There is a magical point in the Chamonix Valley called Signal Forbes, it sits above Montenvers and the Mer du Glace and has the most spectacular views of the Drus the Grands Jorasses and the Grands Charmoz. We have thought for a while it would be an ace place to go to and watch the light show that the sun produces on summer evenings.
At the moment we have our friends Pete, Sarah and their little boy Freddie over from the UK for a short stay . Pete and Sarah have been here a few times before and each time we have found an awesome spot to bivi in the hills, this was to be Fred’s first alpine bivi experience so the Signal Forbes seemed like an awesome place to go!
Armed with all the cameras – the digital SLR, GoPro and a shiny new iPhone 6 (these things take pretty good pictures) we all made our way up. Dan’s climbing partner Pete also tagged along for the adventure, he fancied a gentle evening out after having just completing the Chamonix 80KM race. He absolutely smashed it placing 110th overall out of 1000 starters, go Pete!
Dan, the Petes and Fred caught the train up to Montenvers and walked the 45 minutes up to Signal Forbes from there. Georgie and Sarah walked up from the valley. The boys were using good excuses for not joining the girls in walking all the way up; Pete’s legs were tired, Fred only has tiny legs as he is three etc etc…. We all rendezvoused at Signal Forbes, fired up the JetBoil up for dinner and sat in awe watching the sun go down. It cast amazing colours, shadows and shapes on the mountains as it disappears behind the Aiguille Rouges, it really is a magical sight.
Dan had hoped to get some good start trail shots over the mountains but the moon was out it all its glory which made star trails hard to shoot as it was very bright. Instead Dan and Pete played with long exposures with some fun results, the Drus and Jorasses truly are very photogenic giants in any sort of light!
During the summer Dan and Pete climbed a rock route on the south face of the Pouce, one of the largest rock faces in the Aiguille Rouges. On their way to the route they commented on what a lovely ski down the Combe under its big face would be, so, with a good weather forecast they set off to do just that! Now, skiing at this time of year can be both glorious and very hard work. The snow is softened in the warmth of the spring sun and then re-frozen during the cold nights. If you get the sweet spot of timings just right the skinning up can be a breeze on slightly sun warmed snow and the skiing down can be beautiful in buttery soft deliciousness – it can also be the complete opposite – be bullet hard or yoghurty wet. Unfortunately they found the latter. The sun had not been on the south side of the Gliere long enough to warm it for their first skin. That did however, make the steep top section easier to climb with a nice hard bootpack in place! Once over the ridge and onto the north face the snow was hard packed but perfectly skiable down into the Combe du Pouce, probably the best snow they found all day! Once in the Combe it was a bouncy hard rollacoaster all the way to the exit couloir. They hadn’t held very high hopes of the couloir being any better and unfortunately they were right, narrow, icy and avalanched filled rubble fest! excellent! After the combat ski down the couloir they inhaled some go fast caffeine gels, swallowed some water and started the long 900 meter skin back up to get into the Berard valley. The sun by-now had most definitely had its way with the snow. They chose a slightly higher but safer route out sticking to ridges as much as possible and headed for the Aiguille de Berard. Working hard in the sun to get off the slippy sun baked slopes they got back onto cold icy snow and made it down into the Berard Valley. The ski down was a bit hard and bouncy to say the least and after a bit of stream hopping and marble run skiing they made it to Le Buet for a swift beer before the train home.
Some interesting extra bits from Pete here on our fun day out! http://wp.me/p2jrSj-qC
The snow has settled itself a little thanks to a two week spell of high pressure which brought blue sky’s and sunshine. Temperatures in the valley were warm, mid mountain had some great spring like snow and high up was glorious. Cold enough to keep the powder soft and fulffy. Because of the lack of snow so far, the crevasses on the glaciers have not been as well filled as they can be at this time of year. This has made the high mountain quiter that normal, which is great!
Dan, Pete and Siôn made the most of the quiet hills with a glorious run down the Noir side of the Vallee Blanche. This is generally a quieter line to ski and it looked as if only a few had ventured that way this season. After catching a leisurely 0930 cable car they were up in the sunshine and skiing towards Italy. After a quick ski they switched to skins and climbed upto and over the Col du Flambeau, a short ski and another quick skin later they were at a high point on the Glacier du Geant. The ski down was great, cold powder snow on the whole. Dan had a missuserstanding with a small area of windslab snow and had a tumble losing a pole, not the place to go digging around for it on top of crevasses and dodgy snow, so the rest of the ski was done one polled for him – all good practise!
The weather men keep promising snowmageddon this week so we shall see what appears!!
Well, what a funny start to the 2014/15 ski season in the French Alps! No real snow until the end of the opening week had people worried. Then the first dump came and it caused havoc! It came on the day the holiday makers were leaving after their Christmas skiing holiday. People were stranded for hours, almost days as gridlock hit the French roads around the Alps.This snow came with a lot of wind, then rain, then warm then cold and a bit more wind. This mix of weather has made for a particularly dangerous, unstable snow pack on every ordination of slope. Not what the avid off piste skier wants!
It has only just stopped snowing after 5 days! Chamonix has seen around 2 meters of glorious fresh snow! This has, unfortunately, made the conditions all the more scary. The danger warnings have been spilling out from every organisation. Ski areas have been posting avalanche warnings of 4/5 on the danger scale (the resort is generally closed when it gets to 5/5) the amazing PGHM rescue service have been sending out warnings as have the councils and other mountain information services. There have been many naturally propagating slides around the Alps and unfortunately some set off by skiers and snow shoers who perhaps had not heeded the warning set out.
But despite all this scariness one cannot just sit inside and not have fun! We stole a brief lull in the falling snow and headed up to Grands Montets to see what we could see. Amazing powder was the answer! Trying to stick to lower angled slopes and skiing on well skied areas to help minimise the risk we had an awesome few hours! Dan has decided now though that he needs new skis – bigger and fatter! With big smiles and tired legs we had a last run in sunshine and headed back to the valley for lunch before the sun had its way with the snow.
If your heading off piste in the European Alps any time soon please be careful and listen to the warnings, ski safe and reserved and have a blast!
Cracking day at Grands Montets today, amazing snow but still masking some nasty ski eating rocks!
Dan and Pete caught the lift to the top of Brévent the other day for a spot of gentle sport climbing. As they got into the lift two chaps also jumped in dressed in wing suits! Knowing exactly what they were about to do Dan and Pete sprinted from the lift to get a great spot to photograph them hurling themselves off the top of Brévent. The jump the squirrels did is renowned as being one of the most technical BASE jump exits in the world. It was first jumped a year or so ago! A truly impressive, crazy sight to watch!