Into the Mountains

Fantastic conditions continued in Cham and for day 7 on the trot we swapped freeride kit for touring skis and headed up to the Tacul to ski the shoulder. On the Midi, Minna and myself bumped into Morgan Salen and Isaac DVT and we teamed up to share the trail breaking and enjoy a ski run together for the first time. The snow was perfect both on the ascent and descent – we were able to ski all the way up the 40 degree entry couloir and it was a good short day to rest the legs from all the freeride. Thanks for the photos Morgan!


Skinning in the entry couloir


Sunshine and shadow


Isaac and Minna with Pt Yield in the background


Morgan at the top of the shoulder


Me psyched to ski some cold, sloughy, powder.


Me heading off down the ridge.


Morgan Salen on the first shot


Isaac enjoying the powder


Morgan finding the snow acceptable and to his liking


Minna heading into the 3rd shotDSC04544

Morgan railing a turn in the sun with Minna below


Happy days, Morgan with Minna abseiling


Minna on the abseil


Me and the Corvus Freebird


Minna on the lowers


Morgan starting off down the lowers


Me enjoying the exceptional snow


This lower section provides some very fast skiing


The Corvus Freebird showing its pedigree at speed


And on


And on


And on


And on


Been skiing more than 10 seconds now!


Nearly there

After the active rest day I managed to talk Mikko and Jesper into coming for a long day to the Breche Nonne Eveque in the Charpoura basin. You can’t beat skiing below all the spires next to the Dru and its one of my favourite spots. I was last there in 2013 with Michelle behind Rosenberger and Minogue when it was super easy to get through the morraine. Times have changed, the Mer de Glace has dropped in height and the morraine become looser, steeper and more dangerous but with all the new snow I spied a route on skier left that would go with one rap over a step and one jump.


Mikko and Jesper trenching to the breche while I shelter on a ledge below.


Mikko starting off


Jesper in the powder


Deep powder in the line


Me catching up after shooting down the line


Mikko getting his skis on after abseiling the lower cascade. I downclimbed this for speed.


Mikko under the Dru


Now in the Charpoura basin


Les Drus, Sans Non and Y couloir


The Nonne Eveque is the central couloir, we skied through the slabs on looker’s right


Charpoura cirque


Jesper’s signature


Les Drus


I used my long Petzl Laser Speed Light ice screw to make a double Abalakov anchor for the rap through the slabs and backed it up with the screw while Jesper abseiled.

This was a long day with lots of tiring trail breaking and with a deteriorating forecast for the next afternoon, we decided on a quick lap of Breche Tacul for day 9 on the go. On the Midi we were surprised for find 6 inches of new snow overnight which despite making for an enjoyable few turns down the Gros Rognan, meant we (or it turned out to be Jesper) had to break trail to the bergshrund. It took me longer than usual to settle into a rhythm, clear my legs out, and get going, plus it was bitterly cold in shade and my hands, feet and nose were suffering. After the shrund we swapped leads trail breaking on the climb up to the breche before savouring a 30 second view of the Jorasses and skiing down.



On the bootpack.


The Grandes Jorasses looking somewhat dry


Jesper dropping into the pow.


And finding the line well filled in.


Me dropping onto the spine.


And popping back off it!


These last two are of Jesper.


With the weather breaking it was time for a well earned rest day and a beer or two before ending the week with a fun powder day on Plan de l’Aiguille where I met Espen Fadnes and his mate Tom, and an early morning run down the Marbree just before it got scorchio!

sKiwiland – Going Big Down Under in New Zealand

Kiwiland. Snowy ridges and elegant ice aretes. Big wild mountains with hard core, ever changing access thats probably more difficult and way scarier than most routes. Out of date guide books and maps that don’t reflect what climate change has done. Limited beta and history held in the minds of a few in the know. Rapidly changing weather and wind, wind that has picked up huts and killed all those sheltering within. The latest Plateau hut is rated to 400 kph. One night there I got up to pee and was greeted by a scene from Hell freezing over with a raging ice storm. Hostile. It took everything I had to get the hut door shut. It always takes me a while to adapt back to weather thats akin to Scotland’s wildest winter storms. My local mountain range Cairngorm clocked 315kph in 2009. November in the Alps is slightly chilly in the morning followed by a 18C afternoon of sunshine with no wind. All very civilised and benign. A couple of days a month it might precip or have a breeze necessitating something other than a thin softshell.

That said, once you get to grips with taking advantage of the weather windows, New Zealand has such a unique, spectacular, rugged and colourful landscape that will have you check yourself several times a day and wonder how that was formed. It also snows nearly 3 times what the Alps get these days and you will have the mountains to yourself to explore and do as you please. The mountains are also bad ass with a plethora of faces bigger than 800 m and all the features you could imagine, spines, faces, couloirs, and glaciers.

Tom Grant and myself spent 3 weeks exploring and ski mountaineering there. We skied about 15 days in total despite waiting for lost bags for 2 days at the start of the trip and dealing with a blown van engine another day. The skiing we did varied from low angled glacier bumps on perfect corn to getting committed climbing and skiing a couple of 1st descents on sight with the common theme being adventure skiing. You never knew what you’d get or what the weather would actually be.  It definitely ranks up there in my all time trips and wouldn’t have been possible without the help of some of my friends down there who we owe alot; Evan Cameron, Niki Begg, Mel Money, and Cam Mulvey.


An hour off the plane and Evan has us at Jane Fonda’s Work Out Wall
New Zealand skiing Ross Hewitt Tom Grant-2-3

Hiding from the gales. Evan in The Cave, Port HillsNew Zealand skiing Ross Hewitt Tom Grant-3-3

A fisherman on Lake Tekapo. Gales prevent us driving over 80 kphNew Zealand skiing Ross Hewitt Tom Grant-2


Trip 1 – Sefton Biv

Sou Westers still hammer over the divide, pinning the cloud. Low chances
New Zealand skiing Ross Hewitt Tom Grant-4-2Mueller lake en route to Sefton Biv hoping to dodge the rain
New Zealand skiing Ross Hewitt Tom Grant-5-2The wind buffeting Tom causing him to stagger as if he’d had a few too manyNew Zealand skiing Ross Hewitt Tom Grant-6-2On the bluffs below Sefton Biv. The moraines testamont to what once wasNew Zealand skiing Ross Hewitt Tom Grant-7-2Tom near Sefton Biv as the wind continues to hammer us with gusts
New Zealand skiing Ross Hewitt Tom Grant-3Sefton Biv – you really don’t want t to slip hereNew Zealand skiing Ross Hewitt Tom Grant-4Enjoying a hot drink in Sefton BivNew Zealand skiing Ross Hewitt Tom Grant-5En route to Footstool with Sefton Biv in the backgroundNew Zealand skiing Ross Hewitt Tom Grant-6Skinning on the Te Waewae GlacierNew Zealand skiing Ross Hewitt Tom Grant-7A chance to take in the unique landscape laid out below us
New Zealand skiing Ross Hewitt Tom Grant-8About to drop into the what Cam has dubbed the ‘Fransson line’New Zealand skiing Ross Hewitt Tom Grant-9Setting up to shootNew Zealand skiing Ross Hewitt Tom Grant-10Tom in the ‘Fransson line’New Zealand skiing Ross Hewitt Tom Grant-11Aoraki Mt Cook, Nazomi, Pibrac, Ball pass, Hooker lakeNew Zealand skiing Ross Hewitt Tom Grant-13Lenticulars over Aoraki Mt Cook denoting strong winds at altitudeNew Zealand skiing Ross Hewitt Tom Grant-15Tom taking it all inNew Zealand skiing Ross Hewitt Tom Grant-14Sunset on the south face of Aoraki Mt CookNew Zealand skiing Ross Hewitt Tom Grant-16Aorkai Mt Cook and Godley Valleys across Lake PukakiNew Zealand skiing Ross Hewitt Tom Grant-17Hanging out at Peters Lookout for a sundown beerNew Zealand skiing Ross Hewitt Tom Grant-18Sefton and FootstoolNew Zealand skiing Ross Hewitt Tom Grant-19


Trip 2 – Plateau Hut

Adam Fabrikant and Bill Hass psyched to get goingNew Zealand skiing Ross Hewitt Tom Grant-20Jumping into the Porter ski plane. High wind at Grand Plateau soon has us transfer to a chopperNew Zealand skiing Ross Hewitt Tom Grant-21Approaching plateau hut and the classic east face of Aoraki Mt Cook New Zealand skiing Ross Hewitt Tom Grant-22Noah Howell and Beau Fredlund of team Voile USANew Zealand skiing Ross Hewitt Tom Grant-24Billy, Adam and Tom under the East Ridge of Aoraki Mt CookNew Zealand skiing Ross Hewitt Tom Grant-25Cinerama ColNew Zealand skiing Ross Hewitt Tom Grant-27Tasman, Lendenfield, Haast, Dixon and HaidingerNew Zealand skiing Ross Hewitt Tom Grant-28A late afternoon weather lull allows us to get some turns off the knoll near Anzac Peak
New Zealand skiing Ross Hewitt Tom Grant-29Returning to the hut. We decided to ski the mini-golf 700 m line just left of the sun-shade line off the East ridge at some point. Everything is dwarfed under the massive east face of Aoraki Mt CookNew Zealand skiing Ross Hewitt Tom Grant-30Skinning with Silberhorn in the backgroundNew Zealand skiing Ross Hewitt Tom Grant-31Adam Fabrikant, Bill Haas and Noah Howell crossing the shrund at Zurbriggen’sNew Zealand skiing Ross Hewitt Tom Grant-32Beau Fredlund at the start of Zurbriggen’s which was our entry to the east faceNew Zealand skiing Ross Hewitt Tom Grant-33Dawn hues over the Grand PlateauNew Zealand skiing Ross Hewitt Tom Grant-34The start of the treadmill on Aoraki Mt Cook’s east face. Beau Fredlund, Billy Haas and Adam FabrikantNew Zealand skiing Ross Hewitt Tom Grant-35Sunrise over the Aiguille RougeNew Zealand skiing Ross Hewitt Tom Grant-36The summit ridge of Aoraki Mt Cook on fire in the morning lightNew Zealand skiing Ross Hewitt Tom Grant-37Sunrise. Anzac Peak mid shotNew Zealand skiing Ross Hewitt Tom Grant-38Beau Fredlund traversing over ice high on the east faceNew Zealand skiing Ross Hewitt Tom Grant-39Good Cold Chalk on the east face. I skied from a point a bit below the others as with a heavy cold and fever I didn’t need to summit again!

New Zealand skiing Ross Hewitt Tom Grant-1-2High wind at altitudeNew Zealand skiing Ross Hewitt Tom Grant-40Heading for the east ridge and some shelter from the windNew Zealand skiing Ross Hewitt Tom Grant-41Climbing a subsidiary ridge to the east ridgeNew Zealand skiing Ross Hewitt Tom Grant-42We followed this little spine to the junction with the east ridge of Aoraki Mt CookNew Zealand skiing Ross Hewitt Tom Grant-43Approaching the east ridge. Fine ski mountaineeringNew Zealand skiing Ross Hewitt Tom Grant-44Climbing up towards the east ridgeNew Zealand skiing Ross Hewitt Tom Grant-45700 m of sweetness belowNew Zealand skiing Ross Hewitt Tom Grant-46The moon over Malte BruneNew Zealand skiing Ross Hewitt Tom Grant-47Aoraki Mt Cook’s east face in the moonlightNew Zealand skiing Ross Hewitt Tom Grant-48

Tasman in the moonlightNew Zealand skiing Ross Hewitt Tom Grant-49Plateau hut in the moonlightNew Zealand skiing Ross Hewitt Tom Grant-50Chudleigh in the moonlightNew Zealand skiing Ross Hewitt Tom Grant-51Resourcefulness. A chess set made from plastic tubing with a quizzboard on Kiwi AlpinismNew Zealand skiing Ross Hewitt Tom Grant-52Passing the time at Plateau hut while the wind blows New Zealand skiing Ross Hewitt Tom Grant-53Tom avoiding the rollerballs as the snow gets greenhoused in the cloudNew Zealand skiing Ross Hewitt Tom Grant-54A sneaky shortcut to the Boys moraine?New Zealand skiing Ross Hewitt Tom Grant-56A brief break in the weather allows us out for some turnsNew Zealand skiing Ross Hewitt Tom Grant-57Helmet on for the walk out. The looseness of makes my stomach tightenNew Zealand skiing Ross Hewitt Tom Grant-58Tom scree running below the Boys Glacier. Ankles suitably batteredNew Zealand skiing Ross Hewitt Tom Grant-59Safely? on the flat Tasman and dealing with the next Jenga pile of choss. Flying in and out is a worth every pennyNew Zealand skiing Ross Hewitt Tom Grant-60After 7 hours of moraine warfare we are an hour away from the road head. My Ipod was essential for the mindless soldier style route march with a 50lb backpack. We could remember if the streams held giardia and without purification tablets went dry for the last 3 hours. New Zealand skiing Ross Hewitt Tom Grant-61Greg Child once said of his ice axe ‘the fuckin fuckers fuckin fucked’. Same could be said for either of us. Our next walk out was worse and a couple of hours longer. New Zealand skiing Ross Hewitt Tom Grant-62

A throwback to an era when they could get the bus up to the 100 person Ball Lodge to ski up there. The moraine collapse has made access a whole different game.New Zealand skiing Ross Hewitt Tom Grant-63


Trip 3

Our preferred method of accessing the mountains New Zealand skiing Ross Hewitt Tom Grant-64Tasmin lake and the Caroline FaceNew Zealand skiing Ross Hewitt Tom Grant-65Moraines amid moraine. Maybe a hang over from the 1991 mega rockfall when 12 million cubic metres fell off down the east face to the Tasman glacierNew Zealand skiing Ross Hewitt Tom Grant-66Tom and myself back in the zone at Tasman saddle hutNew Zealand skiing Ross Hewitt Tom Grant-67Negotiating crevasses on route to Elie de BeaumontNew Zealand skiing Ross Hewitt Tom Grant-68Tom on the 1st descent of Right Flank, West Face of Elie de BeaumontNew Zealand skiing Ross Hewitt Tom Grant-69Descending into the cloud on Elie’s West FaceNew Zealand skiing Ross Hewitt Tom Grant-70Elie de Beaumont’s Right Flank is the snow covered slab mid shotNew Zealand skiing Ross Hewitt Tom Grant-71Elie de Beaumont’s west face with our lineEllie copyThe spine gave us safe passage out of the cloud near the divide and down onto the Tasman GlacierNew Zealand skiing Ross Hewitt Tom Grant-73We made it back from the unknown on the wild west sideNew Zealand skiing Ross Hewitt Tom Grant-76An afternoon corn run on the Hochstetter DomeNew Zealand skiing Ross Hewitt Tom Grant-77Islands in a sea of cloudsNew Zealand skiing Ross Hewitt Tom Grant-78Chilling in the afternoon sun at Tasman Saddle hut
New Zealand skiing Ross Hewitt Tom Grant-79Sundown over Aoraki and HorokoauNew Zealand skiing Ross Hewitt Tom Grant-80Dinner timeNew Zealand skiing Ross Hewitt Tom Grant-81Aoraki Mt Cook, Tasman and Minarets
New Zealand skiing Ross Hewitt Tom Grant-82Sunrise on the MinaretsNew Zealand skiing Ross Hewitt Tom Grant-83Beau Fredlund harvesting some sweetcorn on Mt Hamilton
New Zealand skiing Ross Hewitt Tom Grant-85I skied this lush couloir on Hamilton solo. Anyone know if its been skied before?New Zealand skiing Ross Hewitt Tom Grant-120

We convened at Darwin corner with the Voile team and 10 mins after making a satphone call the air taxi came to collect us

New Zealand skiing Ross Hewitt Tom Grant-86Flyover the Hochstetter Ice fallNew Zealand skiing Ross Hewitt Tom Grant-87

Drying kit outside the Wyn Irwin, pretty much the only day it was warm
New Zealand skiing Ross Hewitt Tom Grant-88Mt Sefton and Footstool
New Zealand skiing Ross Hewitt Tom Grant-89A rare windfree coffee morning New Zealand skiing Ross Hewitt Tom Grant-90Our van’s engine blew a couple of cylinder heads en route to Wanaka so after a tow to the nearest town and and afternoon waiting for a new van we ended up in a lay by in the back end of…New Zealand skiing Ross Hewitt Tom Grant-91

Tom enjoying beer and curry. He eats slower than a tortoise so I’d usually finished, done the washing up and gone to bed before he had chewed his first mouth-full.New Zealand skiing Ross Hewitt Tom Grant-92Van life. Tom catching up on his sleep. This gives the impression it was quite tidy. In reality we were endlessly rummaging round looking for stuff. We head back to Mount Cook Village for a final tripNew Zealand skiing Ross Hewitt Tom Grant-93New Zealand spring and snow down to 900 mNew Zealand skiing Ross Hewitt Tom Grant-94


Trip 4 – Tasman Saddle Hut

Heli-waiting at the airport. 1000 hrs – standby boys. Drink more coffee. 1200 hrs – super standby. Eat a sandwich and drink more coffee. 1500 hrs – looking good boys – standyby. Final coffee. Caffeine poisened. 1800 hrs – come back tomorrow for another exciting day in the airport carpark
New Zealand skiing Ross Hewitt Tom Grant-95


Mt Sefton and FootstoolNew Zealand skiing Ross Hewitt Tom Grant-96Sharing a flight with NZ backcountry splitboarder Shane Orchard and skier Ryan TaylorNew Zealand skiing Ross Hewitt Tom Grant-97The ski plane departs under Mt Green and WalterNew Zealand skiing Ross Hewitt Tom Grant-98We skied this line on Mt Abel after climbing Pencil Dick Gully and traversing the ridgeNew Zealand skiing Ross Hewitt Tom Grant-99Tom climbing Pencil Dick GullyNew Zealand skiing Ross Hewitt Tom Grant-100Me traversing over the summit of Mt Abel New Zealand skiing Ross Hewitt Tom Grant-101Finding our lineNew Zealand skiing Ross Hewitt Tom Grant-102

Tom dropping inNew Zealand skiing Ross Hewitt Tom Grant-103SweetcornNew Zealand skiing Ross Hewitt Tom Grant-104HalfwayNew Zealand skiing Ross Hewitt Tom Grant-105Rippin some corn in the bowls behind the hutNew Zealand skiing Ross Hewitt Tom Grant-106The ski line for the 1st descent of Mount Darwin’s south faceNew Zealand skiing Ross Hewitt Tom Grant-84Lush morning light as we start to climb
New Zealand skiing Ross Hewitt Tom Grant-107Approaching the summit ridge
New Zealand skiing Ross Hewitt Tom Grant-108Hanging out for a few hours waiting for the sun to come onto the upper pitchNew Zealand skiing Ross Hewitt Tom Grant-109Looking down the ski lineNew Zealand skiing Ross Hewitt Tom Grant-110First turn
New Zealand skiing Ross Hewitt Tom Grant-111Start of the second pitch down past the upper seracNew Zealand skiing Ross Hewitt Tom Grant-112Before the traverse
New Zealand skiing Ross Hewitt Tom Grant-113Freeride over to the spurNew Zealand skiing Ross Hewitt Tom Grant-114Heavy wet snow on the spur needing careful negotiationNew Zealand skiing Ross Hewitt Tom Grant-116Sticking to the apex of the spineNew Zealand skiing Ross Hewitt Tom Grant-117Approaching the lower rocky cruxNew Zealand skiing Ross Hewitt Tom Grant-118The foreshortened face from belowNew Zealand skiing Ross Hewitt Tom Grant-119Skiing out. High winds preventing flying and bad weather threatening
New Zealand skiing Ross Hewitt Tom Grant-121An abandoned tracked tractor on the white ice of the Tasman glacier. In the 1970s the ski planes didn’t have as much power and sometimes needed a tow New Zealand skiing Ross Hewitt Tom Grant-122Every kilometre skied on the white ice was a kilometre less to walk with the additional weight of skis and boots on my pack which was already heavy by euro standards. In the end I must have skied 4 of the 5 km of white iceNew Zealand skiing Ross Hewitt Tom Grant-123Off the easy going white ice and into the rubble. Thankfully its overcast and the rock is not reflecting heatNew Zealand skiing Ross Hewitt Tom Grant-124Getting hotter as the sun comes out and we get baked in the moraineNew Zealand skiing Ross Hewitt Tom Grant-125About 5 hours of staggering around on rubble after leaving the white ice. We left the hut with a couple of litres each and drank another couple shortly after this section. Only 7 km to go but hands (from poling for stability) and feet are raw and roasting.  Thanks to the Irishman who gave us a lift from Blue Lakes to the airport to collect our car.New Zealand skiing Ross Hewitt Tom Grant-126Moody weather as we head towards ChristchurchNew Zealand skiing Ross Hewitt Tom Grant-127New Zealand skiing Ross Hewitt Tom Grant-128Tom discovering the almost unique style at Castle HillNew Zealand skiing Ross Hewitt Tom Grant-129



The Grand Gervasutti Couloir

Tom Grant and myself had a look at the Diable Couloir this morning on the East Face of Tacul. It wasn’t happening so we skinned back up Mont Blanc du Tacul and skied the Grand Gervasutti – its an awesome plan B to have and we are lucky in Chamonix. I got a bit of a shock when I dropped in – there were some people climbing it about 700 m below, fortunately they were out of our sluff line – I’ve not heard of people doing that for 20 years!

Gervasutti Diable Hewitt Grant-2Gervasutti Diable Hewitt Grant-3Gervasutti Diable Hewitt Grant-4 Gervasutti Diable Hewitt Grant-7Gervasutti Diable Hewitt Grant-6Gervasutti Diable Hewitt Grant-8Gervasutti Diable Hewitt Grant-9The Grand Gervasutti is the 800 m line centre right.Gervasutti Diable Hewitt Grant-10Gervasutti Diable Hewitt Grant-11Gervasutti Diable Hewitt Grant-12

Mont Mallet – West Face

The West Face of Mont Mallet is a line that stares you right in the face as you exit the tunnel from the Mothership and its been teasing me for years. In the old days it used to be a large curtain of snow draped down the mountain (pan de rideau) but climate change has thinned it out to couloir in the upper half. In all my time in Chamonix I’ve only heard of a few descents, Andreas, Francois-Regis, T-crew, Minogue…some approaching by the Rochefort Arete and some by the Breche Puiseux – either way being reasonable long, like 2 normal ski tours put together combined with lots of doubts about the condition of the snow, crevasses, rimayes encountered along the way.

I needed someone fit to go and when I asked Tom Grant if he was up for an adventure over there his usual psyche shone through with a  ‘mmmh, yeeeaaahhh, sick!’ On our first attempt it had snowed 15 cm the afternoon before and as we ran down the Midi arete we were surprised when instead of sticky steep skiing snow, cold wind affected snow cracked and ran off the old layer. That day plan B came into play and we went to the sunny east facing Breche Tacul.

Second time out I knew the snow was prefect after skiing the Rond in a few big turns the day before and we were joined by Andy Houseman who was training for his expedition with Jon Griffiths to Link Sar in Pakistan this summer.  I have not shot that much this winter but with conditions looking perfect I took my SLR.

After going over the Puiseux we were all feeling the altitude breaking trail in sticky pow up the Mont Mallet Glacier as the sun bore down and got reflected at us from all angles in the crucible. Getting on the ridge looked improbable with a 60 degree ice face with large rimayes and in the end we got lucky found a line snaking through mixed ground. We all had doubts right up until the last moment when we arrived on the shoulder and looked down to find the curtain of pow was draped down our slope. Rock n roll! Mont Mallet West Face Topo-1Mt Mallet West FaceAndy Houseman climbing to Breche Puiseux above. Myself and Tom pulling the ropes after the Breche below.Mont Mallet West Face Hewitt Grant Houseman-1-2Mt Mallet GalcierTom having a ‘mmmh, yeeaahh, sick’ moment to himself above. Andy and Tom breaking trail with the Jorasses and CalotteThe CalotteMont Mallet West Face Hewitt Grant Houseman-4Tom and Andy on the Mont Mallet Glacier above and trying to find a climbable line up the face on the right below.Mont Mallet West Face Hewitt Grant Houseman-5Mont Mallet West Face Hewitt Grant Houseman-6-2Myself and Tom 50 m above the rimaye and me traversing the 50/55 degree face after threading some rocks. Mont Mallet West Face Hewitt Grant Houseman-10-2Mont Mallet West Face Hewitt Grant Houseman-6The final slopes to the top above and arriving on the shoulder below just in time as the sun came on.Mont Mallet West Face Hewitt Grant Houseman-8Mont Mallet West Face Hewitt Grant Houseman-9Prefect flat cold snow above and first turn below. Mont Mallet West Face Hewitt Grant Houseman-10Mont Mallet West Face Hewitt Grant Houseman-11Above, Andy getting started as Tom surveys the line. Below Tom slashing out some turns.Mt Mallet West FaceMt Mallet West FaceAndy skiing above and myself skiing with the SLR on my hip below. Mont Mallet West Face Hewitt Grant Houseman-21-2Mont Mallet West Face Hewitt Grant Houseman-16The couloir is quite long and the snow still great at mid height. We had the excitement of riding on a big face with sluff running hard and building into a major avalanche below. Mt Mallet West FaceMont Mallet West Face Hewitt Grant Houseman-19Mt Mallet West FaceMont Mallet West Face Hewitt Grant Houseman-21The central pan de rideau was sent in 5 turns. Mt Mallet West FaceMont Mallet West Face Hewitt Grant Houseman-24

The line from below, the central section went in about 5 turns.Mont Mallet West Face Hewitt Grant Houseman-27Myself having a quick look over the shoulder at the face with the protection of a mega crevasse. The quality of snow was definitely up there in my top 10 and comparable to when we rode the Frendo in 2013.

Getting After It

Its been a while since I posted on my blog because I’ve been really lucky and had a run of routes in the mountains and not much time at home.  Michelle had 10 days off work and timed it perfectly with the arrival of 80 cm of powder. Enrico Mosetti was also visiting from the Julian Alps and I had the pleasure of showing him around the mountains for the week. We had a day on the Midi skiing a Rond and Cosmique with Minna Riihimaki and Dave Searle which got the juices flowing. Usually I ski around 200 runs off the Midi a year but this was only my 6th day on The Mothership – its definitely been a unique season. The next day we could have easily kept hoovering lift access powder off the Midi but I just want to ski in the mountains by this stage of the season so we decided to get some solitude and tour 800 m up to the Col du Capucin. I’d not been there since 2011 and no one had been there this season. At the col I was pretty sure the abseil anchor was on the left and we set about digging down to find it. With no traffic this year the 50 degree couloir had filled in to an extent that I’ve never seen. As I rapped in and sunk up to my chest I regretted not rapping with skis on.  The rest was beautiful deep sluffy cold pow and the only issue was avoiding your sluff, certainly my best powder run of the season. Over a beer Elevation in the hot afternoon sun we decided to go East facing the next day – I had a little project that I’d meant to do for a few years that would test our endurance to the max. The plan was to skin up 1200 m to Col Tour Noir Superior at 3690m, ski the 5.2 50/45 degree East Couloir, then skin 700 m up the scorchio South facing slopes to Col du Saleina at 3419m,  finishing with the grind up the Saleina Glacier and over Col du Chardonnet at 3223m. The route weighs in at circa 2500m of up, 4000 m of down, a lot of time in the dry air above 3000 m and getting microwaved from the inside out on South facing glaciers in the super hot sun. Enrico didn’t know better and was up for adventure and Michelle didn’t bother checking it out or listening to the numbers so came expecting it to be easy – I was surprised she thought I did easy things! Usually I carry 0.5 litres and decided 2 litres might just be enough. In the end 2.5 would have been ideal but 2 worked. The first climb gets the sun early and I’ve been cooked on this climb before. Fortunately a chilly wind kept us cool and we arrived at the col having not sweated much fluid. Looking down the sunnyside we were pleased to see the couloir was full of snow.  We were skiing on sight without any knowledge of conditions over there. After some steep sugar turns, things mellowed out to 45 degrees and we rode the couloir in 2 or 3 pitches on a combination of creamy spring snow and chalky powder. The next skin lived up to all expectations of being hotter than hell and we stripped down to white base layers and just got on with it loosing fluids and salts at a stupid rate. Just before the col Saleina I had to get my swollen feet out my boots as the crushing bone pain was becoming pretty bad. Enrico and myself ran out of water about here. Unfortunately for Michelle, she thought it was a ski down to Cham from here and didn’t take the news too well that we had 2 hours to the next col. I’m sure she is going to heavily scrutinise any of my future plans in minute detail! After force feeding her and with no technicalities left it was pretty easy for an ex-ironman triathlete to rally and get up to Col du Chardonnet. There we were rewarded with golden glow of the late evening sun and soft spring snow down to Lognan where we stepped of our skis after 11 hours. As the spring skiing in the A Neuve Basin had been so good, I decided to do another route there, this time just with Enrico. I’d never skied Passage D’Argentiere so that was the obvious choice with only 1000 m of skinning and the main difficulty being negotiating the large cliff at the base on sight. A quick rap off the col with skis on and we were away skiing soft spring snow in big turns and having a lot of fun. Then Enrico hit a trigger point and a metre deep wet slab ripped out – he did so well to point it out and ride clear – we were still above a large cliff at this point. With our nerves jangling I took a look at a picture of the face to find our exit and we mange to link some ramps out right and get off the face without taking our skis off. The snow turned to shit lower down the mellow glacier,  having not frozen the night before It was collapsing under the tails of our skis or sucking at them at different rates. I stopped half way down and turned expecting Enrico to be there, but no sign. After waiting 5 minutes he appeared with blood pissing down his face. In the gloop he had tomhawked and taken the tip of a ski through his mouth – oW!  OOOOOOWWWWWW!!!! He just stood there spitting out blood as it filled up in his mouth and shrugged it off with ‘is it beer time?’ Sure is, its past noon now! Somehow Enrico was allowed onto La Fouly’s Terrace bar despite looking like he had killed a wild boar by biting through its Aorta! I could see small upset children running to arms of their parents who had concerned looked. Backwoods Switzerland is pretty conservative and a bearded bloodstained man yielding an ice axe would be treated with caution in most places perhaps with the exception of Fort William. Enrico got cleaned up and amazingly we got served. After a pint (or 2) Michelle came and picked us up and took us home – what a star! For Enrico’s last day I had a long day in mind – a North-South traverse of Les Courtes. Up Cristeaux, along the ridge and down Croullante Couloir. After a 1000 m climb we hit the ridge and a beautiful traverse took us towards the Aiguille Croullante. 1997 was the last time I did this ridge and it was a real pleasure to do it again surrounded my magnificent scenery in all directions. We rapped onto the North Side to traverse below this pinnacle and found some horror show 55 degree sugar ontop of a mixture of black ice and weetabix rock. I couldnt get a pick placement and just teetered on my feet while I pulled the ropes. Getting my backpack (with skis) off and balancing it on my thighs to secure the ropes was probably the hardest manoeuvre I’ve been faced with in the hills.  I quickly joined Enrico at the col and we put our skis on the super exposed knife edge separating the Croullante Couloir and the 800 m North Face of Qui Remue.  A lassoed spike let us rap over a boulder and after packing the ropes we discussed if we should try make Montenvers in 35 mins or suffer the ball-baggery of walking to Cham. I elected to go for it and 8 mins later we were below the shrund after sending the line on perfect velvet corn. That definitely ranked in my top 5 big mountain ski descents for snow quality. We schussed down the Talefre glacier passing Pierre a Beranger. Slowing only for a rock slide and some slabs (sorry skis) we arrived below Montenevers just in time for the ‘last lift in 5 minutes’ announcement. A sprint up the stairs ensured we got the training effect that we may have missed earlier in the day! What a great day and a perfect finish to a week skiing with Enrico. I’m looking forward to going and visiting him in the Julian Alps next season. The last run that I’ll post here was with Luca Pandolfi and Tom Grant. The plan was to do the South Face of the Dent de Geant, which although I have skied before in pow, would be fun on the corn. Leaving the Helbronner we were met my a bitingly cold North East wind and on the way over we decided things were unlikely to soften at 4000 m. Instead we headed for the ‘Petit’ variation that sneaks onto the face 200 m or so lower. On the ridge the wind continued to howl and we hid behind the rocks, relaxing and laughing while waiting for the snow to soften up. I took my Atris for this freeride face and had a lot of fun arcing out the turns on the creamy corn. Down at the alpages we swapped ski boots for flip flops and strolled down through some of Italy’s prime real estate to Lou’s cafe and tunnel pizza. There was one more hit before the run came to an end, over Mont Dolent. With Andy Nelson we climbed the Charlet and descended the Gallet ridge – I’ll post that next!   20150406_112304 Heading to the Col Capucin20150406_135451(0)One rap in, Michelle skiing11024789_10153639642273973_656810169192206345_n Me trying to avoid getting sluffed with the sluff train down over the shrund20150406_135816Enrico charging20150406_140832_1_bestshot 20150406_141244_1_bestshot Michelle enjoying the powder under the Capucin 18596_10153639642918973_1096087686793219780_nThe reward for the best pow run of the season RH Enrico and Myself of Col Tour Noir Superior20150408_133919 Enrico blasting down the East Couloir20150408_133954_1_bestshot Michelle skiing 11030840_10205148974956140_1868574250360739144_n Me getting my shot in20150408_134251 Enrico big mountain wave riding 20150408_134359 Michelle20150408_134842 Enrico about half way down20150408_140447(0)Michelle exiting the couloir20150408_144613 Michelle underneath the Gallet Ridge of Dolent (left) which we skied later in the week and the stunningly beautiful North East Face of the Amone on the right which I skied with my good buddy Dave Searle one sick weekend in 2011. Did I mention it was hotter than hell skinning up this South Facing glacier?20150408_175950Final treadmill session was eased by the milky late afternoon light and cooler temperatures. 20150408_190254The final wee bootback on Col du Chardonnet, fixed rope handrail 20150408_192344 Savouring the moment, nearly 8 pm. 20150408_192827(0) Ripper corn on the West facing slopes20150410_124621 Passage d’Argentiere – Enrico blasting off20150410_125152Freeride down to the big cliff 20150410_133537#1 Enrico spitting blood after tomahawking in rotten slop and getting a ski tip in the mouth on flat glacier 20150410_132134In the zone!20150412_125543Traverse of the Courtes – up Cristeaux, along the ridge and down Croullante. The 2 Norwegians followed along on our heals the whole way but seemed reluctant to do any work instead letting an old man like me put the booter in. If I was 20 again there’d be no way I’d wait for some old codger.  20150412_135434On the Ridge 20150412_140804I had not been here since 1997 20150412_143023Enrico contemplating the traverse around the Croullante20150412_154352One of the most precarious spots to step onto skis on a knife edge ridge with 800 m Qui Remue behind and 600 m Croullante Couloir below 20150412_154405Excited about the perfect conditions on velvet20150412_155107Enrico on the 10 m rap20150412_155912Time to rip – 4 pm and Montenvers last gondola at 435 pm, about 6000 feet and 7 miles to cover.croullanteThe couloir rode smooth and fast – 8 mins including camera stops! In Elevation by 5 with a hell of a thirst.20150412_16035920150414_102633Next! Sheltering out the wind and waiting for the snow to soften on the South Face of Dent de Geant 11156943_10101530346871398_681779973_n   Beautiful setting. While Waiting for Luca and Tom I skinned over to the top of the Marbree seen behind to pay my respects to Dave Rosenbarger who died in an avalanche there earlier this year. It was the first time I went there this year and an emotional moment to be there on the col. 11157170_10152657073492260_586698300_oMe enjoying the creamy spring snow with Marbree behind.