Sunday, 14 March 2010

North couloir of the Capucin

The North couloir of the Capucin off the Col du Tacul is one of the many classic moderate couloirs around the Mont Blanc massif. Easily accessed off the Midi by a quick ski down the Vallee Blanche to the bottom of the Geant Icefall and then a 900m skin up the Glacier des Periades. A final boot up a couloir leads to the Col du Tacul and a view down the line to the Leschaux Glacier 1000m below.

Guy skinning up towards the Col du Tacul (centre of picture)

The final boot pack up to the Col, Mont Blanc in the background

Three 30m abseils from the col gets you over the rocky ground to the remaining 250m of the 48o couloir. It was the first time on anything relatively steep for me this season so rather than getting straight into the turns it was a bit more like skis on, stand there, stand there some more, side slip a couple of meters and eventually put the first turn in...

Guy contemplating his first turn
Once over the bergshrund and onto the lower angled Capucin Glacier we'd hoped for nice powder and big fast turns. Unfortunately like everywhere else in the Mont Blanc massif at the moment the slopes had been hammered by the strong winds over the last few weeks so hard wind blown snow lead down to an exit onto the Leschaux Glacier.

Tuesday, 9 March 2010

Evening sun on the Cosmiques

Sat back in the flat, cup of tea in hand, after a nice afternoon run down the Petite Envers it seemed a bit early to be calling it a day on my last day off for the week. A few quick phone calls resulted in a sprint in ski boots back to the Midi to catch the 4'oclock and last cable car of the day with team Benson.
It was 5 o’clock by the time we were rapping into the Cosmiques Couloir for a quick lap in the evening sun. The snow was good, not amazing but facing west the light was stunning by this time. Amazing powder on the slopes below the north face of the Aiguille du Midi in the setting sun brought us out at the Mont Blanc tunnel entrance to a waiting taxi courtesy of Mrs B.

Andy rapping into the Cosmiques Couloir

Looking west from the couloir

The Bensons enjoying creamy powder below the Aiguille du Midi

Monday, 8 March 2010

Guides winter induction

I’ve just been back in Scotland for the final of the three induction days for entry to the British Mountain Guides followed by two days of winter skills training. All seven of us met up in Aviemore on Friday night not looking forward to the prospect of a long walk from Glenmoore Lodge up into the Corries to spend the day ‘digging’ our way up a route. I think the MWIS forecast on Thursday summed up the situation pretty well ‘by dawn there will be enormous quantities of snow’!
In the end it was decided to cancel the induction day for Saturday as with even more snow than forecast, even if we’d made it into the Corries snow conditions would have been very dangerous and climbing painstakingly slow. But not wanting to miss an opportunity for a day’s climbing and with much less snow in the North West five of us had an early morning start and drove over to the North West and walked into Beinn Bhan.
Ross and I headed round to climb most of The Cooler which was in great condition, proper continental water ice. It was a pretty busy day, with a team already on the main line soon to be followed by some visiting Italian climbers we decided to take a line up the right of the ice fall. After 3 pitches there was only one possible line up the last ice fall and with a team already about to start up the final pitch and not wanting to miss our 3 o’clock ride home we traversed right below the top pitch to find another exit. A fun turfy grove with a steep pull at the bottom lead up to the final terraces and a blustery top out.
Second pitch on The Cooler (photo - Ross Hewitt)

Ross climbing the 3rd pitch

The final easy slopes to the top

With the ski road still closed on Sunday morning we walked up into the hills behind Glenmoore Lodge for our first day of winter training. We spent the day looking at teaching methods for basic winter skills like cramponing, ice axe arrest and snow anchors as well as brief introduction to short roping.
The induction day had been rescheduled for Monday and an early start had us driving back over to Beinn Bhan and walking into Coire na Feola with Jonathan Preston, a local guide who was running our induction. The idea of the induction days is for the trainers to see that you are climbing comfortably at the required level, for mixed climbing this is Scottish grade V. Route choice was pretty limited but Bounty Hunter, IV 5, looked as white as anything so we headed up to gear up below the buttress. Not a grade V but by the time we’d finished we’d climbed 5 good pitches and with a few direct variations to the original route we’d made it around, V 5, and Jonathan was happy with it.
The winter induction was the final box to be ticked before we were official accepted onto the scheme to become trainee guides. Next up is the summer training which takes place in May, 3 days in the Lakes and 4 days in North Wales to get us ready for the assessment at the end of the summer.