Grand Capucin with Vanessa

During this end of May and beginning of June, a certain amount of time, energy and thoughts were dedicated to the next project of our friend Vanessa François: climbing the Grand Capucin in Chamonix, despite the fact Vanessa lost the use of her legs after a climbing accident. Not a small project to say the least! The Grand Capucin is a really aesthetic face of 400m high, reaching the height of 3838m. Climbing the Grand Capucin felt like a logical next step for Vanessa after her climb of Zodiac, on El Cap, Yosemite. And the whole group of friends around her was psyched to help and make this new project happened.

Climbing the Grand Capucin face is way different than climbing on El Cap. There is a glacier approach, the bergschrund, a wall not as steep as Zodiac, 400m of abseils, altitude and cold… And above all the need for a perfect stable weather for four to five days. With the Grand Capucin we are in the heart of high mountains, a place that is so important and special for Vanessa.

So here we were, into the preparations, training, brain storming, finding gear solutions and resolving logistical problems. And I promise, there was a lot of things to think of! Little by little we got better organised, but we also found out all the complexity of such an amazing project.  Little by little, and for many reasons we realised we would not go in june. Weather became suddenly really stormy and other factors led to the wise decision of having the project postponed for a few months. September is our new timing project now and it’s only two months away. During those two months we will still try new technics and get more and more efficient with some specific things we don’t do or use for a “normal” climb. Vanessa will go in altitude and will probably have a bivy or two.

Speaking of bivy, below is a nice little edit about a bivouac we did last september in order to prepare the Grand Capucin climb. It was a great adventure with a wonderful team of people. I hope you’ll enjoy it! :)

A week-end in Romsdalen, Norway

Yesterday was Norway’s national day and it remind me I wanted to share a few pic of a short trip in Norway, a couple of weeks ago. We escaped the pouring weather of Chamonix and headed to Romsdalen, an alpine valley that has everything from fjords, nice ski tours and the biggest northern wall, the Troll wall.

Sunset on the Troll Wall

The journey started with some driving up a bit North and West and a first stop at a small but fun local crag, called Bobleveggen. After a few pitches and tired forearms we headed to Isfjorden where we ended to a friendly concert at the Romsdal Lodge. A great way to start the week-end and meet some nice people!

Norwegian lights, good music and friendly people Romsdal_Lodge

We set up our goal for the following day after speaking with the locals and decided to head to the Vengetind Mountain. The snow was supposedly good, the terrain a bit steep and everyone said the Vengetind was a beautiful Mountain. At that time some thick clouds were hiding the mountain, so I did not know what to expect.

The next morning delivered a blue bird sky with no wind and eventually I got to see the steep summit of Vengetind. Quite nice indeed!

Nine people were already skining up on the flank of the mountain. Not ideal. And for a while we thought we might had to bail if we would not catch up with them before the steep part. We skinned up at a good pace looking at the impressive Troll Wall and the other mountains around. A first group of skiers skied another face of Vengetind and since we catched up with the other group we were less worried about a potential avalanche. In the end, we got to do the first tracks and first turns on an excellent, cold and fresh snow, enjoying a playful terrain on one of the most aesthetic mountains of Romsdalen. Not bad for a first ski day in Norway ;)

Thank you Norway and Gratulerer med dagen!

A few pic that tells more than words… (Photo credit : NILS NIELSEN & LIV SANSOZ)

Chardonnet Peak, 3824m

Version française ici
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

Aiguille du Chardonnet, 3824m

Englsih version here


Le Massif de Mont Blanc est un endroit unique, exceptionnel et pour moi toujours aussi incroyable, magique et surprenant. Endroit exceptionnel et facilité d’accès conduisent inévitablement à une grosse fréquentation. Quand on vit dans la vallée, une des difficultés est de trouver une course sympa à faire où il n’y aura (presque) personne.
Où trouver un peu d’aventure et de tranquillité à la journée? Avec Nils nous décidons de partir sur le Chardonnet, un sommet où nous n’avons jamais été ni l’un ni l’autre et de le faire d’une façon (je crois) peu habituelle. L’idée est de monter par le couloir Sud jusqu’au sommet. De là nous récupèrerions l’itinéraire de descente de l’arête Forbes puis les épaules enneigées orientées Ouest pour finalement prendre pied sur le glacier du Tour, derrière le col Adams Reilly.

Direction donc, en ce matin de mars, les Grands Montets pour rejoindre le bassin d’Argentière. Passé le rituel de la benne et de la neige béton pour descendre sur le glacier nous prenons la tangente en direction du Chardonnet avec personne ni devant ni derrière (cela ne durera pas, les premiers groupes pour le col du Chardonnet finiront par arriver…) et la vue qui va bien sur la Verte, la Grande Rocheuse et les Droites.


De là nous attaquons la montée sur neige dure en direction du Col du Chardonnet, en rive droite. Cette année j’ai opté pour redescendre en largeur de ski et en poids de matos. En dehors des quelques belles journées de poudre, je fais l’ensemble de mes sorties montagne avec les Rocca Freebird, 75 au patin, et je me suis régalée, avec un ski, qui skient, tout en confiance. Même chose pour les chaussures, les Syborg pèsent moins lourd que des Baturas… et l’on prend vite le coup de les skier.IMG_3108

Le vent souffle sur le plateau et je suis contente d’aller chercher le couloir Sud-Est qui semble protégé. Comme son orientation l’indique nous sommes plein cagnard. Il y a déjà une bonne trace de faite, cela facilite la montée et nous permet d’avaler rapidement du dénivelé. Le cadre est bien alpin, bien sympa, entre le blanc de la neige et le jaune/orangé du granit. Ci-dessous une petite série de photos de Nils et de moi-même.

Début du couloir, jusque là tout va bien ;)IMG_3111

Quelques courtes traversée pour relâcher les mollets sans mollir…IMG_3017

Finalement, on se rapproche du sommet…

Ces couloirs, c’est toujours plus long que ce que l’on croit et c’est exactement comme Gaston Rébuffat l’a dit, “la pente déjà raide se redressait encore”…. A tel point que l’on a du sortir la corde pour les 20 derniers mètres, raides et surtout en neige sucre qui rendait la progressions délicate. Un petit pas (voire deux ou trois) d’escalade pour se sortir de là et hop nous voilà sur l’arête Forbes.IMG_3018

Un vent glacial nous accueille à la sortie du couloir, les gants humides de la montée gèlent en deux secondes et prennent la forme fermée de mes mains sur les piolets. Encore de la neige tout sucre qui ne me met pas en confiance, je reste bien concentrée sur les pieds pour cette traversée qui mène au sommet.IMG_3059

La montagne c’est pointu, alors on ne s’y attarde pas pour sortir le thé et les cookies, surtout avec ce vent et les nuages qui arrivent. Nils file devant, je le suis en essayant d’attraper une photo ici ou là.

La descente par la voie normale nous amène au premier rappel. Un second suivra, puis le passage d’une grosse rimaye et enfin nous pouvons chausser pour une descente sympathique jusqu’à rejoindre le glacier du tour et se laisser glisser jusqu’au village. Une belle ballade alpine qui a fait de cette journée une sortie complète en terme de recherche d’itinéraire, de décisions, de manips. Une journée comme je les aime bien.

Le Chardonnet, un joli sommet visible de partout sur lequel je reviendrai avec plaisir. Merci pour le soupçon d’aventure sans autre cordée ;)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)