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French Alps - Back in one piece... (See the Gallery Photos)

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wormly81

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It was January 3rd around 10 am and I was getting in a quick nap during final approach to Geneva Airport. I awoke to the hiss of the hydraulic landing gear and was quickly greeted to my first view of the Alps...

A few hours spent in an Airport Transfer Service van brought me to the tourist office in Val Disere. As funny as it sounds, the first feeling I got was that of Jackson Wyoming; this is where the uber wealthy come to buy prada skis and gucci goretex. The town was overrun with Brits on holiday (Also known as Brits on the Piss) but had a nice french flair to many of the town businesses (French flair means that while you wait 10 minutes for your baguette you actually do get the feeling that by moving at half speed the boulangier clerk is doing you a huge favor).

Within 3 hours of arriving in Val D, I had unpacked, purchased my ski pass, and skied from one side of Val D to the opposite side of Tignes. As much research and questioning I had done in preparation for this trip, I was truely ignorant to just how fantastic the ski area was going to be.

The conditions were quickly deteriorating, but started off good. 3 days into the trip we were skiing mostly off piste to find better snow (it took time to transition between an avy newbie and a proficient off piste skier including several avalanche lectures and hours of field study), and by the second week all of our skiing was off piste (except for transportation between areas). Needless to say growing up in the Northeast does not expose one to alpine snow conditions where strength is paramount and big balls are king. The steep, narrow couloirs had me beat and gripped early in the week because I didnt have the confidence to point my skies down hill (way down hill) and suck up the harsh terrain. By the end of our 2 weeks in Val D, I had fallen down more couloirs than skied out, but I did have a few moments of brillance where my confidence and my skills meshed up perfectly to send a steep narrow chute with comfort and ease. I can still hear those girlish yelps and screams that were coming from my mouth when I started filling my potential...

Arriving in Chamonix was one of the greatest things ever. Being a climber, I had arrived in the mecca of climbing and was in awe of the mountains and the glaciers that seemed to be overhanging town. I got my first look at the Dru; a massive pillar of rock that has been and will continue to be my goal for the end of the 2005 climbing season.

2 days later I walked off the Aguille du Midi, a cable car accessed peak at 3700 meters. A short but committing ridge climb takes you down the backside into the Valley Blanche, a sea of snow, glaciated, very unhappy.... It was a very warm summer in Chamonix and winter had only brought one big dumping so the crevasses were unseasonably large and required the utmost concentration while moving very quickly. We arrived at the base of the Gervasutti Coulior on Mt Blanc de Tacul and got on belay. Unfortunately, the snow bridge crossing the crevasse at the bottom was completely collapsed. An hour of doing everything possible to cross the crevasse yielded no results and the easily climbed coulior on the other side laughed as we retreated back to the Midi. I quickly remembered that I was on Mountain time and that I was insignificant to the greater forces that be. Perhaps too much success during my climbing career has flawed my perspective of natures control over me; Chamonix truely helped remedy this problem...

A few days later the weather rolled in. The cable cars were all shut down so we hiked out to the Col du Montets to climb some freestanding ice pillars. A great trek (what a freaking hangover) took us to the ice climb where it was obviously not in condition to climb. After scraping off an inch of ice with the adze of an ice axe, I realized that again the Mountains dictated our agenda.

With the mountains still fuming and snow dropping about a foot a day, we finally got up the mountain on skis and put in some freshies down some pretty incredible couloirs high on the Brevant. I felt the fresh powder under my skis and made great runs with a very high level of confidence in the deep stuff. Unfortunately, we were still in the middle of a terrible blizzard and couldnt see anything other than the direction the couloir continued and perhaps a friend 100 meters ahead. I know I got some face shots in but then again, they werent any different from what I could see when the snow wasnt shooting over my head.

Well there you go. It was great. Anyone who loves the mountains needs to find a way to explore the Alps.

And Im spent.

Peace!

Jeff

(edited for clarity)
 

ChileMass

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Great report - I laughed reading your description of "developing your potential" as you learned to ski the couloirs......must have been fun!
 

ftrain

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I just got back from Chamonix yesterday. We skiied 6 days in that area and it was totally an amazing place. It is truely big mountain skiing. I will make a trip report over the next week or two.
 
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beswift

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The steep, narrow couloirs had me beat and gripped early in the week because I didnt have the confidence to point my skies down hill (way down hill) and suck up the harsh terrain. By the end of our 2 weeks in Val D, I had fallen down more couloirs than skied out
:roll: Now, seriously, wormly don't you think that instead of rushing into this experience you might have enjoyed it more if you had taken it on gradually with graded and guided tours through the French Guide Service? Notwithstanding your friend's good intentions, might you also have enjoyed the Piste skiing more for this first vacation of yours? Rather than getting dragged into such challenging terrain like a young child, could you not have been more satisfied with skiing these Pistes on your own?
 
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wormly81

Guest
Annoying and pointless banter

Beswift,

Your asinine remarks and off target assertions are a true testament to how little you heave learned in your 50+ years on this planet. Do you really think I would pay an incredible amount of money and travel to Europe to do something that I didnt want to do?

As per your question about whether it would be better to have done something else the answer is a resounding NO. French guide service this that and the other thing??? I prefer to be self sufficient even if it means I tolerate a higher risk profile (which by the way is still alot less risk than I assume on general mountaineering routes). I didnt travel to the Alps to ski past the best snowy couloirs, I went there to learn to ski them! (I thought that would be rather obvious)

You try and speak from knowledge yet all you know about those 3 weeks in the Alps I told you. Do you think that perhaps the best snow conditions in the Alps brought tons of people to the pistes in Val D? Was I interested in having someone else take me out while on this holiday?

Why dont you evaluate why you constantly bring a negative and unproductive viewpoint to every topic in the forum. I go back and read every one of my posts to get a good idea of what I contribute to an online forum and its blatantly obvious that you dont and could care less. Arent you embarrassed with that trail of nonsense you weave?

Sorry for the rant everyone, It just so happens that Beswift put his foot in his mouth again and I couldnt help but let him know.

Jeff

And P.S. a comment like "i fell out of more couloirs than skied out" was not meant to be taken in a literal sense. It was meant to indicate that there was a steep learning curve in moving from New England terrain but I should have realized that opinionated unknowledgable people like yourself would have something stupid to say.
 
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beswift

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Do you expect me to read a post which starts with a mis-spelled insult? You remind me of a guy I took camping in Wisconsin once.
 

Greg

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highpeaksdrifter said:
I wanted to see your pixs, but when I clicked gallery I only saw Northeast resorts pix books.
Click
 

thetrailboss

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Wormly--

I only perused the posting, but it reminds me of my visit to Switzerland. Despite what Beswift might say, I consider your report to be great! I look forward to reading it later today when I'm not as crazy! :wink:
 
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wormly81

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The Alps and such...

Ftrain: Cant wait to read your TR from Chamonix.

Highpeaks: Im working on getting some video online that makes that tricky couloir look like a bunny slope.

back to the grind..

Jeff
 

uphillklimber

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Wormly, you writing style brought me right there with you. Very descriptive!! Awesome trip report. Almost didn't need the pics, but I had to look anyways!

Brings back memories of our trip to the Zugspitze last year.

I gotta agree with you, while you didn't exactly say it, if anyone ever gets the chance, they oughta do it!
 

JimG.

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Very nice Jeff! Frankly, it looks like I could hire you guys to guide me when I decide to get over to France.
 
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beswift

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Sitting by the fire on my hearth, sipping Italian wine, eating Vermont cheese and munching Canadian crackers, please allow me the liberty of adding a little anecdotal wisdom to this thread. Now, mind you, I don't want to cover the experience of the French Alps which is quite awesome indeed. I want to comment on Trip Reports. Thirty five years ago in the summer I drove across the country solo to Colorado. This was my second drive across the plains, my third trip to the Far West. I took a detour up to Madison, Wisconsin and stayed for a week or so with an acquaintance from college. I arrived in Madison a few hours after the famous riots and bombing there during the Vietnam War. The city was filled with pepper and tear gas while empty of people. My former college buddy (he had dropped out of my school, had gone to U. of Maryland and then transferred to U. of Wisconsin) was sharing a place out beyond the lake. I crashed there for a few days, and then he came up with the idea of going camping for a while in the Apostle Islands up on Lake Superior. For your information there is skiing there with a lift service area named Mt. Ashwebay. The winter snows are heavy and it is pretty rugged country. However, this guy was the type of guy who wiped his dog's ass (that's the truth). Most of his life was spent in Washington, D.C., and little of it was spent in the outdoors. He figured that since I was his guest and had some solid back country experience, he would do something different relying on me. The drive up through the north country of Wisconsin went well. However, as soon as we started to rough it, he started to complain. For three days it didn't stop. His dog, believe it or not, was also a terrible companion in the woods. When we pitched our tent and hit the sack, it didn't stop whinning outside. This was summer, mind you, cool but bearable. The dog was afraid of the dark!!! It was one of those big white Japanese or Siberian dogs, too. Nevertheless, after three days of this, we returned to Madison. Lo and Behold, immediately upon arriving in that fair city and meeting up with this guy's friends, I heard him declare he had a wonderful time!!! He couldn't stop gushing about what an incrediblely good experience he had!!! Thank God he didn't take a Camera with him. That would have been too much.
 
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