Tricot, North East Couloir

With what seems like weeks of high pressure settling in here in Chamonix there has been a lot of great stuff being skied. With the first few days spent finding great powder off the lifts we have started to go further afield in the search of powder.

Having seen the Tricot couloir last year when approaching the Trappier couloir I did some research and found that my dear friend Dave Searle had skied it before so I stole his photo for the topo. Cheers Dave.

tricot

 

Teaming up with my regular partner Tim, we were also joined by Tom Grant and Chippie.  First lift up the Bellevue we headed up the tramway before skiing down to the Bionassay glacier and heading up towards the start of the couloir. We headed up the sometimes waist deep snow at a steady pace until have way up a lone skier popped out from a variant line and made us all question how he was ahead of us when there was no boot pack?! He had come up a different ridge and skied a different line that joins onto the NE couloir. After starting up the bootpack again we topped out just after 2pm. Enjoying great snow all the way down it felt very much like a free ride line and we all enjoyed the ski.

Continuing down the glacier to the village and then skinning back up to Col Voza we were enjoying beers before the sunset.

 

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Aiguille du Tour, Table Couloir

When Tim is coming along with his camera I can save weight and leave mine at home. A great photographer and a great ski partner. Cheers Tim

Tim Oliver Alpinist

Following another dump of fresh snow, some sunny high pressure has rolled into Chamonix and with it some excellent conditions for ski touring. After chatting over a couple of ideas with Joel, we ultimately decided to head over to the Aiguille du Tour to check out its Table Couloir. The couloir is a classic of the Mont Blanc massif that neither Joel nor I had done before, so we were both psyched to check out something new and hopefully ski some good snow too.

Aiguille du Tour, Table Couloir (2 of 16)Aiguille du Tour, Table Couloir (3 of 16)The tour starts in the Argentière basin with a climb up to the col du Passon. As always, the views in the basin were amazing. Conditions for both climbing and skiing are still looking a bit dry on the north side, but a lot better than they were a few weeks ago.

Aiguille du Tour, Table Couloir (4 of 16)

Joel bootpacking up to the col du Passon.

Aiguille du Tour, Table Couloir (5 of 16)Aiguille du Tour, Table Couloir (6 of 16)Aiguille du Tour, Table Couloir (7 of 16)

After a 600m ascent to the Col du Passon and a traverse across the Le Tour glacier…

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A mixed start to 2016

The start of January was not looking great until the mother of all storms rolled into the North West Alps and dumped a load of the cold white stuff on Chamonix and its surrounding mountains. Taking full advantage of this fresh snow meant traveling through to the tunnel to Italy where the Italians were working hard to open lifts, unlike here in Chamonix. Courmayeur delivered several deep days and then a few more followed here in Chamonix when the lifts finally opened.

Then once the storm had passed the sun came back along with  rise in temperatures, which seems now to be the trend. As people searched high and low to find the remaining good snow we found ourselves going to new places and having fun adventures.

A new ski for me was the South Face of the Tour Ronde. A short access from Pointe Helbronner takes you there and we made the most of the snow line riding back to the car park, all be it in varying snow conditions. HERE is a short video.

Meeting up with Mikko and another couple of Finns at Grand Montets we headed for the Chevalier with the hope of finding powder. I had come close to skiing this line 2 years ago, but just as I was about to drop in my boot broke and saw me skiing back to the top lift with one boot in walk mode. Thankfully this didn’t happen this time and we had it in great condition with powder turns all the way down this steep and varying line. HERE is another little video.

Top of Chevalier

Top of Chevalier

A few years back I watched a Xavier de la Rue video of him snowboarding a ramp near the Swiss boarder. Back when I was a boarder I dreamt of taking on this hanging ramp. Noticing it in good condition a few days ago while touring near Col Forclaz I asked Mikko and Jesper if they wanted to join me to ski this short, but beautiful line. They were keen for an adventure so along with my usual partner Tim we headed along from the top of Le Tour to find the entrance. Greeted with great snow for the ramp and a nice spring decent back to Trient it was a great morning out.

 

Snow has finally arrived in Chamonix

 

The North West Alps have received the snow it has been waiting for. Chamonix has seen heavy snowfall for the last week with day after day of powder turns. Having most of the valley shut due to high winds we have been heading through the tunnel to Italy and riding the trees of Courmayeur.

Here is a little Video of last tuesday.

Today the sun was out in Chamonix and Brevent had lots of fresh snow on offer.

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Aiguilles Crochues Traverse – East Couloir

Its been over three months since my last post as I have been working away from Chamonix for the inter season. Arriving back at the start of December I had high hopes for a snow filled winter with heavy snowfall in the valley just days before my arrival.  Two weeks back in the valley and we have been exploring all options for something worth skiing.  This winter I will be an ambassador for Voile Skis. Voilé make great back country skis and snowboards made in Salt Lake City, Utah. Light and solid they will fit right into my style of big mountain ski touring in the Mont Blanc Massif.

Grand Montets has been fun cruising the pistes and there has also been some powder on the backside. But with rocks starting to emerge I have been forced to look elsewhere. Hotel face and a trip to Bel Oiseau near Emosson Dam have proved fruitful and it was fun exploring a new area.

Today me and Ally Hurst headed up Flegere to climb the Aiguille Crochues Traverse. A great summer climb that can be done in trainers was a fun challenge in deep cold powder. Our initial plan was to ski the Col du Card back to the Flegere ski area. Just after reaching the summit we noticed a great looking couloir heading back to the Floria bowl. Chocked full of cold powder we decided to give it a go and hope that it didn’t cliff out. After a few hundred meters of great snow we only had the long descent back to the lift in heavy wet snow. Not that much fun on 160cm rando planks!

 

My Summer is Now Over. Roll on Winter

When I put my skis away in June after skiing the Brenva Spur I was ready for a long summer of Alpine climbing. Looking back three months later it didn’t really feel like I accomplished a great deal.

Grepon Mer-de-GlaceFrendo Spur / Dent du Geant / Rebuffat-Epron Cosmiques Pyramide du Tacul-East Ridge

Although this is a list of classic D grade climbs I am left feeling slightly annoyed that I didn’t make the most of only working 20 hours a week. Last summer and especially over the winter I felt I made the most of my ‘Work Part-Time/ Play Full-Time’ lifestyle that I have somehow managed to attain.

This summer has been different to the last few mainly because of the ridiculous heatwave that hit the Alps. Being from South Wales I’m not used to the sun and cannot function well when the temp is in the high 20’s. Although there is plenty of climbing to be done around Chamonix, I’m not one for ‘crushing’ sport routes down the valley or climbing splitter off the Midi. If I am climbing rock I like it to be an adventurous outing like the Grepon Mer-de-Glace. On routes like this you get the feeling you are out in the mountains away from the crowded routes that the Aiguille du Midi delivers (Climbed the Dent du Geant at 4pm thus no guided groups). The Grepon: Mer-de-Glace has to be the highlight of my summer. On the go for 17hours including the long walk back to Chamonix from the summit of the Grepon is what Alpinism is all about.

Climbing the Epron Cosmiques and the Pyramide du Tacul has also shown me that despite them being short alpine crags I can still have fun in the mountains even when it is 30’c for the whole summer. Leading trad routes in the high 5’s has been my downfall over the last few years. Always opting to climb routes with high 5/low 6 sections with stronger climbers who I will normally nominate to lead the crux sections. However, heading to routes like these being the ‘stronger’ climber has taught me to push myself from time to time and be prepared to take a whipper (thankfully I didn’t) and prove I can develop my rock skills without having to climb more sport routes.

Here are a few photos from the summer. Thanks for visiting and after a two month working holiday I will be back with more skiing related posts! Winter is coming.

The Giant’s Tooth

Last weeks climb on the Dent du Geant. 4000m at sunset might be the highlight of my summer. Tim captured the sunset with his photographic wizardry

Tim Oliver Alpinist

Earlier this week Joel, Ali and I headed up to attempt one of Chamonix’s classic alpine challenges, the Dent du Géant (or the “Giant’s Tooth” for those who don’t parle français). The Dent is an exceptionally aesthetic peek that soars out of the long ridge line defining the the French-Italian border and is one of Chamonix’s most recognisable and coveted peaks.

Our original plan was to grab a lift up high via the Aiguille du Midi in the mid-afternoon, find ourselves a nice spot to camp beneath the peak that evening then go and attempt to climb the peak the following morning. However, when we met at the Midi at 2pm Ali suggested scrapping this plan and heading over to climb the peak there and then. Joel and I weren’t convinced at first, being more mentally prepared to spend the afternoon eating lots of food and doing bugger all. However, Ali’s persistence paid off and he soon had…

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Grepon: Mer de Glace 850m D, 5c

It had been a while since I had climbed with Ally and he was keen for something big in this never ending heatwave we have been suffering in. Grepon: Mer de Glace seemed like an obvious choice. A long rock route and after climbing the Frendo a couple of weeks ago, I felt comfortable moving quickly on grade 4/5 rock.

It was our first time in the Envers hut and after a 2:45 hour approach we went to scope out the start of the route so we could be quick to start in the dark the following morning. It was very warm in the refuge, sleeping with the window open and no blanket. Leaving at 4am we walked in and after starting up the wrong route (there were lots of bolts, so we knew we had gone wrong) we quickly joined the proper route and were climbing in t-shirts by 5 am, at 2500m, very warm!

We were quick moving together on the grade 3/4 ground and made the abseil within a couple of hours. Starting up the main ridge line to the summit we overtook another pair of climbers who had a little trouble route finding. After all the warnings in guide books, it wasn’t that difficult to find our way. We started up the ridge on grade 4/5 rock and by now the heat of the sun was hitting us hard. We took 1 litre of water each and just before the summit our water ran out. Leaving our sacks at the breche we started the summit block. The famous Knubel crack, the worlds first 5c. It was hard, Ally struggling for an hour and eventually giving up so we could make it down. I am suffering with a bruised rib and with the painkillers wearing off I didn’t fancy a go. Feeling very annoyed we didn’t summit, 5 meters from the top, we headed down the west face via a series of abseils, wrong abseils, climbing back up then finally finding the actual descent route to the col. Reaching the col with a couple hours until last lift we tried to make a quick descent. The deep sugary snow slowed us down, coupled with multiple big holes we reached the foot of the glacier at 6pm. No chance of last lift.

Ally sprinted off to try and make Montenvers last train at 6:30pm but he had no chance. I slowly plodded my way to Montenvers then descended the train tracks to town arriving at the closest beer dispensary at 8:30pm. 16.5 hours after leaving the refuge.

Mont Blanc, Brenva Spur

A month ago Tim and I went for a look at the Brenva Spur. Here is what he had to say…

Tim Oliver Alpinist

Mont Blanc’s wild and rugged south side is somewhere I’ve wanted to ski for a while. Whilst the normal ski route on its north side sees the passage of many hundreds of skiers each spring, most skiers stay away from its south side and the Brenva basin. Take a close look at the area and you can see why. The terrain is steep, the exposure is high and the place is littered with unstable seracs. For these reasons many of the lines around the Brenva have seen only a handful of descents and some have never been repeated. The only line to see somewhat regular attempts is the Brenva Spur, the basin’s ‘easiest’ line and one that is comparatively safe. Captivated by the thought of skiing such an aesthetic line in a truly wild setting, last week Joel and I went up to give it a go.

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Mont Blanc’s Brenva basin. The Brenva Spur is the ridge line in the centre…

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Aiguillettes du Tacul, East Couloir

Tim Oliver Alpinist

Just when I was about ready to put away my skis for the year, Joel arrived back in Chamonix and convinced me to put in a few more turns. I’m glad he did as we found some great skiing on the East Couloir of the Aiguillettes du Tacul yesterday. Though one of the ‘easier’ lines on Mont Blanc du Tacul’s east face, the couloir still offers some involved and challenging skiing. In good spring snow though, it stayed fun all the way. With a few other lines that I’m keen to ski reportedly in good condition, I might have to hold off applying the storage wax…

Aiguillettes du Tacul, E Couloir (1 of 6)

Joel about to start the climb up towards Mont Blanc du Tacul’s east ridge.

Aiguillettes du Tacul, E Couloir (2 of 6)

Nearly there. The large rock spire below Joel is Pointe Adolphe Rey. In the summer there’s some great rock climbing to be found on this peak.

Aiguillettes du Tacul, E Couloir (3 of 6)

Joel checks out the snow before putting in some turns in the couloir’s upper…

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