On Wednesday afternoon myself and Luca Pandolfi caught the last bin up Grandes Montes with the aim of climbing up the N side of Les Courtes and skiing the south face. We headed for the swiss route early in the morning but soon after crossing the Burgshrund we realised there was a lot of hard ice on the route and Lucas snowboard boots would be too soft to climb the route safely. We quickly came up with a new plan to rappel off and walk round to the NE face so all was not lost.
We made quick progress up the start thanks to our new Spanish friends we had met the night before, who had already started putting a boot pack up the face. Unfortunately one of them wasnt feeling good and they turned around, so we carried on alone.
For any one interested in the general conditions in the Argentiere basin, the North faces are icy although the NE face is just about skiable at the moment with good snow low on the face and a small strip of skiable snow in the large ice patches in the top section. However the south-facing couloirs such as the Y on the Aiguille D’Argentiere and the S couloir on the Aiguille du Chardonnet look very good.
Once we arrived at the top of the NE face a short ridge traverse took us to the summit, where I down climbed a little to check out the two entrances. We decided the couloir was filled enough to ski from the summit using the direct entrance. The snow was deep powder on the top half and just a bit heavy lower down where it had been warmer in the sun. As there was so much snow and it hadn’t undergone any freeze thaw cycles the hardest part of the descent was controling our slough!
Two weeks ago myself and Luca went to try to ski the north face of the Gran Paradiso, there had been unstable weather there and we were hoping there would be fresh snow on the face. We went over on Saturday afternoon and walked up in the evening after it had stopped raining. The walk is a nice one but it was a bit hard work with tent sleeping bag ect as we were to tight to use the hut!
The next day we were in no rush to set off as we had seen there was no fresh snow on the face and we would have to wait for the afternoon sun to soften the snow. By the time we set off the first group of climbers were nearly at the top of the face. We made good time and reached the top around mid day. The snow conditions were just about OK to ski but the wind was around 50km per hour! Two Italian friends were also at the top and had been waiting since the morning to the wind to drop so they could ski. We waited with them for another 3 hours but it didn’t drop. Eventually as it was getting late we skied down the normal route as it was just not safe to ski the tricky snow conditions in such high winds.
The skiing turned out to be great fun with hard snow at the top, some wind-blown powder in the middle and spring snow lower down. There were many skiers heading up as we were walking down and with lower winds the next day the face probably saw a lot a descents.
About 3 weeks ago now i met Luca Pandolfi and Cedric Bernardini at the Aiguille du Midi lift with the aim of skiing the Mallory. There had been a lot of snow over the weekend and the face was looking good. All 16 people that went up to ski that day ended up skiing Mallory, the young Chamoniard’s beat us out of the tunnel and dropped in first. We went in straight after and skied down to the demi lune with them, where we waited so we wouldn’t sluff them out on the first crux. Just as we set off again the Black crows team appeared behind us, they were closely followed by Seth Morrison and the Ordinary skier team.
The decent was full on, powder in places, wind slab in others and icy rain crust on the steep cruxes where the fresh snow had fallen off. We had to use the rope in two other places than the mandatory rappel but were expecting this as the route is not as well filled in as it has been in previous years. Cedric’s and Luca’s photos are below.
Last week Luca, Cedric and i headed over to italy to Monte Viso. Luca had been told that the coolidge couloir was in condition and was keen to go as it had never been snowboarded before. Neither me or Cedric had ever heard of the line but it turned out to be one of the best decents i have ever had. It had everything, some technical skiing on hard snow, some big powder turns, loads of exposure and some mandatory rappels over the 1100m of decent! Some of Cedric’s great photos are below.
Yesterday Luca Pandolfi, Cedric Bernardini and I got the first lift up Grands Montets with the aim of skiing the NE face of the Aiguille de l’Amone. Normally this tour would be done in two days by climbing up the route from La Fouly but by accessing it from the Argentiere basin we managed to do it in a day. We headed all the way to the back of the Argentiere basin and climbed up the south couloir of the Col de l’Amone. Once at the col you have to traverse a fun ridge to get to the top of the NE face, it is easy but exposed so as we had not been there before we got the rope out. The snow was hard at the top of the descent but soon the gradient eased and we got some great powder turns and finally some spring snow lower down. Thanks to Cedric for his great photos i have used of Luca (snow-board) and me (skis) and to Tom for picking us up!
I have not blogged since breaking my computer last summer, but i have done some fun things in that time. The hight lights were great climbing in the autumn on the Ginat and Modica-Noury and some recent ski touring. The start to my winter did not go well as i got frost bite in my toes climbing the Frendo-Ravanel. There has not been mush snow this year but i have had some good skiing in the Contamine couloir, the NE couloir of the Breche du Tacul, the Milieu glacier and the NE face of the Aiguille de l’Amoine.
I went up the midi on Saturday to have a look if anything looked good to ski and saw the Contamine- Mazeaude Route looked in good condition so yesterday Brendan and i went up to ski it. We had wanted to ski the North face of the Blanche de Peuterey as we had been told it was very snowy and we had failed in an attempt on it a few weeks ago due to a broken ski boot, however due to work we did not have the time. This turned out to be a great ski and a cool climb too as we exited the route on the climbers line through the rocks and not the way we skied down. The Pictures from the decent are below.
The day after Eugster Brendan and I headed for west direct. You start on the top of the North face as for Mallory and Eugster but cut left straight away. Looking down from here you can see an obious although narrow couloir which is not often filled. The decent is about twice as long as the normal entrance from the bottom of the rond and it looked good so we rapped the 45m into the couloir.
However once down we found that the snow had been baked in the afternoon sun the day before and had a unskiable thick icy crust. The top of the couloir is directly West facing and does not get the sun untill late in the afternoon. As it was only 9am we decided to rappel untill the couloir turns more NW and the snow became skiable. unfortunately this was only a short was above where I had skied from on several other occasions from the normal entrance. I will have to go back to this couloir in better conditions as the sking looks great here. In the pics below you can see Brendan rapping in and looking down the couloir from the rap point, from here where you ski from the Rond entrance is out of sight below.
Yesterday morning the weather turned out to be great, I had to work unfortunately and while i did that Brendan skied the Eugster. Lucky for me he agreed to go up and ski it again so I took a long lunch and got a 12pm bin up the midi. The couloir is in great condition and the sking was easy, nothing compared with the Mallory, there is however a small amount of ice showing through on the top of the face to be avoided. I had to be back at work so we didn’t hang around to take many pictures. The first picture was taken last year after sking Mallory with Brendan, the blue line is the Eugster couloir and the red Mallory.
The weather broke on Wednesday morning giving us time to blast down one of the North faces served directly from the midi lift. We wanted to ski either the Eugster couloir or the Col du Plan. There was a group setting of down the Eugster just before we got there so we decided to get some fresh tracks. The conditions were great and the sking was fast. Two more groups followed us down you can see one of them on the top of the face in one of the photos (3rd pic down.)