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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Oct 2007
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    Chamonix
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    Second known descent of West-by-South-West, Aiguille du Chardonnet, Chamonix

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    On Sunday 25th February, 2018, I had the immense pleasure of skiing this awesome descent with two friends, Mikey Arno and Teague Holmes. We are fairly sure that no-one has been back to this absolute belter of a line on the Aiguille du Chardonnet since Vivian Bruchez and Kilian Jornet made the first descent on Christmas Day of 2015. Joining together the upper section of the West Couloir, the well-hidden Trident Couloir, and the lower section of the South West Couloir with a little bit of downclimbing (if you are Kilian and Vivian) or rappelling (if you are not), a few fairly-spicy sections of dry skiing, and an unforgettable passage of spelunking, this descent has no real name other than the "Armand, Charlet, Devouassoux, Frison-Roche 1925 Route". But I think West-by-South-West sounds nicer.

    "It's not too steep," Kilian had said at the time, "But it's pretty exposed..."

    I had made an attempt on this route with Mikey back in January, but after swimming up the South East Couloir through bottomless snow, and following an additional few hundred metres of ascent over the Col des Rachasses when the Grands Montets top lift was closed for convalescence after Storm Eleanor, we summited just before sunset. Exhausted almost to the point of delirium, we simply couldn't face the idea of enduring the inevitable ropework in the dark, so we skied back down the South East... never a bad backup plan.

    This time, however, with bootpack machine Teague Holmes along for the ride, we made the summit in perfect time, just as the thick veil of clouds that had swamped our ascent parted, leaving a clear blue sky from horizon to horizon, and a sea-of-cloud temperature inversion two thousand meters below us.

    The line runs for about 850m of involving terrain before you reach the slightly easier ground on the Trident Glacier, and for the most part it is somewhere between 40 and 45 degrees, but with a few noticeably-steeper sections of closer to 50 degrees. We made 3 rappels, one 30m and two 15m, and there were a few patches of dry skiing to keep life interesting.



    Music: Act - Snobbery and Decay, in hommage to Greg Stump's Blizzard of Ahhhs

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    Climbing up the final section of the south east couloir in less than inspiring weather, but as we reached the summit the clouds parted. It felt kind of like a sign that we should continue.

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    Enjoying some good decent snow in the upper section of the west couloir, before traversing up and over the left wall of the couloir, into adventure and the unknown.

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    A little bit of dry skiing.

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    One short rappel brings us to the "Demi Lune", a patch of snow before the tunnel.

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    Mikey assesses the options at the entrance to the tunnel...

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    ...while I get ready to throw the rope over the stuck block that forms the roof of the tunnel to rappel through it. No need to leave any tat behind.

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    Mikey coiling ropes after the tunnel, whilst Teague makes his way down to the breche at the top of the Trident Couloir.

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    Tight turns on the ramp of snow above the Trident Couloir. This photo is sideways for some reason, hang on a tick and I'll see if I can fix it.

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    Looking back up at the Demi Lune, the tunnel, and the ramp. Me in blue, Mikey in red.

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    "I'll tell you what..." I had said at this exact moment, "This steep skiing thing does take you to some pretty cool places."
    Mikey and Teague enjoying the view, as a sea of cloud still fifteen hundred meters below us fills the whole valley.

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    Teague gets stuck into the crust that we endured in the top half of the Trident Couloir... not ideal, but you just have to get it done.

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    Lower down though, on the right bank of the couloir which had remained well-sheltered from the sun, the snow was a bit better.

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    Mike enjoys the view over the Argentiere Glacier basin. We could happily stay up here for hours, drinking it all in...

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    ...but the day isn't getting any younger, and we should probably think about getting home to our wives and girlfriends. Go team!

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    Making the final rappel from the bottom of the Trident Couloir into the South West Couloir. The rock wasn't great, and we spent a lot of time looking for something strong enough to build a rappel anchor with. Vivian and Kilian downclimbed this section, and on reflection, we could have as well, traversing out towards the right of this photo. Next time.

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    Enjoying some mellow skiing on the Trident Glacier in the evening alpenglow. A psychedelic experience. Pure heaven.
    Short stories about snow and rock, and pictures, too

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Dec 2007
    Location
    base of the Bush
    Posts
    10,973
    Nothing better than waking up to see an awesome adventure well documented to enjoy. Great work, Thank You!
    www.apriliaforum.com

    "If the road You followed brought you to this,of what use was the road"?

    "I have no idea what I am talking about but would be happy to share my biased opinions as fact on the matter. "
    Ottime

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Location
    King Ridge
    Posts
    1,462
    Holy un-flat! Awesome photos. Great way to wake up indeed.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Aug 2005
    Location
    in the brew room
    Posts
    1,730
    Awesome! Congrats.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
    Location
    Golden, CO
    Posts
    1,749
    Dude...

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Sep 2006
    Location
    Midgaard
    Posts
    2,726
    Rad Hope you were rewarded with a buttery apron.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    May 2011
    Location
    Sonoma & Truckee
    Posts
    11,073
    Wow - nice!

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Oct 2007
    Location
    Chamonix
    Posts
    623
    Cheers dudes. Vt-Freeheel, powbmps, I'm glad to have brightened your day!

    Quote Originally Posted by Fritz View Post
    Hope you were rewarded with a buttery apron.
    We had decent couloir snow in the top section, some nicely softened spring snow on the demi lune and the ramp, heinous crust in the first part of the second couloir and decent enough chalk for the lower part, then some of the largest sluff-carved runnels I've ever had the pleasure of skiing in the south west couloir, but they were nicely sun softened so it was actually pretty fun. The Trident Glacier in the sunset light was firm but grippy chalk, and the slopes just above the Argentiere Glacier were bulletproof, but we had all sharpened our edges the night before so it didn't sting too much.

    All in all, a pretty mixed bag, but what a great bag it was in.
    Short stories about snow and rock, and pictures, too

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Jan 2008
    Location
    S-E-A-T-O-W-N
    Posts
    1,642
    Holy shit.

    ...but the day isn't getting any younger, and we should probably think about getting home to our wives and girlfriends.
    They let you have both in France??
    that's all i can think of, but i'm sure there's something else...

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Oct 2007
    Location
    Chamonix
    Posts
    623
    Quote Originally Posted by counterfeitfake View Post
    They let you have both in France??
    It isn't just socially acceptable for large swathes of the population, it is pretty much mandatory. Enshrined in the constitution.
    Short stories about snow and rock, and pictures, too

  11. #11
    Join Date
    Dec 2003
    Location
    Seattle
    Posts
    29,925
    Thanks..... awesome stuff.
    Quote Originally Posted by Downbound Train View Post
    And there will come a day when our ancestors look back...........

  12. #12
    Join Date
    Jan 2006
    Location
    Carbondale
    Posts
    10,427
    Awesome!

    Thanks for writing this up.

  13. #13
    Join Date
    Jun 2006
    Location
    Ventura Highway in the Sunshine
    Posts
    21,333
    Did it involve a heli?


    Well played sir, well played. That is some legit shit.

    I agree it is a constitutional right for Americans to be assholes...its just too bad that so many take the opportunity...
    iscariot

  14. #14
    Join Date
    Feb 2018
    Posts
    57
    That's what dreams are made of. So amazing thanks for sharing.

  15. #15
    Join Date
    Oct 2015
    Posts
    259
    Hell yeah! What a badass line!

  16. #16
    Join Date
    Apr 2016
    Posts
    566
    Strong work

  17. #17
    Join Date
    Oct 2010
    Posts
    583
    Nice work! Great comeback after the heli adventure

  18. #18
    Join Date
    Dec 2003
    Location
    Seattle
    Posts
    29,925
    Quote Originally Posted by hutash View Post
    That is some legit shit.
    It should be noted though that he hasn't yet skied with Harry.... let's not get carried away
    Quote Originally Posted by Downbound Train View Post
    And there will come a day when our ancestors look back...........

  19. #19
    Join Date
    Nov 2008
    Posts
    5,566
    Parachute packs optional or mandatory?

  20. #20
    Join Date
    Sep 2005
    Location
    CH
    Posts
    1,713
    Chapeau
    #1 goal this year......stay alive +
    DOWN SKIS

  21. #21
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
    Location
    Colorado
    Posts
    2,738
    Wow thats gnarly.

    Doesn't look like fun to me, but impressive.
    Quote Originally Posted by Benny Profane View Post
    Keystone is fucking lame. But, deadly.

  22. #22
    Join Date
    May 2011
    Location
    Sonoma & Truckee
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    11,073
    Quote Originally Posted by counterfeitfake View Post
    Holy shit.



    They let you have both in France??
    While not what he meant, the answer is definitely yes!

  23. #23
    Join Date
    Oct 2007
    Location
    Chamonix
    Posts
    623
    Quote Originally Posted by hutash View Post
    Did it involve a heli?
    I'll be honest, I was pretty tempted to call one somewhere towards the end of the ascent couloir... we were wading through 50 degree crystals under crust for a couple hundred meters, shit's exhausting, yo. The heli would just drop us off at the summit, right?
    Short stories about snow and rock, and pictures, too

  24. #24
    Join Date
    Oct 2006
    Location
    Uber Alles California
    Posts
    3,753
    Very cool, I'm jealous of your poles, me want.
    Hello darkness my old friend

  25. #25
    Join Date
    Sep 2001
    Location
    Before
    Posts
    20,147
    I said it before on igm and I'll say it again: nutters.
    Merde De Glace On the Freak When Ski
    >>>200 cm Black Bamboo Sidewalled DPS Lotus 120 : Best Skis Ever <<<

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