My season in Cham finished earlier than usual this year. Towards the end of April I went up to the Lake District to attend a BMG training course there. We worked on guiding multipitch rock climbing and short roping with Adrian Nelhams and Stu McAleese. The course was superbly run and I learned a lot in a condensed four days. Write up from Paul Swail.
I’m now back from a ski expedition to Baffin Island, and reports from that will be coming soon. I had really productive March and April in Cham skiing some great lines with new and old friends. More will come, but here is the highlight of my shortened Cham spring, featuring Ben Briggs and Brendon O’Sullivan.
Mont Blanc du Tacul is one of the Alp’s most popular and accessible 4000ers. Which is one of the reasons dropping into the south face is so cool. Going in an instant from the familiar and pedestrian normal route, to the wild savagery of Mont Blanc’s steep south side. Just like the Sentinel Rouge and the Col de la Brenva, the ambiance is electrifying. All senses are instantly engaged. The sunny aspect belies the very serious and committing nature of these descents. Skiing it onsight is simpler and reduces the exposure on the south slopes, but it adds to the adventure and commitment.
This was without doubt one of the most technical and sustained descents I’ve ever done, and a fantastic adventure. It has been skied just a handful of times and I very much doubt it will ever become a classic. However, a French crew skied it more recently and made a nice edit for Epic TV. It looks like they benefited from much more snow build up on the line and managed ok with one rap. We skied it during a very dry and warm spell.
At the top.
Chillin. I managed to almost doze off here. We waited for it to soften. Sorry for the blatant way Ben is advertising White Dot here.
‘What’s down there?’
Nice top slope. Steep but clean and open.
55 degree mini crux. It’s not often you see the fearless Briggs plunge his shaft in. Yes, it’s steep.
Ah, now a turn. Stunningly exposed and delicate.
Cruxing. This step was rather hideous, Ben is engaged here in a dry manoeuvre over a 5 ft rock step. Ben and Brendan are a rare breed of dry skiing ninjas. Knowing this, I opted for a 2m rap.
Techy slopes keeps the concentration up.
Good turns on good snow
Damn my shit looks good, thanks sponsors for giving me the best gear.
Sloppy palming of the slope. Steep all the way.
Questing to get to the anchor for the mandatory 40m rap. Ben’s mixed skiing is often an asset to the team.
After the rap, we ended up in the skiing some 50-55 degree refrozen crust. Perfectly edgeable though. Then came what looked like steps of water ice. Ben skied first and edged through and jumped the last step. Damn. Well, I didn’t like the look of it. Brendan wasn’t sure either. We transitioned to crampons and got both tools out. However, instead of water ice it was grey mush. As I kicked in, running water welled up around my boots. My frontpoints had no purchase on the rock slab underneath. We made a 5m rap.
Back in the sun and some good turns here.
The line weaves intricately through the rocks.