January 12th, 2015 - Chamonix, France - Day 148

Today was an epic skiing day for Peter and I.  We decided a few days ago to hire a guide / instructor so Peter could improve his skiing and we could get out into the backcountry safely.  We hired ex professional skier and 20 year Chamonix resident Chris Fetcher, who owns Tinderbox Ski School.  Chris picked us up at 8:30 and we headed over to Flegree to take the cable car up and get as high as we could on the mountain before starting to hike.  We moved quickly and were at the top by about 9:30.  We clipped in and enjoyed some amazing fresh powder turns while descending to the point at which we would start our backcountry tour.  

The view across the valley from where we were hiking

We pulled our skins on and started hiking across the top of a cliff band which was probably 100-150 feet high.  We were about 20 feet from the edge and while we were on an established skin track, it was still a little scary.  We made our way quickly across the cliff and from there the touring was spectacular.  We picked our way up the mountain carefully and just kept going and going and going.  It seems like you can go forever here in almost any direction.  We learned that France has banned heli-sking and snowmobiles, so the only way to access this terrain is to use your legs, which is pretty cool.  Even better than the feeling of having to earn our turns was the fact that it was completely silent out there, no engines, no people, just us and the mountains.

Climbing and then a little more climbing

We worked our way up the mountain and finally made it to a place where it was too steep to skin up, so we peeled our skins, strapped our boots to our packs and started to climb up.  We made it as far as we were comfortable going and then clipped in for our first backcountry turns in France.  I went first and made two beautiful turns before leaning too far forward and face planting in epic fashion right in front of our guide and professional skier - nice, well done Pete.  Peter went second and had no problems navigating the 40+ degree slope, and then Chris went, making the slope look like the bunny hill.  

We skied down for a while making wonderful turns in untouched boot deep powder and then it was time to climb again.  We were going to head up a couloir to our final climbing destination.  It took another hour or so of climbing before we reached the top, but it was worth it.  

Heading up the col

The view was amazing and we had a couple thousand feet of powder turns below us.  We took in the view for a few minutes and then decided to strap on our skis and head down.  The slope was steep, but the snow was nice and we all enjoyed the turns.

Heading down

Once we got out of the shadow of the col we decided to stop and have lunch.  The sandwiches we had tasted better than anything I have ever had, however,  we were so hungry from the hiking shoe leather would have tasted good.  The only bad thing about the day was that my left heel was killing me.  Renting boots is never fun and in this case it was downright painful, so much so that I had to pull my boot off mid mountain to give it a rest.  

The view back up the col.  We hiked right up to the notch between the two cliffs.

After lunch we still had some great turns in front of us and we enjoyed every second of heading down - we had earned it.  

GoPro video of the turns down from the col. 

We made it back to the resort and my legs were jelly, however, Peter wanted to keep going, so we jumped on a lift and did two more laps with Chris giving us some instruction along the way.  

When we got home we were completely spent - it had been a hell of a day of great skiing along with a massive workout.  

BTW, Lea picked the photo...

And what did the girls do? Lea has adopted a early-bird-catches-the-worm attitude  even though she stayed up until midnight reading last night ...sound familiar, G-ma Shirley? After 3 hours of science we headed to the gym in Chamonix. After a scary search down dark halls for the workout room, Lea and I found it and started with weights alternating with sit-ups. Even though she claims to not have abs, she rocked my pathetic routine and then asked, "what's next?". 

We had a quick lunch and then decided to head out and explore the town. We started at one of our favorite places...la pharmarcie. I know that sounds strange, but the pharmacies in Europe are amazing. They have a great selection of makeup, vitamins, and nail polish. We found a deep blue Lea has been looking for since she saw "The Fault in Our Stars", which is her favorite movie. Then we did some window shopping and meandering around town while sipping hot chocolate. 

On the way home i found my dream car...

and Lea found hers...

We headed back to try out the blue nail polish and clean up our tiny apartment. My daily kitchen sweeping takes 1 minute and 12 seconds.