Posted by: citizenski | July 19, 2007

First ski descent of Rochefort Ridges, Mont Blanc.




First ski descent of Rochefort Ridges/ Mont Blanc Massif by P. TARDIVEL and J. JANODY.

P. TARDIVEL on LQ 170 DYNASTAR mountaineering ski prototypes, shares his feelings about steep skiing; a dream has become reality!

North face of Rochefort ridges 3900m- First ski descent by P. TARDIVEL, J. JANODY and F. GUIGNARD- 500m ED : 50°, 1 rappel of 40m, 5.5- E4.

P. TARDIVEL, J. JANODY (with F. GUIGNARD): the DYNASTAR duo shares their experience with us.
N face of Rochefort ridges 3900m/ FRANCE, June 2, 2007.

By P. TARDIVEL

An old dream — We can see the face from the “Mer de Glace”. Hundreds of extreme skiers dream of the steep, windward face while they ski the “Vallée Blanche”. I always thought we’d have to wait for a “monsoon spring” and amazing snowfall –conditions I have often known in my skiing career; though previously my descents were easier to find and watch. Under those circumstances we would devote one day to walk back up the “Mer de Glace” to check out the face, though this June the “Vallée Blanche” was no longer climbable.

Finally I found a solution to take a look at the face: on an IGN map, I drew a course with a ruler from Rochefort Ridges, went across “Les Gorges de la Mer de Glace” and on to “Aiguilles Rouges”.

This spring I watched with my binoculars a couple of times to keep an eye on the snowfall evolution. I was really excited, thanks to my weather report!

J. Janody, my closest extreme skiing friend was available. We included his friend, an excellent skier and climber, Florian GUIGNARD from Chamonix.

Goal: The normal route for climbing Rochefort Ridges. We would never have thought to climb the face walking below the serac and planned to reach it from the top. After quickly passing the “Col du Géant”, we used skins for a half hour of mountaineering. The North face, very steep, was still in the shade which made it easier to cross Rochefort Ridges.

After this famous ledge, we put our skis on for a couple of turns which brought us to the table above the serac. We kept going on good snow. The June sun made the face nice and smooth. From the summit, we had a serious descent. First turns on hard snow are difficult. We approached the couloir along the serac and discussed our options: we decided to rappel.

40m below, we balanced on icy snow to take off our crampons and put on skis: a delicate exercise where we had to concentrate. We quickly gained confidence and 100m below we started our freeride session, at high speeds with vast distance to stop. I proposed a “technical variant” (we would have avoided this if we had seen it first!); we crossed a small rock on our skis while hanging on with ice axes. Below us, 150m of steep skiing! We had to pass a crevasse… then land, decompression, relief! We turned around to check out the terrain we climbed: it’s insane!

Because of the warm temperatures, we choose to ascend with skins to the right of the “Vallée Blanche” and take the cable-car, instead of skiing the avalanche prone slopes of “Point Yeld” which had good skiing until 2400m. From there it became icy at the “Mer de Glace”. Below 2000m, you have to take off and carry your skis and walk through rock in your boots. We made it to the train 5 min before it closed!

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