Or how Michael “bird” Shaffer, JT Holmes and Valentin Delluc are showing skiers/snowboarders a new style of getting out of runs without dicking around with ropes or sidestepping shit snow.
the refuge des grand mulets is one of my favorite refuge. Sitting on a rock at 3000 meters in an ocean of chaos. It is on the original itinerary of Mont blanc summit and now is used mostly by skiers in spring. I may do a trip there this year. most likely.
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.
Not finding what i need in Cham i escaped once again to middle earth, the center of the world: La Grave. My first time there. La Grave feels isolated, a small french village surrounded by gigantic jagged peaks. The world capital of soul-skiing. I surfed Joe Vallone ‘s couch. Joe Vallone is pretty much a local. His flat is an ode to skiing with past memorabilia , hundreds stories. I am a thousands light years from holly-cham, back to the source maybe. Finding skiing. Him and Ptor Spricenieks take me on a stroll without using the postcard lift to a corner of their playground along the flank of the Tabuchet. In a couloir where no one ever goes. A lost couloir . A possible first descent? How could that be? It has everything of a classic. We skied it leisurely with a sunset light. Apres ski at the skier lodge K2 bar, a Place filled with ski history. This was a classic ski day, reminiscing those days i had in the eastern sierra california , reminding me why i am a skier.
We had to sit thru a few rain days. Drinking beers, netflix, taking the train to the beach on the sea of japan. Visiting temple. eating fresh shrimps. Eat the deadly blowfish. Rain in Hakuba mid february is not completely unusual. Yet, Can it be global warming. We burned jet fuel to fly half way around the world to find rain. I find this uncomfortably amusing.
The snow finally came in. We got a good taste of what that Japow forrest storm riding is all about. It is good indeed. Fluffy pow. space out trees. Beautiful.
next day was a pretty good japanese blue bird.
we arrived in Tokyo a day late at night after a day skiing. We stayed at those capsule hotel so typical of japan. Japanese being civil, well mannered the place is pleasant …no loud douche banging on walls, destroying things , puking all over… it is well organized which makes it a good cheap option in the center of tokyo. Tokyo was a bit overwhelming after a week in the mountains…I thought of Japan being an expensive destination, it was not. The plane tickets were 400 euros on turkish airline which happens to be a great airline. The lodging in Tokyo at the Oak Hostel Zen on the first night and at the Shinjuku Kuyakusho-mae Capsule Hotel were 25 euros a nights. In Hakuba we stayed at the west coast inn for 307 euros for 7 days. All those were very clean and comfortable. We bought points for lifts which ended up costing 20 euros a day. The transport is where we spent the most , to and from tokyo was 30 euros by bus and about 80 euros taking the bullet train…the food isn’t more expensive than average europe or USA. So it was a very affordable and pleasant trip. Japeneses are amazingly welcoming and sweet and very helpful. We left our stuff unattended many times at busy train stations or subways and never feared to get them stolen. Amazing.
I am currently enjoying Japan skiing. We went to hakuba on a low snow year thinking we could ski the higher peaks. However, as we rolled in so did the snow/rain. It isn’t Japow yet but it is on its way…
Chamonix being the bastard child which sprungout from a gang rape by british, french and scandinavians, it is only logical for me to go visit some of the origins. Norway. That is beside the constant social media bragging about that ski paradise somwhere far up north. Minna Riihimaki’s plan of going late may was working with my schedule so i jumped on the occasion despite being somewhat late for skiing even for the arctic. Upon our arrival we were taken by local crow Thor Falkanger deep in a melancholic forrest somewhere around moody tamok in his parents’s completely off the grid cabin. A 1965 nothern california hippy dream come true: grass roofed no electicity, none of that electronic air pollution such as wifi or tv, no running water. The water, house and sauna are heated with local wood. The water is taken from the close by river, the food can be fished or hunted around. A very comfortable , soothing and quiet situation. Skiing was not hapenning locally due to weather so We went skiing in the chamonix finish mafia’s birth land : Finland, Kilpisjarvi With skipe Oivo and Mikko Juntunen. We then Travelled back to tomok, tried to ski and almost all got taken down by an avalanche like bowling pins. skipe lost one ski , all his stuffed wached down hill . Decidely too hot. We Travelled up north to Lyngen,Lyngseidet… try to ski ended up fishing instead.
We then drove back to tomok. We Tried to ski again… We Scored some midnight sun runs which are a photographer dream come true, from 9 pm to 5 am is a constant magic light sunset sunrise moonrise moonset. Outsanding. My [#no filter] pictures look like they are photoshoped. Trip Done. it was More of a fishing/ road trip than a ski trip . Nothern norway at this season is very unusual: A forever day still life painting of an arctic jungle with jagged snowy peaks of sort . And well, truly a (potential) ski paradise . That is not a lie. I didnt see the night for 10 days, i couldnt wait for that darkness again. ….
BACK TO TAMOK
Magic mountain lodge, Lyngseidet fishing dinner and other wandering
back to Tamok. midnight sun riding #no filter
Easyjet 140 euros return ticket geneva -Reykjavik could not be ignored. I mean…Bjork… . My skiing social networks feeds are filled with Norwegian imageries and other exorbitant Svalbard dream trips. Iceland wins. This mysterious snowy volcano-island in the middle of nowhere way up north with unpronounceable words fascinates. The people seem to be very liberal not so narrow minded religious or sexists: not douchebags land. They came out of the economic crisis with pride bailing out the people and kicking out the banks: I appreciate that and happy to spend my money there. I talk to Ben Briggs who seems very enthusiastic. So much that he takes control of the entire organization. I end up in a RV with 3 funky Britts i don’t know and one crazy Czech guy. We didn’t have goals or objectives. We just heard tales of a big skiable volcano in the south west, legends of road side couloir descent to the ocean in the north and some vague descriptions about good stuff in the east. The RV is the best cheapest option we could think of for this type of trip. Iceland is a 1400 Km circle we can drive around and stop when we please. The best idea really: Iceland has natural wonders and curiosity at every turn of the road: water falls, hot rivers, fartsmoke machines, hot tubs and roadside ski lines. The highest mountains is a volcano in the south west , we were shut down by poor snow coverage and cold wind. After a long road and a blizzard we stick around the northern troll peninsula a few days hoping for a window to ski which never came. We managed a few descents but nothing great. The best was on our way back to Reyk thru the east where we found a pyramidal mountain filled with powdery couloirs. The trip was officially a ski trip but really ended up being a nice sometime hectic drive around a beautiful country with fun new friends, joking/goofing around, playing poker wilst discovering an enchanting island filled with geological oddities, dreamy landscapes, inter winded elements water fire ice earth all in one place. soothing energy. It felt like being in a pre-holocene time travel …I surely want to go back, the skiing looks promising there, nothing to bragg about just simple good fun skiing, ski in ski out from the RV in an very breathless landscape all around the island. People told me iceland was expensive however it wasn’t anymore expensive than chamonix for restaurants/bars or any supermarket in france, the rv was 2000 euro for 10 days rented at geyser rental at the airport. And well, i was happy to give my money given their political stance. The people are awesome and very helpful very happy to see you sometime with a zest of burly humorous cynicism . ….
Waking up in the south west desert at the foot of the highest volcano we want to ski with the unspeakable name: Hvannadalshnúkur
In the troll peninsula where we heard of roadside skiing to ocean and other splendid ski descent more inland. Unfortunately the snow coverage wasn’t optimum and we were there during a winter storm. It made it hard to move around with the RV. we still scored what we could. We didn’t have time to stick around and wait for weather to clear but I’m sure the skiing got pretty good there…
there isn’t a bar or clubs in every town in iceland, but there are town outdoor swimming pool and tubs, naturally heated which makes it easier to roll around in a RV. There are also countless natural tubs and hot rivers…
I first met Dave 10 years ago, he was in turn fast talking dave or dave the brave depending on the days. We connected after we randomly -surprisingly stumbled on each other on the streets of the black rock city in 2007 (*maybe) . We had that in common. Dave was really strict on whom he was skiing with and at the beginning i probably did not fit his standard. We were not skiing together. I would just hear or see the stories of his impressive everyday skiing.. He was out every day, tagging big heavy lines every other days . His nose for powder patch was unrivaled . I followed his boot pack many times. He called that bad etiquette. Following boot pack gave me confidence and strenght. I became stronger so later i was skiing with him every now and then . This is how i realized how smooth and stylish of a skier he was no matter what type of slopes he was on. He could ski the steeps and exposed the same way he would ski grand montet. I bought a proper lens camera to document skibuming in the cham valley. His skiing and lifestyle fitted perfectly my vision. I thought he was a good rep for skibuming. His style and comitments deserved stories and covers in magazines. He landed a few sponsors so we spent a season skiing and shooting together. My pictures were not good enough to make it anywhere…Later i got into my share of mountains hell meanwhile Dave surrounded himself with the most bankable photographers friends and well…. pretty much the same day he died he scored an article in powder magazine.
the la Palud lift takes you on the best lift access terrain on the planet. This is why we go there. There is also a nice small family village atmosphere feeling that is completely lost in the industrial disneycham junkfest . This is why we keep on going there.
The marbree is arguably the most beautiful lift accessed run i have skied. It just doesn’t get any better than that if you like freeriding.
Skiing south facing huge powder face is “extremely crazy” by any standard. Many people never go there on powder days. NEVER. I used to not go until i started seeing my friends numerous posts on social medias bragging about the best powder day ever with no crowds around. So i started going feeling i was doing something very crazy . I met with many “not so crazy” regulars there including guides and pros. The “extremely crazy” became just “crazy” . I started going regularly on powder days. You can’t beat the atmosphere and the terrain on the ” italian side” . I could see guided group dropping into the marbree on big days, all kind of people, pros , guides and punters dropping into the exposed Cable runs on huge days or stormy days . Into the entreve. So the “crazy” slowly became “normal” . David loved the marbree . Every thing was normal that day, he took the first lift he could. People skied the run the day before, guided group were ahead of him and guided group were behind him. when he dropped in , he triggered the weak point and the entire face went down on him. Bad luck. Some say it was too late. Maybe so they feel better next time they drop in at 9.30 . No, it is “extremely crazy “ to ski south face powder. period. It is not “normal” . I could stop going there. But in this “instagram-facebook” era we are in , how many posts about the good uncrowded time there from friends-pros and guides is it gonna take me to go back? “another spectacular day in the best terrain of the world with friends and no one around” …1000 times. It is a little like trying to quit heroin whilst doctors are sending you videos on how good it is…
And then again, this type of layers also happens on north facing slopes.
powder Skiing is extremely crazy then. It is not normal. We tend to forget about it in this “dolce cabbana” type advertising ski universe we are in…
That same black friday, brendan o sullivan died sliding down the north face of tour ronde. I didn’t know him well, i just skied a few good runs with him. His resume of achievement in cham and the world can rival any of the big “pro” guys, he was at the top of our game. His list of lines skied is nothing less but impressive. Yet he was not sponsored and people barely knew who he was. He was a true gentleman, discreet and a real skibum . He always told me he would rather work , buy his own gear than bend over to get gear he didn’t choose and have to lie about it. He would rather work and buy his own trips than have to deal with cameras ,instagram, hashtags . I liked that. One of the most underrated snowboarder around.
it is a sweet delicacy to dive neck deep in fluffy snow after such a dark and heavy period where the French were hit at the very heart of their laic culture of blasphemy and irreverence towards the rich-powerful sacred and not , they were hit deep in the altar giving us corrosive and offensive humour targeting the absurdities of our world. The leftists French laic will remain impertinent and insolent against power , tyranny and intolerance sacred or not …hopefully.
One classic grand montet storm day followed by one classic la palud blue bird day were perfect to forget this absurd world. Powder all the way.
A shameless storm day At Grand Montet
Irreverent face shots
An Offensive day in la Palud, Italy
9am hellbroner on a mission with Luca Pandolfi , strong wind and cold at 3500M. I am delighted when i see Francois Thevenet and Arthus on their first beer at the bar up top. It is easy for me to call it off and start chillin’ . That is until we see Tof Henri, Seth Morrison and Nate Wallace annihilating the entreve face. Every body/Luca freaks out and in less than 5 mins all my cozy plans of hanging out at the bar by the fire place with cigs the cat and beers vanished. I am now braving the minus 50c (-1) wind and climbing M6 (M0) to get to that face. It is all great, i am dreaming of those big big turns in perfect champagne powder all the way… Well, those top gun riders made it look like perfect champagne snow , the reality was more variable than that and with sharks. SO those big 5 flawless turns turned into 15 maybe…im floating 98 underfoot these days. that is. Good fun. The rest of the descent to the mid station was on refrozen stuff mostly which made the all day seems/feel big…
A lot of good skiing to be had up there. Big and steep or not. We chose not. Wandering.
Si vous voulez voir la nature belle et vierge comme une fiancée, allez là par un jour de printemps ; si vous voulez calmer les plaies saignantes de votre cœur, revenez-y par les derniers jours de l’automne ; au printemps, l’amour y bat des ailes à plein ciel, en automne on y songe à ceux qui ne sont plus.
Le Lys dans la vallée de Honoré de Balzac
[ Balzac ]
Every autumn i go on a work/meditation retreat off the grid deep in the california woods. it is always a very good time to think and ponder. After a couple of weeks my friend Huevos rushed to me with what he could get from a one bar connection on his phone about a very bad news concerning my friends JP Auclair, Andreas Fransson and Bjarne Sahlen. We couldn’t get more than a random page announcing briefly the confirmed death of Andreas and JP. Frustration was high as we couldn’t get anymore info than that. what happened? Bjarne? what the fuck. A month prior i was at a bbq at Fransson with Bjarne and they talked about their chilean project. There was no immediate plans to get down to connections so i just swallowed the news , deep. From deep , there is a howling of sadness… the tears… The tears have not yet been on the outside. I am around people, and I don’t want to be comforted. They don’t know them . Not letting them out. They might come later, the tears. But for now they stop inside, leaving my eyes glossy. Moments come in my mind, those times spent with fransson at the top of the aiguille du midi waiting for windows, remembering his advises and betas on huge runs then rarely skied, remembering the west face of mont blanc and the eugster i would not have skied had he not told /encourage me “you should go you can do it” .
It is so unfair.
Fransson is known as a punk ass skier for his descent of denali or other “no future” type endeavor. Since he started his guide program and met his girlfriend Ali he was tamed. Cautious. Extremely experienced.Focused on details. safe. more conservative in his choices.
i remember meeting jp 5 years ago in cham during the shoot of “ordinary skier” . He was the most unusual pro skier/park head jibber i met. Not looking the part: discreet, smart, well travelled, intelligent, artsy, well read, creative , humble. I remember him telling me how scared he was of alaska and powder, avalanches. I saw him many times after: cragging in cham , I was there on his first descent of the mallory…Later I waited for him when he skied the frendo with fransson in a white out whilst we skied the eugster that day and we all met at the bottom drinking beer.
he just had a baby.
Later, My friend Huevos said it looks like something happened to a “liz “ as well. We couldn’t get more on the short connection. just someone posted ” bye Liz” on Facebook. I immediately thought of Liz Daley but i knew she wasn’t with Fransson. she is in cham climbing “spliiiitttttters” with her newly fiance and good friend of mine Davide Demasi AKA Diamond. I saw them 20 days ago, at a welcome to cham Liz BBQ.
We all decided to go eat pizza in town. Alleluya, connection. I couldn’t wait any longer. The first post i see is the one from Diamond announcing Liz daley’s death. I couldn’t hold it anymore and bursted in tears for a minute in the rough neck scene i am in. pretty. …fuckin hell.
Liz Daley. really?
This is beyond fucked up.
She was so conservative in her choices , she was so safe. I always enjoyed the contrast with her girly manners in a brutal environment, she was always so pro. I was angry when she told me she had to switch from patagonia to Eddie Bauer because patagonia wouldn’t put her on payroll. Why?. She was so good at advertising , her numerous post on TGR were brilliant LINK, full of life, fun. Her few videos were so lively and funny. She was no Peterson but heck, most of us can identify with doing our toe nails at the base of denali more than G-s-ing massive faces in AK. Anyways.
It doesn’t matter. She is dead now.
I am crushed.
3 good people are gone. Again. it is redundant . too many. The usual “ he died doing what he loved” gets me pissed off. it doesn’t mean anything anymore. Andreas said” there are no good reason to die for but the mountains gives me a reason to live for” Ok, fine. My parents who see the numerous dead people post on Facebook dont understand at all. They are worried. I am confused. It is snowing now in cham . I am not excited . whatever. yes . it is snowing. The only thing that keep me skiing isn’t skiing anymore .per say. It is just the people i meet. Without skiing i would not have met such unique characters like JP, Andreas and Liz. This is about the people, those moments. What i remember most are those times spent with people before and after skiing. the skiing is always good, it is just skiing. I am pissed off at skiing right now. …
In La Kesh
A FEW PICTS