In 2013, which was a memorable year for its incredible snow, Julien “Pica” Herry had begun to talk about a possible descent down the Voie Originale from Grande Rocheuse. This beautiful mountain is next to the famous Aiguille Verte.
To imagine the south side of the G. R. as ridable, requires the kind of imagination and an eye for lines, which only Julien has. His skills, experience and ability to find lines have always surprised me and often made me afraid. Julien is a person who loves to share his ideas with those who want adventure, and is always willing to help others, in the realization of even the most ambitious projects.
This year we started talking more often about G. R. and in the end he convinced me that it could be a great adventure.
In mid-March after a heavy snowfall, followed by several cold days, I quickly realized that we had a good weather window to make our attempt.
The team was made: Julien and his friend Lambert Galli hiked up to refuge Couvercle the day before to take a last look closer to the face. My partner Denis Trento and me left at night from refuge Torino and joined them later at Couvercle.
The idea of starting with the splitboard from refuge Torino, crossing the Vallée Blanche at night, seemed like a big challenge to me. But thanks to Denis skills and his background as a competitive ski mountaineer, it turned out to be one of the easiest and quickest approaches ever.
At 5:30 am we started climbing the first part of the couloir Whymper, and then turned over to the steep south facing slopes further up. The light snow just slightly covering the rocks made it a tricky ascent, and we lost a lot of time. To find perfect conditions for both uphill and downhill, on a face like this is not easy, but nearly 10 hours after our departure from refuge Torino, we reached the summit of G. R. We were happy but still aware that the most difficult part remained.
All my experience from over 15 years of snowboard mountaineering was needed to overcome the difficulties we were facing on the way down. In the end we managed to complete our dream, and did the descent with only 2 rappels (25 m. And 40 m.)
Besides the beauty of the line, the fact that it was a first descent on both skis and snowboard made it a huge satisfaction. To find a never ridden face down a 4000 m. peak in the Mont Blanc massif, where pretty much everything has already been skied, is not an easy task.
The Miage glacier I consider as one of my favorite places to ride. Among friends we call it the “Couloir Park”, because of the amount of couloirs you can find in all aspects and with different steepness. The fact that it is hard to access the Miage means that it is not very popular, although in recent years many skiers have discovered the potential of the place and have started to go there more often.
In 2010 along with Roch Malnuit I found a beautiful and narrow couloir next to Aiguilles Rouges du Brouillard. Every time I went to Miage I checked it, but I never found the right conditions.
The first snowfalls of March, which were followed by several cold days, made me think it was the right time to give it a try. Most of my friends were busy with work, however my girlfriend Michelle and our common friend Federico managed to take a day off. So on the 9th of March we reached the bottom of the couloir, and were happy to see it in excellent condition. After 3 hours Michèle and me reached the top.
The descent was fantastic, and we could enjoy 1000m meter of vertical drop in dream snow. I’m very happy to have shared this experience with my girlfriend, and couldn’t have asked for any better company.