Chardonnet Peak, 3824m

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Photos Credit : Nils Nielsen and Liv Sansoz

Chamonix is an awesome place where most climbers, skiers and outdoor lovers would love to live there. But unique and amazing also means very crowded. Finding a great place for a climbing or a skiing day without anybody else is sometimes a bit tricky.

Where to find a bit of adventure and tranquility when you only got the day? Together with Nils we thought of the Chardonnet peak, a nice summit we can see from everywhere down in the valley and on which none of us had been. Nils suggested an interesting way to climb and ski it, different that most people do. We got a plan!

So here we go, heading to the Grands Montets lift to reach the Argentière Bassin. After the ritual of the bin and the “hard bad” snow to ski down to the glacier we take the direction of the Chardonnet with no one either before or behind us (it will not last, the first groups to the Chardonnet pass will eventually show up… ) All this with an amazing point of vieux on the Verte peak, the Grande Rocheuse and the Droites face.


From there, we skin up toward the Chardonnet pass, on a typical spring morning hard snow. This year, I decided to reduce the size of my skis and the weight of my gear. Except for the few really good powder days, I have done all my alpine days with the Rocca Freebird, 75 under foot, and I had lots of fun and lots of confidence with a small but real ski. Same thing with the boots, I now use the Syborg a lot that weight less than a paire of Baturas… after a few times you get use to ski them just like any bigger boots.


The wind is blowing on the plateau and I’m glad we are getting inside the South-East couloir that seems protected. As its orientation means it, we are in full sun and the snow is already quite wet and heavy. But there is already a good track that makes the ascent easier and we’re gaining elevation at a good pace. The scenery is very Alpine but friendly, with the white of the snow and the beautiful orange granit. Below are a few pictures of Nils and myself.

The beginning of the couloirIMG_3111

A few short crossing to release the calves without slowing down…

Eventually, we are getting close to the summit…

Those couloirs are always longer that what we believe and that’s exactly how Gaston Rébuffat said, “the already steep terrain straightened again”… It became that steep that we had to get the rope out for the last 20 meters, steeper and with a really sugary snow that made the progression delicate. One small climbing step (or two or three) to get out of there and we finally reach the Forbes ridge.


An icy wind greets us at the exit of the couloir and my wet gloves from the hike up in the sun and wet snow freeze in two seconds, taking the closed form of my hands on the ice axes. There is some more sugary snow to climb on the ridge that does not make me feel comfortable. I have to stay concentrated on the feet for the traverse that leads to the summit.


No time nor desire to stop for too long on the summit, the wind is cold and some clouds are coming. We’ll wait for the tea and cookies… Nils is running in front and I barely got to snap a shot on the sharp ridge…

The descent is really nice with ridge first, then some snowy shoulders, a bit of route finding, a bit of anchors testing (two abseils to reach behind the Adams Reilly pass). Finally we reach the glacier of the Tour, one last abseil to get away from a big bergschrund and we can ski again! The descent at first still request some attention because of the crevasses but then the terrain get more flat with no crevasses and we can really enjoy our descent all the way down to the village of the Tour.
It was a sweet alpine day, a day like I like them!


The Chardonnet peak, a really nice summit on which I’ll come back with pleasure. Thanks for the little taste of adventure shared with my favorite man ;)IMG_3107

Happy New Year!

2014 had been amazing and I can’t wait to make the best out of 2015 :)
Wishing to everyone a Fantastic New Year, filled with Happiness, beautiful Emotions, true Friendship and magical moments in the Mountains!

In 2015 Live, Love and Elevate yourself!

Below is a small retrospective of 2014 in 12 relevant photos :)
(Click on the photo to get to know more)

Grandes Jorasses, back at it…

This fall saw unique conditions on lots of North faces and serious climbs in the Alps. The Grandes Jorasses was not the only one face to climb but when Rémi came up with the idea to go climb another route on this mythical face I was psyched. Funnily enough, I had just spent two weeks at sea level, walking with flip flops in the warmth of Turkey during the Petzl RocTrip so I was not sure how I’d feel in the cold and at altitude, but as always there is no answer to those questions until you go for it. So, we went for it…

The idea was to bivy at the base of the face and climb the combination of the Slovenian route finishing up with the Eperon Croz route. The plan B was to climb the Couzy-Desmaison further right on the Pointe Marguerite if other parties were already on the Slovenian/Croz route. We hiked up on a Friday at lunch time under a perfect blue-bird sky to the base of the face. One other party was already there but we had the feeling we would start before them and did not worry about having them above us on the route.

We started to climb at 1:20am and climbed the first two thirds of the route at night. Rémi climbed first through the bergschrund in good style making it look easy. I had no idea until it was my turn how tricky it was. I struggled. I did not like to lose time here at the beginning of a long day. It was only in an unconventional way that I could pass it and we could keep going. Rémi was climbing really fast, completely immersed in his element. I felt a little bad with leading and being slower. But it was great to sea how things can be done and learn from someone with amazing skills.  
The whole climb was a fun and great experience. And I’m definitely looking forward to climbing some other routes on this attractive and impressive face ;)

A little taste of Turkey

It’s been a few years since I’ve been on the Petzl RocTrip. In fact, it’s been a few years since I’ve really sport climbed at all. This autumn the Petzl RocTrip headed to a string of different locations in Eastern Europe, finishing its happy journey in Turkey.
Turkey sounded very appealing. Perfect limestone, three dimensional climbing, big holds on steep walls, warm and sunny weather and new crags for me. All good ingredients for having a fun trip. The areas of Geyikbayiri, Citdibi and Olympos did not disappoint. It’s all good lines and nice scenery. As usual, the Petzl crew had great spirit, high energy and parties went well all over the place. It was fun to hang out a little bit with friends I don’t get to see that often anymore. If sport climbing does not bring me the same emotions I get in the mountains it still means lots of fun, good internal fights, good people and lots of happiness. It felt really good to move freely on the rock again, try, fall, send, try something harder, and so on. Climbing is magical :)

Special thanks to my good friend Jack for teaming up the last two weeks. It’s been good chats, good laughs and great climbing days. I’ll remember for a long time how Jack warmed up on a 7c+ thinking it was a 6c+ and many more hilarious moments. And above all I’m thankful for his catch on an unexpected fall at a first bolt. Broken holds can happen anywhere. It was a stark reminder the belayer must always be ready. 

Massive thanks Petzl for the great organization and all the good times. You guys rock!

Sweet little combo on the Grandes Jorasses

When I moved to Chamonix three years ago and saw all those paragliders in the sky it was not long before I started to fly myself. What made me wanting to fly was the possibility to mix up climbing and flying. It has always made me dreaming. And it’s great to have dreams ;)

In between a few injuries, work and expeditions I managed to mix up some easy alpine climbs with paragliding. It has always been fun and I was really looking forward to try on something bigger or more difficult. Together with my good friend Mika we’ve been speaking to do something on the Grandes Jorasses a year ago already. But matching the weather, the wind, the climbing conditions and our own schedules was not easy.

It was a secret for nobody, this year, the Grandes Jorasses were in amazing conditions. Naturally the idea of climbing and flying off this mythical face came back. The tricky part was that I had spent my months of July, August and September working behind a screen, sitting on planes and cars. It was not the 2 hours of running here and there that would have made me feel fit for such a big face at this altitude. Even though the conditions were excellent and made the Grandes Jorasses routes easier to climb, it stays a long and serious face that I would not underestimated. But the desire was here. I wanted to climb on this face and fly off it. My mindset changed, from “I’ve done nothing this summer” to “I can do it”. I knew I would not be a rocket for climbing but I knew I’ll be good and safe enough.

Finally a new weather window came, matching Mika and I schedule. We had to take a few decisions. What route? Where will we take off? One day or two days? The wind was supposed to be North, North West so we thought our best option would be to take off from the Col des Jorasses on the right side (climber’s right) of the North Face. It brought us to the choice of the route : Mika suggested to do “Rêve éphémère d’alpiniste” on the Young Peak. It seemed to be the perfect route for us : a bit shorter than the Colton, close enough to the Col des Jorasses and the probability to see other parties was really low. Below is a picture from Julien Desecures that shows the route we climbed and down right of it, the Col des Jorasses from where we took off.


The first step was to reach the Leschaux hut. I was a bit anxious. We had to take off on the north side of the Aiguille du Midi which I find committing. You have to do it right or you die. My other concern was about the landing. We did not know where we would land on the glacier neither in which way the wind would blow. Down the glacier or up hill? Would it be rocky and uneven with holes and hard ice? With those questions – and the different ways to deal with the situation – in minds, Mika and I took off from the Aiguille du Midi at lunch time. The wind was light, coming from the North. Right after the take off we turned right to pass over the Col du Plan and got above the Vallée Blanche. We “dropped” our heavy bags full of gear and food with a long sling attached to the risers and headed straight, without a turn, toward the Leschaux Glacier. We flew over the Leschaux hut and landed both a little fast but at least next to each other and without hitting a rock or putting the feet on a hole. I was relieved.

Just landed and happy :) On the background you can see the base of the North Face of the Grandes Jorasses Mika_Geroni

We could have done the approach and the ascent in one day by taking the Aiguille du Midi first bin at 8:30 am. But we did not wanted to have to feel any time pressure. I had never climbed on this face before and I really wanted to enjoy all of it without any performing and rushing minds. I like climbing mountains because they are beautiful and it makes me happy. So we spent the afternoon at the Leschaux hut, embracing the view. I was feeling small and excited. The North Face of the Grandes Jorasses was enchanting and all the lines very attractive.

Feeling small, excited and happy The day after we started the climb with the day light. There was maybe 25+ climbers on the face but nobody on our route. It was a perfect blue bird day, not too cold, not windy. One of those days I like. The climb was nice, not too hard and more varied on top.

Mika, fast, efficient and happy

My turn to lead Mika_Geroni

When we got closer to the top we saw the clouds coming from Italy on the South side and we realised we had to rush. We did not go all the way up to the Young peak. We traversed right, Abseiled down and reached the Col des Jorasses. No drinking, no photos, no relaxing time. We had to hurrry up, packed the climbing gear as fast as possible and unpacked the canopies. The clouds were on us. The wind was not coming from the North anymore but from the South although we had some small cycles coming form the North. Mika helped me to take off during one of those short windows. I kept watching behind seeing his canopy going up and then down and up again. The South wind got stronger and it was a bit of a struggle for him to take off even though he is a much better pilot than I am. Finally I saw him in the sky. Phew!

Magical lights and clouds

The atmosphere was almost magnetic. The flight back home was stunning with the clouds, the lights, the big face just behind and the crevassed glacier of Mt Mallet underneath. I had never flight in this area and once again I was amazed by the beauty of the peaks, ridges and glaciers around me. It is such a fantastic terrain!

Above the Mt Mallet Glacier

Reaching the Mer de Glace in between clouds

I’m publishing the photo below to share the “drop bag” beta Mika showed me. Flying with a heavy bag pack full of gear is tough on the shoulders and not so pleasant. Dropping the bag is way more fun. So here is what we did : before to take off, add a long sling (120cm) in the lock biners of the risers. On the back pack put another long sling holding the two shoulder straps and connect the two slings with a lock biner, paying attention with the risers. When you drop your bag, you want it to go underneath you, not around one of your riser. And obviously it has to be even. The last thing is that the back pack should not be too far low. For piloting and for landing it’s better to have the back pack between the knees and feet.

The drop bag beta to make the flight even more enjoyable ;)

Below is a rough drawing of the two flights we did for those who are interested. Flying saved us four hours of walking to the Leschaux hut on the first day (Aiguille du Midi – Leschaux Glacier) and six hours or more of hiking down on the second day (Col des Jorasses – Chamonix). Plus, it was fun! Flying Map

Regarding the gear… the lighter, the more fun… I fly with an Ultralight 3 in 19m2 and I have a Neo String. In total it adds 2345grs to the normal climbing gear. But it really worth it. The ultralight is very compactable and I could fit in my Scrambler (30 liters) everything. I’m amazed by all the improvement the gear has seen in the last 3 years in term of weight and reliability. The Laser Speed light, the Sirocco, the new Baturas, the Ghost Whisperer and the Ultralight and Neo are great examples.

Overview of the gear

But the most important… it’s not what we do that counts. It’s with whom we do it. Sharing the experience, sharing the adventure with one of my good friends is of more value than the climb or the summit itself. Thanks a lot Mika for roping, flying, laughing and rushing together. It was a great one! IMG_1843