I’m just back from a rock n road trip to Finale and heard things were good so rushed down to the Midi to catch the mid morning window of opportunity. Bird and Minna were coming out of the cafe and Camille soon joined. I’d been expecting to ski alone so didn’t have my SLR which was a shame for the big wide open skiing in the Cosmiques. Conditions are pretty epic right now and it was bottomless powder to the bottom – what a way to get back on skis after a week off! Thanks to Bird, Minna Riihimaki and Camille Jaccoux.
Minna in the starting gate.
Its been a long powder season and this could be the last of it. We enjoyed a few laps on the Midi to get the most out of it.
After a very busy month ski mountaineering almost every day, the unsettled weather last week brought a chance to rest, hydrate and eat lots; like 5 or 6 meals a day. I was almost light enough to race a bike again!
I also got bored of standing around taking photos and with a neck injury healing up its been good to ski some long pitches and get some downhill power back that has evaporated with all the ski mountaineering. I did however take a few shots of Ally Swinton popping his Cosmiques Virginity in one of the blower runs his week in between gasping for air!
I’ve been down and out the last couple of days with a niggling cold that has made a comeback after our long day on the midi. Why won’t it just die? Over the last month the guys here have been busy filming, photographing, writing and editing while compiling a round up of January powder action in what must go down as one of the best ever. I was surprised to see a photo of myself in there under the Helbronner cable car, kinda ironic for a Scottish skier to be in Powder Magazine. I grew up skiing using ‘The Force’ in whiteouts with snow varying rapidly and randomly from ice, wind crust, sastrugi, wind buff, powder. If for some sadistic reason you want to increase your FOMO and find out what you missed out on, or are planning to come to the Alps soon check it by clicking on the link below:
I’m on my own here this week with a freshly printed ‘pink ticket’ to party and the only thing there has been a shortage of is sleep! After a couple of days fast freeride and jumping in the trees followed by some beer for Dave’s Birthday and then the following night Philip & Nora’s send off, I was keen to get into the big mountains.
Yesterday I hooked up with Sylvain Reynaud for what had the promise to be an exciting day out. Chamonix had been stormed on for several days limiting the skier’s choice to the tree line. The forecast was for better weather in Italy so we made a vague plan to go there but I had a niggle in the back of my mind about Helbronner, knowing it hadn’t been skied much lately and with possibly 2 m of new snow, that things would be more in the catastrophic scale rather than controllable. I knew Sylvain would be hungry after a week at work but after meeting at the tunnel we changed plans and headed to the Aiguille du Midi.
On the Midi the weather hadn’t quite opened up, and the flat light wasn’t conducive to knocking out slabs on the Rond, so we started with a Cosmiques. Deep blower pow below the rock band gave us ice cream headaches and lead to a fun run down the Bossons Glacier and back to the lift.
While waiting in the tram queue I was amused by some lone guy trying to (s)talk his way into getting invited to ski with a group of hot Swedish female skiers. After managing to impose himself upon them, he left his kit and went off to the cafe and left them queuing. With five minutes before the bin loaded, I ran over to the cafe to grab a coke, my water bottle having frozen while up high, and was surprised to see him getting stuck into a half bottle of wine – just the ticket before a run in the big mountains! Maybe he was a bit intimidated by the girls and needed some Dutch Courage, maybe not. Anyway he missed the tram much to the girl’s relief and they were quite amused when I told them of his antics ‘obviously a serious skier’. Don’t you hate unknown people just rocking up and imposing themselves upon you? Just because they have a pair of skis doesn’t mean they aren’t weirdos. In cities you don’t give strangers a lift, so why take on the responsibility for some random in the big mountains where your life is at risk? I digress.
A quick reset to the top and we found the Rond in impressively good conditions and a short while later we were back at the road at the Grepon car park. Now it was decision time, go ski something harder or go for four laps. I was enjoying ripping about so we decided to blast out a couple of laps. My only wish was that I had some food other than the old twix in the bottom of my bag with a torn wrapper and covered in fluff and stuff. I happily ate it.
We needed to pick up the pace to get lap 3 done in a hour in order to make the last tram up at 4. Sylvain commented that he thought I was joking about 4, by now he should know me well enough that when conditions are primo we ain’t stopping till the sun sets! With 10 mins to spare we had the luxury of a sit down rest and could have laid down in the empty tram!
Glorious golden sunshine welcomed us to the now very familiar West Face and its faint warmth thawed fingers chilled in our damp gloves. We didn’t linger long and short while later some very sensual super G turns down the Para face capped off an amazing day.
Thanks to Sylvain Reynaud for a very memorable day out and also for the good photos (He had the good camera today)!
Normally after a day like this you are buzzing but I got home to hear the sad news that another one had been taken. As a friend said today ‘you can only hope his first day cloud surfing was good’.
The Aiguille du Midi. The Rond run is the red line with the Cosmique Couloir in green. 1500 m of Freeride to town remain below this photo.
These guys made the traverse back from the West face of the Aiguille du Midi in the afternoon and dropped in like Hellfire missiles. If Carlsberg made freeride slopes it would look something like this. Possibly one of the best ‘pedal to the metal’ slopes in the World. ‘le Para’, Chamonix Mt-Blanc 700 m vert in a minute. To say I was jealous doesn’t come close, its not often I’d put money down in the Alps for a run, this one would have to wait until later after our fourth run down the West Face of the Midi.
Sylvain is in there somewhere!
Fuck yeah! Rond exit couloir.
Riding the near empty Aiguille du Midi tram on the 4th & last time of the day. A welcome sit down to rest the legs after 8400 m (27500 ft) of West Face action to the road with a final 2800 m run down the Rond and la Para to finish.
Golden late afternoon sunshine, stark contrast to the austere shadowed morning runs.
Dropping into the cold shadows on the final run as the sun goes down behind the Aiguille du Gouter. It feels like we have seen so much during a 9 hour ski day which was only broken up by the half hour bin rides. All that remained was a flat out run down the para to cap off an exceptional day and the final combat down the walkers singletrack to the Mont Blanc tunnel entrance. This was a welcome sight as all that remained was a slide into town.