Rob Stokes

Winter 11 is dead….

…Long live summer!

Col des Courtes

I am actually hoping to keep skiing all through the summer this year, searching out patches of snow in hidden shadowy gullies and probably skiing into some rock climbs up high, but my proper winter skiing is over now. It ended on a high. T’other week I skinned up the Argentiere Glacier with long time Cham local Ross Hewitt and Dave ‘Milky bar kid’ Searle intending to ski the Ammone, a huge and very asthetic line that would have dropped us bastard miles from Chamonix in Switzerland. Due to the logistics of ferrying cars and setting up lifts, and our apparent inept ability to organise anything more than ‘first bin at GM’ we decided the North facing Col des Courtes could be a good, and logistically easyer line.

Searler on the leisurely approch

Touring up to the face was pretty cool, the going was easy with a firm snow surface and just a couple of inches of fresh made it a very social skin with the 3 of us side by side having some good man-chat.  It was all very leisurely really. As our line came into view it was all looking very nice, no tracks, fresh snow and beautiful runnels running down the upper part of the face.

Myself approaching. Photog cred:Ross Hewitt

The bergschrund was conquered after a small false start too far left, with skis on and roped up. Crampons on now for the duration of the climb. Ross put a slightly ascending traverse in, and then started up the face proper. The going was fairly deep. No bootpack in before us meant some hard work, with some steps sinking boot deep, some waist deep wallowing and a bit of swimming. At least everything felt stable and the deep snow offset the ever-apparent exposure as we gained more height on the face. The rock band was ascended through a short gully on some ice and then a wee bit more wallowing.

Myself about half way up the face. Photo: Ross Hewett

My ‘bomber’ belay at the transition

The snow started to get hard and shitty near the top so we decided to crack the skis on, and forgo gaining the actuall col. Ledges were dug and sketchy belays were improvised with ice axes and ski poles in the unconsolidated pow. The battle to change over from crampons to skis is never an easy one, frozen crampon straps, exposure, dynafiddles, the ever present risk of dropping something important has me taking my time here for sure. I don’t wanna’ rag-doll to my death while trying to take a piss ether, so that had to wait. Though thinking about it I could use a few more GNAR points…

Searle

Down time. This is what we are here for. Ross and Milky are much much stronger climbers than me, both technically and fitness wise, but I can ski well so its a level playing field again. I feel an equal again. Rather impressively Milky is first ready and skis the first turns. A bit sketch at first after a few cautious jump turns we all relax a bit. The snow is good. He gets to a safe spot so our slough doesn’t kill him and its my go. The snow is good. Still cautiously jump turning I start to link a few turns instead of stopping in-between turns. It feels steep, even in the perfect conditions we have it in. We estimate it at 55degree’s. Its pretty hard to estimate pitch though. Everything feels so different in different snow conditions….45degree’s feels nearly flat in perfect powder, but put even the best skiers in the world on 45* in icy conditions, and over fatal exposure and they will be shitting bricks. A few weeks earlier I skied Cunningham couloir (50*) in hard hard snow conditions….it was scary as shit. I stayed on the rope for a fair way…..so we figured if this feels steeper than Cunningham despite having perfect snow…it was definitely fucking steep.

Why does looking up always look flat? Searle skiing

Me just after the ‘choke’. photo: Ross Hewett

Ice axes in hand we got through the rock band with skis on, and ropes away which made it all a bit quicker and we soon found ourself on the lower face linking some nice turns. Little jump over the bergschrund and we were free. Awesome line! Looking back up Ross and I took the piss out of Milky Searle’s ‘epileptic’ and erratic tracks and then for his apparent loss of his ice axe somewhere on route. Truth be told, Searle is doing very good skiing lines like this after the amount of skiing he has done. He has a bloody good jump turn on him, and will become a very good skier for sure.

The ski-out wasn’t without its fun ether…there was pretty much no snow down low, so we linked up patches of heather and grass until even the Scots man had to walk.

Good end to the season! Bike time now…

Today I was…..cold….

Winter popped back out today to remind us that it isn’t done yet, high lines are still filling in with regular snow…..will the midi north face season come to fruit this year? Its looking like June could be good to go…


More new toys…..

Ok so while TIS basecamp has some new shiny Cotic’s to play with, I am still without bike in Chamonix…..I have however got some new toys to keep me entertained in the mean time.

Not so much toys actually but tools, tools to make the Chamonix valley an (even) better place. Watch this space…

Rob x

Jally pallez Franceh?

Although I fear writing about spring is very clichéd (note French thing on top of the ‘e’) I feel like I need too…. It seems to be every outdoor-orientated persons favourite season, the lights are getting nighter, the trails are drying up and the sun is coming out. Read on for a few words and a big ass picture dump….

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Success and failure in Chamonix Mt Blanc.

Last night the cheap Semuse lager in the local tasted good.

This is not a usual occurrence as Semuse tastes of shite.

At gone 10pm last night a couple of friends and I stumbled out of a dark snowless forest, and then straight into the pub, after a long day in the mountains above Chamonix. It was a strange old day filled with last minute decisions, failure, cold fingers (and my nose), flat camera battery’s, GNAR ego boost’s, touring, shitty snow, first lifts……and last lifts. People talk of first lifts and I have been on first lift many times, but I have never been on the very first cable car from the valley and the very last one…..in the same day

So the day started with Searler getting uncomfortable seeing me get up with a semi-lob on and then rushing out the door at 7.30 to get the first bus. Rather annoyingly the bus wasn’t even scheduled to come until 8.20. The bus stop is about 23 seconds from my apartment so time was wasted in the local Spar browsing  the Branston pickle and 12euro bars of dairy milk in the English aisle.

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Ensa couloir, Chamonix.

Paulie and Rory heading to the entry under Mt Blanc.

So as most of you will know, I am based in Chamonix for the winter and I will be updating the site with some (hopefully) exciting adventures of the better ski days. I will spare you the crap resort skiing and jibbing but hopefully have some cool pictures of the better days weather they are simple pow days or classic ski mountaineering lines.

First line of the season was the Ensa coulior off the top of the Brevant Cable car.

I went up with two old friends from Tignes, Paulie and Rory, and a new friend and mountainbike ripper from Whistler James McSkimming. The start of the route involves a few steep turns leading into a choke with a chockstone blocking the way before opening up into the couloir proper leading towards the valley 1500m below.

James at the first safe spot below the chockstone.

Its is only about ten feet wide at the entry point and is a tricky few moves over the iced up chockstone…..some people choose to lower over this section on a rope from the fixed piton but Paulie led the way and swiftly sent it over the wee drop/chockstone. James followed suit and then it was my turn. I skiied up to the chockstone and down climbed with my skis on over the first icy rocky bulge. Droping off the second small bit and speed/hip checking before regrouping in a safe spot with the other two. After a few seconds we heard Rory scratching and cursing his way down the rock above. We were round a corner so couldn’t see anything….but he quickly came into view jibbing, spinning and ragdolling down the couloir. Rory managed to arrest the fall in the deep snow but a lone ski disappeared down the hill at an alarming pace.

All downhill to town....

After watching Rory down-climb for about 25minutes he regained contact with the lost ski. Luckily not too injured, just a slightly stretched MCL ligament in the knee due to his dynafit’s having the DIN locked out. Lucky the snow was soft enabling the fall to be arrested. So after a quick curse directed at Paulie for keeping the rope in his pack we set of down the rest of the line uneventfully. After a mile or so of early-season walking-out through shitty avi debry and scragged tree’s it was well earned beer time.

Rob

Weight watchers.


People are obsessed with weight these days, once this was limited to certain aspects of life but now it seems to be everywhere. Our children, especially girls, grow up in with a deep seated obsession with beauty that is fuelled by a relentless bombardment from popular culture and the media. Of coarse this obsession with looks is directly and very closely influenced by weight. Or lack of.

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