Lovely ski yesterday skiing above Chamonix’s Aiguille du Midi on Mont Blanc du Tacul. 600 m of lush cold blower powder down to Col Simond. And its September. What a gift from the Gods! With the warm sunshine, clear autumn air, and quiet mountains, its just pure pleasure being out there. Today I had the pleasure of skiing with young passionate skier Chamoniarde Nico Borgeot who I met skiing the Mallory (under the cables of Aiguille du Midi) in May.
The left edge of the triangle on Mont Blanc du Tacul offers a very aesthetic snow and mixed climb with spectacular views across to the mighty Dent de Geant. The route is objectively safe, avoiding the seracs on the void normal and offers and more interesting and exciting way of getting to the summit. It’s also a good ski line in May and June. This time I was out climbing with my good friend Minna and acclimatising for the summer guiding season.
This was my first visit to the fabled Calanques of Marseilles. The Calanques are the fiord region next to Marseille and host to a plethora of marvelous rockclimbs on walls of impeccable white limestone up to 300 m high. On this trip we had the luxury of a boat and could sail round and chose what took our fancy! I will definitely be back.
For me the last few years have been completely dedicated to skiing, following the snow around the globe in the eternal hunt for powder as the seasons change and clocking up close to 200 days a year. This search has taken me to Patagonia, Chile, Japan, Norway, New Zealand and included 2 major exploratory expeditions to Baffin Island. This has been a phenomenal experience, meeting and making many close friends who share the same obsession and also clocking up 36 first descents in the process. Glen Plake said ‘skiings a life sentence’ and those smooth weightless turns as you float down a mountain amongst a sea of slough is something most of us can’t get enough of. Its always been interesting to see how the rest of the World rank the Brits pretty far down the skiing ratings and since we aren’t an alpine nation its not surprising. Without a heritage of producing big mountain skiers it means that opportunities for funding ski trips are few and far between in comparison say with alpine climbing. Hopefully that will change with time and I live to see some Brits skiing AK in TGR or MSP films. To emphasise that point, I write as I find myself without a clothing sponsor for the first time in five years!
A big thanks goes to my current sponsors for helping me realise many of my dreams and going out their way to help and support me; Black Crows Skis, Scarpa, PLUM fixation, Julbo Eyewear, Birdwhere, Lyon Equipment, Petzl, Lenz Products, Exped, Hydrapak and Davide at Concept Pro Shop Chamonix. Another big thanks goes to Berghaus, Gino Watkins Memorial Fund, Arctic Club and Craig Stenhouse who helped fund the trips.
After so much time feeding the rat its now time for a change in emphasis as I continue with the guides training with a view to being able to share some of these fantastic experiences in the future with clients.
So here is a collection of photographs which reflect the incredible days shared with friends that have a particularly special place in my heart.
Jim Lee slaying Grand Envers in a metre of fresh. Aiguille du Midi
Adam Fabrikant a few turns in to the sunny east face of Mt Darwin, New Zealand. Tom Grant and myself hooked up the amiable Americans Noah Howell, Beau Fredlund Adam Fabrikant and Billy Whass to share a few turns and a lot of laughs while down under.
Michelle Blaydon under biblical skies in Lofoten
Polar Star Couloir looking majestic on the Beluga Spire, right after we skied it. Dubbed ‘The Best Couloir in the World’ by McLean and Barlage, its certainly and icon of lust
Don’t be fooled by the warm evening light, brass monkeys at camped on the sea ice under Beluga Spire. With Michelle Blaydon and Marcus Waring
Morgan Salen skiing to Minna Rihiimaki on the shoulder of Aiguille du Tacul. The snow was so good we skinned up the 45 degree approach couloir.
Bird speed flying over the Frendo serac the same day we skied it
The incredible 1500 m high north facing wall of the 70 km long Gibbs Fiord in Baffin
Marcus Waring with a 1000 m to go, Gibbs Fiord, Baffin
Oli Willet, Tournier Spur entry to Col du Plan
Mika Merikanto, Ross Hewitt and Stephane Dan, Mallory, North Face Aiguille du Midi
Michelle Blaydon in a very deep Bonatti Couloir
Powder Panda getting over caffeinated for Palud lowers
Roger Knox, Arete Plate, Aiguille Rouge
Minna Rihiimaki, in the starting gate, Aiguille du Midi. It has been know for her to pose naked here!
All time conditions on the Para Face. I miss those days.
A first descent on the complex South Face of Mt Darwin, NZ. We took the steep headwall to the spur with a jump through the rocks near the bottom. As usual Tom got over excited and nearly skied off the bottom cliff. Photo credit: Ryan Taylor
Just landed at Tasman hut and we sneaked a quick afternoon shot down the diagonal in the background. A nice wee leg loosener.
Oo-La-La, Bird out of his cage and mind. Frendo Spur, Chamonix.
Tom and myself started the day at Tasman hut about 20 km up glacier beyond the white ice in the background. This gruelling 9 hour torture session is not recommended except for the masochists out there. We didnt have a satphone to call a chopper to the hut and ended up doing this walk twice, being pretty dumb and not learning the mistake first time round.
Argh. Hours in the pain locker. Tasman morraines
Beau Fredlund harvesting perfect corn on Mt Hamilton, New Zealand
After skiing a first descent on Elie de Beaumont, we got stranded in the fog trying to get from a glacier bench to the Tasman. Finally a window appeared and we took this ‘Brenva’ Spur type feature home
Skiing a first descent on Elie de Beaumont’s West Face as cloud threatens from the West. We kept getting bumped off choppers so it was after noon when we got to Tasman hut forcing us to haul ass up Elie for 3 pm corn time. Tom Grant skiing on 45 degree slopes
Mount Cook’s stunning east face illuminated under full moon. This will be one of the modern ski classics of New Zealand
Dawn hits as we start the climb up the east face of Mt Cook
On the East Face of Cook with uniform compact powder. A modern classic in the making
Vivid, rugged and very beautiful – myself taking in the landscape above Mueller and Pukaki
For once the wind wasn’t howling and we were able to enjoy a morning coffee without everything blowing away. Tom and myself at Wyn Irwin Hut
Michelle Blaydon and Marcus Waring at base camp in Gibbs Fiord. This first trip to Baffin was rock n roll style as we travelled fast over hundreds on kilometers using kites, armed with rifles and pump action shot guns for bear protection, and skiing every line that took our fancy
Sheltering from a biting wind a cooking up some hot soup under the magical Great Sail Peak in Stewart Valley of Baffin Island. L-R Michelle Blaydon, Ross Hewitt and Marcus Waring
The hard part of Arctic travel – sled hauling. Luckily good tunes and magnificent scenery provide suitable mind distractions to the 120 kg load
North West Passage, a 1200 m. McLean – Barlage classic. Had to be done
After a massive 10 hour walk out down the Tasman moraines we woke up feeling it and went for extra everything on our cooked breakfasts, washed down by a litre of cappuccino
Michelle Blaydon smiling at the relative warm evening light on the plateau of Scott Island, Baffin. Descending into the fiords is like going into a chest freezer as the temp drops about 30 degrees
We were skiing some sketchy icy section on Tournier Spur when a wooshing noise spooked us. A moment later that speed flyer went through the middle of our group. Scary
Return to base camp after a day new routing on Scott Island. It always amazed me that the tent disappeared from view on flat sea ice once you were over a kilometer away
Exit couloir on the Mallory, Aiguille du Midi. All the stress has gone by this point and all that remains is an easy 50 degree shot to the bar
Marcus Waring in the 1100 m Polar Star Couloir, Baffin Island
The late, great Liz Daley on one of those relaxed Palud days where we gourged on coffee and powder in equal amounts. Always missed, never forgotten
Andy Houseman and Tom Grant on the Mont Mallet Glacier
Myself on another massive Baffin line. This one came in at a hefty 1450 m vertical, 5000 ft
May and a predawn start for the Diable Couloir with Tom Grant. We climbed the icefall, bailed due to the heat and then put plan B into action – skin to the top of Tacul and drop into the Grand Gerva – that saved the day
Tom and Marcus with the 1500 m East Face of Walker Citadel where Superunknown is situated. We were on our way back from Mugs Stump Spire and just chilling in the sun before hauling through the night to Ford Wall
Sunshine and shade as Minna makes those special turns on the North Face of Aiguille di Midi
A first descent on Mugs Stump Spire. We also skied the background left hand line which was 1500 m to the top of Walker Citadel
Cedric Bernardini, Bird, Brett Lotz and myself as the Foehn threatens on Eugster. Cedric’s eyes give away the seriousness of the situation while the visiting Brett is oblivious to the shit storm thats about to happen
Caught in a Foehn storm on Eugster, Aiguilled du Midi. Bernardini and Lotz on the wrong side of the slough trains. One of those days you hopefully regroup at the bar
Polar travelling for free (low calorie expenditure) using kites in Baffin
After a 2 am start from a low camp, Im getting ready for my first turn down the East Face of the Matterhorn at 7 am
Fresh water ice on the isolated Stewart Lake, Stewart Valley, Baffin
Me on good corn on the East Face of the Matterhorn and carrying my SLR camera
Me traversing the Aiguille Verte. We climbed Couturier and descended Whymper. What you cant see is the strong gusty wind that was trying to pluck us off the ridge. At the col we met Nate Wallace and Seth Morrison who had come up Whymper in downhill kit. With the snow staying frozen all they had to say was ‘you are going to struggle in touring kit’
After a month on the ice we arrive cold and damp at Ellington Fiord hut after 10 hours on a komatik sled with 3 hours to go to get back to Clyde River. 2 of our friends are stuck in the fiords after 1 skidoo broke down and the responsibility for their safety as expedition leader weighs heavily on my mind. I’m completed beat after pushing my physical limits beyond the max trying to ski everything and mentally wanting to unwind. Deep in the Arctic rescue options are limited to skidoos
Skiing in grand locations
Ski kiting to the lines was run and saved loads of precious calories. The ramp next to the wing was my favourite line we skied. Big wide open exposed slopes led into a twisting couloir exit
Showing Chipie how to load our 1942 303 enfield in case we get attacked by a bear. A nice light reliable weapon, perfect for skiing
Enrico Mossetti with the slabs of the Droites in the background
After a couple days waiting on weather we get dropped at the Tasman hut for our final hit of the trip, aiming to ski a first descent on the South Face of Mount Darwin. Tom trying to pull me down to his level!
Another monster line in Gibbs Fiord on Baffin. in 2016 we were blessed with regular snow falls providing primo ski conditions. Wading up the lines was hard work!
Playing mini golf above Plateau hut in NZ
Approach to the East Ridge of Cook with her East Face and Tasman’s Syme Ridge behind
Gazing up the Hooker Valley with my ‘rig’. Adventure skiing in NZ is not a light affair once bivi kit and stoves are added to the pack
Late afternoon golden rays on the Mothership in my backyard
The beautiful fan at the start of the Gervasutti. Tom Grant negotiating the cornice
October, preparing for NZ
A late night session to savour the evening light in Crosshairs Couloir in Steward Valley. We had spent the day triple carrying across faceted moraine and finally decided it was time to go skiing to boost moral
The East Face of the Matterhorn after we skied it
Stormy weather in Couloir de la Dent Jaune, Dents du Midi, Switzerland
Michelle Blaydon at the cute Dents du Midi refuge
Nate Wallace in the steep entry to the Grand Gervasutti
Tof Henry in the Col du Plan exit couloir, North Face of Aiguille du Midi
Enrico Mosetti making steep turns on Col de la Verte with the North Face of Les Droites behind
Extreme coffee drinking while sheltering out the wind at the extrance to the 1200 m Mel Gibbs couloir, Gibbs Fiord, Baffin Island
Steep and techy as Enrico Mossetti negotiates the lower ramp off Col de la Verte
Michelle in the approach couloir to Aiguille du Tacul
1100 m of May spring snow in Gibbs Fiord, Baffin. Another first descent.
Summit of Mont Blanc on a frigid day late May as we head off down the Bosses Ridge and prepare to make the big turn left down the 2000 m West Face. Exciting times.
The West Face of Mont Blanc
Tom Grant dropping into the Mont Mallet Diagonal
Happy days. This was my final day in Cham in 2016 before I headed to Baffin Island and I wanted a big day on the Midi but things hung in the balance as the opening time continually got pushed back as they dealt with the overnight snow. When it finally opened mid morning we managed to ski Col du Plan, West Couloir and Salopar.
My team mate and good buddy Enrico Mosetti on the lower ramp of Col de la Verte
Me skiing into the top of Breche Tacul with the North Face of Grandes Jorasses providing the backdrop
Col du Plan in all time conditions
Enrico Mosetti in the Brenva cirque with Col Moore behind while Italy sleeps under a blanket on cloud
The Plan de l’Aiguille at its best. Michelle Blaydon in perfect pow
Skiing on the Saudan route on the West Face of Mont Blanc. The seracs threaten the routes to the right and also the exit of our route focusing the mind on putting some distance between you and the face.
Good snow on the Mallory as Tom drops into the steep couloir off the tower
Stunning days on Lofoten as I get a look down into the line we want to ski
I did a traverse of Les Courtes solo on day from the NE into the South Face. The ridge along the top of the North Face was slabby on one side and corniced on the other so slow going. Plus it was -30C but the skiing was good!
Minna and Bird in the wee Gerva of Tour Ronde on the way to ski the North Face top down
My turns on the Cordier Gabarrou of Les Courtes
Playtime off Plan de l’Aiguille back in the days when it snowed
Johnny Collinson spine riding in Gressoney
Happy days. Mikko Heimonen on the walk out from Mont Blanc’s west face late May
De Masi spine riding Palud lowers
Oli Willet exiting Col du Plan. The shrund was like a catchers mitt
Palud. Deep. Jeremy Bogen
Bird. Midi North Face
Me contemplating the steep rocky, icy section from Tournier Spur into Col du Plan and working out the acceleration on 50 plus degrees before committing to straighlining through the gap
Flat light storm days in Lofoten confined us to couloirs but I wasn’t complaining
On the Mallory with Tom below
Tom Grant on the Mont Mallet glacier
Maybe a thing of the past. Deep days on the Plan with no one
Late at night. Michelle Blaydon in Crosshairs Couloir, Stewart Valley, Baffin
Michelle taking it all in, Lofoten
Minna Riihimaki checking out conditions before we commit to skiing the North Face
Michelle on the volcano Llaima
Dave Searle learning the steep game and making tentative turns on Col des Courtes in his first skimo season back in 2011
Bird slaying it on the North Face of the Midi
Me high on the West Face of Mont Blanc
The Frey Hut and its superb backyard, Bariloche, Argentina
Sunset from the Cosmiques hut as we prepare to go to the Brenva Spur
Minna, Michelle and Cedric in Lofoten
The road to Lanin, Argentina
More than a lifetime of exploration back there in New Zealand
Me amongst the granite spires of the Frey area, Bariloche
Andy Houseman on the Mallet Diagonal
Final rays at sundown on the Midi
Searching out the entrance of Couloir de la Perche with the Griaz Glacier behind
Tomasso Cardelli in the Vallencent
Si Christy chest deep in what was dubbed Clit Route due to the topography. Photo Chipie Windross. Probably the shot of the trip for me
On the easy ground of the Miage after crossing the chaotic glacier behind on our way down from skiing Mont Blanc’s West Face
On stove duty at 5 am in Gibbs Fiord. I needed an early start to catch the sun on the 1300 m Canton Couloir before it refroze.
The perfect backdrop as Searle drops in off Tour Ronde
On the Brenva Spur with a snow lynx track on the crest. I hope it enjoyed it as much as us
Perfect snow in this Baffin masterpiece allowing me to ski in front of the slough
Bouldering at Castle Hill after 3 weeks in the Cook Range skiing
Griffin Post riding pillows in Gressoney
Going for a flyby of the Caroline Face to check conditions
Gotta have a Midi North Face bin shot somewhere in your collection. Bird waiting for his hangover to clear.
Summit of Lanin with Michelle in volcano country of South America
Seth Morrison opening Col d’Entreves
Tom Grant in the Fransson line, Footstool. We used this to stretch our legs after several days travelling and get a feel for the snowpack. What you cant see is the severe gale force winds that are a big feature of NZ skiing.
Michelle Blaydon lining up to pass through the choke on this first descent in Lofoten
Dawn on the Midi
On a fly past the South Face of Darwin. This was the closest look we got of it before deciding it was a goer.
A cheaky ice bulge guarded the entrance to this 500 m virgin couloir in Lofoten. Well worth taking a second tool for making it all to easy.
Aperol spritzers at one of my favourite bars in the world, Riva del Garda, Lake Garda Italy.
Sylvain Renaud in Couloir Cache leading into the Brenva Cirque
Luca Pandolfi, Col d’Entreves
Me on the aesthetic Tacul shoulder
Si Christy heading off on a 1200m shot to the fiord in Baffin
Michelle Blaydon en route to Marbree one blustery day
De Masi looking for something to make the Toula more interesting
A psyched team of Evan Cameron, Chipie Windross and Si Christy doing a final repack of food into week bags before heading into the Baffin Fiords. Somehow Evan persuaded Chipie to swap out the normal sausage for ‘damn hot’ sausages which our guts weren’t that enamoured with and often had us sprinting across the fiord to drop our trousers
Me enjoying perfect conditions on the Tacul shoulder
Sunshine powder days on the Toula with Davide de Masi
My best buddy from school days, Paul van Lamsveerde, on a late afternoon down Cosmiques and spooky avi conditions on the Para face. Paul passed away in a crevasse fall on Grands Montets in 2013
Full moon silhouette of the Chamonix Aiguilles
The Merlet trail with its stunning backdrop
The Brits getting stuck into Digital Crack
When Brevent is good, its simply the best. Michelle Blaydon about to drop
Camp 2 in Gibbs Fiord. The couloir centre picture ran 1000 m to a col behind the tower
The rock spires and couloirs of Gibbs Fiord, Baffin
The Frendo Spur right after we skied it by the Hausseman Boulevard variation
A very happy team of Pandolfi, Briggs, Rihiimaki, Bird, Hewitt after skiing the Frendo in AK snow conditions
Skiing miles of white ice on the Tasman to avoid carrying any more weight on my back
Sundown behind the prelimary points on the Dent de Requin after a dawn to dusk day
Jim Lee, Roger Knox and Yann Rousset wading to Grands Envers on a rare day the Kuros found deep
Jackpot. 1200 m of boot deep powder on day 1 in Baffin. Si Christy skiing with Chipie above
Emerald waters in the Arctic waters of Lofoten
Deep. Jim Lee with overhead blower skiing towards Roger Knox on Grands Envers.
We got lucky with clear skies on several nights to watch the Lofoten light show
Another one from Mont Mallet
Norway and the beautiful bay that surrounds the Lofoten Ski Lodge
A tired and happy crew after a 15 hour day skiing the West Face of Mont Blanc. L-R Ross Hewitt, Mikko Heimonen and Jesper Petersson
A rare opportunity to sit outside Wyn Irwin hut on windless morning. Sefton and Footstool behind.
Big Country under the Dent de Geant seracs after skiing Mallet diagonal
Sunrise hits Aiguille du Midi while we climb Mont Blanc for the West Face
Tom Grant harvesting corn on the Brenva Spur lowers with Col Moore behind.
5 am start in Gibbs Fiord to go corn skiing in a sunny line
Our camper van in NZ packed to the brim with those amazing green Navis skis under the bed. Luckily Tom is pocket sized which left plenty of space for me to stretch out.
Enrico Mosetti above the arete on the Brenva Spur
Dolomite days with Minna Riihimaki and Christian Dallapozza on the Cristallo as we decided to head to the Vallencent Couloir
Dawn catches us on Col de la Fourche en route to ski the Brenva Spur
Quite possibly my all time favourite run as a ski mountaineer on the West Face of Mont Blanc
After I got back from Lofoten my main aim was to reacclimatise and have some training days for the big mountains and the Baffin Island ski expedition that I have been working on for month’s now – more of that below. 2014 Baffin photo essay
Dave Searle wangled a day off work so we decided to go the east couloir on the Tre la Tete as a training day since its a long approach to the end of the Miage Glacier. I have always wanted to camp up the glacier for this line and ski it in the early morning sun but we had to forgoe that to do this line in a day. In the end we got unlucky and fog enveloped us 700 m up the line and as its more of a ramp than a couloir, without rock walls to handrail, we decided to ski down from there. Still, good exercise being on the go all day.
Looking up towards Pointe Baretti from the Miage Glacier
Dave Searle dropping out of the fog on the East Couloir of Tre la Tete
The Mont Blanc Glacier dropping down in the background towards the Miage
Sunsets on the Mothership
High pressure was still dominating so the next day I went up the Chardonnet for a solo of ski the classic South Couloir. This line is one of my favourites with a good combination of steepness, exposure, spurs, and couloirs all with fantastic views of the Verte, Droites, Courtes and Argentiere. My acclimatisation was coming back and I was back down for lunch – on the same trip before Christmas in tough conditions it had taken Jesper and myself 5 hours just to get to the bottom of the couloir!
Z or the Washburn variant on the Verte the day after Capozzi, Pica, Rolli did it.
The North Face of the Droites
The North Wall of the Argentiere Basin
Skiing on the Aiguille du Chardonnet
The North Face of the Argentiere stripped back to glacial ice
Sun’s out, whats not to like with this view
Smooth snow on the Chardonnet – its at a premium right now after the wind
One of my favourite views from the exit couloir of the Chardonnet
I then had my niece Tash and her friend Toby to stay for a few days and had a great laugh showing them some of my favourite spots up the Helbronner and Midi as well as blasting a few pistes laps, watching the guys wingsuit from the Brevent and going on the luge.
My niece Tash and her friend Toby
Wingsuiter just jumped
Brevent telepherique and the Midi
South face Dent de Geant in Red and South Couloir Aiguille de Rochefort in Black
There was one sunny day left before the high pressure moved away, and although the cold north wind was still blowing, I decided to take a gamble and go try Remi Lecluse’s line on South Couloir of the Aiguille de Rochefort. With reasonable acclimatisation I was pretty confident I could move fast from the first cable car and get to the top around noon when the snow would be soft enough to ski. As I arrived in the car park the north wind was still blowing snow off the ridges and I didn’t have much hope for success, which relied on the sun to make the snow skiable. However, there are loads of options in that zone with the Dent de Geant, Petit Dent de Geant and Marbree as fall back plans so I decided to continue and go take a look.
The wind was still blowing at the Helbronner but as I skinned across to the Col de Rochefort area it seemed to be dropping. The traverse across the south face is long, a crab crawl on axes and crampons that seems to go on for ever. I now know how Tom Patey felt on his traverse of Creag Megaidh! The face was sheltered from the wind and the temperature was rising, and with that my hopes that things would soften and become skiable and I made good progress on the climb.
This face is vast, much wider than it is tall and being out there on your own makes you feel pretty insignificant in comparison to the scale of the mountains.
Selfie high on the Rochefort
Things were looking good but as I put my skis on, the breeze came back. At nearly 4000 m the air was still cold and the snow that had been softening nicely started to refreeze. I guessed the breeze would dissipate once I descended away from the Rochefort Arete but I was also worried that the breeze might pick up refreezing the whole line. I started down as quickly as possible which wasn’t fast at all on very variable poor snow. This part of the line is in the 50 degree range so there is a fair amount of gravity pulling at you. Each turn required maximum concentration, each time the skis landed they reacted differently. Sometimes they skidded on the icy surface, sometimes the snow sheared out from the downhill ski, all the time causing me to react quickly and make the necessary adjustments. Sometimes sections of hard glazed snow and rock forced me to sidestep. Tense times on skis.
When skiing becomes this slow and technical it often loses all of the aspects that draw me to the sport; rounded turns, quality of the snow, the sensation of virgin snow under your feet, your mind entering flow state.
The rap off a no. 7 rock through the upper choke
However, I still felt positive that the breeze would drop and the snow would be soft below the first choke where the couloir opens out onto the face. A rap through the choke thankfully took me onto soft snow allowing me to relax as fun skiing returned. This section starts of steep but quickly moderates to a similar angle to the neighbouring Dent de Geant run though it has more features scattered with bluffs and spurs to play on.
Soft snow now – yeehaa!
After hours of being alone a human voice pulled me out of my introverted mental state. I stopped skiing and scanned the mountain for its origin. 2 skiers were exiting the classic Dent de Geant run 500 m below me and whooping for joy. It was reassuring to see fellow skiers but they soon gone and I still had some technical difficulties ahead to exit the face through the rock bands.
The median slopes on the face open right out providing good skiing
In the lower section the couloir becomes well defined again as it cuts through the cliffs and the banks provided good corn skiing. Just before reaching the lower choke you can break out left onto the face and here I found a rock anchor Tom and Johanna had used on their descent. A small 5 m rap over a rockstep takes you onto the lower slopes and a straight-line over a rockslab spits you out above the bergshrund. This was a final challenge, as over the course of the fine weather, the shrund had opened up and there was now a gaping 6 m drop from the upper lip to a flat landing. Jumping it was the only option in the isothermal snow so I took off my transceiver and backpack, tied the rope to them and threw the rope down to retrieve them from below. The landing was going to be a big enough impact that I didn’t want the added weight of my pack on my back or the chance or breaking a rib with my transceiver. Lets just say its been a while my body has taken that kind of impact!
Whilst the skiing wasn’t memorable, the mental experience was – it felt like a trip to find myself, shut out all the clutter of everyday life and really be lost in the moment. In the end I found what I was looking for and liked what I found, so it was a worthy trip.
My next outing was to the Perche Couloir on the Griaz. My body hadnt recovered fully from the Rochefort so it was a case of treating it as a recovery day, going easy and allowing the toxins to slowly flush out of the system. Searler joined me once again and we had a leisurely day stopping for a sandwich on the plateau.
Hard snow made it easier to bootpack
A short bootpack connects the two snowfields
On the traverse to the Griaz – best with ski crampons
Descending the ridge to the Perche
Searler scoping out the steps in the ridge
Searler following down the moderate ridge
Some steep downclimbing, looked worse than it was
Nice red rock
Slightly exposed and loose here!
Skis on, one rock to sep over then time to ski
Good snow on the line
Another little choke
Uninterrupted skiing to the valley floor 6000 ft below
Surprisingly good snow considering all the wind and temperature spikes
For the last 6 months I have been organising a second expedition to Baffin Island’s mythical fiords. These fiords are huge, typically 30-70 km long and snake through the granite big walls that the Island is famed for. Couloirs between 600 – 1400 m high split these walls and there’s enough for a lifetime’s worth of exploration. Unusually, this time round we are 3 Scots and a token Englishman! The team consists of fellow Scots Evan Cameron from Christchurch, Si Christie from Courcheval and Anglese Chipie Windross from Tignes.
The trip is sandwiched between the mountain guides summer training 1 and 2 courses in the UK so if its anything like the last trip I will come back emaciated and weak – not ideal for rock climbing but you have to take these opportunities. As usual there has been a lot of work gone into this between researching objectives, grant applications, booking flights, finding a iridium sat phone, planning and ordering food, kit lists, kit modifications, ordering kit, team discussions. This all takes up time from planning and skiing routes day to day in Chamonix but right now conditions are far from optimal with all the Foehn wind and I am really craving going somewhere remote and exciting. Its a bit of a juggling act managing the trip, training for the rock part of the guides scheme and training for Baffin which includes eating a lot (that takes time too!). Time will tell how well I manage this juggling act while I try to boulder as much as possible to get some finger strength back and do some bike rides to keep my leg strength!
Baffin preparation – drilling holes so I can tow my skis rather than carry them
Adding a stirrup to my neoprene Kosy Boot should stop it riding up off my toes
Baffin preparation – eating as much as possible to put on weight