Saturday, April 26, 2014

Mission Tour Noir South Ridge completed!

This has been a long-term project that got started some years ago. On 2008 I got to ski the North Face of Amone for the first time.  From Amone you get a good view of different lines on Tour Noir's South side. Since then I have kept my eye on this face.

Three years ago the face looked good when touring up to Grande Lui. Some days later we went exploring it close by. Unfortunately it took too much time to climb the route in deep snow and at the end we turned back half way up the ridge. On that occasion we spotted another line, which looked more skiable. Some weeks later I skied the line with Sami Haapasalmi. On that trip we were again taking close look at the South ridge. This time from above and in some pervert way it looked skiable. Of course that would need perfect snow conditions, but anyway.

Last year in April I got a perfect view of the line when skiing Mt. Dolent's Gallet ridge. South Ridge seemed to be in really good condition, but for some reason I was drawn into Chamonix circus for the rest of the season...

Long story short... Last week I saw some photos taken from Grande Lui and for a big surprise the snow conditions looked really good. Weather forecast had a short weather window for Saturday morning so I wanted to give it a try. Like usual it wasn't hard to convince Mikko to join. We decided to drop in directly from Col d'Argentiere as I knew the face from earlier trips.

In the Friday afternoon we went up to Grand Montets and continued to Argentiere Hut. After a long night of sleep we took a 6am start and reached point 3650m at Col d'Argentiere at 8.20am. After letting the snow soften a bit we started skiing around 9.30. This time everything worked as planned and we got to ski this beautiful line in perfect conditions. Skiing was actually really easy with pretty much perfect spring snow.

The line is 700 meters vertical, with some exposed steep 50/55° sections. All together you get 2000 meters of vertical to La Fouly. We got pretty lucky with the conditions and could ski almost the whole ridge. At the end we only had to use the rope once to get past 20 meters of unskiable terrain. Steep skiing is all about hitting the lines at right time. This time our timing was perfect and skiing was really a pleasure.

According to La Fouly locals this was probably a first ski descent. For me it was a perfect closure for this long project, which has brought along some really good adventures with good friends. 

More pics here.

South Ridge seen from Mt. Dolent's Gallet Ridge in April 2013.

We started from Argentiere Hut at 6am

Mikko skiing the upper part of the line with perfect spring snow.

Half way down the ridge

Some 20 meters of rope work to get back on the piste..

Careful turns ©Mikko Heimonen

La Fouly delivering on and off the hill! Kippis!
More pics here.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Skiing the Gervasutti @ Mont Blanc du Tacul

Here some pics from skiing the Gervasutti on Mont Blanc du Tacul. We got to ski this classic line in pretty variable conditions. Top part with good spring snow, middle section with firm snow and lower third with really good powder. Thanks Mikko and Jesper for great company!

Jesper dropping in

Top section with good spring snow

Friday, April 18, 2014

Monte Rosa East Face - Canalone Marinelli

I've been waiting to get a change to ski the Marinelli for a long time. Now finally plans worked out and I got to ski this beautiful line with Swiss friends. Pics here.

Couloir Marinelli. First descent 1969 by Sylvan Saudan. Photo by Jean Bournier

Adventure started from Klein Matterhorn the day before. We found some really nice skiing on the Schwärzegletscher before touring up to the Monte Rosa hut.

At around 3am we headed up towards Silbersattel. There was a full-moon, which made it pretty special hike. We were making good progress on existing track and nothing seem to stop us.

It can be dangerous when you get to this robotic touring mode. Especially when there is a big track going up you just blindly follow. This might make you work your way up as a robot and you're not staying alert to observe possible objective dangers.

We were just about 20 minutes from Silbersattel when a huge serac collapsed above us. It was a loud explosion and in a split of a second we were in full survival mode rushing away from the fall line. Luckily we managed to get away, but just with a few meters marginal. Just a minute later would have been another story.. By staying alert we could have taken at least partly safer alternative route... Lesson learned..

After several deep breaths we decided to continue towards Silbersattel. Wind was picking up fast and at Silbersattel we got hammered by 100km/h winds. Roaring winds along with the serac fall was making the adventure pretty committing mentally. But as we managed to escape the winds to the Italian side it started to look good again.

We did a short down climb and one rappel to get past some blank ice.

Dani rapping down below Silbersattel

Soon after we clicked on skis and started our long descent. Conditions on the top were pretty challenging, but with careful turns we managed to ski the exit couloir.

After first 400 meters or so the snow softened nicely and skiing was easy. At the end we had really good conditions about 2000 vertical meters.

Monte Rosa massive is huge and the dimensions on the East Face are just over whelming for a Finnish flat-lander! The couloir is not that committing, but the settings are wild with serious objective dangers. This is true big mountain skiing!

Thanks Dani & Nic for great company and memorable moments!

More pics here.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Good times at Aiguille du Chardonnet!

The conditions have been quite challenging this spring. After a long dry season it takes more and more imagination to find out interesting lines in good condition. This time we got lucky to find some good snow on the East Couloir of Aiguille du Argentiere. The couloir is a bit isolated and quite rarely skied. It's also a tick shorter than other lines on the Chardonnet, but that doesn't make it less appealing. The angle of the couloir remains constant 50°-55° making it a interesting spring skiing adventure. Thanks Niko and Luca for great company!

Check out pics here.

Good times!
Luca cruising down steepish top section

On the way back we met Team Finland Saku Heiskanen & Mikko Juntunen. Here the boys on the Chardonnet South face.