Its always a pleasure to travel under the North Wall of the Argentiere Glacier and study the big ski lines and dream about the few hours they might be in condition in April or May. We hoped to ski some of the mid altitude couloirs in the hope they were more sheltered from the wind but in the first I wasn’t able to ski cut the new snow – it would slide a couple of metres then stop, not exactly inspiring confidence. After hanging out at the col and enjoying the surroundings we opted for some meadow skipping back home.
It was pretty exciting waking up yesterday to a fresh coating of 40 cm of powder when snow has been so scarce this season. But that feeling was quickly replaced by anxiety knowing the lifts would open late and by that time everyone will be out of bed and queuing. We took the magic tunnel through to Italy, drank coffee and skied a quick 4 laps of the Entreve lowers which included a sensational spine feature where the sluff ran fast in the gullies bounding either side. Then it was back to Chamonix for opening time and freeride on amongst the pillows, rocks, roots and tree stumps of Plan de l’Aiguille. Too fast and too hectic to take photos. I was bushed by the end of the day and retired to my nest by 9 o’clock.
Today the plan was to go back for more but the lift company surprised everyone with late opening even though it hadn’t snowed. They must have worked too hard yesterday and had a compensatory sleep in today. Anyway I felt a bit jaded today after a lot of freeride yesterday so we made a plan to go touring and give the back and quads a rest.
Today it was Dave’s turn to have a few trials and tribulations. First the basket on his pole broke, which means you soon find out how much your balance relies on poles when touring. Then after a lot of effort smashing in a waist deep bootpack to the start of the ski, his binding lock lever ripped off. Dave quickly made do with a ski strap wrapped round the low tech pins and I handed him the camera. He sensibly side slipped the first no fall section above cliffs, with a lot of worry whether his ski would stay on, but salvaged the bottom 2/3 of the ski down once we rapped the cliff. Shortly after we were savouring a pint in Buet.
First bin up Grands Montets. The mercury reads -20C. We’ve queued for an hour and the cold has crept insidiously up through the soles of ours boots and numbed our toes. The snow in the Pas de Chevre is untouched and it will be a race to there first. Running down the stairs creates some warmth but as I ski into shady Pas de Chevre the wind chill is impressive and I feel my cheeks and nose freezing and I have to stop to rewarm my hands. As we drop into the 400 m straight chute of Rectiligne Couloir its like showering in -20C with overhead blower stripping any remaining heat from my body… but its also subliminal and it would be sacrilege to stop.
Rectiligne – Grand Envers – Rond. Great to ski with Bjarne and John for first time. And it was blower. Dave Searle on the Rond exit couloir