Category Archives: Ski
On Saturday afternoon myself and Tom Grant caught a late lift up the Grands Montets with plans to ski on Les Courtes. We were joined by Luca Pandolfi, Ross Hewitt and Mikko Heimonen who were planning on skiing the Couturier. We had a quick scope of our line and decided it needed a little longer to be in perfect condition and the Couturier also still had its ice section, so we joined forces for the N-NE face of Les Courtes. We set off the next morning after a good nights sleep but unfortunately about half way up Ross turned back not feeling great. The boot pack was hard work in the deep snow but we reaped the rewards on the way down. When we were boot packing the summit slopes we were hitting hard ice under the 30 cm of fresh powder, so I made a couple of turns with Tom belaying to test if the snow was going to slab. When It didn’t I untied and we enjoyed perfect pow for nearly all of the descent. I managed to ski through the rocky crux section linking the summit slopes with the hanging snow field while the others made a couple of short rappels. It was another perfect day with great friends and great snow on one of the most beautiful lines I have skied. Thanks Guys!
The forecast looked good for wednesday morning and being a bank holiday i decided to head up the midi for a ski. The window wouldn’t be big enough to go far, so that narrowed the options down to the north face. I have skied all of the classics a few times and fancied something a bit different so after some inspection the previous evening through my binoculars i easily convinced Tom Grant the Frendo was the line to go for.
While we were waiting around for a weather window to ski it became evident that another team of Andreas Fransson, Bjarne Salen and JP Auclair were headed for the same line. I had a quick chat with Andreas and we both thought skiing on top of another team wouldn’t be safe so he kindly invited us to all ski together, a very nice thing to do as they were filming that day.
We didn’t have the best weather for the descent but this added to the adventure and it was an all round great day out in good company. A massive thanks to Andreas for leading all the raps and setting up some bomber anchors. The weather was making it hard for photos but the few i got where the lens isn’t covered in moisture are below (I’m sure Bjarne got some good footage though.) The line in the photo is now equipped for 60m rappels and conditions are looking good for next week so get on it!
Ever since watching the film steep I have wanted to ski this line, first descended by Steffano De Benedetti, its one of the most beautiful mountains the alps has to offer, the skiing is technical but the whole thing goes without rappel and it had never been repeated.
The last few years I have been following how the line looks in the spring, knowing I had reached a point in my skiing where i would be able to make a descent. My final decision to finally go came last Wednesday when I drove through to Italy with a friend specifically to take photos after seeing it was getting close to being good in the last few weeks. There was bad weather coming and I decided to go once it had passed, however the Following Tuesday I received a text while at work….
It had been skied two days before I was planning to ski it myself. At first I was dejected, not sure what to do. However I came to the realization it wasn’t that important to me to make the first repeat, it was more about the beauty of the line and i still wanted to go. So on Wednesday afternoon me and Tom Grant headed up to the Torino refuge.
I don’t normally use guardianed refuges and it was my first time in the Torino, the guardian was friendly and the food was excellent, but what else do you expect in Italy! We left at 1.30 am planning to head up the normal route on the Tour Ronde and ski its South face to access the Brenva glacier. As i reached the summit ridge on the Tour Ronde, Tom caught up with me and told me he had to descend back into France. His Son was ill and I would have made the same choice, he was happy to go down alone and i wanted to carry on so we agreed to stay in contact via text to let each other know we were safe.
The snow on the Tour Ronde South face was smooth and frozen solid, I enjoy this kind of skiing but lower down I soon hit a load of avi debri, not so much fun to ski on. The Brenva glacier is well filled at the moment and the route across the flat section is relatively simple, although with the current high temperatures I doubt this will last for long.
The climb up the face went smoothly on the refrozen snow but I was starting to feel the altitude for the second part of the climb. Luckily for the last 100m I was able to use the pervious boot pack where the snow had stayed cold and arrived at the summit at about 8.45 am.
I knew it would soon be hot and stopped only for 15min to eat drink and prepare myself to ski. The slopes from the summit are not too steep but you soon arrive at the couloir which allows you to access the face. This is probably the steepest part of the route and extremely exposed. A few jump turns in good powder snow and I was traversing over a small ridge to the main part of the face.
The snow here had refrozen and was just softening, this part of the route never exceeds 50 degrees but is still technical. I would link a few turns then make a small traverse to gain another strip of snow or step past a few rocks.
As I got lower the snow got better and better and was soon perfect corn. Before I knew it I was at the steep couloir which joins the top of the route to the ramps. The snow was still a little hard here where it had got less sun but I could see more perfect corn below and shot through it at quite high speed.
I skied the rightward trending ramp in one shot, its only about 40 degrees here so no more jump turns until its end where there is one last small crux to exit.
I crossed an icy runnel and side stepped through a short rocky step and a couple of minutes and a few big turns later I was back at the Brenva Glacier only 45 minutes after leaving the summit.
Lower down leaving the glacier the sun was burning and the snow was like soup but I didn’t care by that point! I stopped on the moraine for a short rest and then got back to my car for about 11am. It was one of the most enjoyable days I have had in the mountains.
Thanks to Tom for coming with me and congratulations to Luca, Davide, Francesco and Julian for a well deserved second descent just before mine.
As I was alone the pics are a bit crap, but its hard to take photos of yourself skiing!
The last few weeks have been frustrating with failures on all the big lines i have tried to ski. Yesterday Tom Grant, Luca Pandolfi and me bailed on another one but skied the Col du Plan as a consolation. It turned out to be a great decision as there was a lot of dangerous snow around in other places and although it still requires a rappel at the top, we found some great snow on both the hanging snow field and in the exit couloir. The Turnier spur start to the route is unfortunately also still icy, I think this is a much nicer start to the line which gives more skiing.
Back at the end of Feburary I headed up the Aiguille Verte again, this time with Tom Grant to ski the Whymper. The afternoons were still cold and we decided to climb up the Courturier from first lift. It was fast going until we reached the Calotte, where we found pockets of dangerous wind slab and some very open crevasses. We had to get the rope out and set up a few belays to pass safely and lost a lot of time trying to find the best way through. In hind sight it would have been better to carry on up the direct exit moving together over the grey ice. Determined not to get shut down so near the top we pushed on and finally arrived on the summit at about 2pm both feeling the altitude.
The snow on the ridge down to the start of the couloir was unstable so we walked down to the col, being battered by harsh winds. The effort had been worth it, the couloir looked in great condition. We found some nice soft snow at the top and then some crust lower down. The exit couloir was well filled and we skied through without a rappel and even found some cold powder on its right bank. The only thing baring the way now was the bergshrund, which looked huge. I didn’t feel like jumping it but also couldn’t be bothered to get the rope out so I managed to find a way through on the left.
Thanks to Tom for another great day in the mountains, the photos and my second Verte summit and ski in as many months
This winter has probably been the best snow year in Chamonix I have experienced, but with so much bad weather there hasn’t been much opportunity to get up into the high mountains and most of the past six weeks have been spent lift served powder skiing. Its been incredibly good fun but left me unfit and unacclimatized, so as a warm up for bigger plans and to check the snow on the Southerly aspects, I headed up Les Courtes NE slope with Luca Pandolfi and Tom Grant with the plan to ski the Angelique couloir.
The day started in the usual way with us running late and missing the first couple of lifts but we still managed to find a completely untracked way down to the Argentiere glacier with deep cold snow several days after the last snowfall, a nice surprise. The climbing up the NE face was pretty hard going in deep snow with no track and as we were nearing the top i was quickly losing motivation, thanks to Tom for keeping his physic and smashing out the last part of the boot pack by himself and then letting me drop in first!
I had skied this couloir several years ago after climbing up it but the top 60m were too rocky and we started just below this. So it was nice to find the top was well filled with snow this year allowing us to ski straight in with only a couple of meters of side slipping and no rappel. Both times I have been lucky enough to have great quality deep snow making for some fun and fast skiing in one of the most aesthetic couloirs in the massive.
Yesterday myself and Jon Griffith headed up to the Argentiere basin for a bit of cardio training, the plan was to climb both the Couturier couloir on the Aiguille Verte and the Legarde direct on Les Droites. Unfortunately i woke up with a bit of a cough and cold so the plan changed to just one route. We got on the first lift up and i decided to take my skis up the route to see if any of it was skiable. We were stood on the summit by 12.30pm and although the skiing conditions were far from ideal with hard snow and ice close to the surface, i managed to ski most of the couloir, with one short down climb of about 15m and one longer one of around 100m. I would love to find this couloir in good condition one day and make a proper descent with no down climbing and GS turns but im still satisfied to have skied down this legendary line. Thanks to Jon for the day and his great photos, more here…
On the last day of the year i decided to head up into the Argentiere basin to check out how the North faces were looking… Nothing great until i turned the corner and saw the Col du Cristaux. It was completely full of powder and i couldn’t resist a solo mission on it. The snow was deep and the climbing was hard going with no one to share the boot pack and the recent excesses of christmas. Worth the effort as it was some of the best skiing i had all year, nothing beats making huge turns down a steep face.
Having seen the conditions i headed up for another solo mission on the 4th of January this time on the Chenavier. I knew it wouldn’t be like the Cristaux but did find skiable snow for the whole couloir, all be it a little more engaging than the powder i had been skiing a few days before. This time i took my gopro, its not great footage as i was just making jump turns but its hard to get any worth while photos when your alone so better than nothing! It also turns out i know nothing about editing and the video is quite long!<p><a href=”http://vimeo.com/56865729″>Chenavier Couloir</a> from <a href=”http://vimeo.com/user15634603″>Ben Briggs</a> on <a href=”http://vimeo.com”>Vimeo</a>.</p>
If you are planning on heading into the mountains yourself be very aware of the snow conditions where you are, there have been some high winds stripping some aspects and building slabs on others.
After recent good steep skiing conditions and some cool descents from other teams myself and Tom Grant were keen to ski something ourselves. However we had just had a week of bad weather and a lot of fresh snow and so we questioned the safety of skiing a big line. We decided to head up to the Albert 1ier refuge with the Migot spur in the back of our minds (which saw its first descent just the weekend before,) but happy just to do some mellow skiing on the glacier.
So after work on Friday evening we started at the Le Tour car park and made our way up to the hut. It was a beautiful clear night but very cold and we were grateful for the supply of wood to warm the winter room. In the morning we saw that the Migot spur was looking good to ski and that as long as the snow was stable we would go for it.
Breaking trail across to the start of the route was hard going and we had to wade through waist deep snow to get up to the burgshrund. We had spotted the best line which looked as if it would go without rappel and the route was well filled in. However as soon as we got established on the route we were on frozen icy snow which made for quick progress climbing. We did encounter some sections that were perfectly skiable but none of the cold fresh snow had stuck to the route and in places the wind had left the snow with an icy sheen. To descend on our skis would have meant a lot of side slipping and most likely short sections of down climbing, probably only making turns on about 25% of the route. Both Tom and I thought while we could have descended and survived to tell the tale, it would not feel like a proper descent in this style and we would rather come back another day.
After this reasonably easy decision was made we headed over to the west couloir which we were going to ski if it was good or descend the normal way by rappel if not. We found it full of powder snow and our only worries from then on were not getting swept away but our sluff!
We skied down to the col Adams Riley, then down to the Le Tour glacier, traversed over to the col du Passon and skied down to Le Tour, all in perfect knee-deep snow. Although we didn’t get our big objective done it was a great day, especially for my first ski of the season!
I first got into ski touring so that i could ski powder for longer after the last snow fall. I didn’t want to compromise on the down hill, so I would take my big free-ride skis and boots into the mountains. However nowadays I am doing a lot of ski alpinism on steep slopes in varied conditions, where large powder skis are often not the best tool for the job on the down hill and a lighter, smaller ski is definatly beneficial for the up.
I knew Movement made good skis as i had been using their Couloir ski in the 188 cm length as a steep touring ski for a few seasons. At 89 mm in the waist it was a lot smaller and lighter than my dedicated free-ride and powder skis, and I started to enjoy the better edge hold of a narrower ski on hard snow, and less weight on my pack. With ideas for ski expeditions at high altitude and wanting to be fast in the Alps I was keen to see how light a ski I could use that would still have the characteristics I desired; enter the X series.
The X series takes existing Movement skis and applies their secret North TPT and carbon construction to them to reduce the weight but increase torsional stiffness (great for edge hold.) There are 4 different skis they have done this to, the Fish, the Random, the Bond and the Logic.
The Fish and Random are rando race skis and a little small even for my new light weight requirements (although if your into rando racing I’m sure they ski very well if the other X series are anything to go by.) The Bond and Logic are similar in dimensions, with the Logic being slightly larger, however where they differ is their camber. The Logic has a classical ski shape and the Bond has early rise tip and tail rocker, in my opinion making it a more versatile tool.
The Bond X is available in the following sizes:
|WEIGHT (KG)||0,95 +/- 30GR||1,05 +/- 30GR||1,15 +/- 30GR||1,25 +/- 30GR|
The ski I have been using is the 177 cm length, Im 6 foot tall, weigh about 80 kg and having never owned a ski less than 185 cm so it’s a pretty small ski for me. The first thing I noticed about the ski is how ridiculously light its is. With the ATK race bindings I’m using with them it is easy to forget you have skis on your pack and it is a pleasure to skin with them. No surprises there, but how do they ski?
I tested the skis in just about every condition imaginable, and in general they performed very well. I did find that it took me a little time to get used to the lack of mass and you have to ski with good balance and posture all the time, no sitting back and being lazy.
On piste they are suited to making smaller turns but carve very well and hold a good edge. At very high speeds they do become skittish and it requires a lot of concentration. The 183 cm would probably be slightly better in this regard. Away from the piste, in refrozen chopped up snow the light weight is a disadvantage as there is a lot of tip deflection, so you won’t be powering through crud like on a big ski. However neither of these things came as a surprise to me and I can put up with both as I don’t expect to be using them where there are crowds.
For such a small ski I was very impressed with their soft snow performance, boot top powder is a dream on them and up to knee deep they perform very well, helped greatly by the early rise tips. There isn’t a lot of tail so just don’t get too far in the back seat. The tip and tail rocker also mean you can be very playful with the shape of your turns, just don’t expect to be able to lock into giant mach 10 turns.
In spring snow they also perform nicely but personally I think these are some of the easiest conditions to ski and it would be a disaster if they didn’t. However I would say both the camber and sidecut of the ski are very well suited to spring touring and the size and speed of turn you will be making in those conditions.
When it came to hard and icy snow I though the ski performed really well, especially for edge hold during jump turns in steep terrain, no doubt due to the high torsional rigidity. The light weight of the ski also gives the advantage of needing very little effort to perform jump turns and allows you to say very controlled. The shorter length allowed me to pass through tight technical sections with ease, where with a longer ski the tips and tail would have been on rocks.
The durability of the ski seems very good considering the weight reducing techniques utilized, such as the thin edges, and I haven’t done any damage out side of normal wear and tear after around 30 days of touring on them.
Overall its definatly a ski I would recommend, and is my go to ski for ski alpinism. They are a specialized ski and are not for beginners just getting into the sport, requiring a good level of skill to get the most out of them. It’s not a ski to take on deep powder touring (where you will enjoy something bigger,) or for lift served free-riding (where you want something more powerful.) However to take into the big mountains for technical lines and mixed conditions it provides very good performance and a stupidly light weight. You get to the top fresh and can put more into the descent, which is what its all about at the end of the day.