Tuesday 29 January 2013

Cornes de Loriaz & Arpelline

With the weather beginning to clear, the forecast was for good mornings and cloudy afternoons for Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Friday saw Matt and I heading up for the NE couloir of the Cornes de Loriaz, which involves a skin of about 90 minutes in the forest, and then a further hour or so to the foot of the couloir and finally a long bootpack. After the forest there was no track in, so we broke trail up the cone at the foot of the peak, before accepting that it was getting steep and that we should swap skis for boot soles.

Looking across to the Le Tour glacier, with our skin track visible

DEEP snow on the bootpack!

Having swum up bottomless powder for what felt like a very long time, we got to section which was just shallow snow over slabby rocks. With no desire to either climb or ski this section, we turned round and skied from where we were (which I guess was about 60 or 70 vertical metres from the "proper" top of the couloir). We skied a bit of cruddy snow near the top, but the lower half of the run was just perfect powder. As if that wasn't enough, the lower angled slopes that we'd skinned up earlier we still amazing, making the descent pretty perfect all round.


Looking down on an amazing cloud inversion from low in the couloir

Matt just before the big open slopes beneath the couloir

"This is what owning what cannot be owned looks like"

Looking back up at where we came from. Our tracks are visible if you click on the photo to enlarge it.

Once back at the top of the forest track we had a collective rush of blood to the head, and decided that we should go and try to locate the Barberine couloir. With no real details about it, and armed with not very much kit at all this wasn't the wisest plan, but the snow was SO good and spirits so high that we convinced ourselves that all would be OK. However, by the time we'd skinned the short distance to the Chalets de Loriaz we were engulfed in cloud and even our enourmous levels of psych couldn't convince us to carry on. As it turned out I had a good look at the couloir from Switzerland the next day, and it looks hard to locate the correct entrance even with good visibility, so I'm glad we didn't go hunting for it in the mist.

Having admitted defeat we stopped for a drink (see below) and then headed down. 

Matt came armed with some sloe gin. Seemed rude not to have a tipple.

The day wasn't quite done though, and with us both still bouncing off the walls with enthusiasm we decided to ski down the gully straight below the Chalets de Loriaz instead of following the forest track that we'd climbed at the start of the day. Our bravery (stupidity?) was rewarded with some fantastic tree skiing in fluffy powder (and the occasional "tricky" section), before finding a handy traverse leading us out and onto the track.

Skiing some awesome snow in our bonus couloir

Low down in the bonus couloir

It all got a bit "sanglier" in places!

What an amazing day. Thanks Matt.

Saturday saw Sharon and I looking for a slightly easier option, and we went for a tour up the Arpelline, a small peak above Martigny. After some shenanigans finding the correct place to park, we skinned up through really scenic forests before emerging onto a stunning plateau, with views across the Mont Blanc Massif, Verbier, Grand Combin and the Bernese Oberland.

Heading up through the forests

The Arpelline plateau

Less than 2 hours effort put us on top, and from there we soaked up the views, ate a leisurely lunch, and then skied down in some great low angled powder, as well as the odd steeper section when I was in charge of route finding :)

Looking across to Mont Blanc and the Aiguilles Rouges

Sharon in the powder

Mont Buet and the peaks above the Emosson Dam

Overall, another great day, and a really nice half day tour - highly recommended.

Unsettled weather on the way now, so hopefully we'll get a load of fresh snow just to top things up, but either way winter is off to a great start.

Friday 25 January 2013

Video Blog 2

I've been out touring today, and I'm off again tomorrow, so a proper blog post is on the way over the weekend, but until then thanks to Seven Twenty Productions for another great edit!

Wednesday 23 January 2013

Powder, powder everywhere...

...if you know where to look :)

The weather has been really unsettled here in Cham over the last week, but we've had plenty of snow falling. Initially the weather was coming in from the south, so Italy got it first and we were left with no choice but to go and ski some nice snow and drink good coffee. Sharon and I had a great day at Courmayeur, and then Matt and I went and did 2 fantastic runs off the Helbronner the following day. Being south facing, the Helbronner can often be a bit dodgy avalanche wise, and the snow can get cooked quickly, so any opportunity to ski it in good condition needs to be taken, and it was duly done.

Sharon skiing one of the many couloirs below the Youla lift in Courmayeur

Heading back along the road to the Zerotta chair 

Matt deep in it on the Toula Glacier,



and again!

The last couple of days back in Cham have seen me skiing the Le Tour back bowls, the Pas de Chevre from the top of the Grand Montets, and the Cosmiques couloir from the top of the Midi. I've only got photos from Le Tour as I was having too much fun on the other runs, but I got plenty of headcam footage, and video blog number 2 is out on Friday with the best of the action.

In the meantime, here's the Le Tour shots. Check out Neil's grin on the second shot for an idea of the quality!

Friday 18 January 2013

Video Blog

Having teamed up with Seven Twenty Productions over the last few weeks, the first of what will be a weekly video blog is now online. Hopefully this will be useful, or at least inspiring. We'll keep it brief, and I''ll try and keep good footage coming so you don't have to look at me too much (!)

As with all blogs and conditions reports, this video is designed to help you out, but always bear in mind that nothing beats experience and expertise, so make sure you're properly equipped (and know how to use your gear), sufficiently experienced for what you're doing, and get as much up to date information as possible before heading out. 

Stay safe, and enjoy the video!

Monday 14 January 2013


After 3 days of non stop powder I am now having an office day and nursing a battered shin (would have been a lot worse if my binding hadn't released...) and sore thighs. We were in dire need of some snow, and it duly arrived late last week, so I felt duty bound to go and ski as many metres as possible in 3 days!

Friday was 3 epic laps on the Plan de L'Aiguille, and then Saturday and Sunday were passed at Brevent Flegere. The top bin at Brevent was fantastic, as was the Cornu chair, but the highlight was doing the reliable Col de la Gliere tour and having an entire Valley of knee deep snow without a single track in it.

As is so often the case when skiing the lifts, photos do a much better job of telling the story, so here goes - 

Saturday 12 January 2013

Powder Videos

Just when snow was looking a bit thin on the ground here in Cham, the weather gods have kindly dumped a load of the white stuff. Merci weather gods! Needless to say I've been making the most of it, and will be blogging in the next couple of days about what I've been up to, and where the good snow is.

I've also been chatting to the team at Seven Twenty Productions, and there will be some exciting news coming to this blog soon....

In the meantime, here are some videos from back in December. The top one is the hilarious trailer Sharon made, and the second one is a powder fest! Enjoy.

Wednesday 9 January 2013

Monts Jovet, West Couloir

With the last snowfall over a week ago, Phil and I feared that our chances of finding good snow would be pretty slim on Tuesday. Conditions are pretty strange right now, with most of the powder gone, but not much spring snow around either. The south facing slopes haven't transformed yet, but the north facing slopes seem to have a bit of crust on them. Hmm. 

As is often the case, the better known options were looking pretty uninspiring, and we needed to "think outside the box" (as London marketing types would put it). Based on the fact that it was relatively low altitude, sheltered from recent winds, and doesn't get much sun in January, we went for the W couloir of Monts Jovet. This twin summitted peak is above Les Contamines, and the W couloir has long been lodged in my mind as an early season objective for when nothing else jumps out as a good idea. 

Unwilling to do the long slog up the peak from the end of the Valley, we instead rode the lifts up to the top of the Contamines ski area, and traversed over to the Col des Chasseurs. I assured Phil that this was quicker than the slog (as well as easier), but it turned out I was wrong about that and we ended up making our approach much longer, but also a lot more enjoyable as the ski down from the Col des Chasseurs was great.

A couple of panoramas from Phil on the skin up. I keep telling him how easy photography is with a subject this good, but he's not having it.

Phil on the short bootpacking section

Me skiing near the top of the Col des Chasseurs. Photo Phil Ebert.

Phil with Mont Blanc behind


The final powder before heading out right for our second ascent of the day. Photo Phil Ebert.

Once down at the Chalets de Jovet, we put skins back on and began heading up, pretty sure that Nora (Mrs Phil) had made the right decision by staying on the Les Contamines pistes as it was now 2.30 and we still had a long way to go! Oops. 

"Of course I know where I'm going!" Brits do ski touring. Photo Phil Ebert.

Still, the views were incredible, the banter excellent and we figured that we might as well go and take a look. As it turns out we made pretty fast progress, and after not much more than an hour of hardcore sweating we were on the S summit of Monts Jovet. The view from the top was stunning, and best of all the couloir looked in really good shape. 


The guidebook talks about dropping in 20 metres below the summit, but the only tracks into the couloir had gone much lower. On the fairly safe assumption that whoever had been there last knew better than us, we followed their way in and were rewarded with an amazing ski. The top entrance is said to involve either an abseil or a short downclimb in crampons, but the lower way in means you ski straight in and only sacrifice 20 or 30 metres of skiing. 

Once in the couloir we had superb snow, which was occasionally crusty but generally light and fluffy all the way, resulting in some good whooping from both of us. The snow was never quite perfect enough that you could just let rip and go for it, but 99% of it was fantastic, and well worth the effort of getting there.

Me on the initial steep section. Photo Phil Ebert.

Me in the couloir. Photo Phil Ebert.

This section was probably the best snow we found. Photo Phil Ebert.

Lower down, in the trees. Photo Phil Ebert.

Once at the bottom, it was simply a case of skiing down to the car via the "exciting" track to Notre Dame de la Gorge, and driving home to tea, cake and a well earned shower.

At the foot of Monts Jovets after an awesome ski. Photo Phil Ebert.

It was Phil's birthday today, and to have a day as good as today (my favourite of winter so far) is a pretty good celebration. Happy Birthday Phil!