Today it started to get colder as the Siberian airflow encroaches and after riding the two access chairs to Grands Montets my feet were feeling it. With a temporary clearing of the sky we were tempted by the look of thigh deep pow in the Poubelle and dropped in. It turned out to be lying on an icy suncrust layer and I spent more time pushing the snow down and ski cutting that actually turning. At the bend in the couloir Philip took a stint of leading and we assumed beyond the S bend the snow would probably stick with the easing of the angle. After some judicious sideslipping on the sunbaked ice layer I rejoined the guys below the bends and offered to lead through. Twice I made two turns softly to check if the snow would stick and all looking good I started to ski properly. A couple more turns in and everything around me cracked up, initially I aimed for high ground on the right however my skis were quickly getting pulled under and I could see that ending badly so I pointed them out and straight lined it from around half height. There was some old avi debris at the exit and the guys could hear the crack as my skis impacted on the ice but all I had to do was keep standing and I was clear. With the avi risk removed the guys had a more relaxing descent and we rejoined and swooped on down untracked pow of the Pas de Chevre. Today I was looking back at the Poubelle from Montenvers and this a little snowy ramp that cuts in from the right, with hindsight its easy to see how a localised slab would form here from natural sloughs accumulating. I thought we had knocked so much snow down in front off us that any hot spots would have been triggered but definitely proved wrong on that one.
Cloud was building in the valley so we redeployed to the Brevent where we scored epic conditions in the lower trees. With conditions kicking off it was pure joy swooping through the trees, dropping pillows and finding Alaska style spines to playfully hop from side to side. This was Paul’s 3rd days on skis in 2 years and Philip was in pain from new boots so while they went off to collect the car from GM carpark I tired myself out with 3 more runs, benefiting from the super fast new gondola enabling 20 mins laps. I always thought Europe lacked epic tree skiing. With once in 20 year conditions those 45 degree chutes of Planpraz live up to Cedric’s eloquent description – ‘ Brevent – best f***ing ski resort in the World – period’.
On heading out to the Midi this morning I met a friend Cedric and learnt that the death on the Midi yesterday was of our friend Felix Hentz. Felix always charged hard and was so much fun to ski with. The guy was so positive, a mountain of muscles and a gifted athlete, usually working me very hard while skiing together. I had a moment alone on the Midi Plan arrete on a beautiful day with a sea of clouds below and remembered many great days in the mountains with him. Yesterday I got lucky, unfortunately Felix didn’t. He will be missed.