On Saturday we went to ski the north face of the Pouce.
Minna, Dave and Cedric on the bootpack from Index in the searing heat.
Chamonix was in the ming and there was low cloud on the back of the Aiguille Rouge so we hung out on the ridge to see if it would lift. It did but by then team psych was pretty low. I went up about half way with Chamonix guide and friend Nicolas Annereau who was with another friend but in the hanging bowl the snow got thin and we skied down. Its a cool face and super exposed from the minute you traverse onto it about the cliffs so don’t be sandbagged by the Aiguille Rouge grades and go mentally prepared for a big line!
On Sunday Michelle and myself traversed Arete Plate and skied the north couloir. It was really pleasant hiking up the sunny side but on the ridge the wind was howling and we skied down the north couloir on nice chalky powder but didn’t stop to take any photos!
Next up was a trip to the classic north east slope of Les Courtes with Mikko H and Jesper.
Entering the crystal maze. First time through the high traverse for a couple of years.
The wind was still howling and it was baltic touring up the Argentiere in goggles and all my clothes.
We climbed pretty quick despite 40- 50 cm of dense powder. As we got higher to quality of the powder got better with less slough hardening but suddenly we came to an area with the new snow sitting on a thick melt freeze or rain crust that supported crampons with facets underneath. I did a few shovel shears in different places which failed at almost zero load, something I’ve not seen in 20 years of this type of skiing. It definitely felt like this was quite a large hot spot for the slope and with 40-50 cm of high density powder it could produce enough energy to start something big. The decision to go down was obvious for me – its a line I’ve skied 9 times and even if I hadn’t, the decision would have still been the same. I just need to down climb to the snow that was well bonded before putting a lot of load into the snow stomping into my PLUM guide heal at DIN12. The ski down was ok but difficult to stay in front of the slough. The bottom steepens significantly this year after the hot summer and glacier drop so the bergshrund may end up being interesting!
Michelle and myself went to ski the shoulder on the Aiguille du Tacul. We took the Gros Rognan and found some beautiful creamy snow and then traversed to the Vallee Noire for colder powder.
Traversing to the Valle Noire.
Michelle on the Italian side of the Vallee Blanche.
The Foehn started raging before committing to the final boot pack to the shoulder and with loads of down draughting and cross loading we did a u turn and headed to the lower couloirs.
The Foehn blasting at altitude.
Michelle touring to the lowers.
Me launching into the lowers.
At the buvette enjoying the warm sunshine out of the wind.
Then it was back to Hebronner with Mikko and Lauri. It had been windy again so we opted out of the ‘Chinese Downhil’ start.
Marco ski cutting Chesso traverse entrance to the cable face. The soft slab detached most of the way to the old stage 2 lift station.
Mikko finding the goods.
Lauri is in there!
Italian Morris dancers in the lift, whatever next?
With the first snowfall of the season kicking things off in mid November its been a crazy busy period searching for powder stashes. The stable snow conditions have allowed me to go and explore some new areas and revisit some that were long forgotten years ago. The biggest challenge has been finding motivated partners and I’ve already racked up 50K vertical touring metres this autumn and 162 ski days for the year. Luckily I have a few trusted partners available on different days so I’m not always on my own. The highlight was finding 3 couloirs that don’t feature in any of my guidebooks which were filled with primo pow. I’ve also spotted a couple of cool lines which should be good to go once we get some more snow.