Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Col du Diable, Macho Couloir

I headed out for some more steep skiing today, with Italian snowboarder Luca Pandolfi. From below the east face of Mont Blanc du Tacul we climbed up the Capucin Couloir, which is between the Petit Capucin and the Grand Capucin. That brought us to the Breche du Carabinier, and from there the Macho Couloir climbs up to the Col du Diable. The snow was good, and the scenery was spectacular. Some Alps skiing porn:

The Grand Capucin and Petit Capucin - some real nice rock:

Luca climbing up the Macho Couloir, with the Petit Capucin below:

Arriving at the Col du Diable:

The view to the west! From left to right, Aiguille Blanche de Peuterey, Grand Pilier d'Angle, Mont Blanc, and Mont Maudit:

3, 2, 1... dropping!

Schralping the gnar, with the Petit Capucin and Grand Capucin below:

Luca with the Grand Capucin behind:

Monday, April 20, 2009

Midi North Face Ski Descents

New snow finally came to the Chamonix valley, so I've switched back to ski mode for the past few days. I had the pleasure to ski a couple lines on the North Face of the Aiguille du Midi with Swedish ski badass, Andreas Fransson. After checking out the snowpack with a descent of the Ronde, we dropped into the North Face to ski the Eugster Couloir, which I had made a reconnaissance ascent of a couple days earlier. Even with three short rappels (15m, 30m, 10m), it was the most serious ski descent that I have done. Trying to keep up with Andreas didn't give me much time to take photos, but I did manage to snap a few:

Traversing onto the top of the North Face:

Andreas at the first, short rappel, just below where the Eugster and Mallory diverge:

Looking back up the lower portion of the Eugster couloir. Below this section were two small, but mandatory hucks:

Andreas at the Aiguille du Midi midstation, before heading back up for a solo descent of the Mallory route, in not so ideal conditions. The French guy to the right made three speed-riding descents of the North Face of the Col du Plan this day:

The next day Andreas made a solo ski descent of the West Couloir with the direct start from the North Face, and then I came up to join him for a descent of the North Face of the Col du Plan. The Col du Plan was much less serious than the Eugster - mostly powder skiing with one 60m rappel. However, in the exit couloir Andreas opted to huck a rocky constriction that I cautiously downclimbed. Upon landing, his ski popped off, and he fell into the rocky wall of the couloir, dislocating his shoulder, splitting open his eyebrow, and giving himself a concussion - Injuries are a bummer, but still it's quite impressive that he skied 4 lines on the North Face of the Midi in two days!

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Midi North Face Climb

I had planned to attempt a solo today of the Supercouloir on Mont Blanc du Tacul, but arriving at the top of the Aiguille du Midi in the midst of strong wind and clouds, I decided it would be imprudent. So I took the telepherique back down to the Plan de l'Aiguille, left my backpack with the lifties, and headed out to climb a line on the North Face of the Aiguille du Midi.

Stormy weather and spindrift, with the telepherique cables above:

Argh. I certainly made the right call about Supercouloir, but it was imprudent to not bring sunglasses or goggles on the Midi North Face:

Looking down the upper slopes of the Mallory route, with Chamonix visible below:

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Aiguille d'Argentiere

Yesterday I joined Maxime Turgeon and another Quebecois friend of his, Nick, for a ski tour off the Aiguille d'Argentiere. We skinned and climbed up the Glacier du Milieu, and skied down the Barbey Couloir to the Saleina Glacier, and eventually through the Fenetre du Tour to get back down to Le Tour.

Max skinning up the Glacier du Milieu:

On the summit of the Aiguille d'Argentiere, with an excellent view across the Argentiere Glacier:

The very first turns into the Barbey Couloir are pretty steep, but then it mellows out:

Looking toward the east from the upper Barbey Couloir. The Matterhorn was visible a few minutes before:

Nick dropping in:

We were baking in the sun all day long. Max rehydrating upon arriving at Le Tour:

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Les Doites, Le Ginat Solo

The predicted storm front keeps getting pushed back in the weather forecast, so today was another nice day with good climbing conditions. I headed back up the North Face of Les Doites, for a solo of the Ginat route. When I spent a winter in Chamonix three years ago I thought a lot about soloing Le Ginat but never had the combination of confidence and good conditions - so it was nice to finally act on the idea. I caught the first bin up Les Grands Montets, crossed the bergshrund at 10:17am, and reached the top of the route at the Breche des Doites at 1:43pm, which felt like good time to me. However, I should have brought skis instead of a rope, as the descent couloir could be down-climbed very reasonably (I made three 30m raps just because I had the rope with me), and the descent to Montenvers without skis was very frustrating in the slushy snow. Fortunately, after a lot of "jogging" through the slush, and wading waist-deep through a glacial pond, I made the last train from Montenvers.

The North Face of Les Doites:

Looking up from mid-way up the central icefield:

At the top of the central icefield, about to start the real pitches:

Looking up the mixed pitch, which is currently quite easy:

Some ice higher up:

The last steep pitch, which I thought was the crux of the route, partly because it was steeper (vertical for maybe 3 meters), but mostly because the ice was more brittle:

Looking down from above the steep section:

Looking toward Mont Blanc from the Breche des Doites:

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Torres Traverse Slideshow

If you happen to be in Chamonix, and have an interest in Patagonian climbing...
I'll be showing a slideshow of the first ascent of the Torres Traverse, Friday at 8pm, at the Patagonia store in Chamonix Centre.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Aiguille Verte, Couturier Couloir

My planned rest day on Sunday ended up being spent sportclimbing at Gietroz, Suisse. But today was forecast to be the last day of high-pressure, so rested or not, it was necessary to head back up in the 'pine! On Saturday I had mentioned to Aymeric that I had never climbed Aiguille Verte, and he told me that in Chamonix there is a saying that you are a real alpinist once you have climbed Aiguille Verte. OK then!

I got to the base of Grands Montets at the slacker time of 8:30, and thus had to wait in line for quite a while, finally leaving the Col du Montet at around 9:45. I made good time up the Couturier Couloir, topping out the Aiguille Verte at 11:20. The Couturier is currently icy almost the whole way, and would be terrifying to ski in its present condition. My descent route, the Whymper Couloir, was also disappointingly re-frozen and firm, so I only ended up skiing the middle third of it, and downclimbing the rest. Nonetheless, another nice day out!

Looking down the Couturier Couloir:

Au Sommet de l'Aiguille Vert. Hurrah! Je suis finalement un vrais alpinist!

Steep skiing is always a bit more exciting in climbing boots:

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Les Doites, Colton-Brooks

On Saturday I teamed up with Aymeric Clouet, a French climber whom I met in Patagonia this winter and last. We caught the third bin up the Grands Montets telepherique and headed to the North Face of Les Doites to climb the Colton-Brooks route. Conditions were not amazing but were not bad either, with some sections of good, white, alpine ice, and some sections of old, brittle ice. Skis made the descent down the Talefre Glacier much faster, but we weren't nearly fast enough to catch the train down from Montenvers, and thus had to go down the "James Bond" trail, which is currently ski-able about 2/3 of the way to Chamonix.

Aymeric on the first real pitch, a little ways above the bergshrund:

A thin, traversing section above the main icefield, below the upper gully:

Aymeric at a belay in the upper gully:

Arriving at the summit ridge:

Setting the first rap; Mont Blanc behind:


More Rappelling:


Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Skiing and Les Courtes Solo

After Les Grandes Jorasses some more storms rolled in, and conditions changed in favor of skiing. I had a couple great days at Le Tour, skiing powder down Posettes to the Vallorcine (Suisse) side. On Sunday Jonna Jacobs, Martin Jern and I had a couple great laps down the Glacier Ronde on the west face of the Aiguille du Midi - enjoying both first tracks and second tracks!

On Monday the three of us headed back up the Midi, and went for a steeper variation to the Glacier Ronde, down the West Couloir. Jonno on the short rap into the couloir:

Martin and I feeling stoked after a great run. There's a mandatory huck at the very end (unless you rap it of course) that, with a great landing, was the icing on the cake!

Yesterday I headed up the Argentiere Glacier for a solo of the Swiss Route on Les Courtes. Looking up the route; I crossed the bergshrund at 11:45am:

Most of the route had good styrofoam neve:

Looking down to the Argentiere Glacier:

The upper third of the face still had a lot of snow on it, and was thus rather slow and tiring:

On the summit of Les Courtes at 14:45, looking west to Les Doites. It was annoying to climb with skis on my back, but they made the descent down the Talefre Glacier side much more enjoyable, and much, much faster, allowing me to just barely make the last train down from Montenvers.

Why Chamonix is rad:

Another reason why Chamonix is rad: