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.
Fabulous adventure climbing Sorenson Eastman with @lukedavies_outdoors. Beautiful delicate thin ice plastered on steep walls akin to Labrynth Direct in Scotland. I’ll warn you that the rimaye is more than a bit spicey 🌶🌶🌶
Fun outing to Rebuffat Terry the other day with @digitalsteak. Unfortunately from the first lift we didn’t quite beat a slower team that started from the refuge and so after a couple pitches in the upper runnels we went home. All good training.
The legendary Andy Parkin- Mark Twight route from the early 90s that took them multiple attempts to finish off. With a route with such high reputation for quality, it didn’t take much to get me fired up and psyched for it, and arguably its been a 20 year wait for the stars to align for me to get the opportunity to go. A quick ask round the trusted partners and Guy Steven instantly signed up. The crux would be to kit him out as he had flown out from Scotland for the week.
Many Alpine mixed routes fall short of the mark for me due to monotony of moves but each pitch of Beyond was so varied and unique providing continuous interest in stunning surroundings, mostly delicate and enticing rather than burley and intimidating. A bit like Labrynth Direct on the Dubh Loch albeit much longer.
We headed out from the small winter room at the Plan Refuge into a still mild night illuminated by the full moon. For the first 45 mins there was no need for a head torch as we took in the fantastic ambience under the Chamonix Aiguilles, friendly rather than foreboding. I kicked off and Guy and I alternated on the sharp end for 11 pitches to the junction with Thierry Rebuffat (known as Carrington Rouse in winter). With the upper pitches blasted dry by the wind we rapped arriving back at the skis at 130 pm and took the cable car to Big Mountain bar for some quality IPA to quench the thirst. All very civilized. Thanks @guystevenguide for a very memorable day.
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!