Thursday, 28 March 2013

UKC article

Great interview with Tom Grant here. Tom's made numerous appearances on this blog (usually when breaking trail for me) and it's good to see him finally getting some recognition. The amazing introduction really makes the article what it is though!!!

Sunday, 24 March 2013

Video Blog 10, Vallee Blanche and Glacier Mort

Video Blog number 10! Who would have thought it?! Thanks Toby and Rachel at Seven Twenty Productions for this one and the other 9. Hopefully there are plenty more to come!

Meanwhile, I've had a friend of mine out from London over the last few days who was keen to sample the best of Cham. I reckon that after a blast around Brevent, a Vallee Blanche in great snow and a ski tour to the Glacier Mort, he's had a pretty good sample! See you in summer Cole.

Here's the photos - 

Unusual outfit at the top of the Midi

Petit Envers in powder

Cham has been BUSY for the last couple of days - this was the scene looking down from the Col Crochues.

Sharon just below the summit of the Pointe Alphonse Favre (where the Glacier Mort starts from)

Me on the way down. Photos Sharon Wray

Tristan lower down in the Berard Valley

As seems to have been the case all winter, the weather is pretty messy for the foreseeable future in Cham, so no doubt there will be some good skiing to be had. I'm away working for the next week, so hopefully I'll come back to a load of snow and some blue sky...

Thursday, 21 March 2013

Lots and lots and lots of snow

Winter is truly back here in Cham, and after the foehn wind looked to have ended any hopes of lift served powder for a while, a cold front blew in and dumped a metre of fresh stuff. Merci Weather Gods! Unfortunately the new stuff didn't bond too well to the snow underneath, so avalanche conditions were pretty dodgy and we had to stick to lower angled terrain and ski thoughtfully to stay safe. That still leaves plenty to go at though!

Since the the new snow came I've been doing quite the tour of Haute Savoie and Northern Italy and have had powder day after powder day without any effort on my part. I haven't put skins on my skis for 2 weeks now and I reckon I can easily extend that for a few more days. 

There's isn't really much you can say about lift served skiing, but hopefully the photos tell the story of the last week.

Just how I like my car to look at the start of a ski day - covered in fresh snow

Heli skiers in Courmayeur. 

Sharon in the Courmayeur powder

Matt at Le Tour, Mont Blanc behind him and the Encrennaz to the right

Matt in the Le Tour trees

All aboard!!!

Tristan and Caroline after a heavy collision!

Hard to imagine as this is for a Chamonix skier, we found fresh tracks all day next to a piste and under a chairlift. You'll have to guess the resort though - my lips are sealed :)

Awesome views in Italy

Be careful out there - this was one of many slides (big and small) that I've seen over the last few days. 

Waiting for the Mont Blanc Tunnel to open on Wednesday night. Grrr.


Matt coming close to uttering the impossible words, "I've had enough powder".

Friday, 15 March 2013

Video Blog 9

Another great edit from Seven Twenty Productions, merci. Amazing random comment from Gary at 1.01!!! Can't remember what the conversation was, but it must have been interesting!

Tuesday, 12 March 2013

It's not all bad!

After a rather pessimistic weather forecast (and a video blog to go with it from me!), things haven't actually been so bad over the last few days. There has been a fair bit of rain and black sky, but there's also been the odd good weather window, and I've been trying to get things done in between the showers.

Saturday was forecast to be a good morning followed by snow, so we decided to go for a steady day touring up to the Col du Tour Noir. This Chamonix classic is pretty mellow but has some of the best views of any tour in Cham and has some really fun, fast skiing on the way down. 

We took our time and luckily enough the weather improved towards the middle of the afternoon - proof that you don't always need to rush in the mountains! 

Skiing down to the Argentiere Glacier from the Grand Montets

Gary and Matt with the "powder grins"

Heading up, with the 3 big north faces of the Argentiere basin (Courtes, Droites, Verte) behind.

Sharon, Caroline and Tom with Les Courtes behind

Matt shredding

Sharon shredding, but much more stylishly

Final blast down to the hut

Skiing back to the Grand Montets pistes after an awesome day

Monday was forecast once again to be a pretty OK day, but I woke to heavy rain down here in Les Houches, and the original plan of touring in Italy was quickly canned in favour of "wait and see". Luckily the clouds parted in the early afternoon and Dave, Graham and I shot up the Midi and skied the Grand Envers in some of the best and deepest snow of the year. Win.

"There's no-one else here!!!"

Graham smashing it, shame about the hidden mogul on the landing!

Smashing again, this time without the mogul. I would have backflipped off it, obviously, but was busy taking photos

Today (Tuesday) was yet another day with plenty of black cloud, but a quick sunny period forecast for the middle of the day. Although it didn't look too promising from town, we set off for the top of the Midi with open minds and plenty of enthusiasm. Initially we thought about heading for the Cosmiques Couloir, but a check of the avalanche bulletin before heading up suggested that it wouldn't be wise, so we settled on a run down the Petit Envers. For some reason no-one had been down the main Petit Envers, so there was plenty of fresh tracks to be had. The cloud came and went but we had enough visibility to get us down and provide some awesome views. 

Neil questing on the Petit Envers

Katie and hero boy

Adam on his telemarks

Katie in the exit couloir below the Requin hut

Looking down to the Mer de Glace.

Finally, I looked out of the window the other morning and saw this.


The weather looks much the same for the next few days, so the key will be staying flexible and getting on it when the chance comes. Bon chance.

Friday, 8 March 2013

Video Blog 8

Thanks to Toby and Rachel, sorry that I can't be the bearer of better news!

Wednesday, 6 March 2013

Queyras, La Grave and a foray into alpinism...

For the first time this winter, we finally got a prolonged spell of sunshine here in the Alps over the last week. Unfortunately I managed to make a complete mess of it, and accomplished very little but had a great time in the process of repeatedly failing on everything I tried. 

I started out the week by heading down south with Lindsay Caldwell to do a hut to hut ski tour in the Queyras region. Although little known, this area just south of Briancon is said to be an amazing little playground full of north facing bowls and acres of early season powder and we were keen to check it out. 

Starting from the tiny village of St Veran, we headed up to the Refuge de le Blanche and then (after a very generous lunch and a beer) up to the Col Blanchettes. Unfortunately the weather wasn't great, but we found some good snow and the occasional patch of blue sky.

Lindsay on the way up to the Refuge de la Blanche

Me about as close as I ever get to a church (the Chapel on the way to the hut). Probably should have prayed a bit harder given how the weather turned out!

AWESOME views from the Col Blanchette!

Nice snow though :)

Despite a good forecast for the coming days, we woke to another blizzard, and so rechecked the forecast.(thank god for 3G and smartphones). It turned out that the weather man had changed his mind, and that the outlook was actually not very good. It didn't take long to work out that a new plan was needed, so we decided to get back in the car and head for La Grave. 

On our way over we stopped for a great tour over the Cretes de Chailloud above the Col du Lauteret in some brutally cold weather, and patted ourselves on the back for getting something done despite having no map or any information (I only know what it's called because I looked it up when I got home). 
You can't beat a "that looks good, let's do it" idea every now and then!

Cretes de Chailloud from the Col du Lauteret

Col du Lauteret - not a warm place

Kite skiing above the Col. It was pretty impressive to see how far these guys went - made my arms tired just watching.

Heading up from the col

Bootpacking after the snow got too firm.

Final climb to the summit

Lindsay skiing down with the Meije and the peaks above La Grave in the background.

The following day we skied the lifts at La Grave, and it has really got me psyched to get back. La Grave is one of those legendary places that you hear about in the world of skiing, but I've somehow never managed to get there before. It really is a pretty funny place, with one tiny and antiquated telepherique, a flat bit where you get pulled by a piste basher, and a drag lift taking you to the only piste in the whole "resort" (a 300m red run on a glacier), and some of the best lift-served skiing anywhere in the World. 

It is obvious that you really need some local knowledge to make the most of the place, but even on the tiny bits that we did we found some superb skiing and plenty of "adventure" (ie. bootpacking out having dropped into something that cliffed out...) Next time we go we're going to recruit someone who knows it well, and go armed with ropes, harnesses and all that jazz (we had none of that stuff as we weren't expecting to need it in the Queyras). Let's hope they get another dump of snow before the winter is out - Lindsay and I have got the La Grave psyche!!!!

Getting a tow!

Looking out of the telepherique at the mystical Meije. I'm ashamed to report that Matt summitted this peak in a Hawaiian shirt when we climbed it a couple of years back. 

Typical La Grave terrain. I want more!

Thanks Lindsay for a few random but really fun days, and thanks for taking my constant abuse regarding  your Aussie heritage!

Having had only one night back in Cham I was back into the mountains, this time with axes, crampons and a very psyched Pete. We had our eye on the Carrington/Rouse route on the Aiguilles des Pelerins and settled into the Plan de L'Aiguille hut for a good night's kip. All was going to plan until we realised that the dreaded foehn wind had arrived a day early and brought with it high temperatures and a warm wind as it always does. Not keen to be climbing an ice route in those conditions (plus 2 degrees at 6am!!!), we had a quick chat and decided to go and climb something up the Midi. Unfortunately we couldn't ab off the Midi bridge as planned due to construction work going on up there, and eventually settled for abbing into the Burnier Vogler route from the Cosmiques Arete and doing the final section. That was good, and doing the Cosmiques with no-one else on it was great too - it's such a fun route when it's quiet. Overall, not a very successful day but one filled with banter and stunning views, so hard to be too disappointed.

Stunning view of Cham at night - piste bashers working hard at Brevent Flegere

Pete finishing the Burnier Vogler. I told him that he'd blown the onsight by going in from above, but he got over it quickly.

So there we go, a week of very good weather, and very little to show for it. That said, I had a lot of fun, and that really is point of all this mountain stuff so who cares about ticking things. Thanks Lindsay and Pete!