Showing posts with label Haut Route. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Haut Route. Show all posts

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Chamonix 2010

After having missed the guiding season in Chamonix last summer due to an ACL repair, this year I was anxious to get back into the swing of things. I spent the spring ski touring season in the European Alps as well, guiding classics such as the week long Haute Route traverse from Chamonix to Zermatt, the steeps of the Cosmiques Couloir, the Glacier Ronde and the Tour Ronde and of course the Valle Blanche-the most classic one day all downhill ski tour in the Alps.

Descending the snow arrete from the Aiguille du Midi Tram

The summer season started off with great weather and conditions. I hit the ground running with guiding ascents of the Matterhorn and Mont Blanc as well as some classic Chamonix rock routes like the Index, Petite Floria, and the Papillion Arrete. Classic mixed climbs were in great condition as well, and the must do Cosmiques Arrete saw many ascents. My Outline Hoody was my constant companion and go to layer for all conditions.

Upper pitches of the Matterhorn

The "Razor" Pitch on the SW face of the Crochue with Mont Blanc in the background

In between guiding trips, I still managed to get in some great sport climbing in the Chamonix valley as well as in Italy and Switzerland. The proximity to the borders and the weather patterns which get blocked and pushed around by the Mont Blanc Massif allows for easy travel to find good climbing weather and conditions somewhere in the Alps on any given day. I got to put my new Togir Light harness (the most comfortable harness I have ever worn!) and Pro shoes to the test on lots of rock.

"Poem a Lou", 6 pitch 6c+ on the Brevant above Chamonix

As September rolled in and the temperatures dropped snow began accumulating up high and turned to ice creating the amazing 1000 meter mixed lines that the hard core alpinists come to Chamonix for. With the guiding season winding down and some free time on our hands, my brother and I are looking toward these routes for our fall adventures. Of course, that means leaving the valley sport climbing and cafe's behind for cold bivies and airy exposures!

Dry tool training in the valley
We are looking toward Mont Blanc du Tacul for some easy mixed-climbing-day-trip-warm-ups to prepare for some classics like the Walker Spur on the Grandes Jorasses and the Charlet-Platonov (put up by Armond Charlet in 1935!) on the Aiguille Vert. Hopefully my next post will have photos on these amazing mountain routes!
Steve Banks-Chamonix, France

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Frequent Flyer Miles

High in the Alps With the Dent Blanche in the Background

The past two months have kept me on my toes with guiding trips in Colorado, British Columbia and the French and Swiss Alps. I think my home in Crested Butte is just a laundromat with a mortgage these days!
Wolverine Basin on the Mt. Emmons Massif

After a Ski Mountaineering course in Crested Butte with the FBI (can't say anymore about that...) I headed off to Vail to teach a Guide Training Course including an AIARE Level 2 safety course for Paragon Guides.
Skinning Out of Ten Mile Basin Near Vail, CO

Back in Crested Butte for two days to finish my taxes and pack for a week of guiding at Ruby Mt. Lodge in the Valhalla Mountains of British Columbia.
Nadia in the Deep Valhalla Powder

We had a great week with 10-20 cm of new snow every night and fairly stable avalanche conditions which allowed us to crank out some great late March powder turns. The hospitality at Valhalla Mountain Touring is second to none with gourmet meals every day and a wood fired sauna to melt away the daily 5000 vertical feet of skiing in the legs.
Lisa Floating the Snowboard

Hopping a plane back to Crested Butte for another quick turn around I hit the road again bound for Chamonix, arriving just in time to ski 25 cm of fresh snow on the Valle Blanch. This was just the warm up day for the next week of skiing the iconic Haute Route tour from Chamonix to Zermatt. For this week we had amazing weather with blue skies every morning and building clouds in the evening which would drop 10-15 cm of fresh snow every night. All the guides I encountered on the trip agreed that this was the best week of weather any of us had seen in many many years on the traverse of the Alps. Ian Checking Out His Turns
Pow Turns off the Grand Montets
Schladeling on the Pingne de Arolla
The Vignettes Hut Above Zermatt

Upon returning to Chamonix via train (don't even ask about that fiasco!) I quickly dumped off my ski gear, grabbed the sport climbing kit and jumped in the car with my brother for the journey south to Finale, Italy on the Mediterranean coast. A cute little Italian B&B in Castelbianco was our base camp for the abundant limestone crags in the area. Pulling on the textured tufas felt great after wearing ski boots for so long. Cool days and slightly cloudy skies made for perfect sending temperatures. We were all pretty happy to be climbing in the upper 6 grades after skiing all winter, and spent the one rainy afternoon sending dry overhanging 25 meter routes on world class limestone.
Ridin' The Tufa
Jeff "The Crusher" Banks

Driving home after four great days of warm sport climbing, I had to wrap my head around skiing again, this time a week long Ski Mont Blanc program. With two experienced Irish ski instructors, we were again headed into the mountains and onto the glaciers for some steep skiing and acclimatizing for the objective ahead. The Gervasutti Couloir on the Tour Ronde, followed by awesome corn skiing in the Argentier basin led us into the end of the week and another winter storm rolling into the Haute Savoie. The new snow and clouds kept us from being able to climb and ski Mont Blanc, but we had an excellent week of ski touring and many great turns.

On The Amethystes Glacier
Skiing the Gervasutti Couloir
The Classic Valle Blanche

The continued valley rain and mountain snow has kept me on the couch today, glued to the computer and wondering where I will be of to next skiing high on the glaciers or climbing down in the valleys.

Steve Banks
IFMGA/UIAGM Mountain Guide