Alpine Biking

Fall in the Alps. The summer inferno has past giving way to more pleasant temps for bike riding. T shirts at 3300m. Everywhere you look there is a blaze of orange and red as the larches and grasses go off.

I should be in New Zealand skiing new lines but my L5 disc herniated onto the root of the sciatic nerve the day after I finished guiding this summer. No I wasn’t out shredding but simply  walking on a forest trail. Biking is a major feature of my rehab as I try to overcome the partial muscle paralysis of my calf and glute – its kept me sane and frustrations at bay. It turns out the Aosta Valley holds some of the best trails Ive ridden in 25 years and my Bronson is now riding sweet with saint brakes – many of these descents are in the 1600 m category so things get very hot!

IM0011

My unhappy spine!

22429419_1814505545244951_2111587243_o22496844_1814505448578294_1588401086_oIMG_20171015_160249_20CSIMG_20171015_212759_38222522452_1814505585244947_801957464_o22426162_1814505665244939_1490182348_o22550651_1814505748578264_1332332661_o22553503_1814505741911598_1336039711_o22553737_10155525571795269_1878338083_oIMG_20171015_211641_06822555948_10155525573055269_1046860855_o22561180_10155525571950269_1765252586_o22553454_1814505778578261_2022275527_o22497172_1814505788578260_1154234412_o22531985_10155525573485269_1102800899_o22561353_1814505958578243_682537324_oIMG_20171017_190406_07122555920_1814505901911582_1687614557_oIMG_20171019_12024322643226_1818199034875602_1599297061_oIMG_20171019_12140722664068_1818198948208944_774200110_o22662746_1818198974875608_1142783188_oIMG_20171019_141814IMG_20171019_142053IMG_20171019_143124_1IMG_20171019_175755_16222690359_1818198894875616_773054408_o22643198_1818198878208951_1574587661_o22664073_1818198824875623_1702749965_o (1)IMG_20171019_144959IMG_20171019_14581522664097_1818198744875631_1313718739_o22690117_1818198731542299_988122448_o22690603_1818198704875635_163855805_o22690608_1818198671542305_1727832631_o22550884_1813319188696920_435879880_o22546693_1813319152030257_951084554_o22547046_10155522981005269_188958984_oIMG_20171019_151205_1CS

Ski Bums – The Photo Album

For me the last few years have been completely dedicated to skiing, following the snow around the globe in the eternal hunt for powder as the seasons change and clocking up close to 200 days a year. This search has taken me to Patagonia, Chile, Japan, Norway, New Zealand and included 2 major exploratory expeditions to Baffin Island. This has been a phenomenal experience, meeting and making many close friends who share the same obsession and also clocking up 36 first descents in the process. Glen Plake said ‘skiings a life sentence’ and those smooth weightless turns as you float down a mountain amongst a sea of slough is something most of us can’t get enough of. Its always been interesting to see how the rest of the World rank the Brits pretty far down the skiing ratings and since we aren’t an alpine nation its not surprising. Without a heritage of producing big mountain skiers it means that opportunities for funding ski trips are few and far between in comparison say with alpine climbing. Hopefully that will change with time and I live to see some Brits skiing AK in TGR or MSP films. To emphasise that point, I write as I find myself without a clothing sponsor for the first time in five years!

A big thanks goes to my current sponsors for helping me realise many of my dreams and going out their way to help and support me; Black Crows Skis, Scarpa, PLUM fixation, Julbo Eyewear, Birdwhere, Lyon Equipment, Petzl, Lenz Products, Exped, Hydrapak and Davide at Concept Pro Shop Chamonix. Another big thanks goes to Berghaus, Gino Watkins Memorial Fund, Arctic Club and Craig Stenhouse who helped fund the trips.

After so much time feeding the rat its now time for a change in emphasis as I continue with the guides training with a view to being able to share some of these fantastic experiences in the future with clients.

So here is a collection of photographs which reflect the incredible days shared with friends that have a particularly special place in my heart.

598a1734-version-2

Jim Lee slaying Grand Envers in a metre of fresh. Aiguille du Midi

dsc00825-2

Adam Fabrikant a few turns in to the sunny east face of Mt Darwin, New Zealand. Tom Grant and myself hooked up the amiable Americans Noah Howell, Beau Fredlund Adam Fabrikant and Billy Whass to share a few turns and a lot of laughs while down under.

dsc05743

Michelle Blaydon under biblical skies in Lofoten

untitled-64-2

Polar Star Couloir looking majestic on the Beluga Spire, right after we skied it. Dubbed ‘The Best Couloir in the World’ by McLean and Barlage, its certainly and icon of lust

untitled-608-2

Don’t be fooled by the warm evening light, brass monkeys at camped on the sea ice under Beluga Spire. With Michelle Blaydon and Marcus Waring

dsc04544

Morgan Salen skiing to Minna Rihiimaki on the shoulder of Aiguille du Tacul. The snow was so good we skinned up the 45 degree approach couloir.

untitled-683

Bird speed flying over the Frendo serac the same day we skied it

untitled-388

The incredible 1500 m high north facing wall of the 70 km long Gibbs Fiord in Baffin

untitled-424

Marcus Waring with a 1000 m to go, Gibbs Fiord, Baffin

untitled-4

Oli Willet, Tournier Spur entry to Col du Plan

untitled-3

Mika Merikanto, Ross Hewitt and Stephane Dan, Mallory, North Face Aiguille du Midi

untitled-94

Michelle Blaydon in a very deep Bonatti Couloir

untitled-3-2

Powder Panda getting over caffeinated for Palud lowers

untitled-1

Roger Knox, Arete Plate, Aiguille Rouge

untitled-1-3

Minna Rihiimaki, in the starting gate, Aiguille du Midi. It has been know for her to pose naked here!

untitled-1-2

All time conditions on the Para Face. I miss those days.

s-face-darwin

A first descent on the complex South Face of Mt Darwin, NZ. We took the steep headwall to the spur with a jump through the rocks near the bottom. As usual Tom got over excited and nearly skied off the bottom cliff. Photo credit: Ryan Taylor

p1060195

Just landed at Tasman hut and we sneaked a quick afternoon shot down the diagonal in the background. A nice wee leg loosener.

untitled-361

Oo-La-La, Bird out of his cage and mind. Frendo Spur, Chamonix.

dsc01060-2

Tom and myself started the day at Tasman hut about 20 km up glacier beyond the white ice in the background. This gruelling 9 hour torture session is not recommended except for the masochists out there. We didnt have a satphone to call a chopper to the hut and ended up doing this walk twice, being pretty dumb and not learning the mistake first time round.

dsc01055-2

Argh. Hours in the pain locker. Tasman morraines

dsc00833-2

Beau Fredlund harvesting perfect corn on Mt Hamilton, New Zealand

dsc00758-2

After skiing a first descent on Elie de Beaumont, we got stranded in the fog trying to get from a glacier bench to the Tasman. Finally a window appeared and we took this ‘Brenva’ Spur type feature home

dsc00722-2

Skiing a first descent on Elie de Beaumont’s West Face as cloud threatens from the West. We kept getting bumped off choppers so it was after noon when we got to Tasman hut forcing us to haul ass up Elie for 3 pm corn time. Tom Grant skiing on 45 degree slopes

dsc00535-2

Mount Cook’s stunning east face illuminated under full moon. This will be one of the modern ski classics of New Zealand

dsc00430-2

Dawn hits as we start the climb up the east face of Mt Cook

dsc00432-2

On the East Face of Cook with uniform compact powder. A modern classic in the making

dsc00258-2

Vivid, rugged and very beautiful – myself taking in the landscape above Mueller and Pukaki

598a1237

For once the wind wasn’t howling and we were able to enjoy a morning coffee without everything blowing away. Tom and myself at Wyn Irwin Hut

untitled-529

Michelle Blaydon and Marcus Waring at base camp in Gibbs Fiord. This first trip to Baffin was rock n roll style as we travelled fast over hundreds on kilometers using kites, armed with rifles and pump action shot guns for bear protection,  and skiing every line that took our fancy

untitled-558

Sheltering from a biting wind a cooking up some hot soup under the magical Great Sail Peak in Stewart Valley of Baffin Island. L-R Michelle Blaydon, Ross Hewitt and Marcus Waring

untitled-593

The hard part of Arctic travel – sled hauling. Luckily good tunes and magnificent scenery provide suitable mind distractions to the 120 kg load

untitled-364-2

North West Passage, a 1200 m. McLean – Barlage classic. Had to be done

dsc01062-2

After a massive 10 hour walk out down the Tasman moraines we woke up feeling it and went for extra everything on our cooked breakfasts, washed down by a litre of cappuccino

untitled-233

Michelle Blaydon smiling at the relative warm evening light on the plateau of Scott Island, Baffin. Descending into the fiords is like going into a chest freezer as the temp drops about 30 degrees

untitled-127

We were skiing some sketchy icy section on Tournier Spur when a wooshing noise spooked us. A moment later that speed flyer went through the middle of our group. Scary

untitled-125

Return to base camp after a day new routing on Scott Island. It always amazed me that the tent disappeared from view on flat sea ice once you were over a kilometer away

untitled-124

Exit couloir on the Mallory, Aiguille du Midi. All the stress has gone by this point and all that remains is an easy 50 degree shot to the bar

untitled-116-2

Marcus Waring in the 1100 m Polar Star Couloir, Baffin Island

untitled-102

The late, great Liz Daley on one of those relaxed Palud days where we gourged on coffee and powder in equal amounts. Always missed, never forgotten

598a9729

Andy Houseman and Tom Grant on the Mont Mallet Glacier

untitled-6-2-2

Myself on another massive Baffin line. This one came in at a hefty 1450 m vertical, 5000 ft

598a0065

May and a predawn start for the Diable Couloir with Tom Grant. We climbed the icefall, bailed due to the heat and then put plan B into action – skin to the top of Tacul and drop into the Grand Gerva – that saved the day

untitled-100-3

Tom and Marcus with the 1500 m East Face of Walker Citadel where Superunknown is situated. We were on our way back from Mugs Stump Spire and just chilling in the sun before hauling through the night to Ford Wall

untitled-88

Sunshine and shade as Minna makes those special turns on the North Face of Aiguille di Midi

untitled-85-3

A first descent on Mugs Stump Spire. We also skied the background left hand line which was 1500 m to the top of Walker Citadel

untitled-82

Cedric Bernardini, Bird, Brett Lotz and myself as the Foehn threatens on Eugster. Cedric’s eyes give away the seriousness of the situation while the visiting Brett is oblivious to the shit storm thats about to happen

untitled-100

Caught in a Foehn storm on Eugster, Aiguilled du Midi. Bernardini and Lotz on the wrong side of the slough trains. One of those days you hopefully regroup at the bar

untitled-82-5

Polar travelling for free (low calorie expenditure) using kites in Baffin

sam_0682

After a 2 am start from a low camp, Im getting ready for my first turn down the East Face of the Matterhorn at 7 am

untitled-569

Fresh water ice on the isolated Stewart Lake, Stewart Valley, Baffin

sam_0693

Me on good corn on the East Face of the Matterhorn and carrying my SLR camera

ross-hewitt-verte-couturier-whymper-4

Me traversing the Aiguille Verte. We climbed Couturier and descended Whymper. What you cant see is the strong gusty wind that was trying to pluck us off the ridge. At the col we met Nate Wallace and Seth Morrison who had come up Whymper in downhill kit. With the snow staying frozen all they had to say was ‘you are going to struggle in touring kit’

p1070039-2

After a month on the ice we arrive cold and damp at Ellington Fiord hut after 10 hours on a komatik sled with 3 hours to go to get back to Clyde River. 2 of our friends are stuck in the fiords after 1 skidoo broke down and the responsibility for their safety as expedition leader weighs heavily on my mind. I’m completed beat after pushing my physical limits beyond the max trying to ski everything and mentally wanting to unwind. Deep in the Arctic rescue options are limited to skidoos

598a9829

Skiing in grand locations

p1060751-2

Ski kiting to the lines was run and saved loads of precious calories. The ramp next to the wing was my favourite line we skied. Big wide open exposed slopes led into a twisting couloir exit

p1060372-2

Showing Chipie how to load our 1942 303 enfield in case we get attacked by a bear. A nice light reliable weapon, perfect for skiing

dsc06381

Enrico Mossetti with the slabs of the Droites in the background

p1060063

After a couple days waiting on weather we get dropped at the Tasman hut for our final hit of the trip, aiming to ski a first descent on the South Face of Mount Darwin. Tom trying to pull me down to his level!

p1060458-2

Another monster line in Gibbs Fiord on Baffin. in 2016 we were blessed with regular snow falls providing primo ski conditions. Wading up the lines was hard work!

p1050971

Playing mini golf above Plateau hut in NZ

p1050947

Approach to the East Ridge of Cook with her East Face and Tasman’s Syme Ridge behind

p1050726

Gazing up the Hooker Valley with my ‘rig’. Adventure skiing in NZ is not a light affair once bivi kit and stoves are added to the pack

img_1698

Late afternoon golden rays on the Mothership in my backyard

gervasutti-23-2

The beautiful fan at the start of the Gervasutti. Tom Grant negotiating the cornice

598a1192

October, preparing for NZ

untitled-247-3

A late night session to savour the evening light in Crosshairs Couloir in Steward Valley. We had spent the day triple carrying across faceted moraine and finally decided it was time to go skiing to boost moral

598a1152

The East Face of the Matterhorn after we skied it

598a0917

Stormy weather in Couloir de la Dent Jaune, Dents du Midi, Switzerland

598a0708_2

Michelle Blaydon at the cute Dents du Midi refuge

gervasutti-15

Nate Wallace in the steep entry to the Grand Gervasutti

dsc06625

Tof Henry in the Col du Plan exit couloir, North Face of Aiguille du Midi

dsc06372

Enrico Mosetti making steep turns on Col de la Verte with the North Face of Les Droites behind

p1060986-2

Extreme coffee drinking while sheltering out the wind at the extrance to the 1200 m Mel Gibbs couloir, Gibbs Fiord, Baffin Island

dsc06356

Steep and techy as Enrico Mossetti negotiates the lower ramp off Col de la Verte

dsc06061

Michelle in the approach couloir to Aiguille du Tacul

p1060900-2

1100 m of May spring snow in Gibbs Fiord, Baffin. Another first descent.

dsc05466-2

Summit of Mont Blanc on a frigid day late May as we head off down the Bosses Ridge and prepare to make the big turn left down the 2000 m West Face. Exciting times.

mont-blanc-west-face-ross-hewitt-topo

The West Face of Mont Blanc

598a9782

Tom Grant dropping into the Mont Mallet Diagonal

dsc05017

Happy days. This was my final day in Cham in 2016 before I headed to Baffin Island and I wanted a big day on the Midi but things hung in the balance as the opening time continually got pushed back as they dealt with the overnight snow. When it finally opened mid morning we managed to ski Col du Plan, West Couloir and Salopar.

dsc06346

My team mate and good buddy Enrico Mosetti on the lower ramp of Col de la Verte

dsc04924

Me skiing into the top of Breche Tacul with the North Face of Grandes Jorasses providing the backdrop

dsc04918

Col du Plan in all time conditions

598a0299

Enrico Mosetti in the Brenva cirque with Col Moore behind while Italy sleeps under a blanket on cloud

untitled-48

The Plan de l’Aiguille at its best. Michelle Blaydon in perfect pow

dsc05561-2

Skiing on the Saudan route on the West Face of Mont Blanc. The seracs threaten the routes to the right and also the exit of our route focusing the mind on putting some distance between you and the face.

untitled-45

Good snow on the Mallory as Tom drops into the steep couloir off the tower

dsc00226

Stunning days on Lofoten as I get a look down into the line we want to ski

untitled-42

I did a traverse of Les Courtes solo on day from the NE into the South Face. The ridge along the top of the North Face was slabby on one side and corniced on the other so slow going. Plus it was -30C but the skiing was good!

untitled-41

Minna and Bird in the wee Gerva of Tour Ronde on the way to ski the North Face top down

untitled-40

My turns on the Cordier Gabarrou of Les Courtes

untitled-36

Playtime off Plan de l’Aiguille back in the days when it snowed

dsc09126

Johnny Collinson spine riding in Gressoney

dsc05608-2

Happy days. Mikko Heimonen on the walk out from Mont Blanc’s west face late May

untitled-36-2

De Masi spine riding Palud lowers

untitled-32

Oli Willet exiting Col du Plan. The shrund was like a catchers mitt

untitled-28

Palud. Deep. Jeremy Bogen

untitled-19

Bird. Midi North Face

untitled-6

Me contemplating the steep rocky, icy section from Tournier Spur into Col du Plan and working out the acceleration on 50 plus degrees before committing to straighlining through the gap

dsc00100

Flat light storm days in Lofoten confined us to couloirs  but I wasn’t complaining

untitled-7

On the Mallory with Tom below

598a9723

Tom Grant on the Mont Mallet glacier

untitled-15

Maybe a thing of the past. Deep days on the Plan with no one

untitled-259-4

Late at night. Michelle Blaydon in Crosshairs Couloir, Stewart Valley, Baffin

Lofoten 1

Michelle taking it all in, Lofoten

untitled-15-2

Minna Riihimaki checking out conditions before we commit to skiing the North Face

ski-south-america-12

Michelle on the volcano  Llaima

untitled-16

Dave Searle learning the steep game and making tentative turns on Col des Courtes in his first skimo season back in 2011

untitled-18

Bird slaying it on the North Face of the Midi

dsc05528-2

Me high on the West Face of Mont Blanc

ross-hewitt-michelle-blaydon-patagonia-135

The Frey Hut and its superb backyard, Bariloche, Argentina

598a0516

Sunset from the Cosmiques hut as we prepare to go to the Brenva Spur

untitled6

Minna, Michelle and Cedric in Lofoten

ross-hewitt-michelle-blaydon-patagonia-25

The road to Lanin, Argentina

dsc00888-2

More than a lifetime of exploration back there in New Zealand

SAMSUNG CSC

Me amongst the granite spires of the Frey area, Bariloche

598a9991Andy Houseman on the Mallet Diagonal

598a0522

Final rays at sundown on the Midi

dsc04226

Searching out the entrance of Couloir de la Perche with the Griaz Glacier behind

598a0512

Tomasso Cardelli in the Vallencent

dsc03167

Si Christy chest deep in what was dubbed Clit Route due to the topography. Photo Chipie Windross. Probably the shot of the trip for me

dsc05606-2

On the easy ground of the Miage after crossing the chaotic glacier behind on our way down from skiing Mont Blanc’s West Face

dsc03103

On stove duty at 5 am in Gibbs Fiord. I needed an early start to catch the sun on the 1300 m Canton Couloir before it refroze.

dsc02772

The perfect backdrop as Searle drops in off Tour Ronde

598a0353

On the Brenva Spur with a snow lynx track on the crest. I hope it enjoyed it as much as us

dsc02752

Perfect snow in this Baffin masterpiece allowing me to ski in front of the slough

dsc02597

Bouldering at Castle Hill after 3 weeks in the Cook Range skiing

dsc09153

Griffin Post riding pillows in Gressoney

dsc00848-2

Going for a flyby of the Caroline Face to check conditions

untitled-8

Gotta have a Midi North Face bin shot somewhere in your collection. Bird waiting for his hangover to clear.

ross-hewitt-michelle-blaydon-patagonia-89

Summit of Lanin with Michelle in volcano country of South America

untitled-31

Seth Morrison opening Col d’Entreves

dsc00271-2

Tom Grant in the Fransson line, Footstool. We used this to stretch our legs after several days travelling and get a feel for the snowpack. What you cant see is the severe gale force winds that are a big feature of NZ skiing.

dsc00158

Michelle Blaydon lining up to pass through the choke on this first descent in Lofoten

598a0529

Dawn on the Midi

dsc00681-2

On a fly past the South Face of Darwin. This was the closest look we got of it before deciding it was a goer.

dsc00121

A cheaky ice bulge guarded the entrance to this 500 m virgin couloir in Lofoten. Well worth taking a second tool for making it all to easy.

20150930_181502

Aperol spritzers at one of my favourite bars in the world, Riva del Garda, Lake Garda Italy.

598a3431

Sylvain Renaud in Couloir Cache leading into the Brenva Cirque

598a3386

Luca Pandolfi, Col d’Entreves

dsc00586

Me on the aesthetic Tacul shoulder

598a1565

Si Christy heading off on a 1200m shot to the fiord in Baffin

598a3255

Michelle Blaydon en route to Marbree one blustery day

598a2755

De Masi looking for something to make the Toula more interesting

598a1498

A psyched team of Evan Cameron, Chipie Windross and Si Christy doing a final repack of food into week bags before heading into the Baffin Fiords. Somehow Evan persuaded Chipie to swap out the normal sausage for ‘damn hot’ sausages which our guts weren’t that enamoured with and often had us sprinting across the fiord to drop our trousers

dsc00617

Me enjoying perfect conditions on the Tacul shoulder

598a2688

Sunshine powder days on the Toula with Davide de Masi

598a2619

My best buddy from school days, Paul van Lamsveerde, on a late afternoon down Cosmiques and spooky avi conditions on the Para face.  Paul passed away in a crevasse fall on Grands Montets in 2013

Lofoten 3 Geitgalien by Ross Hewitt

Geitgalien, Lofoten

598a2260

Full moon silhouette of the Chamonix Aiguilles

598a2220

The Merlet trail with its stunning backdrop

598a2107

The Brits getting stuck into Digital Crack

598a2084

When Brevent is good, its simply the best. Michelle Blaydon about to drop

598a1968

Camp 2 in Gibbs Fiord. The couloir centre picture ran 1000 m to a col behind the tower

598a1901

The rock spires and couloirs of Gibbs Fiord, Baffin

untitled-652

The Frendo Spur right after we skied it by the Hausseman Boulevard variation

untitled-658

A very happy team of Pandolfi, Briggs, Rihiimaki, Bird, Hewitt after skiing the Frendo in AK snow conditions

dsc01051-2

Skiing miles of white ice on the Tasman to avoid carrying any more weight on my back

598a1862

Sundown behind the prelimary points on the Dent de Requin after a dawn to dusk day

598a1718

Jim Lee, Roger Knox and Yann Rousset wading to Grands Envers on a rare day the Kuros found deep

598a1562

Jackpot. 1200 m of boot deep powder on day 1 in Baffin. Si Christy skiing with Chipie above

598a1443

Emerald waters in the Arctic waters of Lofoten

598a1750-version-2

Deep. Jim Lee with overhead blower skiing towards Roger Knox on Grands Envers.

598a1348

We got lucky with clear skies on several nights to watch the Lofoten light show

598a9978

Another one from Mont Mallet

598a1285

Norway and the beautiful bay that surrounds the Lofoten Ski Lodge

dsc05615-2

A tired and happy crew after a 15 hour day skiing the West Face of Mont Blanc. L-R Ross Hewitt, Mikko Heimonen and Jesper Petersson

598a1237

A rare opportunity to sit outside Wyn Irwin hut on windless morning. Sefton and Footstool behind.

598a0026

Big Country under the Dent de Geant seracs after skiing Mallet diagonal

598a0545

Sunrise hits Aiguille du Midi while we climb Mont Blanc for the West Face

598a0485

Tom Grant harvesting corn on the Brenva Spur lowers with Col Moore behind.

598a1966

5 am start in Gibbs Fiord to go corn skiing in a sunny line

598a1243

Our camper van in NZ packed to the brim with those amazing green Navis skis under the bed. Luckily Tom is pocket sized which left plenty of space for me to stretch out.

598a0461

Enrico Mosetti above the arete on the Brenva Spur

598a0349

Dolomite days with Minna Riihimaki and Christian Dallapozza  on the Cristallo as we decided to head to the Vallencent Couloir

598a0265

Dawn catches us on Col de la Fourche en route to ski the Brenva Spur

dsc05539-2

Quite possibly my all time favourite run as a ski mountaineer on the West Face of Mont Blanc

My 5 Favourite Places to Ski in the World

This is the first in a series of five weekly articles which discuss my 5 favourite places to ski in the world.

I was recently asked what my 5 favourite ski lines were.  Thats a toughie. What makes a line great? The difficulty, the aesthetics of the line, the quality of the snow, skiability, or the overall experience you had on it? Some of the lines we skied in Alaska sure were fast, furious and a heap of fun but then I didn’t always earn those turns benefiting from the aid of a heli. Does that make a difference? Not really, its the same as any lift but for this article I have excluded Alaska as my experiences there in the Chugach, Heneys and Alaska range are a decade out of date. Why havent’t I been back to the velvet snow there??

The line has to be aesthetic, that goes without saying, and off the big mountain. It also has to have high skiability. What I mean by that is low reliance on abseils and maximum focus on skiing. Skiing is all about the sensation of turning, the control of the acceleration as gravity assists your descent and the flow state your mind can enter. Skiability generally is inversely proportional to difficulty. For example, a popular Chamonix test piece like the Mallory under the Midi cables is psychologically and technically challenging, but its also rocky and I’ve seen teams do as many as 9 abseils in poor conditions breaking the fluidity of a ski descent. I avoid getting caught up in that climbers game of chasing grades and go ski where the good snow is. Good snow can make a hard route ski well and easy, while poor conditions may mean you have the most harrowing marginal experience of your life leaving you burning a lot of hard earned cash at the bar afterwards to recover from the mental trauma. Aside from the snow, the overall experience I have on a route is heavily influenced by the people I share the experience with. So the ultimate line for me is the aesthetic one off that huge peak, which no reliance on abseils, great snow and a bunch of good friends to share the ride with.

Choosing 5 of the best lines has been so difficult so I finally settled upon selecting 5 of the must ski mountaineering areas of the World. There are all different, unique, and utterly brilliant in their own ways, varying from adventure skiing in the coldest, remotest area of the world where bringing an Everest down suit and a high tolerance for suffering is mandatory, to the more relaxed and accessible ski touring opportunities and fine dining that Lofoten Ski Lodge offers with everything else there is in between. The skiing isn’t restricted to the northern hemisphere either, every skier needs something to do when summer round and the quest for powder may take you to the other side of the planet. There is something for everyone here and hopefully a few things that might inspire of create ideas for future trips. I grew up reading book’s like Paul Pritchard’s ‘Deep Play’ or Chris Bonnington’s ‘Quest for Adventure’. I never imagined in my wildest dreams of ever going to Baffin, let alone to ski first descents there, or end up having Chris Bonnington as a Berghaus team mate!

So this is the first in a series of five weekly articles which discuss my 5 favourite places to ski in the world.

No. 1 .The Northern Hemisphere – Lofoten Islands, Artic Norway.

The magical archipelago of the Lofoten islands is located at 68° north on the western seaboard of Norway. Despite being in the Arctic Circle, the presence of the Gulf Stream keeps the Arctic weather at bay and instead one should expect temperatures more akin to those found in Scotland and since its west coast means there is a lot of preceip or snow. We headed up there in mid March to benefit from colder snow and dark nights in which to view the Northern Lights or Aurora Borealis. There are many options for accommodation and we elected to stay at the beautiful Lofoten Ski Lodge that is run by the charming couple of Maren Eek Bistrup and IFMGA guide Seth Hobby. They provide a fantastic homely relaxed atmosphere that allows you to completely unwind and adjust to the natural rhythm of the days in the far north. Starting the day with a full breakfast, Seth then gives you the beta on the best places to ski or sorts you out with a guide, go skiing in some marvellous places, before coming back to the lodge for afternoon tea and waffles and then relaxing in the sauna with occasional paddle in the fiord to cool down. Then its time for a beer, an excellent diner, and finally marvelling at the northern lights to end the evening. Despite being in the Arctic Circle Lofoten is well served by good net work of roads and served by several airports at Bodo, Evenes, Svolvaer , or Leknes. Just pick up a car and go ski where you want!

 

 

Lofoten 1 Aurora Borealis Northern Lights

Every clear night we were treated to a light show outside Lofoten Ski Lodge

Lofoten 1

Michelle eyeing up potential ski lines and just taking in the beauty of it all

Lofoten 3 Geitgalien by Ross Hewitt

Geitgalien’s classic south west couloir. We skied the snaking line to the right

Lofoten 4 Ross Hewitt new line Nilsvikinden

A small ice bulge blocks my way to a 500 m first descent

Lofoten 5 Minna Riihimaki and Michelle Blaydon by Ross Hewitt

Minna Riihimaki and Michelle Blaydon in gorgeous afternoon light

untitled6

Minna, Cedric and Michelle high on Geitgalien’s normal route

untitled7

Checking out the stunning view from Breitinden

Lofoten 8 Ross Hewitt first descent Nilsviktinden

Ross Hewitt opening a new line on Nilsvikteinden

Lofoten 9 Michelle Blaydon Geitgalien

Michelle Blaydon slaying the pow on Geitgalien under a moody sky

Lofoten 10 Cod run heads drying

Cod fishing is the main industry in Lofoten. Once the heads are dried they are ground into fish stock

Lofoten 11 Cod lampshades Lofoten Ski Lodge

Even the lampshades are made from cod!

Lofoten 12 Lofoten Ski Lodge

The idyllic setting for the Lofoten Ski Lodge

Lofoten 13 sandy surf beaches

Emerald waters and white sandy beaches with a backdrop of snowy mountains

Lofoten 14 Michelle Blaydon Unstad Beach

Michelle trying to slime me with some giant seaweed

Lofoten 15 Surfing at Unstad beach

Surfers enjoying the swell at Unstad beach on a cold, dark day

 

 

Lofoten

Image

The magical mystical Lofoten Isles in the Norwegian Arctic. Broody dark peaks in the swirling mists, ever changing light creating dramatic vistas, laser beams from the sun turing the fiords to gold. Here we rediscovered the natural rhythm of life at Lofoten Ski Lodge under the fantastic hospitality of Seth, his wife Maren and team of guides and chefs.  We watched the sun rise over the Norwegian Sea, ate big breakfasts at a relaxed pace while choosing our dream adventure, skied from summit to sea, returned to the lodge for afternoon tea and waffles, shared the stoke with all the other excited skiers, took saunas and jumped into the sea, drank as much beer as we could afford, ate catch of the day at dinner, spent the evening talking in front of the fire, marvelled at the aurora borealis, fell asleep, woke up and did it all again.

Lofoten Skiing Ross Hewitt Michelle Blaydon-63

Morning glory from the lodge

Lofoten Skiing Ross Hewitt Michelle Blaydon-17

The aurora borealis

Lofoten Skiing Ross Hewitt Michelle Blaydon-132

Michelle skiing the classic south couloir of Geitgallien down to the teepee in the lush afternoon light

Lofoten Skiing Ross Hewitt Michelle Blaydon-1

The girls excited about the sun coming out

Lofoten Skiing Ross Hewitt Michelle Blaydon-3Lofoten Skiing Ross Hewitt Michelle Blaydon-4Lofoten Skiing Ross Hewitt Michelle Blaydon-5Lofoten Skiing Ross Hewitt Michelle Blaydon-6Lofoten Skiing Ross Hewitt Michelle Blaydon-8

Cedric booting up Geitgallien

Lofoten Skiing Ross Hewitt Michelle Blaydon-9

Minna and Michelle

Lofoten Skiing Ross Hewitt Michelle Blaydon-10

Michelle on Geitgallien

Lofoten Skiing Ross Hewitt Michelle Blaydon-11

Looking into Tollfjordvanet

Lofoten Skiing Ross Hewitt Michelle Blaydon-12

Panorama from Hivgratinden – Geitgallien col

Lofoten Skiing Ross Hewitt Michelle Blaydon-13

Minna, Michelle and Cedric

Lofoten Skiing Ross Hewitt Michelle Blaydon-14

Michelle

Lofoten Skiing Ross Hewitt Michelle Blaydon-15

Michelle and Minna heading into Juviktinden

Lofoten Skiing Ross Hewitt Michelle Blaydon-16

Our high point on Juviktinden due to poorly bonded snow

Lofoten Skiing Ross Hewitt Michelle Blaydon-18

The light show above the lodge

Lofoten Skiing Ross Hewitt Michelle Blaydon-1-7

From Juviktinden I spied this zone 2 valleys deeper so after borrowing some tech tools from Northern Guides Guido Sami Modenius we went to check out these 3 500 m lines which were probably unskied. They dropped a further 150 m below the photo on the fan to the lake.

Lofoten Skiing Ross Hewitt Michelle Blaydon-19

Climbing up to the ice step in the right hand line

Lofoten Skiing Ross Hewitt Michelle Blaydon-35

Michelle arriving over the steep ice step

Lofoten Skiing Ross Hewitt Michelle Blaydon-20

Boot packing the steep lower section of the couloir

Lofoten Skiing Ross Hewitt Michelle Blaydon-21

On the boot pack in deep pow

Lofoten Skiing Ross Hewitt Michelle Blaydon-22

Skiing after the upper narrows was perfect snow with the couloir providing visibility on this storm day

Lofoten Skiing Ross Hewitt Michelle Blaydon-23

Deep powder but no where to hide from the slough

Lofoten Skiing Ross Hewitt Michelle Blaydon-26

Faster skiing in the mid section where the left bank provided a safe zone from the slough

Lofoten Skiing Ross Hewitt Michelle Blaydon-27

Last turns approaching the ice steps

Lofoten Skiing Ross Hewitt Michelle Blaydon-28

I equalised a icy thread and a no.4 nut to abseil over the ice. With a little more snow it might be possible to hop onto the spine skiers left.

Lofoten Skiing Ross Hewitt Michelle Blaydon-36

Michelle on the abseil.

Lofoten Skiing Ross Hewitt Michelle Blaydon-37

Michelle bootpacking up to the next line

Lofoten Skiing Ross Hewitt Michelle Blaydon-29

Climbing into the central line.

Lofoten Skiing Ross Hewitt Michelle Blaydon-38

Michelle arriving over the small ice step

Lofoten Skiing Ross Hewitt Michelle Blaydon-39

Deteriorating weather and light as we wallow up deep pow

Lofoten Skiing Ross Hewitt Michelle Blaydon-30

At the col, the visibility was terrible and I was pleased to actually find the col

Lofoten Skiing Ross Hewitt Michelle Blaydon-31

After popping out of the cloud the visibility for skiing became good

Lofoten Skiing Ross Hewitt Michelle Blaydon-40

In the upper couloir

Lofoten Skiing Ross Hewitt Michelle Blaydon-42

On the dividing spur sheltering from Michelle’s slough

Lofoten Skiing Ross Hewitt Michelle Blaydon-32

Entering the lower couloir

Lofoten Skiing Ross Hewitt Michelle Blaydon-33

Michelle threading her way through the choke into the lower line

Lofoten Skiing Ross Hewitt Michelle Blaydon-34

Great skiing in the lower line

Lofoten Skiing Ross Hewitt Michelle Blaydon-43

Deep pow in the lower line. I put in an a abolokov to abseil the lower ice step but it would be an easy jump in good visibility

Lofoten Skiing Ross Hewitt Michelle Blaydon-44

On the abseil

Lofoten Skiing Ross Hewitt Michelle Blaydon-45

Sunshine on the beach

Lofoten Skiing Ross Hewitt Michelle Blaydon-46

Leaving the car to head into Breitinden / Stauren group

Lofoten Skiing Ross Hewitt Michelle Blaydon-47

The approach has us skinning across fields, marsh, lakes, streams and boulder fields

Lofoten Skiing Ross Hewitt Michelle Blaydon-91

Our line on Breitinden

Lofoten Skiing Ross Hewitt Michelle Blaydon-77

Not so steep allowing us to skin but atmospheric

Lofoten Skiing Ross Hewitt Michelle Blaydon-48

A little exposed here above the dividing spine, time to bootpack

Lofoten Skiing Ross Hewitt Michelle Blaydon-49

 

Lofoten Skiing Ross Hewitt Michelle Blaydon-78

Michelle and the view to the north

Lofoten Skiing Ross Hewitt Michelle Blaydon-50

Topping out after cimbing a litle steep turf on the wind scoured col into the sun

Lofoten Skiing Ross Hewitt Michelle Blaydon-82

Soaking up the rays after days of storm

Lofoten Skiing Ross Hewitt Michelle Blaydon-51

Taking in the views – a perfect lunch spot

Lofoten Skiing Ross Hewitt Michelle Blaydon-80

Panorama from Breitinden

Lofoten Skiing Ross Hewitt Michelle Blaydon-85

Very narrow for 10 m

Lofoten Skiing Ross Hewitt Michelle Blaydon-52

Wider here

Lofoten Skiing Ross Hewitt Michelle Blaydon-54

No argument about the snow

Lofoten Skiing Ross Hewitt Michelle Blaydon-87

Michelle in the upper and lower couloirs

Lofoten Skiing Ross Hewitt Michelle Blaydon-90Lofoten Skiing Ross Hewitt Michelle Blaydon-55

Me in the lower line

Lofoten Skiing Ross Hewitt Michelle Blaydon-56Lofoten Skiing Ross Hewitt Michelle Blaydon-88

Michelle in the lower line. The wall above would be beautiful to climb on

Lofoten Skiing Ross Hewitt Michelle Blaydon-89Lofoten Skiing Ross Hewitt Michelle Blaydon-57

Exiting the couloir

Lofoten Skiing Ross Hewitt Michelle Blaydon-58Lofoten Skiing Ross Hewitt Michelle Blaydon-93

Our line on Breitinden is the lower col just riht of centre photo

Lofoten Skiing Ross Hewitt Michelle Blaydon-92

Owl strike!

Lofoten Skiing Ross Hewitt Michelle Blaydon-86

Funky clouds as the sun goes down on the Straumnes peninsula

Lofoten Skiing Ross Hewitt Michelle Blaydon-84

Lofoten Skiing Ross Hewitt Michelle Blaydon-99

Someone arranged for the evening entertainment watching the light show

Lofoten Skiing Ross Hewitt Michelle Blaydon-59

Our cabin by the sea

Lofoten Skiing Ross Hewitt Michelle Blaydon-61

The beautiful bay at Kalle where the lodge is situated is surrounded by these lush peaks

Lofoten Skiing Ross Hewitt Michelle Blaydon-62

Seth Hobby runs Norther Guides specialising in Lofoten, Greenland, Svalbarg

Lofoten Skiing Ross Hewitt Michelle Blaydon-64

The view southwest across to the mountains on the mainland

Lofoten Skiing Ross Hewitt Michelle Blaydon-65Lofoten Skiing Ross Hewitt Michelle Blaydon-66

Lofoten Ski Lodge

Lofoten Skiing Ross Hewitt Michelle Blaydon-68

Michelle has a soft spot for white fluffy things and Seth’s dog was spoilt all week

Lofoten Skiing Ross Hewitt Michelle Blaydon-69

Morning coffee at the lodge

Lofoten Skiing Ross Hewitt Michelle Blaydon-70

Lofoten Skiing Ross Hewitt Michelle Blaydon-71

Sunrise near Svolvaer

Lofoten Skiing Ross Hewitt Michelle Blaydon-72Lofoten Skiing Ross Hewitt Michelle Blaydon-73

Looking south from Laupstad

Lofoten Skiing Ross Hewitt Michelle Blaydon-75

The beaches at Morfjorden

Lofoten Skiing Ross Hewitt Michelle Blaydon-76

Lofoten Skiing Ross Hewitt Michelle Blaydon-94

Morning light on the mountains near Svolvaer

Lofoten Skiing Ross Hewitt Michelle Blaydon-95Lofoten Skiing Ross Hewitt Michelle Blaydon-96

Looking over toward Litlmolla

Lofoten Skiing Ross Hewitt Michelle Blaydon-97

Lofoten Skiing Ross Hewitt Michelle Blaydon-105

The next day the weather was poor so we went to the 900 m SW couloir of Geitgallien

Lofoten Skiing Ross Hewitt Michelle Blaydon-1-8

Nearing the top

Lofoten Skiing Ross Hewitt Michelle Blaydon-2-7

No more snow as I reach a little col on the ridge, 900 m of couloir below

Lofoten Skiing Ross Hewitt Michelle Blaydon-106

The cloud lifted and we were treated with creamy pow to the ocean

Lofoten Skiing Ross Hewitt Michelle Blaydon-108Lofoten Skiing Ross Hewitt Michelle Blaydon-100

Me skiing

Lofoten Skiing Ross Hewitt Michelle Blaydon-45Lofoten Skiing Ross Hewitt Michelle Blaydon-101Lofoten Skiing Ross Hewitt Michelle Blaydon-102Lofoten Skiing Ross Hewitt Michelle Blaydon-103Lofoten Skiing Ross Hewitt Michelle Blaydon-109

Our friendly Black Crows bar part time tender come guido – Mark

Lofoten Skiing Ross Hewitt Michelle Blaydon-110

Fish are the staple diet and nothing is wasted – even the lamps are made from Cod (fish)

Lofoten Skiing Ross Hewitt Michelle Blaydon-112

Cod heads drying on racks – they will be turned into stock cubes

Lofoten Skiing Ross Hewitt Michelle Blaydon-113Lofoten Skiing Ross Hewitt Michelle Blaydon-114

A dark wild day at the beach with freezing rain, we almost died of hyperthermia walking 50 m from the car

Lofoten Skiing Ross Hewitt Michelle Blaydon-115

Surfers getting swept on the rocks. Seeing this persuaded me these weren’t the right conditions for a novice like myself

Lofoten Skiing Ross Hewitt Michelle Blaydon-116

Head leant forward and braced against the wind, the surfers strive to get back to their vans

Lofoten Skiing Ross Hewitt Michelle Blaydon-117

Under attack

Lofoten Skiing Ross Hewitt Michelle Blaydon-118

The sandy beaches way out west are beautiful

Lofoten Skiing Ross Hewitt Michelle Blaydon-120Lofoten Skiing Ross Hewitt Michelle Blaydon-121Lofoten Skiing Ross Hewitt Michelle Blaydon-122

Michelle enjoying the sightseeing

Lofoten Skiing Ross Hewitt Michelle Blaydon-123

Colourful village of Utakliev situated under the classic mountain Himmeltinden

Lofoten Skiing Ross Hewitt Michelle Blaydon-124

The beach at Haukland

Lofoten Skiing Ross Hewitt Michelle Blaydon-125

Sea urchins for sale

Lofoten Skiing Ross Hewitt Michelle Blaydon-126

Sailing off on a fishing trip

Lofoten Skiing Ross Hewitt Michelle Blaydon-127

Volkl Explosives – one of the good early wide skis

Lofoten Skiing Ross Hewitt Michelle Blaydon-128

The picturesque village of Henningsvaer is worth a visit with the nearby Preston couloir

Lofoten Skiing Ross Hewitt Michelle Blaydon-129

Cod racks in Henningsvaer

Lofoten Skiing Ross Hewitt Michelle Blaydon-130

Typical wooden houses in Henningsvaer

Lofoten Skiing Ross Hewitt Michelle Blaydon-132

Michelle and the everchanging afternoon light on Geitgallien South Couloir

Lofoten Skiing Ross Hewitt Michelle Blaydon-133

Into the Mountains

Fantastic conditions continued in Cham and for day 7 on the trot we swapped freeride kit for touring skis and headed up to the Tacul to ski the shoulder. On the Midi, Minna and myself bumped into Morgan Salen and Isaac DVT and we teamed up to share the trail breaking and enjoy a ski run together for the first time. The snow was perfect both on the ascent and descent – we were able to ski all the way up the 40 degree entry couloir and it was a good short day to rest the legs from all the freeride. Thanks for the photos Morgan!

 DSC04270

Skinning in the entry couloir

P9220022

Sunshine and shadow

DSC04286

Isaac and Minna with Pt Yield in the background

DSC04298

Morgan at the top of the shoulder

P9220039

Me psyched to ski some cold, sloughy, powder.

P9220041

Me heading off down the ridge.

DSC04393

Morgan Salen on the first shot

DSC04465

Isaac enjoying the powder

DSC04485

Morgan finding the snow acceptable and to his liking

P9220071

Minna heading into the 3rd shotDSC04544

Morgan railing a turn in the sun with Minna below

DSC04560

Happy days, Morgan with Minna abseiling

DSC04569

Minna on the abseil

P9220089

Me and the Corvus Freebird

DSC04608

Minna on the lowers

DSC04579

Morgan starting off down the lowers

P9220117

Me enjoying the exceptional snow

P9220119

This lower section provides some very fast skiing

P9220120

The Corvus Freebird showing its pedigree at speed

P9220121

And on

P9220123

And on

P9220124

And on

P9220125

And on

P9220126

Been skiing more than 10 seconds now!

P9220128

Nearly there

After the active rest day I managed to talk Mikko and Jesper into coming for a long day to the Breche Nonne Eveque in the Charpoura basin. You can’t beat skiing below all the spires next to the Dru and its one of my favourite spots. I was last there in 2013 with Michelle behind Rosenberger and Minogue when it was super easy to get through the morraine. Times have changed, the Mer de Glace has dropped in height and the morraine become looser, steeper and more dangerous but with all the new snow I spied a route on skier left that would go with one rap over a step and one jump.

DSC04678

Mikko and Jesper trenching to the breche while I shelter on a ledge below.

12699291_10207393798874509_585380122_oDSC04690

Mikko starting off

DSC04743

Jesper in the powder

DSC04784

Deep powder in the line

12751742_10207393798834508_1284422514_o

Me catching up after shooting down the line

DSC04816

Mikko getting his skis on after abseiling the lower cascade. I downclimbed this for speed.

DSC04824

Mikko under the Dru

DSC04836

Now in the Charpoura basin

DSC04833

Les Drus, Sans Non and Y couloir

DSC04865

The Nonne Eveque is the central couloir, we skied through the slabs on looker’s right

DSC04848

Charpoura cirque

DSC04815

Jesper’s signature

DSC04838

Les Drus

DSC04857

I used my long Petzl Laser Speed Light ice screw to make a double Abalakov anchor for the rap through the slabs and backed it up with the screw while Jesper abseiled.

This was a long day with lots of tiring trail breaking and with a deteriorating forecast for the next afternoon, we decided on a quick lap of Breche Tacul for day 9 on the go. On the Midi we were surprised for find 6 inches of new snow overnight which despite making for an enjoyable few turns down the Gros Rognan, meant we (or it turned out to be Jesper) had to break trail to the bergshrund. It took me longer than usual to settle into a rhythm, clear my legs out, and get going, plus it was bitterly cold in shade and my hands, feet and nose were suffering. After the shrund we swapped leads trail breaking on the climb up to the breche before savouring a 30 second view of the Jorasses and skiing down.

 

DSC04876

On the bootpack.

DSC04892

The Grandes Jorasses looking somewhat dry

DSC04899

Jesper dropping into the pow.

DSC04916

And finding the line well filled in.

DSC04924

Me dropping onto the spine.

DSC04933

And popping back off it!

DSC04988

These last two are of Jesper.

DSC05033

With the weather breaking it was time for a well earned rest day and a beer or two before ending the week with a fun powder day on Plan de l’Aiguille where I met Espen Fadnes and his mate Tom, and an early morning run down the Marbree just before it got scorchio!

No Siesta

The week started with a full throttle powder day with Mikko, Jesper and Nikolina at Pavillion. After 8 laps there we moved across the road to Val Veni and did a few laps of the cable face. It was riding pretty sweet and I was psyched to get to ride this face again this season. For once the Scandos wanted to stop before it got dark and go eat pizza which was good too. From the comfort of my sofa that night with throbbing legs I felt pretty sorry for Nikolina who was working until 2 am!

The next day was sunny and a chance to get high. I hit Helbronner with Mikko and Jesper and we found the most amazing stable powder on the mountain. By lunch we had skied the classic cables line, Tassoti, straight line 3 times and Chesso twice, in total 7 x 1000m laps. Although it was still cool we decided to go back to darker Cham side and have a run on the Rond but once we got through the tunnel the light was flat and we called it at that not wanting to spoil what had been the best cables day for me for a few years.  These days were fast, furious, and focused on skiing so no photos! The only downside was hitting a rock at full speed on the Toula glacier that had me tomahawking to a standstill. It felt like my knee would explode as the tail bit on each rotation but I luckily got away with only strained medial ligament. I did exactly the same thing before going to Baffin so knew I could manage it.

After resting my knee all the next morning I got the code red from De Masi that it was apocalyptic in Italy. We arrived over there to find it snowing at 20 cm an hour with 50 cm of fresh on the ground. With 115 underfoot it was still chest deep. There was a ridiculous amount of snow coming out of the sky and continuous face shots of cold champagne powder. Well, we skied until the liftie asked if we had homes to go to! I haven’t seen it snow that intensity since ’99 when we got a few metres in 3 days and the avalanches were blasting through the towns in the Alps, something no one wants to see a repeat of. Only a half day but 5 laps in the bag.

Pavillion freeride was the order of the day for Saturday and Michelle met up with her friend Ian from UEFA who was psyched for sport with the Cham lifts shut with the Foehn storm. During the morning it continued to snow and cover the tracks then the sun made an appearance giving us the visibility to jump on the spines and have a laugh. The main problem was avoiding white rooming yourself while launching over the pillows and fish mouths on the aprons. It was supposed to be an active rest day but in the end 7 laps dont really qualify as active rest! By now the Border control cops at the Mont Blanc tunnel were only stopping the car to ask where the good skiing was.

Eat, sleep, repeat. Too good to stop. U guessed it we were at Pavillion on Sunday, joined by Black Crows team mate Minna. We had fun there there until the sun came out at which point we decided to put some distance between ourselves and those big faces above  that were loaded with powder after days of storm. Switching to Val Veni, the trees were still providing awesome skiing, so much so that we had to have one last run and went to the Church spine face. The approach through the trees was incredible with 3 deep foot sluff runnels between the spines in the steep terrain of the forest – WTF? Then we popped out on the spine face and wait a minute, whats this heavy wet mank? Not cool. I’m guessing there was enough reflected infra red radiation off the Helbronner side onto our north facing slope to warm the snow. Time to go home. 6 laps.

Monday dawned fine. Can’t stop, won’t stop. Oli Herren said ‘yeah skiing, its a lifelong addiction.’ I wanted more, and the more I got, the more I wanted. Helbronner uppers. Michelle, Minna and myself ride the bin with Capozzi, Rolli, Civra Dano,Wallace, Hachemi, Husted. The cable face looked loaded and wind effected so we started the day on the more sheltered lines. The lower approaches into Pavillion were skiing amazingly but my legs were  tired. 4 laps and coffee. 40 laps over 6 days.

The weather for Tuesday was perfect…time to go touring use different leg muscles!

DSC03680

DSC03684DSC03735DSC03738DSC03783DSC03786DSC03794-2DSC03794DSC03842DSC03819DSC03829

DSC03902DSC03965DSC03979DSC04010DSC04026DSC04029DSC04039DSC04040DSC04052DSC04055DSC04105

FullSizeRender

FullSizeRender-1DSC04119DSC04184DSC04185DSC04196

Last Week

On Saturday we went to ski the north face of the Pouce.

DSC03423

Minna, Dave and Cedric on the bootpack from Index in the searing heat.

DSC03454

Chamonix was in the ming and there was low cloud on the back of the Aiguille Rouge so we hung out on the ridge to see if it would lift. It did but by then team psych was pretty low. I went up about half way with Chamonix guide and friend Nicolas Annereau who was with another friend but in the hanging bowl the snow got thin and we skied down. Its a cool face and super exposed from the minute you traverse onto it about the cliffs so don’t be sandbagged by the Aiguille Rouge grades and go mentally prepared for a big line!

DSC03478

On Sunday Michelle and myself traversed Arete Plate and skied the north couloir. It was really pleasant hiking up the sunny side but on the ridge the wind was howling and we skied down the north couloir on nice chalky powder but didn’t stop to take any photos!

DSC03479

Next up was a trip to the classic north east slope of Les Courtes with Mikko H and Jesper.

DSC03485

Entering the crystal maze. First time through the high traverse for a couple of years.

DSC03486

The wind was still howling and it was baltic touring up the Argentiere in goggles and all my clothes.

DSC03491DSC03497DSC03502

We climbed pretty quick despite 40- 50 cm of dense powder. As we got higher to quality of the powder got better with less slough hardening but suddenly we came to an area with the new snow sitting on a thick melt freeze or rain crust that supported crampons with facets underneath. I did a few shovel shears in different places which failed at almost zero load, something I’ve not seen in 20 years of this type of skiing. It definitely felt like this was quite a large hot spot for the slope and with 40-50 cm of high density powder it could produce enough energy to start something big. The decision to go down was obvious for me – its a line I’ve skied 9 times and even if I hadn’t, the decision would have still been the same. I just need to down climb to the snow that was well bonded before putting a lot of load into the snow stomping into my PLUM guide heal at DIN12. The ski down was ok but difficult to stay in front of the slough. The bottom steepens significantly this year after the hot summer and glacier drop so the bergshrund may end up being interesting!

DSC03507

 

Michelle and myself went to ski the shoulder on the Aiguille du Tacul. We took the Gros Rognan and found some beautiful creamy snow and then traversed to the Vallee Noire for colder powder.

DSC03526DSC03530DSC03536DSC03540

Traversing to the Valle Noire.

DSC03543

Michelle on the Italian side of the Vallee Blanche.

DSC03576

The Foehn started raging before committing to the final boot pack to the shoulder and with loads of down draughting and cross loading we did a u turn and headed to the lower couloirs.

DSC03615

The Foehn blasting at altitude.

DSC03613

Michelle touring to the lowers.

DSC03617

Me launching into the lowers.

DSC03620DSC03622

At the buvette enjoying the warm sunshine out of the wind.

Ross

Then it was back to Hebronner with Mikko and Lauri. It had been windy again so we opted out of the ‘Chinese Downhil’ start.

DSC03630

Marco ski cutting Chesso traverse entrance to the cable face. The soft slab detached most of the way to the old stage 2 lift station.

DSC03641

Mikko finding the goods.

DSC03650DSC03668

Lauri is in there!

DSC03671

Italian Morris dancers in the lift, whatever next?