Tour Ronde North Face

My plan to go do West Couloir Integral was scrapped as soon as the Midi announced they were opening late. Being Sunday there was gong to be a lot of attention on the North Face from those on their day off work so we changed to touring kit and headed off to Cirque Maudit for some tranquility and to see what looked good. Tour Ronde looked pretty good so we headed there.

The day wasn’t without a few challenges; Bird must have dreamt he could actually fly so he left his axes at home, my crampon bail snapped at the shrund and Minna had to get there on alpine day wreckers (alpine trekkers). Somehow we made it!

The last time I did this we rapped between the faces so it was a good adventure to take the skier’s left line down the face through the mixed ground. Once again I had the pleasure to ski with Minna Riihimaki and Bird Early.

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The face looking good on the left of the photo. Tour Ronde North Face Black Crows Bird Minna Rihiimaki-44

A choucas came to visit us as we climbed then this halo appeared. Minna and Bird enjoying good climbing conditions in the Petit Gerva.Tour Ronde North Face Black Crows Bird Minna Rihiimaki-50 Tour Ronde North Face Black Crows Bird Minna Rihiimaki-59

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In the starting gate.Tour Ronde North Face Black Crows Bird Minna Rihiimaki-83 Minna heading off down the upper face.

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Bird arcing out some turns in the powder.Tour Ronde North Face Black Crows Bird Minna Rihiimaki-107

Minna in the pow then finding some firm snow.Tour Ronde North Face Black Crows Bird Minna Rihiimaki-109 Tour Ronde North Face Black Crows Bird Minna Rihiimaki-113 Tour Ronde North Face Black Crows Bird Minna Rihiimaki-135 Tour Ronde North Face Black Crows Bird Minna Rihiimaki-143 Tour Ronde North Face Black Crows Bird Minna Rihiimaki-152

Kaaw, kaaw – Bird in flight.Tour Ronde North Face Black Crows Bird Minna Rihiimaki-161

Bird at the end of the rocky centre section with Minna sidestepping past the rocks.Tour Ronde North Face Black Crows Bird Minna Rihiimaki-162 Tour Ronde North Face Black Crows Bird Minna Rihiimaki-167

Into GS mode on the lower face. Screen Shot 2013-06-04 at 20.29.24My POV with sluff chasing my tails.

Summer Powder in the Cosmiques

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Leaving the Mothership. May 30th.Cosmiques Michelle Blaydon Berghaus-4 Cosmiques Michelle Blaydon Berghaus-6 Cosmiques Michelle Blaydon Berghaus-17 Cosmiques Michelle Blaydon Berghaus-27 Cosmiques Michelle Blaydon Berghaus-49The Mothership looking moody.

The Frendo Spur

Frendo spur ski route

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.

Frendo spur ski descent-14 Minna at the start and heading off to play between the sunlight and shadows.Frendo spur ski descent-15 Frendo spur ski descent-37

Luca on the upper slopes beside the buttress.Frendo spur ski descent-51 Frendo spur ski descent-54

A happy team.Frendo spur ski descent-55

Ben riding the spine in the next few shots.Frendo spur ski descent-87 Frendo spur ski descent-88 Frendo spur ski descent-90 Frendo spur ski descent-91

And the resulting sluff – photo (c) Paul Lang – thanks.Frendo spur ski descent-127

Minna at the start of the spine. Frendo spur ski descent-128

Minna just above the tower. Frendo spur ski descent-134

Bird’s energy levels were obviously rising fast as he waited to ski and he charges out the gate with great sluff management.
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Luca heading to the tower. Frendo spur ski descent-166 Frendo spur ski descent-177

The Black Crows nest invaded by the Italian Cuckoo (I’m joking Luca!).Frendo spur ski descent-181

Last rap.Frendo spur ski descent-183Bird slashing out a few turns.

Frendo spur ski descent-187 Frendo spur ski descent-201Minna on the lower slopes which go on and on.
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Apres Frendo team shot. Well done to Minna – likely a first female descent.Frendo spur ski descent-207 Frendo spur ski descent-209

Bird was after more so went back up to speed-fly the line. That’s his wing just above the serac.Frendo spur ski descent-210

The wing is a tiny dot in this shot.Frendo spur ski descent-212

Cosmiques Couloir – May 26th!


I’m just back from a rock n road trip to Finale and heard things were good so rushed down to the Midi to catch the mid morning window of opportunity. Bird and Minna were coming out of the cafe and Camille soon joined. I’d been expecting to ski alone so didn’t have my SLR which was a shame for the big wide open skiing in the Cosmiques. Conditions are pretty epic right now and it was bottomless powder to the bottom – what a way to get back on skis after a week off! Thanks to Bird, Minna Riihimaki and Camille Jaccoux.
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Minna in the starting gate.Cosmiques Couloir_-4

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and again
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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. Eugster-2 Eugster-12 Eugster-16 Eugster-21 Eugster-28 Eugster-31 Eugster-32Mika took the following photos – Thanks Mika!

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