Tour Ronde North Face

My plan to go do West Couloir Integral was scrapped as soon as the Midi announced they were opening late. Being Sunday there was gong to be a lot of attention on the North Face from those on their day off work so we changed to touring kit and headed off to Cirque Maudit for some tranquility and to see what looked good. Tour Ronde looked pretty good so we headed there.

The day wasn’t without a few challenges; Bird must have dreamt he could actually fly so he left his axes at home, my crampon bail snapped at the shrund and Minna had to get there on alpine day wreckers (alpine trekkers). Somehow we made it!

The last time I did this we rapped between the faces so it was a good adventure to take the skier’s left line down the face through the mixed ground. Once again I had the pleasure to ski with Minna Riihimaki and Bird Early.

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The face looking good on the left of the photo. Tour Ronde North Face Black Crows Bird Minna Rihiimaki-44

A choucas came to visit us as we climbed then this halo appeared. Minna and Bird enjoying good climbing conditions in the Petit Gerva.Tour Ronde North Face Black Crows Bird Minna Rihiimaki-50 Tour Ronde North Face Black Crows Bird Minna Rihiimaki-59

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In the starting gate.Tour Ronde North Face Black Crows Bird Minna Rihiimaki-83 Minna heading off down the upper face.

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Bird arcing out some turns in the powder.Tour Ronde North Face Black Crows Bird Minna Rihiimaki-107

Minna in the pow then finding some firm snow.Tour Ronde North Face Black Crows Bird Minna Rihiimaki-109 Tour Ronde North Face Black Crows Bird Minna Rihiimaki-113 Tour Ronde North Face Black Crows Bird Minna Rihiimaki-135 Tour Ronde North Face Black Crows Bird Minna Rihiimaki-143 Tour Ronde North Face Black Crows Bird Minna Rihiimaki-152

Kaaw, kaaw – Bird in flight.Tour Ronde North Face Black Crows Bird Minna Rihiimaki-161

Bird at the end of the rocky centre section with Minna sidestepping past the rocks.Tour Ronde North Face Black Crows Bird Minna Rihiimaki-162 Tour Ronde North Face Black Crows Bird Minna Rihiimaki-167

Into GS mode on the lower face. Screen Shot 2013-06-04 at 20.29.24My POV with sluff chasing my tails.

The Frendo Spur

Frendo spur ski route

The ski line we took on the Frendo with abseils shown by the dotted line.

I had gone to ski the Frendo 3 times this season, each time being thwarted by conditions; crusty down low, then rain runnels on the lower section and finally wind slabs on the upper half. So after a long productive winter, a lot of routes ticked and an ongoing chest infection, it was time for a break from the mountains and we headed to the Ligurian coast for some sun and warmth.

A few days down there soaking up the warm rays was just what I needed to recharge the psyche to ski another big line. It was with a small weather window after some spring storms that I then rushed back to Chamonix to see what was in condition. After a warm up lap in the Cosmiques to remind myself how to ski, I asked Bird if he wanted to ski Frendo the next day.  Luca had also been wanting to do this line for a while now and got in touch with Ben making up two teams the evening before. We were set to go.  In the morning Minna was psyched too so we ended up being the freeride 5!

The last time I was on the Frendo Spur was in 1997 and I was climbing it. We raced up the arrete in a blizzard hoping to get up round the top buttress before the sluffs got out of hand. We tied on for the final ice couloir placing gear on the rock just in case a big sluff came down. Once we got to the Midi I remember struggling to untie frozen ropes and take crampons. The lift was shut and we had to sit around for nearly 24 hrs until they de-iced the cables the next day. In stark contrast, this time, we enjoyed sweet sunshine and dreamy snow conditions from top to bottom – almost unheard of on a 1100m face at the end of May.

Maybe you don’t have to go to Alaska for spines and velvet powder after all! It has to be one of the most aesthetic ski lines in incredible situations. A very memorable day spent with friends.

Frendo spur ski descent-14 Minna at the start and heading off to play between the sunlight and shadows.Frendo spur ski descent-15 Frendo spur ski descent-37

Luca on the upper slopes beside the buttress.Frendo spur ski descent-51 Frendo spur ski descent-54

A happy team.Frendo spur ski descent-55

Ben riding the spine in the next few shots.Frendo spur ski descent-87 Frendo spur ski descent-88 Frendo spur ski descent-90 Frendo spur ski descent-91

And the resulting sluff – photo (c) Paul Lang – thanks.Frendo spur ski descent-127

Minna at the start of the spine. Frendo spur ski descent-128

Minna just above the tower. Frendo spur ski descent-134

Bird’s energy levels were obviously rising fast as he waited to ski and he charges out the gate with great sluff management.
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Luca heading to the tower. Frendo spur ski descent-166 Frendo spur ski descent-177

The Black Crows nest invaded by the Italian Cuckoo (I’m joking Luca!).Frendo spur ski descent-181

Last rap.Frendo spur ski descent-183Bird slashing out a few turns.

Frendo spur ski descent-187 Frendo spur ski descent-201Minna on the lower slopes which go on and on.
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Apres Frendo team shot. Well done to Minna – likely a first female descent.Frendo spur ski descent-207 Frendo spur ski descent-209

Bird was after more so went back up to speed-fly the line. That’s his wing just above the serac.Frendo spur ski descent-210

The wing is a tiny dot in this shot.Frendo spur ski descent-212

The North Face of Aiguille du Midi – Mallory

Yesterday I was back up the Midi for some more North Face action, this time on the Mallory. Tom Grant, Bird and myself teamed up with Mika Merikanto and Niko Palo for this Chamonix test piece. Thanks guys for a mind blowing run!

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Bird enjoying the pow.Mallory -8 Mallory Ross Hewitt-03

Mika, myself and Stephane Dan at the demi-line.Mallory -38

Tom Grant crushing it.Mallory -44Mallory Ross Hewitt -07

Me skiing.Mallory Ross Hewitt-08Bird and me.

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Mika & Tom with Stephan Dan and Alex Pittin below.Mallory -53Mallory Ross Hewitt-012Mallory-013Mallory-014

On the diagonal.Mallory-015 Mallory

“Hello, yeah I’m busy, call you back”.
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Bird on the mandatory rap.
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Elevation time anyone?

The North Face of Aiguille du Midi – Eugster

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Mmmh, can’t see jack shit, download? Fack off you pouff, we’re going to Mallory – Eugster and you lot can hold hands on the Frendo.
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The Eugster Couloir on the North Face of the Midi.

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Brett Lotz’s final day in ChamEugster_-12

Brett on the roll over.Eugster_-18

Bird Early, not so early and a bit hungover, stoked to join us and on the catch up.Eugster_-19

Shaeffer finding the Midi North Face clears a hangover in less than 5 turns.Eugster_-25 Eugster_-31

Happy days, Lotz o banter.Eugster_-35

Bird arcing out the turns to the demi lune.Eugster_-42

Brett approaching the demi luneEugster_-46 Eugster_-57

Cedric heading down the Eugster Couloir as it starts to snow.

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Brett further down the couloir heading to the abseil.Eugster_-84

In the final couloir with Eugster direct in the mist.
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Bird skiing ice glazed crap in flat light while its snowing. Some rain would have softened it up!Eugster_-100

Bird on the exit.Eugster_-111

Delighted at the prospect of a cold one!

Thanks for a fun day guys – Bird Early, Cedric Bernardini, Brett Lotz.