Mar 292014
 

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!

Mar 252014
 

Has been a blur of fun days hanging out with good friend climbing and skiing. Nothing of any major note but always fun and always interesting… For me at least anyway!

About a week ago we headed up to the Minaret in the Argentiere basin to have a look at a route called Versant Satanique. This amazing and completely splitter 9 pitch 6b+ which forges its way up through some impressive terrain has some amazing climbing and damn near perfect red granite.  Myself and Liz managed to get 7 out of the 9 pitches climbed before the sun left us for day. I’m super keen to get back on this amazing piece of rock to finish of the route. Unfortunately along the way I managed to drop my faithful and trusty Canon S95 camera which took the 200m fall down the cliff and onto the glacier. Needless to say I have no photo’s from that outing or subsequent outings, Everything happens for a reason though and I decided it was high time I got an upgrade so I’ve splashed out on the S100 which I’m currently waiting for to arrive. Luckly Liz snapped a few shots of us as well as doing a bunch of filming for her Epic TV series The Daley Splitter. Keep your eyes peeled for it on Epic Tv.

On Versant Satanique

I’ve had to resort to using my go pro for the last few days to capture some stills from a few fun runs down the West Face of the Midi. Its good to see some fresh snow out here again and it makes a welcome change to ice, slush and sastrugi.  Touring should be good in the next few days/weeks so hopefully they’ll be some more good days soon!   Here’s some shots from the last few days.

 

Mar 132014
 
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 

Mar 102014
 

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!!!

Mar 082014
 

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.

Mar 022014
 

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.

Mar 012014
 

I’m pleased to announce that I will be working with Salewa and Wild Country as a regional athlete to help promote the two brands with an emphasis on Ski Mountaineering and Alpinism.  I’m pretty excited for what the future will hold with both these brands and I’m looking forward to getting out and about in the mountains to try out the new kit! Many thanks to the team at Wild Country UK for sorting me out.

WildCountry1Salewa

Feb 272014
 

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.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bhrrwFPDxWk]

Feb 132014
 

Yesterday me and Emily had planned on climbing the Claire Chazal on the Grands Montets ridge but we both decided we weren’t in the right mood for an alpine route on a north face in the blistering cold when we got to the bottom.  We skied some nice, tracked powder down to the glacier and bobbed down past the tops of the nearside icefalls.  Looking at the entry points of all the routes most had piles of ski’s and boot already so we carried on down. We made it to the top of the Cascade EMHM and dropped in for a look. It was super fat but pretty “dinner-platey”.  We also only had 5 screws (story of my ice climbing career!) so it was a good test of mental strength at a few points. All in all a lovely day out with one of my most favorite people… :-)

More info and TOPO here.