Friday, 30 May 2014

Wednesday, 7 May 2014

Chipie's Line

Who needs Cham?

After a slightly 'ho-hum' day off the Midi on Monday checking out lines which generally weren't looking too good, Oli and I relocated back to my home ground, where I was confident we could score some good conditions... I knew that the North face of the Grande Casse was in good conditions, and originally we thought about doing a 'in-a-day' hit from the valley - but a combination of tired legs and sore feet from the Petit Mont Blanc walk out (see here), the thought of a 2200m vertical day, when neither of us was particularly fit and then a chance message from my friend Chipie over in Tignes set us off on a new adventure.

Chipie had talked in the past of a 'hidden line' on the Grande Casse with relatively easy - if slightly exposed and committing - access from the Grande Motte lifts in Tignes, and a beautiful 50º North-facing slope as the reward.

Oli on the NW face of the Motte, our access route in the distance up the snowy ridge:

Perfect powder below the col - not bad (well, incredible actually) for the 'access route':

Time for some boot-packing, with a real wilderness feel:

As we got to the top of the ridge it became clear that accessing the slope we originally planned to ski was not going to be a great idea, with a big traverse on 50º shale partially covered with snow, and the top of the main slope looking like a minefield of shark's teeth from close range. Not fancying a game of Russian roulette we opted for plan B, and skied great snow 150m back down the ridge we had climbed - a beautiful 45º pitch with big exposure on both sides:

Then it was time for an 'interesting' traverse out onto the main face, with some big cliffs lurking underneath:

And on to the main slope - a smooth 50º billiard table with good soft snow - perfect conditions!:

Time to relax as the angle eases:

After a short section of crust we then enjoyed 600m of perfect spring snow down to the start of the boot/skin back out:

Looking back up to the line - just left of centre:

A hot sweaty hike then even hotter skin eventually got us up to the Col du Palet where we had possible the best skiing I have ever done on piste in Tignes - perfectly groomed, nicely softened spring snow, and not another skier to worry about - that certainly doesn't happen when the lifts are open!

Getting back to Val Claret at 3pm we decided we should make the most of our day tickets, and headed back up the Grande Motte for a pleasant run down the North face on cold chalky snow:

Still not quite believing our luck with the conditions we cut across onto the Wall which was nicely softened spring snow... truly one of those rare 'Midas touch' days, where everything we skied turned to gold. Even later on, sat around a beer with Chipie, Oli & I couldn't stop smiling! Due to work and family commitments this may (hopefully not) be my last ski day of the winter, but if it is then what a day to end on!

Tuesday, 6 May 2014

Petit Mont Blanc - Bonatti couloir

Guy, Oli and I have talked about this line a few times in past springs but never quite had the conditions or free time at the right time to get in here. On Sunday, along with Jon & Rhiannon we hit the jackpot with great conditions - 1000m of good cold snow with a stunning back drop!

Guy on the first abseil in - 15m gets you to a second anchor, from where 20m was enough to hit skiable snow:

Rhi at the bottom of the second ab:

Trusty steads for the day - my Whitedot Skis Ranger Carbonlites even took their own 'selfie', with the West Face of Mont Blanc as backdrop (and looking very thin this year sadly...):

Yum yum:

Rhi high in the couloir:


Guy throwing some shapes:

'The gift that keeps on giving' - from the top the glacier looks reasonably close, but the more pitches you ski, the more you realise it is still a long way down!


And finally... 1000m of continuous steepness later:

Happy gang!

Balancing act on the moraine ridge - the start of a 12km walk out (yes my feet are still sore now...):

Thanks to Guy, Oli, Jon and Rhi for great company and to Whitedot Skis for the Ranger Carbonlites - the more time I have spent on them this winter the more impressed I have been

Saturday, 3 May 2014

Lofoten 2014 - the last blog!

And finally the last few pics from Lofoten 2014...

With clients homeward-bound, the 'B' team arrived in the form of Guy & Oli Willett along with Jon Luckhurst.
After a couple of days of properly poor weather (and, sadly, an ever higher rain/snow limit) where I decided to take a well-earned rest while the guys went out to test out their GoreTex the forecast finally improved and we set course once again for Geitgaljern.

A familiar sight for me now:

While the guys headed up to Geitgaljern I went off to a neighbouring col to check out the access to Trollfjord.

Looking in to Trollfjord, debris in the valley bottom from all aspects having slid with the wwarm/wet weather, and a crown wall just belwo the col...::

Guy, Oli & Jon had some scrapey then powdery turns off Geitgaljern summit:

Meanwhile I enjoyed some nice spring snow back to the lower col which gave us ideas for a second run...
Jon seems to like his 14/15 Ranger CLs:

Knowing there was some reasonable spring snow to ski, we headed off down the West side enjoying some mellow slopes:

Objective number 2, one of Higravtind's South gullies:

Nice view from the col:

1 hour up, 90 seconds down... Guy is a small speck halfway down in this picture:

Ol & Jon in the upper gully:

A little bit of dry-skiing took us back down to 150m, for a pleasant walk back down to the car:

The next day the guys were all kleen to see some more of the islands, so we set the controls for the West. The initial target of Himmeltind was completely clagged in and very uninviting, so after coffee and waffles in Leknes we headed off to Store Klauva, which seemed to have a 'hole' of clear skies over it.

Oli striking a manly pose:

Jon taking the final steps:

Yet again, great (if windblown) views from the summit:

With the usually huge cornices mostly having fallen off in the warm snap of weather we managed to sneak on to the North face for a few steeper turns:

Fun terrain lower down:

A short skin to get over a ridge and we managed to keep skis on down to 150m - not bad considering how green the slopes around looked!

And there you have it... Our final (and fantastic) day out on Ristinden is here. With a terrible forecast I had pulled forward my flights home, and we left in what can only be described as "Fort William-esque" conditions - torrential horizontal rain!

Plans are already forming for 2015, don't hesitate to get in touch if you would like to experience these magical islands!

Thursday, 1 May 2014

Lofoten summary - part 6

It was always going to be hard to match the previous few days of skiing, and with a lsightly dodgy weather forecast (and a lot of car-time the previous day) I decided to stay close to Henningsvaer on day 8 and go exploring. Previously I had spotted some interesting bowls and short gullies tucked away on the backside of a ridge of peaks which don't feature in any of the guidebooks - perfect for a day's exploring.

As it turned out we found some nice sections of creamy snow and some fun steeper gully skiing - not a bad way to spend a mostly grey and gloomy day!

The last day with my clients on Lofoten was a classic Lofoten day - marginal weather forecast, warm temperatures overnight meaning no refreeze, high winds, and yet:

Wild & windy on the way up to Stauren - we paid a quick visit to 'Kristin's gully' en route - :

Not expecting too much, but with a bit of sniffing about, the 'Powderfinder General' came up with this:

Look closely and you will see a pair of sea eagles soaring above us - a perfect ending to a great 9 days with the team!:

Finally in the evening we were all treated to some Torrfisk (dried cod) prepared "au marteau" Norwegian-style:

Oh, and I forgot to mention these in previous posts...

Photo ©Nick Mason/Summit Photogrpahs


More pics still to come from a few days with Team Willett + Jon - stay tuned!