The Frendo Spur
The ski line we took on the Frendo with abseils shown by the dotted line.
I had gone to ski the Frendo 3 times this season, each time being thwarted by conditions; crusty down low, then rain runnels on the lower section and finally wind slabs on the upper half. So after a long productive winter, a lot of routes ticked and an ongoing chest infection, it was time for a break from the mountains and we headed to the Ligurian coast for some sun and warmth.
A few days down there soaking up the warm rays was just what I needed to recharge the psyche to ski another big line. It was with a small weather window after some spring storms that I then rushed back to Chamonix to see what was in condition. After a warm up lap in the Cosmiques to remind myself how to ski, I asked Bird if he wanted to ski Frendo the next day. Luca had also been wanting to do this line for a while now and got in touch with Ben making up two teams the evening before. We were set to go. In the morning Minna was psyched too so we ended up being the freeride 5!
The last time I was on the Frendo Spur was in 1997 and I was climbing it. We raced up the arrete in a blizzard hoping to get up round the top buttress before the sluffs got out of hand. We tied on for the final ice couloir placing gear on the rock just in case a big sluff came down. Once we got to the Midi I remember struggling to untie frozen ropes and take crampons. The lift was shut and we had to sit around for nearly 24 hrs until they de-iced the cables the next day. In stark contrast, this time, we enjoyed sweet sunshine and dreamy snow conditions from top to bottom – almost unheard of on a 1100m face at the end of May.
Maybe you don’t have to go to Alaska for spines and velvet powder after all! It has to be one of the most aesthetic ski lines in incredible situations. A very memorable day spent with friends.
Minna at the start and heading off to play between the sunlight and shadows.
Luca on the upper slopes beside the buttress.
Ben riding the spine in the next few shots.
And the resulting sluff – photo (c) Paul Lang – thanks.
Minna at the start of the spine.
Bird’s energy levels were obviously rising fast as he waited to ski and he charges out the gate with great sluff management.
The Black Crows nest invaded by the Italian Cuckoo (I’m joking Luca!).
Last rap.Bird slashing out a few turns.
Minna on the lower slopes which go on and on.
Apres Frendo team shot. Well done to Minna – likely a first female descent.
Bird was after more so went back up to speed-fly the line. That’s his wing just above the serac.
The wing is a tiny dot in this shot.
The North Face of Aiguille du Midi – Eugster Couloir
The plan was to go to the Grand Gervasutti on Tacul with sunshine forecast. Tom and myself had bivouacked the previous night to get an early start but half way up Tacul in 20 m visibility it became clear that the weather had changed and we turned round and returned to the Midi completely rimed up battling the cloud and wind. Arriving at the Midi the next morning we found out that opening was delayed till 1030 so that put and end to that Gervasutti attempt. Instead we settled for a run down the North Face in Eugster Couloir. Back at the mid-station there was some technical hitch and we waited several hours until 1830 to get down. Not a good logistics day at the Midi!
Thanks to Tom, Mika and Marcus for a good day out. Mika took the following photos – Thanks Mika!
Attempt on the Gabarrou Les Courtes
Mikko, Tom and Ben chilling in the sun.
Luca arriving at the hanging glacier.
I’m not going well today and about to ski down. The guys blast on and ski from the summit.
I get great snow on the way down before it got hot. About 2 turns in a section 100 m wide ripped above the serac. Would have made a good photo from below.
Tournier Spur entry to Col du Plan
I promised myself I was going to chill out and get ready to go to the mountains the next day. When I woke up there was a little FOMO going on after the storms of the last 2 days and 15 minutes later I was down at the Midi promising myself I would only go to take photos. But on the ride up it was clearly the Midi May day with snow plastered everywhere and I joined Luca Pandolfi and Mikko Heimonen for a run.
I don’t think anyone had been over the Tournier Spur this year and it had been looking icy until recently so I was pretty nervous hearing the ice under the guy’s boards and had to use axes to get down a 5 m section. A couple more storms and it will be awesome. Apart from this small section we found great snow top to bottom.