Ski touring and valley cragging in Chamonix

For the first time on this trip we have a visitor!out friend Colin flew over and met us in Cham, we put him up in the five star spare room in the van, also known as the front seats, and decided on a few places to visit. We first took a trip to Les Gaillands, as it was next to where we were parked, and also it was the first time in a couple of years that Colin had climbed, so a refresher was in order! We climbed a few routes, practicing skills and slowly building the grade, leaving the crag with two 6a leads under our belts. That afternoon we continued to climb at the same place, and I had an absolute mare at the top of one of the routes, and just lost all psych.

The next day we started with a walk into town, as jess had some work to do, and me and col just meandered through the outdoor shops of Cham. Oh if I had the money I would be dressed up like a rainbow of fancy gear! We also booked our ski touring kit for the next day, and as we had no idea about ski touring we hit up the WiFi and started watching videos on YouTube on everything from how to use the bindings, skin your skis to doing kick turns. By the end of our video binge session I think we had an inclination of what we were doing.

That afternoon we climbed again at Servoz, me and jess had recently climbed there and were not to fused by it, although we did some new routes, most of which were good value for money. This place is quite steep with juggy holds, and the final route, a 6b up the left hand side roof was tough going, and I rested quite a few times as I best worked out everything from feet, body position and the next holds. It was a fine way to end the day! We parked that night at the crag and got ready for an early morning to collect our skiing stuff!

The service at Sanglard was spot on, they shown us how to use everything, and took care to make sure we had the right sized and fitting equipment. In no time at all we were out of the shop and on our way to Le Tour. We planned to follow a ski touring path that made its way up either side of the ski lifts, I think this is used as a training route mostly, and so would suit three newbies like us just fine. At the foot we skinned up and set our ski and boots to walk mode, ensuring everything was ok before setting off. It was a bit weird at first, however being on gradual slopes made the transition easier. I felt like I took to the motion well, it felt quite natural.

On our way to the first lift station, we were making our way up the piste as the path was closed, and on a steeper section I started to feel a little insecure, and felt I should have taken the easier route that I had passed earlier. I felt as though I was at the peak of my skins ability to hold me on the slope. Unfortunately for jess and col, they followed me and jess ended up having a bit of a walk, as her skis would not stick on such steep slopes. So our first lesson was learnt, we knew how steep we could go with skins on.

We stopped for lunch mid way, and the cracked on up and right, this felt a bit more realistic, similar to what I was expecting. Jess had quite a bit of trouble when skiing up steeper and off angled slopes compared to me and Colin, and it was taking quite a bit of time, however we were all there to learn, and soon enough we had climbed the steepest terrain and was on the undulating slopes to the top lift station.

Here we all went through the reverse motion of taking skins off, and resetting our skis to alpine mode. This also set the tone for lesson number two of the day, teaching Colin how to ski down hill. I don’t think it’s normal to learn to ski from the top of the mountain, however that’s what we were here to do. We took a long winding blue down, and went through the steps of pizza through to parallel. We managed to get a button lift up, and get another blue route in, and with each route Colin improved from total unknown to beginner. The only way to the valley from here is on a red route, and so we continued down this, and again Colin improved more and more. I think he was kicking himself a little at times for not being good enough, however to ski a red as your third ever slope is not bad going. One last funny moment came when col face planted it as the finish, giving everyone round to see a laugh. The day was finished with high fives all around, it was a day of learning fir all, and it had been a good one!

We rushed into town to return the skis, and as soon as we had parked up walked toward town and treated ourselves to an awesome burger and a beer at the MBC. I think we will be leaving Chamonix now, however this was a pretty sweet way to end another visit here!

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