Looking back on the last 10 years of climbing and skiing I realise how much I’ve learnt and how much I’ve grown in that time. Sometimes mentors are hard to come by and although I don’t claim to have all the answers I have made my fair share of mistakes for better or worse. Here are 10 things I would’ve told my younger self 10 years ago, which I hope might help some younger wannabe mountain dudes and dudettes on the their mountain quests. Hopefully to do even better than I have with their mountain careers!
(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.
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 of 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.
Sometimes my lack of organisation leaves me going to bed without a plan for the next day. I don’t like it when this happens but sometimes its just sweet to pack your bag and go out and see whats occurring . In my haste to pack in the morning I forgot to take the SD card from my computer and put it in my camera. Luckly I had my phone to snap a few shots…
A few different route possibilities passed through my head until I settled on “having a look” at the Col Du Diable which my friends Ross and Tom had skied about a week ago. In the back of my mind I kinda knew the snow was going to be….bad. I climbed to the Breche du Carabinier which is between the Grande and Petit Capucin. The snow in the couloir was pretty much completely transformed which made for easy bootpacking and with the Grande Cap towering above you it gives great ambiance. From the Breche I looked up at the Col du Diable and immediately decided I could get in in better condition at a later date. Plus the snow in the Carabinier couloir was softening up to perfection and i didn’t want to miss it before it turned to soft. It was good skiing by myself for a change and it was nice to hike up listening to my tunes and pass by yet another beautiful day in the mountains. Even got back in time for some bouldering this afternoon!!!