The skiing is a bit boney at the moment.. We desperately need more snow in the alps but that being said its always worth going out and enjoying the good weather! Thanks to Ross Hewitt, Johnny Collinson and Griffin Post for a sweet day.
With the summer well and truly underway and after an abysmally rainy June it feels pretty good to get some short easy alpine routes and a tone of good rock climbing done. With the British Guides Summer assessment looming in September I’ve been trying to focus on getting back on the rock to practice the skills we need to pass the test, namely rescues, short roping and navigation. This means that my personal objectives have fallen by the wayside, but it’s OK because I was mentally prepared for this situation when I started the scheme last year. Soon I’ll be heading back to north wales to practice more in the appropriate environment and get my head back in the trad game! It’s going to be awesome!
Hopefully I can have one last jaunt into the big hills to propel me in to the summer in wales. Fingers crossed for the weather!
Here’s some shots from the summer so far.
(Col De l’Aiguille Verte Trip Report From Sunday 10th April 2016)
It’s fairly evident to those who live here that the mountains are getting busier and busier as time goes by. The Argentiere Glacier has been, and always will be one of the stomping grounds for Extreme Skiers out looking for the perfect day on the steep north faces. I wouldn’t really class myself as an Extreme Skier. Strapping it on for a 5.4 (Technical Ski Grade) is about the limit of what I would ever feel comfortable skiing and only once every blue moon at that. I like the feeling of skiing steep powder for sure but the worry and stress associated with putting yourself in that situation is draining to say the least.
I digress. Oh yeah busy….. busy busy busy. Jostle, hustle push and shove. “got to get the first bin!” got to get there before its too late. Exiting the first bin on a busy day such as yesterday (Sunday) and polling off into the basin, it’s hard to not feel smug. We have the pick of all the amazing routes in their shinning spring condition. But what if someone follows us?! I don’t want to race. I want to clip into my skis fresh without stress. I don’t want anyone above me or below me. I want this day to be ours.
When I spoke to Joel about skiing the Col De l’Aiguille Verte I could tell he was nervous. He’s not been skiing that long (even less than my 7 seasons!) but he’s proved himself on a few bigger faces and is super keen. I knew he’d be happy to bail at the first sniff of trouble which is an admirable quality some lack.
When we reached the bottom of the slope that heads up to the Col De l’Aiguille Verte things looked good and we quickly changed over and started up the short skin to the bottom of the face. Over the bergshrund we ditched the rope, shovels and probes. We wouldn’t be needing the weight and reasoned an avalanche on a 53 degree slope would be unlikely or catastrophic.
On the climb up we passed a ski that was sticking out of the slope. We’d found a hat at the bottom too and scratched our heads as to what had happened and what to do. We carried on and found an ice axe about 400m up too. It later transpired someone had fallen (I still don’t know the circumstances) and had managed to “get away with a broken leg”. Lucky guy.
We kept a steady pace and about 2/3 of the way up were caught up by a friendly Frenchman, Boris Dufour who was on the 4th cable car. He’d set a good pace to catch us and remained close for the rest of the climb to the Col and during the descent knowing that the danger would be sluff management (by sluff I mean loose snow which grows and gains power the further it goes). After taking some photo’s from the top we slowly and hesitantly started skiing. The first turns were tough with the deep crusty snow but soon things got better and we were able to make some more relaxed, but much steeper and more intimidating turns in the guts of the face.
We pitched it carefully staying out of harms way by tucking under rocks and sticking to spurs as others skied. The snow was pouring down the face as you skied funneling into massive sluff trains that went all the way to the glacier, cascading off rocks on the way.
Hopping the shrund and heading back to the ski area it all sunk in and a feeling of accomplishment mixed with joy washed over us. A line I’ve always dreamed of with fantastic snow and excellent weather means it will be a day etched into my memory forever. I’m glad to have shared it with Joel and Boris…… and only them.
After whats has proved to be a pretty poor summer season for weather so far it was bloody lovely to head up to the Envers Des Aiguille hut for some fun in the sun.
The Envers is one of those really special places with awesome climbing, stunning views, a friendly (and importantly not to big) refuge. The idyllic surroundings are enhanced by water tinkling over smooth slabs, alpine flowers and dramatic granite pillars. It is one of my “Happy Places” and I’ve always felt at home there, which is why I make a point of going up there at least once a summer when I’m here (read about my last trip up there in 2012)
Myself and Ross headed up from first train with a big rack and an open mind ready to sample some of the brilliant quality climbing the area has to offer. We discussed tactics on what kind of routes we wanted to do and settled on two “shorter” routes (although still a few hundred meters!) to make the most out of the time we had. We walked straight to 1er pointe des nantillions which is home to some magnificent routes around the 6a/6a+ mark. We ended up climbing the Uber classic Beinvenue au Georges V which Ross remembered he actually climbed before when we were on pitch 4. We’ll let him off though as it was probably about 20 year ago when he was in his mid 20’s :-). The climbing is fun and never to hard although the slabs are the hardest part so be prepared for that if you go up to do it! The belays are comfortable and the in-situ protection and belays are good. Here’s some Shots of the climbing (click one to see in gallery for full effect!):
After a pretty good nights sleep in the hut we woke up with out sights set on the Pyramid on the Pyramid Pillar. Given ED, 6a+ obligatory we knew we’d be able to get up the thing but we had the added challenge and option of harder climbing. The second pitch gets 7a and despite my best intentions to free it I pretty soon found myself “french freeing” (pulling on bolts) past the crux section. I wasn’t that psyched to be taking whippers before 8am…. that’s not very civilized! The climbing was awesome and the rock was immaculate with some of the best granite climbing I have done in a long while. Defiantly one to look at if your heading up that way. Here’s some shots from that day:
Hopefully this good weather stick around for a while so we can get some more alpine action in! Ciao for now!