Steep skier Mikko Heimonen – whom we talked about in the last issue of Huippu – had a rare first descent in Chamonix. Aiguille du Plan Ridge, Le Fil à Plomb was the route in question. Heimonen was accompanied by Jesper Pettersson who had also spotted the route.
They reckoned it would be skiable if the snow conditions were permitting. And that was exactly how it went, and they got to enjoy the route and even some powder.
The duo ascended the Aiguille du Plan Ridge for an hour and a half, which was no small undertaking due to the amount of snow. They spotted some skiers (Jules Berger and Michael Shaffer) on the near Tournier Col du Plan on the way and got a few shots of them on the side.
Heimonen and Pettersson described their route as technical steep skiing. Steep sections were followed by one long and one short rappel. Skiing to both to places of landing was extremely steep, and it was hard to find a suitable place for anchors.
All in all, Le Fil à Plomb was highly demanding and exposed line. Heimonen’s grading was 5.4 for skiing and 4 for exposure.
We had a few words with the man of the hour.
“Mikko, could you see the route easily from the station in Aiguille du Midi that’s on the way?”
”You can see it well from there, and several steep skiers have ascended it. A few of them have said afterwards that they’ve considered skiing it.”
“This season has constantly offered plenty of snow on northern and southern faces and especially on the narrow rocky couloirs. The big glacier walls haven’t been ready yet, however. Many have said that the winter has been poor in terms of snow, but we still have got to ski several spots that have remained untouched for years. I’d like to believe that the steep skiing season is just starting, and the weather looks pretty promising as we speak.”
”Why do you think no-one has skied there before?”
”I think the main reasons why Fil à Plomb hasn’t been skied before is that it’s so steep. Especially when you’re getting near anchors, it gets extremely steep. You pretty much have to loop it (from the back side), and then it all gets riskier. You can’t be certain about the quality of the snow when you’re skiing, which results in uncertainty, which makes it all more prone to making mistakes for you. This is why you have to do a lot of pre-work before you can go and ski it.”
“I was told the previous day by Jules Berger that the snow had been good on Tournier (Col Du Plan variation). It was a little over a week before that I and Jesper ascended the Aiguille Plan ridge and checked out the top of the hill. It’s been viewed and shot every time on the way up, and we’ve skied similar yet not so demanding slopes before. Your self-confidence – so you know you can ski something like that – is built from that sort of small things. You just have to keep going, inspect it, try it out, and go back over and over again – keep your eye on the situation.”
”How rare is it that people still get to enjoy first-time runs in Chamonix and especially its easier-to-reach area near the lifts? And how uncommon is it in the Blanc massif area in general?”
”Virgin runs in Mont Blanc massif area are extremely rare. You have to keep in mind the amazingly long history of Chamonix steep skiing. Several legendary skiers have been here, and hundreds of lines have been skied. These days, steep skiing is getting even more technical. The lines are not just steep and straight couloirs or large glacier walls – they include several different sections, all with their different technical challenges in both ascents and descents. I think these technical steep skiing sections could well be called climbing down with skis. You could compare them to mixed climbing with skis on and without rappel.”
”Have you set your eyes on other previously unskied routes?”
”Yes, there are several in the horizon. Some of them are linked to some previously skied slopes, and some of them are all new. First descents are not a big thing or a main goal for me, though. Challenging yourself and struggling with the slopes with your amazing ski friends is what always makes me go back there.”