Sunday, 30 March 2008

Courchevel Powder

Out hunting the powder again today, and after a false start trying to get over to Val Thorens and failing (wind) hooked up with Jonny and Ewan to head up the Aiguille du Fruit above Courchevel.

Ewan near the top of the climb:

The strong winds had already taken their toll and the snow was variable in the top of the couloir.

Ewan on the first few turns:

Jonny K:

As we got further down the snow slowly got lighter as we got out of the wind affected zone.

Jonny ripping it up:

Since the car was in Mottaret I made a detour via the Saulire to ski one of the Meribel couloirs that I hadn't been down before. There are a whole series of openings along the ridge at various points, and this one was interesting with a short 30m of sidelipping/jump-turning to negotiate some rocks, followed by a crucial left traverse to avoid going over a small cliff.

Bit more straightforward from here down, though still quite tight and not great snow.

These couloirs are rarely in great conditions due to catching a lot of sun, but are definitely worth seeking out to spice up a run back to the 'sunny side'. Looking back up into the couloir:

2nd time lucky?

After a great weeks work skiing the fantastic powder which just kept on falling, a clear forecast for the weekend meant some play was the order of the day.

I headed up for a 2nd attempt to ski the Croix de Verdon from the very top, having turned back from the final slope a couple of winters ago. From the top of the cable car the top half of the couloir is an obvious, though rarely skied, line.

A sweaty boot up the couloir with a new Swiss friend Serge got us to the little col below the final slope. Most of the couloir is quite exposed, finishing in a rocky gully, but the top slope is a different matter: 50ยบ slopes with big cliffs underneath. 20m of swimming up ever deepening mush and we decided it wasn't a goer. The bottom couloir gave a reasonable ski, but I'll be back for that top pitch again (just a shame it always seems to be in condition when I'm working!).

Serge in the couloir:

We dropped back into the regular Croix de Verdon couloir and followed the boot pack up the right hand side (left by some other friends...cheers for the track guys). The Entonnoir was well skied out, so we peeked over the Meribel side and it was totally untouched...

Many happy perfect powder turns later we hit the Meribel pistes...not bad for a fall back option!

Serge near the ridge:


Friday, 21 March 2008

Snow, snow, snow...

Woke this morning to snow falling outside the house here in Bozel (850m). With Meteo france forecasting 30-70cm over the next 24 hours its shaping up into a great Spring!

Avalanche risk will be high for the next few days though so take care out there...

View from the front door this morning...all this was green yesterday:

Chamonix - Quick Hit

Quick hit over in Chamonix this week for a days work on the Grands Montets with Mat and his Dad, with the pistes as good as they have ever been, and great soft snow off-piste. With the top lift having been shut the day before there was still loads of fresh stuff left by the time we went up...

The view from the top of the Grands Montets, looking at the North face of Les Drus, and beyond the Chamonix Aiguilles and Mont Blanc.

Wednesday I had the pleasure of a mornings skiing and catching up with a couple of friends I'd not seen for a while, and then into the 'boot room' at Sanglard Sports for a bit of boot-fitting from Jules (the master boot-fitter-man).

Reports are of great conditions in the Vallee Blanche, with face shots down the Col du Plan/Grand Envers. Couloir Cosmiques is being skied in good conditions, and classic Argentiere tours (Col du Tour Noir etc) sound in good condition. The high North Faces are very grey though...but the current heavy snowfalls may change this.

Sunday, 16 March 2008

Tignes classics

Having spent the week working in Tignes I decided to stay on for the Saturday to make the most of the great conditions following the big snowfalls during the week, and tick a couple of classic lines that have been on the 'to-do' list for a while...

The main plan for the day, the West Couloir on the Grande Parei, was put on hold as from closer inspection from the bottom of the first pitch down the Vallons de la Sache the slope below the couloir looked extremely uninviting. A change of plan then, and following some bush-whacking to get out from the extended finish to the Vallons I headed up high where the North face of the Pramecou was looking particularly fine (apart from the usual rocky finish):

A huge queue for the cable car and very wind-affected snow meant I left the north face of the Grande Motte for another day...the classic Tignes north face trilogy (Motte, Pramecou, Balme) will have to wait.
A short skin up to the Pramecou, 5 minutes in the sun, then onto the North face, with great soft snow sloughing off on each turn in true Alaska style. Looking down from 100m in:

A great little slope, the bottom of the face is also at the start of the walk up to the Grande Balme, another Tignes classic and obvious line which catches the eye from Val Claret or Le Lac. 10 minutes quick hike, a couple of minutes to give 2 French riders a head start and it was straight into more great soft snow in the top of the couloir.

Looking down on the french riders from the top:

The french guys just above the dogleg:

Just below the dogleg, skier visible down and left of the gazex on the wide slopes below the couloir:

A couple of great powder runs before midday, not bad considering the delayed start for the morning's detour via La Sache...

Back up the Grande Motte and over to the 3500 couloir and a change of snow. This clasic line is easily accessed by traversing from the top of the cable car to the obvious breche. The couloir was in perfect spring conditions (though I was maybe 30 minutes late for prime spring snow) and gives 1000m of descent to the Leisse valley floor. A short step down and I was able to put skis on 1m below the entry and make turns down the initial steep entry slope into twide main gully.
Looking back up from 200m down (entry on R):

Looking back up from above the Couloir des Chamois exit:

1000m of great skiing and a long traverse later i put skins back on for the climb back out to the Leisse chair. A sweaty half hour later and the welcome relief of the chairlift took me up to the Panoramic for a well-earned cold-drink. A quick descent of the north face of the Petite Balme took me back to Val Claret at 2.30pm, where common sense got the better of me and I decided to call it a day and hit the road for home in time to watch the Six Nations 'final'.

More snow due in the next few days, but for big mountain skiing it looks like South facing may be the way for the next couple of weeks...north face of the Grande Casse is still very bare with huge patches of blue ice...

Off Piste Improvers - Tignes

Tignes was the venue for last week's Jagged Globe Off Piste Improvers course, with a variety of conditions...2 days of sun and skied out chalky snow, 2 days of wind and snow, followed by 2 days of sun and powder!!

Over the course of the week we skied many of the classic off-piste lines of the Espace Killy: Vallons de la Sache, Chardonnet couloirs, les Grapillons, Tour de Balme, Petite Balme, Pentes du Lavachet, Familiale, Spatule, Cairn, East Face of Charvet, Cugnai, Lavancher couloir, Col Pers and more...

Thanks to Grae, Pat, Trevor, Dan, Paul and Anders for braving the bad weather mid-week, and being game to throw themselves down everything I pointed them at!!

Grae in powder near the Palafour:

Trevor at the top of the Chardonnet couloir, with an attentive audience:

Bottom of the Chardonnet couloir:

Looking back on the Chardonnet couloir (middle of picture):

Fresh tracks...Chradonnet bowl:

A happy Dan:

Grae on the narrow sideslip to access the Grapillons hike:

On the way up to the Grapillons, North Face of Grande Casse as backdrop:

Dan, Anders and Pat reach the top:

Words not required:

On the way into the Vallons de la Sache:

East Face of the Mont Charvet:

The team (minus Anders) - Dan, Pat, Paul, Grae and Trevor:

Cheers guys, hopefully ski with you again next winter...

Friday, 7 March 2008

Fresh snow in the 3 Valleys

Another great week in the 3 Valleys with a couple of snowfalls giving great conditions, with 30cm of powder in places.
6 days with Jim, Anne, Bridget, Andy, Dave and John in which time we roved far & wide through the whole area searching out the good snow.

Fresh tracks in the Rocher de L'Ombre bowl:

More fresh tracks in Les Avals:

And more:

Yet more fresh snow:

The team by the Pierre Fendue, on the way along the ridge to the Brequin variant of the Lac du Lou:

Everything North facing is fantastic, with light fluffy powder over a soft base. Other aspects all have more or less hard and lumpy base under the new snow giving a rattly ride.
Reports also of face shots in the NW couloir of the Aiguille du Fruit on Thursday, and great snow on the North side of the Aiguille de Chanrossa yesterday.
Further afield word is the Grands Montets is a bit wind affected, but the Vallee Blanche and variants is holding some good soft powder.