Friday, 29 April 2011

Work stops play...

Well, it looks like work is about to stop play for the month of May, frustrating since despite the 'dry' winter there is still plenty to go at, with some nice lines currently being skied in the Mercantour and Ecrins area in good conditions... lets see what June brings!

I will be updating the blog through the next couple of weeks with some equipment reviews & thoughts from this winter... in the meantime here are a few more photos from the Eiger, courtesy of Cedric Bernardini, Jim Lee and Ross Hewitt:

Sunday, 24 April 2011

Haute Tarentaise tour + conditions

Currently on an enforced layoff from skiing in sunny Tuscany on family-in-law duties, but thought I would post some photos from late last week to show conditions in the Haute Tarentaise - still loads of snow to play on in the Haute Tarentaise/Haute Maurienne/Gran Paradiso area for ski tourers who haven't yet had their fill.

There are also good first-hand reports coming in from the Bernese Oberland area as well as the vicinity of the Grand Combin - the touring season isn't over yet despite the dry winter!!

Ginny skinning round to the Col de L'Ouille Noire:

Nice spring snow on the East facing slopes behind:

A short sin & bootpack took us over the Col du Montet and onto the slopes below the Gros Caval:

Nice dusting of soft snow on a firm base for the first few hundred metres vertical:

Then onto good spring snow:

Great skiing all the way down to the Prariond hut:

Best to take a pair of trainers to enjoy the walk out through the Gorges de Malpasset along the summer path...:

...and not take the 'skiing out through the Gorges' option!:

Wednesday, 20 April 2011

Eiger West face

We had a hot tip off at the weekend from friends who had climbed the North face that the West face of the Eiger was in very snowy condition, so a crack team was hastily assembled to go and ski this legendary summit.
Weighing in at 5.2 on the Toponeige scale, and with 1600m vertical, with 1200m at 40º or more and 4/500m of steady 45º high up this is not a descent to take lightly (not to mention the mid-height serac).

Grindlewald grund train station:

On the train up to Kleine Sheidegg

Eiger North face looking moody:

The team contemplating the West face, upper half hidden by the clouds:

Ross Hewitt & Cedric Bernardini at the 5 star bivvy spot:

Sunset on the Jungfrau:

Antigravity chough:

7.30 am, time to climb... only 1600m to go:

A bit of rock climbing for a wake-up call:

A few hundred metres of skinning up the lower apron, then skis on pack, crampons on, and time to start boot-packing:

Cedric approaching the ice runnels that allow you to stay well left (though not completely out of the line of fire of the serac):

Starting up the upper face:

Looking down from approx 3600m on the West face, Eigergletscher station visible 1300m below:

A quick peek down the North face - very good conditions on the classic '38 route currently:

The team on the summit:

French pair coming off the North face:

Dave Rosenberger puts in the first couple of turns down a slightly firm West ridge - 4m wide, 1600m of north face on the right, 1600m of West face below, so slightly 'airy'!:

John Minogue - first turns on the West ridge:

Spot the skier (yes he is in there - dead centre) - Dave ripping the upper face:

Jim Lee high on the upper face:


Ross & Cedric below the serac - 100m of mixed conditions - chopped up powder, sluff balls, spring snow & the odd runnel... just where you don't want to be hanging around!

Good spring snow right through the lower slabs - just enough there to get through with skis on...

And ski to within 50m of the Eigergletscher station:

One for the laydees! - The cream of the crop of Chamonix steep skiers flex their pecs in the afternoon sun:

The West face. The line skied started from the summit down the West ridge (left hand skyline), then skiers left through the rock bands of the upper face to join the wide slopes above the serac:

Culture shock - one minute you are in the high mountains, the next sitting on a train full of Japanese tourists!

Legendary summit + great line + good snow + crack team = awesome day out!

Sunday, 17 April 2011

Dome de Polset - East Couloir

A last minute cancellation from a partner for a hit in Chamonix left me with the option of a (relative) lie-in and some steep ski action closer to home.
Word on the street was that the East face of the Dome de Polset was in skiable condition - with a rare direct line through the bottom of the face just filled in.

9.15 am saw me waiting for the lifts in Val Thorens to open, and 3 chairlifts later I was putting on skins on the Col de Thorens for a quick thrash up to the Col de Gebroulaz. A bit of skins on/skins off to get under the Aiguille de Polset, then it was a final 100m up to the Dome de Polset at 3500m:

There were 2 or 3 people on the summit but nobody appeared to be heading Eastwards... as it was almost 11am, and the sun had been on the couloir for a while I figured the entry may be quite hard, but the main couloir looked to be softening already:

The entry was quite narrow, and with 2 or 3 old ski tracks the snow had been vitrified and was definitely on the icy side of firm... a bit of sidestepping axe in hand took me down 10 metres to where the couloir opens a bit, and the snow was perfect as expected... The upper couloir gives 200m or so of 40/45º before narrowing into a runnel which you have to traverse out of to avoid some big cliffs below. 100m of slightly tight skiing then follows, picking a line through some narrows just wide enough for a 184cm set of skis!

Halfway through the tight middle section:

Looking down into the bottom couloir - this often does not go, as the final 20m can be very rocky, but there is currently a snowed up ramp to exit :-) The couloir was perfect, 200m of 50º, again with perfect spring snow!

Exiting the face the good snow continued down towards the Col Superieur de Chaviere, time for a quick look back at the face before the long hot skin back up to the Col de Thorens:

Quite pleased with the 4 hour round trip... a great face, and there are plenty more lines off this side of the range to go at for anyone looking for some steep spring snow action with easy access (just check out the conditions first... not sure the east face direct will be skiable much longer).

For anyone heading out to Val Thorens for some piste skiing here are a few shots from today to give you an idea of snow cover - at 13:00 pm the snow was still firm all the way down to village level.

Top of Col red run (patches of glacier ice coming through in top half):


Looking across to Plein Sud from bottom of Moraine:

Boismint area - thin: