Couturier to Whymper. The Great Connection.

Team Summit shot (L-R Mikko, Ross, Me)

Team Summit shot (L-R Mikko Heimonen, Ross Hewitt and Me)

This day has been a dream of mine and Ross for some time. We had talked about it for  three seasons and had yet to find the perfect day when all the stars were aligned. Sometimes its best just to throw caution to the wind and get out there and chase your dream, even though we knew conditions wouldn’t be ideal.

The plan was to stay in the Grandes Montets top station to make an early start to climb the Couturier Couloir to the summit of the Aiguille Verte. From here we would descend down the ridge to the top of the Whymper Couloir where we would start our descent on ski’s.

The climb up was less than ideal with several sections of black ice, some funky serac climbing and some deep crevasses to cross high up on the Grands Montets Ridge.  It was however mostly just steep snow climbing it still took its toll on the body and mind.  I took my lightweight ski touring axes with me, which weren’t perhaps the best tools for the job but I still managed to bash my way through the bullet hard ice sections. It was gusting pretty hard on the summit and we knew we had little chance of finding good spring corn in the Whymper. The wind was blowing straight onto the couloir and counteracting the suns affect of softening the snow.  We meet Seth Morrison and his partner at the top of Couloir. They had climbed up and reported that it was super hard snow. After watching them ski we knew it would be manageable but not pleasant but there was no talk of abseiling.

We jumped turned and scraped our way down the couloir.  Not in the best style admittedly but what little soft snow there was had already been scrapped and what was left was either very firm or slightly crusty. Not ideal ski conditions but we still managed to make it all the way down the face without getting the rope out.  This was my first time skiing on the Verte and my first 5.3 in hard snow. It was also Ross and Mikko’s first time on the summit which was a great moment to share. It was also my first time skiing with Mikko Heimonen, who is probably one of the most understated extreme skiers operating in Chamonix at the moment.

Thanks for a great day guys…even though you might count it as type 2 fun it will be one of those days that is etched into my memory forever.

Mikko’s pictures here 

West Couloir. Aiguille du Midi.

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.

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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One Excellent Day…

Last night I could barely stand, barely keep my eyes open on the drive to the supermarket to by food for my 3000 calorie meal. I was destroyed.  Yesterday was the first “bell to bell” skiing day I’ve had for a while and we skied over 8000 vertical meters of pow.  We started at the Grand Montets and opened the Couloir Rectiligne in perfect knee deep snow just in front of some Chamonards that kicked a wind slab onto me! Grrrrrr. I’ve not skied it before but it was the perfect first run down with face shots, Hi5s and smiles. After this we headed to the Midi for a fast, super fun Grande Envers with Petter and Karl. Me and Ross still wanted more from the day and after a brief stop for some food we headed up for the Glacier Rond. My legs were feeling the burn and I could barely ski but I had to try and keep up with Ross as best I could.  We made it back to town with very little hiking and without being devoured by the treacherous hoard of blood thirsty hounds that normally linger in the forest at the base. Big thanks to Ross, Bjarne Salen, Jon, Karl and Petter Wallberg for super fun day!

Bjarnes Website

Italy Days…

In the last week I have mostly been skiing in Italy either off the Funive Monte Bianco (helbroner lift) or in the resort of Courmayeur. I also had a super fun day off the Aiguille du Midi on Wednesday.  Today, however was particularly fun skiing some awesome pow right underneath the cable car at Helbronner.   Fast laps on good snow (about 40cm fresh) with reasonable stability was the order of the day.  We were the first to ski the couloir directly underneath the cables which was pretty intimidating at first but turned out to be really good, and as far as we could tell, reasonably stable. Not quite enough coffee drinking or pizza eating today but we had 6 laps before the light went completely flat and before the legs totally gave out. A good fun day all in all and great to be back ripping about with Ross .  Cheers buddy!

The coffee shop in La Palud is a magical place and with some of the best coffee I have ever had...

The coffee shop in La Palud is a magical place and with some of the best coffee I have ever had…

Midi West Face Mash Up

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

Drew at the top of the Rond

sidestepping....

sidestepping….

sidestepping after handjam.

sidestepping after handjam.

coming off the first rap

coming off the first rap

we skied this bit of snow by mistake and had to hike out.

we skied this bit of snow by mistake and had to hike out.

not doing bad for an old codger

not doing bad for an old codger

the actuall traverse is above and right of ross

the actuall traverse is above and right of ross

abseiling finished

abseiling finished

me on the salopar

me on the salopar

looking good

looking good

coming to the final cliff band

coming to the final cliff band

drew lead the way on the freeride bit

drew lead the way on the freeride bit

ross about to seal the deal with a straightline to compression.

ross about to seal the deal with a straightline to compression.

Exiting the salopar

Exiting the salopar

admiring our work

admiring our work

on the traverse

on the traverse

Cosmiques Couloir

Cosmiques Couloir

Lower down in the cosmiques

Lower down in the cosmiques

Cosmiques exit.

Cosmiques exit.

Making Rond on the third lap

Making Rond on the third lap

Glorious midi.

Glorious midi.

on the para face

on the para face

Dent Du Geant South Face

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.

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.

to the base of the dent du geant

Showing the route taken on the climb up.

ross climb up

Ross on the climb up.

Ross skiing the south face

Ross skiing the south face

further down the couloir.

further down the couloir.