Thursday, April 29, 2010
Chamonix is insane
I recently spent about three weeks in Europe skiing around and checking out the scene. I must admit that my mind was blown. I never really understood what Chamonix was all about until I experienced it for myself. Luckily I had a friend to show me around or I wouldn't have gotten into any of the cool lines that I did. Here's a few memorable moments and the photos that go with them.
Climbing to your line is often the most exciting part of the day. Using two ice axes at the same time does not seem ridiculous... In the photo below we're climbing 55 degree snow, exposed over a 100 plus foot cliff above a huge broken glacier... not your average climb, unless you're in Chamonix.
The mountains are huge and covered in glaciers. Steepness was redefined for me on this trip. Take the photo below for example. I'm skiing pow on a 45 degree face about halfway down the line, blowing a turn would result in a 1500 foot ragdoll. Falling is not an option pretty much anywhere in Chamonix. Once at the bottom of a line like this you have to ski through a massive cracked glacier and underneath the super huge hanging seracs that are all around.Moving through the mountains is a little different in Cham than other places. Sidestepping through rocks is one thing, sidestepping, sideslipping, rappelling, and climbing all over rocks pretty much every run is what you may get into. The photo below is of some pretty average manuevering, and don't fall....
Once again, falling is not an option. Dropping into a line like the Cosmiques without a rope, on "firm snow" (ice),with a little exposure beneath you is definitely an acquired taste. My buddy Dave really likes the way "you fall you die" skiing tastes...
Skiing with ropes and using them (not for rescue) is really fun. Adding the dimension of ropes into your skiing opens a lot of doors as to what is possible and accessible. Plus, ropes are heavy in your pack and it would suck to ski around with it all the time if you didn't use it... Dave raps into the fun zone next to the heart of the Rond, remember, rocks are vertical.
The scale of the mountains in Chamonix takes a little getting used to. Around Tahoe we ski 50 degrees for a hundred feet at a time, in Cham you ski 50 degrees for 2,000 feet and there 2 begschrunds at the bottom. If you get off on being scared while you're skiing, then Chamonix might be the place for you.
In any event, I had a great time and I'd highly recommend travelling to Europe to go skiing to anyone. Not only is the ski experience different but the culture and lifestyle is also very different. Smoking cigarettes, eating cheese and lots of chocolate is the norm, and somehow everyone is skinny, I could get used to that....
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