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