Saturday, 26 January 2008

About turn.

Yesterday saw an abortive attempt on the classic NW Couloir on the Aiguille du Fruit. This classic 500m couloir is on the hidden West face of this peak but gives (apparently) 500m of 45-50 degree couloir action, with the snow almost permanently in the shade.

Myself and Al dropped over the South side of the Col du Fruit and traversed across to the base of the couloir and started booting up. We very quickly ran into 2 major problems, 1. the snow was almost waist deep, and only the best swim/crawl technique allowed any upward progress... 2. 10 'steps' up the slope there was a big 'wooomf' and a small crack appeared about 10 feet above me...

Never being ones to ignore a sign we promptly decided to put skis back on and get the h*ll out of there. The ski down gave some nice (if slightly nervous) turns down to the river.

The couloir is mostly hidden from view, trending rightwards below the main peak:

Thursday, 24 January 2008

A grand day out!

Making the most of a rare day off and perfect snow & weather I hooked up with Al, Ewan and Jonny for what turned out to be one of the best days of the season so far, a traverse of the Breche Portetta from Courchevel to Pralognan. This starts with a quick wander up & over into the head of the Les Avals valley, then 600m of skinning up to the Rocher de Plassa.
An exposed traverse from here leads towards the start of the Glacerets descent with a sneak preview of the Breche itself (centre of photo):

Les Glacerets gave several good pitches of warm up turns in perfect powder:

Then a short traverse led to the final climb up to the breche itself:

The 'Breche' is actually a labyrinth of passageways and finding the correct one is not necessarily obvious. The northernmost passageway is quite spectacular, 40m deep and 3m wide for 15-20m.

Looking up from inside the Breche:

At the far end a couloir drops away steeply giving a blind descent with perfect pillows of soft snow:

Jonny on the first few turns:

Al enjoying the powder:

A bit of routefinding required part way down to not end up down a 'blind alley', then more perfect powder for the rest of the couloir proper:

Followed by another 500m vertical of great snow in the Creux des Dents:

And some more bonus turns to give over 1000 metres of great descent!

A happy team!

Although the guidebooks suggest continuing by the Creux de L'Ours there is alot of new growth of small trees etc so its far more reasonable to finish of on the forest road that leads back into Pralognan

Monday, 21 January 2008

Good conditions continue despite warm temperatures.

Despite Spring-like temperatures snow conditions are remaining good in the 3 Valleys.

Yesterday with Jason and Tony we skied Creux Noirs bowl, Marioland and various other bits of offpiste finding great soft snow with a wafer-thin layer of crust on top that made no difference to the skiing but was great for atmosphere with all the loose snow sliding easily on its surface.

Today I went out on a solo mission for a couple of steep couloirs. First up was the Couloir de la barre des Mures Rouges (centre of picture):

Having passed below this a few days ago and looked in yesterday from the top I was sure it was in good conditions...quite rare for this South East facing gully. It gave a good ski with a mix of soft snow, some scrapy sections, and generally quite exposed with large sections above rock bands/cliffs; you certainly wouldn't want to fall in the first 2/3 of this couloir. The exit proved to be the trickiest part, with a 5 foot wide gap 6 feet deep where the lower slope was creeping on the grassy base; this needed a bit of trickery to overcome, and the lower slope gave some great powder turns.

Next up was a couloir on the North side of the Aiguille du Fruit just right of the classic main NE couloir. In the picture its the obvious left hand branch of the V couloir system (just Right of centre):

I had skied the right hand branch last spring in heavy snow, and was keen to get up this in good soft snow. A handy skin track up the main couloir took me to where the Y couloir branches off, and a boot pack from 2 boarders who had been up the RH branch (cheers guys) made life easy up to the split. This left 300m of swimming up steep, deep soft snow to the col and a bit of sunshine. View from the top looking down:

A few minutes in the sun looking down the sunny-side couloir then into action and some great snow all the way down. Looking back up from part-way down:

And more to come:

Forecast is for snow down to 900m tomorrow morning then clearing again, which should set things up nicely for the rest of the week...

Saturday, 19 January 2008

Only in Courchevel...

This morning we were greeted by a beautiful 'sea of cloud' at the top of the Saulire cable car:

A quick morning session with John, Mark, Rick and Nuala ticking off the classic Saulire couloirs (Grand Couloir, Emile Allais and Sous le Telepherique) in soft snow with a wafer thin crust on top.

After this it was down to the Altiport where a polo match was in progress...only in Courchevel...

Friday, 18 January 2008

More powder!

Despite dodgy forecasts the last 2 days have continued to provide awesome conditions with fresh snow overnight and clear skies by day. Here the British Spinal Study Group get some fresh tracks down towards St Martin:

Tuesday, 15 January 2008


More powder again over the last 2 days...yesterday we put first tracks down the Canyon in Les Avals:

Perhaps this might restore some faith in European skiing (which the press did their best to destroy last year - despite the fact we were skiing powder this time last year too!)

Today we were putting in freshies in a secret spot in Val Thorens...super-deep, light, and noone else around...perfect!

Reports are excellent from across the French Alps, with contacts in Chamonix, Val D'Isere and the Southern Alps all reporting bumper conditions, with more snow forecast!

Sunday, 13 January 2008

Yet more snow in the French Alps.

After a great week in Chamonix working with Al Powell from Alpine Guides last week it was back to work in Courchevel today...Blue skies and powder on the menu:

With snow falling most of Saturday right down to 700m we were met by a good 2 feet of fresh powder on the slopes, with the lightest snow in the trees where it had been sheltered from the winds. Higher up the snow was soft but heavier and slightly wind affected. There were a couple of good slides set off during the PIDA avalanche blasting in the morning, and clear evidence of windslab on slopes from N through careful out there...

More snow is forecast as of tomorrow, so it could turn into a great January!