I finally had a successful day in the mountains yesterday, after what felt like months of bad weather and missed opportunities. It is super frustrating when the weather and conditions do not co-operate, but luckily it only takes one good day to forget it all and fill the soul with mountain joy. Here are some images from the day:
P.s: Sorry for the bad image quality my camera is toast!
The North East face of Mont Buet looks amazing from a distance, spines are not very common in the Alps, but the North East Face of the Buet has plenty of them. On most years the face has a hugh cornice on top that makes it hard to get into the face and on low snow years the canyon to get out from the bottom of the face can be the crux of the day. This year the top cornice is unusually small and the snow pack is very solid all the way to the valley, so in other words; perfect for this face. Fellow Arcteryx athlete (arc'athlet) Forrest Coots were in town with his friend Andre from Whistler. I had never skied with Forrest before but figured this would be a great warm up together. We found a mixed bag of snow on the face, pretty firm stuff in the gully and great light pow on the spines. All in all a great ski and a fun day in the mountains with some new friends.
After living in Chamonix for almost 20 years it's rare that you ski a line that you haven't heard of or seen before, but it happens, like it did to Thor Husted, Nate Wallace and myself a few days ago. On the approach to the Couloir Trappier the other day we spotted North East Couloir of Point Inferieure du Tricot that neither of us had ever seen. I have never been up in this particular area in winter and in the summer this line looks more like a big slab of rock than a ski line. The line can be approached from the ski are of Les Houches or the village of Bionnassay. The first lift in Les Houches is at the 8:45 these days so we opted for the drive to Bionnassay for an earlier start. It was quiet refressing to start from below the tree line and slowly move into the alpine as the sun was rising, far away from the lift lines of Chamonix. The Couloir itself raises about 650m up from the Bionnassay glacier. We found excellent boot packing conditions on the way up and great skiing on the way down and by luck we were down and out before the clouds covered the whole area.
It is great conditions for skitouring in Chamonix these days. The cold weather and great snow has made a lot of runs that normally would be to dangerous, or not skiable to the valley, possible. Yesterday I teamed up with a crew of local rippers to do the Couloir Trappier of the Gouter shoulder. A great long run but with a very exposed and dangerous approach, the stability have been good in the mountains here lately, so we decided that yesterday would be a good day to do it. The Trappier is a rather bizarre story in it self as the couple that did the first decent of the couloir both died in an avalanche on the approach to the couloir more than 10 years after they did the first decent. We found stable good powder both on the approach and on the decent.
After 4 days in bed with the flu, it was great to shake of the cob webs with a run I have been wanting to do for awhile; The east face of Aiguille Mesure. The line looks very obvious from the other side of the valley while skiing The Posettes and you would expect a line that is this obvious to be skied all the time, but strangely enough I know very few people that have skied it, and of the few people I know that have tried, not many made it all the way to the summit. Deep sugar seems to be the story I get why people turn around before the true summit. With the amazing conditions we have had in Chamonix this year Asmus Norreslet, Thor Husted and myself agreed that yesterday would be a great day to give it a try.
Yesterday while getting my gear ready to go ski one of the Chamonix ski resorts, I got a phone call from my friend Nate Wallace wondering if I wanted to join him and Guide Miles Smart for a free day of heliskiing in Italy! A very easy decision!
Here are some shoots from the day:
I first had a look at the Quintic ski pack last season, Erik "Hoji" Hjorleifson was using a prototype while we skied together here in Chamonix. At first the pack looked overly complicated to me, with to many bells and whistles (zippers) I have always liked classic ski packs with one main compartment and a lid and the quintic is anything but that. Arc'teryx sent me a Quintic 28L this fall and i decided to give it an extra chance as Hoji loved it (he actually was part of the design team) and he generaly knows whats up when it comes to ski gear.
Fit: Fit is one of the most important parts of a ski pack, if it dosen't fit correctly it will bounce around and generally be a pain in the a... The Quintic fits better than any other pack I have ever used! It hugs your body in an amazing way and most of the time I forget that it is even there. The Quntick comes in 3 different sizes for a perfect fit, I went for a small, which fits great. I like how the shoulder straps are low bulk and that the hip belt has no padding as it is not needed with all the clothing I am wearing anyway. The back panel keeps it's shape even when the pack is fully loaded and the pack carries equally well stuffed to the rim with gear for a full day out as it does with the bare minimum for resort skiing.
Material: The Quintic pack is made out of 840D Ballistic Nylon, the material feels incredible and should last for years of hard mountain use. So far after 2 months of use I can see no sign of wear and tear at all.
The Tool pocket fully loaded.
The pack looks like what has been known as a clamshell design, but this is before you get into the details. Most clamshell design packs have their main acess zipper on top of the pack. The Quintic you acsess the main compartment through a side zipper on the lower right half of the pack. There is a matching zipper on the lower left side of the pack witch opens a great big pocket. To make identification of the main compartment zipper easier, the material on this side of the pack is black. On top of the pack there is three zippers the one closest to the back opens a big pocket that can be moved to facilitate acess the main compartment. The one in the middle opens the tool compartment and the last one opens another pocket that is ideal for goggles/sunglasses. The two side zippers can be opend when wearing the pack, the left pocket is ideal for a waterbottle, skins or other items that you need easily accessible. The avalanche tool pocket is big enough to hold my full size Voile shovel,probe, ice axe, bivi bag, firstaid kit and skins. I really like how the ice axe fits inside the pack so I donsen't poke anyone in the eye on the way up the lift. At first the pocket configuration was a little confusing, but now after using it for a while; all my gear has found their place in the pockets and I woulden't be without any of them.
Helmet carry system.
The Quintic pack gives you the option of carrying your skis A frame style or diagonally. I love this, as both ways have it's advantages and disadvantages; A frame carry is great for long boot packs as it is more stable and keeps the weight closer to your body, but takes longer to set up. The diagonally carry on the other hand is very quick to set up but dosen't carry as well as the weight is further from your body. On the Quintic pack you can choose the the system that will work the best for your needs at any time. The outside straps also works great for attaching your helmet to the pack and will also work for ice axes if you prefer to attache it to the outside. It will also carry a snowboard both horizontally and vertically. The diagonally ski loop can be pushed into it's own little compartment when not in use.
Summary: With the Quintic pack Arc'teryx has created what in my opinion is the best skipack ever! As with alot of brilliant designs it takes a couple of days to see why it shines brighter that the rest, but when you do, it's hard to get enough. I can honestly say that the Quintic pack makes my days skiing in the mountains even more enjoyable than before.
Low expectation days almost always seem to deliver. This morning the weather looked pretty average and look outside confirmed the weather report from yesterday; 10cm of fresh snow. After a hectic hour of skype and phone calls to get a team and a plan together, Nate Wallace and myself decided to give Midi a try even though we were sure it was going to" dust on crust". At Midi we ran into Olli Herren and Jim Lee ,two old ski buddies from the valley. We decided to go to the Rognon as it always seems to collect a bit more snow than the rest. The first pitch down from the ridge skied ok, but was pretty windblown and getting across the glacier was pretty slow as we were first and had to break trail in a strong head wind. The first pitch of the Rognon skied ok but the wind had put a little crust on top and it was a little funky to make turns, much as excepted, but as we skied into the second pitch things went from ok to unbelievable!
I am not over exaggerating when I say I had problems breathing! The snow was so deep and light I could barley see anything and breathing became a real issue as the snow filled my mouth every time I took a breath. The Voelkl Shiro felt like a skinny ski and I had to make turns to come up for air, absolutely EPIC!
I had my gopro on a chest mount and shoot a time laps while skiing, out of 560 shoots I got maybe ten were you can actually see anything, the rest of the time the lens was covered in snow.
For the last 5 years we have had a yearly Volkl Photoshoot here in Chamonix the first week of january. Amazingly we have had great conditions every year and the first day of this years shoot did not disappoint. Last night we had about 10cm of fresh cold snow in the valley and as always Midi will get 2 to 3 times as much snow as down here. Ingrid Backstrom and Adam Clark flew in from the states this morning so we didnt make it up before the 12 o'clock cabin but found plenty of blower powder. Here are some great shots from Asmus Norreslet from the day.