It snowed a bit 2 days ago and the whole of the top of the Grands Montets mountain (highest point the Aiguille Vert - 4121m) was closed. The subsequent night it was raining down in the valley and freezing level had dropped to around 2100m. Meaning snow - and lots of it higher up. So gorblimey, we had a full-on powder day at the beginning of May. After having had the "no more snowboarding this season" talk with various friends over the past few weeks it was just too much to resist.
I got a call from Mark at All Mountain Performance who I could hear grinning down the phone and he said he'd meet me at the bottom of the Grands Montets mountain to have a bit of a session. Mark's good, very good, so I was a bit nervous but we've ridden together a bunch before and to be honest it's just a buzz when there's powder on the ground and blue skies.
We pitched up to Les Grands Montets to an extremely quiet car park and jumped straight on the cable car. A swift change of cablecars halfway up the mountain to get to the very top was in order and with all the tourists gone it was only locals on the hill meaning lots of friends to bump into. No queues whatsoever anywhere on the hill but waiting in a cablecar Mark bumped into Jan - a french pro skier he knows who was James Bonds' skiing stunt double for The World is Not Enough. Alrighty - very cool. He was a really nice guy too and we ended up talking for quite a while.
The top station at the Grands Montets - not for the faint-hearted.
The top of the Grands Montets was really good - dropping into untracked powder, jumping the cornice at the top, fast turns sending up curtains of pow. An awesome first run. The good snow was only really at the top so we went round again and got to the top cablecar seeing friends littering the mountain all whooping and cheering with glee much like Mark and myself.
When we arrived at the top and walked down the metal steps, we saw that no-one had yet climbed the Petit Vert, the second summit of the mountain. It was a pure white powder field sitting on top of the glacier. There was no discussion, we got straight into mountaineering mode and I strapped my board to my rucksack and got some liquids close to hand took off my jacket got ready for some hard work. We set off up the snow slope carefully walking around the shallow dips that often give away the presence of crevasses underneath.
It's hard hiking through thigh-deep snow at above 3300m (10,827 feet). But we made good progress looking around in wonder and awe at the amazing landscape we were hiking through. We were gutted to have forgotten the camera but luckily a mate, Kevin, had arrived with his at the bottom after we had climbed up and started snapping away. All the photos in this blog posting are his from his Flickr account so thanks, Kev!). This is the first photo he took with Mark (on the right) and I sitting down underneath the bergschrund (the snow wall behind us). We spent a while just simply admiring the view having a drink and some chocolate.
We're quite far away so you might need to click on the photo to see it properly. You can see our tracks leading up the left hand side.
Kevin managed to get a close-up of us under the bergschrund (Mark on the right).
It looks cool there, but being up there was just incredible. We're both pretty fit so we recovered from the climb quickly and were looking out at the view, plotting the lines down in a completely untracked powder field.
Here's the sequence of photos coming down. I do disappear behind a ridge in the middle however.
Kev even managed to get a photo blasting down the front face a little further down the mountain.
Incredible day really. It was good to ride well and make the most of it - Mark commented a couple of times how well I was riding - praise indeed! Lower down the mountain I threw a load of 360's and landed every one solidly. It really lifted me up and I've been hammering away at work today, it's really lifted my mood and got me being productive and focused. The whole thing was just great both physically and mentally and will stay with me for many years to come.