Traverse of Courtes and South West Couloir

Yesterday I had a memorable adventure going solo to the Courtes to ski the South West couloir. Les Courtes at 3856 m is an amazing steep skiing mountain with routes of equal quality in both the North and South Faces. Here are some photos from the trip.Courtes SW CouloirCourtes SW Couloir-2Courtes SW Couloir-6Courtes SW Couloir-8Courtes SW Couloir-10Courtes SW Couloir-4Courtes SW Couloir-13

The start of the ski line just below the summit.Courtes SW Couloir-24Courtes SW Couloir-26Courtes SW Couloir-33Courtes SW Couloir-29Courtes SW Couloir-34

The abseil line down the V gully in the centre of the photo.Courtes SW Couloir-37

The line taking the leftwards diagonal from the summit to the cliff at the base.Courtes SW Couloir-36A 1.5 m high crown half way down the line which forced me to ski onto the spur on lookers right.

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

Cosmique and Rond-11Cosmique and Rond-13Cosmique and Rond-14

Cosmique and Rond-15

Sylvain is in there somewhere!

Cosmique and Rond-16

Fuck yeah! Rond exit couloir.

Cosmique and Rond-19

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.

Pillow Lines

More fun in the backyard pillow lines at the powder factory.

Plan de L'Aiguille pillows1

 

Philip launching in.Plan de L'Aiguille pillows-11And riding out strongly.Plan de L'Aiguille pillows-13

 

Deep.Plan de L'Aiguille pillows-14

Deepest.Plan de L'Aiguille pillows

I probably need to move quickly!Plan de L'Aiguille pillows-2Ben testing his new ski acquisition.

 

Pillows, Spines & the Freeride World Tour Boys

I went for one run after work, solo, no pack, beeps or kit. Ipod and tunes. In the lift I met curent Freeride World Tour leader Drew Tabke, competitor Kevin O’Meara and Chamonix locals Dave Searle and Davide de Masi. A 10 turn warm up took us to the pillow field of justice. A 100 foot vertical drop over a ten pillow at roughly 60 degrees. Time to send.

Shame I just had a phone camera and not the 5d but the rest of the fast skiing made me glad not to have the weight with me. With all the big mountain skiing I do nowadays, always keeping in control, I’d forgotten how much fun it is to go fast.Drew Tabke in Chamonix's PIllow GardenDrew Tabke on a fall line sending mission.