Archive for February 2008

Don't forget your ski boots

Starting the day forgetting your boots does complicate things a little. Jo ends up renting a pair of boots which are too big for her. It does complicate things a little bit. It is a whiteout day, it does complicate things a little bit more. Jo's knee isn't up for steep jumps... Wrong boots, bad visibility, steep slopes... It does complicate things a little.

But hey, the dream forest was fun and a good exercice at side slipping not side stepping. Right Jo?

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One of those days... Rick is a living topo of the ski touring potential in the Chamonix valley. He has done every possible tour. We drove about 4 times around the main roundabout in Chamonix unable to make a decision. The snow here would definitely provide the best skiing.

But.... a bit of reconnaissance somewhere else would be good too. As we drove down towards the Chablais, the thick band of clouds was really not inviting. So we changed plans and headed toward the Col de La Colombière.

We drove up to 1400 m and there was no snow! Great! That was certainly a reconnaissance, a 2 hour car journey to confirm that the only good snow you can find is up high. Stay in Cham. It is still great!

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Amazing Present

Last night we were given the most AMAZING present from a friend. Lise turned up with a homemade meal. Spring rolls and a green curry!

Merci Lise pour ce cadeau! And it helped clearing my sinuses!!!

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Machaby - Subtle levitation!

Rock climbing in the middle of the winter, this is a real treat for me. And it is so just fun to eclipse away from winter for one day.

There is something magical that happens when I touch warm rock. I don't need to think, I just let me body dance. I draw moves from flash backs of previous holidays, from earlier outings and they come up in waves of happiness.

And this is a real WOW day for both of us, sharing A day together. Almost a novelty this winter!

Very easy venue to get to. Through the Mont-Blanc tunnel. Motorway in a straight line passing along the Val d'Aosta. Exit Verres. Towards Arnad. And there is, a 300m light colored pinkish wall.

The Corma di Machaby is not just purely slab climbing. Yes you have got to know how to smear but it not just padding your way up. It has small holes on beautiful crystalline metamorphic rock. Rick calls it "a subtle levitation"!

The summit view......

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Spring time in Fayet

It is so strange to drive 20 min down the Valley and being clear of snow. Another world really.
It is always invigorating to taste Spring in February.

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Scenic loop - Best view on Mont-Blanc

The bottom lift of Flégère is absolutely mobbed. There is a mammoth queue even on the priority line. What is going on?

There is some misunderstanding about who should be allowed on the "prio". I zipped my jacket so that my guide's badge would be in full view. We were waved straight pass through. What a way to start the day!

We jumped on the liaison to Brévent and we were rapidly at the start of our little adventure.

Crampons on, ice axe out, skis on our back, off we go climbing this steep snowy couloir. A little grassy towards the end.

A real comical battle to put skins on...

This is the most scenic and accessible ski tour in the Chamonix Valley. It offers the best panoramic view on the Mont-Blanc massif.

It is getting scorchingly hot, it is time to get down back to Flégère before the snow turns into soup.

I am getting ready for a rope assistance as it is looking pretty "rip" to entered this abrupt couloir. The snow is soft, just a few rocks to clear and then it opens into a wide bowl.

Ok, let's go for it! Woo Woo wants to ski the steep line.

Unbelievable, almost surreal, we found powder snow in the shade and spring snow in the sun. Back down to the Combe Lachenal.

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Italian High Altitude skiing!

It looks like we are on Aconcagua, somewhere very South American with all this scree!

Nop, we are at the top of Courmayeur ski resort, about to descend an amazing 1200m of vertical drop, down to the Val Veny.

The top lift used to be open for guides only. They even used to make you sign your name when you would exit the telepherique...

I had warned Kin, Mim and Woo about the quality of the snow, about the possible combat skiing when we would get down the couloirs. I prepared them for the worst. To our surprise we skied on a smooth surface, leaving stylishly beautiful light cloud behind on every turn.

No obstacle whatsoever, except that Mim had to find a more challenging route!

We had to renew our annual 3 courses meal lunch at Chiecco. Unbelievable ambiance, Anna is a blast! And the food is too delicious, the Mozarella Buffalo was succulent; the anchovies had a silvery ocean taste; Kin's wild bore and polenta looked the best; my veggie soup was filled with vitamins, Mim's tuna was perfectly perfumed with lime and black pepper and my Eliza'a pastas were so yummy.

Sorry Amy and Woo, didn't even taste your Fettucini all Pesto..., I was too full!

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Alex and the girls

After 2 months of ear infections, Alex is back in good form!
Thanks for the party Mim, Alex loved it!

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Secret goulotte!

I am trying to be very discrete gearing up in the far corner. I know the staff at the Aiguille du Midi will be telling me off for putting my crampons on the wooden platform of the bridge.

I need to be quick and install my rappel ropes before the crowd from the next lift arrives.

Here we go, someone walks toward me...OUF! It is David. He would do anything to help... even getting a pair of tweezers to pull a nasty splinter out.

Leaning over the balcony is absolutely mind-blowing! I cannot remember having done such an exhilarating abseil.

Not sure how many raps we need to do but we have added a few extras as our ropes kept getting snagged over rocks and bits of old wires.

This is a proper North Face climb!

I met Christophe Profit last week topping out of a route whilst I was climbing the Cosmique Arête. Had to go and check it out!

And Miriam was the perfect candidate! After all, She is the Original Strong Woman, I know she is steady and will get up anything.

Five full on 50 to 60m pitches. A full body workout! Every single muscle in you body is in action and pleading for oxygen...

Who knows Mim's next book might be titled ... Strong Women, Climb high!

A very aesthetic top-secret line! I shouldn't be blogging about it but can't help it. It was such an inspiring day!

I am not sure Mim has fully grasped what she has achieved.

You are the "Best" Mim!

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Wicked abseil

Wicked abseils from the passerelle of the Aiguille du Midi.

Superb adventure climbing this secret goulotte... with Mim, the original Strong Women.

More descriptions tomorrow!

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Mim, Eliza and Woo Woo!

That was the fastest Vallée Blanche I have done in a while! The snow was like white velvet! What a day!

We missed you Kin! And Amy!

Couldn't find my knife but my ice screw worked well at removing the heart of an apple.

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VB Virgins...

They have been briefed by their husbands to minimize the faffing... In French, there is no such a word... "Le faffage" has become my favorite word!

The Vallée Blanche is so mythical, it has such extreme colors and emotions associated to it. With reasons... the hubbies have had an epic last week, skiing down on the Italien side, had to called the helicopter couln't get rescue... Penny and Cordelia were prepared for the adventure!

The arête, the first challenge is a piece of cake with crampons.

I have to say it is spectacular to watch from the viewing platform, a real comedy of puppets slidding all over.

Strong enough skiers to take a variante from the classic route and get away from the crowd.

The tablecloth scored high in front of the local guides!

Ended up being chatted up being this British surgeon who had just been flown to Annecy to performed a live surgery! (with webcams)

When the girls told him they were VB virgins, his response was that maybe he should call his wife and tell her he has fallen in a crevasse!

Fun and dazzingly wild to ski through the ice formations. Had to do a few tricks... grabs and stuff to impress the boys on photos...

What a perfect "for the very first time!"

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Photo shoot

Aiguille du Midi, the Contamine route. What a fabulous setting for a photo shoot.

We have known and shared with John Norris, professional photographer for over more than a decade. In the past, you were more likely to find John capturing an extreme skiier on a astonishingly line. But now, John is hanging up and down ropes.

Climbing had never been his forte. It is not actually the climbing itself the issue, it was more the appehension of the "vide". Today he has really impressed us with the way he has been trusting the gear and how he has been hanging off belays, leaning in all sorts of positions. Here he is in full pelvic thrust action!

Always interesting to climb and pose at the same time, a sort of slow motion "gestelle". Rick has become an accomplished down climber, he surely knows now the crux of that pitch!

And what a WOW day to be rock climbing in mountains. We are only the 15th of February and it felt like summer on the warm granit!

We surely provided some great entertainment to the VB crowd, they would all ski at the foot of the pillar and talk about the different climbing lines.... The light breeze would clearly carry their voices to us. I tell you, there has been some amusing tales shared by the Chamonix guides!

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Magic drawing board!

Journée de repos avec Alex

This is the most practical present you can offer to parents...

A magic drawing board... It comes with a pen which you fill up with water. We use it also with a paint brush and a bowl of water.

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Frozen Water

Début d'une amitié de cordée...

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Saturday at Grands-Montets

Saturday is what we call here "the change over day". A whole crowd leaves, another nation arrives... In other words super quiet in the morning.

We had made a reservation for the top lift yesterday via the Montenvers cash desk. Excellent to avoid morning queues to get a ticket.

Secret spots... Confidential passages...

Interesting concept to lock you skis with a number combinaison that changes during lunch...

The North-East wind has strangely transformed the snow. On the glacier and the Grand-Mur, the skiing is good but challenging if you don't have big fat wide skis. The best skiing today was the Front Face with a surprisingly smooth surface. Flurries of were consistently filling the tracks with some very light powder. We were trailing enormous plumes behind. Fab sensations!

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