Monthly Archives: September 2010

Chamoniards’ Day Off

Just another post about your everyday Chamonix locals doing extraordinary things. First up it’s a bit of wingsuit action from Jean Noel and his bros. As if it wasn’t enough when these guys were skimming walls, now they’re all about skimming the ground.

When will the madness end? Not til we see ’em land I reckon.

Timrazine Canyon aka Canyon Apache

Next up is the delightful Abigail Pickett and her friends Andrea Cattarossi, Daniele Geremia, Silvano Gosso, Marco Zaffiri and Francesco Fazzi who put up a new climbing route in Morocco’s Timrazine Canyon (aka Canyon Apache) over the summer. The route is called Capitan Tajin (7c+, 7a obl) and in a report in the American Alpine Journal, Francesco Fazzi reports, “The fifth pitch is the crux, though pitch six is 7b, and four and seven are 7a+ and 7a respectively. No pitch is easier than 6a+.” The team equipped the 8-pitch route from the ground up. Following are a few of Abi’s thoughts and photos about the trip…


Abi Pickett serving up a bit of tajin.

“Taghia is a place where you will leave your phone, computer and worries aside with no effort and instead become overwhelmed by the magic and peacefulness of its surroundings.

I woke up every morning to the sight of these incredible red rock faces and was so eager to climb them , and yet, in the evening,  as the sun went down, it was simply a joy to contemplate the changing colours of the earth that became purple, contrasting with the bright green crops by the river.

.”]In Taghia life is calm, and it really made me realise the futility of certain things that worried me in my “real” life. The locals will spend all day on the roofs of their huts, and they looked at us with a mixture of amusement, incomprehension and slight mockery as we set off with all our gear to go and wear ourselves out all day. I loved every second of my trip to and would go back any time.

Emails From the Edge: Yannick and Stephane at Annapurna BC

Annapurna, south face. Photo: Wolfgang Beyer

Last Friday the Insider received word that despite unusually heavy monsoon rains Chamonix hellmen Yannick Graziani and Stéphane Benoist have sloshed their way  up to Annapurna South base camp and are now acclimatizing and scoping the face. Find the translation of their phone calls to François Carrel below.

As you are no doubt aware, the south face of Annapurna is a particularly difficult wall with an unforgiving reputation.

27 May 1970 – British Route. First climbed by Chris Bonington, Don Whillans and Dougal Haston. Ian Clough is killed during the descent. The most difficult Himalayan wall climbed to date.

23 May 1981 – Polish Route or John Paul II Route. Maciej Berbeka, Boguslaw Probulski summit. Leader: Ryszard Szafirski. No supplemental oxygen and no Sherpas were used.

29 October 1981 – Japanese Route. Hiroshi Aota and Yukihiro Yanagisawa summit. Two days later Yasuji Kato falls to his death in a second attempt.

3 October 1984 – Spanish Route. Nil Bohigas and Enric Lucas summit in alpine style.

October 1991 – Pierre Béghin and Jean-Christophe Lafaille climb a new route to 7400m before bad weather forces their descent. While carrying most of their gear including the ropes Beghin falls to his death. In one of the great self-rescue stories in climbing history, Lafaille manages to make it down alive despite being stranded alone on the face with no ropes, no gear, no help and a broken arm sustained from rock fall.

Friday, 24 September, 14:00 Nepal time – “Here we are. We’ve set up base camp at the foot of the south face of Annapurna at 4330 meters. Everything’s good and we’re doing well. We weren’t sure about where to place our camp. We briefly considered moving higher to an altitude of 4700m, which was truly beneath the face but there was a slight threat from the seracs. In any case, the porters weren’t having any of it and totally refused to go.

“The face is amazing. Last night the weather was clear with a full moon and I left the tent to take photos. It was fantastic. One wonders how a wall like this can exist. The vertical relief is enormous. Pokhara, at an altitude of 500m is only 25 km from here as the crow flies! Within a day’s walk from here we can be in the jungle and 30˚C heat. We go directly from the grassy forest straight up to 5300m and after that it’s straight onto the glacier.

“To get from Katmandu to Pokhara we had to walk 10 kms and change vehicles once because the road had been washed out. Nepal, eh? Then, from Pokhara, we walked for three days before arriving at the last lodge where we waited for two days for our porters. We never even saw our liaison officer. In my opinion, he took the money and ran.

“We did the whole trek in the rain and the locals told us it had been raining all month. Today it is a bit drier and it’s almost beautiful. I think the monsoon is about to finish. We’ll be here into October when it will be cold and dry. Right now, the face is in the clouds but last night, under the full moon, it seemed to be in good condition.

“Today, Stéphane is carrying a load to altitude, he’ll return tomorrow morning and we’ll leave to acclimatize for three or four days. We’ll climb to 6000m probably to the foot of the Bonington Pillar [British Route]. We want to see how it looks. We’ll get to see what’s up with the face, see the route, and how the avalanches fall. It’s still a bit far

“We really need to see this face, to feel it, to see how the avalanches fall. From here we’re still a bit far, we will for sure get closer. It will be the first time for me. I haven’t touched the face except from the Roc Noir side and that was 10 years ago. I will call again from higher up!”

British Route. Photo: from "Annapurna South" by Chris Bonington.

Monday, 27 September. 14:15 Nepal time – “Hi. Everything is going great! We just arrived an hour ago at a little col at 6100m at the foot of the Bonington Pillar. Yesterday we slept at 5600m, the day before that at 5000m. The face is not as exposed as we thought. There’s not a lot falling and there are fewer seracs and they’re more isolated than we thought. But she’s been plastered by the monsoon and is well covered. That said, she’s been covered by clouds all afternoon and we’ll get a better look in the morning. We’re starting to get used to seeing her and we’re beginning to be less afraid than when we were looking at the pictures. [Stéphane says something unintelligible in the background]. Stéphane says, ‘Bof!'”

François: “Is it steeper than Nuptse?”

Yannick: “Stéphane thinks that the Beghin-Lafaille is not steeper than Nuptse. The Bonnington is a bit of a spur, a route less steep and exposed. Nevertheless there are mega snow mushrooms on this route.”

François: “Can you see the whole face to the summit?”

Yannick: “No, we can see only to the rock band.”

François: “What’s your plan?”

Yannick: “We’re going to stop here. We’re going to sleep one night and then go down tomorrow. We only have one bottle of gas left and after that is finished it’s not worth the pain. It was complicated to get here, we’ve done well. We climbed rocky ridges and crossed snow couloirs. But it’s super beautiful here!”

Slacklining Chamonix-Style

If you wonder what Chamonix guide and filmer extraordinnaire Seb Montaz has been up to now that even his most secret powder lines have dried up, check this out. His finely crafted video below is a glimpse into some of the more leisurely summer activities found here in the sunny, carefree death sport capital of the world known as Chamonix.

Holy smokes is right. Mark your calendars now for Saturday, 25 Sept when Seb releases the free, full-length version on Yes, that’s right. Free.

Life Outside the Bubble

I’ve never understood why people drive cars when they could get there just as easily on a bike. Seems to me that most trips are just way more fun on two wheels, right? On the other hand, this Gymkhana trip that Ken Block is on shows that cars, even 2001 Ford Fiestas, do have their purpose.

Team continues upwards, Ericsson skis from 7800 meters

27 July 2010

[Editor’s note: I just found this post in my Drafts folder. Not sure why it never went up but I’d like to post it now for those who might not have seen it.]

K2 summit from our C4. It was this view of the summit, traverse, Bottleneck and Shoulder that made us realize a complete ski descent was possible.

Below Camp 4 – 7800m / 25,590 ft – With the summit of K2 rising above us, so close we feel as though we could have touched it, Frippe locked into his skis and dropped into the massive 45-degree face that stretches from The Shoulder at 8000m to below Camp 3 at 7100m. This big, beautiful face radiates down upon base camp and all the way to Concordia and makes every skier within miles fantasize about arcing fast steep turns across it. Of course, if it were that easy we’d have all seen it in the latest TGR film, but simply putting your boots on at this altitude makes you gasp for air and making two or three turns with a heavy pack would bring most hardcores to tears. I’m here to tell you that after three long, hard days of climbing Fredrik Ericsson earned every one of those awe-inspiring turns.

So before we go any further I should start by thanking our good friend, The Ripper Dave Schipper, for posting our progress live from the mountain. We hope he’ll still have the patience left to deal with our frantic, confused phone calls during one more summit push.

So yeah, assuming you’ve been following along you’ll know we left base camp a few days earlier based on a weather forecast from an acknowledged expert in Austria who pointed us to a sliver of a window on the 27th. The group that charged out of BC on the 24th could hardly have been stronger or more experienced. Out front was Gerlinde Kaltenbrunner, an Austrian whose friendly smile and sisterly spirit hides her astonishing strength in the mountains. This is her fourth expedition to K2 and—after summitting Everest this spring without oxygen—if successful, will make her the third woman to summit all 14 of the world’s 8000-meter peaks and more importantly, the first to climb them all without oxygen. Huge respect.

Right behind Gerlinde was Fabrizio Zangrilli, a professional climber and guide for one of the two commercial expeditions attempting K2 this year. On his sixth expedition—four on the Cesen Route—few climbers have more experience on this side of the mountain than Fabrizio.

Of course, Fredrik, The Super Swede, was right up front with Gerlinde and Fabrizio, swapping leads and breaking trail. Just keeping up with those two is a huge feat in itself but to do it while carrying skis and wearing ski boots is a whole other level.

With a perpetual smile on his face, Ralf Duimovits—a highly accomplished German guide and Gerlinde’s life partner—first climbed K2 in 1994. Ralf is the only person on the mountain to have previously summitted K2. If he summits again he’ll be only the fifth person in history to have climbed K2 twice.

Kinga Baranowska arrived with the K2 and Broad Peak Polish Expedition 2010 and hopes to make K2 her eighth 8000-meter summit.

And, me—a bit slower than a lot of climbers but a little faster than most freelance writers. Did I mention devilishly handsome and passively courageous?

So if you’ve kept up with past episodes you’ll know that we battled high winds and driving snow that blasted us full in the face as we moved up the mountain from Base Camp to C2. From C2 to C3 was more of the same although with the benefit that the wind had scoured the snow from the ridge making the surface hard-packed, easy walking.

In the meantime, over on The Abruzzi Ridge, the crew that had planned to meet us on The Shoulder for a combined summit push had arrived at their C2 to find all but one of their tents either blown away or shredded. The Italians, Giuseppe and Sergio, immediately descended while nine other climbers bivvied below House’s Chimney in three tents in what sounds like truly miserable conditions.

Back on the Cesen, Frippe and I were super excited about moving from C3 to C4—a push that would take us from 7100m (23, 294 ft) to 8000m (26, 247 ft) in one long day. To climb that much at such a high altitude we reasoned the route must go straight up with no side variations and be fairly straightforward climbing. Gerlinde and Ralf told us to expect eight hours. I knew that with this crew it would be anything but leisurely and began to worry about the extra 140 meters (459 ft) of rope and gear in my pack for fixing The Bottleneck higher up.

Sure enough, the next morning as we were breaking down our tent, Gerlinde and Ralf blew past as if they were shot from a cannon. Several minutes later we dropped in behind them with Fabrizio and Kinga not far behind.

Trey Cook above Camp 3 (7100m).

The climbing turned out to be sustained 45-degree climbing over snow and loose rock with old, badly damaged fixed ropes and sketchy anchors that kept everyone honest. Straight out of the gate I was feeling a high-gravity day and passed our tent to Frippe who added it to his already heavy pack. I also passed 60 meters of rope to Fabrizio who carried it for the next three pitches until I had eaten a bit and was feeling stronger—lifesaver. The wind still blew like crazy but the sun came out for the first time in several days which made everyone feel a whole lot better. Until it went down.

Gerlinde, Ralf, Fabrizio and Kinga between C3 and C4. All smiles after the sun came out.

From the back of the line Fabrizio shouted over the wind for a halt. “It’s still 250 meters (820 ft) to The Shoulder and it’s going to be dark soon.”

Our summit push that would ideally have started at 10:00 or 11:00 that night had relied on us reaching The Shoulder early enough to pitch our tents, brew up and rest for a few hours before starting for the summit. Clearly, that dog would not be huntin’ on this push. And since there was no place to pitch tents on the rocky face we were climbing, and going down was not an option, the decision was made to continue.

An hour and a half later, just as it got completely dark, we all pulled up to a small shelf in the face about 100 meters (328 ft) below The Shoulder and started hacking tent platforms out of the ice. The wind that was forecast to have dropped still screamed and to be quite honest, after 12 hours of climbing I was completely wasted and happy not to hear any discussion about a summit push that night. However, judging by the strong effort the Super Swede made in chopping out the platform I have no doubt that he would have gone for it if any of our crew had suggested it. As it were, our window never really materialized and with snow, wind and limited viz forecast for the next few days Frippe had to settle for an epic ski descent of close to 3000 meters (9842 ft). Darn the luck.

Fredrik Ericsson skiing below The Shoulder. Rock solid with a heavy pack at 7800m.

We’re back in BC now sitting out bad weather days that has kept us from charging batteries and updating the blog. On his way down Frippe found that the wind and snow had changed conditions dramatically–much less snow, way more exposed rock–since his last descent from C3 less than two weeks ago. This makes us wonder if the route will hold until we can get back up again. If not, Frippe’s ultimate goal of skiing a complete line from the summit of K2 to base camp will not be possible and all our efforts over the past two months will have been for nothing. However, the snow in the forecast will surely make a difference and if we can just get lucky with a window sooner rather than later…

But for now, we wait. August is notoriously unkind to K2 climbers and all we can do is hope for the best and be patient. So not easy. The weather in northern Pakistan this summer has been the worst in 20 years with torrential rainfall killing more than 300 people and hundreds of thousands losing land and property.

The Koreans have packed up and left as have the Italians: Giuseppe, Sergio and the guy who never said anything. On the other hand, two experienced Kazakhs have just arrived, already acclimatized from climbing in the Tien Shan range, and we’re hoping they’ll be a strong addition to our team. The two Americans, Dave and Adam, are making solid progress but have yet to spend a night in C3 so are still a day behind the current summit group. The Poles have flights scheduled for the 17th and will need a window soon if they want to make it. Frippe and I are intent on staying until we get the job done but we’re down to our last jar of Nutella. The two of us can suffer through a lot but running out of Nutella? Now that’s a game changer.

/Trey Cook

The Ski K2 Expedition would not be possible without the visionary support of Dynastar, Tierra, Osprey, Hestra, Scarpa, Grivel, adidas Eyewear, Primus, Brunton, Exped, ATK Race, Ortovox, Garmin, Honey Stinger and Jamtport.

To learn more of Fredrik Ericsson’s past expeditions and about his quest to ski the world’s three highest mountains check out

Back. In Black. Crows.

Hey guys, I’m back. Took a bit of time off to put my head back together but I could no longer ignore the new video teasers bursting the seams of my Inbox so here I am.

Had a hard time figuring out how to ease back in gracefully so I decided instead on a shameless product plug to big’ up the locs, yo. To get us all ready for the upcoming season the chargers over at Black Crows have launched a new blog that is guaranteed to be every bit as awe-inspiring and thought-provoking as their skis and a faithful daily following might even give you the chance to perfect your French before the season starts and you start workin’ the ladies at aprés ski.

Or you could just buy the skis, which, based on extensive scientific research, has proven to be the most effective method by far. Just ask Julien Régnier. Or if he’s not on your Friends list then check out his latest disco moves in the new Poorboyz teaser, Revolver.