Dolomiti Freeride

When Minna first sent me a note asking if I wanted to deploy to the Dolomites for the weekend, I have to say I was less than enthusiastic. I’d just finished a heavy week training on skins, bikes and pushing weights, I had work to do and DIY to finish. The perpetual climate change hurricane was destroying the snow in Cham and I felt like I could use my time more efficiently at home than getting up at 4 am and driving half the way to Kalymnos and back in the hope of some snow. Its been a long time since we spent every winter weekend driving through the night chasing Scottish winter climbing conditions and I have to say I don’t miss the driving. Then she mentioned 80 cm. And no wind. Well maybe!

Arriving at Passo Rolle we set of for the Burreloni Couloir and at this point I found the plan was to climb the line rather than ski to the top. I’d left the spanking paddles at home and with so much snow about I didnt have much hope of success which was fine as my body was tired and sore and it was nice just to be in the sunshine discovering a new place. As we entered the cirque, the slide path of a Cat 5 avalanche triggered in the hot afternoon sun the day before confirmed how much snow was about. We skinned up towards the couloir and started the monumental task of swimming up the couloir.

The ski down held super sluffy powder on the left bank and it was a real pleasure skiing with the snow running all around – we havent had much of that this season.  Those Dolomiti lines really are ancient hallways gouged through the big walls, very Baffinesk.

Next day Domolmiti Guides Tommasco Cardelli and Cristian Dallapozza joined us to ski on the Cristallo. Conditons were perfect with no wind so we decided to climb along the ridge and ski the Vallencant. I’ve been wanting to ski this one for about 20 years so it was great to finally go. After a firmer top section we hit the pow and the fun started. In the afternoon we skied the beautiful Bus Tofane under the big walls and finished the day with a well earned beer and Pizza.

Our last day out was on the Marmolada where we skied some complex line avoiding limestone slabs down the North West Face. It was a real Cairngorm howler of a day with low vis so I didnt bother taking a camera.

A big thanks to Minna for doing all the driving, to Tommi for letting me stay and to both Tommi and Cristian for showing us some great stuff.

Domoliti Vallencant Burreloni Rihiimaki Dallapozza Hewitt Cardelli-1 Domoliti Vallencant Burreloni Rihiimaki Dallapozza Hewitt Cardelli-2 Domoliti Vallencant Burreloni Rihiimaki Dallapozza Hewitt Cardelli-3 Domoliti Vallencant Burreloni Rihiimaki Dallapozza Hewitt Cardelli-4 Domoliti Vallencant Burreloni Rihiimaki Dallapozza Hewitt Cardelli-5 Domoliti Vallencant Burreloni Rihiimaki Dallapozza Hewitt Cardelli-6 Domoliti Vallencant Burreloni Rihiimaki Dallapozza Hewitt Cardelli-7 Domoliti Vallencant Burreloni Rihiimaki Dallapozza Hewitt Cardelli-8 Domoliti Vallencant Burreloni Rihiimaki Dallapozza Hewitt Cardelli-9 Domoliti Vallencant Burreloni Rihiimaki Dallapozza Hewitt Cardelli-10 Domoliti Vallencant Burreloni Rihiimaki Dallapozza Hewitt Cardelli-11 Domoliti Vallencant Burreloni Rihiimaki Dallapozza Hewitt Cardelli-12 Domoliti Vallencant Burreloni Rihiimaki Dallapozza Hewitt Cardelli-13 Domoliti Vallencant Burreloni Rihiimaki Dallapozza Hewitt Cardelli-14 Domoliti Vallencant Burreloni Rihiimaki Dallapozza Hewitt Cardelli-15 Domoliti Vallencant Burreloni Rihiimaki Dallapozza Hewitt Cardelli-16 Domoliti Vallencant Burreloni Rihiimaki Dallapozza Hewitt Cardelli-17 Domoliti Vallencant Burreloni Rihiimaki Dallapozza Hewitt Cardelli-18 Domoliti Vallencant Burreloni Rihiimaki Dallapozza Hewitt Cardelli-19 Domoliti Vallencant Burreloni Rihiimaki Dallapozza Hewitt Cardelli-20 Domoliti Vallencant Burreloni Rihiimaki Dallapozza Hewitt Cardelli-21 Domoliti Vallencant Burreloni Rihiimaki Dallapozza Hewitt Cardelli-22 Domoliti Vallencant Burreloni Rihiimaki Dallapozza Hewitt Cardelli-23 Domoliti Vallencant Burreloni Rihiimaki Dallapozza Hewitt Cardelli-24 Domoliti Vallencant Burreloni Rihiimaki Dallapozza Hewitt Cardelli-25 Domoliti Vallencant Burreloni Rihiimaki Dallapozza Hewitt Cardelli-26 Domoliti Vallencant Burreloni Rihiimaki Dallapozza Hewitt Cardelli-27 Domoliti Vallencant Burreloni Rihiimaki Dallapozza Hewitt Cardelli-28 Domoliti Vallencant Burreloni Rihiimaki Dallapozza Hewitt Cardelli-29 Domoliti Vallencant Burreloni Rihiimaki Dallapozza Hewitt Cardelli-30 Domoliti Vallencant Burreloni Rihiimaki Dallapozza Hewitt Cardelli-31 Domoliti Vallencant Burreloni Rihiimaki Dallapozza Hewitt Cardelli-32 Domoliti Vallencant Burreloni Rihiimaki Dallapozza Hewitt Cardelli-33 Domoliti Vallencant Burreloni Rihiimaki Dallapozza Hewitt Cardelli-34 Domoliti Vallencant Burreloni Rihiimaki Dallapozza Hewitt Cardelli-35 Domoliti Vallencant Burreloni Rihiimaki Dallapozza Hewitt Cardelli-36 Domoliti Vallencant Burreloni Rihiimaki Dallapozza Hewitt Cardelli-37 Domoliti Vallencant Burreloni Rihiimaki Dallapozza Hewitt Cardelli-38 Domoliti Vallencant Burreloni Rihiimaki Dallapozza Hewitt Cardelli-39 Domoliti Vallencant Burreloni Rihiimaki Dallapozza Hewitt Cardelli-40 Domoliti Vallencant Burreloni Rihiimaki Dallapozza Hewitt Cardelli-41 Domoliti Vallencant Burreloni Rihiimaki Dallapozza Hewitt Cardelli-42 Domoliti Vallencant Burreloni Rihiimaki Dallapozza Hewitt Cardelli-43 Domoliti Vallencant Burreloni Rihiimaki Dallapozza Hewitt Cardelli-44 Domoliti Vallencant Burreloni Rihiimaki Dallapozza Hewitt Cardelli-45 Domoliti Vallencant Burreloni Rihiimaki Dallapozza Hewitt Cardelli-46

Bel Oiseau SW Couloir

Corn harvesting on Bel Oiseau south west couloir  from the summit to the dam with Minna Riihimaki and Tommasco Cardelli. The day got weird near the end.SAM_165020150324_11473211082786_1035299126498934_46938582_n11086986_1035299099832270_1295628945_n
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Getting the angle on the line to see if there’s enough snow.
11081558_1035299069832273_1919977922_n11075852_1035299046498942_625539789_n (1)20150324_125203 20150324_125205 20150324_125333 11080052_1035299039832276_359607625_n11079740_1035299013165612_1320488062_n20150324_125920 20150324_125920(0) 20150324_125920#1 11081761_1035299003165613_813811992_nComplicated terrain below, looking for the deepest gully that will have snow. Guides training coming in useful!
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Bush trimming done.20150324_132530

 

Into the Hobbit hole.11082714_1035298873165626_985351346_n11094373_1035298829832297_192090_n

 

A long walk in the dark with only a phone as a torch. We found some strange things. 11051230_1035298863165627_1692623301_n20150324_134932Before Tommi opened the door to freedom we were climbing this ladder in the pitch dark trying to hold our only source of light, a phone!

Argentiere Glacier

Its always a pleasure to travel under the North Wall of the Argentiere Glacier and study the big ski lines and dream about the few hours they might be in condition in April or May. We hoped to ski some of the mid altitude couloirs in the hope they were more sheltered from the wind but in the first I wasn’t able to ski cut the new snow – it would slide a couple of metres then stop, not exactly inspiring confidence. After hanging out at the col and enjoying the surroundings we opted for some meadow skipping back home. Tour Noir-1-2 Tour Noir-1 Tour Noir-2-2 Tour Noir-2 Tour Noir-3 Tour Noir-4 Tour Noir-5 Tour Noir-6 Tour Noir-7 Tour Noir-9 Tour Noir-10 Tour Noir-16Tour Noir-1-3Tour Noir-2-3Tour Noir-3-2

Sunny Days and Hot Nights at the Couvercle Refuge

The Black Crows posse of Bruno Compagnet, Minna Riihimaki and myself headed up to stay in the sweet Couvercle refuge for a night.Bruno Compagnet Minna Rihiimaki Couvercle-1 The team excited about a trip to the mountains and the beautiful Couvercle refuge.Bruno Compagnet Minna Rihiimaki Couvercle-2 Bruno pointing out linesBruno Compagnet Minna Rihiimaki Couvercle-3 Still some good flat snow with no sastrugi on Gros Rognan.Bruno Compagnet Minna Rihiimaki Couvercle-4 Beautiful late afternoon light on the Mer de Glace.Bruno Compagnet Minna Rihiimaki Couvercle-5 The 2016 Corvus Freebird and the Navis Freebird, both amazing touring skis.Bruno Compagnet Minna Rihiimaki Couvercle-6 Bruno Compagnet Minna Rihiimaki Couvercle-7 They say you should always be doing something with your hands in a photo, the weirder the better! Bruno Compagnet Minna Rihiimaki Couvercle-8 Bruno Compagnet Minna Rihiimaki Couvercle-9 Bruno Compagnet Minna Rihiimaki Couvercle-10 Some people still dispute climate change. Here we have June snow conditions in mid March!Bruno Compagnet Minna Rihiimaki Couvercle-11 The last rays of the afternoon before the sun sets behind the Chamonix Aiguilles Bruno Compagnet Minna Rihiimaki Couvercle-12 Minna on the boot pack to the Pierre a Beranger.Bruno Compagnet Minna Rihiimaki Couvercle-13 I’m getting on well with these glue less Evotec skins – time will tell for the final verdict. So much faster putting skins on and off without the cheat sheets. Bruno Compagnet Minna Rihiimaki Couvercle-14 Hut nights at the Couvercle, Bruno enjoying a glass of red.Bruno Compagnet Minna Rihiimaki Couvercle-15 We were joined by French Alpinists who had been on Viva Gel and Whymper. They were obviously feeling the cold and put a lot of wood on the fire. It was so hot that I went to bed on my boxers and couldnt sleep until 3 am.Bruno Compagnet Minna Rihiimaki Couvercle-16 Bruno Compagnet Minna Rihiimaki Couvercle-17 A bit of digital art to show off the partial eclipse of the sunBruno Compagnet Minna Rihiimaki Couvercle-18

Y Couloir, Aiguille d’Argentiere

All the North wind we have had has filled in the right hand branch of Y Couloir really well this year and I have been wanting to go there for some time. I was weighing up going solo to Croullante or going to the Y but persistent afternoon cloud on the Aiguille du Midi made it an easy decision to go for Y off the first Grands Montets bin. Late in the afternoon my friend Kirsti Lehtimaki from EPIC TV messaged me saying she wanted to ski and had a friend coming too. Next morning her friend Matthieu Vigier came along with Chloe Laget and Couttet Berbere so we had a sociable skin up the classic Millieu Glacier. The lack of snow meant very firm conditions on the way up and we used ski crampons for the 1400 m climb.

On the summit there was a cold 5 kph wind blowing and I didnt linger long wanting to find the entry to the couloir, having only skied the left branch before. In the couloir it was thankfully a bit warmer and after passing 5 m of rocks at the top we put on our skis on flat corning spring snow.  SAM_0014

Y Couloir (TD, 45 degrees, 5.1/5.2 600 m) as seen from Col des Courtes. Its the big line branching below the summit of the Aiguille d’Argentiere (3901m). P1020001Y Couloir with the 60 m step at the base with the stunning golden granite spires.20150318_11560120150318_131236

Julbo Aerospace goggles – the ultimate variable venting bootpacking and touring goggle. The big lines of Couturier and Au Coeur du Monde or Col Aiguille Verte right hand (1st and only? descent by the Scottish extreme ski legends Paul MacLeod and Ewen Moffat with the Dane Thomas Husted in 2001).20150318_131958

The North Wall of the Argentiere Glacier – a lifetime of extreme ski dreams in one place. 20150318_132000
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Me happy on the summit. 20150318_133459

I was really happy to see such good conditions and lots of direct sun.
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Matthieu skiing cautiously between softer patches. The Black Crows Navis Freebird is an astonishingly good ski.20150318_144318

Kirsti skiing ice axe in hand!11074943_10153079292175932_2036905535_o

Me in the upper section, Thanks to Kirsti Lehtimaki for the photo.11076554_10153079292225932_1955151801_o

Still on firm snow at this point and putting in the chop turns to avoid any uncontrollable build up of speed.SAM_0016

Skiing After the Wind

A fantastic day out with the Finnish House Mafia team to the Breche Tacul which offers jaw dropping views to the mythical North Face of the Grandes Jorasses. Its been 6 months since we were all climbing there in all time conditions and the face now looks a lot drier but still good enough for young Brit Tom Ballard to solo the Colton Macintyre in 3 hours on March 8th. A great effort considering how dry the upper pitches look.

Our ski descent was on sublime spring corn with buttery turns with the only negative for Friday 13th being my Sony RX100 dying after a fews years hard service. Many thanks to Mika Merikanto for the photos. Check out his awesome photography and blog at http://mikumerikanto.blogspot.fr/

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Me with the Jorasses in the back ground. 10542698_10153247059653953_2465044037215883954_o11008577_10153247062088953_2671123182703751466_o (1)

The Navis Freebird is proving to be an all time favourite touring ski of mine. 11054738_10153247101693953_1847180050_o

Mikko H and Jesper20150313_122555

Mikko above and below11064519_10153247102063953_1762995949_oMika Merikanto-1

Mika Merikantonavis freebird-1My last ever shot before my Sony RX100 died.

 

A Day with The Girls

Beaugent Minna Rihiimaki Michelle Blaydon-1 Beaugent Minna Rihiimaki Michelle Blaydon-2 Beaugent Minna Rihiimaki Michelle Blaydon-3 Beaugent Minna Rihiimaki Michelle Blaydon-4 Beaugent Minna Rihiimaki Michelle Blaydon-5 Beaugent Minna Rihiimaki Michelle Blaydon-6 Beaugent Minna Rihiimaki Michelle Blaydon-7 Beaugent Minna Rihiimaki Michelle Blaydon-8 Beaugent Minna Rihiimaki Michelle Blaydon-9 Beaugent Minna Rihiimaki Michelle Blaydon-10 Beaugent Minna Rihiimaki Michelle Blaydon-11