Monday 15 December 2014

Tête du Pré des Saix

Despite the stubborn refusal of winter to make an appearance this year, I was determined to get out over the weekend. Sharon and I took a punt on there being some snow in the Flaine area and drove up to have a look.

We were pleased when we got past Les Carroz to find that we could start from the Les Molliets car park, at 1400 metres, instead of needing to carry on up higher to reach the snow line, and from there we decided to go for the Tête du Pré des Saix. So far so good.

The first sign of winter that I've seen this year!

The skin was enjoyable but we were both pretty worried about the lack of snow, the cover being so thin that there were several long sections we weren't even sure we'd be able to ski on the way down. 

A very dry Vernant Valley.

Sharon nearing the summit.

Just below the top, with a great view of the Mont Blanc Massif.

The wind was howling when we got to the top so we didn't hang around but we were there long enough to notice that the snow cover looked much better on the back side of the peak. The pistes had clearly been bashed quite a bit and they looked much more appealing than the rock and grass we'd been skinning up so we decided to follow our noses back to the car. It turned out to be pretty easy to find our way back and we linked some really nice pistes with some cruisy, slushy off piste and generally had a really fun time. 

Me loving the view.

Nearly home.

Overall we managed to have a really good day but there's no getting round the fact that this is an extremely dry start to winter. It looks like there might be some snow coming mid-week but generally it's looking a bit bleak. I chatted to one of the top men at Chamonix ESF last night, who's lived here his whole life, and he assured me that, "it will come - it always comes". Hope he's right!

Friday 12 December 2014


It's been a busy old couple of weeks for me (unfortunately not due to me doing lots of amazing skiing) hence the lack of blogging. However, I've taken some interesting photos recently and also received an email with the best photos that Ben Tibbetts got when me and him were out last week with Tom Grant so I figured I'd stick them up here.

So, for no particular reason, here are some cool photos -

The man, the myth, the legend, Adam Ondra watching some amazing climbers not being as good at climbing as he is, at the La Sportiva Legends Only Competition in Stockholm. I had a go at doing one of the competition problems with some expert tuition (this is a horrendous name drop) from Alex Megos, of onsighting 9a fame, and couldn't do the first move, despite his assurance that it was "easy". I guess all things are relative.

Me and Tom Grant bootpacking towards the Breche du Carabinier. 

Photo by Ben Tibbetts ( &

Tom showing me how it's done. Photo Ben Tibbetts.

Me and Tom skiing. We set off at the same time from the couloir above on the right and as you can see, Tom has already reached the bergschrund while I am on turn number 4! 
Photo Ben Tibbetts.

Me and Tom skinning. Photo Ben Tibbetts. 

A couple of days after skiing the Carabinier, Sharon and I went over to Morocco for a quick 5 day adventure and had an amazing time. They've got a lot more snow over there than we have in the Alps right now!

It's amazing the places that Google Maps sends you! We sacked off the smartphone and went back to good old map reading shortly after taking this.

It's worth getting a bit lost to see this sunset over the Atlantic.

I'm off for a couple of ski tours this weekend but can't say I'm that optimistic about conditions. It's always nice to be out in the hills so I'm sure a good time will be had despite the lack of snow.
I'll report back here on Monday with what I find.

Friday 5 December 2014

Breche du Carabinier

There's still no sign of any more snow here in Cham and I'd mentally filed skiing away for a few weeks. That was, of course, until Tom Grant turned up with his usual enthusiasm and convinced me to head out. I haven't been out in the hills with Tom anything like as much as I'd like over the past year so I didn't really take much convincing.

He'd skied the Gervasutti Couloir on the Tour Ronde with Ben Tibbetts yesterday and reported good conditions (but then he always does!) and was keen for a return trip. Ben confirmed that the snow had been really good and was also up for another day out so the 3 of us headed through the Mont Blanc Tunnel and rode the Helbronner up.

The visibility wasn't up to much initially but we stuck with it and got a really nice pitch of cruisy snow leading down to where you put skins on, underneath the Aiguille de Toule. 

Looking across to the Midi.

Ben at the start of the skin.

From there, we decided that actually we were keener on doing the Breche du Carabinier, next to the Grand Capucin. I'd skied this back in March and knew how good it was, plus we saw some guys breaking trail up it, which would significantly ease our passage.

The skin over was easy enough and the bootpack went smoothly but we decided to branch off left just before reaching the Breche, taking a thinner couloir instead. I stopped not far up this as the section above looked like terrible snow and although Ben and Tom carried on briefly, they soon headed back down having found even worse snow above.

The ski down was.....interesting. The odd patch of good snow was mixed with plenty of awful crust but the lower section was just about OK and provided a few fun turns. Overall, not classic but it was just amazing to be back out in the hills on skis, especially with such high quality banter flowing all day! 

Tom Grant doing what Tom Grant does.

Me loving being out in the hills, with the Grand Capucin towering behind. 

Tom and Ben post-ski.

Snow forecast from Tuesday onwards, stay tuned!