Thanksgiving alone in La Grave and Recollections of a First Descent to remember.

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Happy Thanksgiving all!

Today I am thinking of some very special old friends and partners and how thankful I am that I had a chance to spend time with them in the game of life and in the mountains.

Here is something I am thankful for today and I was reminded of it the second I opened my eyes this morning. It’s a blast from the past. Let me shed some light on the best unknown skier that ever lived from the midwest, Minnesota.

I sleep on a couch in front of a window right now and the first picture in this post is how much I can see out the window, from where my head lays on the couch when I wake up. I took both photos this morning except for the inset. Not a bad thing to see when you first open your eyes in the morning. You can actually get vertigo looking out my window.

The first thing I saw was the patch of snow that guards the entrance to one of the most significant descents of my life. That’s the patch of snow that the arrow in the inset photos point too. I was honored to be on this First Descent with Chad Vanderham while we were preparing and training ourselves to someday be good enough skiers to earn our Badges and join the ranks of the UIAGM. That wasn’t a very smart career move if you wanted to make a living skiing in the ski industry. Both Chad and I knew that, but we were both interested in the same thing, and something more important. That thing was improving ourselves and becoming better skiers by becoming smarter in the mountains. The couloir is hidden from the angle in the photo and is one of the most beautiful and exposed places I have ever skied.

The ski world never new Chad because he wasn’t glamorous or sponsored. But for me he was one of the best ski partners I have ever had and might ever have. So far there are only a hand full of people that even come close and most of which are not high profile skiers either. Most of the best partners I speak of are not in the main stream media and you will not see them in a ski mag or movie.

Chad was arguably one of the best and most experienced ski mountaineers alive for his age in NA at the time. Currently in American standards, it’s still rare to see a skier coming out of the states with that much training, experience and maturity at that age.

The only thing that ever was of interest to the ski media unfortunately was his untimely death and who he happened to be with.

Why am I writing this today?

I don’t know, I saw him out my window staring at that line this morning along with another friend and amazing mountain partner Zack Martin who I lost in a car accident in 2002 on this same Thanksgiving day. I can drive down valley just a little ways to one of the most bitching summits in this valley and see where I left Zack’s ashes in the entrance to one of the most beautiful Couloirs in all the Alps. It’s a great summit because Zack can see La Meije and Mount Blanc from there. Zack is a whole other story that’s not to different from this one about Chad and I and has many parallels.

It’s Thanksgiving in La Grave right now and It is the first Thanksgiving I have ever spent in France. I’m pretty much spending it alone so tons of time to think about what I miss, what I gave up and what I am thankful for. First Thanksgiving without a Turkey too.

They don’t celebrate Thanksgiving here and I am living in a Village with about 50 people ATM. When you love skiing as much as I do and are dedicated to just getting better at it and not just doing it, you make some serious sacrifices. You give up many things to be closer to the mountains. But these aren’t just mountains here. I am on a quest to improve my skiing. It’s something I hope to get better at and to fully realize my potential someday. This spot suits my personal goals in skiing and forces me to deal with other challenges besides the mountain. Things like people I miss, a solid job, and the things I have given up in my social life in search of my personal ski goals. Ironically I gave up a ski career to move to a place like this and become a better skier. I gave up being close to my friends, and my family that I love so much to push my personal skiing. I don’t see everyone as much as I wish I could anymore. Sometimes I ask myself what have I done? I have only ever wanted to become a better skier and be as close to it as possible.

Chad and I shared that quality. We both just wanted to be better skiers. Anyone can climb 5.12. 5.12 is obtainable with work, but if you want to climb 5.14 you need to really work and might I add train at it. You need to actually have some talent, natural and acquired through hard work. Skiing is like this, but it’s not about skiing, surviving, or getting down a 5.15 or 14 that is as important as how you skied it. When you watch a 5.14 climber send, they make it look like 5.9. That is something Chad and I were always striving for and evaluating in our skiing. We wanted to ski 5.15’s and make them look like 5.9’s and that takes time, dedication and a serious amount of applied skill and technique. Beautiful climbing is climbing that looks like there is no energy being used. Chad and I looked at skiing the same way. To not use energy while skiing at your limit takes a lifetime in the mountains to develop. Chad was a perfectionist and he strived for this as much as I do.

We were always in competition with ourselves. Evaluating every move, every turn, every subtle change, a bad pole plant, why did my ski initiate that way, where was my weight when I did that, why did that happen and what to do to make it better. We watched each other ski and openly critiqued what we saw in ourselves and others that we watched. We analyzed movement and skiing in a way I never have with anybody else. Actually I take that back, Glen Plake is really good at breaking down and analyzing the mechanics of ski movement as is Peter Smart I might add. If you ever get the privilege to ski with either of them take advantage of their knowledge. Here is a hint to maximize the lesson, If you can check your ego you might learn something about your skiing.

Chad and I, we were ski nerds. Not just snow nerds, most snow nerds I know are actually mediocre skiers. When I say ski nerds I mean ski nerds. Poindexters. Skiing now a days has everything high school does. Unfortunately in the magazines and in the movies, they will only let you see the fraternity life.

You have everything you had in high school in the ski industry. There are Jocks, Preps, Fraternity boys, Stoners, Sororities, Poster child’s, band geeks, ultra scholars, gang bangers,teachers pets, posers and Nerds just to name a few. Chad and I, around the time that these photos were taken, we were not cool, we were the nerds in skiing because we chose education/professional development and in many ways I am still proud of it.

Every time we skied something together we always analyzed the run together. We asked and answered questions at the end of everyday, every tour, every kick turn, skin track, boot pack or run together. We treated Anchors the same way and I bet we built hundreds of them together. We always debriefed and asked how can we go back and ski it better or smoother with less effort. What was good, what was bad, what would you change if you did it a gain? Should we have booted that instead of skinned that. Crampons or not? Do we need the rope, why or why not? He was a good philosopher in the mountains. These were questions you needed to be able to answer really quickly and execute solutions even faster to prepare yourself for UIAGM exams, but they were also questions that Chad and I knew would more importantly lead us to being better skiers.

We also would regularly challenge ourselves to go ski the worst snow we could find, Firm, bumped, crusted or icy. Sure we always tried to nail powder, but we didn’t chase it. If we had it we skied it, if we didn’t we skied it anyway just for the mileage and exercise. The worse the snow the better we tried to ski it. We both knew that if you only skied Powder you would never learn how to ski. Powder is easy and everyone can ski it but it doesn’t help your skiing. It helps your enjoyment factor, but Chad and I were in these mountains to learn new techniques and refine our skiing. Skiing powder will not prepare you for skiing big lines in the Alps. We weren’t keeping scores, or trying to exploit our skiing by staging fake powder slashes to get sponsors or create some cheesy add for our website or Social Spray Page. We both just wanted to be better skiers and achieve that by passing our exams. Thats what we worked on when we went out into the mountains together.

We were doing homework day in and day out. Mountain homework from every angle we could. We were living the life of Aspirant guides and learning how to be better skiers. From daily early morning weather obs and recording standards, hours on the balcony with binoculars and drawing road maps and possiblities. Reckon mission after reckon mission. Avy obs, test profiles, avy rescue practice, rock rescue practice, crevasse rescue practice, improvised sled rescue practice, rock climbing in ski boots, dry tooling down at the local boulder, tour plans, and fitness punishment. He was everything you could ever want in a ski, mountain, climbing and exam partner.

Chad’s turn, pole plant, thought process, style, technique and smoothness was one of the best in the business.  His turn always left an impression on me. I don’t know anyone that emulated Coomb’s smoothness and steep skiing techniques as well as Chad.
He inspired me as much as anyone to not just go skiing, but to be a better skier. I’m still working on that.
When I saw that line this morning and realized where I was, I truly realized how thankful I am for having known people like Chad and having been able to share time in the mountains with someone like him.

As I opened my eyes this morning and saw this line I realized that one of the most thankful things I have in my life is that I had a chance to be close friends, and partners with one of the greatest unknown skiers that ever lived.

 

Back to my Thanksgiving day Photos and a top 5 descent of my life.

We opened this run with Mathieu. He’s pictured in the inset during the entrance of the first descent. That might be one of the most exposed ridges I have ever stood on with skis in terms of no options for falling off either side. He’s a local french shepherd that is still on a first generation pair of Volkl explosives with fritschi’s and skis crazier lines with heavier packs, and floppier boots then you ever will.

It’s been over 10 years now since we opened this in Feb of 2003. It had been a little over a year since my Thanksgiving loss of one of my best friends. He was one of my best kayaking, rock/ice/big wall/ and alpine climbing partners I ever had. Right after Zack’s loss in early winter more heartaches followed. I blew out my knee again and was sidelined for the winter. My sponsors dropped me and I went into a tough year. I guess something happened in my head though because that next year Chad and I opened up some bitching lines. My pro career just ended and my Professional one began. For me it was the first year that I actually focused full time on achieving my Badge and ironically it was the first year I started to really learn how to ski. Thanks for that Chad.

I have february 23rd 2003 as the date we opened this according to the photos.

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FUN FACT

It’s only seen a 2nd descent to my understanding and it was by me that same year and Solo with some exit variations.

Pretty sure it hasn’t been skied since and we never took the liberty to name the couloir because we can’t be certain it’s never been skied.

As far as we know and local knowledge supports It’s been 11 years since I soloed It and it sounds like it’s waiting for a 3rd descent. I have skied a fair amount of couloirs in my day, This one doesn’t suck.

Thanks Chad and Zack.

Today I am thankful I had friends and partners like you in the mountains and I am thankful for the adventures, inspiration, and memories you have given me for the rest of my life.

Miss you both,

HAPPY THANKSGIVING!!!!

Chad and Zack if your reading this, I have a few more Gems on the radar that are going down this year and the lines I opened with you over a decade ago both up and down, were the warm ups. You are both truly an inspiration for what is now possible in my head. Thanks for all the training days, It’s only now after spending over half of my lifetime playing in terrain like this that it is about to truly pay off.

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La Grave 2011/12 New beginnings

Let me apologize for the late start and phone shot photos from someone who makes no claims what so ever to be a photographer. After last year I thought I would never fall behind on this again and try to keep these posts short, but after 3 weeks of some of the best skiing I can remember in years I realized I had been skiing more then taking photos and organizing life. So here I am playing catch up and giving you one long ass blog. Sorry, they will be shorter in the future and more focused stories, but let me just throw 3 weeks in a nutshell at you and share my psyche about the best lift in France. I arrived after two days of hell, delays, lost bags, (my ski bag was found in Portugal 4 days later, thanks United for the 70$ ski bag fee) hitchiking after spending the night in the Grenoble train station and the usual pains, but I made the opener, which to nobody’s surprise didn’t happen due to huge amounts of snow and risk 5 avi conditions. This is what I arrived too:

Maybe some ski potential coming in?

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That’s the side of my house below the church plastered. What’s cool is that snow has been sticking to the side of the church for over week now. If it can stick to the church like that, then where else on this steep ass mountain is snow starting to stick? That’s the fun question that a La Grave Skier has to ask themselves.

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That’s my car when I arrived. I finally got it out and moved it to town, I had to spend another hour digging it out days later, and after I dug it out I went to lunch and the plow put everything right back on my car so I had to dig here twice that day. She started first try this Year again!

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My front yard looking towards the Col!

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My front porch looking straight out, but she was hiding this day!

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First view of the lift opening day! Look at the Cue?

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Yep about 5 or so people in line there!

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Aurélien couldn’t be happier he just got his pass to the best lift in the world!

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Close to a meter of snow on top on opening day and that’s the line?

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Villa feeling the stoke to be back and in a cue with some damn special people!

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Ptor living his dream!

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The Vibe minutes before commission told us no 🙁

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But they did open eventually 2 days

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That’s what La Meije looked like the first time I saw it from 3200 this year! 🙂

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Opening day Girose!

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Opening day Avalanche!

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Looking down the debris

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Rescue efforts were pulled together quickly as no one new if anyone was in it!

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Recco was in the house within 10 minutes or so and Helicopters with Dogs and more Recco within 25 minutes or so.

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The following link is a first hand write up from some one who was involved in the slide.

http://www.tetongravity.com/forums/showthread.php/235104-La-Grave-Opening-Weekend-Avalanche-TR

Never thought I would ever see, one of La Grave’s nominees for best ski bum, Matt’s with an Ipad.

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Kurt’s Birthday Dinner after the opener.

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Kurt Rocking his birthday suit!

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Kurt promised he would wear this, Let’s see?

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First Dinner party of the year at the house!

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The following video is worth watching till the end just hear Kurt talking about skiing in La Grave!

Plastered, This is the West Face of the Rateau and the Upper Trifide in December!

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It’s starting to stick already!

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Pic La Grave on the same day!

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Don’t have to say much about the next one.

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A Peppered Chancel but so fun to paint it up for the first days of the season. Bobby and Matt living the dream.

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First Vouter of the year for me with Kurt!

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It Didn’t suck!

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T2 in December for those who care!

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Bananne and one of the smoothes ski guides I have come to know.

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Slaying it!

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Straight into the Freaux in December mind you.

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For snow nerds everywhere, a small example of creep on my car window, and yes Chris was in the House. img_0184

But for a real creep photo, check out this monster!

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I watched that thing stretch for about a week before she snapped.

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Santa Klauss is coming to town!

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Does anyone else notice how much Russ looks like Santa Klauss?

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I didn’t know Santa drank Whiskey!

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My secret santa present but I guess not too much of a secret when it came from the only Turkish person in the room! 🙂

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Aysegul getting a whip from her secret santa!

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The Lang family,

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And with Grandma and the folks!

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Xmas Dinner!

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Followed by the first open mic of the season.

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Rescue in La Voute!

While with a strong team of friends and a small window to ski La Voute quickly before temps spiked. We encountered these two men a 900 meters into the descent or so after following tracks in the night before and not making it out. They spent the night and we encountered them boot packing up the center of a very Considerable hazard on a big slope. We gave them food and water and spent the next 2 and a half hours skiing them out. We made them harnesses from the rope using a bolin on a coil. They were very grateful to have encountered us and as far as I know , no one else skied the line that day. Moral of the story, don’t ski without a kit in La Grave and don’t follow tracks!

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Despite slow rescue efforts due to extreme fatigue, Villa still ripped the shit out of this untracked beauty.

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Did I mention that skiing in La Grave without visibility is not advisable. 😉

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Matt taking sloppy seconds!

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First Full moon party at 3200

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Can’t do it justice with this photo!

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As good as it gets!

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Speechless!

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Dj ing it up at

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The Crew getting ready for a moonlit run from 3200. We skied at about 11:30 and never used our lamps once! 🙂

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Tom striking his best pose!

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Sorry for all the stuff, more to come, but hopefully more skiing.

I truly am in the greatest place on Earth!

Eiger West Face

West Face Eiger

Sorry it took so long,  You know European travels get the best of me,  and I don’t have huge red bull incentives and photographers following me around  to write every moment of my life down for you all. 🙂

So here is how it went down,  Thursday I call Miles , “hey whats going on over that way,  Should I leave La Grave, Is the Triple crown possible” The Triple crown is a project that Miles and I have been talking about for a couple seasons now,  Just one of those things you have to wait for and be ready for (snooze you loose projects)  I will tell you guys about it some other time if Miles and I ever tick it.  Lets just say some of the guides I have ran it by don’t think it’s possible or think I am joking,  Well unlike Myself and Miles,  I don’t think those other guides ski as much as we do 😉 and the Triple crown was missed this year, but not forgotten.

So back to the story,  “Miles what do you think,”  Miles lives in Chaminox with his Wife Liz Smart  who as of recent,  in fact pretty much days before the Eiger received her Pin and is now a full cert UIAGM/IFMGA mountain guide,  Congrats Liz and welcome to the club. She was pretty much almost getting off the plane back from Canada and her last exam as we were leaving for Grindlewald.

Miles got some beta from a friend that had just climbed the North Face, (Nordwand)  and came down the west face and said it looked good.  Thankfully it was reliable beta from another guide,  It’s funny what kind of beta tends to get passed around amongst the locals and the ski bums in La Grave,  so you really never know until you get there and see for yourself,  You just have to speculate and have good theories and then get there and support them with your own eyes.

Miles ended the conversation with “It’s Good to go,  Let’s go tomorrow”,  having waited patiently with aspirations for this objective for quite some time,  I dropped everything and packed the car.  I had a house full of friends from Norway too,  So I wasn’t being a good host.  That night there was a raging bar b cue party on the river campground too that pelle was throwing for his wife’s birthday party.  So I tried to contain myself .  Despite a big party night, and my usual dose of campfire cocktails, I was in at about 01:00 in the morning and set my alarm for 05:30.  Everything went like clock work,  I was in Chamonix at 10:30 and jumped in with Miles and Liz,  we were in Grindlewald at 15:00 and ready to catch what we though would be the last train to the Eigerglacier.  We unfortunately missed the last train because we were reading a summer schedule,  so the train left us 300 meters below our hotel room 🙁  It turned out being quite nice to skin the 300 meters up to the room though , as I had been in a car since 05:30 in the morning and moving the legs was a good thing.

The view from where the train dropped us. North and West respectively!

Liz was quite tired and still jet lagged from the transition over to this side of the pond,  so she got some rest while Miles and I skinned up about another hour or so to inspect the entrance slabs and see what kind of problems we might encounter in the early morning. This was the approach.

Miles up above the first slabs and negotiating more of them.  A few fixed lines, but it was possible to skin around all of the slabs and weave a skin track through the small maze.

Top of the first slab and fixed line.

Descending back down to the Hotel room for a good nights sleep and stoked for the morning.  We actually got a few good corn turns in here and a  nice warm up.

Miles doing some freeriding on the lower west face of the Eiger at sunset.

loving the view.

Bright and early,  well not that early 06:00 after a nice night in a bed.  So nice to sleep at a bed up in this zone.  It was funny to see all the climbers outside sleeping in bivies and dirtballing it.  I am glad we flipped the coin for the beds.  40 swiss franc a person gets you this.

Liz looking fresh and stoked.

The view outside in the morning,  Miles looking pretty happy and it’s only beginning,  The short video to follow is kind of pointless, but I think its funny,  Just Miles standing speechless and me walking into the shot kind of speechless as well.

Starting the skin.

The first 15 minutes of any day sometimes 30 minutes or more usually sucks, but this felt good from the get go,  I guess when there is no miserable walk in the dark approach in the morning,  and you start at the business, your psyche tends to be a little different,  We were all stoked, the team, energy and communication could not of been any better.

The setting was breathtaking, surreal and exceeded my expectations in every way.  Liz demonstrating some steep skinning on frozen boiler plate.

UIAGM mountain guide Liz Oakes Smart,  smiling in stride.

One of the biggest objective hazards of the day,  besides the firm snow, insane amount of exposure and the element of the unknown, was that giant hanger up there.  We discussed our plan of excepting to be under it but only as long as we needed too moving fast after a small rest until the hazard was below us.

Here is me booting my way up in crampons and axes out.  I broke my dynafit crampon at the start of the skin near the slabs.  I had borrowed some from Miles and they were already broken ,  but I broke them the rest of the way 🙁  It really wasn’t that bad though,  it was about the same pace to walk or skin given the steepness of the slope and the firm conditions.  The reality was that there was only about 45 minutes of skinning anyway before we all transitioned to Crampons and axes for the rest of the climb.

We took a nice long break after stashing the skins and still out of the fall line of the nasty Hanging seracs.  After putting on our points,  and a good rest,  it was about a 45 minute don’t stop just keep moving kind of experience.  We had to be right under that monster.  I was using Jedi mind tricks, and kept telling myself “there are no seracs up there”

There were some small Ice pitches to deal with,  Pretty fun,  but the reality was we were all soloing from the moment we put our crampons on.  Not difficult climbing, but attentive and accurate footing and awareness f0r 1650 meters over 6 hours really is a test of your heads ability to deal more then the physical strength it takes to do it.

Liz and I below,  and I for the first time all day wishing I didn’t have aluminum crampons.  They got the job done thanks to two axes,  but I did a bit more work with my calves then I had too throughout the day in some places given the lack of steel on my feet.

Finally pulling to the side and up close and personal with that monster.  It was active too, we never saw anything go,  but there was a nice alley of debris right down the fall line below it.

Psyched to be pulling into this zone and over our first crux of the day.

Guide Tip #137  In case of Serac fall ,  stop, duck and cover,  Works everytime, same for avalanches.

Miles looking ever relaxed in rest step position.

Thats right folks,  those are S7’s on my pack,  equipped with Plum bindings,  which in my opinion are arguably the best touring bindings in the world.

Keep on keeping on!

Here is a small video clip to support the view and position after arriving out of the Serac zone.

and another fun video that shows were Miles is in the next photo and the fun we were having,  I attempted some bad humor in a really bad German accent.

Feeling the burn!

This was our first real break of the day,  I hope the pictures do it justice, but probably not. We finally took some food and water and a proper break in one of the most exposed places I think I might of ever been .

This is a new technique for spotting or should I say short harnessing.  Miles is sitting with his back to the Nordwand as Liz peers over him for a look,  Notice the technique used by miles as he holds Liz in place by the harness, 🙂 This is a very advanced technique and body position is everything, notice how Miles is braced and leaning forward, in the ready position to throw liz down the west face, LOL

And the view down the historic Nordwand.

Self portrait.

Places like this can create smiles like this.

Miles and I looking at something important,  but not sure what?

And up the mountain we go again after a much needed break to take it all in.

More of the same and reality setting in of where we are and what we were about to do.

Pretty close now,  the final roll and then the home stretch.

Liz and Monch in background.

Monch and the Jungfrau.

The home stretch looking down at what we were about to ski 🙂

The cross over step and Pied Plat or classic French technique so elegantly demonstrated by Liz as she makes her final steps to the summit after six hours of climbing.

Another fine demonstration of the rest step and it’s applications,

My final step to Glory with the best touring setup I have ever owned in tow.

The happy couple sharing the summit of the Eiger. So cute!

Miles stoked on his K2’s and Plums in all his glory on the summit of the Eiger.

and me stoked on my S7’s and plums in all my glory.  Rocking out on one of the best instruments I have ever played. I’m not sure, but I would bet that those might of been the biggest skis to ever go up to the summit of the Eiger? And if I had to do it again,  I would bring the same skis.

From left to right,  Liz, Miles, Monch.

A well earned Summit stogie.

The points are coming off and reality setting in for what we were about to do.   We spent an hour on the summit after arriving at 12:00, 6 hours after setting off.  Perfect conditions, calm, to light wind and just simply beautiful in the sun.  Our intentions were to let the sun warm up the West face as much as possible, but it never truly hit the perfect transform due to a light breeze coming up the glacier and the time of day,  Might of been better to be another hour later,  but then the clouds would of hosed us,  You can’t have it all.

Miles negotiating his first turn and probably feeling a bit exposed.  The snow was rock hard here, and the Nordwand is right at the edge there folks.  2000 meters of air about 70 cm from the tails of his skis.

Maybe the next photo puts it into perspective for folks. 🙂

after skiing for about 20 minutes, we decided to take a break and just see if we could get the sun to do a little bit more of its magic and took another 20 minute break in hopes of softer snow. 

Looking down from our short break.  The snow never really got to soften up and those clouds were coming in fast so we boogied,  Despite, firm and variable snow,  The skiing was amazing and conditions were actually quite ideal for an objective like this.

Looking down from here, We discussed a plan to thread a line through the rock bands down and skiers left to get out to the big open slope,  The skiing in the zone we are in now was our ascent line,  but it was choked with cliffs and variable snow and a bit more exposure then necesarry. We opted to abandon our climbing line and take a chance out left to see if we could find a sneak,  but we had no confirmation that it went from our vantage point.

Miles milking the view and the clouds growing fast.

Setting off for some fun route finding and exposed skiing. Down and left hoping it would go.

It felt steep given how firm it was. But I think it was steep too.

Doesn’t look that bad from this vantage point, but I found a line through the cliff bands and got myself out here,  looking back up at Miles and Liz making there way through the maze.  Super firm edging skills to make it through, but it was worth it for the next shot. Look in the photo above of what the unknown view was through this band when your looking down at it.

Miles and Liz are little dots up at the top of all those patches, can you see them.  It’s bigger then it looks.

And looking down at what was still to come. Loving it.

Liz

and Miles,

Stoked to be on the other side.

I just skied the whole shot of that open face to here and by the time I got to the end of it, this was my view looking back up,  see if you can find Miles and Liz in the mist that was about to temporarily close out on us. I am just above the big Serac at this point in the descent.

My view looking down as the clouds roled in.

Can you see the skier below?

Can you still see them,  Visibility went to about 10 meters if that.

Miles emerging from the clouds and milking some good snow.

Waiting for a window of vis and seizing the moment.

Liz finally emerging from the clouds.

It’s opening again,  lets go.

Liz and Miles skiing together like a happy couple in an amazing environment.  That cloud floated past us and above us but was still building up top.

Smiles.

More Smiles.

and in case the picture looking up at Miles and Liz skiing together didn’t look steep,  this is what was still below. Miles taking the next pitch.

Finally out the exit and catching Miles and Liz as they finish their time under the ice. That thing was huge.  The picture also shows the runnel we had to climb up in the morning when we were directly under that thing.  Sorry no pictures from that part of the day,  sometimes it’s just not the right time to take photos in the mountains.

Miles pulling to an island of safety.

Miles and Liz enjoying some high speed hero snow (corn) as I just arrived to where we stashed our skins for the day. 

Super fun skiing through this zone, but getting progressively mushier as we descend.

A well deserved smile at the end of the day with the line in view behind Liz.

Maybe the best run of my life, and one of the biggest smiles I have ever had,  Maybe it was the skis and bindings  I was on though,  I love those things, Since I don’t have a girlfriend , they are the next best thing.

I know at this point, your probably sick of the happy couple photos,  but those are some serious smiles. The happy couple once more, living the good life.

Got to love the Euros ,  look at the refuge in the next photo.  Never in a million years would a refuge like this be built on American soil.

Looking at the summit rib that we skied just poking out of the clouds.

A little more definition of the upper part of the face.

Damn Clouds never really cleared for a full shot.

And me with probably the biggest smile I have ever had in my entire life.

No wait,  that is the biggest smile I have ever had in my entire life. After a 1950 meter descent to the train station and COLD BEER in the sun. 🙂 🙂 🙂

In closing, I really thought the day should of been harder then it was,  not too say that it wasn’t serious, exposed and required a full set of skills and experience, and precision skiing given the snow conditions and the consequences,  but it just felt smooth all day. Yeah it was physical and mentally challenging to be a fly on the wall for that long, but the relaxed approach and calm demeanor of the day made it enjoyable.   I think I have to owe that factor to the Team.  It was just nice to move efficiently and not worry about who your with.  In all we were mostly thinking on the same level most the day and that just makes moving in the mountains such an amazing experience.  I could not of asked for a better experience and a better group of people to do this with,

Thanks Liz and Miles for an unforgettable descent, looking forward to skiing with you again soon.

Ok folks,  See you next time,  I don’t know when that will be,  I am off to states on Tuesday and we shall see where the tide takes us,

It was an amazing winter,  Amazing snow, this descent was by far my highlight, but despite what everyone is saying about conditions this winter in the Alps,  (just read my previous blogs and see for yourself how good it was) I am thankful to be going home alive once again and I am looking forward to some sunny days on the rocks. But I guess there still getting snow back home and it sounds like A-Basin is still open,  so maybe I’m not done yet,

Regards,

Joey V.

 

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Le Pan du Rateau “But Naked” G.N.A.R.

Ok, so I claimed it before it happened, and I followed through.

For those of you that have seen GNAR, the BN skiing is little league,  The boys in the movie although charging were playing mini golf for there BN lines,  Hands down, I will claim that I won the BN catagory for this stunt. And quite possibly a first descent of the Pan, “the best lift serviced run in the world in my opinion” in true BN style.

2 months prior to the event I claimed and talked a big game of my plans, However because of the seriousness  of the line and shit talker that I am, I don’t think anyone believed me,  Needless to say I followed through, and I win for the best BN descent of all time!

Here is what I wrote on my Calender two months out!

Skiing the Pan Naked (will talk to mom on the traverse while pole whacking and pissing on the traverse) This event will hands down win the La Grave game of G.N.A.R. I am so much better then all of you because I am claiming before sending!!!!!!!!

Although the line was skied Naked wearing only a harness because that is good style and I didn’t want to be stupid not to say that skiing this big north face naked wasn’t stupid, I still wanted to be a responsible guide on foreign soil. However, I didn’t call my mom, because 1 She wouldn’t understand, and 2 I was a little preoccupied to use my phone. Secondly I did not piss on the traverse, although it would of been easy seeing how it was all hanging out anyway,  but I am sure most people have pissed themselves on this traverse anyway.  This wasn’t some little exposed perch that you see the boys pissing on in GNAR,  I had a a bit more going on, but I would bet my frozen left nut that the boys peeing in their lines in GNAR never peed in a spot as uncomfortable and exposed as the traverse in the photos too follow. So to be honest with my claim, there was no phone call, and no peeing!

So not only was this posted for an April 1st event, it just so happened to be the Derby De La Meije.  If you don’t know about the Derby, well it’s the closest thing to a Chinese downhill that I have ever seen.  It is the burliest race of all time,  if you think you can win it, you will either win or die trying.  This is the big leagues of all races. Here is a link to what goes down on the Derby.  http://www.derbydelameije.com/index.php?pg=presentation_en&lng=en&im=4

Anyway, it being April 1st I figured I could bail out with an April Fool’s joke for making the claim, but the idea seemed to good to resist. I sent!!!

So the first photo is my dream kit,  I finally have two pairs of skis that I have dreamed of for years.  I have had ski sponsors off and on now for awhile of all sorts, but mostly just hand outs, and never really what I needed, or what I wanted was not available so I would always settle and usually wind up buying what I needed anyway.  I skied Rossi for years and promoted them hard, but I was on loners from a local shop, so it was really a one way road for me.   I always had to give them back my skis at the end of the lift season and for about 4 years I was without my own personal skis after our lift closed and our season really was just begininning for people like me :-(.  After years of dedication to Rossignol, I had a chance to move to G3.   Rossignol was my dream ski, but I never got past having loners from a rental shop that I guided out of.  At the time G3 was the only company that really thought guides did something and I was excited for the new relationship.  Early this season without warning, after 3 years or so  G3 dropped me and the new guy asked me for an application and a resume for next year.  I am pretty sure I was dropped for giving negative feedback about their binding.  It truly is one of the most dangerous bindings ever made. I was asked for feedback and unfortunately for me I was honest.   I was guinea pigging it here in La Grave, and had some frightening near misses before I gave up on it. I only used it for about 2 weeks, and I was lucky enough to survive that long on them.  So with that being said I have to give  Special thanks to Tim Petrick and Thomas Veillard of the French division of Rossignol, for seeing my needs through.  They did what they could to get me the equipment on short notice after being left empty handed by G3  to late in the season to find equipment without warning.   Really it was all thanks to Tim as I have had the chance to ski with him, so I think he knows what I get into.   And Tim is one of the most genuine people in the industry that I have ever met and he loves to ski and is pretty damn good at it.   Thanks boys, you made my world and I can honestly say I have the sexiest skis on the planet now. Better late then never.

In the end though  I  actually bought the pair I needed from the Rossi shop because what I needed was sold out for the year and their were a couple pair at the local shop.  Tim looked everywhere he could to find me a pair of 178 S7’s which is my all around go to everyday tool. Unfortunately I couldn’t buy them during the season because the shop owner was holding out to sell them for retail to someone who didn’t need them as bad as me.   After watching them sit on the shelf all year with only a few weeks left in the season and most of the tourist season over, it was safe to say no one was gonna buy the small s7’s and I was able to buy them from the local shop.  It was nice for me, because at the time I was the only one considering a tech binding on these, the local shop owner told me you can’t put tech on these skis.  I had already been doing it on the loners I had, I never saw tech as any different then Alpine bindings for performance, I just saw them as better and more versatile. To my advantage, I ski light skis and short because I tour quite a bit and La Grave is more technical then most places I have skied,  so I want control over speed in this zone. Needless to say, as soon as I got the skis I needed it was game on. They let me do the stuff I was dreaming of doing the way I wanted to do it. I actually didn’t have a touring set up until April this year, that was pretty messed up and I missed out on some nice opportunities based on my available quiver. 🙁 .  I have never had to borrow skis so much in my life as I did this year.  Lets just say borrowing skis sucks.  And working on rentals around clients with nicer stuff then you is often frustrating.

The smaller pair is what I took to the pan,  They have been outfitted with Plum bindings out of  Chamonix / Thyvex, France, for those of you who don’t know about these bindings they will change the game and in my opinion have set the standard for all other Low Tech bindings to follow.  This Descent of the pan was their maiden voyage, and more recently I took the same set up to the West Face of the Eiger, Blog to Follow.  When I saw these bindings for the first time I just had to have them instantly.  I called the same day and ordered a pair direct.  It was a no brainer for this ski and exactly what I had been looking for.

So check out some Plumes, you will not be dissapointed, They Blow Dynafit out of the water for a solid, mostly metal where it counts freeride binding.  While companies like Dynafit and Onyx / G3 keep adding plastic, unnecessary bulk and more moving pieces to their bindings, Plum has gone the other way and in my opinion the right direction.  They have simplified the design, removed materials and plastic where not needed and made a simple binding with only the necessary components. I don’t ski Low Techs like their only a touring set up as do most naysayers and the “pros” will tell you they are not solid enough for skiing hard.   I would argue that I tend to be harder on this type of binding then most, from hucking cliffs, or more often in these parts Ice,  to fall line moguls, to even the park if its in my way, I don’t change the way I ski because of the gear I am on, and this binding truly gives me the confidence to think that way. Check them out here http://www.fixation-plum.com/

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The next photo is My S7’s and I putting in the traverse after it had been reloaded the night before. This is one of the most exposed places I have ever been naked, 🙂

To put it into perspective, the week before someone (a French Aspirant guide from Chamonix) fell off this traverse and was killed.  2 months prior a La Grave local and a super solid skier with plenty of knowledge of the terrain fell off the traverse as well,  He lived to tell the story which is more then a miracle.

Needless to say I took my time with axe in hand, it is about 60 degrees in spots and falling here usually means game over.  Moving slowly I kept saying to myself don’t do anything stupid as if being naked wasn’t stupid enough.  I was thinking in my mind what the headlines would read if I messed up.  (Naked American guide Falls down the Y Grec)

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The photos are courtesy of Keith Garvey and a camera phone 😉

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Almost there,  You feel like you just want to let it run here and be done, but this is the worst place to stuff a tip or hit a rock,  one more wave before the home stretch. My dick really wasnt that cold,  it was my right leg hugging the slope above that got quite numb, and my right hand probably because I was over gripping my axe in the uphill hand, Naked Exposure like this I guess gave me the tendancy to over grip, no pun intended.  A Little pole whacking and Axe Whacking,  When I whack with y axe I tend to grip and whack from the Shaft of the axe for best results.

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Making Anselme Baud proud with the double pole plant.  The face was a bit variable and firm in places,  weird snow, weird flat light, weird shapes in the snow, weird exit over the shrund,  I took my time and made every turn count.  I really couldn’t see shit.

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Almost to the exit shrund and low on the face. p1010520

The track I left behind waving my dick in the wind! Thank you S7’s and plums for the ride of my life and your maiden voyage. Looks like a small skier track to the lookers left of mine, Who was wiggling?  I’m not sure who it was, but I know he had K2 Darksides on his feet and still didn’t open it up,  LOL  Still a fun line buddy,  nice one.

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Looking back up from the safety of the Vallon moraine at something that seemed sureal for awhile. Too much fun.

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The line in it’s entirety.

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Yes that is a Speed skier kiting his way over my tracks.

And you can see what you would fall down if you stuff the traverse,  That is the Y couloir and yes we do ski that.  It only saw 2 descents this year that I am aware of.

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Thanks for reading, and hopefully this blog will include some video soon if Tyler ever gets his shit together, LOL

Thanks to my Cousin Monte for the following video

So that is proof why I am the best fucking skier on this mountain, and why I am so much better then all of you and although I maybe didn’t win the complete game of GNAR, I am claiming that I hands down win the BN category.

Stay tuned,  for my next blog, skiing the West Face of the Eiger

Cheers

Joey

 

 

 

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GNAR with the English Blokes!

Best weak of guiding all year!

So these guys get a hold of me through a word of mouth reference and book me through my website.  I spent the whole season educating the folks of La Grave about the game of GNAR and playing my own game of it.  It is a brilliant game and I have to thank Shane for all he did for our sport,  it was because of him I had my first ski sponsor and was an original member of the Volant Machete Mafia back in the Day, and more importantly it is because of him that we have GNAR.

So to my surprise these guys show up having been following my blog all season and bringing GNAR with them.  They were the first group I had this year that I did not have to explain the rules too.  Needless to say we clicked straight away and had an amazing time together.  I didn’t have to chase snow with these guys, I didn’t have to rush,  They were on vacation and they new it,  the best group I had and guests that really understood what La Grave and skiing is all about in my honest opinion.  It wasn’t about the snow it was about where we were, but we did get some nice snow along the way.

And they all had a real pair of skis for a real mountain, I usually have to tell the folks I am with to go get different skis, LOL.  I was kind of jealous of the CR pro models,  they looked fun, but still no S7.

This is what I looked like after playing the toughest competitors of GNAR all season.

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They really did get off while whacking there poles, no pun intended.

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They were so good at it,

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I had to join them for a whack.

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Our first turns of the week in Pregalato Italy.

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Onsight guiding some new lines in Italy.

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My only group all year that was psyched to hit pillows.

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Sending!

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Sending Harder!

It’s nice to have a guide that skis, loves to ski and loves to let his guests ski too.  If you like what you see hire me and I will let you do this too. LOL,  I just have to give myself a plug because I know you won’t do this with most other mountain guides. 🙂 I’m so much better then them.

Triples and doubles to your hearts content in the forest of Pregalato!

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Does your guide let you do this?

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Italian Fashion at it’s finest the women in white has sunglasses that fold outward from the middle and the women on the left has a backpack integrated into her coat!

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Can’t get that in France , the finer things in Italy.

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Taking it all in, These guys know how to have a vacation.

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So they all think they are getting GNAR points for peeing in a Gnarly place, but I guess for these dudes they were in an uncomfortable place, maybe because they are Pole whacking a bit closer to eachother then most guys would feel comfortable! Gnar points?  I say gay points!

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So we did a small hike for this shot, quite tasty, but the last man on triggered a nice crossloaded pocket in the tube, pretty exciting for Italy.

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It didn’t suck.

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another Lap of untracked goods.

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This was our final run of the day and we stashed a car way up the road for a long descent to our car.

 

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Skied about 1400 meters of untracked cold smoke to our car.

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Looking back at the upper half, I think this is a claim for ripping the shit out of that slope.

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The confused guide?

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Taking it all in.

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Literally skied to the road and our car was right across the street waiting for us.

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We even got to do some mini golf in the Freaux,  How many people skied the Freaux this year?  It skied like a creek boat run, so much fun.  “did you see me rip the shit out of that”

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This was right off the top 3200 heading into the Girose,  Look at the track, The most inconsistent and punchiest run of my life,  Its steeper then it looks, but I was punching on every turn, kind of heady. But none the less, good skiing.

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Ripping the shit out of the Patou! I wish I had pictures of the feature that grew in the entrance from the wind event we had.

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Heading into Trifide 1 and gonna rip the shit out of it as usual.

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Me below probably thinking that I am saying something important, but not really.

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Not to toot your horn, but your ripping!

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Everyone chased powder in Italy,  we sampled the terrain in La Grave!

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Skiing perfect corn in the exit of La Rama on the way to St. Christoph.

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A nice break before the walk out in St’ Christoph.

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A great place to finish a run. Le Cordee.

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La Voute,  Not so many people going this year because you had to walk out,  but I think I had at least 12 runs in here this year, and they were all pretty damn good.

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I don’t have a photo , but I think there was some pole whacking while on rappel, Thats some definite GNAR points in my book.

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Trying not to look scared?

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Ripping the shit out of this lower!

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Looking down the first couloir after getting off the rappel in La Voute.

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Trifide 2

I only guided this run 3 times this year, did your guide take you here, this is one of my favorite lines in La Grave from the lift with no hike that still takes you back to the lift.

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Thats me ripping the shit out of the crux moves.

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Thats another way to ski it, but I think you are losing points for loss in fluidity, but it was very nice use of the rocks.  Rocks in La Grave are in play!

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The boys in 1 taking pics down on us as we exited 2 back into 1.

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Ripping the shit out of the exit apron.

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Celebrating life after Trifide’s on the way back to 2400.

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Gnarliest line of the week

I have always said grass is in play and that La Grave has some of the best grass anywhere, I am pole whacking the shit out of this to check stablility!

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Commited, sending, and ripping the shit out of the grass.

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The Landing Strip!

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Some glamor shots in the Cote Fine, Pretty gay!

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Even Gayer,  I should of done a daffy, that would of been so much gnarlier.

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I think someone is in there element?

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And as for the final photo here, No comment, I don’t know if you gain points for this, I think you lose them, and possibly you get disqualified for a display like this,  They are playing eachothers asses and they call this move butt bongoing or something like that.

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So after an amazing week, I proved that I am so much better than these guys and that I am still the best skier on this mountain,  if you don’t believe me then read the next blog about skiing the Pan and getting the best BN points you can get, I am claiming the sickest BN ever possibly done!!!!

Thanks for a great week boys,  hope to see you all next year!

Down Days with the Norwegians!

Ceuse and St. Christoph Via Ferrata

So for 5 days the lift was closing at 1pm for a non freezing run of 5 days in a row.  The Isotherme was climbing and the skiing was getting dangerous in the afternoon.  It was still fun to ski, but super fun to ride early in the morning.  But we took a hint and it was time for a road trip or two.  We burnt two days down in Ceuse.  I have to say the guide book says its the best cliff in the world.  I might not agree with that statement as is, but I might agree that it is the best Limestone crag in the world.  The setting is amazing, the rock is gorgeous, steep, clean and very stout, sustained climbing.  What more could you ask for.  An amazing trip with the Norweigian invasion.

We woke up to this,  perfect sport wanking conditions, especially when its a steep hour to get up to the crag.

the view across the valley at little Ceuse.

We stayed in the little house to the left of this one,  Amazing and affordable, you hike up to the big piece of stone in the background from here. And the hosts here are amazing.

Saw these guys on the way up the trail. Pretty cool!

I didn’t take this photo but it tells a nice story!  This place is sick!!!! As the Governor said, “I’ll be Back”

The stone is insanely good, and steep.

TUFA’S

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More Tufa’s and there bolted! this place was sick, I will be back!

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They really put pride in there cairns here!  That’s a happy Cairn,

This cairn is holding up Realization,  don’t move or touch it, the whole cliff is resting on it.

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Looking up from the starting holds on Biographie otherwise known as Realization, by Chris Sharma!

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The view of the cliff on approach.

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Wall to Wall steepness.

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The Line that started it all and put Ceuse on the map to the westerners of the world.

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Gray Slabs!!!!!! Me Likes This!

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Tons of fossils in the rocks on the trails and at the base. 14042011418

Vettla and Gard taking it all in .  We should of gone skiing though. 14042011436

This is about 10 % of the climbing that is visible from this photo at Ceuse.

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There is a climber on the prow in the next photo.

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Sweet trail and I hate hiking. 14042011402

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The setting is hard to explain in a photo, but it’s one hell of a valley to look at from above.

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Route Finding!

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LE GARD!

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ST. Christoph, Via Ferrata.

We used a down day to check out the Ferrata of St. Christoph,  I highly recommend it to the Freaux one for all you folks that want to do something locally.  Yeah it takes 45 minutes to drive, there, but it doesn’t take two hours to descend.  It is much steeper then the Freaux as well and has a much more enjoyable setting along the river. Simply stunning place to be and an endless valley.

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Le Gard, Pulling down and cruxing out. 11042011365

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Topping out. 11042011378

Summit views and looking down the valley into the Ecrin.  The town of St. Christoph is just up and over to the left of this photo.

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Skiing Powder in the Alps where there was no snow!

Powder Highlights and Random Days!

Here is powder for all the Nay Sayers and powder snobs who thought there was no snow in the Alps!  Once again,  No snow , No people and easy to get tracks under everyone’s nose!

Milking a 5 minute traverse to get fresh shots in Alp D’ Huez!  W skied into that cloud every run and had to fish our way through it in the lower elevations, but the sun was shining above the clouds, a pretty nice day to get out of bed.

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Cloudy day down low, but beautiful visibility above the valley.  Looking down the valley from Alp D’ Huez.01032011085

Milking the slope right under the chair in Mont Geneve.  Poor stability this day and this line stayed unskied the whole day.  I rebated it 4 times.  That is my first track on the lookers left, then I put in this next one and kept rebating the slope, it was too easy.

I’m a bit embarrassed by my turns, I know they look like the typical American ski guide track,  Pretty gay I know,  but My group needed that hand rail that day.  Still fun to wiggle once in awhile,  but if you ask me it’s a waste of a run.

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I know,  it looks like a pretty lame Weigle’s post card or something.  Pretty funny,  I know so many American Ski guides that aim to achieve this,  I thought it was pretty lame,  I told my group they could ski anywhere they wanted and they glued to my tracks.  Those of you who ski with me know you will get a bit more freedom to ski the way you want and were you want with in boundaries, but these guys loved spooning for whatever reason.  I think they have been skiing with too many guides in America!02032011103

There loving it,  for what it’s worth 🙂02032011104

One more lap,  3rd time and one more to go,  we chewed the whole slope from one chair, sometimes skiing in the Alps is too easy.  02032011107

More whooptie pie spooning,  but hey ,  it put smiles on there faces! Cracks me up that with all that room some people still ski on your track,  It’s an imbedded syndrome that needs to be dismantled. 🙂

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Delivering the goods I guess!  It’s all relative. 23022011015

Some cool ridge hiking to gain what would be considered Heli Terrain in most places.  So easy to get to the goods without one though.  In the next photos you can see the Northern flanks of the Quyeras and the Western reaches of Sestriere with all of the Sestriere Heli skiing in the back ground.  It is quite endless and easy to access relatively speaking. 26032011231

That’s all Italian Heli skiing behind these guys.

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Quick morning ski tour in a melt freeze cycle up on the Col Du Lauteret! Ridiculously easy access and so easy to find your own space and your own track.

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Super fun Spring skiing weeks after a storm on the pass.

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Sestriere Heli Skiing By Foot!

The next photos are at Sestriere in Italy and on our way to a long connection run to the back side to connect into Pregalato and use a car shuttle back for our last run.  We get to embrace the view of that monster across the way that we just skied.

What blows my mind, is this is the same terrain the Heli’s there can fly and we got it with about an hour of work.  Unbelievable snow about 35-40cm of the light cold smoke with good stability.  Let’s see 1 hour of hiking and a 30 Euro lift ticket or so and We got to ski something that you would pay close to 200$ for in Alaska with one bump of the Heli.  So the moral of the story is don’t waste your money on AK heli skiing,  come see me in the Alps instead.

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We skied right of the tip of that beauty in the sun shadow line on the exposed ridge.

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My job doesn’t suck,  taking in the view of our tracks on the way to our connecting lift that will give us equal vert off the backside to the next town.  Italy is pretty cool,  people don’t really go off piste the way the French do. bild

My Favorite days to ski La Grave!

So this happens so much in La Grave.  I wake up,  I don’t see the top of the mountain,  it’s all socked in, it’s raining in the village.  The worst is the negativety of the people in town, the guests, the tourists, and yes even local or visiting guides that don’t get it.   No one wants to ski, they think its gonna be terrible etc.  YOU NEVER KNOW TILL YOU GO!

The weather looked good, the isotherm was in a reasonable level the night before,  and it felt like valley clouds, that would either sink and stay or burn off.  So I talked my group into going, but My group would of gone anyway,  they are on the No Bad Snow Only Bad Skiers Program and I would ski with this group any day of the week.  They love snow and terrain as much as I do.  So it was only even better that they experienced a magical day like this in La Grave.

We had skied a few runs to feel it out, with hand rails since there was only about 10-15 Meters visibility in the morning,  but as 11:30 or so approached it started to burn out.  There were no tracks anywhere,  Stability was still questionable and I was still feeling a terrain progression without visibility.  No visibility day 30-40 cm fresh in places.  It was perfect because it also meant no People and I could open anything I chose this day.

With visiblity starting to show enough,  I ramped it up.

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Putting the traverse in from 0 Side entrance Trifide 1!

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Pretty happy guide because no one wanted to ski this day, and I get to open Trifide 1 with 40cm fresh and I am working.  I told you my job doesn’t suck.

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Best Job in the world in the best place in the world on the best skiis in the world!

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It was touch and go,  Making the appropriate cuts in the start zones, and hiding from the exposure.  1 at a time skiing and absolutely priceless!

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By the end of 1 and upon exiting into the Vallon,  this is what happened.  She showed herself for the first time of the day and gave the few folks, Maybe 30 or 40 people on the mountain total that day,  an amazing afternoon.  La Meije is special,  she has a way of hiding until she likes who is using her mountain.  At least that is what I believe. That morning was a weekend and the rumor was out it was snowing.  So the whores show up, but they don’t buy a ticket because of visiblity,  so after she scares them away she tends to expose herself for the few appreciate her for more then the snow she gives us.

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The Rateau looking nice an rimed like a scottish death climb.

Check out the west face as well,  Looking good!

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If you know what your looking at in this photo, then you know it’s go time! 🙂

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Showing her beautiful North Face after hiding all morning to the lucky few that decided to go up in a cloud.

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So after opening 1,  I went back to rebate it,  but with visibility more in favor, I decided to get a bit more aggressive,  also because of the cool people I was with and there attitude towards skiing and La Grave in general, They deserved it.

I had a look at the way the entrance snow was moving in the start zones and Knew we would have perfect Alaskan Sluff in 0.   I moved the top plaque with one slice and it sluffed a nice pooper slot all the way to ski on.

0 Is a bit steeper then 1, has more consequences and is a bit more exposed,  so this was an amazing day in the office with amazing people.

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Putting the Team in 1 at a time.  How often does the group get to go below the guide?

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I love this next picture,  I opened 1 with little to no visibility on the previous run, and now with visibility,  folks already on my tracks down below.  This is fun,  you can see an unskied 0 and an unskied 0.5 in the next photos, yet that group down below still chose to ski on tracks 🙂  Thanks for leaving the goods whoever you are.

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Ready to get some on my New s7’s  Thanks Rossignol for the best ski in the world and thanks G3 for dropping me so I can ski on better equipment. 🙂

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The Happy worker self portrait!

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A happy group after a day of first tracks, no visibility and an afternoon of sunshine.24022011052

PS,  this group actually played a mean game of Gnar,  so my hats off to them for a great day and a game well played
Thanks

A Drink for the Boys! Doug and Chad we miss you!

Chancel Refuge April 5 2011

So we all headed up for Richards Birthday party to spend the night in the Chancel.  It was an amazing night, the snow was isothermic everywhere, it was pretty much impossible to ski down this late in the day from the rapid warming, but what better place to spend the night with good people and an amazing place. The night was filled with surprises and some good memories.

Just before sunset with dinner set for 8:00 pm Myself, Barny, Richard, Waldo, and Tim Connely set out for a small adventure.  We were on our way to the entrance of the Polichinelle to honor the boys with a toast 5 years and one night to the day since they left us for bigger mountains and better skiing somewhere else.  It’s a special time for me,  I have not skied the couloir since the day after the accident, but everytime I ski by the entrance I wave, and I feel a different kind of air and smell there, it’s strange, it never goes away.  I was psyched at the effort our small team made to get to the entrance for a drink with the boys.

Barny just after about 1 minute of walking from the hut,  You could see what we were getting into but it was worth it!

Contemplating if this is a good Idea or not, Such an amazing setting in an amazing place. Leaving the comforts of the Chancel Refuge behind to drink with the boys!

This has to be my favorite photo from the adventure. Waldo in the lead up to his waste, Richard up to his neck and Barny just watching from the safety and comfort of his own little rock, 🙂  Too Funny!

The pace and scene of things to follow

Tim performing the front stroke and the back stroke , a great Isothermic snow travel technique, of course easier to do and more fun with some alcohol in the system!

My favorite the back stroke!

Perfect light on a perfect evening , the setting at the upper entrance!

A small moment of silence and the reality of where we are!  A sobering moment!

Pooring one for the Boys,  Chad and Doug we miss you!

The surprise of the evening was Iraitz leaving La Grave at 5:00 to swim up 1100 meters of Isothermic slop on foot and skins to make the party,  Better late then never, here is the arrival video.

Upon returning to the Chancel, we were entertained with an amazing circus performance and a much appreciated surprise for all Bravo!

Ok, excuse me for the next photo, but that is what the lights of La Grave look like from the chancel Refuge at night.  I think it looks like a giant horse jumping over a fence in stride towards Villar D Rene, I also think the 2 dim lights from underneath him represent his giant horse cock.  What do you think?

The ambiance, the people, the food the life in La Grave just can’t be beat, These are the good times that will stay with us forever!

The view of the warmth from outside!

One of the nicest dinners in one of the nicest places you could ever be so lucky to enjoy!

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I’m So much better then You!!!!!

G.N.A.R.

Ok, so I got burned at my own game of gnar that I introduced to the boys in La Grave.  But it was a good burn, Hats off to Pella and Keith for pulling this one off. Some serious GNAR points to Pella for this one.

So the story goes like this, My good friend Liz Smart who by the way just received full IFMGA certifaction and joined Miles and I on our ski descent of the west face Eiger, was given this shirt by none other then Glen Plake himself.  Liz said she could not wear the shirt but however knew someone that could, Yours Truly.  The shirt actually says It must Suck to ski like you.  Keith stole the shirt from my house and Pella wore it to a Friday night K2 Skiers Lodge dinner but had it slightly altered.  Pella claims I am crying in the photo, I just think I am laughing really hard that tears were created.  None the less Nice job boys, I have to check but I think about 5000 points or so for that one.

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Needless to say, 2 weeks later I had to follow through,  not very original but still fun.  Pella was trying to cry to make me feel better.  But I think Pella knows the truth and I am so much better then him. 🙂

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Special thanks to Shane Mckonky for making skiing fun and providing the game of GNAR for the children of La Grave!

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Better Late then Never

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Ok, sorry everyone that cares.

I got way behind and there are some special posts to follow with more detail.  Here is a quick summary of some of the fun that went down in La Grave in a nutshell over the last two months.  All in all it was an amazing season and the pics and people are truly what makes La Grave one of the most special places on the planet,  Enjoy and be sure to check out the posts to follow for a more detailed show down of some priceless times.

Cheers,

Joey

The Derby De La Meije Ski Jorette Parade

The Man, the Myth, the Legend and my new found Hero,  Russ taking in the good times and living the good life!!!

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Sergio in his element and being Sergio once again.

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This Man for President, he gets my vote.

Sergio in his element

Line Dancing takes on a new meaning in La Grave. jourettes

Cousin Monte and Russ taking in all the action! Look closely there are a bunch of chickens in the photo!  Oh, the madness of a Derby. jorette

derby ceremony

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Only in France could you name your band something like that and not have a complete media up roar.  02042011293

Cousin Monte taking care of Keith’s Sandy you know what!!!

My cousin Monte came for a long overdue visit during Derby week and beyond.  While in town he sampled the snow, the cheese, the wine, the characters and still found time to stick some needles in my friends.  Monte is a licensed Acupuncturist and studied Chinese Medicine from Mr Miagi all the way over in china,  Look him up here if your in Arizona and he will show you how to catch fly’s with chopsticks!!! http://www.acupunctureflagstaff.com/

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Keith trying hard to get the sand out of you know where!

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Genepi La Voute De Phillipe!!!

So this was an evil night,  When Phillipe breaks out his own Genepi, you can’t put your glass down for more then a minute without getting it filled again.  There are many Genepi’s some commercial but the special ones are personal and home made.  It was an honor and a rough morning to share Phillip’s Genepi.  If you don’t know about Genepi then click here to find out about this special flower of the Alpes.  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Genepi

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That is some potent stuff right there!03032011124

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That guy over there in the red is what will happen to you if you drink to much of this stuff!

Tim obviously excited to sip the good stuff!03032011128

The last night at the K2 pub.  It had already closed at Derby, but we opened up one more night with a Bar-b-cue and open mic hosted by yours truly.  The after party went into the pub to here local band The Feelz Good play while we did our best to drain Pella’s kegs one last time,  and amazing day.

The man Russ supporting an open mic guest Henna who was singing on stage with a mic for the first time.  Its a shame we couldn’t get her to sing into the mic because she has an amazing voice, but everytime Russ and I put the mic near her mouth, she turned away, 🙁

More importantly though,  Guest appearance and full blown Cameo of the stage goes to Ptor Spricnicks for sitting in on Le Baterie and a fine supporting job I might add.

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Rocking to the Feelz Good and maybe one of the sexiest female singers alive!07042011328

Can’t have a K2 Band without a guest appearance on the mic and who better to sit in then Russ, Once again showing you all why he is so much better then you!!!07042011332

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Gilbert, Ben, and Bruno holding it down!!!07042011337

A day of craggin with some awesome friends, Barney and Monica joined me in Borg ‘ D’ Oisan for some good pre season fun.  If your stuck in La Grave and looking for a quick hit take the 20 minutes to drive here.  The pitches are long and steep, the rock is clean and unique and it blows Freaux out of the water.

Monica being talked into a climb and doing way better then she though she could!09042011339

The view of the beautiful Geology that surrounds Borg!09042011340

Guitar Hero!!!  Metallica!!!

Of Course no time in La Grave is complete with out a bar b cue at Kurt’s house, number one ski bum and guitar hero extroardinar.  Of course Kurt only hosts these parties to prove to all of us that he is better then us at Guitar Hero.  I have to admit , he is pretty good and the game kicks ass.  Looking forward to July 9th in Paris with the two in the photo as we will be seeing Megadeath, Mettalica , Slayer, Slipknot and anthrax all at one venue,  Hell Yeah!!!!!09042011343

A quiet evening on the river above the Freaux ,  pretty special night for those that were there, Thanks for hosting and organizing this one Russ!

Sorry for the blurry photos, Camera phone, but you get the point! Special people, in a special place!10042011349

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Another fine performance from the Man!10042011353

Thats what I am talking about!10042011354

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Russ being the boyscout that he is!10042011358

Keeping it Real!

This is a real man keeping it real,  That is an old white knuckle snowboard mounted for mono with a wide stance.  Russ still rocking this thing for full descents in La Grave.  On closing day he skied all the way to snow line in a rotten Iso pack to about 2200 or so before he hiked out for a complete descent to La Grave for the final run.   That makes him so much better then you for a 60 year old.  You only wish you could keep up with this guy!15032011191

Just smiling when I can at 3200!15032011193

Anki not being able to make it through one of my boring House parties!  Whats wrong with Finish people, I thought they could party?16032011195

AVALANCHE PATOU!

Ok, this was interesting,  Moments after the rescue completed I arrived in the Banan only to observe this crown, a bunch of shoveler’s and probes trundling around in the Debris.

Turns out not only are the tourist from Les 2 Alpes as bright as a box of rocks, but so are there ski instructors.  After seeing tracks in the patou and deciding it would be cool to hike up out of the couloir for not much fall line but a nice traverse for a few turns through a loaded slab with endless history,  the ski instructor hiked his clients into this trap.

From what I was told, the Instructor and client went for a full ride over all the cliffs and into the debris pile all the way to the lake.

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Lucky as hell to be alive. 18032011200

Instructor and clients finishing there hike out Sans Skis and some gear!18032011202

So this was entertaining.  Apparently we didn’t have this in the states.  This is a limited edition VW golf Bon Jovi series that a local owns and drives around town.  I’m so jealous, I bet you didn’t know that Bon Jovi was my first concert in 6th grade.19042011486

Buildering at the Bois De Fait!

Cyril opening a new line with a pint in hand!

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The K2 Chef Valdic pushing his limits!

So I took a run with Valdic the polish chef from Skiers Lodge.  We were on our way to the Brech Pa Cave to get back to 2400.  I was taking a short run with him and helping him out with some technique.  He said ” Joe it is my goal in a few weeks to be able to ski something crazy like the Patou or the Banan.”. I said follow me and took him to the Patou for his first time and we broke it down one turn at a time.  He did awesome and made it from 3200 to P1 in an hour with his first Patou ever!  Congrats Valdic and thanks for the run. 21022011005

Celebrating life and the fact that he just skied his first couloir!

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Some of the really gay stuff that goes down at 3200 🙂  Don’t ask!21022011009

The Lange Triplets out cold.  Watch out everyone these little groms are the future!21042011489

I had a client who was a doctor who reduced a dislocated thumb at 2400 and then use the walk mode bar of a Garmont to splint it.  Funny because I don’t have the walk bar on my Garmonts anymore, so hopefully its being used for something important like this!22022011011

Onyx binding might get you killed!

Well maybe it won’t get you killed, but it might if your using it on big skis in a place like La Grave.  Some photos to show you one of the sketchiest things I have seen in a binding!  I used to think the Marker Duke was the worst binding ever made next to the Fritschi, but I think we have a new winner. I could tell you some of my own personal experiences that made me almost see Jesus, but this one takes the cake.

A complete shear of the mounting plate,  and you can see the kind of forces you put to torque a binding like this from such a small mounting area to support a big piece of plastic.  Not Ideal for a fat ski and aggressive freeriding, but if all you do is ski in Lower 48 and tour whooptie pie,  Eat your heart out then, but if you ski terrain that your life depends on your shoes staying on,  then don’t do it no matter how much you save.  You get what you pay for folks. 23022011022

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Lars finding another multi use for his helmet.  It’s his new equipment bag when his pack is full.  Can your helmet carry this much stuff!,  Awe the entertainment of Apres ski at the Castillan!23022011029

Roast Beef goes skiing!

Chris the other cook from the lodge heading out for a classic dress up day with the crew on Ida’s Birthday,  Somehow, Chris looked normal to me like this and I feel the outfit should suit him everyday,

sounded like a fun day and a fun party that night too, 🙁 but I wasn’t invited.

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And finally the view leaving the Tram Doc looking down at P1 on my last lift on the last day of the season,  The locals know how to enjoy this place without snow, But the locals also appreciate this place for what it is, not the snow conditions!

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So there it is in a nutshell, some highlights from my camera,  this was a general post, but I have more to come and I am plugging away.  I finally sorted over a thousand photos and 2 months of collecting them into some what of an organized library.  So more to come and more focused stories that will be sure to make you laugh, or cry for that matter coming in the next days.

Enjoy

Abiento