Chamonix 2018 went down as one of those all time seasons. Sometimes when you in the midst of it all skiing routes and planning the next one, there is so little time to see just how good it was. But putting these clips toegther made me realise how lucky we were. Even more so because in the preseason and about to depart for New Zealand’s Caroline Face, I got injured with a sequestrated L5-S1. Hobbling around Cham in mortal agony with a paralysed sciatic nerve that caused my glutes and calf muscles to wither and die, a successful ski season with around 15 North Face runs seemed a very unrealistic goal. Thanks to all those obsessive ski bums who I shared those turns with, those that sacrifice it all, coming from round the World, to ski down Chamonix’s big mountains.
Its been a while since I posted a blog and thats mainly because after a few dry years it started snowing in Europe early December and kept snowing until the end of May. That meant it was a pretty full on 6 months with very little time to put ‘pen to paper’ so to speak.
I started the winter with a herniated L5-S1 disc which caused muscle wastage, power and recruitment speed in my leg. For example if I tried to stand on my tip toes my left leg would sink until my heal was on the floor. Thanks to the Osteo/Pro-runner Carlton Rowlands I mannaged a fast comeback. The recovery went from the lows of skiing down the Midi arete in December and taking my skis off midway, unable to handle the vibration without nerve pinching and having uncontrolled leg movement, to basically doing my stuff and not holding back.
Mid winter also included 2 months of ski guiding and the IFMGA ski guides test which I am happy to report went smoothly for me. 3 exams down and all thats left is the final alpine test this August which I’m now fully focused on.
With a lot of my ski partners injured or retired, I did a lot of solo missions and decided to leave my camera at home and take the gopro out for a change to capture a few of my powder turns. I’m a very impatient person so taking time to make good edits while getting ready to go out the following day is not my strong point but it gives a flavour of how good the skiing in Europe was this year. These are all edits from the high mountain and arguable the most fun skiing was in the trees early December with an incredible base over the spines and ridges before the Christmas and January rain.
Here’s a few of the memorable days:
Col de la Verte with Drew Tabke
Mallory with Tof Henry, Arthur Ghilini, Nate Wallace and Chris
Mallory with Tof Henry, Jacob Wester and Babs Charlet
Pain de Sucre with Dave Searle and Guillaume Mars
Midi North Face – Col du Plan with Jacob Wester, Bird Early and Andre Dalkarl
Midi North Face – Col du Plan with Miilet de Papy
West Couloir, Aiguille du Midi with Miilet de Papy
Oreilles de Lapin with Michelle Blaydon
Cosmiques Couloir with Jesper Petersson
Rocco with Tof Henry, Benjamin Carvallo, Raimundo de Andraca, Galo Viguera
Rond with Tof Henry, Benjamin Carvallo, Raimundo de Andraca, Galo Viguera
Para Face with Cedric Bernardini, Luca Martini, Jamie
Cosmiques Couloir with Jacob Wester, Andre Dalkarl and Michelle Blaydon
Droites SW Face, solo from first lift on Aiguille du Midi, -30C morning!
Cosmiques Couloir with Michelle Blaydon
Oreilles de Lapin with Erik Wallner
Aiguille de Mesure NE Face, Aiguilles Rouges, solo
Solo skiing from the bend of Couturier in flat light as the cloud rolled in, then an afternoon sun run on Z de Papy the same day
Early February powder run on Col de la Verte from where it got rocky mid height
Solo run finding the complex line on Z de Papy
Skyway, Rond and Para Face with Jesper Petersson and Guillaume Mars
Solo training on the an icy Rond early season with a loaded arete
South Face of Tour Ronde into Brenva Glacier before Christmas with Michelle Blaydon and Morgan Sahlen
Col des Courtes with Tof Henry and Andre Darlkarl
Shoulder of Aiguille du Tacul with Michelle Blaydon, probably the best top to bottom snow quality I’ve ever come across
Pre-Christmas Couloir Cache into the Brenva Glacier with Tom Coney
A solo mission hitching through to Skyway, under the cables, Marbree and then back to Chamonix via the Valley Blanche. Marbree was so sick until I hit a rock and broke my 2 day old ski under the foot. It happened to be my left leg that took the shock which was recovering from the disc herniation onto the sciatic nerve route for that leg. After more than a little worry I’d suffer a setback, I woke up fine the next day. Lucky, very lucky.
All the North wind we have had has filled in the right hand branch of Y Couloir really well this year and I have been wanting to go there for some time. I was weighing up going solo to Croullante or going to the Y but persistent afternoon cloud on the Aiguille du Midi made it an easy decision to go for Y off the first Grands Montets bin. Late in the afternoon my friend Kirsti Lehtimaki from EPIC TV messaged me saying she wanted to ski and had a friend coming too. Next morning her friend Matthieu Vigier came along with Chloe Laget and Couttet Berbere so we had a sociable skin up the classic Millieu Glacier. The lack of snow meant very firm conditions on the way up and we used ski crampons for the 1400 m climb.
On the summit there was a cold 5 kph wind blowing and I didnt linger long wanting to find the entry to the couloir, having only skied the left branch before. In the couloir it was thankfully a bit warmer and after passing 5 m of rocks at the top we put on our skis on flat corning spring snow.
Y Couloir (TD, 45 degrees, 5.1/5.2 600 m) as seen from Col des Courtes. Its the big line branching below the summit of the Aiguille d’Argentiere (3901m). Y Couloir with the 60 m step at the base with the stunning golden granite spires.
Julbo Aerospace goggles – the ultimate variable venting bootpacking and touring goggle. The big lines of Couturier and Au Coeur du Monde or Col Aiguille Verte right hand (1st and only? descent by the Scottish extreme ski legends Paul MacLeod and Ewen Moffat with the Dane Thomas Husted in 2001).
Last winter, while descending the Argentiere Glacier on our way back from Les Courtes’ NE Spur, I stopped off to watch a strong Finnish teams skiing the steep 800 m 50-55 degree Col de la Verte. Its a route that I would love to get do, but for one reason or another we missed it last year. Here is the video from the Finns of their day.
Today was about just getting out for me. Its been an emotional period, I hadn’t skied for a couple of weeks, my back was untested after injury, I wasn’t sure if the psyche was there for skiing big mountains…knowing the NE spur of the Courtes was in made it the obvious choice, nothing too hard or scary to try and regain the feel for it.
I was joined by Max, Tom and Dave although Dave had to turn back with binding issues. We made steady progress climbing the face in the sunshine but as we arrived at the lower angled summit slopes, the sun moved off and the snow started to refreeze. We called it a day and skied from there.
This is the fifth route I’ve skied on this mountain and I think the 11th time I’ve skied off Les Courtes. Truely a skiers playground.
Afterwards we watched Sami Haapasalmi and his Finnish friends ski the right hand finish of Col Aiguille Verte. Hats off for ticking one of the steepest sustained ice slopes in the Alps.
Still looks steep from this angle!