Outer adventures

Accelerating Time – Climbing Mode, Guides Exams And Breathing Thin Peruvian Air

After the season finale on Pain du Sucre a few weeks ago I totally switched to climbing mode for two weeks of intense training to get ready for our aspirant mountain guide exam. Every second day I was rock climbing and every second day up in the mountains practicing my short roping skills. It was a good and fun period spent in the mountains with good friends.

Then came the exam, which was our last aspirant exam after one and a half year worth of courses and tests. It was to become an intense week in the mountains around La Grave with beautiful traverses, ridges, snow climbs, long rock climbs and alpine ridges. Fortunately it went well and everyone in the group did an amazing job and passed the tests. Now we are all aspirant guides and are about half way through the Swedish UIAGM mountain guide education.

The day after the exam I would have loved to rest and relax after some hard weeks of training, but I just had to wash my clothes and repack my bags. The following day early in the morning I met up with Bjarne Salén and we went to Geneva airport to catch a flight to Lima, Peru.

We had the most effective journey I have ever experienced, and about 35 hours after I left my front door we were rolling in to Huaraz, the mountain capital of the Peruvian Cordillera Blancas.

Here we met with Aldo and Marco at Galaxia Expeditions, and they helped us out with accommodation and logistics for the area. The next day we were already bound for our first acclimatization trip to 5700 meter high Shaqsha.

We spent four days at around 5000meter with one failed attempt on a beautiful line on Shaqsha due to bad ski conditions. But the big objective of breathing thin air was accomplished and we really feel we are in a good phase so far on our little adventure.

Two days of rest has followed and it’s my first real rest days in over a month and now we are ready and motivated to go back in to the wild tomorrow. It’s always interesting to see how the body reacts to the altitude but I feel slightly positive so far and if just the ski conditions are on our side, then I hope to ski some beautiful lines before the month is over.

It’s great to be out on an adventure again with Bjarne and we are both looking forward with excitement to the weeks to come!

Season Finale On The North Face Of Pain Du Sucre

The north face of Pain du Sucre in Chamonix is one of my favorite ski lines in the world. It’s steep, it got a short approach, it goes in to a valley rarely visited in the winter, it’s difficult to get it in good conditions and important, it’s extremely beautiful. I skied it a few years back with Tobias Granath and Are Backstrom in really good conditions and I have since then always wanted to come back.

Bjarne Salén and myself have been trying to ski and film the line three times this winter, but have been let down by bad gut feelings, weather and conditions. It’s one of the most fun but also most frustrating things about difficult steep skiing: you have to time it perfectly.

This last Sunday, on our fourth try, we went for another attempt together with Samuel Anthamatten and with a film and photographer crew consisting of Guido Perrini, Tero Repo and Tim Burgess waiting at the heli base for our call.

The approach went fast and smooth and arriving at the top of the line we found perfect spring powder conditions awaiting us. We called the boys in the valley, clicked in to our skis, and then the action ball was rolling.

It’s one thing skiing this line by our selves, but it was totally unreal having the legendary Chamonix pilot Pascal Brun doing acrobatics with the heli around us making for some awesome film and photo material.

It was an amazing ski, and it really felt like we nailed it with getting it in the best conditions possible, sharing the experience with great people and then also getting it on tape for others to get a sneak peak in to our amazing mountain world.

Below are some screen grabs from Guido Perrini and Tim Burgess. Material will be released this autumn!

I’ll take this as a season finale. Now it’s time for a couple of weeks of summer, guide training and then I’m ready for a reset down south!

Thanks Sam, Bjarne, Tero, Guido, Tim and Pascal for an unreal day!


Ski Moments Of Ungraspable Perfection – Two Days On The North Face Of Aiguille Du Midi

Happiness is only relative to our expectations. That’s why I like to enter every ski adventure with low expectations and an open mind. Last weekend JP Auclair sent me a message saying he got the week free for skiing and that we should catch up. Weather did not look like it would be on our side, but I was still keen to just go out with him and Bjarne, and just have some good days up there among the clouds. Expectations were just to spend time with friends, drink coffee, maybe have a snus (Swedish tobacco) and then see what we could get up to. Of course, I still packed my bag with the long rope, crampons and the other mountain stuff maybe needed. I don’t mind skiing with a heavy pack if it widens the options for fun and safer adventure.

On Monday morning the Midi didn’t seem like it could make up its mind when it was going to open and we had a guest with us, so waiting for too long for things to change wasn’t an option. We went towards the Grand Montets with the aim of skiing some powder on the top section of the mountain. It had been raining down in the valley on and off for a few days, so I guessed the conditions up high was going to be really good, if we would be able to see something.

But arriving to the Grand Montets parking we realized everyone else had thought the same thing as us and the parking as full of cars. Knowing everyone would be stuck in the bottleneck of the top bin we quickly talked it through and decided to go to Aiguille du Midi instead, even if it would be for just having a coffee up high and then download if the weather or conditions weren’t on our side.

When we got back to town and Aiguille du Midi we got the third bin of the day and shared it with only five other skiers. Days like these this lift isn’t for anyone, as the easiest route down the mountain is going down one of the biggest glaciers in Europe, and the other ways would be graded from far above double black diamond slopes to some of the harder extreme skiing slopes in the world.

At the top we took our time figuring out the wind, visibility and the snow as well as the flow of the other skiers. In Chamonix you have to handle everything a high mountain environment demands of you – plus the flow of other skiers that can make your life easier by putting in the right tracks and testing certain slopes, but also worst by doing crazy things above you in situations when you would prefer to be alone.

Half a meter of sticky powder lay on the upper slopes and obviously I wanted to get out on the north face: a 1200 meter big steep-ski averaging 45 degrees with route finding, exposure, rappels and everything else making Aiguille du Midi the burliest ski lift in the world. The approach is zero meters uphill, and if you get this face in perfect conditions it can give you one of the biggest ski experiences of your life. It is just a perfect place for steep skiing. Media mainly gives attention to exposure, levels of difficulty on the paper, legends, new contrived lines and side-stepping where people (myself included) are getting out of ordeals alive, but spending time in this business I switch over more and more on how we can ski the best skiing you can possibly fantasize and find new ways and techniques of doing so for a long time in to the future.

One of the ways, I think, is to have an open mind for turning around but still go out to the limit and see how things feel – and do it with people with a similar mind set. No pressure of success, no blinding concepts or prejudices, just an open mind ready to go forward if reasonable and if the gut feeling says yes and likewise completely open to turn around if the risks doesn’t equal the rewards.

The week before, after the last snowfall I stood there at the top of the north face for ten minutes taking in all the signs and feelings that came to me. I wanted to go, but everything wasn’t right. We turned around and skied a shitty ski down the other side, but still content that I had followed my gut feeling.

Now, I stood there again, for a long time and the scale started to weight in to the action direction. Still, traversing a 45-degree slope with half a meter of powder and no safe spots with over 1000m of exposure below you is Russian roulette. Most people just go for it, it’s the tradition – but it’s never the less Russian roulette.

To get past, or at least minimizing the lottery we roped up and put a couple of bomber ice screws all the way to the ridge and did the traverse on running belays to the start of the real skiing.

From here we skied down the Eugster couloir in unbelievable powder conditions, totally alone, with no stress, great ambiance, sharing a ski experience that in retrospect is up there with some of the best one’s I’ve ever had.

No pride, no macho mentality, no stress and you know what? No fear during the whole day.

For me, this is the real art of steep skiing now days. I have for sure been part of the community pushing the limits the young gunz way, with crazy lines, fast variations and doubtable security during my inner search for something secretly hidden in the future. Now, my personal game has shifted to the challenge of how we can enjoy the best skiing that the planet can offer, take away the stress and the competition and do it for as long as life will be with us. Accidents still happen, and steep skiing will always be out there on the thin line, but that’s also what makes this activity so special and rewarding.

We are out there, on borrowed ground enjoying something so rare and beautiful that it’s not part of normal life, it’s out there as one of those things we are dreaming of – searching for… and a few times every year we get to go out there and take down the dreams from the sky, touch them for some moments and bring back the motivation to keep on dreaming when we get home.

All of this finally comes out from patience and an open mind. If we would have come to Midi that morning expecting magic, then that would maybe have been impossible to achieve just like in meditation the fruits can never be taken by force or expectation, they will only be given to those already content, open minded and relaxed.

The next day, knowing the conditions on the face, we had decided to go and have a look on the legendary Frendo spur on the central part of the face. I only know two people who have skied this line since Boivin and Giacomini opened it decades ago and that’s Francois Regis-Thevenet and Alex Pittin’s rare repeat from last year (it probably got a handful of repeats, but not many in the recent years, I leave it like that, it’s not my job to make history research). Watch their video below:

Frendo by François-Regis Thevenet from camille jaccoux on Vimeo.

I have skied the north face so many times that I have lost the count. If someone ask me I have said 30+ times, but I don’t really know. I used to lap Eugster, Mallory, Col de Plan and the West Couloir (only two times from the NF), but I had never skied the Frendo, that kind of is the last logical line down the face. So it was with great enthusiasm that I leaned into this day with JP and Bjarne.

At the top of the mountain we met UK skiers Ben Briggs and Tom Grant and we realized we had the same objective. Coming from having written the above the choice was clear, either we skied it together with a relaxed and “as safe as possible” mindset, or we would go and do something else. Ben and Tom being two of Britain’s best mountain skiers as well as all over great guys, we quickly agreed to share the experience and dropped in on the face as a team of five.

We used the rope to test the upper wind loaded slopes, did a rappel through the icefall, and then got hit by a proper snowstorm. We knew it was on its way, but no one thought it would come in that quick. But we put the upper part of the face behind us in reasonable time and reached the spur and relative safety before the upper face started sloughing too much. Well down on the spur, we could take our time, knowing it was all in our own hands. The wind was not that strong here either and we got to enjoy the skiing and the fact of just being in such an exceptional place.

From the spires at the end of the ridge we decided to rappel down straight from there instead of doing traversing rappels 50 meters further down. This adds about 60m of rappelling, but on bomber anchors following the weakness of the face and just makes the whole puzzle much more confortable. I feel like the steep skiing community has evolved so much in the last 3-4 years, that this route, especially with the falline anchors, deserve to become a modern classic. Now days it seems like the only challenge on the north face of Midi is to open it up and to be there alone, and I think that translate to the Frendo too with the ability of the skiers of today.

The lower slopes below the rappels served up with some really hard snow at the start that then got softer the lower down we came. Coming back to the mid station we luckily caught the last download for the day with the staff, as the storm and the foehn was closing down the lift.

Meeting with the different crews at the pavilion in the Chamonix Sud square I felt proud being a skier. Sitting there with beer, snus and cigarettes with some of the most passionate skiers on the planet, most of which had been skiing on the north face that day. Right then I felt like we skiers also have the same soul culture as I have found in the surfing and climbing world: People that, being there ignore all the negative of this world and totally dive in to that which might be indescribable but still gives us a reason to live on, to risk our life to a certain extent… something that makes us happy – Running to keep up with our passions like it was the last day of our lives.

Thanks Bjarne, JP, Ben and Tom for some great mountain experiences!
Also, read Ben’s blog post on the Frendo descent on his blog here.


It’s Finally Here – The Third And Last Lyngen Episode!

It’s finally here – The last and final third episode from our magical trip to the Lyngen Alps in Norway last April. After lots of hard work we finally got to charge some of the most beautiful lines in our lives!

Thanks to the Salén brothers for all the hard work and remember to check out the spiritual (in an non hippie way) skiing center – The Magic Mountain Lodge if you pass by this Mecca of ski touring and need a place to stay.

Also remember to check out more of Bjarne Salén’s kick ass movies at endlessflow.posterous.com.

Patagonia – The Second Half Of The Trip Plus The Patagonian Photo Album

After the ski of the Whillans Ramp and the Cerro Grande mission the weather went bad to half bad and we weren’t really invited to do out for any more big missions. We had done our main objective and we had been getting the feel for the Torre Valley as well as the Fitz Roy Massif and even though we had some smaller objectives left on our radar, we felt like we wanted to focus on smaller adventures close(er) to the roads as well as the kick ass bouldering around El Chaltén.
Swimming up an awesome couloir in the Cordon Del Bosque mountains together with Bjarne and team Austria
In between some bad weather cycles we got some dry days for bouldering with our local friends who were showing us some of the best blocks in the area followed by detailed beta for every move. We had a great time bouldering, and it’s great to keep at least a bit of physical shape when on a ski adventure playing the weather game.
Then we had the great luck of running in to Mathias, Chris and Marvin from Austria who were in El Chaltén on a combined Ski and Climbing trip and who happened to have a car. They invited us to join them, and together we explored the mountains north of town including a beautiful couloir in the Cordon del Bosque Mountains and normal ski touring on Cerro Vespignani and Loma del Diablo.
Now I’m back in Chamonix looking back on another beautiful adventure with Bjarne. I’m really impressed and intimidated in a positive way by the Fitz Roy and Cerro Torre mountains, their size, their steepness, the long approaches and how wild they are. It’s not an easy place to go skiing steep descents, and there are not many high quality lines, but the ones that are there will keep future generations of steep skiers busy for some time. I’m also very impressed by our new local friends who invited us to their homes, pointed us in the right directions, gave us their time and knowledge, showed us around town and the boulder sites and in short were just awesome individuals living in an amazing place enjoying life (no one mentioned, no one forgotten – but you know who you are).
Part of the plan with the trip was to gather material for two new episodes that, if everything goes as planned, will be released in December. Till then, stay posted on what I do here on this blog or on my Twitter or Facebook.
Also keep an eye out for Bjarne Salén’s great episodes at his Video Blog or Facebook.
Now it’s time for me to prepare for another winter of skiing, climbing, guide courses and writing around Chamonix and elsewhere. 
Below is a selected photo album from our Patagonia trip. 
Bjarne in Madrid
El Calafate
Without our ski bags. We got them after three days.
Poincenot and Fitz Roy in the sun rise on our first day
I quickly had to give up vegetarianism with only two restaurants open in town…
Bjarne on our first recognacance trip
The down side of ski expeditions
The tyrolian traverse gives access to the Torre Valley
Seeing mighty Cerro Torre
A poster in the climbing gym. Love it!
The El Chaltén boulder room
On our way to Laguna los Tres, and the Ramp mission
Seeing Poincenot and the ramp from up close
Bjarne skiing above camp on our first day
Sunrise on our way up to the ramp
Bjarne giving thumbs up before i start to climb. He just belayed me over the bergschrunds…
Skiing high up on the Whillans Ramp
The view from the ramp
Poincenot, the ramp and Fitz Roy from when we walked out the following day
Patagonian wildlife
A dream come true, to see a Condor
Happy boys in our Cave
Walking in to Cerro Grande
Bjarne in the early morning
The north couloir on Cerro Grande, a no go
Skiing high up on the east ridge of Cerro Grande
Bjarne skiing on our way down from the plateau
Bjarne Salén in action
Our cosy Hilleberg house
Myself at camp
Myself skiing a steepish couloir on Loma del Diablo
Bjarne, Simon and myself at Loma del Diablo
Bjarne blouldering
Some of the great people we met in town
Macho and Simon playing
Me at local radio… Getting interviewed in Spanish..
Das Auto del Team Austria
Our mission
Bjarne, Chris, Mathias and Marvin at Lago del Desierto
A cold river crossing
The team
Marvin in the couloir
Rapping to get down the gully at the end of the day
Ski touring on Vespignani
The filmer can also deliver!
One of our last boulder sessions before we went home….

Patagonian Adventure Part 3 – Failure And Success On Cerro Grande

We have travelled to the other side of the world to do create an adventure.
I talked earlier about the analogy of a good adventure and a high jump competition where, if you aim high, there is a big risk you walk away with nothing. On this trip we have aimed high in our goals and we have failed in most of our objectives – except, luckily, the biggest one on the Whillans ramp over at Poincenot.
Skiing on the East Ridge of Cerro Grande, Cerro Torre Massif, Argentina
On our last little excursion Sunday, Monday and Tuesday, we walked in once again to the Torre valley to try to ski the most beautiful line we have spotted there – the north face of Cerro Grande.
The walk in took us nine long hours with heavy packs. Then we pitched our tents on the glacier, ate some, slept some, ate some more and then left for the mountain at 4:30 AM.
Refrozen breakable crust awaited us in the dark on the steep slopes on the side of the highly crevassed glacier. It was impossible to walk with the skins, it was way too slippery, and instead we had to boot pack 1000 meters in the boot deep crust.
At nine something we made it up to the plateau under the north face of Cerro Grande. We got welcomed by a really beautiful face in great conditions, but after my mind game at the Whillans ramp a couple of days earlier I got a bit intimidated by the seemingly really steep face. I used to think that anything with snow is easily skiable, but after our last adventure I wasn’t that sure anymore.
When coming closer though, I could see that this face was like any other – just a steep and easily skiable ski run – and all my fears for steepness disappeared.
Another thing worried me though, and that was the warmth. It was really warm this early, and almost no wind. Warmth in the mountains when you are there to ski, is usually not a good sign, at least not when you have snow covered rock faces and ice mushrooms above you.
Bjarne followed me up the face to the bergschrund, but during our half hour climb, ice and rocks started to fall down the mountain with higher and higher intensity.
I wanted to ski this line so badly, but we had no other choice than to turn around.
In the mountains you have to have a great up-craving to get anywhere, but you also have to turn around when your gut feeling or your intellect tells you it’s a no-go.
The friction that the craving to fulfill an idea and real mountain sense creates – it´s one of the most painful feelings I know of in the mountains. When you are there it hurts, but when you come home you’re proud you didn’t “fail upwards”.
Usually it goes well even though you know you should have turned around, but inside of you, you know you were playing the game of fluke.
I have learnt that you have to nourish both sides of the coin: both the “up-craving” and the will to run away, because it’s the balanced dance these two are dancing that creates the power for accomplishment and the will to persevere.
At the bottom of the mountain we sat down and had lunch. We had walked a long way to get here and we were not able to live this beautiful experience that was waiting for us.
After this quick stop we walked around to the east side and Bjarne, once again followed me over the bergschrund and then skied over to a spot on the plateau for filming. I climbed the East Ridge as high as I found snow, about 50 vertical meters under the summit, and then skied down this line. I found some really technical passages, but nothing that raised the pulse, and in the end I had a great ski down one of the most beautiful mountains in the massif.
The next day was even warmer and we walked back to town. In the end we got 16 hours of walking there and back for about 2200 vertical meters of skiing (Bjarne about 1500m).
I’m really impressed by the mountains here. They are definitely the wildest low mountains I have ever encountered. It doesn’t feel like it’s made for steep skiing as it’s so rough and wild, but there are definitely lines here for the coming generations to enjoy!
The last two days we have just rested in town and been exploring the bouldering potential. Tomorrow is another ski day, but this time close to the road.
The lack of photos here lately is only due to extremely slow Internet. We got plenty of photos, but if would take days to upload. 🙂

Patagonian Realizations – Skiing the Whillans Ramp on Poincenot

Skiing the Whillans ramp on Poincenot, Cerro Fitzroy massif, Argentina. Photo: Bjarne Sahlén

Last Wednesday Bjarne Salén and myself walked in towards the Fitzroy massif from El Chaltén. After about 5 hours we arrived at Laguna Los Tres and pitched our tent. From there we skinned up about 600 meters to get some good skiing and check the conditions. We found great snow conditions and skied down to our tent in the sunset.

The next day we woke up early and started skinning in the dark and about five hours later we arrived at the Whillans ramp on Poincenot. The weather was ok, but far from perfect with really hard winds, and clouds coming and going.
I changed to crampons and ice axes and started up the ramp in powder varied with breakable crust. It was steep from beginning to end and always slanting out towards the huge cliffs below. It was so steep and unstable ground that I didn’t feel like I could stop and relax so when I found a belay one forth up I clipped my self in and backed it up with another nut. In my mind I imagined a rappel there just as a back up on the way down.
Then I continued traversing to the left. At one point I was climbing on slabs with only 20 cm of snow on top. This was the scariest moment. But I came trough and the upper section eased of a tinny bit from extremely steep (for skiing) to just really steep. I continued up to the top of the field and then built a platform with my ice axe to put my skis on.
Bjarne had told me to talk to the camera and describe my feelings on the way up and down. I realized, that if you are able to talk to the camera, then it’s not that difficult. I only managed to take one photo and put on the Go Pro– then I set of.
It was a wonderful feeling mixed with plain fear. The skiing is always skiing, and not that complicated, but I was concerned about the traverse with the rocky slabs with far from perfect snow lower down.
When I got there I hit steps with my pole in front of me, held on with the ice axe on my left side and traversed slowly forward. It took time, but I never lost control. It was really steep. When I got down to the anchor I clipped myself in and by a reflex I started rappelling, but realizing this was much easier than what I had just skied I stopped after 15 meters and skied/side stepped the last part down, and then climbed back above the seracs and skied all the way down to Bjarne. 
For me, there is not even a pre made trail to follow when it comes to reacting on what I just did. I don’t know if I should feel pride, joy or shame. What happened was simply something that occurred and something I had to do in my inner world of adventures.
Skiing on the upper snowfield on the Whillans ramp
I don’t see the point in repeating something dangerous when you have already reaped the rewards, and I can’t see any more rewards coming out from this trail, so therefore I feel it’s highly unlikely I would do something like this again.
It’s arguable if skiing on this level is skiing anymore and as I sidestepped about half the run I wouldn’t call it very stylish. On the other hand, in my reality, in these conditions I would be extremely impressed if someone would ski the whole thing with “style”, and although surely possible it would be a game with very low odds of success trying to do turns where I could barely get my skis to stick while sidestepping.
For me this whole business comes down to two things: where does extreme skiing stand as a sport within the skiing game and how are we supposed to judge anything that is done in the mountains? 
I sometimes look with disgust at the subjectivity of my own sport. That is, of course, only when I lower my self to judge what others are doing in the mountains. For me the question howhas always been more important than the question what. In other words, it has always been more important how a line has been skied than which line that was skied. Doing stylish turns was always more worthy than sidestepping the line. Down in the valley it can sound like two different persons skied a line when one did it with big turns in a fast time and the other sidestepped the whole thing in a day.
But when we are arguing about these things we have kind of lost the thin red line of purpose in the first place.  If we are thinking of these things, then there is a risk that we are playing this game for others and not for ourselves. Is it worth risking your life to make others think you are cool, a great skier, have courage, are a great alpinist or something else?
American freeskiing legend, Doug Coombs, used to state that: “The best skier is the one who have the most fun”!
I think he was on to something here, but I like to modify the statement to: “The best skiers are the ones following their own path”, or; “The best skiers are skiing with heart”.
For me, skiing and what we do in the mountains is beyond fun, it’s a way of living with all the up’s and down’s life includes. Sometimes I’m full of joy and sometimes I’m feeling down and sometimes I’m not feeling at all. Life is just what happens to be everyday, of course it’s the way I made it, and I’m a skier, so I go up there on the mountain and make my turns. It can be as simple as that. Skiing with heart, then, means that I’m truly up there on the peaks skiing because that’s what I happen to love to do, what comes out of the day comes out – let it be any possible feeling I could think of.
Skiing becomes the platform from which I live my life. Obviously one can change skiing to something else – like, surfing, yoga, climbing or what else?
Doing things with heart also means that you sometimes do things you can’t explain – Like skiing a really difficult line because you feel it will add something to your life.
I had been looking at skiing the ramp on Poincenot for years and at the same time I have, since I started skiing, been looking for a line that would demand the best out of me. You have to be very fortunate to find this right combination of variables coming together on one spot at one time and then happen to be ready to face the situation.
Skiiing the Whillans ramp on Poincenot
The mountain has to be formed in a perfect way making for difficult skiing, but easy enough to be possible to ski. The snow conditions have to be just right as well as the timing and the weather. If you happen to be on an expedition and you don’t live at this spot, then you have to be very lucky to just happen to be there when it all comes together.
You also have to be ready in your mind and be ready to face your inner demons and the consequences of your actions. This might be the hardest.
This whole thing was just something I had to go through to get past my folly of looking for limits. Blake said:
“Let the fool persist in his folly and he will become wise”.
I will by all means not pretend to be wise, but I have been living for skiing my whole life and I have always been looking for this border that I just come this far to find.
250 vertical meters of snow, ice and rock might seem insignificant, but like anything in life, if the timing is right it can also be magic because enchantments sees no limits.
For me this was magic and I got what I came for. I understand the different feelings people get from this but be aware: If you start looking down judging what others do, first look in to your own life and all your own little battles. We are all here to learn, and it might just not be so, that reality is built up exactly like you where thought in school. 

For more info and updates follow myself and Bjarne Salén on the following:
Twitter: @ndreasfransson