Measure of a Man I: Glacier Rond

Eyeing the Cosmiques Couloir, a line we skied last year "The sea's only gifts are harsh blows, and occasionally the chance ...

Eyeing the Cosmiques Couloir, a line we skied last year

"The sea's only gifts are harsh blows, and occasionally the chance to feel strong. Now I don't know much about the sea, but I do know that that's the way it is here. And I also know how important it is in life not necessarily to be strong but to feel strong. To measure yourself at least once. To find yourself at least once in the most ancient of human conditions. Facing the blind deaf stone alone, with nothing to help you but your hands and your own head." 
-Christopher McCandless - "Into the Wild" 

The sea is something I am familiar with, it is a friend. I always told myself that I could never live away from its influence. I needed not to see it, but to smell the salt in the air. Strangely, it has been a comfortable shift replacing the great blue expanse with towering peaks. I think it's a combination of the solitude and the cool wind I find comforting.

The dubious character you see above is Ryan; a friend I encountered last season in Chamonix. Ryan has a strange persuasion on me. He fills me with an addictive cocktail of emotion: Two parts confidence, One part fear, served long over glacier ice. Its easy to be a good skier/ alpinist when the goings good. Ryan's company leads you to places where you measure yourself, where you have to be strong, and eventually, to feel strong.

Richard half way down the Glacier Rond. It's steep, very steep and very very icy

There have been two occasions this season, where i have been in a "No fall zone" situation. In alpinist talk, that means you mess up, you'll end up in a very very bad way. Ryan was kind enough to be involved in both of those. Below is account of the first.

Measure of a Man I: Glacier Rond

Glacier Rond is a hanging glacier, it can be seen central in this photo

I knew very little about the Glacier Rond prior to skiing it. I had heard it was steep, involved a very exposed traverse and finished quite promptly, its seracs hanging in the air, high above the rocks below. Additionally, Ryans idol, pro skier Trevor Peterson is rumoured to have died there, carried down the face by an large avalanche and spat into the void off its end. This run had a lot going for it.

Short rappel half way down the Rond, into the exit couloir

With Ryan and Richard, we chanced first lifts up the Aiguille du midi, traversed the bowl and climbed up the 'Abri Simond' hut. We locked out the release mechanism on our bindings (losing a ski and being stranded on steep skiing is as bad as breaking a leg from a ski not releasing during a fall, a necessary evil) and began the exposed traverse. Three skiers pushed past us, wishing us a good ski and flew on ahead. I was a little surprised and a little peeved to not be getting first lines. Turns out it was Seth Morrison and Nate Wallace. Seth is arguably the best big line free skier in the world, and Nate his guide when he is in Chamonix. Best to let those kind of people through! 

The worst is over

What followed was not the steepest thing i have skied, but definitely the most nerve inducing. It turns out the Rond has two possible conditions: Snowy and very prone to avalanches or no snow at all and impossible to get an edge into. Today was the second. 

"No fall zone"

We skitted across the face, down a ridge on the southern edge then traversed back to the rock face on the north, all the time the skis vibrating violently as the edges hunted in the ice, looking to bite.  We threw in a few tentative jump turns and as we joined the lower half of the great face, the snow returned and some deep carves were possible.

Getting some big turns in on the steeps = great feeling

Towards the base of the Rond glacier, we dropped into the exit couloir. Sometimes this is skiable top to bottom, but the snow coverage has been relatively thin this year, so a short rappel dropped us in. The exit couloir itself was transformed (refrozen) slough and avalanche debris. not ideal and hard on the legs, but it was nice to ski in an area of less consequence to error.

The boys triumphant at the end of the exit couloir

 We made our way back to Chamonix via the Bossons Glacier, A beautiful and wild frozen torrent, with great crevasses and seracs pushing into the air.

Amazing Bossons Glacier

That anchor looks safe right!

Always a little nervous rappelling onto a snow bridge

Another short abseil to escape the frozen towers and a "ski assault" return to town, skiing through forest, over fences, across bridges and roads

Ski Assault

Moon over Mont Blanc

We skied nearly to the door of the house, quite an effort when you live in town, no where near a piste. We put our feet up, took in the sun and a deep drink of beer and agreed not to try that again any time soon.

Victory celebrated properly

[Thank you to Ryan Weber and Richard Southcott for the ski, Ryan for some photos]

You Might Also Like


Powered by Blogger.