Jones Ambassador Guide Liz Daley has been living and shredding around Chamonix, France for the past couple months. Here’s the lowdown from Liz about two of her favorite splitboard tours this season:
I’ve been wanting to ride the Epaule du Tacul this entire season. I rode it for the first time last season and it’s one of my favorite lines in Cham. It’s pure freeride (except for one small rappel in the middle). I’ve heard a couple horror stories of this line ripping out huge, so it always makes me a bit nervous especially with the blind powdery convex rollover at the top. If this rips there’s no hope for you. It’s in the middle of the Mer de Glace at the junction of the Leschaux and the Tacul Glaciers so it’s exposed to lots of weather and wind slabs can form easily. The line isn’t super steep as you ride down the clearly defined, wide ridge, but the line has tons of exposure with each side dropping down 4,000 feet below you. It’s not the steepness that’s the main hazard in this line but snow conditions, sluff management and sharks getting to the rappel. Route photo by www.tobiasgranath.com
Stoked to get out with Paulie for this mission (fellow splitboarder) we set off from the Midi to send it. I thought we’d be breaking trail to the top but lucky for us there was a vrai extreme ski randonnée frenchman in front of us. Both his skis were as big as one of ours so we broke the other half of the track I guess, haha. Thanks anyway mystery dood! As we approached the bootpack we see two others catching up to us and it was Ben Briggs and Brendan, another splitter! They were off to ride something much more extreme but apparently it wasn’t in condition… and for these two it must have really not been in condition.
Brendan approaching the top.
The blind rollover at the top scared the shit out of me. If it had been just Paulie and I, I’d have probably had him belay me over the convexity and stomped around in there a bit. The snow felt really good but there was a lot of it and this isn’t a spot you want to rip. It would mean certain death.
But vrai extreme ski randonnée mystery frenchman was eager to open it. I watch him disappear over the rollover. Brendan got to a spot where he could see him and he said it looked good. Ben disappeared then Brendan, then I got up a bit to watch Paulie shred it. It’s always a relief to get over the rollover and see that it’s not that steep, is super wide and the snow is ideal.
Paulie rips it.
Getting to the rappel can be kind of tech because of route finding and sharks, but we managed. A short rappel then another 1,500 feet of freeride down the open 35 degree moraine.
Then for the scooch out the Mer de Glace.
I love this line. Super beautiful and really fun, cuz that’s what it’s all about right?
My friends Caroline Gleich and KT Miller were in town so we decided to head out for a two day trip. Our route started in Courmayeur, Italy, traversed the Domes de Miage and then finished with a ride down the Armancette glacier into Contamine, France - a 33 km journey.
Team of perfect proportions we were, 3:3 chicks to dudes, Americans to Brits, skiers to splitters. We were inherently dialed for success.
After 5 hours of side-hilling and a slight route finding error we arrived at the Robert Blanc hut. I drank some vin rouge and chopped wood. Chris fixed the broken window. Paulie told inappropriate jokes in a funny british accent. KT got the shot. Caroline giggled. Tom ate our dinner. And Daddy Yankee serenaded us over my jambox.
Tom Grant and his general bad-assery inside the Robert Blanc Hut.
Climbed up to the Col des Glaciers in the am and rode down 1,500 ft of epic snow. Not sure how the wind and sun didn’t damage this slope. Paulie didn’t turn, once. Then up the Tre la Tete glacier to the Domes.
Caroline tells epic stories of Equadorian volcanoes while Tom talks Cham steeps.
As we approached the ridge a couple were retreating because of the consistent strong wind with occasional violent gusts. This titillated the desire for adventure as we came closer to the ridge, making it seem a bit more exposed than it already was. It was hard not to au cheval at some stages on this walk as the wind was tres fort. Wouldn’t have wanted to tomahawk down the gnarly N face (which are some classic steep routes later on in the spring but 100% not in now).
Tom sends the firm windboard off the summit.
The 9,000 ft descent into Contamine encompassed about every snow condition imaginable. Firm windboard>soft sastrugi>POW!>cream cheese>total mank>icy cat track>dirt. Thankfully we had an hour until the bus took us to the train back to Chamonix so we could stuff our faces with pain au chocolate, chips, beers and pizza.
We saw some epic alpenglow on the way home to Chamonix.
Check out more trip reports from Liz on her blog: