I know It’s been a while since I’ve blogged. I’ve been busy in Scotland with gathering British Mountain Guides prerequisites and the final Induction Course. I’m pretty pleased to announce my new title (and the other 11 guys!) of Trainee Mountain guide! Also the weather has been pretty bad for a fairly long time so big days have been few and far between, but that doesn’t mean I haven’t been hovering up some pow.. 😉
Trainee Guide LADS
Climbing Cutlass VI 7 on Ben Nevis
I can’t remember last time it was this good in the Mont Blanc Massif. With loads of snow low down and a lot of lines up high holding cold, deep snow there is surely no better time to get after it. Yesterday me and my long time shred buddy Stephen “Chipie” Windross headed out with a view to ski a line in the Geant area.
Picking an objective can often be tricky. You obviously want to ski something that is in safe condition but it also has to suit the teams fitness and aspirations whilst also be something new or interesting. As is often the way in the Mountains that things don’t pan out the way you’re expecting so its worth having some back up plans just in case. Something which this area is unique for offering a few possibilities of lines.
We finally settled on the Breche Du Tacul, a route I’ve skied a couple of times before but I was still motivated to go and ski again. Despite some deep snow wading on the way up the final climb that was a real test of tenacity, we made it to the top in good time and with no one else around. Always a fantastic view and with amazing conditions, the descent was all time.
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.
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!
With this most recent high pressure to hit the alps I was keen to get out and bash in some fitness and try and tick of some of my objectives for the winter. On Thursday we headed over to try the Traverse of the Noire otherwise known as the North face of Pointe Yeild. I’ve wanted to try this traverse for a while and after seeing some promising photo’s showing that the snow was sticking to the Glacial ice we all thought this might be a good objective for the day. We made the journey there over cols and across the hanging glacier to find that not only is it totally blind to drop into the face but the snow was also slightly wind affected. Ross triggered a small but terrifying slab avalanche whilst he was cutting over the face.
The traverse of the Noire seen from the col du tacul we’re stood at the top and the area in the shadow just above slid. photo Ally Hurst.
Nothing bad came of it but we were all sufficiently spooked that we decided we should get the heck out of there in a backward direction.
Today the wind was up in the morning and the GM and the Midi were on hold. We rallied about cham trying to work out the best objective for the day when my eye caught the Couloir Trappier under the Aiguille du Gouter. I’ve wanted to ski this line for a while but it’s never been that high on my to do list and it can be fickle to find it in good condition. It’s long approach, 4 hours or so, proved to be tedious especially with poorly fitting skins on my new ski’s. It was however good to explore a new area that I have only ever looked at from the valley and probably the best we could have done with our day. We were worried that it might be a bit dodgy with the wind that we have had but we were relived to see 9 others heading up the same way including some guided teams so we didn’t have to drop in first!
After skining and boot-packing for hours to the top we were happy to see that the whole couloir had in fact already purged itself with a firm but grippy base and no visible wind loading at the top. There were sections of crust, pow and chalk on the way down and it was fun to change between the two and play with the aspect to try and get the best snow. towards the bottom of the run, in the trees, the snow was getting super heavy and grabby and in the last section down to the road we were skiing corn. Pretty much every type of snow you can think of in one day! Thanks to Josh Fawcett for a good day out.
Heading up via the Tramway du Mont Blanc
Short bootpack. Les Bossons far bellow.
Aiguille du Gouter
Looking into the Couloir with the Midi west face behind
Found some OK snow
Glad to be out of the fall line of the couloir
No cham day would be complete without some tree skiing!
On Monday I headed up with Ross to ski the West Couloir on the Midi. Despite the good forecast we had both decided we wanted to ski down hill to maximize the amount of descent rather than ski touring where you might only get one descent in the whole day. We found some good chalky snow in the couloir and a some fast rippable snow on the apron and down the para face. I recently got given a GoPro head cam(!) by my sister and brother in law and I was keen to try it out. It was all going well until the para face… I was following Ross down at some pretty high speeds when I realized I was only half concentrating on my own skiing. I crossed my tips and took a nasty twisting fall. I managed to ski down to the valley and headed up for another run, this time just down the Gros Rognon. The day after my knee swelled up and now three days later I finally feel like its starting to get better and hopefully I’ll be out on the ski’s next week. Here’s some shots and my first ever go at a GoPro edit! Enjoy….I hope.
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!
Never a big que in La Palud
Looking down the slopes under the cables
Dave de masi skiing, Liz filming
Mont blanc in the back and the Entreves south face in the foreground.
Davide and Liz
Davide and his heavy spine.
Nice huck in…
Still lots of good snow from the pavillon
Sunny, coffee, chill time.
Davide showed us the light.
This is what happens if you put your Kask headband on upside down.
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…