Chamonix received snow in early November and with this excitement grew for the coming winter months. Unfortunately this snowfall did not carry on. With barely any resorts open and those that were offering very limited runs, many holiday makers did not get their White Christmas they so desperately wanted.
On Boxing day (26th) Pete and I headed up to GM with the intention of skiing Rectiligne and climbing back up Poubelles. I would normally not consider anything like this but I wanted a day in the mountains and there was not much else we could think of. Heading down the Pas du Chevre there must have been people wondering where we were going and why, as there was no chance of skiing out the bottom. Some nice snow greeted us down to the entrance. A small section of dry skiing and we were into a very firm narrow couloir. After 50/100m of skiing I caught my tips in crust and fell, managing to stop myself by punching through the hard crust before I hurtled down the ice. I was not keen to continue. Pete wanted to have a look further down. As he turned the small corner and disappeared out of sight I heard screams and scraping coming from below. At this point I became alert and started to take my skis off and put crampons on, If i was to go down any further it would be with skis on my back so I would not end up like Pete. Within a couple of seconds I heard he was OK. I then suggested climbing back out and he quickly agreed. When he came into sight I noticed he was only using one arm, he thought he had just torn a muscle. He was wrong. 3 screws and 20 staples, I cant believe he climbed out! Unfortunately he missed out on the next days riding, and a few more. Get well soon.
ABout to go in
first icy turns
on the way back up
back in to the sun
Petes 20 staples and 3 screws
The day after Boxing day it Dumped. I was working and it caused mayhem down the airport, I knew it would be worth the hassle as Sleigh had eyes on Courmayeur first thing on the Sunday. I wanted in. We headed through the tunnel and straight away knew it would be good. It was so deep in the trees on the Val Veny side. It felt like winter was here.
getting deep (photo SLeigh)
where is he?
More snow (photo sleigh)
New Years eve we had a little tour above Flegere. Not much to report, just having fun in the sun with friends.
My Playground (Photo L.Jarmey)
Freestyle touring (Photo L.Jarmey)
Last Friday Sleigh, Luke (Luke Jarmey Photography) and I headed up to ski the South Couloir of Aig de L`Amone. I had seen this before and never thought of skiing it. But with nothing else on the cards we thought it could be a good option and we also could have a look at the whole Argy basin and get a good idea of conditions. Still recovering from NYE we took our time on the long flat skin and after 100m up the couloir we turned around when encountering bad snow. Mixed conditions in a matter of meters, wind crust, ice, powder and so on. A nice day trip and I think it finally cleared the hangover.
Heading up the Argy basin (photo L.Jarmey)
Making some turns at bottom of couloir (Photo Luke)
I am yet to venture off the Midi this year so have no idea of the conditions. I know the Rond was skied but it took over 2 hours of route finding through the bossons glacier. Conditions up the Argetiere basin are getting better with some good cover on Col Tour Noir and Col d`Argentiere. I think another meter of snow is needed up high.
Winter 2014 has not seen a great start. Chamonix saw some snow in early November but we are still waiting for a top up. With the recent foehn winds and relatively high temperatures the snow line has been going up rather than down. That being said there is good skiing to be had. With the Aiguille du Midi set to remain closed until the 20th of December it requires a short trip through the tunnel to La Palud to ski off the Italian side of the Vallee Blanche.
Tom leaving Torino
Out of the clouds for the summit
Last Wednesday Jon Luckhurst and I hiked up and skied down the East face of the Tour Ronde. It was in excellent condition and only required a small down climb half way down the face to avoid some big rocks. We were treated to cold blower powder but it was a trade off with high winds and truly Baltic temperatures!
Jon on upper face
Jon looking down lower half
Jon off the face
Snow (and shiny new skis)
Knowing that the Gervasutti on the Tour Ronde was skied that day by the likes of Briggs, Grant and Kilian (who reportedly lapped it 3 times!) I was keen to go back and ski this classic steep in good condition, direct from the col and better than I skied it in the spring.
The Gervasutti Couloir
Tim Oliver and Sleigh were psyched to get ‘radical’ even if it meant braving more arctic temps and an early season 350m bootpack at 3500m.
Tim on the up
North face conditions
Don’t look down
Setting off from the Torino refuge we knew it was going to be busy. Seeing crowds of people heading towards the Tour Ronde and Cirque Maudit we were a little apprehensive of what we would find. Upon arriving at the bottom of the couloir we saw 7 people booting up it. After digging deep and catching up with them only 4 were going back down, the others either skiing the North Face, which was in excellent condition or traversing to the east face via the summit. After a short wait for Sleigh we started off. Two skiers had gone down quick and steady on what looked like good chalky snow. The other two side slipped all 350m of the couloir and were a constant annoyance with the never-ending lumpy sluff. After some fast combat skiing I managed to get ahead of these two and exit the couloir as fast as I could. Fighting hot aches in the shade I awaited the other two before we headed back to the Torino for a sandwich in the sun.
sleigh and tim
Tim in upper half
The Gervasutti Couloir
Looking down the VB
Overall the conditions are good up high. Not sure how tracked out the east face was but people were up, skiing and climbing everywhere. It looked more like a spring day off the midi rather than the start of December! The Vallee Blanche is in desperate need of some snow before the midi opens to avoid a long and nervous walk out.
Not added a new post for a few weeks. Mainly I have been busy with work but when the snow has been good I have been taking full advantage of it.
A couple of nice day trips over to Courmayeur before Christmas to ski some nice couple of day old powder. The resort has a good amount of snow now and it is all open.
A short hike from the Cresta D’arp cable car and you can access some nice north facing couloirs.
They had been skied but were still really good.
There are a few more couloirs below the cable car below that that were also good.
New Years eve saw my first trip skiing up the Aiguille du Midi since October!
With fresh snow falling a couple of days before we knew it would be good. Reports coming in from friends said that it was possible to ski out to Montenvers but there were some big holes so we had to watch out.
Heading down the Arete with Seb and Tyler, Both had never worn crampons and there was no rope, took a while but we made it down safe.
We then headed towards the Petit Envers as it looked like we could get some nice snow in the shade of the Petit Rognon.
Some great pitches of skiing before we got to the shaded part and we all had smiles on our faces!
We were then rewarded with some amazing cold powder in the shade skiers left of the Rognon. there was a few tracks but loads of fresh still to be had.
The going was fine after that until we had to cross over below the seracs du Geant.
There were some big holes and narrow snow bridges. It was fine for skiers but the three boarders in our group had to rope up and ride one footed for a short distance, going very close to danger!!
It was fine to ski to Montenvers and get pretty close to the ice caves. A great first ski of the Midi for 2014.