Col des Courtes and Aiguille de l’Amone

At the end of last season my ski partner Dave Searle and myself got lucky and found these two lines in perfect conditions with a foot of cold untracked powder. The Col des Courtes was a line that I had attempted on numerous occasions (9!) and had once made a swift ski retreat from the mid height rocks when  Foehn storm rolled in.  This was going to be the last time I trekked up the Argentiere glacier to see if it would go. We were joined by Rob Stokes and this was the first time I had skied with him which was fun. Stokes and Searler’s constant banter kept me continuously entertained throughout the day. Thanks guys. The slope is definitely one of the steepest things I have been on and I was glad of the powder, without that it would have been a very different game.

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The next day Dave and myself returned to the Argentiere basin en route to the Amone. With the hot May days we had to go at race pace up the glacier and climb the SE couloir to before things started to fall to pieces. We were at the Col at Midi, able to relax and have some food. Dave has a similar metabolism to myself which means repeated days on the go eats into our muscle mass and we simply just cant eat enough food.  A nice scramble over the arrete brought us onto the face. Thanks to Cedric Bernadini and Luca Pandolfi to recommend this route as it enables the route to be done in a day as long as you are fast.  The upper 45 degree slopes didnt feel that exposed after the previous day on Col des Courtes 55 degree slopes but I am sure they would if you havent got accustomed to this type of skiing, especially with the 400 m cliff at the base. Looking back up the face from below it reminds me of something Shane McConkey would have loved for a ‘ski to base jump’ hit with the 400 m cliff. This is probably the most esthetic ski line I have ever done with unbroken skiing from the summit, only Couturier rates higher in my book. Possibly the best two days skiing I have ever done, thanks guys.

Getting back from La Foully was easy due to the efficiency of the Swiss, initially on post bus then train to Martigny. Once we entered France chaos ensued with the train driver stopping at Vallorcine, switching off the lights and announcing the timetabled connection wouldnt run and pointing us in the direction of the local hotel for the night. At 9 pm food and watering was long over due and I wasnt that impresssed to say the least. We hid all the kit in a bush and Dave started to thumb a lift in order to pick up the van from Argentiere and come back for me. The road was like a tumbleweed Wild West outpost and eventually  Dave got picked up while I sat and shivered. Dave appeared with the van alot sooner than expected, turned out that the Russian that picked him up thought he was a formula one driver and was testing his wallowing quashquai to the max, taking the blind apex atr Col des Montets at 80 kph and verring onto the wrong side of the road for 50 m. Dave got out at the earliest opportunity and walked the rest contemplating how hitching had turned out to be the most dangerous part of the day.

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