Friday, April 23, 2010

The shoulder of Mt. Mallet

After an exciting day on the aiguille du encrenaz and a couple trips to the hospital I had a chance to get back out with the Chamonix crew for another exciting ski run off the Aiguille du Midi. Our fearless leader Dave thought we should hit a line called the shoulder of Mt. Mallet, something he thought hadn't been skied all year. If, in fact, this line had not been skied all year it is due the fact that it isn't really all that easy to get to. One could climb up it and risk death in the serac fall zone, or you can go the way we went... After skining for a while, climbing a chute, rappelling into another drainage and skining up the glacier, we finally got to the crux of the route. This incredibly steep and rock face is the only reasonable way up to the top of our line. The steep bootpack was a little hairy, especially when you consider the exposure beneath us, it felt good to have two ice axes for this one...We finally made it to the top of the line, and our big crew had a little difficulty fitting onto the steep ridge at the top. Dusan, Giulia, John, and Jim, and of course Dave and myself, was quite the massive group. These guys ski together all the time, I was just tagging along for a couple weeks, and I'm glad I had skilled and experienced Chamonix "locals" to show me the ropes, no pun intended.
Since Dusan put in a healthy amount of the final bootpack he got to drop first on the top. Here he examines the powder with the towering Dent du Geant in the background. Its a long way to the glacier from here and the skiing was pretty darn good most of the way. It was fortunate that we had such good weather while I was there, because even though the skiing wasn't "all-time" it was pretty good, and beautiful sunny days make you want to get out.
About halfway down the chute opens up into a sweet steep face. Believe it or not this is actually a picture of me grabbing a few pow turns way above the glacier below. Chamonix is cool. Note the seracs hanging off the cliff faces all around, that is why you don't want to approach this line from the bottom, they have a tendency to just fall off whenever they want to.
Once we got a bit lower down we could actually open it up and carry some speed. In the photo below I'm cruising down an enormous face with a steep wall of glacial ice in the background. There aren't too many places in the world where you can ski in mountains like these, truly an incredible experience.
The shoulder of Mt. Mallet was the last cool line that I got to ski in Chamonix. With volcanic ash disrupting air traffic throughout Europe we were lucky to get home only one day later than we were supposed to. This was very fortunate due to Lynn's knee injury which we are now finding out to be somewhat less serious than we had originally thought. Its nice to be home, and with the recent snow here in California it is time to get after it down in the high sierra.

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