This was a fantastic run that I did a while back with Oli Willett. The photos speak for themselves and this photo diary wouldn’t be complete without it.
After a wicked day skiing powder in the Rocco and Rond we rushed home to get bivi gear and food together, then raced up the valley to GM to catch the last bin up on their last opening day. All the lines that were in condition in the Argentiere basin had been skied several times by the team so Luca, Sylvain and myself decided to go to the Aiguille d’Argentiere to ski a variation of the classic Barbey.
In the pre-dawn we skied down from our bivi and started to skin up the Argentiere glacier. Luca wanted to take a ‘short cut’ up a direct line on the morraine rather than skin round the usual way where there was already a skin track. It didnt appeal to me so I went my own way. My stomach was giving me jib and struggling to get a tour rhythm I had frequent stops to take photos as the sun hit the North Wall of the Argentiere basin.
Arriving in the Milieu I could see a pair way up ahead and realised I had been faffing a bit too much. At the rimaye I caught up with the others only to find it was a guide and client wearing a Luca look-a-like kit. With them no where to be see and no phone reception I assumed they had kit problems and turned back. With only half an hour to the summit I was at least going to go that far. On the summit ridge at 9 am a cold wind was blowing from the SW so I couldnt wait around long. Sure the boys had bailed out, I wasnt psyched to play with the cornice on our intended route and decided to go down the Barbey. Once onto the East Face it was much more pleasant being sheltered from the wind and I shed a couple of layers. I felt sorry for the teams skiing the Milieu which looked destined to remain bullet hard all day in the wind. Traversing right I joined our intended line and was able to put in some big GS turns in the untracked pow. Lower down this line hits a big cliff so I cut back right into the Barbey where conditions were disgusting – it had been skied late on a previous day and the slope trashed as the wet snow was set running. An hour later I was over Col du Chardonnet and back at the Lognan end of season party by lunchtime.
I am the little dot near the top of the headwall. Luca’s short cut cost them one hour!
Monday saw the usual gathering of steep skiers at the Midi hungry for those oh so ephemeral routes that come into condition for just a few hours of perhaps one morning a year before the sun strips the snow off them. There is the usual stress with the potential for everyone to pile into the same place. A French team go into the Mallory which looked good but only 2 small snowfalls have covered the glacial ice on the upper slopes. Col du Plan’s ice is also showing so Luca Pandolfi, Sylvain Reynaud and myself head to the Rocco. This is the Rond entry to the Cosmiques, often rocky but good right now and a variation that I hadn’t done.
Luca scoping the entry
Looking down the Rocco into the Cosmiques
The big Italian completes the stability test!
Me waiting on the arrete
Me following the trough left by 2 160 snowboards on my 191 skis. The guy above dropped his pole which hit me in the face – thanks!
You can see the sluff from the guy skiing above coming over the rocks. We really started to like these guys!!!
Luca approaching the step.
Looking back up at me. Think I will rap now there is no snow and I have newish skis!
Start of lap 2 skiing down the North Face side of the arrete. The speed flier standing next to Luca sadly paid the ultimate price on his last run. When we came round the traverse his body was being recovered by the PGHM in the avalanche cone. Our condolences go out to his family and friends.
The day was forecast 40% sun but it didnt look too promising peeking out window from under the covers in my bed. Eventually my conscious starting playing on me for being lazy and we headed up the Midi with hope the forecast was right. The lifty on the bin said we were the first skiers of the day which was slightly surprising as this is Chamonix at the most exciting time of year for a skier and a bin had gone up before us.
Walking down the Arrete the mist started to part revealing a pristine sparkling wonderland with its new coat of pow. I never fail to feel a twinge of excitement going to ski on the Midi. Unlike a ski resort the Midi offers adventure, doubt, excitement (read sphincter twitching fear), risk and reward. You end up skiing in outrageous places – the stuff dreams are made of.
A guide was working on the arrete removing the fixed ropes and expressed concern that we were going skiing. Its not like I haven’t been up the Midi a 1000 times but I guess they have responsibility to warn people of the dangers given the number of inexperienced people that disappear up there questing of into the unknown. Maybe I just looked like a punter walking down rather than skiing. It does always make a little part of me question my decision making and that can be unsettling. I spent a few seconds thinking about it and off we went.
Anyway the Rond was getting better with every run and with a topping of 30 cm made for fast fluid skiing in fresh tracks. Bit by bit the North Facing stuff is coming into condition. Its a shame Grands Montets closed on Tuesday!