to Italy, drank coffee and skied a quick 4 laps of the Entreve lowers which included a sensational spine feature where the sluff ran fast in the gullies bounding either side. Then it was back to Chamonix for opening time and freeride on amongst the pillows, rocks, roots and tree stumps of Plan de l’Aiguille. Too fast and too hectic to take photos. I was bushed by the end of the day and retired to my nest by 9 o’clock.

Today the plan was to go back for more but the lift company surprised…

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Mileage

I must admit that my absolute least favourite month in Chamonix is August.  Its super busy, super hot and the Glaciers are usually at there most open making getting around in the mountains dangerous and tedious.  Strange that its also the most prolific time for alpine climbing with ques on all the popular routes and big routes seeing rare ascents (like  Calum Muskett and Paul Jenkinson on Divine Providence, good effort lads!).  I however have been working…… working some more and occasionally getting out for the odd rock route in the Aiguille Rouge on my lunch break or a sport climbing session in the baking heat.  This is all soon to change and its been great to get out in the past week and rack up some millage…..

Soloing the Super classic Mani Pulite with the index chairlift below on a three hour lunch break.

I had a super fun day on my own climbing routes around the Col Du Midi on wednesday.  I  started in my typical third bin fail way and headed straight over to the traverse of Pointe Lachenal to kick things off. After this I headed up the Contamine/Grisole on the north face of the Triangle Du Tacul which was in really good condition and gave me the first chance in a very long time to use my nomic’s which made me very happy indeed. The normal route on the Tacul looked like one giant windslab so I opted for the Chere Couloir rapels to get back to the col.  The Chere had a few teams in it and Jeff Mercier and his partner were climbing the Perroux Gully (just to the left of the chere, see Jeff’s blog here) so I was being peppered by ice on the way down, as to be expected. I had originally wanted to solo the Chere but decided against it due to the ice that was coming down so headed over to other side of the col and started up the short section (not sure what its called) of ridge that finishes at the Cosmiques Refuge.  Unbeknownst to me you have to take your boots off and walk through the hut to get to the start of the Cosmiques Arete proper.  I got some funny looks from people sunning them selves at the hut terrace as I less than gracefully took my boots off and flopped over the railings.  I also got momentarily lost finding the way out of the hut which in hindsight is pretty funny, but in my defense I had never been in there before!  I hadn’t been up high for a while (maybe three weeks) and the altitude really hit me when I started to climb the initial slope up the Cosmiques Arete so I was suffering hard on this part of the day but I finished off my journey in a 6 hour round trip feeling like I had had a pretty good work out!

Good to have the Nomic’s back on the bag!

Starting up the Cosmiques Arete with the Traverse of Pointe Lachenal to the left of my head and the Tacul Triangle to the right.

Showing the first half of my link up on the Col Du Midi.

Thursday saw me and Ally head out to Gietroz, an amazing sport climbing venue just up the valley from Chamonix for a leisurely half day working on Reve de Senge a super classic 8a which I have wanted to get on for a while.  I was surprised how well I got on with it and I hope that I can finish it off before I head out to the Himalayas this autumn, fingers crossed.

Today I headed out with Mike Thomas for a fair well Aiguille Rouge climb-a-thon (the Flegere lift system closes after this weekend) that saw us climb a total of 1000m of excellent quality rock up to 6a including such classics as the south ridge on the Index and Manhatten on the Lower Bastion of the Grande Floria.

Mike Thomas climbing the penultimate pitch to the summit of the Grande Floria. The index lift station looking pretty small below!

On the last pitch of Fraise des Boatchs on the Grande Floria.

The Dru and the Nant Blanc face. More Ice needed for the Dru Couloir but the Nant Blanc looks good to go.

All in all a fun week had by all and psyche is very high for this coming period!!  With less than 6 weeks left before we depart for Nepal its high time it got cold so we can all get out and play on the north faces!

Current Conditions Chamonix side

After the big snowfall of last week the north faces are looking a bit fresher but more snow wouldn’t go a miss.  The Colton/Macintyre, Shroud and Croz/Slovienian all look pretty good right now so as soon as it gets cold would be worth a go.  The Desmaison/Gouseault could do with more cover lower down but you could nip in from the top of the Shroud crux. Not sure about harder routes on the Jorasses right now.

Not much ice in the Cham Aiguille north faces or the Tacul East Face Goulottes.  The top of the Droites looks good but I haven’t seen the bottom of the face so can’t comment on whether its possible to do the Ginat or Colton/Brokes etc right now (anybody been up there?). The Tacul Triangle is pretty good right now as is the North Face of the Tour Ronde.  Not enough ice on the Midi north face right now but too much to make the Frendo not viable.

All the south facing rock is clear enough and its fairly warm so the Envers Des Aiguilles would be OK still.  Not sure about the Italian side of the Massif right now.  Any reports of the Grande Pillar d’Angle north face would be welcome as I’d personally like to climb it this autumn!

Hope this helps. Feel free to message me about routes your interested in and i’ll try and help you out or point you in the right direction.