Thursday, 26 February 2009

Gran Paradiso North Face

What an adventure! After yesterday we were pretty shattered on our return to Chamonix after the heavy bag ski descent.... still, we decided to sleep on it and prepare for the real goal, the North Face of the Gran Paradiso (4061m) with a Ski Descent of the normal route.

Not sure on conditions we skinned up to the hut on Tuesday afternoon after a bit of preparation in the morning. The winter hut of the Chabod Refuge (2750m), to our pleasant surprise was awesome! Gas, mattresses, log burner, wood everything we needed. The hard work was put to rest with a good feed and a great view over the North Face. First thing we noticed was that it was 'in ice', not sure what we were expecting really - perhaps hoping for a good neve covering to make the ascent quick and easy? Maybe late march but not in February!

So the route is a 400m 55/60 Degree ice slope and tops out on the summit ridge, in the shade all day and bloody cold. Fortunately we still had 2 days of good weather window.

On wednesday we set the alarms for 3am and set off from the hut at 4am after a good breakfast. We skinned up to the bottom of the face then crampned up to the bergschrund. This took us nearly 4 hours alone... hardly the alpine fast we were looking for. Still, we were within budget.

Crossed the bergschrund without difficulty and Plum took the lead on the face. We decided upon a tactic of pitching and moving together, so we would end up doing about 100-120m between belays on a single 8.1mm (half) rope. After pitch 2 I was pretty knackered! It was hard going with ski's still strapped onto our back and the relentless brittle ice meaning one knock of the ice axe was never sufficient. Still we, kept on going - hours passed.... we budgeted to be at the sumit by 1-2pm..hours passed, ice got more brittle, lots of dinner plating and lots of sketchy placements. We got tired, exposed and cold...

It was about 4pm when Plum lead a pitch over onto a ridge above the ice boss (on the right of the face) finally this put us in the sun and I took the last pitch to the summit ridge. The summit ridge was a pleasant mix of airy scary knife-edge snow and a few rock steps. Time had passed us by. It was 5pm.... we had been fairly British and fairly slow...something I always try to avoid! Bugger.

Still... for once in my alpine career...we had ski's on our back, this meant a possible 3+ hour descent to the hut could take us less time. A lot less... we strapped them on and razzed down to the hut in just over an hour. Just as it was getting dark! No Epic here!

After such a long time (8-9 hours) on the North Face due to the quality of brittle ice and our fitness I am now tapping away with about 4 numb fingers! All in all a great adventure without a soul in sight!

Thanks Plum! Bon Hiver Alpinism!

Triangle du Tacul - Chéré Couloir

22nd-Work then a cloudy/ snowy day skiing at Grand Montets
23rd- Winter Alpinism

With a 3 day weather window and 3 days off work I booked some time with Plum for some Alpinism! As we havent really climbed before we went to do the Chéré Couloir, a 250 metre ice route on the Triangle du Tacul, part of Mont Blanc du Tacul. Basically we did it in about 5 pitches with bolt belays and abseiled off the route rather than continuing to the triangle summit. I think this is relatively normal in winter.

Anyway, had a great chance to test out the mono's with pitches up to 85 degrees. After descending we ski'd down the Vallee Blanche and home to Chamonix with hefty packs on!

Big plans for tue/wed

A quick report:

Friday, 20 February 2009

Sunny Italia and the adventure home

19th- Work! Bought a new Ski Pole too. Snapped my BD Exped poles on the Toula!
20th- Back to Italy! The sun was out. what a day again. This time did the Toula Glacier again with Jen and Mel and then went back for more and decided to Ski home to Chamonix. Cruised down the Vallee Blanche from the Torino.

Wednesday, 18 February 2009

Tits Deep Toula

50cm Fresh Snow on the Toula Glacier..... WOW! Note the avalanche that occurred midday on the skiers left track.

17th - Went to Courmayeur Skiing with Si and friends. Unfortunately the Funivie Mt Bianco didn't open.. So had some very cool runs on relatively crusty snow off the back of the Youla and then down the face to Dolonne. The 'Shiny New Gear' box came from Sheffield and joined us on some adventures today!

18th - See above! Toula Glacier, followed by pizza and skiing in Courmayeur resort.

Monday, 16 February 2009

Photo Comp Begins

And here begins the house Photo Competition! good work with this on Christoph

Beautiful Chamonix!

12th - Work + Grand Montets Powder Powder Powder
13th - Lovely day! First time for a while - Vallee Blanche with Jen and Mel... SO COLD! Ski'd down into Chamonix, awesome day.

14th - Work
15th - Work
16th - Ski Touring ; Col du Tour Noir. Awesome day, nobody else in the Argentiere valley, really busy in the ski areas. We gave it some on the way up and made good time then hooned it back to Argentiere in just over an hour taking some cool shots on route! Had a good recce of the Courtes North Face, looks pretty sweet! Roll on some anticyclone action!

Our Tracks! Nobody Elses!

Going to Courmayeur tomorrow with Si!!

Wednesday, 11 February 2009


7th- Work
8th- Work - could have ski'd in the afternoon, but was pretty disastrous as Courmayeur (where I dropped someone) had beautiful weather and I was on my way back to Chamonix which seemed to have its own little world of crap weather. Still it brought the snow!
9th - Still no high pressure, no stability so went up to Le Tour, have not been here for a while and it was a great change. Some really good off piste opportunities to find!
10th - Blizzard! Good news, lots of snow - Bad News....nothing is open.. managed to do all grown up jobs that had been waiting months!
11th - Powder Day! Powder lesson followed by cloudy powder. Good day, not super sunny and very cold but great to be out bounding around in the really deep powder! Started at Grand Montets and drove up to le Tour after lunch. Awesome stuff.
Started practicing some MIA ropework today from the balcony. A good little set-up! Also the view wasn't too bad (pic above shot from the balcony)

Friday, 6 February 2009

Sunny Touring

Some more pictures of skiing again! It has been a bit average weather here, but here are some pre-clag shots courtesy of Tom.

3rd- Went up the Midi with Ad, Carole and Jen for a touristic look round. Why not! Then went for a short but sweet ski at Brevent. Ski'd the home run for the first time. Dodge the rocks!
4th- Ski Lesson - Bigger Bumps! followed by some off piste fun at Grand Montets.
5th- Worked today... did finish at lunchtime but decided to come home and read up on some alpine routes and see if i can get a shopping list together for some new kit. Time to start practicing for MIA stuff.
6th- Cool day going for it all over the Grand Montets followed by an afternoon in front of the fire!

Still waiting on some anticyclone action so I can get up climbing for a few days. Pretty motivated right now.

p.s. Byron come climbing!

Monday, 2 February 2009

Windy Chamonix!

Pretty quiet over here!

29th- Work
30th- Went Ski Touring again with Tom. Nice warm day in the sun but the route was pretty tracked out. Same ski tour as the other day. Hopefully some sunny pics coming soon
31st - Work
1st- Work / Tried to go off the midi but plane delayed so no luck...
2nd- Very windy day! Sat about, went up to Grand Montets, very busy, got bored as main lifts shut with the wind. Came home! Built a snowman! Awesome. Unfortunately Snowman fell over 2 hours later! Fun while it lasted.

Ciao.... Bro and Carole here...maybe a bit of ski action tomorrow!