Le Tour Glacier-Ski Tour

After seeing that I had a good days skiing in Verbier on Saturday, Alex was keen to get on his skis for the first time this winter. I haven’t really stopped since changing to skiing in January and he knew I would be keen for anything. He suggested going up the le Tour Glacier, This would be a good bet as there had been a fair amount of fresh snow over the weekend here in Chamonix.

He didn’t have anything in mind that he wanted to ski/climb so I suggested the Table Couloir, a 45/50’ 200m line from near the summit of Aiguille du Tour. Not knowing how it would look we decided to go and have a look on the Monday and decide what we would do on the Tuesday, with the normal route on Aig. du Tour being another option that we would be prepared for.

Meeting up early on Monday we geared up and headed to the Le Tour car park and we were on our way just after 11am. There are two ways to get to the Albert Premier refuge in the summer but with a lot of snow the high route is very exposed and with the high winds on Sunday there would be a high avalanche risk so we decided to take the more direct route but we knew this would be hard with no tracks and lots of snow.

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The route to the refuge.

Neither Alex nor me had put a real skin track in before so it was nice to decide where we would go and pick the line up, Mellow was the key word for all of our skin tracks and I had to remind Alex to keep it easy as I have been burned out on steep tracks in the past.

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Heading across the Vormaine slopes to the start of the climb.

After 45 minutes of skinning we had our skis on our back and were heading up the steep couloir looking for the path, we knew it would be hard to find but after a lot of scrambling around in deep snow and climbing up bushes and in between trees we found it and were heading towards the glacier and looking forward to getting our skis back on and skinning up the left bank of the moraines.

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Getting out of the trees and finding the path.

It took us 3 hours to get to the start of the moraines, this is roughly the time it takes you to get to the refuge in summer, and we were only half way!

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Skinning up the moraines we were going through some really nice powder that hadn’t been affected by the wind. We finally had the refuge in our sights and we were running out of sunlight, luckily we had the moon to guide us. We made it to the refuge at 5:30pm, 6 hours after setting off and skinning the last 300m with the sun setting behind us.

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Upon arrival to the winter room at the Albert Premier we realised we had the whole place to ourselves and the builders who had previously occupied it had gone away for the bank holiday weekend. We quickly found some pallets and smashed them up and had the fire going and some snow melting. There was a working gas cooker and electricity there. The radio was playing and we found some wine, it was cold and old though so it didn’t go down very well! When I found some oven chips in the freezer we turned on the electric oven and tripped the whole building! That was the end of that! Head torches were on now and we started on dinner. Pasta starter then some Chilli and mash potatoes that we borrowed from the builders’ fridge!

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Drying our snow soaked gear by the roaring fire.

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Chilli and Mash for supper, A fox wanted to come in and join us away from the howling winds outside.

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We woke at a very un-alpine time of 6:45am and after some coffee, beans and sausages we had our skis back on our feet and were heading up the Le Tour glacier heading for the table couloir. As we saw it we realised that it was un-ski able unless you had a rap or can jump 30feet on steep slopes.

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The refuge, Mont Buet and the Aiguille Rouge in the morning light.

Here you can see the Table Couloir and the rocks in the middle of the line.

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We then changed to our back up plan to climb the regular route on Aig. du Tour. Heading up the col I started to feel pretty bad, I had developed a bad cough and I was coughing up some nasty stuff, so we decided that it was not worth me suffering.

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Roughly the route we took until we turned around.

Turning around without really accomplishing anything was a bit annoying but it is the start of winter and it was still good to get over 2000m of climbing in the legs before winter.

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Alex making some of his first winter turns on some hard pack.

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Alex again in some nice snow.

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Just after descending the crusty snow, some of the hardest I have skied.

We descended across the lower slopes of the Chardonnet and then met up with the normal route on Col du Passon and followed it back to Le Tour. The snow was varied from hard wind blown snow, bullet hard ice, horrible crusty snow and the occasional bit of powder. It took us a while to find our way and then just when we thought we were home we lost sight of the path and headed into the trees looking for it. We spent just over an hour down climbing the dense trees and sliding about on snowy grass slopes until we finally found the path. Looking back up from the car park we could see where we went wrong and were gutted that we didn’t find it and save ourselves the mission.

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On the whole we had a fun couple of days of hard climbing and mixed skiing, a great start to the winter and good training.

Roughly our route for the two days.

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Thanks to Alex for putting up with me again in the mountains!

Mont Blanc du Tacul – 4,248m

Another first bin at the Aiguille du Midi except this time I am with Emily because last night I convinced her to come up Mont Blanc du Tacul with me.

After climbing with Ally yesterday you could see the amount of people that were still going up with skis, so as I had today off work and the weather looked good until the early afternoon I though I should give it a go as I have not been up there before and I still don’t want to put my skis away!

Arriving at the Midi at 7:30 there was no one there but then by 7:45 there was easily a few bins worth of climbers and skiers waiting to go up, well worth getting there 15 minutes earlier and eat breakfast at the front of the line!

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The Aiguille du Midi at 7:35!

At the top by 8:30 and a quick ski to the start of the climb just to the right of the Triangle. There is a over 600m of vertical from the Col to the summit, and then you have to climb back up the Midi arete when you have skied back down.

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This climb has to be done early and quite quickly because the snow warms up quickly in the sun and also there is a lot of exposure above you on the first half of the climb, very big seracs looming above.

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Have to make it a quick drink of water!

The going was quite good to start off with then Emily started to feel the altitude a little when we were over 3900m, this only slowed us down a little.

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Emily charging up with the Sallanches valley way in the background.

Just as we were over the 4000m mark the clouds started to move in, I could see the summit at this point and it looked very close. The wind had also picked up and it became very cold. Emily had said that if I wanted to go to bag the summit that she would have waited where we had got to which was around 4100/4150m judging by where the summit was. I didn’t fancy it, by this point you could only see it every now and then and it was not looking like it would improve.

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The summit just before the clouds came in, we went a little closer than this.

We then decided just to head back down before we couldn’t see a thing, we still had over 500m of decent with big seracs and crevasses to negotiate.

The snow on the way back down was pretty good considering it hadn’t warmed much and was still quite firm. There was no crust and you could even kick up some snow with more aggressive turns.

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There were lots of patches of untouched snow that was much nicer than the chopped up walking and skin track parts.

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Overall the guide book says its 30/40′ slopes on the descent, it was not very steep overall but with a lots of clear danger you still had to take care where you were going!

I think we made a good decision by turning around, as we noticed that many of the other skiers that had set out from the first few lifts had aso turned back just before the summit and speaking to others in the lift after, only people staying at the Cosmiques refuge and lycra clad ski-mo types made it to the top before the clouds came in. Arriving back at the Midi at 1:45 it was a white out, we just made it up the arete in the last bit of sunshine.

It looked a lot different at 9am!

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Another quality day up the Midi and its definitely  something I will have to go and finish off, Maybe next week!

Testing next years touring set-up

Me and Graham headed up above the Emosson Dam close to the Swiss boarder at 7am on Thursday with the plan of touring the  Pointe de L’Ifala after seeing that Charlie Boscoe, Chamonix Conditions, had skied it a few days before. Heading up early so that we could start our descent before 10/11 so that we had the best snow. We immediately  ran into problems when the security guard would not let us walk the road to the start of the route. We then had to try and find another route over a small shoulder hoping we could get back to the road further around, this did not work out to plan.

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I really wanted to get out on my new skis so that I could have a good idea of how they skied before next winter. I managed to get a pair of the 2009 K2 Coomba in 188 for a bargain and already having a pair of Plum Guide bindings I thought this would make a good set up. Plum had sent me the brand new 2013/14 Plum Guide as my pins had come out of my older ones, this was for free which was a nice surprise! They look very similar to me apart from half the toe piece being a nice matte black now! No blurb has been released about any other changes.

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From the Dam car park you cross the Dam and head up the obvious valley in front of you. As we didn’t make it to the start I cant really comment on the route it self but we managed to make a few turn on the face directly opposite the dam.

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I though the skies were really good and even though they are 14mm wider than my previous touring skis the K2 Wayback they skied very similar. Maybe its because I had a few tips from Graham!

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The snow was hard work on any traverse with it being quite soft but by the time we skied down it was some nice spring corn, and generally good fun!

We were back at the car by 9:30 after being pretty disappointed that we didn’t do what we set out to but it was fun to be skiing in June!

Thanks to Graham Pinkerton for the company and the ride.