The traverse of the Aiguille d’Argentiere is one of my favourite trips. Its a big mountain with lots of different lines to ski so there is always a plan B,C and D and when the track is in on the Milieu its pretty quick to get to on skins with a shortish bootpack up the headwall. The summit offers a commanding position with the north wall of the Argentiere basin lined up in front of you and unparalleled views of the Chardonnet south face and into Switzerland across the Trient plateau. Its no wonder Emile Allais was attracted to ski the Milieu in the 1940s.
Tom and myself originally wanted to ski the south west face of the Droites but unseasonally high temperatures kept us off the big steep faces and we decided to go to Y couloir. After having a look at the north face and Barbey (both look terrible) we tagged the summit at noon after climbing a short exposed steep wall of hard ice and wandered over to the top of Y couloir. We found the couloir well filled in for this time of year and conditions were just on the warm side of perfect with not a breath of wind allowing us to ski really quickly and get down out of the heat. Once again the summer heat wave has caused the glacier to drop and 45 m ropes are optimal for the skiers right abseil.
This week we Dave Searle and myself went back to the Miage Glacier under Mont Blanc’s Himalayan sized West Face with the idea to have a semi-rest day and camp on day 1 and then get and early start and ski a line mid-morning before it got too hot. I had some expedition kit to test out so this provided the perfect opportunity.
At the foot of the Miage. We soon got bored of load carrying in the heat and set up camp.
I headed into the neighbour’s back garden the other day with the usual suspects; Liz Daley (armed with her perma-stoke), Davide de Masi and Dave Searle. Our efforts were well rewarded and we found exceptional rip-able powder waiting for us in this long hallway. A fantastic day which was ended with a beer ontop of a mountain in the sun.
All quiet, the cirque to ourselves
Let the dance begin Perma-stoke Searler, Liz and de Masi wishing they had spanking paddles (snow plates) in the deep pow
This is going to be sick
Davide de Masi superstylinOur line Heading to the bar for a well earned cold beer
This week I headed back to the Miage area to ski some more of those massive 1000 m couloir lines with Michelle Blaydon, Kirsti Lehtimaki and Mikko Heimonen who had just landed in Chamonix. The powder has all been blown away leaving hard edge-able wind buff which made the boot pack a joy. First up was the line lookers left of the Bonatti which is reminiscent of a Domilimiti line with huge walls souring high above our heads. This line is overlooked since it doesn’t top out on the ridge but with 850 m vertical of skiing I don’t care. Probably the best couloir I have skied in the Mont Blanc Massif with a few hundred metres of 50 degrees at the top and an exciting ramp above some mixed ground. Second up was the 1200 m Domenech Couloir on the Aiguille de l’Aigle which we onsighted from the top. We arrived back at Zerotta in the Courmayeur ski area early afternoon and enjoyed relaxing in the sun and eating pizza and having a beer!
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.
Its was always going to be a long day, especially with the amount of bad weather we have had this winter that has prevented us getting tour fit. It was deep going in. Then it got deeper. By late afternoon as the couloir steepened up it got ridiculously deep where I expected it to get faster for booting. Even with snow plates I was waist deep and trenching, the others up to their chests in my trench. Our team of 5 were cooked. We called a stop about 150 m from the top and skied amazing pow in the glow of the evening light. Thanks to Michelle Blaydon, Kirsti Lehtimaki, Cedric Bernardini and Robes Parron for a stunning day.