Spring 2020 in France was a strict 2 month lockdown due to the Coronavirus pandemic. I didn’t see a soul for 55 days except for the gendarmes policing the lockdown outside my house, freely handing out fines to the unfortunates for minor misdemeanours. As soon as lock down lifted I went back to my spiritual home in the mountains with my friends and skied the North Face of Aiguille du Midi. What joy to be back skiing after a 2 month hiatus. The post lock down season would be a short one for me with the lift only open at the weekends and a massive project on a scale that was hard to comprehend drawing all my energy. However we made some nice days, Tacul, Gervasutti Couloir, Contamine Negri, and Col de la Brenva to finish the season. Soft spring snow made for relaxed skiing and some cloud in the Brenva Cirque made everything feel very atmospheric, oh an a massive rimaye at the bottom made for an exciting exit onto the debris cone. The slog back up the Valley Blanche in desert heat wasn’t so fun but the bars were open that night for the first time and the cold beer never tasted so good.
France has had one of the strictest lockdowns in Europe behind Italy and Spain so after 8 weeks of not seeing a soul it was great to return to Aiguille du Midi with friends and make that big turn left down the North Face.
Max Ritter of Teton Gravity Research writes:
This weekend marked the re-opening of perhaps the most iconic ski lift in the world: the Aiguille du Midi’s Telepherique in Chamonix, France. Home to unquestionably the gnarliest lift-access terrain in the world, the Midi was closed for most of its prime spring season, leaving local skiers and riders frothing to get back up into the icy heights of the Mont Blanc Massif as soon as possible. Their prayers were answered this past weekend.
None other than steep skiing mastermind Tof Henry and a group of friends made it up there early and skied some classic lines that look like they’re actually still in really good shape for the end of May. Check out what Tof and local IFMGA guide Ross Hewitt got into on their first day back on skis after the COVID-19 lockdown.
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That amazing moment when you slap your skis on the Midi arete and ski out into the world of light. First turns for me after 2 month lockdown. Midi North Face by Col du Plan, good upper, bad lower, but great to be out there with my friends. @tof_henry @gaspard_ravanel @mathieu_moullier @blackcrows-skis @petzl_official @lenz_products @julbo_eyewear @snowcountry.eu @plum_officiel @conceptchamonix @arvaequipment @sapaudiabrewing.co @sapaudia.beer.team #skiing #freeride #powder #skitouring #backcountry #sidecountry #health #fitness #fun #training #nutrition #glacier #alps #outdoors #outside #adventure #explore #guide #mountainguide #ifmga #weareskiing #chamonix #aiguilledumidi #northface #fuckcovid-19
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Reopening of Mama Aiguille du Midi after two months of break. Not the conditions I prefer but still good to be in the north side again. We were super surprised to see a big roc blocked in the endrance of the exit couloir. The low part was terrible with a big goulotte all way down. Thanks boys @gaspard_ravanel @mathieu_moullier @ross.hewitt ============================= @armadaskis @pocsports @ricohthetafrance @conceptchamonix @langleyhotels @maisonsport @solebootlabchx @dalbellosports @10peaksgloves
Seems like ages since we got to ski endless 1200 m runs but finally its showing signs in select places of getting good in the Alps and today I sneaked a few runs in there before the storm arrived with my good buddy and Black Crows team mate Tom Grant. Here is a photo he took of me sneaking between the hanging glacier and the rock using the features to provide some slope definition as the light flatted out.
Thats the lifts open in Chamonix and the ski season well under way. Yesterday I had a fantastic 50 cm bluebird powder day guiding Peter around the good spots in Chamonix and we have another 50 cm coming this week. Through the magic tunnel in Italy they are off to a great start with even more snow. Get it while you can!
As the year draws to a close I can’t help but reflect on what a vintage year it has been – if I was lucky enough to be your guide then thank you for making it utterly brilliant for me – check out the photos below and revive some of those incredible memories. With the shortening of the days I’m sure you feel the craving to get out in the mountains just like me. It’s time to start dreaming and planning your next adventure whether it’s some specific life goal or simply getting a boost catching some winter sun in the Alps. For winter 19/20 I will be guiding out of Chamonix from November to May and I still have some gaps in my calendar so if you having been dreaming of that place where the magic happens then don’t delay, get in touch before its too late. It will be a pleasure to spend time in the mountains with you again or get to know you if its your first time. email@example.com
December 1st winter kicks off on skiing the Toula Glacier with the opening of Skyway (Helbronner) on the Italian side of Mont Blanc. The Aosta valley has ALOT of snow right now with its huge option of early season touring and sidecountry. Mid-December I’m holding a 3 day avalanche awareness course for the new employees at Bluebird Cafe and Solocal who are Chamonix newbees. Aiguille du Midi opens on December 13th and Grand Montets is already open at the weekends.
January and February will be deep endless powder days based in Chamonix and Skyway including some Valley Blanche action. I am also guiding in the secret stash spot of Sainte-Foy for the second year running and can’t wait to get back for its legendary trees and easy access backcountry.
March and April I already have 2 steep camps with clients who are looking to access the steep and deep in the big mountains. Snow cover will be at its best and the longer days open up the classic ski touring possibilities. The mind boggles at the endless possibilities.
May sees the return of 2 clients hunting specific big lines in Chamonix which is always a great time of year for the high mountain.
Early December days at Skyway are some of my favourite
Avalanche awareness and terrain management course on Brevent
Deep endless powder days, Plan de l’Aiguille
Ice climbing in December and January
Teaching snow anchors & fundamental skills for crevasse rescue
Teaching how to build an ice screw anchor and equalise it
La Sentinelle ski touring meet was in Chamonix this year and Monte Viso in 2020
Good cop, bad cop at La Sentinelle
Traditional mountain food at La Sentinelle
Snow Sports of Great Britain ski test at Pila, Italy
Thats a 70k camera! Working as a guide and stunt skier for a UK film
Ski touring in the Vanoise national park
Bespoke ski guiding for Andrew
No rush for the powder in the Tarentaise, enjoying a backcountry picnic
Steep camp heading to ski Aiguille du Plan South Face
Returning for Aiguille d’Argentiere
Deep day on Mont Blanc early May
Riding giants, those dream lines forming the North Wall of the Argentiere glacier
Classic alpinism on the Midi Plan traverse
Dawn at the Vallot shelter on the way to Mont Blanc
Sunrise on Mont Blanc as we summit
Scrambling with stunning views
Classic Swiss ridges, this one done in a day hit from Chamonix
Sunset on the Matterhorn
Summiting the Matterhorn under 4 hours
The Matterhorn at sunset
Classic Italian Ridges easily accessible from Chamonix
Christmas as Skyway