The Devil’s Spires

I had been wanting to ski the Macho Couloir off Col Diable for a while now but finding a partner who was free was proving challenging. My Black Crows team mate Tom Grant arrived back in Chamonix with his usual high level of psych and he was willing to go do whatever was good. It all looked set, the only minor setback was Tom being kicked out of the first cable car for missing a payment on his season ski pass. With that sorted he managed to jump the queue and caught me up as I ambled down the valley blanche scoping out conditions en route. Good job he did catch me up as it was super deep and we had to trench our way up sustained 50 degree slopes to the col, arriving there pretty tired mid afternoon after 5-6 hours of uphill. The ski down was exceptional with overhead blower and the 125 under foot Noctas eating it up, we just had to take care not to get sluffed off the face. Amazing conditions and just as well, this route is steep, exposed and technical. I loved it. High on the ridge amongst the spires staring down at the Grand  and Petit Capucins hundreds of metres below. I bet it would feel really steep in spring snow. Col Diable Macho Couloir Tom GrantCol Diable Macho Couloir Tom Grant-2Col Diable Macho Couloir Tom Grant-3

178 Nocta and PLUM YakCol Diable Macho Couloir Tom Grant-4Col Diable Macho Couloir Tom Grant-5 Col Diable Macho Couloir Tom Grant-7 Col Diable Macho Couloir Tom Grant-6Col Diable Macho Couloir Tom Grant-8Col Diable Macho Couloir Tom Grant-9Col Diable Macho Couloir Tom Grant-10

Tom negotiating the lower rocks. 

Col Diable Macho Couloir Tom Grant-11

Under the Grand Capucin

Col Diable Macho Couloir Tom Grant-12The route climbs behind the left hand spires onto the serac bench then up the headwall behind where our tracks can be seen.

Storm Riding in the Cosmiques

The 20% forecast with Foehn today was just good enough to ski a Cosmique. Its well filled in now and you can sidestep in a few metres at the top before skiing – no more rope faff! Definitely a nice relaxed Sunday run.

Cosmique Tom Grant Ben Briggs-2

Tom Grant Cosmique Tom Grant Ben Briggs-7

Tom getting a facefullCosmique Tom Grant Ben Briggs-20Ben Briggs

Dabbling on Col Diable and then North Face of Aiguille Noire

The plan was to go flat out from first bin to Col du Diable before the snow got too heavy. Fast progress was made round into Cirque Maudit and up the South facing access couloir next to the Grand Capucin onto the hanging serac. Above, the line blasts esthetically up the headwall to the ridge next to the Aiguilles Diables.  As we raced up the couloir the snow was deteriorating fast in the heat and we had no choice but to turn round at half height. The shallow snow pack here peppered with rocks didn’t make for a flowing ski.  It will be good to ski in better conditions another time.

10 minutes later we were down to the Mont Maudit cirque and both still motivated to ski before the bad weather arrived the following day. We headed off in the direction of the Noire above the Geant icefall and romped up the access couloir before it got too much sun.

The summit ridge revealed acres of our preferred ski medium – coldsmoke. After running around for a few hours we enjoyed a couple of minutes on this high perch over the Mer de Glace while eating lunch before cruising on down the North Face.  The skiing is never hard but it would be worth having a photo of this face on your phone as route finding could be problematic and rock slabs aren’t helpful for anchors. We managed to sketch over the first slab choke on skis, the snow was only 2-3 inches deep and after Dave passed I had some bare rock to edge over. Then there is a 30 m rap over an icefall which we kept our skis on for. Long easy slopes led to the base of the face where an awkward little step to runnelled, crevassed, hard snow forced us to downclimb – no anchors in sight here.

Col du DiableCol du Diable (Macho Couloir)

Dave Searle Col Diable and Noire NW Face_-5

God damned heat!
Dave Searle Col Diable and Noire NW Face_-7

The stunning view to the Breche Carabiniers between the Grand and Petit Capucins  Dave Searle Col Diable and Noire NW Face_-62

The North Face of the NoireDave Searle Col Diable and Noire NW Face_-13Dave Searle Col Diable and Noire NW Face_-15Dave Searle Col Diable and Noire NW Face_-17 Dave Searle Col Diable and Noire NW Face_-19 Dave Searle Col Diable and Noire NW Face_-27 Dave Searle Col Diable and Noire NW Face_-43 Dave Searle Col Diable and Noire NW Face_-47 Dave Searle Col Diable and Noire NW Face_-49

Like a kiddie in a candy shop – pow awaits
Dave Searle Col Diable and Noire NW Face_-52 Dave Searle Col Diable and Noire NW Face_-56 Dave Searle Col Diable and Noire NW Face_-57 Dave Searle Col Diable and Noire NW Face_-59