Tag Archives: 2010

Chamonix Ice

15 December. Eva Eskilsson of Mountain Spirit Guides in Cogne, Italy.

For those of you who’ve been wondering what the ice conditions are like in Chamonix, Seb Montaz’s video of Korra Pesce climbing Nuit Blanche (WI6) in the Argentiére Basin does a fair job of answering your question.
Of course, Seb’s vid also does a great job of explaining what snow conditions in Chamonix are like as well. Stay tuned for what will no doubt be another blower powder video from Seb in the next few days.

The crew from Mountain Spirit Guides have also been out and about and reporting good conditions in Cogne and Trient.

Mountain Spirit Guides in Cogne, Italy

Mountain Spirit Guides report: "the left ice fall, E Totto Relativo (4+ max), in good condition."

15 December, Mountain Spirit Guides, Cogne, Italia.

15 December, Mountain Spirit Guides, Cogne, Italia.

Mountain Spirit Guides – Trient, Switzerland

16 December. Mountain Spirit Guides report "Le Psychiatre, well formed."

16 December, Mountain Spirit Guides, Le Psychiatre, Trient, Switzerland.


Annapurna Action: Yannick and Stef Attack The Japanese. Begbie, The Geek and Woof Woof Hoping to Get Lucky

The Japanese Route? Clearly that would be the really steep, super scary looking #3.

Our usual correspondent, François Carrel, has skipped off for some fun and games in the land of totalitarian rule, Iran. Lucky for us, Caroline Allagnat has stepped up and told us that Stéphane Benoist and Chamonix’s Yannick Graziani are back in action!

During a phone call on the 19th, Yannick told Caroline that the bad weather had passed and the team had returned to base camp after waiting out the storm at a tea house a few hours down valley. In the end there wasn’t as much snow fall as they thought.

The team immediately placed an advanced base camp at 5200m and had planned to spend that night and the whole day yesterday at ABC before attempting the Japanese Route on the South Face. The Japanese Route was established by Hiroshi Aota and Yukihiro Yanagisawa on 29 October 1981. In the days following their teammates Haruyuki Endo and Yasuji Kato were moving towards the summit when Kato fell to his death. Nonetheless, Yannick describes the route as ‘fairly safe’ because it follows a spur.


Strong winds have been forecast for the 22nd, 23rd and 24th however the team believes they won’t be affected since they are on the face and a two-day window should be all they need to reach the summit but of course it’s difficult for them to estimate without fully knowing the difficulties they will encounter. The team is feeling strong and their spirits are high.

We’re hoping for more news as the team moves up. Until then, ALLEZ LES FRANCAIS!!!

British Annapurna III Expedition – East Ridge

Pete 'The Geek' Benson. Photo: Katie Moore/Yak Media

Nick "Begbie' Bullock, Matt 'Woof Woof' Helliker. Photo: Katie Moore/Yak Media

Meanwhile, over on Annapurna III, the Brits are waxing philosophical and preparing to climb to their previous high point on the East Ridge tonight. Tomorrow they plan to climb halfway up the 1000m face before heading back to BC.

To get the full story including Nick’s lyric prose check out their blog at British Annapurna III Expedition.

Go the Brits!

Trey and Fredrik back at Base Camp

Just a short update from Fredrik and Trey: They are back at Base Camp all safe and strong. They will be ready for a second try as soon as the weather allows (earliest in 5-6 days). A post will be up soon!

Ski K2 2010 Video

Ski Mountaineer Fredrik Ericsson Begins K2 Adventure

Fredrik Ericsson K2

Fredrik Ericsson at C1 on K2 in '09.

Islamabad, Pakistan – As-Salamu alaykum*. After months of preparation and one long day of traveling, Fredrik Ericsson and I have finally arrived in the capital of Pakistan on the first leg of our adventure.

What adventure I hear you ask? Fredrik—or ‘Frippe’ as our crew in Chamonix calls him—will be doing everything in his power to become the first person to ski from the summit of K2. Yep, you read that right. This guy plans to not just climb the most difficult, dangerous and baddest 8000-meter peak on the planet, he wants to do what’s never been done before by slapping on his skis and charging the 3600 meters (11,811 feet) back down to base camp.

Oh, and did I forget to mention that he plans to do it without supplemental oxygen? And without Sherpas or high-altitude porters? And no, he’s not mainlining EPO or steroids or Red Bull or any other kind of performance-enhancing anything. It’s just him, his skis, a ruggedly handsome and highly courageous ski journalist (that would be me) and one notoriously foul-tempered mountain.

You skiers out there will want to start mapping your descent from The Shoulder, which is at the top of the broad saddle above the big powder bowl just above the humongous serac right of center. Snap.

Of course, you probably already know of K2’s hard-won reputation as The Savage Mountain. That’s the term of endearment she earned by slamming the door on many of the world’s best alpinists and sending them home with their tails between their legs.

In his book “K2: Life and Death on The World’s Most Dangerous Mountain” Ed Viesturs states, “I had previously climbed Everest and Kangchenjunga, the first and third highest peaks in the world, but I knew that K2 was in another league of difficulty and danger.”

Indeed, the last time anyone made it to the top of K2 was in 2008 when 30 climbers from 10 different expeditions joined forces to make a summit bid. Around 18 of them are believed to have made the summit and in a terrible chapter in the history of climbing, 11 of them never returned.

The next year, 2009, the mountain brushed off all her suitors, sparing all but one precious life, that of Michele Fait, an experienced Italian ski mountaineer whose tragic death deeply saddened both the climbing and skiing communities.

But 2009 wasn’t all bad. American ski mountaineer Dave Watson was also on the mountain last summer and skied down from the Bottleneck just 300 meters (1000 feet) below the summit. His effort confirmed others’ belief that the impossible might actually be possible. One of those believers is Fredrik Ericsson. The other is myself, y’know the strong yet sensitive alpine journalist.

You’ll be hearing a lot more about Fredrik, K2, our plans, and our ability (or lack thereof) to stick to those plans in our daily(ish) blog that’s being posted by the adventure-loving fanatics at OutsideOnline.com.

At any point along the way we encourage you to hit us with questions about topics we haven’t covered, things you don’t understand or anything at all about our expedition that you’d like to know more about. Taking the time to respond might very well be the only thing that keeps Frippe and I from strangling each other as the weeks drag on and the down days (and those annoying idiosyncracies) begin to stack up.

In the meantime, we’ll be in Islamabad taking advantage of our last two days in civilization to enjoy the simple pleasures of champagne-drenched, cocaine-fueled nights spent in the company of an endless stream of exotic, high-class prostitutes.

Nah, just joking. Anyone who knows anything about Islamabad (or Fredrik and me for that matter) knows that simple pleasures at this point mean little more than a hot shower, a flush toilet, cold Coca-Cola and ice cream. Man, how we’re gonna miss that ice cream.

*Arabic greeting meaning ‘peace be upon you.’

Chamonix Lift Schedules – Spring/Summer 2010

Sunny skies, bare thighs and a fire in her eyes. Gotta love spring skiing.

With the season coming to a close lots of folks are wondering how much time they have to get to the beach and get that summer tan going before it’s time to get back here in time for the opening of mountain bike season. Well fret no more. Here at the ChamonixInsider we’ve done the research so you don’t have to.

The exact opening and closing hours are too convoluted to list so you’ll have to weave your way through the myriad Summer 2010 timetables here if you need to know what time to queue up for first tracks.

And what about Les Houches, I hear you ask. Well, after bumbling around their website looking for the lift schedule (pretty basic info, right?) for 10 minutes I found a calendar of events that didn’t even list the dates and I finally gave up. For info on the Bike Park at Les Houches (except, of course, lift opening dates – grrrrrr), check out this website. C’mon Les Houches, get it sorted.

[ADDENDUM: just got a very brief email from the Les Houches crew. They open June 12.]

And of course, any chance to ski in a silly outfit (other than the one you normally wear) is a day not to be missed. So don’t miss the Freeride Days at Les Grands Montets on May 2nd. Always good fun.

18e Piolets d’Or – 2010

Now we know you’re all proud about that super difficult problem you pulled at Les Gaillands last summer and despite all the spraying you’ve done down the Chambre 9 nobody seems to pay any attention to this achievement of yours which is clearly worthy of international recognition.

Well lucky for you my friend, The Piolets d’Or is kinda like mountaineering’s very own version of the Oscars except without all the glamorous movie stars, the bazillion dollar post parties or the hundreds of millions of viewers. OK, so it’s not really like the Oscars at all but the award is widely recognized as recognition of the most awe-inspiring achievements in alpinism over the course of the previous year. The award is presided over by the G.H.M. (Groupe Haute Montagne), editors of Vertical and Montagnes magazines and, starting this year, with help from journalists at the American Alpine Journal. Event organizers describe it thusly:

The Piolets d’Or event gathers together alpinists from many countries; active participants in the most remarkable ascents of the past year on every summit of the globe.

More than recognition for any one performance, the event celebrates the ethic, style and values which take inspiration from the true spirit of a rope party.

For the past 18 years, this international event has publicized the greatest ascents achieved in the mountains the world over, and given recognition to climbers of all nationalities for their individual or team ventures.

To put it in a nutshell the Piolets d’Or are awarded to exceptionally hard men putting up ludicrously difficult routes all for the sake of gettin’ her done. When you look at the lines these guys are climbing you’ll realize we should all be buying these guys multiple rounds of beers for shattering our ideas of physical and mental boundaries. Well, lo and behold we’ll get that chance when the Piolets d’Or rolls into Chamonix and Courmayeur next week.

The action begins on Wednesday, April 7th at 21:00 with the 1930’s film La Conquête des Cimes accompanied by a jazz improv group at Le Cinema Vox. The Courmayeur alternative will be a theater production La Conquista del Cervino performed by The Aosta Theatre Company at the Jardin de l’Ange.

Check out the complete schedule with full details at PioletsdOr.com.

Those of you who are far too enchanted by my lyrical prose to hyperlink

Reinhold Messner

away to learn the actual facts should know the program continues throughout the week and culminates with the presentation of a lifetime achievement award to some guy named Reinhold Messner in Courmayeur at the Cinema Palanoir.

On Saturday in Chamonix the fun and games start at 16:00 with a book fair and film screenings before the main event, the Piolet d’Or ‘Ascent of the Year’ Ceremony, gets underway at 21:00. At this time Piolets d’Or will be awarded to the ascents that most impress the distinguished panel of judges.

The criteria upon which the awards are based are:

– Style of ascent.
– Spirit of exploration: original (previously unclimbed) route and/or mountain, creative and innovative approach.
– Level of commitment and self-sufficiency.
– High level of technical ability required.
– Suitability of route in light of objective dangers.
– Efficient and sparing use of resources.
– Transparency regarding the use of these resources.
– Respect for people, climbing partners, members of other teams, porters and local agents.
– Respect for the environment.
– Respect for future generations of mountaineers by leaving them the possibility of enjoying the same kind of experiences and adventures.

The five nominees for the 18e Piolets d’Or were selected from a long list of 52 ascents by 116 alpinists in 14 countries. It should be noted that Yannick Graziano and Christian Trommsdorff withdrew their first ascent of the South Face of Nemjung from consideration. Trommsdorff is President of GHM and co-organizer of the Piolets d’Or.

And with that said … envelope please…

Nick Bullock and Andy Houseman – Chang Himal, Bullock-Houseman (M6, 1800m). Regular readers of the Insider will vividly remember our own gripping report on this incredible achievement. No? Really?! OK then, click here. 74 represent!

Chamonix's own Nick Bullock, Andy Houseman

Chang Himal (6802m) - Bullock-Houseman

Mikhail Mikhailov and Alexander Ruchkin
Gongga Peak, Carte Blance (6c free, mixed, 75˚ ice, 1100m)

Mikhail Mikhailov, Alexander Ruchkin

Gongga Peak (6134m) - Carte Blanche

Denis Urubko and Boris DedeshkoCho Oyu, Kazakh Dedeshko-Urubko (steep snow and ice, 6b, A2/A3, 2600m)

Boris Dedechko, Denis Urubko

Cho Oyu (8201m) – Kazakh Dedeshko Urubko

Jeb Brown, Kyle Dempster and Bruce NormandXuelian West, The Great White Jade Heist (ice 5, rock 5, M6, 2650m)

Jed Brown, Kyle Dempster, Bruce Normand

Xuelian West (6422m) – The Great White Jade Heist

Vitaly Gorelik and Gleb SokolovPic Pobeda, Sokolov/Gorelik (ED, 2400m)

Vitaly Gorelik, Gleb Sokolov

Brooklyn Decker - inexplicably overlooked for her contribution to alpinism.

Pic Pobeda (7439m) – Sokolov/Gorelik