This past 20 days i haven’t skied at all but the conditions were all time and i watched the history of steep skiing unfold …it was very entertaining. The cult of self providing 3 min bad video footages and mostly bad pictures of everyone’s steep descents all over the social medias. While it was all bad quality it was showing a nice view of the steep skiing phenomena …I was baffled by the amount of good alpinists and skiers tackling 5.4 and 5.5 runs all over the mont blanc massif. I lived in chamonix for 10 years , not an alpinist, it took me 4 years before i could get on the north faces of the midi or runs on the argentiere basin north faces. I never heard of anyone skiing the north faces of the midi or the col de la verte within my first 4 years. Today with the new gear technology, every alpinists can ski and every skier is better. It takes less than a season learning skiing for an alpinist to tackle a 5.4 run which on an alpinist point of view is just a easy descent they usually run down on crampons. I saw young skiers skiing the mallory on their first season in chamonix (with a friend alpinist or guide) . So, anytime things are good (global warming helping), people line up on every run. This past 20 days was the biggest so far with every ski runs in the argentiere basin north face skied by minimum 10 people, sometime 20 people or more , the aiguille du plan north faces , pain de sucre, frendo, all the runs on the aiguille du midi skied by many. Most with huge G.S turns at mack2. Amazing. If, people were less competitive, less self centered, the medias/industry more unifying, interested and honest, the best ski movie of all time could have been made this steep season including rock star pros as well as struggling sponsored dirt bags and all the other passionate freaks. Instead, we will hear about some privileged prefabricated super hero athletes skiing whatever something in the alps or exotic location in a fabricated story with all sort of superlatives and logos claiming first decent of a 30 meters variations … I randomly stumbled on the descent of the Nant blanc by Alex Pittin, tony Lamiche and Hélias Millerioux. The nant blanc face is the most impressive, intimidating , steep and exposed face visible from the valley. The climbing is a D+ the skiing a 5.5. It was first skied by J.M Boivin in june 1989, repeated on snowboard by Marco Siffredi in june 1999. repeated again by Pierre Tardivel and Stephane Brosse in june 2009 and then by 2 of the T-crew and more (?). This mid April, Pittin (ex world cup skier) with tony Lamiche (guide, 9A rock climber , alpinist, skier) and Hélias Millerioux (guide, top alpinist, hangs out on Nupse with colin haley and ueli steck) were the first on this face, arguably the most beautiful face visible from the valley. I enjoyed the descent with Alex pittin’s father who was a little stressed and I took some photos. It was very nice. A very clean descent from first bin grand montet on sight. I’ve never been interested in skiing that face myself. I would need an alpinist for partner on that one. But you never know, 5 years from now, that face might get good from january on, until then , this face will get skied a lot more in the next month or so…
This is the argentiere basin north faces , All those approximate red lines show the ski runs, in the past 20 days , each one of those receive between 10 to 30 skiers.
this is the top of the aiguille verte, on the top left you can see 3 skiers going up. they skied down the couturier (i saw 9 skiers that day going that way). on the right of the calotte, you can see helias millerious,tony lamiche, alex pittin getting involved in the Nant blanc face.
this is Alex father watching the descent a little stressed.
Since I have skied the capucin couloir directly facing the angelique i wanted to ski it. The Angelique is very hard to get in good condition due to its aspect (south) and shape (narrow couloir). But this year , all the South faces are filled in and i thought i would give it a try with my friends Ryan Boyer , Brett Lotz visiting from California and Ross Hewitt a scottish chamonix local. WE decided to go first bin and to climb the NNE of les courtes and traverse to the Angelique on the other side. I didnt think much of that part since i have climbed and skied that face making big turns numerous times. I was wrong, it was definitely an alpine climb. The strong N wind have ripped the face of its snow and the face was almost entirely ice. Sometimes just a thin layers of not supportive snow would hide the ice which made it harder. The top 3 rd part was all dinner plate breakable which if you are not used to it is pretty scary. to be faster we all roped up on that part to Ryan who was just flying up it. Actually Ryan and Brett, the 2 californians with heavy alpine ski set up were much faster than the 2 locals. ouch! take that in your face. Oh well, i have a 3 kg cameras. that is my lame excuse. The skiing was “marginal”. the couloir is narrow with 2 banks facing west and south. each banks have different kind of snow , old hollow powder sometime , hard crust , icy bumps , rock steps and so on. and it is all pretty steep. Lower down as the angle soften, the snow was better, smooth powder or spring snow which allows us to make nice big turns. All of this made it an amazing ski-alpinism outing, very technical in an amazing setting, traversing from one basin to the other. The couloir is amazingly beautiful and is all worth it good or bad snow. Call me crazy but this is the kind of skiing I like. We were rewarded by a beautiful sunset skiing in smooth powder and corn down the talefre basin and the mer de glace and then the james bond to a fresh beer at the elevation. good day.