Spring. Like Autumn But… Better.

I do love the off seasons in Cham.. With the snow pack disappearing and the days growing longer it is the perfect time to split your days into two or more activities.  Skiing in the morning and climbing in the afternoon seems to be the best way to do it!  With only the most hardcore of mountain enthusiasts left in Chamonix the lifts are quiet and the snow still surprisingly good.

Dave Searle

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

With a lack of work and money and not having a passport to go home to work (until now!) I’ve been enjoying the simple routine of getting up and going out to ski or climb or both. Not managed to ski any particularly special lines apart from skiing the Col du Plan on the North Face of the Midi With Joel Evans and Bird a week or so ago. Joel’s Write up here.  Not much to be said about it really.  I’ve been wanting to ski the Midi North Face for a while and I finally seized the opportunity and it turned out great. Some icy side slipping at the top awesome powder in the middle and 3 rappels out the bottom.

I’m getting pretty psyched for the summer now so I’ve been out getting as much millage on the rock possible to try and jump start the old arms after a long lay off.  Haven’t really climbed rock for…. well a long time so its been a shock to the system but persevere I must! My new passport arrived today so I’m getting ready to head back to the UK for a months intensive work which should buy me a few more months of play time this summer!

Ski’s away for the winter! Bring on the summer!!

…days like these… Trappier and NE Couloir of the Tricot.

More days like these..please.


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).

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!

One Excellent Morning…..

With reports of thigh deep snow and with a blue-bird weather forecast it seemed like the only sensible thing to do was to head through the tunnel to Italy. It’s been super windy here all week in Cham with gale force winds off the summits and some nasty foehn wind in the valley which stripped trees of their branches and moved huge quantities of snow around.  Italy however, didn’t disappoint.  While it lasted.  As normal, by midday the snow was super heavy, super deep and super dangerous.  After we’d finished skiing we were sat enjoying the sunshine and coffee when a huge gust of wind and snow swept through the streets of La Palud.  A massive avalanche had come off the south face of the Grande Jorasses and gone airborne across the valley.  Any talk of further skiing was stopped. Like I said, it was fun whilst is lasted!

S Couloir, Aiguille De L’Eboulement. D²

Eboulement south couloir

Eboulement south couloir

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!

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 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...

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.

Looking down the Couloir with the Grande Jorasses in the back ground.

Lower down the couloir.

Lower down the couloir.

Time for a few days off. e.g work.

The last few weeks.

Betty the Berlingo and the Verdon Gorge. Can’t think of a better way to spend the weekend. Photo Davide De Masi.

Despite working full time at the moment (well four days a week but still, ugh), I’ve still managed to get out and about climbing some of chamonix’s premier slitter and pocket pulling in the Verdon gorge.   The summer is in full swing now and its hot hot hot!  Good for climbing granite in the mountains but not so conducive for southern french limestone adventure sport which is where this tale begins….. Continue reading

Rocking out in the Envers.

Just got back from a super fun trip in the Envers des Aiguilles.  Despite being shut down by the weather on both our climbing days spirits ran high and many fun pitches of granite climbing was experienced.  I’m a big fan of this zone and i’ll be back soon for sure.  Maybe with a lighter pack, warmer weather, less snow and a more stable weather forecast!!

Still pretty snowy on the walk in but not too bad.

Continue reading