DIY is meant to be a project without a clear roadmap – but when Xavier De Le Rue looked out over the mountains getting greener and greener in the early season, it was becoming apparent that chapter two was heading in an unanticipated direction. Where to film without snow?
But Mother Nature is her own woman and plays by her own rules – ending a late but almighty storm to Europe. With the snow came wind, and with the two came an incredibly dangerous snowpack that saw huge slides ripping from the mountain faces.
Riding at home in the familiar terrain of Verbier meant Xavier could stay on the safe side and enjoy the deep powder in the trees and lower couloirs. But it lacked a certain “je ne sais quoi” that the Frenchman is renowned for. So the hunt for an adventure was on...
It didn’t take Xavier long to get in touch with his good friend and mountain guide Tony Lamiche in Chamonix, who has plenty of lines with “je ne sais quoi” up his sleeve.
Like in this case the Mallory Couloir in the North Face of the Aiguille du Midi.
The Aiguille du Midi is a rocky pinnacle rising 3,842m from the town of Chamonix into the thin air of Europe's higest mountain, the Mont Blanc. It's Téléphérique still holds the record for the highest vertical ascent cable car in the world.
And it's right below this cable car where climbing afficionados – and extreme skiers and snowboarders – find the Mallory Couloir: A 500m-long route that's rated TD+ (très difficile + = very difficult+) and boasts an average steepness of 50-55 degrees with passages up to 58 degrees!
“If the terrain on the North Face of the Midi isn’t extreme skiing, then nothing is,” Hans Ludwig wrote in Powder magazine. “Every one of its routes features thousands of feet of complex high-angle terrain with constant death exposure, mandatory rappels, and a snowpack that sticks tenuously to the hanging shield of glacial ice crowning the peak.”
Roping into Mallory with Tony, Alex Pittin, also a mountain guide, and Chamonix local and fellow Freeride World Tour champion Aurelien Ducroz, gave Xavier his first taste of that adrenaline kick of apprehension and anticipation that he was looking for.
But watch for yourself in the player above – Xavier De Le Rue's DIY project is with chapter two back on the untracked path – and you'll feel slightly seasick, guaranteed.
Xavier De Le Rue
Aurelien Ducroz - 2 x Freeride World Tour Champion
Tony Lamiche - Mountain Guide
Alex Pittin - Mountain Guide and previously a member of the French National Team
Filmers: Hexo+, The De Le Rue's, Daniel Lafarge
Director and Editor: Tim Burgess