The Winter that keeps on giving!

With over 80cm of snow falling at 3800m over the last 48 hours and with a forecast of Cloudy with Sunny spells, Me and Katsu decided to at least go and have a look up the Midi!

On arrival and after speaking to some local skiers in the bubble who were all heading down the Rond, we thought that it would be a safe bet doing the Gros Rognon, which was really good on monday.

After a short, snowy walk down the arete we had our skis on and the clouds came in.

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Skis on and the short steep face to the col was good fun, nice and deep, then we hit the heavy flat snow which leads to the top of the Rognon. This was hard going and almost required skins! After about 15-20 mins we were back on the steeper stuff again and there were no tracks in sight!

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Katsu doing her portion of the trail breaking!

Once we were at the top of the steeper face we were in the clouds again. we decided to wait it out rather than waste the ski in complete whiteout.

Ten mins later we had a small window so quickly made our way down the bottom of the face.

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The snow was almost up to my waist and although it was not light, it was fresh and it just took a little bit more concentration and strength to ski fast!

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As Katsu found out!

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She nailed it after a couple of tumbles! Nice big turns in complete silence.

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It was nice to look back at a popular route and only see two tracks, and when one of them is your own!

We had a little more hard work in deep snow to get back to a track that someone had put in from the Petit Envers and then it was smooth sailing all the way back to the ladders at Montenvers.

Still cant believe it is May!! No summer for Chamonix this year!

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Day 100 skiing- The (other) Cosmiques Couloir

My first day up the hill this winter was on October 31st up Le Tour hiking with a snowboard, and 7 months later I am still on it, and with Powder!

After Tuesdays epic at the Chèré couloir we noticed that the Cosmiques Couloir on the south face of the arête was full of snow and looked like a good ski. Me and Ally then went about trying to find out some information about it and asking around to see if anyone we knew had skied it, but all we could find is that it is a 200m PD climb that is a little short cut on the Cosmiques arête.

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Taking this into  account and seeing that it is only 40-45′ we decided to give it a go.

Thursday morning looked like there would be some good weather and with Ally working at 13:30 we knew we had to be at Montenvers by 13:00 at the latest!

We started the route with a reverse of the Cosmiques arête by climbing over the platform and then doing to 30m raps down a couple of chimneys.

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Because this route isn’t often reversed we did loose a sling and a couple of pieces of cord for our belays.

After we completed the raps we had a short traverse over to the start of the couloir.

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At only 200m long it is not very big but it narrows towards the bottom and was a really good ski and a good extension to the Vallee Blanche!

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Due to this couloir being south facing there was a risk of avalanche so I decided to traverse along some footsteps to the other side and rope up for 15m to test out the snow. There was a lot of sluff but I was able to avoid being taken down and made nice powder turns all the way down to the bottom.

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Ally coming to the bottom of the couloir. Getting to the bottom we realised that we had less than 1 hour to be at the train, this made rushing down the glacier in complete white out very scary.

When we got to Montenvers we noticed that the gondola wasn’t running and that Ally had 15 minutes to get up the ladders and onto the train, he just made it.

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Being the good friend I am I offered to carry his ski’s, 30m rope and skins all the way up the ladders which was very hard going, there was a big group of slow kids going up the main ladder route so I took the more exposed rock ledge. This was a nice hard return from a top class day skiing!

Chèré Couloir – Mont Blanc Du Tacul

After coming back from the UK on the 15th I was keen to start some alpine climbs. Going up the Midi on Sat 18th and being put off by howling winds and cloud I decided to give it a miss, and then with over a foot of snow falling at 3800m it was definitely  a no! The following Monday we saw there was some good weather but I only had until 1:30pm to do anything because of work so decided to ski Grand Envers which turned out to be really good considering it is nearing the end of May.

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After skiing Monday with Alistair we decided that because the weather the following day would not allow us to ski again, despite there being a couple of feet of snow up there now, we would aim for the Chèré Couloir on the Tuesday.

It was another work day for me but I managed to change with work and start at 3:20am and then have my second pick up at 6:10pm, this would give us all day for the climb, which we needed!

Tuesday morning we met up at the Midi at about 9 with the first lift going up at 9:30. Walking out on to the arete at 10 there were no tracks going down and alot of fresh snow, this already started to slow us down. After some whiteout navigating we arrived at the start of the climb at 12:00 with only two people just starting the 3rd pitch, there was so much snow!

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My 100m trail breaking, with Ally doing the rest, as usual!

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Just approaching the start, The Chèré Couloir is the obvious Ice route up the centre of the photo. Difficulty D 200m

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Ally on the second pitch.

The conditions were excellent, with really good ice and snow for climbing. We didnt place any protection until I led the last pitch, just clipping on to a couple of pieces of cord on the side of the route.

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Me leading my first big alpine route, I placed a couple of screws on this pitch as it was near vertical. Throughout the climb we were being pelted by powder snow avalanches and big spin drifts which resulted in us being very cold all day long and experiencing my first climbing hot aches and screaming a little!

After reaching the top of this last pitch it was on with the down jacket to wait for Ally to top out and start the decent.

To get back down you rappel the same couloir using the bolted belays on the left hand side, opposite side from the accent. There were a total of four raps with the fourth taking you back over the bergschrund way below the start of the climb.

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Ally on the first of four rappels.

When we got back down over the schrund we had noticed that our track that we put into the climb had now completely disappeared and that we would have to put another one in to get back to the Midi. We had 2 1/2 hours until the last bin at 5:30pm left so we thought this would be plenty of time. Once again we only had a rough idea of where to go as it was still a complete whiteout with only the Cosmiques Arete coming into view every so often. The snow was even deeper than the morning and the going was slow and tiring.

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The snow was over Ally’s knee and he isn’t a short man!

As we slowly got closer to the Midi we could start to hear the announcements over the tannoy that the last departure was in 30mins, then 15, then 10. At this point I rang the office to say that I might not be able to make my pick up at 6:10! This didn’t go down very well, and with a call back almost straight away saying that there was no one else to work it I knew we had to dig deep and get up the arete quickly, this was very hard work as there was no track in and well over a foot of snow. We made it to the top and into the cave at 5:28 and with a quick dash we just made the bin with moments to spare. Down the cable car and into my van and straight to work. This was a very long, very good and very challenging day of Alpine Climbing. Although there was a great deal of suffering throughout the day I loved every minute of it!