Spring of a lifetime Part 1: Chamonix (with Video)
After being an avid reader of Doglotion for the last few years, I decided that it was now time for me to start sharing my ski adventures.The timing couldn't be better since I just had the best spring ever.
On march 17, I was finally getting laid off and ready for spring...Although we had one of the best winter ever in Whistler, work kept me so busy that I only got to ski 25 times. With winter almost over, spring was coming real fast and I had to make the most out of it. With no hesitation, a plane ticket was bought and 3 days later, I'm standing at the Geneva airport on my way to my favorite spring skiing destination: Chamonix. At 21:30, the bus drops me off in the small village of Les Houches. It is raining wich is good news but my phone is dead and I don't have Boubou's adress or phone number...classic. After more than hour wandering around trying to find where he lives, my shoulders can finally have a break. I was almost ready to pitch my tent when I miraculously spotted his SUV in a driveway. 5 minutes later we're sipping on a cold one and my grin is a whole lot bigger. Two days later, we are skiing knee deep powder at Les Grands-montets and it's just the start of it... For nearly two weeks, everyday is a powder day and walking through town, you can tell who's a skier by the smile on their face. Then it got sunny and it was time for touring. Everyday was a great one but here's my three favorites.
On April 10th, I woke up early and took the first bin up to the Aiguille du Midi. A few days earlier while skiing the Vallée blanche with some friends, I noticed that the Jager couloir on the Mont Blanc du Tacul was looking really good. After a few days trying to find a partner unsuccesfully, I decided to go solo thinking that there would be a bootpack set up for sure. The bergshrund was crossed without any problems and the climbing was pleseant in boot deep snow with a few sections of bulletproof snow but no sign of a bootpack. Working a little harder on the way up is fine if you get to put the first track down. About 2/3 of the way up, I stopped to eat and was met by 2 french guys and from there on we helped each other break trail in deeper snow. After 3 hours of climbing, we were at the top of the couloir. The skiing was great until the bottom where the snow that warmed up earlier was now in the shade and icy has hell. The video will do a much better job than me at describing it...
North Face - Col du Plan
Another run I really enjoyed was the North face of the Col du Plan. While skiing at the Grands-Montets, my buddy and Chamonix local, Jay Picq mentionned that he one day would like to ride it. When, is the first thing that came out of my mouth. By the time we were at the top of the chairlift we already had a plan. In the next few days, Jay was gonna fly his paraglider up there and have a good look at it. The cloud level was too low to fly up there for 3 days so we decided to just give'er. We took the 9 am bin and went up to the Aiguille du midi midstation to check it out. After having a good look at it with the binoculars, it was decided that we should have a safety meeting and wait a bit for the clouds/fog to clear up. After over 2 hours and the clouds still moving in and out, we went up not too sure what was going to happen but it turned out for the best.
The greatest part about this run is that it is in the north face of the Aiguille du Midi so you don't have to hike, you just ski to the top of the Grand envers run and drop in on the other side.
The snow was great on the hanging glacier and there was no tracks.
The Aiguille du Midi midstation is at the end of the moraine in the clouds
Setting up the first rappel, you need 2 60 meters ropes to ski this run.
Top part of the couloir, although it didn`t snow in the 2 weeks prior, snow gets blown in there and it was deeper than expected
My partner for the day, Jérémy Picq, after the second rappel
Skiing the bottom part of the couloir
The 3rd day was my last run in Chamonix and possibly the best one. Once again, Jay was my partner. We went up the Aiguille du Midi late, around 3 pm. We skied the start of the Vallée blanche past the Pointe Adolphe Rey, where we had to put the skins on. The skin up the glacier du géant was really mellow, mainly due to the fact that the temperature made us feel like we were in mexico but also because we had way too much to drink the day before. Up next was the 150 meters couloir de la Fourche and a short ridge that had to be cilimbed in order to reach the bivouac de la Fourche. You can`t see it until you are about 5 m away from it because it is on the other sideof the ridge.
After downclimbing a few meters off the ridge, we arrived at the bivouac and installed a rappel right off the balcony because it looked sketchy and we didn't really wanted to downclimb at 4 in the morning.
We also got to have a look at tomorrow's line, the east face of the Mont Maudit
Inside the bivouac
We left at 4am, this is about a 1/3 of the way up when the sky was getting brighter. On the far right, you can see the Gervasutti couloir on the Tour ronde
Aiguilles du Diable
2/3 of the way up. The traverse was really steep, exposed and intimidating
Almost at the summit
The highest i've ever been...4361m
We got to the top around 8:45 but it wasn't warm enough to ski down until around 11am so watched people going up to Mont blanc and our private choucas (black mountain bird) air show. They rocked!!! The top part was awesome and we got to ski it pretty fast, it is around 45° and the snow was perfect corn.The diagonal was another story...Although the snow was still really good, the slope was now 55° with more than fatal exposure below us. We were pretty gripped but really enjoyed it. There was a group of 3 finnish guys in front of us so wen we got to the couloir, they had sideslipped the top 15 meters and a lot of rocks and ice were showing. For safety's sake we broke out the ice axe and self-belayed ourselves through that section. The rest of the couloir was 50° with sections of 55° . Surprisingly, the top of it was powder because it doesn' get sun on it all day. At the bottom, Jay decided to go far skir's right while I decided to skier's left and jump the two shrunds. The second one was fairly big at some spot and I was looking for the best landing. About to jump, there was a loud noise behind me...3 refrigerator sized blocks of ice were coming at me. In a split second, I pointed it, jumped the shrund and straight lined the hell out of there. Sitting at the bottom still buzzing from all the adrenalin, it was starting to sink in, I just had the run of my life again.
I hope you guys liked my first trip report.
Coming up in the next 2 weeks Spring of a lifetime Part 2: Waddington range