Mont Mallet West couloir is tucked away on the north side of the Dent du Geant, along the ridge of the Periades. Normally you ski this line by climbing up the Breche Puiseux and climbing some mixed group to reach the shoulder of the Mallet. We decided to climb the line. This is not normally done because of the time spent exposed beneath the Noir seracs. We moved fast to minimise this exposure. First bin on weekend is now 7:30 and after Mikko exchanged multiple lift numbers we managed to get on the second bin and had our skins on by 8:30. I had skin malfunction within the hour and resorted to climbing with crampons.
The line (Photo- Lucapandolfi.com)
Mikko heading towards the couloir
Crossing the bergschrund
Mikko leading the way
Me struggling up the last few steps
The snow was very firm on the glacier and this did not slow us down. Upon arriving at the base of the couloir we started to get deeper with each step and soon we were wading up the couloir in nice powder snow. Ditching all our unnecessary gear at the bottom we made reasonable progress up the line sharing the trail breaking whenever I could. The sun had softened the harder sections of snow by the time we started skiing and it was good powder all the way down.
Making the first turns in good snow
High above the Vallee Blanche
Steep and exposed
Me trying to make some good turns
The wild side of the Geant
Smooth powder in the sun
Opening them up down low
The line with our tracks in the sun
Somehow we made it to the train for 3:30 and I rushed to work at 4:40, ten minutes late. Very tired, and surprised to find good snow so long after the last snowfall.
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.
Once again early season snow has led me into the mountains in the pursuit of powder. With the last two weekends spent riding piste in Verbier I was keen to get out and find some real skiing and fortunately so was Tim. This time last year Tom Grant and Ben Briggs went over to the Plan Glacier hut in search of good skiing on the Miage NF. With the snow line being so low and the thought of exploring a new area of the massif intriguing I once again found myself thumbing through countless guide books and topos looking for a good season starter. Not wanting to start too big we thought the Col du Miage west couloirs could offer some steepish 40/45′ slopes with limited exposure.
After a couple of messages and a phone call later, Tim picked me up early on wednesday morning and we started the short drive to La Gruvaz car park, 1090m. Ben suggested driving to the Chalets du Miage with a 4×4 but limited to Tims Fiesta we opted to walk this hour or so track. Arriving at the Chalets we could see the snow cover on the couloirs.
Heavy bags at La Gruvaz
Through the woods to the snow (T.Oliver)
Couloir way in the distance
We saw they were plastered in the white stuff. Skis on and we started skinning our way up through the trees towards the Plan Glacier hut, 2680m. The going was slow as we battled our way through dense vegetation and deep snow. It took us over 6 hours but we eventually made the hut just as the sun was setting. Exhausted. Eating food and sleeping was on the agenda.
me battling the bushes(T.Oliver)
the skinning was relentless
Sunset approach, hut on the right?
lots of drying space
A sunrise start at 8am we were greeted with deep turns straight out of the door. After 200m of powder we started the skin towards the Col. Making good time we changed to booting as it got too steep and we waded our way up the lower slopes.
8am turns from the hut
More up (T.Oliver)
On the up
Around half way up the main couloir we met our limit, one side Ice and the other firm neve. Not wanting to be heros on our first outing we decided to enjoy the lower half and make our way down. Rewarded with deep snow all the way down the face and beyond.
First steep turns of the winter
Lower half of couloir
In the Couloir (T.Oliver)
More of the same
Once down off the glacier things started to get ropey. Skiing through rivers, over trees and everywhere in-between. This is what early season skiing is all about and we loved every minute of it.
Timmy finding a hole
Extreme river crossing
Getting back to our trainers we still had a 40 minute walk to Tims badly parked car before we could drive to the nearest establishment that was selling beer. Great to get out and enjoy the snow and Im truly ready for another amazing winter. Thanks Timmy for the company and some quality pics!
Eager to start my two months off work with a good ski I teamed up with Tim to ski the Capucin Couloir. Getting first bin at the midi we were heading to the Italian side of the vallee blanche. Using this approach to the Col du Tacul you save a good half hour climb than if you were to ski the VB.
We were quick on the climb and the 1000m of ascent allowed me to break in my new boots. With my La Sportiva Spectres giving me nothing but problems all winter I managed to get some Spitfires and just in time for spring touring and climbing. They look like there is less that can go wrong on them compared to the spectres and they are so light!
Arriving at the col we saw that we could do two 30m raps then side slip a small crux to start the skiing. The snow was a mix of chalk, powder and some icy re-frozen snow that was a bit of a struggle to ski smoothly. After a short while we were over the massive bergschrund and onto the mellow open glacier below heading towards Montenvers.
making our way down the upper section
Tim catching air mid turn
Me Mid turn. getting air!
It get steeper on the sides!
Tim just below the schrund
looking back up the couloir
Some powder down low
It was nice to ski another new couloir and a great test for the new boots. Fingers crossed for some new spring snow soon and maybe some big ski/climbing mission soon. got to make the most of no work.