Sunday, 6 April 2014

Chamonix Skiing

Lady skier (on piste): THERE'S A CREVASSE BELOW YOU!!
Me (off piste): Yeah, I know, cheers!
Me: "shit.....Kev! Have you noticed the Bergschrund? We're above it."
Kev: "Shit...I have now, Back up! Onto the piste!
We'll pick up from here later......

Anyway, as mentioned before, I had a trip to Chamonix in the pipeline. The initial plan was to ski, climb and tour. But due to the conditions,  climbing was pretty much out, and so I just skied. Which isn't a bad thing, as my skiing improved by a mile!

The first 4 days was just spent skiing on piste, refining my technique, teaching myself different bits and pieces and practicing some drills. I'd meet up with Dave and Chris in the afternoon and ski over on the Grand Montets. The conditions over these days was not ideal. It reached nearly 20°C in the valley during the day, and the snow in the afternoon was just horrible and slushy. However, the summit of the GM was still pretty cold and the snow was well compacted, even the off piste. But it was mogul heaven, or hell, depends if you like moguls. I do :) Fave had decided that it'd be good practice for me and Chris to ski with heavy rucksacks to get used to it for when we start touring. I didn't find it any different as I'd been skiing with a rucksack from the first day I started. But Chris did and took one hell of a slide down the face of the GM, about 400m. It was all caught on our GoPros and it was quite impressive,  but he was a little shaken up when he finally came to a stop.
the Lognan on the Grand Montets

Mont Blanc massif from Brevent

catching some rays!

But all changed at the weekend. We woke on Saturday morning to fresh snow in the valley. Powder day!! We hurried breakfast, and caught the bus to the bottom station of the Grand Montets télécabine ready to catch the first bin up and get some fresh tracks. Having never skied powder, and having only read about it, I was a little nervous as to how I'd find it. But everyone dreams of powder and loves it, so I had to see what all the fuss was about. Instantly,  I loved it! The near weightlessness and fluidity of the powder was amazing. Turns came smoothly, the difference in skiing technique feeling more natural after each turn, the look of the snow lapping at my knees, the self teaching had paid off, the......thwack. I spent the next 15 minutes searching for my buried ski. And over the course of the day, spent much of it doing the same. Now in my defence,  I couldn't see a lot. And not because it was an overcast day with poor viability (that was a minor factor) but because I only had Cat 3 sunglasses. The powder was spraying up under the glasses and into my eyes, they were fogging up and were too dark for me to make out any detail. I didn't have any goggles at this point, and all this lack of seeing was starting to piss me off.

I went back to Twinners where I had hired my skis and exchanged them for some mid-fats. Dynastar Sultan 94. And got some goggles too. Nothing was gunna stop me now. And it didn't.  I thoroughly enjoyed our second powder day, at times skiing in waist deep powder, which was interesting. The skis were great. They floated really well, and had far better control in and out of the turns. We spent the entire day in the Lavanché bowl on the GM, skiing some steeper off piste slopes, and dodging the odd rock whilst seeking out fresh tracks. Over the next couple of days we turned it up a notch and mostly skied from the summit and down to the Argentiere glacier via some interesting, varied and quite steep couloirs, skied some steeper slopes and seeked out more challenging terrain to see what I'm capable of skiing.

powder day!!
Aiguille du Argentiere

Aiguille Verte

Powder skiing off the GM

Skiing the couloirs down to the Argentiere glacier

Argentiere basin

Chamonix Aguilles

Midi - Plan

And this brings me onto the starting paragraph of this post. Me and Kev start off from the summit of the GM, but the top slope had become so icy and moguled, people were falling all over the place and taking it slow. So we ducked under the rope and started to traverse across the slope. At that point, the above conversation took place. Once back on piste, we realised why the rope and fence was there. It was a pretty big schrund and we nearly dropped into it. Not something I fancied doing.

The Schrund that me and Kev nearly skied into!

So all in all, the 2 weeks I was out there was time well spent. Having gone from never skied at the beginning of the year, to having skied off piste powder slopes of 40°, couloirs and all pisted runs, I think I'd done pretty well, you know, not bragging or anything ;)
Did the Vallee Blanche twice in a day too...

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