Saturday, 28 February 2009

Steep Vanoise Days 4 & 5

What a week!! The weather really played ball, giving us blue skies to go and search out the best slopes around...
On Thursday we went up to Les Arcs for an adventure down the back of the Aiguille Rouge in 'Valdez':

Heading down the ridge from the top of the cable car (climbing past big warning signs is mandatory!!):

Mike poised for action...:

With 500m of couloir beneath his ski tips:

Ian concentrating in the first steep turns:

Steve on his rented 'matchsticks' (it now turns out he skied the North Face of Bellecote on a broken ski!!):

Mike relaxing on easier angles below the couloir, only another 1300m to go til Villaroger:

Yesterday for the last day of the course we went back to St Foy in search of some more of the powder still lurking on the nearby north faces. A quick hours skin got us to the Grand Soliet, from where a short traverse took us into an almost untracked area of the Foglietta north face:

Ian enjoying his Pro Riders in the (now slightly heavy) powder:

Mike in action - still large areas of untouched powder if you go looking!:

Having nailed 500m of good powder we were hungry for more, so skins went back on again, and we set off up to the Col D'Argentiere. 500 slightly weary metres later and we were poised for another great run, this time into the bowl under the 'Couloir Doudou', again with the promise of fresh snow for our skis.


Opening up the gas on the wide lower slopes:

A quick descent of the 'icy path of death' (again) took us back to La Masure, and 10 minutes walk saw the team comfortably installed at the Auberge du Monal, with a welcome beer to reward a good 'mission'.

Roll on next year!! For more information on this course (and more) have a look at the offpisteskiing website.

Thursday, 26 February 2009

Steep Vanoise Day 3

Bit behind on this weeks here is Wednesday's...

Jackpot on the North Face of the Foglietta, with perfect powder, and lots of space for fresh tracks!!!

Stunning views of the Mt Pourri and Aiguille Rouge on the way up:

A happy team on the summit of the Foglietta... Steve, Mike & Ian:

Steve high on the face:

Mike 'making 8s':

Ian putting his Pro Riders to good use:

A few more fresh turns anyone?:

Fun & games in the lower couloirs:

Looking back up at the lower part of the descent:

The 'icy path of death' (not so icy today!):

A happy-looking Mike in the village of Le Crot:

Through the houses:

A quick lunch, short bus ride, and a tussle with the halfterm crowds and we were back up the top. This time we opted for a mellow trip down the South side of the mountain, with nice snow taking us down to the picturesque village of Le Monal, from where a bit of skating got us back around to St Foy, and a welcome beer to celebrate a great day!!

Tuesday, 24 February 2009

Steep Vanoise Day 2

Day 2 of the Steep Vanoise week, and with an improving forecast we set off for an adventure on the North Face of Bellecote. After a long trudge through the lift systems of Les Arcs and La Plagne we finally enjoyed some warm-up turns linking some of the less-frequented parts of the Rossets couloirs under the Roche de Mio, with a bit of 'dry-skiing' thrown in for good measure. Up on the Glacier we stopped for a quick bite at the cafe, then headed off to have a look at the North Face.

Looking into the Cairn the entry was decidedly wind-blown, but with the promise of better conditions further down the face we set off down the ridge and carefully negotiated the entry into the Couloir des Canadiens:

After a tentative first 100m (not surprising with 1500m of air beneath your edges!) the guys warmed to the task and were soon happily linking jump turns down the couloir. Sadly the prime conditions of last Saturday had long since disappeared, and though the snow did get softer there was little serious powder on offer.

Near the top of the Canadiens:

Ian high in the Canadiens:

As always the face only revealed its true scale as we made our way down, with each individual section taking many more turns than expected...this is a truly massive bit of mountain!!

Steve approx halfway:

Mike in the last of the 'couloir' section, still a long way to go though:

Out of the couloir there was finally some nice soft snow to ski on the big open slopes before the valley bottom, and eventually we made our way down to Les Lanches for a welcome beer...

Foglietta tomorrow??

Monday, 23 February 2009

Steep Vanoise Day 1

First day of the offpisteskiing Steep Vanoise week, and today with a mixed forecast we headed up to Val D'Isere.

A quick warm-up, and we headed off piste on the classic Cairn descent to check out conditions. Despite some snowfall over the last 24 hours there was not a lot of fresh in evidence, but still some nice chalky snow, with the odd patch of softness here & there.
Next up we hiked to the top of Bellevarde, for a run down the Table D'Orientation couloir. After a tight entry the snow in here was actually very soft, giving some nice skiing before rejoining the Cairn run.

Ian in the lower part of the couloir, with Steve & Mike watching:

After an early lunch and some boot adjustments we then took in the East Face of the Charvet, which gave some more soft, if tracked, powder. With the weather definitely not playing ball (forecast to clear) we made our way over to the top of Le Fornet through wind and snow, but always with a hint of brightness promising blue skies at some point.
With a big clear patch failing to materialise we settled for a descent through the Col Pers and Gorges du Malpasset. As if on cue the clouds cleared enough to give perfect visibility, and we had a great run putting in big curves on windblown powder down to the valley bottom.

Back in Le Fornet and with time & energy to spare, we jumped back into the cable car and went off in search of the Couloir Gerthoffet. This steep, narrow little number had some nice soft snow in the top, a trench forcing a sideslip through the narrow section, followed by soft snow through the trees all the way down to the river.

Mike negotiates the tricky upper section:

And relaxing lower down:

Roll on tomorrow!!

Saturday, 21 February 2009

Col du Biol / Couloir des Chamois

With conditions continuing to hold fair today, I ignored the desire to finally have a lie-in and not put ski boots on (14 days on the trot now??) and headed out to explore yet another of the great tours over to Pralognan from Courchevel, via the Col du Biol, and a sneaky route into the north-facing Couloir des Chamois (cheers for the info Will!) where I hoped to find some relatively untouched snow.

The day started with a quick ride through the lift system (deserted today..) and then a slide around and down past the Refuge du Grand Plan, followed by 600m of skinning up to the Rocher de Plassa. A few nice pitches of powder on the Glacerets take you to the start of the next climb..

Looking across to the Col du Biol from the Glacerets descent, the route goes through the narrow gap in the rocks on the far skyline:

Looking up at the Breche Portetta, quite a few tracks in here now:

The final steep skin up to the Col du Biol. A great place to practice your kick turns:

Ginny on the way up:

Passing through the breche of the Col du Biol:

Coming through the breche you are finally rewarded with great views of the Vanoise, with the Grande Casse as centrepiece:

Some more nice soft turns, then a last short skin back up to the ridge, Pralognan 1200m below..:

Along the ridge to the couloir:

Looking down the Couloir des Chamois - 600m of good steep powder to come before it flattens out. A few tracks in here already, but plenty of space lower down to find some fresh stuff:

The descent gave soft turns all the way, with some sections of deep, light powder, and others with 20cm of powder on top of a very firm base. All very pleasant to ski!!:

Couloir des Chamois just left of centre in this pic:

Forecast currently is for light snow tomorrow night & Monday morning, then clearing for the rest of the week, great news for the guys on this weeks Steep Vanoise week. Hopefully we will be able to get out on some of this areas great classics...

Saturday, 14 February 2009

Day off...

Day off today, but with spectacular conditions currently this was not a day to be wasted.
On a hunch, Ginny & I headed up into the La Plagne area for a look into the north face of Bellecote. Several extremely chilly chairlifts later we found ourselves at the top of the Couloir du Cairn, and it looked like we had hit the jackpot...loads of fluffy powder, with only a few tracks already in the couloir.

Ginny high in the Couloir du Cairn:

Looking down, still a long way to go:

The north face of Bellecote is a deceptive place: when you drop in it doesn't look that big, but each pitch lasts longer than normal, and its only when you have skied a few pitches and realise you still aren't that far down that the size of the face becomes apparent.

1500 vertical metres later, looking back up at a slightly wind-blown north face:

And heading down the 'Allee des Melezes' back to Les Lanches:

Back into the ski area, and a quick lunch later, we decided to make the most of the cold conditions with a descent from the Roche de Mio down to Champagny-le-Haut via the Chiserette valley. This South-facing descent is not often in good conditions, but gave 800m of perfect powder, and relatively easy passage through the narrow gap above Les Bois.

Perfect powder:

And some more:

Following the summer path through the only gap in the cliffs:

On the way down to Les Bois there were a few bouqetins and chamois grazing:

A quick coffee at the Refuge du Bois, and a taxi ride from M. Dunand Senior got us back to Champagny, with a bit of mouflon (mountain sheep) spotting along the way.