Wednesday 27 February 2013

Col du Passon

With good weather forecast indefinitely, it is almost a shock to the system to see day after day of blue sky right now in Cham. Deciding to make the most of it, Peter, Damien, Sarah and I set out for a tour over the Col du Passon, and the biggest shock was the cold! Blue sky clearly does not equal warmth in February...


Luckily things warmed up for the skin, and we were rewarded for our perseverance with a fantastic ski down. The normal way was pretty tracked out, but Peter knows a secret spot and it delivered big time. He has sworn me to secrecy, completely defying the point of a blog, but the photos are nice!

Sun, sun, sun is the forecast right now so I'm off to make the most of it!

Saturday 23 February 2013

Video Blog 6

Since doing the Trappier a few days ago I've been taking things slightly slower, and have done a few laps down the Plan de L'Aiguille, and a run down the N Couloir of the Aiguille de L'M in some amazing powder with Will. Unfortunately the visibility was non existent so we didn't quite manage to find a good way out and ended up pioneering a new descent which somehow brought us out above Les Planards after some fairly "exciting" tree skiing.... Still, a good adventure was had.

Here is video blog number 6, and thanks as ever to Toby and Rachel at Seven Twenty Productions for a great edit.

Thursday 21 February 2013

Trappier Couloir, Aiguille du Gouter

The weather continues to (just about) hold here in Cham, so Matt, Peter, Will and I decided to go and check out the Trappier Couloir above Les Houches. This is a legendary line, which has a pretty serious and avalanche prone approach, and offers a huge 35 degree descent back to town. I'd tried the line once before but turned back due to avalanche danger on the approach, and I'd always been keen to go back. The problem was that I wanted to be sure that it was in condition, and preferably know that someone had skied it already. We were all pretty confident that conditions would be good, and then word filtered through that steep skiing legend Glen Plake had skied the line yesterday, so we were on.

The approach starts from the Bellevue cable car, and winds up along the Tramway du Mont Blanc line, before branching off into a bowl and across to a pretty exposed shoulder. The bowl itself seemed OK, but it feels dangerous for some reason, and we spread out to cross it and were relieved to reach the far side.

Looking back at the Les Houches ski area

The lads on the skin up the first bowl

Will at the end of the dodgy feeling traverse

Having done the bowl and the shoulder, there is a short bootpacking section which turned me round the last time I'd tried the Trappier, but this time the snow was firm and the bootpack already established.

Will approaching the handy ladder at the end of the bootpack

Finally into the sun after a cold first couple of hours

The Trappier Couloir is named after Pierre Trappier, who made the first descent in 1982 and I'm told then went on to ski the line every year thereafter. Unfortunately he and his wife were killed whilst climbing the bootpacking section in 2008, and this plaque has been installed to commemorate them.

After the bootpack there is another hour or so of skinning, and then you arrive in a spectacular spot to start skiing.

Will at the start of the ski

Peter at the shoulder where you take skins off and start the descent

Looking into the couloir from the top, with the Aiguille du Midi behind.

Will making his first turns

Despite appearances from above (it looked epic), the snow was actually pretty variable, and whilst there was some good powder, there was more windcrust. As we got lower the quality improved, and we found some great snow in the bottom half of the line, but overall it wasn't classic. However, the whole feel of the Couloir is incredible, and the atmosphere is pretty amazing, so snow quality isn't the be all and end all on this run. 

Matt on the lower section

And Peter

Will in the trees low down

I'm not convinced that we found the correct exit!

Despite the not so great snow, we all felt that the Trappier is a fantastic adventure through some very impressive scenery. However, the approach and the Couloir itself both need to be very stable in order for this to be a good objective. If you didn't know the way or didn't have a track to follow the route finding would be really tough, and it would feel pretty serious all round. I've wanted to do this line for 4 years and have only just got it done, so don't do it until it's right - it's worth the wait.

Monday 18 February 2013

Couloir Pissoir

Today was supposed to be an easy day....

With the weather holding and energy levels high, Peter, Matt, Damo and I decided to go and check out the Couloir Pissoir above Trient. For reasons unknown to us, the guidebook says that you start in Trient, but a quick look at the map shows that it is much easier to ride the lifts at Le Tour and skin up from the top of the Col de Balme chairlift to the Col d'Autannes. The crux of the day may well have been surviving this section to be honest, as the temperature on the lifts was hovering around the level required for hell to freeze over! Being extremely tough mountain men, we barely noticed it though.

Once off the chairlift we skinned up towards the Col d'Autannes, and I was amazed by how much untouched powder there was above Le Tour, all waiting for anyone willing to skin for 20 or 30 minutes. The Col d'Autannes is quite a bit further than that, but I was once again taken aback at just how much terrain there is up there. There were quite a lot of tracks, but still masses of untouched powder, so I may well be back soon. 

Skinning up towards the Col d'Autannes, with Mont Blanc and Chamonix Valley behind

3 guys skiing below the Pointe des Berons (above the Col d'Autannes). Not sure I would have skied over the big blind roll that they did, but the snow looked good.

After a quick lunch stop on top of the Col, we climbed up to the Glacier des Grands, before traversing this to the top of the Pissoir. 

Looking back across the Glacier des Grands, with Mont Buet's N face looking in good condition behind.

Once at the top of the Couloir we were relieved to see that half a dozen or so people had already dropped in and made sure that it wasn't going to avalanche. It looked pretty solid but it's always nice when you don't have to go first.

Damo checking out the entrance

Having negotiated the steep entrance, the Couloir just goes on and on, and whilst the top section was almost perfect powder with the occasional wind crust, the lower section was completely perfect, mind blowing powder which took us all the way down to the Trient Valley. Here's the proof - 

Damo, taking it nice and slow as ever

 Peter shredding his new fat skis

Matt The Alpine Clown looking pretty rubbish, but the view of the Trient Glacier was nice so I stuck the photo in.

The best descent of the season so far? Certainly top 3 - this is a fantastic line, and although you need to make sure that it is safe avalanche wise (it's a pretty big funnel with a cliff underneath), if you get it in good condition it is mind blowing. I think I may well do it again this season, as I saw a video of people doing it in May and finding perfect spring snow and it looked awesome then too. 

So, 1200m of ascent today, 1400m yesterday, and Will Eaton is now back in town and psyched. This can only mean one thing - another mission tomorrow. My poor legs.

Sunday 17 February 2013

Les Marecottes & Quatre Tetes

With the sun suddenly appearing for the first time in ages, I made sure that I was well rested and ready for some powder. To get things underway Sharon and I headed over to the small Swiss resort of Les Marecottes, which is said to be quiet but superb, a bit like Bruson (which I went to a week or so ago). The best way to get there is park at Finhaut (just over the Swiss border) and then get the train to the resort, and with this being Switzerland the whole thing was very smooth and efficient, and we were on the lifts less than an hour after parking up at the train station. 

Once there I was blown away by the terrain, but it quickly became obvious that the best stuff was accessed by touring, and that without good local knowledge it may not be easy to find. Still, we found some great skiing and bootpacked up the odd bit here and there to access short couloirs and faces, all surrounded by the most incredible views. Overall I was slightly disappointed by Marecottes, but I'd love to get all the beta and go back for some touring. It was a great day, but no Bruson I'm afraid.

Random guy shredding under the even more random "trip" sign

For those about to send....

Oh for a bit of local knowledge...

Looking back at Mont Blanc

Me in the powder having bootpacked up in waist deep snow

Today I teamed up with a big group to go and check out the Quatre Tetes, a 2300m peak above Sallanches. The tour starts at 970m, so it's quite a slog up, but having finally got to the top we had a fantastic ski down the N face, in perfect, deep powder. Happy times.

On the final ridge

Looking back at the skin track

The crew, minus me

And now for some ski porn - 

Nearly home

The weather looks to be holding for at least one more day, so I'll be out again tomorrow - stay posted!

Friday 15 February 2013

Video Blog 5

Thanks as ever to Toby and Rach at Seven Twenty Productions for another great edit!

Thursday 14 February 2013

Petit Croisse Baulet & lift skiing

Still unsettled weather here in Cham - am I sounding like a broken record?!?!

However, bad weather does mean precipitation so I've found good snow on the Grand Montets and Vallee Blanche, and some not so good stuff at Flegere. Win some lose some.

Ferg on the VB

Sharon below the Dent du Geant

Matt styling it up

Lunch at the Requin!

The one sunny day this week saw Sharon, Caroline and I head over to Megeve for a bit of touring. I'd heard that for a small skin, the Petit Croisse Baulet provides an excellent ski and so we went over to check it out, and to hopefully hoover up some lift served powder too. A spanner was firmly thrown into the works though when the sun hadn't come out by the time we topped out, and as a result we dropped into a world of tight trees and riverbeds!

The top section was excellent, but the lower section was hard going, and the worst part was that the weather cleared after we'd got back into the lift system, and we could see perfect tracks down perfect snow about 50 metres from where we'd gone! Bugger. Still, a good day was had and I'm super keen to go back and check out some of the peaks I scoped out from the Megeve lift system.

Earning the turns

AWESOME view from here!

Nice mellow powder on the way down

Me hunting the good stuff

What is that!?! I saw so many awesome looking lines from Megeve, and my head has been buried in guidebooks ever since, but this one stood out. You'll have to wait until I've done it before I reveal a name though :)

Believe it or not, there is rumoured to be good weather on the way. Much as I love getting lots of snow, I'm pretty keen to get some more stable conditions, so hopefully next week may see them arrive.