Tuesday, 28 April 2009

Pow Wow

27th- Rest & Rain day!
28th- Grand Montets Ski
29th- Sat in front of computer....
30th- More powder at the Grand Montets. The most unique powder I have ski'd this year! Very light. Cool day!

Spoke to friends last night about cragging in the UK and what they have been up to, a different world! 50cm fell on top of the Grand Montets last night.... and its nearly May!

Rich had chance to experience the powder at least!

Monday, 27 April 2009

Classic Haute Route

Finished work for the winter season. I now have some time out for 6 weeks until I am back running courses in the UK (www.NavTraining.co.uk). Here is an update!

19th- Aiguille d'Argentiere
Went to Ski Mountaineer the Aiguille d' Argentiere today. Unfortunately, got 1/3rd of the way up and turned back due to poor weather. Should really do this when we have a view!

20th- Training Day! Rich has come out, a friend from winter ML. He has done plenty of mountaineering but not Ski Mountaineering. We planned on doing the Haute Route on Tuesday so thought we would prepare and go over some fundamentals.

Training started with the Crochues Berarde Traverse on a warm clear day, after demonstrating a kick turn and skinning up a short section there was an avalanche at the top of the slope. Apparantly one of the higher groups had started booting their way up the left hand slope at the top and it triggered the slide. With several groups shaken up by this but nobody hurt, we decided to continue our training in the shade of the Grand Montets!

The Classic Haute Route

A bit ambitious as a debut Ski Tour for Rich here, but we knew we could do it and possibly bail out at several places on the route. Here is a summary of the route we took!

21st- Chamonix (Grand Montets) to Trient Hut

On the Argentiere Glaciere, heading towards the Col du Chardonnet

Beautiful light on the Grand Montets Ski Descent

Up and over the Col du Chardonnet, time to strap on the Ski's and head for the Fenetre du Saleina, the second col of the day. Great views up the North Face of the Aig. d' Argentiere from here.

22nd- Trient Hut to Bourg St. Pierre

A chilled out day..... Bourg St.Pierre is really sleepy.

Skiing down the Glacier from the Trient Hut

The amazing Trient Plateau

23rd- Bourg St. Pierre to Valsorey Hut

Yet another stunning day skinning up to the Valsorey hut. About 4.5 hours work, feeling fit today.

24th- Valsorey Hut to Chanrion Hut

A room with a view, the Valsorey Hut WC...unfortunately I had to do the 4am run!

A future project. Mont Velan here can be done on Ski and looks perfect! One day up to the Velan Hut and another day to the summit and back down. This was in our itinerary but we decided to take it more easy... no rush.

From the Valsorey Hut we made an early start up to the Plateau du Coulouir. 300m or so of hiking with Ski's on our back to the plateau. We took the most direct route for max enjoyment! Unfortuantely over the coulour and the enxt col brought bad weather and a tricky descent to the Chanrion Hut.

25th- Chanrion Hut to Vignettes Hut

This photo is certainly worth enlarging! The long low gradient glacier up to the Vignettes hut.. we chose this route instead of going over te Pigne d' Arolla due to seriously strong winds in the morning and bad weather due. Turned out to be a good choice. A beautiful morning

The Matterhorn starts to reveal itself

4 Hours of skinning and we arrive at the Vignettes Hut. Recently restored, good food and nice beds await!

Unfortunately we got an updated weather forecast upon our arrival. Lots of snow due and strong winds. After a lot of decision making (and nearly descending to Arolla - an easy escape route) we decided to stay the night and await a forecast update. We had several chocies for the next day, we wanted to finish the route and end up in Zermatt but it was looking more liekly that Arolla would be the destination.

26th- Vignettes Hut to Arolla

Breakfast was due at 5.30am. At 5am, we were awoken with 'Petit Dejeuner a 7 heure'.... bugger. The hut Guardian had made the decision for us. The weather was too bad to go out early and use all the time possible to get to Zermatt. We were going to be going down to Arolla!

With a constant wind speed of 120km/h we had a leasurly breakfast and then headed out into the wind and snow.... a few hours later we made it down to safety and a ride home!

I think we will be back, skin up from Arolla to the hut, stay the night and finish the route soon! The ski to Zermatt looks fantastic!

Here is a short video of the morning weather check!

Friday, 17 April 2009


16th- Snow Snow Snow.... funny time. Rain in the valley, snow on top. Stayed in today!
17th- Spent time planning today. Waiting for some more settled weather
18th-Working (for the last time!)

The snow is leaving us... making skiing around the resort fairly average. Really time to focus on touring and getting the rock gear out soon!

Wednesday, 15 April 2009


11th- Work
12th- Work
13th- Vallee Blanche with John!

Awesome day out with John, Jen and Mel down the Vallee Blanche, best snow I have ski'd for ages! Bright sunshine!

14th- Touring Grand St Bernard

Took the pilgrimage to Grand St Bernard today with Jen, the skinning tracks actually go up the road to the Col...really steady stuff. No room at the inn for us and painful feet so we headed back to Cham for the night. Bloody Easter!

15th- Courmayeur, John and Jenny still out on their hols. We went to ski the Toula but no visability so went for a jolly and some good Italian Food!

Friday, 10 April 2009

Envers du Plan Ski

9th- Work
10th- Envers du Plan Ski and Bailed attempt at Breche Puiseux

Started well, first (and last) bin with the lifties on the Midi, the lift closed due to the high winds after dumping us at the top.... We had a cool ski (on average snow!) down the Glacier Envers du Plan which was good as it was something new.

As we reached the Salle Manger, the weather was looking quite rough, high winds and dark cloud coming over from the Italian side. We decided to save the route for another day.

The gondola to the Montonvers was closed so we took the summer track. Lots of ladders! Great fun.

Sunny and warm in Chamonix, another world! Photos coming soon

Wednesday, 8 April 2009

A hike up a Grassy Koll

8th- Met Mike today to go out for a Ski Tour in Les Contamines. It was so hot today! Not good weather for keeping the snow. We wanted a cruisy day to stretch the legs so got up to the col and then went for a long, gentle skin over the hills. Once we had found what we thought was the right spot we took off the skins and went for a rather average slush ski down!

Nice to get out for a chilled day after Mondays adventure!

Tuesday, 7 April 2009

Les Courtes North Face

The Swiss Route TD 800m

4th- Work
5th- Work
6th- Les Courtes North Face

The photo says it all, long, exposed, steep and fantastic. The Swiss Route was our objective on Monday and it was just a truly amazing day! The 'Courtes' means 'Short One' but this really did not feel short.

We decided to try this route in a day, carrying ski's and then skiing from the Col du Droites to make a sharp exit towards the Mer de Glace and down to Chamonix. Normally this is done by staying the night at the Argentiere hut and starting early. We worked out that if we move together and move fast we can use the first bin on the Grand Montets (a lazy 8.30am start!), be at the bottom of the route for 10:30am, summit for 5.30pm and down by 8.30pm (dark). It all went to plan!

This really does top off this winters Alpinism for Plum & I, unfortunately Plum is now on his way back to the UK so hanging up the axes temporarily and getting out the touring kit for a good couple of months out on the mountain!

Summer 2007, Byron & I looking over the steep north faces of the Argentiere Valley.... thinking 'wow.....one day!' Les Courtes and Les Droites, the backdrop of this photo.

An amazing day in the mountains!

7th- Rest Day

Friday, 3 April 2009

Le Nant Noir - Le Tour to Trient (Suisse)

Trient, 3 Hours in Summer. A lot quicker on Ski!
2nd- Work
3rd- Ski Off Piste... more tick list bagging!
Spring Skiing is in full flow now! Rushing to get a few extra runs in that are still on the tick list. We headed over to Le Tour to ski over the back of the Col to Switzerland and use the bus link to take us back to Vallorcine. The route was OK, lots of snow has gone from this gully...leaving a lot of rubble skiing and mud!

Good opportunity to practice the Rutschblock Tests (and remember how to teach them!)

After we headed down the Jeurs Bowl (back bowl of Le Tour) to Vallorcine, all good fun for a Spring day!

Wednesday, 1 April 2009

Crochues-Berarde Traverse Ski Tour

1st April: Ski Touring!
Here we are again, going over this cheeky ski tour from the top of the floria lift. This time...Jen took up a new hobby! Ski Touring. After mastering kick turns and hiking over the first col, we (Mel, Jen & I) traversed and then strapped our skins back on and skinned over to the Col du Berarde. Super effort which was paid off with some real feel-good fantastic skiing down to Le Buet! Good work Jennivive!

Dômes de Miage Ski

The inversion from the Conscrits Hut 2600m (click to enlarge this one! nice work again Chris. Awesome)

25th-Courmayeur . Went to ski the long awaited powder... unfortunately they hadn't had as much as our side and the Youla lift was shut! Still, had fun skiing steep lines through the trees and had pizza.
27th- Did Nothing! / Jobs around the house.
30th- Domes de Miage Ski Day 1: Les Contamines to Conscrits Refuge
Chris, Plum and I have waited ages to go do the Domes de Miage.... it is a relatively easy mountain to climb but it has a long approach as it is a bit off the 'Chamonix beaten track'. It starts in Les Contamines, about 30 minutes drive away, from here you skin up to te Tre-La-Tete Refuge (we had a picnic, some have lunch here) then on and over the Mauvais Pas to the Tre-La-Tete Glacier and on to the Conscrits hut - Guidebook time about 6-7 hours ski trek! This is why I have never bothered in the past with the Chamonix lifts making everything so accessible and didnt fancy the summer climb...so why not do it on ski!

There was an inversion in the valley, making the clouds hang down and giving no visibiity below 2500m. Unfortunately for us, Les Contamines was at 1200m and the hut was at 2600m! A big day with no visibility. We made our way with little difficulty to the first refuge, then from there thigns got a bit tricky. Routefinding was quite tough and we eventually made it down to the snout of the glacier. Unable to see.... we roped together and decided to get the GPS out, we decided this was probably the easiest way for us to keep a good course and avoid the crevasses and serac barriers of the glacier. Up and down we went, across...side to side... evenutally things started to add up. We located ourselves to be directly south of the hut, so started to climb the final 200m up an easy gully and snow slopes until we popped out of the cloud, 200m (horizontally) from the hut! Perfect! As the sole party at the hut (at 6pm when we arrived) the warden asked 'so, where did you come from?!' seeing our tracks coming from the not-so normal hut approach!

Conscrits hut is great, nice food and it was really quiet. Room to ourselves. Weather looked good for day 2

The hut is up here somewhere!

An hour or so on the glacier....feeling our way around!

31st-Domes de Miage Ski Day 2: Conscrits Refuge to Domes de Miage central summit and ski descent to Les Contamines.

With a 5.30am breakfast we got our kit together, stuffed down some average coffee and cereal (as always) and headed out towards the Col de Domes, the lowest point along the summits traverse. Up and up we went, feeling pretty good, excited about the very cool ski run that would be at the end of all of this uphill! We stayed high, a bit high and missed the main track to the col, not to worry.... as we had gained so much height it made sense for us to go straight for the col of the central Dome at about 3650m. Up we went! The bonus of this route choice was that we could actually ski right onto the summit! Great feeling. After a wee break and a good look over the western side of Mt Blanc we strapped ski's back on and just leaped down the side of the mountain.. skiing straight down towards the glacier. Fantastic feeling, skiing from the top of a big mountain, knowing that in a couple of hours you will be back at the car! After all that hard work!

Good times! We considered the other descent which is supposed to be one of the finest in the area, down to Les Contamines via the Armancette Glacier. Maybe next time eh, I think we would also traverse all of the domes...why not.

The ski was fun, fast descent past the Conscrits hut and then down through a gorge and then some bushwacking through to Les Contamines.

Classic Domes de Miage shot

Chris on route to the top

Skinning up to the col on a perfect, fresh morning. Still clouds in the valley. Perfect up here