A Fine Link

Ski Mountaineering for me is about finding great link ups involving climbing, and skiing and traversing peaks. Last Sunday, after a cruzy day exploring Les Contamines with Irene, me and Josh Fawcett headed out to make some SKIMO (ski Mountaineering) and scored a pretty good day almost by mistake.  With a vague plan to hit the Traverse of the Noire and “possibly something else” and a even vaguer forecast suggesting some wind and precipitation at some point during the day we went into the day with an open mind.

We headed out from the Aiguille du Midi down the classic Vallee Blanche and over to the Italian side.  Hiking up the glacier to the start of the climb through the cold gusty wind with flakes of snow whipping past our noses we were slightly hesitant and came close to turning back a few times.. The weather was clear on the french side and we hoped the small localised weather spilling over from Italy wouldn’t follow us into the Traverse of the Noire. Thankfully by the time we reached the boot pack leading up to Pointe Yeild things were dying down so we carried on over the ridge to the top of the face.  I’d been here a few years ago with Tom, Ross and Michelle.. We got spooked out by wind slab and decided to head back. This time however there were about twenty tracks, ten going skiers left and ten going skiers right down the convex face. We opted for right hand option and skied down a little way to the steep choke which is normally pretty icey.

We side stepped down through this which was both tiring and intimidating due to the nature of the crumbling snow, but managed to score some pow turns on the lower face before busting hard skiers right through the glacier and over to the bottom of the Breche Puiseux. From here we decided we had enough time and psyche to go and ski the NW shoulder of them Aiguille Tacul aswell. The climb up the final gully was roasting hot but it was worth suffering the heat and softening snow as we found a few good turns on the way down this line. The best snow however was on the moraine bench hard skiers right going down to the Leschaux Glacier at the end.

A great little link up of about 1200m vertical ascent with some really good snow on the descents and with a variety of different terrain and views to keep us amused. All in all a good day out on the hill!

Click on the Pictures bellow to see them in gallery format.

 

Spooked on the Noire and the Couloir Trappier

With this most recent high pressure to hit the alps I was keen to get out and bash in some fitness and try and tick of some of my objectives for the winter.  On Thursday we headed over to try the Traverse of the Noire otherwise known as the North face of Pointe Yeild. I’ve wanted to try this traverse for a while and after seeing some promising photo’s showing that the snow was sticking to the Glacial ice we all thought this might be a good objective for the day.  We made the journey there over cols and across the hanging glacier to find that not only is it totally blind to drop into the face but the snow was also slightly wind affected.  Ross triggered a small but terrifying slab avalanche whilst he was cutting over the face.

The traverse of the Noire seen from the col du tacul  we're stood at the top and the area in the shadow just above slid. photo Ally Hurst.

The traverse of the Noire seen from the col du tacul we’re stood at the top and the area in the shadow just above slid. photo Ally Hurst.

Nothing bad came of it but we were all sufficiently spooked that we decided we should get the heck out of there in a backward direction.

Today the wind was up in the morning and the GM and the Midi were on hold.  We rallied about cham trying to work out the best objective for the day when my eye caught the Couloir Trappier under the Aiguille du Gouter. I’ve wanted to ski this line for a while but it’s never been that high on my to do list and it can be fickle to find it in good condition.  It’s long approach, 4 hours or so, proved to be tedious especially with poorly fitting skins on my new ski’s.  It was however good to explore a new area that I have only ever looked at from the valley and probably the best we could have done with our day.  We were worried that it might be a bit dodgy with the wind that we have had but we were relived to see 9 others heading up the same way including some guided teams so we didn’t have to drop in first!

After skining and boot-packing for hours to the top we were happy to see that the whole couloir had in fact already purged itself with a firm but grippy base and no visible wind loading at the top. There were sections of crust, pow and chalk on the way down and it was fun to change between the two and play with the aspect to try and get the best snow. towards the bottom of the run, in the trees, the snow was getting super heavy and grabby and in the last section down to the road we were skiing corn.  Pretty much every type of snow you can think of in one day! Thanks to Josh Fawcett for a good day out.