Belvedere East Ramp

Plan A was to got the Verte. The day before I went up the Midi on a recce and was greeted by bitter cold due to northerly air flow.  This was hardening the snow and would also mean alot of time trying to keep the extremities warm. Time for Plan B; this also started from Grand Montets but in the morning the wind was too strong for the lift to open so now it was time for Plan C; the Belvedere East ramp. We found very variable snow on the way there with thick wind crust dominating but once in the wind shadow of the Belvedere there was a lush amount of powder. The bowl above the ramp was out of the shelter and heavily wind effected so we skied from there.

Thanks Sylvain for the photos.

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Tour Ronde Brenva

This week I have had the fortune and pleasure of two runs down in the Brenva cirque in great powder throughout the 2000 m + descent. The first run entered the Brenva Glacier down Couloir Cache, the second time we took the South West Couloir from the summit of Tour Ronde. This time I enjoyed the company of Michelle and Andy Benson.Tour Ronde Brenva-2Tour Ronde Brenva-3Tour Ronde Brenva-5Tour Ronde Brenva-10Tour Ronde Brenva-13Tour Ronde Brenva-16Tour Ronde Brenva-18Tour Ronde Brenva-19Tour Ronde Brenva-27Tour Ronde Brenva-28

The Brenva Face of Mont Blanc in the background.Tour Ronde Brenva-34

The amazing backdrop of the icy North Face of the Aiguille Blanche de Peuterey, first skied by Anselme Baud and Patrick Vallencent, and its impressive rocky East Face which has only been skied by Italian Maestro Stephano de Benedetti in the early 80’s. De Benedetti poetically describes his motivation and rewards for taking on the immense psychological challenges of Big Mountain Skiing in the clip below from the movie ‘Steep’. Check it out:

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More Couloir Cache Photos

Sylvain sent me through his photos from yesterday’s run:Couloir Cache-2 Couloir Cache-3 Couloir Cache-4With a lot of fresh cooking in this suntrap I tied on to make the traverse to the couloir.Couloir Cache-5 Couloir Cache-6 Couloir Cache-7 Couloir Cache-8 Couloir Cache-9 Couloir Cache-10 Couloir Cache-11 Couloir Cache-12 Couloir Cache-13 Couloir Cache-14 Couloir Cache-15 Couloir Cache-16 Couloir Cache-17 Couloir Cache-18 Couloir Cache-19 Couloir Cache-20 Couloir Cache-21 Couloir Cache

Couloir Cache

 

 

5 star day out in the Brenva cirque with Sylvain Reynaud. Never had it so good from the top to the bottom on this 2000 m run. 
Couloir Cache

The Couloir starts at the demi-lune. A very exposed traverse gains the entrance.Couloir CacheCouloir Cache-3CouloirCache-4Couloir Cache-5Couloir Cache-6Couloir Cache-7Couloir Cache-8Couloir Cache-9Couloir Cache-10Brenva Cache-11Brenva Cache-13Brenva Cache-14Brenva

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’.

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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.

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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.

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Sylvain is in there somewhere!

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Fuck yeah! Rond exit couloir.

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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.

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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.

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!