Friday, 30 March 2018

Vanoise Off Piste Perfection coaching course

This week i have been running an Off Piste Perfection course based in the 3 Valleys. The purpose of the week is to mix coaching and mileage on some great off piste runs, with a bit of touring thrown in if conditions are right.

On Sunday clear skies and soft snow allowed us to ease into the week with some Courchevel classics:

On Monday the visibility started off very poor, but we made great use of the morning with a focussed coaching session on piste which we were then able to transfer to off piste in the afternoon as the weather improved.

Tuesday's forecast was for a bright start rapidly turning to snow, so a long morning with a later lunch was planned and we headed up high in Mottaret. Expectations for the snow were low with the mild temperatures, but we were pleasantly surprised by up to 10cm of fresh up high, and with the visibility holding out much longer than expected had a fantastic morning pushing onto some steeper terrain...

Wednesday - once again the forecast was for a few bright spells in the morning, followed by cloud and precipitation, and once again we managed to keep reasonable visibility almost to the end of the afternoon. The 15-25cms of fresh that were forecast were just about there, which gave great skiing where the base was smooth or soft, though the snow was rapidly warming and turning a little heavy by the afternoon. A good morning was spent putting first tracks into several Courchevel classics like the Pyramid face and Creux Noirs!

With a small top up and cooler temperatures Thursday turned into another belter of a day, barring an hour or two of poor visibility over lunchtime, starting with first tracks down the Becca Couloir and finishing off with a couple of laps in some very atmospheric (and powdery) Mont Vallon couloirs, with lots more good skiing in between!

The last day of the course came with a tricky weather forecast, with very high winds due at lunchtime. These turned out to be blowing hard right from the off, and with lots of lift closures in Meribel we put in a focussed skills session on piste, and then re-located to La Tania and went up into the Courchevel lift system which was much more sheltered from the wind and also gave us some good cold snow to finish the week with a couple of great laps in the couloirs!

A huge thank you to David, Terry, Jez, Phil and Charlie for a great week - I look forward to skiing with you all again next winter!

Wednesday, 28 March 2018

Steep Vanoise 2018

Well the 10th edition of Steep Vanoise has been and gone - once again a high quality week of fun, despite some challenging weather and snow conditions. Thanks as always to IFMGA Guide Dorian labaeye for joining me on this one, and particular thanks to him for stepping up on Thursday and Friday when I was cut down by the flu..! Thanks also to Amanda, Iain, Dave G, Dave I, Mike H, Mike D and Rob for a top week!

Friday, 23 March 2018

The descent of Rum Doodle

There exists a hazy aerial photograph on which both Will & I had spotted an intriguing white line many years ago. While I am generally busy working in the winter, Will had a lot more time to explore and after several eventful failed attempts finally managed to locate the entrance to (and descend) what has since become known as 'Rum Doodle' couloir, named after his favourite book - W.E.Bowman's wonderful 1956 parody of the grand mountaineering expedition books of the period (if you haven't read the book go away now, read it then come back...).

This line had been on my hit-list for many years, but lack of time, conditions or partners had always conspired against. Today finally everything lined up!

A short walk followed by a surprisingly good mix of spring snow and powder on the first descent took us to the main climb of the day:

Our second warm-up run was even better than the first...:

With the most snow recorded for 40+ years it should have come as no surprise to find the automatic weather station almost buried...:

Greg questing in search of the entry to the fabled Rum Doodle couloir:

There it is!

Greg checking the piton for the first rap:

Looking down the main event:

Greg on the first abseil:

Conditions = 'acceptable':

The second 'abseil' (in a normal snow year...) - we skipped this with a short straight-line... amazing how much speed you pick-up in a short space!

More good turns in the lower section of the couloir:

A quick 300m vertical dropped us back up and over for our last ski down - we were fully braced for this to be a crust-fest but were pleasantly surprised by heavy but very skiable powder all the way down!:

A grand day out with over 2000m of really good skiing - hats off to Will for persevering with the exploration all those years ago...
Will be raising a glass to you tonight!

"I put my breakfast aside and went to Pong’s tent. I found him filing a fork into a bowl. He took no notice of me. After a while he laid down the fork and began to grate a piece of rock. I thought I had better let him get used to my presence before trying to communicate with him; so I sat down and watched him. After chopping up a portion of climbing rope and mincing an old sock he threw everything into a pan of pemmican stew and stirred for five minutes, adding sand and paraffin to taste. Finally, he strained it, spread some of it on a slice of leather, and took a hearty bite."

Wednesday, 21 March 2018

Pointe de la Rechasse

A quick blast up the Pointe de la Rechasse today with Hoops, Matt and Chris, followed by the best descent I have ever had from here (by a long stretch) - 1400m vertical of perfect powder all the way down to the Pralognan pistes!

Thursday, 8 March 2018

Maurienne Magic 2018

This week I have been back to one of my favourite haunts, the Haute Maurienne, running my annual Steep Coaching & Adventures week for members of the Eagle Ski Club.

Snowfall last weekend set us up for a great start to the week, though the forecast initially looked quite variable for the week. As it turns out we have had mostly really good visibility and snow, with today ranking right up with the best days of all time, with a classic 1300m descent to the road at Bonneval with knee-deep cold powder all the way!

One more day to go and the forecast is good - here's hoping for another great day!