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!

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Skinning in the entry couloir

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Sunshine and shadow

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Isaac and Minna with Pt Yield in the background

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Morgan at the top of the shoulder

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Me psyched to ski some cold, sloughy, powder.

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Me heading off down the ridge.

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Morgan Salen on the first shot

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Isaac enjoying the powder

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Morgan finding the snow acceptable and to his liking

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Morgan railing a turn in the sun with Minna below

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Happy days, Morgan with Minna abseiling

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Minna on the abseil

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Me and the Corvus Freebird

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Minna on the lowers

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Morgan starting off down the lowers

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Me enjoying the exceptional snow

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This lower section provides some very fast skiing

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The Corvus Freebird showing its pedigree at speed

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And on

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And on

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And on

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And on

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Been skiing more than 10 seconds now!

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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.

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

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Mikko starting off

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Jesper in the powder

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Deep powder in the line

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Me catching up after shooting down the line

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

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Mikko under the Dru

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Now in the Charpoura basin

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Les Drus, Sans Non and Y couloir

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

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Charpoura cirque

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Jesper’s signature

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Les Drus

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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.

 

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On the bootpack.

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The Grandes Jorasses looking somewhat dry

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Jesper dropping into the pow.

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And finding the line well filled in.

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Me dropping onto the spine.

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And popping back off it!

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These last two are of Jesper.

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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!

Dent du Geant South Face

I’ve been waiting for the right conditions to get this done for a few years now. This years exceptional snowfalls on the Italian frontiere ridge of the Mont Blanc massif has ensured the rocks at the top are covered, and on the back of a Foehn storm we were guaranteed cold snow. After queuing with the holiday makers until 10 am for the lift it was going to be a race to the top quick to ski before it got too hot. There was no time to wait for the lift guys to put our skis on the cable trolley and we comically wrestled our skis out of their hands explaining we had lost too much time to wait. Running up the stairs with our skis on our backs to the top station (its nearly 3500m) was a rude lactic inducing warm up.

The climb up to the Dent du Geant follows the normal summer line; characterised by loose rubble and slabs under a dusting of faceted snow which all feels a bit precarious. The reward today was 2500 m of lush rip-able snow and 25 minutes later we were down at the road.

Looking back up, the first hot afternoon of spring produced some pretty impressive slides as the face purged its winter coat, trashing it until next year.

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Bel Oiseau South East Couloir

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Nonne Eveque

We planned for a 2 day stay in the Couvercle refuge and set off carrying food, stove and gas for the stay. On the approach to the hut the wind kept getting stronger and snow quality for skiing was deteriorating rapidly. At the hut we stopped for an hour or so to brew tea and wait and see if the wind  would drop.  We could see the big South facing ski lines were covered in wind polished, crusty snow, there wasn’t going to be any good skiing in the Telefre basin the next day. We decided to take our kit and go home via the Nonne Eveque which would be sheltered from the wind and contain good snow. I have been wanting to go there for a few weeks now as its not often that the moraine is easily passible and the hot afternoon sun usually runnels this West facing line.  Its a great line, never that steep, with the added interest of a narrow ice choked chimney at its base. Breche Nonne Eveque route 1

Nonne Eveque Couloir

Photo credit: Phil Ingle. Check out his page at http://philingle.com/breche-nonne-eveque/Nonne Eveque-9Nonne Eveque-1926th Feb 2013 Nonne-EvequeNonne Eveque-24Nonne Eveque-32Nonne Eveque-34Nonne Eveque-38Nonne Eveque-42Nonne Eveque-5226th feb Nonne-Eveque