Monday, 25 February 2008

Aiguille du Fruit South Face

Back to the Aiguille du Fruit again today with a different objective in mind...the 800m South Face.
Yesterdays corniced col gave good views into the face to confirm there was enough snow to ski on this face which strips very quickly.

7.20am from Mottaret to beat the sun, 8.30 at the bottom of the face at 2100m and 10.30 on the ridge at 2940m.
Looking up from the lower slopes:

Summit ridge, looking down the East face...awesome looking powder...unfortunately with the Courchevel lifts on strike and a lunchtime rendezvous with visiting parents in meribel this was left for another day (tomorrow?):

Looking down the face from 100m down:

Yesterdays corniced col (middle of skyline):

Looking back up from 300m down the face:

A great ski though slightly 'firm' (brick hard spring with 1/2cm of softened surface) due to time commitments and a hazy sun not warming the snow as quick as might have been hoped...Great to finally ski this 'hidden' side of the Aiguille though...

Sunday, 24 February 2008

Aiguille du Fruit NW couloir

2nd time lucky.

This stunning line on the West side of the Aiguille du Fruit had been on the hit list for a while, with an abortive attempt in January. With 3 weeks of stable weather I was confident the couloir would be safe, the question was whether any good snow was left...

A solo mission today saw me negotiating some wet slide debris across the south side of the Col du Fruit to get to the bottom of the couloir. The lower section of the couloir was on the firm side, with a spindrift-polished runnel in the middle. Indecision after 100m, the snow feels OK but definitely on the crusty side, what will it be like higher up? The couloir is quite enclosed and faces North West so I was reasonably confident it would still be soft on the left bank.
A quick couple of turns on the lower crust proved it to be reasonably skiable, so confidence boosted I swapped skis for crampons and axe and headed up again.
Variable conditions finally revealed an old boot track at 2750m, which eased the effort to the summit ridge just under the 3000m mark.

The direct finish was already in the sun and had some grim snow in it, so I opted for the right-hand finish, well-shaded, to the col overlooking the South Face (big cornice):

Looking towards the summit. Left for another day, with a rope and partner...:

Looking down:

After the first 50m of steep the slope eases to a shade under 45º for the rest of the couloir. As expected the far left bank was still holding some pockets of very soft snow:

With scenery like this you can't go wrong:

Looking back at the Aiguille du Fruit. The couloir starts directly below the summit goes up diagonally rightwards to the ridge right of the summit:

Another great day out in the Vanoise...

Col du Mone

Continuing this years theme of trips over to Pralognan, Friday night saw us doing the shuttle run to drop a car in Pralognan, with a view to skiing the Col du Mone from Courchevel.

This route is easily accessible with 1 hours skinning tops to hit the col, and some good spring snow up for grabs on the way down. A pair of huge golden eagles were floating about just over our heads as we skied (very big, but not lammergeiers...)...

Roy & Ginny on the descent:

A hot bit of skating down the cross-country tracks (no easy slide like last week) got us back into Pralognan for a change into comfy shoes and some quality pizza action for lunch!

Monday, 18 February 2008

68º North wins in Fort William!

News just in... 68º North, Ridestyle Productions film of first ski descents in Greenland, has just been announced as winner of the 'Best Scottish Film' award at the Fort William Mountain Film Festival. This yearly event boasts a great line-up of films and guest speakers, as well as daytime workshops and activities. Check out the FWMFF website for more details.

This is the first award for one of my films, and hopefully will provide a stepping stone to bigger and better projects...

A trailer for the film is online here.

Val T to Pralognan

Making the most of a day off, a stable forecast and Ginny's much improving knee we headed out for a gentle days touring on Saturday on the classic Col de Gebroulaz to Pralognan route.
This starts with a quick skin from the Val Thorens lifts up to the Col de Gebroulaz at 3434m with a classic backdrop of the Ecrins on the skyline:

As with much of Val Thorens the Col was very wind affected, with bare glacier ice showing through where normally there is only snow...

The descent to Pralognan branches right from the normal Gebroulaz Glacier descent at about 3000m and heads down into a huge playground with a slopes of every angle, and plenty of differing slope aspects giving a good choice of snow conditions.

Part way down the descent we came across a fantastic set of raised animal tracks (Chamois?):

The descent passes the Refuge du Roc de la Peche in the valley floor, a great place to stop for lunch, and home to possibly the largest St Bernard in the world (the picture does it no justice...):

An easy slide down the snowed up road leads under the Roc de Valette and back to Pralognan, we were lucky to see a couple of Chamois and a pair of Lammergeier vultures high overhead:

All in all a great day out.

Saturday, 9 February 2008

Jagged Globe Off Piste Course Orsieres

Just back from an awesome week in Orsieres. Along with my good friend Philippe Terretaz we 12 clients on this Jagged Globe 'Off Piste perfection' course.

Although Orsieres is only 10 minutes from Verbier, we spent most of the week in the smaller resorts in the vicinity which are real unsung gems.
Vicheres, Ovronnaz, Super St-Bernard, Crevacol and Verbier were all visited, with great soft snow to be found in each (with a bit of knowledge...).

Crevacol powder:

The return route from the forest, skiing along the roof of the road to the St Bernard tunnel:


The tunnel at Super St Bernard:

Synchro powder on the run to Etroubles:

Verbier; Col de Champ Ferret:

More great powder:

Jagged Globe Off Piste course 3 Valleys

2 weeks ago was the 'Off Piste Improvers' course based in Brides-les-Bains below Meribel and run in conjunction with Jagged Globe. With Steve, Russ and Ronan we made a pretty good job of scouring the 3 Valleys from end to end in search of good powder and steep slopes. Amongst other things we skied the Equinox Face, Couloirs Cure, Emile Allais and Sous le Tele; Col du Vallon, Speedball, La Masse down to Le Bettex, Col de Bouchet. Good tours were had to the Col de Borgne, and the Combe des Roches via the Col des Saulces. On the whole we managed to find good soft snow every day, despite no new snow for a good few days...

Skinning up to the Col de Borgne:

Descent from the Col de Bouchet:


Approaching the Col des Saulces:

Couloir Cure: