I’ve spent the last month basically in a little place called Trenchtown, Italy. It’s a magical spot 15 minutes from Chamonix filled with fine Italian espresso, spines, awesome tree skiing, steep faces right off the tram tower, the deepest of powder snow and melt in your mouth pizza. If it’s not snowing it’s bluebird and everyone’s always smiling, even the locals. We bought an unlimited Mont Blanc tunnel pass so we were free to go over there at our leisure, maybe even just for dinner if we decided to take a rest day from choking on pow.
‘Merica! Photo cred: Jason Thompson: www.jthompsonphotography.com/
Photo cred: Davide De Masi
We finally started to see some clearing in the weather last week and I got up into the Argentiere basin to check it out conditions and to remember why I’m spending another season in Chamonix !!!!big tours, big lines, big climbs, big adrenaline AAHHHH!!!! Totally out of touring shape from freeriding the last month a tour up to the Col d’Argentiere kind of hurt, sadly. But a view of the north faces made me feel better.
During a night out at Moo Bar after way too many beers and dancing, Ben Briggs, [url]http://www.ben-briggs.com[/url], and fellow American Alpine Institute guide Danny Uhlmann and I decided to head up to ski the Col des Cristaux once the weather cleared again. I’ve ridden this line before but not for three years so I was amped! This pic is from [url]http://www.Chamonixtopo.com[/url] but conditions were pretty similar.
We got to the face and saw three tracks in it. We were stoked, thinking there would be a nice bootpack all the way up… Think again. After roping up to cross the shrund it was tit’s deep wallowing for the first hour or so, we took short rotations at breaking this heinous trail.
We found the booter for about 100m which was nice then the snow changed to nice firm pow, boosting moral and increasing stoke.
Ben Briggs, the legend continues:
The snow got pretty firm with loads of rocks at the top, but we made it!
Danny’s amping in what I call his “savage pounding” sunglasses. He’s a guide here in Chamonix, hire him: [url]http://www.firstlightmountainguides.com[/url]. Tell him I sent you
This is one of my favorite views in all of Chamonix! Last time I was in this spot it was sunset and we had a mini epic getting out on the flat glacier because our tracks had filled in.
I remember being so gripped last time I rode this line three years ago. There were times I really had to fight my nerves getting up and down this line. It felt so good to be up here again feeling super confident about the pitch, the snow and my skill level. Here’s a video from the line three years ago: [url]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v4FzZ-jQQ44[/url]
Ben getting through the rocky bits:
As Danny and I reflect on and discuss whether this unridden portion is going to be rocky or not, Ben charges in. Danny was like “Damn Honeybadger!” Ben [i]doesn’t give a shit, he’s just crazay![/i] I laughed, and more cautiously shredded it. It’s not rocky, it’s blower.
I know you’ve probably all seen the “Crazy Nastyass Honeybadger” video, but even if you have you should probably watch it again:
[i]He’s so crazay![/i] I saw the anticipation on his face, the massive grin, red cheeks, wide eyes. Like a steam engine ready to combust. He wasn’t waiting for no one then I watched him rip it all the way to the bottom. The snow looked good.
Me, next. It was such deep powder I think even if you fell in the middle of the face you would’ve stopped. This picture is so funny because it exemplifies the exact opposite sentiment Ben had at the bottom of the run. What it does illustrate perfectly is the too cool for school, radditude vibe in Cham though. I’m glad these guys don’t have any of that. Such a fun day and a great line in awesome conditions!
Now for the heinous schooch out of the basin, where I got the schooch leg bad and Danny said I looked stupid and called me handicapped. A snus fixed my leg and my state of mind. Perfectly smooth groomers down the Grand Montets, led us to drinking Panachés in the sun. Thanks for the awesome day boyz!
Episodes 4 and 5 of A NZ Freeride Story span across the Southern Hemisphere from New Zealand to Argentina. The NZ Clubbies are infamous around the world for their rope tows and are quickly gaining a reputation for pumping out serious big mountain freeriders. I’ve cut my teeth here in competitive big mountain riding and […]
I have just returned to the USA after my preliminary trip around Europe. I was honored that my maiden voyage included four weeks competing and traveling with the Freeride World Tour. I was unsure what it would be like and I came into the event feeling like I was going into a pretty serious season, […]
Voile and the Wasatch Powder Keg are excited to announce that not only will they be hosting this year’s North American Ski Mountaineering Championships, but will also be partnering with the Utah Avalanche Center and Outdoor Research to bring the Vertfest to Utah for 2014.
The 12th annual Wasatch Powder Keg backcountry race will be held on March 7, 8, and 9 at Brighton Ski Resort. A test of speed, strength, and endurance for any backcountry skier, the 2014 Powder Keg will once again feature 3 different races, allowing racers to have the option of doing any individual race or all 3 races. The Powder Keg will also be hosting the North American Ski Mountaineering Championships, meaning that each race will crown a North American Champion for each of the 3 races.
The Keg starts off Friday afternoon with the sprint race, the ultimate test of a racer’s speed while climbing (~300 vertical feet). All racers race singly, with the top 12 qualifying for the semi-finals, held ‘ski-cross’ style (6 racers at a time). The top 6 from the semi-finals will compete in the finals to determine the overall winner. With categories for both men and women, head-to-head competition, and the entire race taking place within view of Milly Chalet, the Sprint Race is sure to be a nail biter.
Saturday is the traditional Powder Keg Individual Race. The Elite and Heavy Metal divisions will cover 11 miles with 5 climbs for a little over 6,000’ of punishment, while the Recreational division will cover 6.5 miles with 4 climbs for 3,500’ of vert. Any racer with a ski/binding weight of 1,450g (51 oz.) or less must race the Race division. And of course all divisions will have categories for both men and women.
Sunday will be the Technical Teams Race (teams of 2). The course will have 6 climbs and over 9,000’ of climbing. The highlight of the course will be the fixed ropes climbing up and traversing Mt Millicent. Racers will be required to work as a team to complete the course and incorporate mountaineering skills to ascend and traverse the roped section.
On Friday, food will be available at the Milly Chalet between the Sprint Race and pre-race meeting. A BBQ, awards ceremony, and raffle will follow the Saturday and Sunday races at the Milly Chalet. For more details visit www.wasatchpowderkeg.com.
Vertfest is a weekend-long festival of backcountry and sidecountry skiing and riding, combining a ski mountaineering race, backcountry and sidecountry skills clinics, gear demos, music, and celebration of the beyond the rope-line community. Vertfest began in the Cascade Mountains of Washington 7 years ago with the support of Outdoor Research, and has grown into a 3-event tour this year, coming to Alpental, Washington, Mt. Bachelor, Oregon, and Brighton, Utah.
Vertfest will feature · 2 days of free gear demos · Half- and full-day clinics on topics such as steep skiing, splitboarding, efficient backcountry travel techniques, mountaineering skills for backcountry riders, ski photography, and avalanche travel and rescue skills
Both days will feature an award ceremony and opportunity drawing, while Saturday will also feature a live bad and outdoor BBQ.