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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Minna heading into the 3rd shotDSC04544

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!

Preseason Powder Hunting

With the first snowfall of the season kicking things off in mid November its been a crazy busy period searching for powder stashes. The stable snow conditions have allowed me to go and explore some new areas and revisit some that were long forgotten years ago. The biggest challenge has been finding motivated partners and I’ve already racked up 50K vertical touring metres this autumn and 162 ski days for the year. Luckily I have a few trusted partners available on different days so I’m not always on my own. The highlight was finding 3 couloirs that don’t feature in any of my guidebooks which were filled with primo pow. I’ve also spotted a couple of cool lines which should be good to go once we get some more snow.
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Camping Time

Miage Aigle Dave Searle-6This week we Dave Searle and myself went back to the Miage Glacier under Mont Blanc’s Himalayan sized West Face with the idea to have a semi-rest day and camp on day 1 and then get and early start and ski a line mid-morning before it got too hot. I had some expedition kit to test out so this provided the perfect opportunity.  Miage Aigle Dave SearleMiage Aigle Dave Searle-2Miage Aigle Dave Searle-3

At the foot of the Miage. We soon got bored of load carrying in the heat and set up camp.Miage Aigle Dave Searle-4

Chilling out in the evening.

Miage Aigle Dave Searle-5My touring set up this season.Miage Aigle Dave Searle-6

Dave’s disco tentMiage Aigle Dave Searle-7

Our line for the day on looker’s right

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Dave at the start of the 1100 m bootpackMiage Aigle Dave Searle-10

The shrund was bottomless and we roped upMiage Aigle Dave Searle

Sunrise
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Upwards, on and on.Miage Aigle Dave Searle-13

The snow deteriorated due to being worked by spindrift so we skied the good stuffMiage Aigle Dave Searle-13Miage Aigle Dave Searle-14 Miage Aigle Dave Searle-3Miage Aigle Dave Searle-4Miage Aigle Dave Searle-15Miage Aigle Dave Searle-16 Miage Aigle Dave Searle-5 Miage Aigle Dave Searle-6Miage Aigle Dave Searle-17Miage Aigle Dave Searle-18

Friday’s Freeride

I headed into the neighbour’s back garden the other day with the usual suspects; Liz Daley (armed with her perma-stoke), Davide de Masi and Dave Searle. Our efforts were well rewarded and we found exceptional rip-able powder waiting for us in this long hallway. A fantastic day which was ended with a beer ontop of a mountain in the sun.
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All quiet, the cirque to ourselvesLiz Daley Dave Searle Davide de Masi_-2 Liz Daley Dave Searle Davide de Masi_-3

Let the dance beginLiz Daley Dave Searle Davide de Masi_-4 Perma-stokeLiz Daley Dave Searle Davide de Masi_-5 Searler, Liz and de Masi wishing they had spanking paddles (snow plates) in the deep powLiz Daley Dave Searle Davide de Masi_-6

This is going to be sickLiz Daley Dave Searle Davide de Masi_-8

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Liz Daley

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Davide de Masi superstylinLiz Daley Dave Searle Davide de Masi_-12Our line
Liz Daley Dave Searle Davide de Masi_-13Heading to the bar for a well earned cold beer

 

Couturier-Whymper on La Verte

Dave Searle and myself have been wanting to do a traverse of the Verte for a couple of years now combining climbing Couturier and skiing Whymper onsight. After all the free-riding in January and February I was up for an alpine traverse trip like this which offers so much in the way of adventure, challenge, unknown, excitement and great training. The Aiguille Verte is an amazing mountain at 4122 m and all its routes are long and demanding. We were joined by Mikko Heimonen.
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Aiguille Verte on the far right with the 1000 m Couturier Couloir descending direct from the summit.Couturier Whymper La Verte-9

The sunny side of Aiguille Verte, Whymper Couloir descends right of the summit. 
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Nearing the top of the Couloir and the end of the neve with black ice and seracs looming.Ross Hewitt Verte Couturier Whymper-2Couturier Whymper La Verte Seale Heimonen-6

We threaded the seracs along a ramp in the sun above the rock.Ross Hewitt Verte Couturier Whymper-3Couturier Whymper La Verte Seale Heimonen-7Mikko on the Verte for the first time.Couturier Whymper La Verte Seale Heimonen-9

Almost feeling Himalayan due to the cold, with 40 kph wind we were glad to get off the austere north side and into the sun.Couturier Whymper La Verte Seale Heimonen-8

Summit of the Verte for me!
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Panorama Aiguille Leschaux to Mont BlancRoss Hewitt Verte Couturier Whymper-8Couturier Whymper La Verte Seale Heimonen-12Couturier Whymper La Verte Seale Heimonen-13

Mont Blanc and the Chamonix AiguillesCouturier Whymper La Verte Seale Heimonen-14The wind tugged at our skis along the exposed ridge.
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The snow stayed pretty frozen with the wind.Ross Hewitt Verte Couturier Whymper-7Couturier Whymper La Verte Seale Heimonen-16

Chute Central

the chuting galleryThis week I headed back to the Miage area to ski some more of those massive 1000 m couloir lines with Michelle Blaydon, Kirsti Lehtimaki and Mikko Heimonen who had just landed in Chamonix. The powder has all been blown away leaving hard edge-able wind buff which made the boot pack a joy. First up was the line lookers left of the Bonatti which is reminiscent of a Domilimiti line with huge walls souring high above our heads. This line is overlooked since it doesn’t top out on the ridge but with 850 m vertical of skiing I don’t care. Probably the best couloir I have skied in the Mont Blanc Massif with a few hundred metres of 50 degrees at the top and an exciting ramp above some mixed ground. Second up was the 1200 m Domenech Couloir on the Aiguille de l’Aigle which we onsighted from the top. We arrived back at Zerotta in the Courmayeur ski area early afternoon and enjoyed relaxing in the sun and eating pizza and having a beer!Petit Mont Blanc North East Face_-2 Petit Mont Blanc North East Face_-3 Petit Mont Blanc North East Face_-4 Petit Mont Blanc North East Face_-5 Petit Mont Blanc North East Face_-6 Petit Mont Blanc North East Face_-7

Michelle skiing.Petit Mont Blanc North East Face_-8 Petit Mont Blanc North East Face_-9 Petit Mont Blanc North East Face_-10 Petit Mont Blanc North East Face_-11 Petit Mont Blanc North East Face_-12 Petit Mont Blanc North East Face_-13 Petit Mont Blanc North East Face_-14 Petit Mont Blanc North East Face_-15 Petit Mont Blanc North East Face_-16 Petit Mont Blanc North East Face_-17 Petit Mont Blanc North East Face_-18 Petit Mont Blanc North East Face_-24 Petit Mont Blanc North East Face_-25Petit Mont Blanc North East Face_-19 Petit Mont Blanc North East Face_-20

Kirsti on the changing lines pitch.Petit Mont Blanc North East Face_-21 Petit Mont Blanc North East Face_-22

Kirsti skiing the lower couloir.Petit Mont Blanc North East Face_-23

Time to relax!

The Devil’s Spires

I had been wanting to ski the Macho Couloir off Col Diable for a while now but finding a partner who was free was proving challenging. My Black Crows team mate Tom Grant arrived back in Chamonix with his usual high level of psych and he was willing to go do whatever was good. It all looked set, the only minor setback was Tom being kicked out of the first cable car for missing a payment on his season ski pass. With that sorted he managed to jump the queue and caught me up as I ambled down the valley blanche scoping out conditions en route. Good job he did catch me up as it was super deep and we had to trench our way up sustained 50 degree slopes to the col, arriving there pretty tired mid afternoon after 5-6 hours of uphill. The ski down was exceptional with overhead blower and the 125 under foot Noctas eating it up, we just had to take care not to get sluffed off the face. Amazing conditions and just as well, this route is steep, exposed and technical. I loved it. High on the ridge amongst the spires staring down at the Grand  and Petit Capucins hundreds of metres below. I bet it would feel really steep in spring snow. Col Diable Macho Couloir Tom GrantCol Diable Macho Couloir Tom Grant-2Col Diable Macho Couloir Tom Grant-3

178 Nocta and PLUM YakCol Diable Macho Couloir Tom Grant-4Col Diable Macho Couloir Tom Grant-5 Col Diable Macho Couloir Tom Grant-7 Col Diable Macho Couloir Tom Grant-6Col Diable Macho Couloir Tom Grant-8Col Diable Macho Couloir Tom Grant-9Col Diable Macho Couloir Tom Grant-10

Tom negotiating the lower rocks. 

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Under the Grand Capucin

Col Diable Macho Couloir Tom Grant-12The route climbs behind the left hand spires onto the serac bench then up the headwall behind where our tracks can be seen.