Monday, January 31st, 2011
Aiguille Mesure couloir south-west – a beautiful day, great ski mountaineering, some good skiing and a possible first decent…
Up Brevent, pist skiing over to Flegere, a traverse over to Lac Blanc, then up the alternative finish on Col Beugeant, down on the other side in boot deep pow for a few turns, traverse over to Col de Encrenaz, keep on going and up right in the next couloir, when the snow ends traverse left (grade 3 rock climbing – loose rock) to another couloir, climb this one to the top, traverse over a steep rocky face to the south west couloir on Mesure, say hello to a family of Ibexes, click in to your skis, ski some great corn down to a big cliff band, down climb this for a few meters, keep on skiing great snow to a second cliff band, try to set up a rappel, finally succeed with this and end up in another couloir, ski this one down to avalanche cone heaven, survive down to the little track at the bottom of the valley, follow this one all the way down to Buet, miss the train by 2 min, get a hitch on your first try and get back to Cham in time for dinner.
That’s my day today. Felix saw this line earlier this week doing Mt Oreb and after some talking and planning it seemed to be a line treating with a great ski mountaineering adventure. Up and down, skins, skis and crampons on and off, off and on, line checking, rock climbing, a bit of nerve, a meeting with a family of ibexes, great skiing and some problem solving. And then, we haven’t seen any trace of skiing activity on this face (or in any guide book) giving the day an extra nerve that post information cant take away from us. Again a great day on the mountain…
First couloir of the day
Skiing some good snow with our coming ascent in the background
Felix Hentz finds great snow
End of the climbing
Close to the top
Just about to do the first turns
Excellent spring skiing
Our tracks from the approach
Going down the last rock band
Friday, January 21st, 2011
Couloir Jager, Mt Blanc du Tacul – A fun but very cold adventure…
With the high pressure and the cold holding Chamonix in a steady grip its not to easy to find things to do in the mountains. The cold and the wind are transforming the snow fast and even though ice conditions up high are great its not to fun sitting shaking on a belay waiting for your climbing partner to rock n roll. I decided with my friend Morgan to try something fun we can do fast (he had to work at 3 and it was supposed to be cold) that looks in shape before the cold have changed back the spring conditions to raging winter again. We knew that whatever we choose to do would include a bit of suffering, but we thought it was better than staying down in the valley doing nothing.
So we went for the Jager couloir on Mt Blanc du Tacul. The staff at Midi told us it was around -30C in the morning plus a bit of wind. Skiing to the base of the couloir from the lift station went fast, but we must have looked pretty funny trying our best to cover our faces from the cold. Once there we skinned up for ten minutes before we put our skis on the backpacks and roped up for the massive bergschrund. We found two old ski tracks in the couloir showing us that others already had fun here this season. I’m guessing they had a bit better conditions than us.
The climb up went alright, but not as fast as I had hoped. I climbed with three layers and a down jacket as fast as I could but still couldn’t get warm. I regularly had to stop to warm up my hands, definitely slowing down the ascent. But it was soon over. We skipped the mixed climbing at the top and put on our skis to get back to the sun and the warmth.
The snow was fairly hard, obviously cold and chalky creating lot of friction on the skis making it quiet tricky to ski. But the Jager couloir is not very steep making it a pleasant ski even in not so great conditions.
Morgan came back to work in good time and we had a fun day together on the mountain.
On the way up
Morgan Sahlén rocking
Couloir Jager with our tracks
Tuesday, January 18th, 2011
Col de l’Aiguille Verte – direct
The adventure of the day for me was again set to the Argentiere basin. Col de l’Aiguille Verte has been looking really filled in, specially for being January, so I took a chance and went there today with filmer Bjarne Sahlen. He belayed me over the bergschrund and then stayed in the valley filming and taking pictures.
It was excellent conditions with chalky snow that’s easy to climb and great to ski. My plan was to do the normal route climbing the face in the middle and then traverse lookers right on the upper snowfields in to a hidden (on the picture) couloir. I have done it two years a go with David Rosenbarger and we had a great and steep run, but I have for years been looking at the direct line to the col to the right of the hanging glacier. Today the face was even more filled in than last time and I started talking to Bjarne on the radio while I was climbing. He thought he saw a kind of filled in line all the way to the top. It still was fairly thin, but it was better than I ever seen it so I thought I had to give it a try.
Col de l’Aiguille Verte is famous for being steep, but I got amazed on how much steeper the direct line where. Small and thin snow patches where quickly leading me to the top of the run, but I also had a hard time understanding if it was going to be possible to ski slopes as steep like that. I could feel the ice underneath the snow with my crampons for every step and was making sure to put my track in where I could find best snow coverage so I would have something to follow on the way down.
There where a couple of hard cruxes on the way down combined with really steep turns in good chalk snow. I had to do two short rappels over ice bulges and also about fifty meters of sidestepping where the snow was just to hard or to thin. Because of that I wouldn’t say I did a clean decent, but I had a great experience from a good challenge and I’m happy to ski a line like this early in the season.
The Line (Photo: Bjarne Sahlen)
Me skiing, the little dot in the right hand upper corner (Photo: Bjarne Sahlen)
Looking up the face
View over the Mt Blanc range from the summit
Taking a rest in the fog