Jottnar, Aiguille du Midi.

Aiguille du Midi, Cosmiques Arete North West Face, AKA off the bridge. Scottish VIII 8 or M7+. 4 pitches, all of which are very good. With Ally Hurst.

Good route, Good conditions on the top pitch.  Had to take a rest on the crux wall.  One to come back and get free! Great route from Dave Almond and Mark Thomas (UKC News report here)

 

It can only get better…

Despite living in Chamonix and having a lot of spare time over the past few months I’ve got very little to show for it in terms of big days in the mountains, which makes me sad and frustrated.  The weather this Summer has been abysmal with lots of wind, rain and snow up high. On the bright side this poor weather has been building some awesome conditions on the high north faces which bodes very well for this Autumns mixed climbing season.

Verte North face

The north faces of the Verte and Droites already looking good for this Autumn.

Shameless Selfie soloing the Chere Couloir one afternoon.

Shameless Selfie soloing the Chere Couloir one afternoon on one of my only foray’s into the mountains this summer.

This summer has been a good opportunity for me to get into the swing of a good training regime.  With the help of Steve House’s new book Training For The New Alpinism (full review on here coming soon!) I’m already starting to feel stronger and more focused on what I need to do to improve my fitness. The hardest part for me was realising that what I thought was a half descent way of training was actually making me weaker for what I wanted to do. Its great to finally have an extremely well thought out and well written manual on training for Alpine climbing.

I’ve spent a lot of time reflecting back on how I felt before, during and after previous climbing efforts.  It’s made me realise that I could have been a lot better prepared for some of the objectives I was planning.  Especially looking back at my 2012 expedition to climb the north face of Talung (7349m) in Nepal, I can now see just how far away I was from being ready to climb an objective like that.  I may have just been able to drag my scrawny butt up it but it would have been preferable to have been feeling on the top of my game for that one.  I was recovering from a knee injury, I wasn’t strong or even particularly fit but I still felt confident.  Had I trained harder or with more structure then I might have been feeling even more confident and had even more chances of success.  I still remember the feeling of the rucksack straps digging in to my shoulders on the acclimatization climb to 6300m and my lungs being compressed under the fairly average pack weight. Not good.

With my focus shifting away from the alps and the fantastic, although often crowded, climbing that it has to offer, I feel I want (or need?) more stimulation from the mountains which I’m just not getting from what is on offer out here. I have by no means done everything I want to do in the alps…far from it, but I crave the adventure that can only be found from going to the greater ranges and for this I need to be stronger and fitter above all.

For now I’m super psyched on training and looking forward to getting out for some bigger days when the weather allows.  I’m also going away to Kyrgyzstan for a peak bagging trip for September which I’m very excited about.  With an awesome team of fun loving friends and nothing too technically challenging this should be the perfect opportunity to wet the appetite for bigger trips to the Himalaya and hopefully get a few good peaks under my belt outside of the alps. It should also be a great warm up for this Octobers mixed climbing season! More info on this trip soon but check out the team blog here to start with to see what everyone has been up too. Some really well written posts up already by the team.

Back in the Shire.

After a long winter of skiing powder and difficult skimo conditions its been awesome to kick back and enjoy some sunny days in the shire… Devonshire that is.  It was time to do some work and MOT my little van so I made the decision to scrap the last few weeks of the spring season to go back to the UK do some work in Devon for my Mum.  Shes recently bought a church (!) and needed some help with painting some of the rooms so I’ve been busy with my brush and roller freshening it up.

With the good weather and long evenings its provided a good opportunity to keep up the rock climbing with multiple trips down to Anstey’s cove and a few days bouldering on Dartmoor. I’m starting to feel the benefits of getting out even just from the handful of times that I’ve had the chance, which is good!

Anstey’s Cove is a pretty special place with a huge range of climbs of all different types. DWS, Bouldering, scary Trad, easy Trad, and sport climbing of nearly all grades, what more could you ask for for a crag! Oh yer a nice beach? Yep got that too! I’ve been focusing on a classic 7c+ called Avenged which has eluded me in the past and alas continues to. More of a warm up route for most of the people hanging out down there these days it still feels quite tough for me. Its good to have something to aim for and hopefully I can get it sent before I head back to Chamonix next week.

I’m really looking forward to this summer in Cham especially the rock climbing. I really missed climbing last summer whilst I was in London so I’m ready to make the most of it when I get back. I’m also very excited about taking a trip to Kyrgyzstan with a good crew of folk this summer.  Hopefully it will restart my greater range climbing with a more manageable trip. More details to come…

For now I leave you with some photos of the past few weeks.

What’s in My… Ski Touring Bag.

Miage Aigle Dave Searle-9

In Chamonix I often see a lot of folk out and about with some pretty monstrous bags!  I rarely take a bag bigger than 30l into the mountains and I often prefer to have a bag around the 25l mark for day tours.  What’s goes into my bag? Here’s a basic list of what goes into my bag and some thoughts/ideas on what to take with you when ski touring/mountaineering.

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

More days like these..please.

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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!

Spooked on the Noire and the Couloir Trappier

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.

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.

Not the Plan but nearly…

I’d say at least half the time when skiing or climbing in the alps things don’t go to plan for me.  Its not necessarily a bad thing and without “failure” success wouldn’t be as sweet. I spend a lot of time thinking about this and how I would feel if I never or always got the things I want to do done.  For me the 2 most important things are; 1.Did I enjoy it? (type 2 and 3 fun is still acceptable forms of enjoyment).  2. Did I learn something from it?

If the answer is yes to both then its a thumbs up and is classified as a “good day”.  Today was one of those, even if we didn’t finish what we set out to achieve….

We (me and Emily Roo) had planned on traversing from the Aiguille du Midi to the Aiguille du Plan via the famous and aptly named Midi-Plan traverse. From the top we were going to ski down the Glacier d’Envers du Plan, obviously in knee deep, perfectly stable, un-tracked and sunny pow pow. We found the pow but it wasn’t in the right part. From the Col du Plan we waded our way up through steep, sugary snow on the ridge for hours. After a brief battenbourg stop mid way along (oh she does look after me:-) we decided we had had enough and started to scope out a short but steep couloir which would lead us back down to the Grande Envers via some steep turns.  I gave Emily a masterclass in how to put your skis on on a steep slope and set her of on her merry way. The snow in the couloir was pretty crusty but I was super impressed with how our lass skied it. Good work Emily! My knee has been pretty bad the last week so this was my first ski day for a while but it feel pretty good now.  Super happy with my new Salewa/Wild country kit and also my new Blizzard Cochise skis which I might go as far as to say is the best ski I have ever owned if not skied on. Super Stoked to finally have a set up that I like and trust.