Winter Round Up

Its been a while since I posted a blog and thats mainly because after a few dry years it started snowing in Europe early December and kept snowing until the end of May. That meant it was a pretty full on 6 months with very little time to put ‘pen to paper’ so to speak.

I started the winter with a herniated L5-S1 disc which caused muscle wastage, power and recruitment speed in my leg. For example if I tried to stand on my tip toes my left leg would sink until my heal was on the floor.  Thanks to the Osteo/Pro-runner Carlton Rowlands I mannaged a fast comeback.  The recovery went from the lows of skiing down the Midi arete in December and taking my skis off midway, unable to handle the vibration without nerve pinching and having uncontrolled leg movement, to basically doing my stuff and not holding back.

Mid winter also included 2 months of ski guiding and the IFMGA ski guides test which I am happy to report went smoothly for me. 3 exams down and all thats left is the final alpine test this August which I’m now fully focused on.

With a lot of my ski partners injured or retired, I did a lot of solo missions and decided to leave my camera at home and take the gopro out for a change to capture a few of my powder turns. I’m a very impatient person so taking time to make good edits while getting ready to go out the following day is not my strong point but it gives a flavour of how good the skiing in Europe was this year. These are all edits from the high mountain and arguable the most fun skiing was in the trees early December with an incredible base over the spines and ridges before the Christmas and January rain.

Here’s a few of the memorable days:

Col de la Verte with Drew Tabke

 

Mallory with Tof Henry, Arthur Ghilini, Nate Wallace and Chris

 

Mallory with Tof Henry, Jacob Wester and Babs Charlet

 

Pain de Sucre with Dave Searle and Guillaume Mars

 

Midi North Face – Col du Plan with Jacob Wester, Bird Early and Andre Dalkarl

 

Midi North Face – Col du Plan with Miilet de Papy

 

West Couloir, Aiguille du Midi with Miilet de Papy

 

Oreilles de Lapin with Michelle Blaydon

 

Cosmiques Couloir with Jesper Petersson

 

Rocco with Tof Henry, Benjamin Carvallo, Raimundo de Andraca, Galo Viguera

 

Rond with Tof Henry, Benjamin Carvallo, Raimundo de Andraca, Galo Viguera

 

Para Face with Cedric Bernardini, Luca Martini, Jamie

 

Cosmiques Couloir with Jacob Wester, Andre Dalkarl and Michelle Blaydon

 

Droites SW Face, solo from first lift on Aiguille du Midi, -30C morning!

 

Cosmiques Couloir with Michelle Blaydon

 

Oreilles de Lapin with Erik Wallner

 

Aiguille de Mesure NE Face, Aiguilles Rouges, solo

 

Solo skiing from the bend of Couturier in flat light as the cloud rolled in, then an afternoon sun run on Z de Papy the same day

 

Early February powder run on Col de la Verte from where it got rocky mid height

 

Solo run finding the complex line on Z de Papy

 

Skyway, Rond and Para Face with Jesper Petersson and Guillaume Mars

 

Solo training on the an icy Rond early season with a loaded arete

 

South Face of Tour Ronde into Brenva Glacier before Christmas with Michelle Blaydon and Morgan Sahlen

 

Col des Courtes with Tof Henry and Andre Darlkarl

 

Shoulder of Aiguille du Tacul with Michelle Blaydon, probably the best top to bottom snow quality I’ve ever come across

 

Pre-Christmas Couloir Cache into the Brenva Glacier with Tom Coney

 

A solo mission hitching through to Skyway, under the cables, Marbree and then back to Chamonix via the Valley Blanche. Marbree was so sick until I hit a rock and broke my 2 day old ski under the foot. It happened to be my left leg that took the shock which was recovering from the disc herniation onto the sciatic nerve route for that leg. After more than a little worry I’d suffer a setback, I woke up fine the next day. Lucky, very lucky.

Col de Cristaux

Col de CristauxMichelle has been wanting to go to Col de Cristaux for a while now so I’d been saving it up for a nice sunny spring day when things would soften up. We were joined by fellow Aberdonian climber-skiers Sandy Simpson and Andy Inglis a very social lap on this Chamonix Classic from the sunny right hand finish.

I was surprised to see a large team start up the face behind us when were we 3/4 of the way up. As things were softening up fast and I started to ski down towards them, they appeared quite distressed by the volume of sluff that the skiers on the (other) direct finish were sending down. Surely if you didn’t manage to get out of bed early enough to start with the others, you would question the wisdom of questing up a route knowing people will be skiing down and dislodging anything from 1 to 1000 Te of snow? Would you go onto a big ice route behind people without expecting to get a lot of ice in the face? A few years ago another team followed us up the ice route Omega on the Petit Jorasses. By the end both of them were bloodied and bruised from direct hits from falling ice. It certainly spoiled my day knowing that anything we dislodged was going to harm them to some degree. Cristaux Michelle Blaydon-7

Sandy booting it.Cristaux Michelle Blaydon-11 Cristaux Michelle Blaydon-14 Cristaux Michelle Blaydon-16

Spot the guy climbing.Cristaux Michelle Blaydon-17 Cristaux Michelle Blaydon-23

This guy definitely felt the need to get a bit more rad than necessary for a 5.1.Cristaux Michelle Blaydon-30

Michelle all cosy in a down jacket. The boys were down to mankinis.Cristaux Michelle Blaydon-35 Cristaux Michelle Blaydon-44 Cristaux Michelle Blaydon-45 Cristaux Michelle Blaydon-48 Cristaux Michelle Blaydon-55

Last of the Lift Served Powder

 

 

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.

I’m psyched to get a few steep ski mountaineering routes done now. Envers & CosmiquesJohn Minogue getting his first face shot of the day.

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Betony up to her thighs.Envers & Cosmiques-29Michelle carving

Envers & Cosmiques-37Into the Cosmiques

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Envers & Cosmiques-69Jake Morgan popping his cosmic virginity – what a day to choose. We went staight back up for more.

Envers & Cosmiques-72Luca joins us for a 5 o’clock run.

Envers & Cosmiques-73Enticing creamy pow

Envers & Cosmiques-76Envers & Cosmiques-79Envers & Cosmiques-83

Italy

A great day on the Helbronner with Davide de Masi, Liz Daley, Dave Searle and Tom Grant followed by the Carnival in Courmayeur. Thanks guys!Helbronner Dave SearleHelbronner-66 Davide de Masi

When Davide de Masi said lets go to Courmayeur I didn’t realise he meant by air.

Helbronner-55 Liz Daley

Helbronner-30 Davide de Masi

Helbronner-35 Tom GrantHelbronner-62 Liz Daley

Helbronner-39 Dave Searle, Davide de Masi. Loz daley, Tom Grant

Helbronner-23 Tom Grant

Nice shades!

The Cham Jan Round Up

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:

Champocalypse

Mileage Day – 4 Laps of the Aiguille du Midi West Face to the Valley Floor

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’.

aiguille_du_midi_en_hiver

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.

Cosmique and Rond-21

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.

Cosmique and Rond-2I’ve already got very cold feet in the -30C snow.

Cosmique and Rond-4

Cosmique and Rond-5

DeepCosmique and Rond-6

Cosmique and Rond-7

Cosmique and Rond-9

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Cosmique and Rond-15

Sylvain is in there somewhere!

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Fuck yeah! Rond exit couloir.

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Cosmique and Rond-22

Cosmique and Rond-23

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.

Cosmique and Rond-24

Golden late afternoon sunshine, stark contrast to the austere shadowed morning runs.

Cosmique and Rond-25Dropping 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.