Sunday, March 30, 2014

10th round technical knockout & Miage Mission vol.2

After couple of weeks without much skiing I was fully motivated to get back to the mountains. Finally we got some fresh snow after a long sunny high pressure period. With 30cm of new snow there could be some really good skiing waiting. Just a short call to Mikko and we were all set for new adventures.

Our first target was a rarely skied line at Les Droites. We skinned up to the Couvercle hut fully motivated and exited about our objective. We started around 5 from the hut and everything went as planned until about 150 meters below the summit where we got stuck. We pushed several different alternative routes to get past some tricky snowless slabs. After three hours of desperate route finding we decided to turn back. Maybe it was the lack of snow, clock ticking too fast or our alpine climbing skills, but nobody can't blame we didn't try... Although we didn't ski the line from the summit, it was still one great steep skiing adventure. We got to ski some interesting steep sections with perfect snow. But despite of excellent skiing it was still a bitter disappointment after all our efforts. We'll be back. Pics here.

Ben Briggs & Brendan O'Sullivan on a mission

Mikko pushing it on the slabs

Mikko on one of the steepest sections of the face

Finding our way back to the exit couloir

Petit Mont Blanc Face NE

Despite our failure at Droites we were still motivated to try out something new the following day. From several options we decided to go explore conditions at Miage basin. We took it quite easy by starting from Courmayer lifts around nine. As we got to the base of the first couloirs the conditions looked damn good and all the couloirs were untracked. We went for the first couloir on the alley. Actually we didn't have any idea about the line, but it looked like it might go through. Later I found out from Davide Capozzi that this was the NE-Face, which was first descended 2011 by Davide and Julien Herry.

We got lucky and found the line in perfect powder conditions. At the end we skied it down in a few minutes without any technical difficulties. That was more free-riding than steep skiing. What a line! Pics here.

Petit Mont Blanc couloir alley - during the weekend we skied two lines on the left and one on the right. 

Heta and Mikko on the Miage Glacier

Mikko approaching the NE Face

On the exit couloir

It took about 5 minutes to ski down this beautiful 700 meter line

Petit Mont Blanc - Couloir Bonatti

After skiing in such perfect conditions you want more! So next morning we wanted to get back for some more and if possible even two lines. For Finnish flat-landers skinning up to the glacier and climbing up two big lines is not really an option. Thanks to Luca Rolli we managed to get a early lift to Bonatti Couloir. The Bonatti was a quick early morning warmup together with Luca. Conditions hard at the top, but after one third down really nice powder. Freeride!  Pics here.

This time it didn't take that long to reach the couloir...

Luca and Mikko rapping down to Bonatti

First steepish turns with some nice wind packed snow

Tête Carrêe - Couloir NE

We continued from Bonatti towards Tete Carree East Couloir. This line turned out to be the most beautiful of all the lines I've skied along the couloir alley. The first 200 meters or so were pretty steep and icy so we had to put in some careful turns. After top section we could let it go with bigger freeride turns. Pics here.

Hard work climbing up deep and sticky snow on Tete Carree

It took three and half hours to reach the top

Mikko dropping in

Careful turns on the top section

This is Italy! Love it!

Friday, March 14, 2014

Couloir Sacristie - the ghost of Tour Sallière

During the past few seasons I've bailed several times when trying to ski this couloir. The couloir is located in a pretty remote corner and it's well hidden from all the directions. It's also quite a long approach to reach the base of the couloir and even then you can't see if it's skiable or not. So basically you just need to go onsite, climb and hope it's your lucky day.

After skiing some nearby lines in good conditions I wanted to give it a try again. We started from Les Marecottes at 9 and reached the base of the couloir around 1pm. The couloir looked kind of dry, but still skiable so we started climbing.

Now finally we killed the ghost that's been haunting for several years! Everything went as planned and we got to ski this beautiful line from the very top. The couloir is about 400 meters long with some steep technical passages. I would definitely grade this line more difficult than the neighbouring Hug-couloir. Both in terms of exposure and technical challenges. Check out more pics here.

After skiing the line our adventure continued to Cabane Susanfe, which is one of cosiest huts I've visited. It's a perfect base-camp for some really nice ski-mountaineering so definitely worth a visit!

Planning session with Mikko
Little crux as warm up

Steep and icy middle section

Add caption

Nice spring snow on the top section

Henkka in the middle section

Last hurdle in the exit 

@Cabane Susanfe

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Shady side of the Tour Salliere with two north couloirs

Last weekend I went exploring the north side of the Tour Salliere. Our goal was the 350 meter long, steep north couloir. The couloir is pretty well protected so we were expecting to find some good snow. And that's exactly what we found! We were able to ski this steep line from the very top with some nice packed powder. This was steep skiing as it's finest. Thanks Tommi & Henkka for a great adventure!

On Sunday we bailed from our original objective, but there was still enough time to do something on the north side. Inspired by yesterdays great conditions I wanted to try to ski the new variation of N-couloir. It turned out to be a complete line with some really steep terrain. Although the day didn't go as planned this beautiful descent saved the day. By combining these two lines you'll get 750-800 meters of great steep skiing. Definitely worth a visit.

Pics here.
Blue line is the normal route. Red line is the new variation I skied the next day. 

Tommi at the top of the normal route.

Here are just couple selfies from the new variation. Looking the line from below it doesn't seem to go through. But there is a about three meter wide chute that takes you to the upper section. The last 100 meters are really steep terrain.

The top 100 meters of the new variation are pretty damn steep.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Miage mission

This was my first visit to ski the lines above Miage glacier, but certainly not the last. We got to ski the 1200m long Domenech couloir on-sight. Dropping into big lines on-sight is not really my cup of tea and it certainly added some extra spice to this adventure. Snow conditions were pretty variable making it kind of technical descent. But after skiing big lines in great powder it was actually nice to get back to more technical steep skiing. That's the way I like :-) Check out more pics from our adventure here.

Thanks Luca & Cedric for great company!

©Davide Capozzi -

Luca @ Elisabetta Soldini hut

Looking down to couloir Domenech

Cedric dropping in to the shady side

Luca in the middle section with some good powdery turns.
Luca entering the 400-500 meter long exit couloir. 

Cedric on the exit couloir.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Adventure skiing

Great adventure skiing at the Chevanier Couloir with Andreas Fransson & Dave Rosenbarger. You can't expect to get this line with super pow from top to bottom...but what you can expect is a adventurous day out! Check more pics.

Col des Cristaux revisited

The plan was to ski something else at Argentiere basin, but half a meter new snow changed our plans. At the end Cristaux seamed as the only reasonable line for the day. This time swimming up and freeriding down with Team Finland, Henkka, Juho & Niko. More pics.