Preseason Powder Hunting

With the first snowfall of the season kicking things off in mid November its been a crazy busy period searching for powder stashes. The stable snow conditions have allowed me to go and explore some new areas and revisit some that were long forgotten years ago. The biggest challenge has been finding motivated partners and I’ve already racked up 50K vertical touring metres this autumn and 162 ski days for the year. Luckily I have a few trusted partners available on different days so I’m not always on my own. The highlight was finding 3 couloirs that don’t feature in any of my guidebooks which were filled with primo pow. I’ve also spotted a couple of cool lines which should be good to go once we get some more snow.
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Eiger North Face

Rain and cold put paid to any idea of rock climbing last weekend so I was able to put the time to good use catching up with friends and doing some training to get back the strength lost during the time in the mountains this winter. So instead of pictures of sunkissed rock here are the photos of a very special trip I shared with Jonny Baird to the Eigerwand – the austere ambience of the face was much the same as the scene from my living room window as Britain provides yet another spectacularly poor summer!

Over a couple of days on the Eiger North Face we were able to savour the history and enjoy the superb climbing and situations. I had the usual pre-match anxiety heading out onto a big face that even today still demands a high degree of commitment and the difficulty in retreat that so many unfortunate teams had found out and paid the ultimate price. It is also unusual starting out because in the morning its a fifteen minute walk from the train station before you start climbing. Some wake up call! That said you quickly become familiar with  surroundings once you start climbing and get on with the task in hand. For us all went smoothly with the exception of watching a weather forecast approach on day 2. We summitted in a snow storm in the dark that provided a fitting sting in the tale for this historic route. The wind and driving snow was freezing eyelids shut and we ended up sitting it out until the weather improved allowing us to descend. It wasn’t until I went back to ski the West Face that I saw the summit and the descent.

Me heading for the Difficult crack. Everything around is unusually steep and intimidating for a European North Face.

Baird below the Rot Fluh

Baird rock climbing above the Difficult Crack.

1st Ice Field.

A dryish Ice Hose

Baird coming over to the Flat Iron

An early stop to eat and sleep at Death Bivi where we are bathed in sunshine, well for at least 2 minutes as it came round the Geneva Pillar then set below the horizon!

The sunshine is a welcome break from the austerity and cold.

Baird leading off up the ramp in the morning.

Exiting the Waterfall Chimney.

Jonny on the Traverse of the Gods heading for the White Spider.

The quartz crack.

Bad weather threatens as Baird follows he final pitch on the exit cracks.

A second bivi to sit out the worst of the storm and we start down with a lot of fresh snow.

An unfamiliar sight on the Eiger – Baird map reading on the descent.

The weather finally clearing up.

A happy and tired Jonny!