Yeah, we can’t wait for winter either. Seeing the first snow dusting on the peaks sends the anticipation levels through the roof right?! Well, here’s some stoke from last spring to calm your nerves.
In May 2012, Jones team rider Luca Pandolfi repeated a line on Mount Maudit in Chamonix that had only been snowboarded by one other party. The horror show line is called the Brenva Shoulder and it drops into the Brenva basin towards Italy coming from the Aiguille Du Midi. The line casually meanders below a bunch of death seracs on its way to the glacier below. Even the seemingly fearless Pandolfi was moved by the gravity of the line and he wrote up a cool report about the experience. Check it out:
What a line!!! It’s steep, sustained and constantly exposed to huge serac falls, not to mention it’s located in one of the most wild and scary corners of the Mont Blanc massif: the Brenva basin.
The Brenva Shoulder was first skied by the extreme ski guru Pierre Tardivel in July 1988 with a heli-drop. It was first snowboarded in 2006 by a Finnish party. There is no info about any snowboard repetitions since.
Dropping into the Brenva side from the top is a pretty intense experience, one of those moments when you ask yourself some serious questions. A few minutes after dropping in I found myself talking to the massive seracs hanging above our heads. Looking at this line from Helbronner I hadn’t realized the massive scale of the seracs and cliffs; it is much more impressive to be in it that just look at it from far away.
It was probably the scariest face I have ever snowboarded. A couple of times I told myself, ”How ridiculous is it to snowboard here? If you die you just deserve it!”
I really believe in quantum physics and I think that talking to a big piece of ice might help sometimes. Riding this line I really felt the respect for the mountain, the fear and the infinite smallness of my being. It was one of those moments in which the probability of survival was only minimally related to my own actions. For roughly 40 minutes of our lives, we were in the hands of divine providence.
The snow was a bit sketchy, but perfectly ride-able. We slept at the top station of the Aiguille du Midì and left early morning. Walking down the airy Midì ridge at night with a board on my back and a strong and gusty north-west wind was quite the wake up!
We went up the 3 Monts route, thru a pretty broken and tricky Mont Blanc du Tacul and up the Mont Maudit shoulder. Our friend Brendan couldn’t join us the night before so he came up with the first bin in the morning. We saw him from the Fourche bivy dropping alone into the line. We were pretty worried because he was quite late but he made it thru safely. Glad he did!
I didn’t take many pictures because I was busy talking to the seracs so thanks to Tom Grant, Ben Briggs and Cedric Bernardini for the shots!
- Luca Pandolfi