We do love a bit of Spring here in chamonix. Skiing, Biking and Climbing are all possible depending on what the weather dishes out. Ive done a bit of everything in the past week which is awesome. We’ve had a lot of snow this spring but it’s not necessarily been “useful” for skiing. The last storm brought a lot of precipitation and with it immediate warm temperatures and wind. I skied the Vallee Blanche at the begging of last week and felt that it was to dangerous to ski anything steeper for a few days after that.
(Col De l’Aiguille Verte Trip Report From Sunday 10th April 2016)
It’s fairly evident to those who live here that the mountains are getting busier and busier as time goes by. The Argentiere Glacier has been, and always will be one of the stomping grounds for Extreme Skiers out looking for the perfect day on the steep north faces. I wouldn’t really class myself as an Extreme Skier. Strapping it on for a 5.4 (Technical Ski Grade) is about the limit of what I would ever feel comfortable skiing and only once every blue moon at that. I like the feeling of skiing steep powder for sure but the worry and stress associated with putting yourself in that situation is draining to say the least.
I digress. Oh yeah busy….. busy busy busy. Jostle, hustle push and shove. “got to get the first bin!” got to get there before its too late. Exiting the first bin on a busy day such as yesterday (Sunday) and polling off into the basin, it’s hard to not feel smug. We have the pick of all the amazing routes in their shinning spring condition. But what if someone follows us?! I don’t want to race. I want to clip into my skis fresh without stress. I don’t want anyone above me or below me. I want this day to be ours.
When I spoke to Joel about skiing the Col De l’Aiguille Verte I could tell he was nervous. He’s not been skiing that long (even less than my 7 seasons!) but he’s proved himself on a few bigger faces and is super keen. I knew he’d be happy to bail at the first sniff of trouble which is an admirable quality some lack.
When we reached the bottom of the slope that heads up to the Col De l’Aiguille Verte things looked good and we quickly changed over and started up the short skin to the bottom of the face. Over the bergshrund we ditched the rope, shovels and probes. We wouldn’t be needing the weight and reasoned an avalanche on a 53 degree slope would be unlikely or catastrophic.
On the climb up we passed a ski that was sticking out of the slope. We’d found a hat at the bottom too and scratched our heads as to what had happened and what to do. We carried on and found an ice axe about 400m up too. It later transpired someone had fallen (I still don’t know the circumstances) and had managed to “get away with a broken leg”. Lucky guy.
We kept a steady pace and about 2/3 of the way up were caught up by a friendly Frenchman, Boris Dufour who was on the 4th cable car. He’d set a good pace to catch us and remained close for the rest of the climb to the Col and during the descent knowing that the danger would be sluff management (by sluff I mean loose snow which grows and gains power the further it goes). After taking some photo’s from the top we slowly and hesitantly started skiing. The first turns were tough with the deep crusty snow but soon things got better and we were able to make some more relaxed, but much steeper and more intimidating turns in the guts of the face.
We pitched it carefully staying out of harms way by tucking under rocks and sticking to spurs as others skied. The snow was pouring down the face as you skied funneling into massive sluff trains that went all the way to the glacier, cascading off rocks on the way.
Hopping the shrund and heading back to the ski area it all sunk in and a feeling of accomplishment mixed with joy washed over us. A line I’ve always dreamed of with fantastic snow and excellent weather means it will be a day etched into my memory forever. I’m glad to have shared it with Joel and Boris…… and only them.
First off I want to thank my partner Emily (roo) Ward for all her hard work on getting this trip off the ground. I saw what it did to her during the months and weeks leading up to the trip. Now it’s over and it went (relatively) smoothly its been a great time to reflect on what could have been done differently. Bringing together 9 people, most of whom hadn’t been to mountains outside of the Alps before, is not an easy task and without Emily’s motivation and experience I doubt this trip would have taken off. So thank you!