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.

Rectiligne Couloir, Pas de Chevre

First bin up Grands Montets. The mercury reads -20C. We’ve queued for an hour and the cold has crept insidiously up through the soles of ours boots and numbed our toes. The snow in the Pas de Chevre is untouched and it will be a race to there first. Running down the stairs creates some warmth but as I ski into shady Pas de Chevre the wind chill is impressive and I feel my cheeks and nose freezing and I have to stop to rewarm my hands. As we drop into the 400 m straight chute of Rectiligne Couloir its like showering in -20C with overhead blower stripping any remaining heat from my body… but its also subliminal and it would be sacrilege to stop.

Photos from Dave Searle

Rectiligne Rond-2Rectiligne Rond-3Rectiligne Rond-5Rectiligne Rond-4Rectiligne Rond

Powder

Rectiligne – Grand Envers – Rond. Great to ski with Bjarne and John for first time. And it was blower. Rectiligne GE Rond-9Dave Searle on the Rond exit couloirScreen Shot 2014-01-28 at 18.57.10

Me opening Rectiligne Couloir in perfect -20C blower.Rectiligne GE Rond

John and Bjarne Salen is in there somewhere!Rectiligne GE Rond-2BjarneRectiligne GE Rond-3

SearlerRectiligne GE Rond-4Rectiligne GE Rond-5

Rectiligne GE Rond-6Rectiligne GE Rond-7Rectiligne GE Rond-8Rectiligne GE Rond-10

A Rond, a Grand and a Petit

My first outing on the Midi this season felt great to be back in the big mountains and away from the frantic ski resorts which are hooching right now. No ropes on the arrete so we were able to ski it quickly. Following the westerly wind event, some caution was required so we went to Grand Envers which was blower and effortless.

A quick reset back to the Midi and I wanted to ski the Rond to get some training. The pow was so consistent and the bottom couloir was non stop to the Glacier. After tracking round to the Gare des Glaciers, we didn’t fancy traversing the para face, and the moraine facets would have been a wallow fest to the bench under the North Face. So we took the shot down the para face to the old station which was lush. Skiing in the woods below on refrozen crud was not my favourite.

After sprinting thru the gypsy camp and avoiding getting mauled by their rapid dogs it was back to the lift for one more. This time we went for deep pow in Moyen Envers which was a fine end to the day. Down at 4 Roger even hinted at one more – next week now the legs are returning!

Roger Knox at top of the Rond

 

The Rond, Aiguille du Midi

The Rond, Aiguille du Midi

Rond exit couloir

Rond exit couloir - Roger Knox

Heli at Gare des Glaciers

 

Tournier Spur into Col du Plan

This was a fantastic run that I did a while back with Oli Willett. The photos speak for themselves and this photo diary wouldn’t be complete without it.

Barbey Variation

After a wicked day skiing powder in the Rocco and Rond we rushed home to get bivi gear and food together, then raced up the valley to GM to catch the last bin up on their last opening day. All the lines that were in condition in the Argentiere basin had been skied several times by the team so Luca, Sylvain and myself decided to go to the Aiguille d’Argentiere to ski a variation of the classic Barbey.

In the pre-dawn we skied down from our bivi and started to skin up the Argentiere glacier. Luca wanted to take a ‘short cut’ up a direct line on the morraine rather than skin round the usual way where there was already a skin track. It didnt appeal to me so I went my own way. My stomach was giving me jib and struggling to get a tour rhythm I had frequent stops to take photos as the sun hit the North Wall of the Argentiere basin.

Arriving in the Milieu I could see a pair way up ahead and realised I had been faffing a bit too much. At the rimaye I caught up with the others only to find it was a guide and client wearing a Luca look-a-like kit. With them no where to be see and no phone reception I assumed they had kit problems and turned back. With only half an hour to the summit I was at least going to go that far. On the summit ridge at 9 am a cold wind was blowing from the SW so I couldnt wait around long. Sure the boys had bailed out, I wasnt psyched to play with the cornice on our intended route and decided to go down the Barbey. Once onto the East Face it was much more pleasant being sheltered from the wind and I shed a couple of layers. I felt sorry for the teams skiing the Milieu which looked destined to remain bullet hard all day in the wind. Traversing right I joined our intended line and was able to put in some big GS turns in the untracked pow. Lower down this line hits a big cliff so I cut back right into the Barbey where conditions were disgusting – it had been skied late on a previous day and the slope trashed as the wet snow was set running. An hour later I was over Col du Chardonnet and back at the Lognan end of season party by lunchtime.

I am the little dot near the top of the headwall. Luca’s short cut cost them one hour!