Jones rider Julien ’Pica’ Herry and his riding partner Davide Capozzi have had an incredible spring in the Alps. These two bad ass snowboard alpinists laid tracks down six serious lines in the past two months - four first descents, one first snowboard descent and one second snowboard descent!
Here’s thoughts from Julien about riding steep new lines and details on all his recent alpine adventures:
First Descent by Julien Herry, Davide Capozzi and Francesco Civra Dano
It was not a great season for steep riding in the Mont Blanc area this year so it forced me to go and look for good snow a bit farther from home. I really enjoyed discovering new places with new lines to ride. An e-mail from my Swiss friend Manu, with a picture showing the West face of the Matterhorn took me to Zermatt. The obvious line starting from 3900 meters at the Dents de Zmutt seemed to be in good condition so we raced a weather window to give it a try.
Julien in his element on the Matterhorn. Photo - Davide Capozzi
We used the lifts up to Schwarzsee and after a short run down, put skins on and hiked up the long valley, meeting many groups finishing the Haute Route. We had to cross two big bergschrunds to climb the couloir. The pitch was quiet sustained, between 45 and 50 degrees, and we climbed it fast on hard snow. We stopped 20 meters under the Zmutt ridge because of a steep rockband. The snow was a bit hard on the first part but slowly got better and softened while going down this long wild toboggan run. Two short rappels got us over the bergschrunds safely and around 4 pm we were back on the flat glacier. It seems surprising that nobody skied this line before with this short and easy access, nevertheless local Swiss and Italian skiers had never heard about any previous descent. Anyway first descent or not, it was a pleasure to ride this 800 meter line on such a mythical mountain.
4/11/2014 - Tersiva - North East Face
Second Descent by Julien Herry and Davide Capozzi
The NE face of Tersiva is an impressive sight from the Aosta Valley in Italy. It was surfed and skied for the first time in June 2013 by two Piedmonte locals. A 15km approach and 2200 meters of climbing brought us to the 3517m summit in seven hours. We were very tired dropping in but happy to find good snow. The start is very steep for about 150 meters then mellows out on to a large ramp before one or two technical passages down low. We found almost perfect conditions all the way to the valley but returning to the car at the bottom was super physical and the most tiring part of the day.
Julien ripping the NE face of Tersiva in perfect alpine pow. Photo - Davide Capozzi
Davide Capozzi and I know each other really well now and usually have the same motivations. I keep an eye on the conditions on the French side of the Mont Blanc and Davide is an expert of the Italian side. Davide has a lot of free time in the winter and is always ready to go and check the conditions by himself and bring back precious pictures of different faces. He has been the principal motivator for the descents we made this winter and he is happy with me leading the technical climbing parts. Thank you Davide for the amazing company on this line. It was an another amazing Italian adventure!
Julien and Davide below the Matterhorn. Photo - Francesco Civra Dano
4/9/2014 - Aiguille de Talèfre - SE Ridge
First descent by Julien Herry, Davide Capozzi and Francesco Civra Dano
The SE face of Aiguille de Talefre is located above the Triolet glacier, in front of the Dalmazzi mountain hut. This area is rarely visited in the winter because of the long approach. We climbed the face on a windy day just after a little snowfall and had to deal with a few spindrifts on the lower part. Then the climb got easier and safer on the ridge with an amazing view of the North faces of the Greuvetta and Grandes Jorasses.
Julien ascending the SE ridge.
A first descent is like resolving a problem, finding the best way and the right conditions to ride the line. Sometimes it comes easily - you see a line and ski it in the following hours or days. Sometimes it takes years and many attempts. Other times it doesn’t work out but all those hours spent dreaming about a line are some of the most exciting of the season. The best thing about a first descent is that you’re sure to be alone in your run. This is quite a luxury with the new internet generation. No matter where you go, once you make tracks, people will follow you.
Davide negotiates a steep crux on the SE ridge. Photo - Julien Herry
Unfortunately the last section to the summit was a bit dry so we decided to start from a shoulder on the summit ridge. It was time to go down before it gets to warm. After the first technical ridge, the slope got wider but the snow was sliding in large thin slabs which became big avalanches at the bottom of the face. It was not that dangerous for us but it left a very hard layer to ride on. The snow got softer on the lower, steeper part and we were happy to be back on the flat glacier by midday. The line was about 600 meters long and between 35 and 45 degrees, with a few steeper steps.
3/31/2014 - Grivola - SE Face. Nera Grivola - East Face
Second Descent (First Snowboard Descent) of Grivola SE Face and First Descent of East Face of Nera Grivola by Julien Herry, Luca Rolli and Davide Capozzi.
Grivola is one of the most beautiful mountains in the Gran Paradiso massif. When Davide showed me a picture of the SE face a few weeks ago the project started to germinate in our heads. We started the climb at 3:15 am from the refuge Vittorio Sella. The line had pretty good snow despite a hard bottom. The 360 degree unobstructed view from the top was magnificent. We thought about Remy Lecluse who had completed the first descent of this face as his final descent into the beautiful Alps before dying in the Himalayas.
Julien takes over the lead. Photo - Davide Capozzi
The Carbon Solution works great for touring on hard snow and is really light on your back when climbing. And most importantly, it rides really well on the way down. It is super efficient on hard snow which is enjoyable in the steep couloirs but also on any terrain. But you must stay awake, it is a very responsive board.
Julien drops into the face of Grivola riding the Carbon Solution. Photo - Davide Capozzi
We quickly descended the first third of the face in cold snow that was rather easy to surf. A steep crossing on hard snow accessed the second part of the face. The snow stayed hard and the outlet channel was steep forcing us to side slip a bit. We rested for awhile at the bottom of the line and then skinned up to the top of the Nera Grivola. We expected a nice little descent of the East face (400m 40/45 degrees) but it was not so easy. Thankfully the amazing hut keeper was watching us make the descent and had cold beers waiting for us when we arrived!
3/19/2014 - Les Apôtres - NE Face - Voie Scirocco
First Descent by Julien Herry and Davide Capozzi
Davide and I left Lillaz village at 3am to start the long skin up to the NE face of Les Apôtres. We got to the bottom of the face at the first light of day and started climbing the virgin face we had seen in a friends picture who had been there two days before. The first half was not too steep, 40 to 45 degrees, but the top part was much steeper and exposed. The snow was good but pretty shallow and rocky so dropping in we made our turns carefully.
Davide races the sun. Photo - Julien Herry
Riding full speed on big wide slopes is not my favorite style of riding. I much prefer doing slalom runs in the trees or short turns on a steep terrain. When you climb and then ride a long technical line you enjoy every step on the way up and every turn on the way down. It also keeps you occupied all day in a place that you love, far from the busy resorts.
The snow was deeper on the lower part of the line so we moved fast before the snow got too warm. We called this first descent Scirocco because of the sandy yellow snow we could see everywhere.