Category Archives: guides

Rémy Lécluse, Glen Plake Score First Descent on Pointe de le Lune

Critical turns in big mountains; Plake doing what Plake does best.

“It was really fun. Every turn was different and I’m not lying, it really was perfect conditions. It was impeccable, it was perfect.” -Glen Plake

Will someone please tell Rémy Lécluse and Glen Plake how bad this pre-ski season sucks in Europe? These guys have clearly been left off the Negativeland email list or else they would have known better than to drive a couple hours south and pin a first descent (in November!) when they should have been hanging out in the bars whinging about not enough snow, or too many gorgeous autumn days, or the empty trails and rock routes, or the color of the sky, or pretty much anything, really.

Rémy Lécluse

But these two have been around long enough to know that good snow ain’t that hard to find if you just know where to look. On November 19th the two big-mountain ballers tapped the pristine southeast couloir of 3777m Pointe de la Lune (Punta Ceresole) on the Cresta Gastaldi of Gran Paradiso.

Glen Plake

Lécluse spotted the couloir while skiing in Val di Piantonetto. Believing that the strong foehn wind that had hammered Chamonix he contacted Plake who immediately said yes.

“People give me heck for being so enthusiastic about skiing but I think Rémy may have me beat. He’s always fired up to go do something on his skis. I mean I get excited but he’s like a little kid. It’s great to be around.” -Glen Plake

Remy Lecluse, Glen PlakeThe team chose an alternative approach to the classic Val d’Orco route, choosing instead to go in through Val Piantonetto where the road goes to 1917m. “Less walking, more skiing is our motto!”

Ivrea bvouac, Remy Lecluse

Rémy in the 60-year-old Bivacco Ivrea. "Sleeps 9 if they like each other very, very much."

Lécluse and Plake skinned up to Col del Becchi at 2989 meters, cutting trail through 20-30cm of powder before scoring nice powder turns down to the Bivacco Ivrea. “Powder, powder and more powder!”

Lécluse and Plake left the bivy the next morning at 7:00, were at the bottom of the couloir by 8:00 and on the summit at 9:30. Rémy reports the first chute is about 100-150 meters long, 45˚, and 2-to-4 meters wide.

The big powder field in the middle was around 30˚ and about 300 meters long.

The bottom section was around 500 vertical meters, ‘quite wide’, at “an average of 40-45˚ with some solid 50.”

Plake in the middle powder field.

The team skied the route in about half an hour, which includes the time it took to shoot photos.

“The run wasn’t that steep, mostly around 40˚-45˚ with some sections around 50˚, maybe a bit more. The big slope above the cliff  was especially beautiful. That’s where we found that special ambiance that you only get from steep skiing.” -Rémy Lécluse

Some downclimbing was needed to get through the last chimney before scoring “an amazing powder skiing party” back to the Ivrea. An hour of skinning took them back to Col del Becchi before they tucked in to the icing on the cake: hundreds of powder turns between snow mushrooms in perfect powder, then a last 100 meters of breakable crust back to the Rifugio Pontese.

Gran Paradiso Massif, Punta di Ceresole (3777m), southeast couloir. 600 meters, 40-45˚/50˚, 5.2, E3

Two days, 2000 meters of powder skiing, and a sweet first descent. In November. Would somebody please tell these guys how bad the snow sucks!

Rémy Lécluse, Glen Plake

Are we not men? Rémy Lécluse, Glen Plake

Rémy skis: Dynastar Mythic 178 (Rémy worked on design/testing)                            boots: Scarpa Maestrale                                                                                                         binders: Plum Guide                                                                                                              outerwear: Arc’teryx Atom jacket, Gamma trousers                                                        backpack: Arc’teryx Silo 30 pack                                                                                         hardware: Grivel Air-Tech carbon axes, Grivel Air-Tech crampons

Glen skis: Elan Himalaya 177 “My new favorite pair of skis – 95 underfoot and less than 1400 gms. It’s the big brother to the Elan Alaska that I helped design and which just won Ski of the Year from Ski Alper magazine.”                                 boots: Dalbello Virus Lite                                                                                                      binders: Plum Guide                                                                                                              outerwear: Salewa Glen Plake Choice (pants, jacket, down sweater, gloves)             backpack: Salewa Glen Plake Choice                                                                                  hardware: Salewa crampons “a hybrid I made using a steel front and aluminum heel.” Charlet Aztarex ice axe.                                                                                              eyewear: Julbo Explorer “everyone knows these are the best mountain sunglasses in the world, hands down.”                                                                               poles: Leki WC. “A little longer than nromal for touring and steeps. Fixed length, not adjustable!!! I don’t trust or use adjustable poles for steeps.”                                sleeping bag: “We didn’t know what we would find at the refuge so I took my new -8˚ Salewa bag. It’s light, under a kilo. Even though the bivouac ended up being fully equipped the bag was really cozy, it’s frikkin nice.”

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Despite Heroic Rescue Attempts, Olivier Sourzac & Charlotte Demetz Perish on South Face of Grandes Jorasses

Photo: Luca Signorelli / Summitpost.org

Last Wednesday, 2 November, local mountain guide Olivier Sourzac and his client, Charlotte Demetz, set out for a fast and light ascent of the Linceul (IV, 4, 750m, D+) on the north face of Les Grandes Jorasses (4208m).

After summiting, the two were descending the south face when they were pinned down above 4000 meters by a massive low pressure system from the south.  The descent is far from straightforward, even in good weather, with several rappels required through heavily-crevassed terrain.

Olivier Sourzac

Bad weather initially grounded rescue helicopters of the PGHM and the Italian Soccorso Alpino Valdostano. However, independent rescue units, led by Sourzac’s brother Bruno and comprised primarily of mountain guides and the Italian Frontier Police, set out to try to reach the climbers on foot.

Chamonix high-mountain guide Asmus Nørreslet was part of a seven-man team that fought their way up to the Boccalatte Refuge on Saturday,

“A fast-and-light, three-man team led by Bruno Sourzac started up on Friday and made it to the Repossoir (around 3700m) on Saturday morning but they were pushed back by deteriorating weather.

We started from the valley floor on Saturday and by the time we reached the Boaccalate there was 30 to 40cm of fresh snow with deeper pockets.  The storm that forced the first team down dropped much more snow above the refuge and on Sunday, visibility was very limited. Bruno went back up with us – it was a huge effort on his part – and we made it up to about 3400m but there was just no way. The Grandes Jorasses is one of the most inaccessible areas in the entire range when a big foehn storm hits. It’s a massive face and there is just so much objective danger from avalanche, serac fall and crevasses.”

Without knowing the exact location of the stranded climbers, several teams battled their way up the lower slopes of the north, south and east faces of the mountain hoping to reach them. Deep snow, low visibility and high avalanche danger thwarted their further efforts.

In a report on UKClimbing.com on Saturday, Luca Signorelli reported that, “one late afternoon flight attempt [was made Saturday] from Aosta, to try drop food and gas provisions, but visibility was so low that they had to return almost immediately.”

Following Luca’s thread on UKClimbing.com, it seems another flight was attempted from the Italian side again on Sunday… “Attempt failed. The helicopter is back to Courmayeur. Visibility is close to [nil], I’m afraid there’s no time for another attempt today.” “There’s been four attempts this afternoon, flying with a reduced crew (just the pilot and one guide)to get near the stranded climbers, two attempts from Chamonix and two from Courmayeur, but to no avail. Winds are two strong and visibility insufficient, and all attempts have been reportedly made very close to the limit of acceptable risk. So this is the fifth night out for Olivier Sourzac and Charlotte Demetz.”

On Monday, horrific weather relentlessly hammered the range from the south preventing Italian pilots from flying. Four attempts were made from the north by French helicopter crews to place rescuers on top of the Grandes Jorasses; only one was successful. From Luca Signorelli’s thread on UKClimbing.com, “the Chamonix PGHM managed, in the middle of the storm and at insane personal risk, to winch down few minutes two guides on the top of Pt. Whymper. These had just the time to look briefly around, drop the survival kits then ask to be retrieved before all hell broke loose.”

PGHM rescue chopper

Several more attempts were made on Tuesday by the PGHM but fog and 80kph foehn winds once again prevented them from landing. On the last attempt around 4:30 p.m., heli crews spotted Sourzac and Demetz, however high winds kept the helicopters from dropping rescuers.

On Wednesday morning, 9 November, despite terrible flying conditions, the bodies of Sourzac and Demetz were recovered by Italian rescuers from an exposed position at an altitude of 4050m on the south face of Les Grandes Jorasses.

Despite the tragic outcome, we must commend the outstanding and courageous efforts of the men and women, especially those of the Chamonix PGHM and the Italian Soccorso Alpino Valdostano, who repeatedly risked their lives to rescue the two alpinists. Full respect.

Our thoughts and prayers go out to the families and friends of the victims.

Blessed are the dead,

For they have been given wings to fly.

(click to enlarge)

(source: UKClimbing.com, ledauphine.com)

Outdoor Labs: Dean Cummings Talks About H2O Skis

Dean Cummings H2O heli skiingUS Ski Team member, winner of the 1995 World Extreme Skiing Ski Championship, ‘hundreds of ski mountaineering first descents’, appeared in 43 ski vids, and ‘playing a vital role in the success of pioneering Alaska helicopter skiing‘…

‘One of the 48 Most Influential Skiers of Our Time’ -Powder Magazine.

Yeah, I believe I’ll sit and listen to what this cat has to say about his skis.

Horns up to the Ripper Dave Schipper of Outdoor Labs for the heads up on the latest project in Dean’s lifelong devotion to skiing. About 5 months ago [my bad]. Looking forward to hearing what you think about ’em. New website’s sick.

Chamonix Guide Maxime Belleville Dies in Crevasse Fall

We regret to report that while leading clients Maxime Belleville of the Compagnie des Guides de Chamonix fell into a crevasse yesterday, 23 February, at around 11:20. By the time rescuers were able to reach him Mr. Belleville had perished.

Our thoughts and prayers go out to Maxime Belleville’s  friends and family. May he rest in peace.

Chamonix Ice: Le Fil à Plomb

Stian Hagen leading the first ice pitch of Le Fil à Plomb. Photo: Asmus Nøresslet.

Y’know I’d talk about how disappointed I am that I didn’t get to ski this weekend but hey, when has GM ever opened in mid-November? Ah well, there’s always ice climbing, right? Or at least there was until the foehn started blowing and the Midi closed. Opening again 17 December apparently. In any case here’s what it looked like a couple of weeks ago when Chamonix guides Stian Hagen and Asmus Nørreslet went and climbed Le Fil à Plomb (III 4+ 700m) a couple of weeks back. Well done, gents.

[Vimeo http://vimeo.com/16242200%5D

And while we’ve got Stian on the page you might as well check out the video below and jump on the chance for a free lesson in the style of the soul carve. Or should that be the soul of the style carve. In any case, I guarantee you won’t be able to watch this brilliant vid just once. Thanks to alert reader Mic Devor for the heads up on this one. Looking forward to seeing more of this kind of thing from the Antidote crew.

Salomon Freeski TV: Makin’ it Look Easy in Chamonix

It was a veritable galaxy of stars over at the Deeper premiere the other night with pretty much everybody who’s anybody turning out for the gala soirée. In the aftermath of elbowing Lindsay Lohan out of the way to get to the bar I found myself talking to Mike Douglas, the guy I figure holds the esteemed title of Best Job Ever, the job description for which must go something like this: go to where it’s snowing, drag a Salomon team rider and a couple of his mates off the disco dance floor, point a camera at them, shred pow ’til your legs fall off.

So yeah, no doubt he was in Chamonix last spring and here’s the episode he recorded with shred ready Tristan Knoertzer who, from the looks of this vid, is a direct recipient of the huge brass balls gene passed down by his father, Jean-Sébastian, an IFMGA/UAIGN Mountain Guide and Mountain Guide Instructor.

Props to Mike for what I’m guessing is creative use of paraglider-cam and/or speed-flying-cam. The biggest problem I see with this vid is that these guys shred these steeps so smoothly they make it look easy. So sit back, crack a refreshing malt beverage and prepare yourself to get schooled in the fine art of the double pole plant.

Seb Montaz: Four Routes, North Face of the Midi

ChamonixGuiding.com