Sunday, 29 April 2012

Late season powder in Chamonix

I managed to sneak in a long weekend out in Chamonix last weekend, heading out with Cat and Nigel to catch up with Chris and Kat who were finishing off their Euro road trip with a ski season.  The light weight touring skis were all set to go in anticipation of a social few days with some nice spring time ski touring up high in the mountains but at the last minute with big late season snow falls it was the fat skis that got chucked on the aeroplane at Liverpool.

After three days of skiing great powder with fresh tracks off the Midi and Grand Montet I had actually for once made the right kit choice!  The viability wasn't the best all the time  but it did clear up to give us blue skies and sun for a great descent in untracked powder down the Valley Blanch, we decided to go down the Gros Rognon and although not the steepest of pitches gives some great wide open slopes that you can let rip on.

It was great to be in the mountains and back on skis for the first time in over a year and thanks to Chris and Kat for arranging some great conditions!  It was also the first chance I had to try out my Scarpa Mobes on a pair of big ski's to see how they performed.  I've been after a pair of 'do it all' ski boots for a while and was really impressed with how these handled a pair of fat and stiff skis in heavy chopped up snow as well as light powder, pretty much felt I could ski them the same as if I'd had proper stiff pair of freeride boots on.  

The skiing was too good to get the camera out much but here's a few shots form last weekend.

Enjoying the great snow conditions on the Gros Rognon (photo - Nigel Pick)

Cat heading down the Gross Rognon with the Dent du Geant poking out of the clouds

Nigel taking a 'rest' while Michelle enjoying the snow

Tuesday, 10 April 2012

Alaska psyche

March was pretty quite on the climbing front with just a few nice days out on the grit but lots of running and road biking trying to get the legs working for Alaska.  After been not too sure if the trip would happen for a while flights are booked and I'll ll be heading out with Nick towards the end of May to hopefully have a go at the Slovak Direct.

Since getting into alpine climbing the Slovak Direct up the massive South face of Denali is a route, like many other climbers, I have had on my dream tick list.  As far as I know the it has had five ascents so far and each team has come back raving about the quality of climbing, the situations and the size of it.  To see what its all about check out this great little video that Mark Westman and Jesse Huey made after their 2010 ascent:

A BIG thank you to The North Face for stepping in and making this trip happen.  I'll be using all the new Meru Kit on the trip which has some great key alpine pieces in it and looks like it should perform really well.  No better place to test it all out and get a true honest opinion of it!

With no exciting pics from the last month here are a few from my first trip to Alaska back in 2007 when Jon Bracey and I made the second ascent of the Grison-Tedeschi (French Route) on the Moonflower buttress of Mt Hunter.  We had a great quick hit onto the Kahiltna Glacier then and hopefully we'll get the same good weather and conditions this time.  

The approach to base camp on the Kahiltna Glacier with Mount Hunter
and the Moonflower in the background

Early morning light on Mt Foraker
Heading into the couloir that defines the route and the
 main feature of the Moonflower buttress (photo - Jon Bracey) 

Jon following up the couloir

One of the many amazing ice runnels on the route

Jon leading steep ice on the headwall

Following a hard mixed pitch on the headwall (photo - Jon Bracey)

The final slopes leading to the top of the Moonflower buttress
with the south face of Denali in the background

The nearly 3000m south face of Denali.  The Slovak Direct takes the steep buttresses to the right of the central, Cassin, ridge, originally finishing up the large snowfields most teams now finish up Cassin Ridge

Still a long way to go to the summit of Mount Hunter

Jon stamping out a tent platform for the
final (3rd) night  before descending the West ridge