Thursday, 6 March 2014

Snatched mountain days.

Coming back to Chamonix for a long weekend of work, I didn't really plan to get out in the hills at all. Having two days of mini adventures off the Midi felt even better as they were totally unexpected!

As ever the north side of the Midi ridge is an amazing place to be! If a bit terrifying...Not so scary when you can't see the whole way to town though!
For some reason, since I first started to ski, climbing the traverse of the Midi-Plan and skiing down the glacier to the Requin hut, has been appealing. After another skiing versus climbing conversation with Dave on Saturday, this seemed like a good objective to combine both on Sunday!

As I've never actually skiied the Grand Envers variation of the Vallée Blanche before, I was pleased that the first pitch didn't feel 'that' steep. After skiing across to the Col du Plan were soon taking off skis and putting on crampons. At this point I was feeling smug about how much faster the route is in winter. Being able to ski down so much of it is so much faster than walking it! Then we started trenching through waist deep snow and time vanished into suffering. After what felt like an eternity (probably just because my heart was beating three times as fast) we got to the last steep slope before the Rognon du Plan and decided to bail.

A bit of actual climbing on the route broke the trenching monotony.
The couloir below us was inviting, trenching up more snow slopes was not. Although it looked quite steep, the Grand Envers seemed pretty close and the snow down to it looked beautifully flat and powdery. After somehow managing to put on my skis without dropping my crampons and ice axe I left the safety of my ledge, determined to put some turns in. Only the snow was absolutely terrible, refrozen and grabby with ice underneath. Definitely not powder! As I don't really understand jump turning and am somewhat of a sideslipping aficionado, I gracefully chose the latter method of descent for the first half of the couloir...
Trying to make myself turn did not go very well....

At this point I remembered that I don't understand jump turning.
Me in the top of the couloir, really wishing that I knew how to jump turn!
The 20% sunshine forecast on Tuesday seemed totally inaccurate. At 10am, Mont Blanc and the Midi were basking in sunshine. Definitely not rest-day-Mount-Everest-Foundation-presentation-writing weather after all! Instead I tagged along with Liz and Dave to do a tour off the Midi. Sadly the weather did exactly as predicted and came in from the East as we skied down. By the time we stopped to put skins on beneath the Salle à Manger it was definitely snowing, so we decided to bail and headed down the Mer de Glace. Nice to have a quick hit though before a 3.30am transfer home again!
Still pretty sunny for 20%
Liz is a professional snowboard poler! Good job really when we made her ski the not very steep Gros Rognon on a pow day...

As I forgot to get my camera out on Tuesday, the 3 photos above are courtesy of Dave.
Sunny Midi days are the best thing about Chamonix, even when it's already tracked out.

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