S Couloir, Aiguille De L’Eboulement. D²

Eboulement south couloir

Eboulement south couloir

I’ve wanted to ski this little gem for a while but I’ve struggled to find it in good conditions and having  a motivated partner to go so deep into the massif.  Dave to the power of 2, the second being Davide De Masi got together and headed out on Saturday 26th.   Its a heck of a long way from the midi and almost warrants a night in a refuge but we were both struggling to get our heads around spending a night in the mountains to ski when we both have  warm and comfortable apartments to sleep in in the valley.  Naturally we decided to go from first bin in true fast and light Cham style.  1500m+ vertical in a day sure didn’t go down too well with tired legs from a full week of skiing and we nearly lost complete motivation several time whilst bootpacking in sometimes knee deep crust. We persevered until about 50m short of the summit ridge when the clouds started to roll in and the soft surface snow started to refreeze.  The skiing was tricky and required concentration due to the breakable crust underneath and general variable snow conditions – not great fun but still a good day out in the mountains with good company in a spectacular setting….

Hiking up the glacier towards the wall of dreams and nightmares. the couloir is up a small glacier to the left. Lots of ice on the Petit Jorasses!

Hiking up the glacier towards the wall of dreams and nightmares. the couloir is up a small glacier to the left. Lots of ice on the Petit Jorasses!

Dave boot packing the couloir. It was often very slow going.

Dave boot packing the couloir. It was often very slow going.

Dave starting to ski. we thought it was going to be good but we were wrong...

Dave starting to ski. We thought it was going to be good but we were wrong…

Looking down the Couloir with the Grande Jorasses in the back ground.

Looking down the Couloir with the Grande Jorasses in the back ground.

Lower down the couloir.

Lower down the couloir.

Time for a few days off. e.g work.

A to B to C.

Ross on the last change over with the south face marked in red and Plan B in yellow.

Ross on the last change over with the south face marked in red and Plan B in yellow.

Col hopping in the rouge can be fun but it can be boring when you have 3 year old split skins…. Myself and Ross wanted to ski a line on the Mont Oreb so we quested over there on the 25th to see what was what.  We couldn’t find the way in so went to B plan. There wasn’t enough snow in the B plan so we ended up skiing the South Face normal route which was interesting with spurs and gully’s and chamois trotting about and nice snow in places.

On the ridge over to Mont Oreb summit.

On the ridge over to Mont Oreb summit.

getting the good stuff at the top.

Getting the good stuff at the top.

Ross with the col du berrard in the back on the left. this was the second col we passed that day.

Ross with the Col Du Berard in the back on the left. this was the second col we passed that day.

Catching some air.

Catching some air.

Y Couloir, Aiguille d’Argentiere. One of those days….

……..that I’ll never forget.  Great snow, perfect weather, 5* line and good company.  What more do you need from a day. I had skied this line before 2 seasons ago in spring corn and always thought I could do one better and get it in pow. Yesterday that happened and after a hesitant start me and Liz Daley were soon ripping down what can only be described as one of the best days I’ve ever had in the mountains.  I had decided I wanted to go up a mountain rather than up a boring col and when I suggested this to Liz she seemed pretty keen.  Although she also said she was “like a fat girl at the prom…..I’m just happy to be here!”

I knew it was good to have options so we decided to go to the Argentiere so we had a choice of 3 possible ways down, the Milieu glacier (not much fun but an easy enough descent), the Barbey couloir (not done it yet and looks sick) or the Y couloir.  After getting our sorry asses to the summit we had ruled out the Barbey due to the lack of snow on that face so decided to look at the Y.  At the top of the couloir we looked in and couldn’t decide what it was. Pow, crust, ice?  Its hard to tell from above so I had the bright idea to chuck a rock in to see what happened.  (Note; it was 2.30pm and we couldn’t see anyone coming up so we were 90% sure we weren’t going to kill someone by doing this)  I chucked a fist sized block in and…..pooooff. It disappeared in the pow. It was on……

Liz’s TR here

Skins on.  Despite Liz being a split boarder she still got ready to go before me!

Skins on. Despite Liz being a split boarder she still got ready to go before me!

Skinning up the Milieu

Skinning up the Milieu

La Sportiva Lo5's ready for the ride.

La Sportiva Lo5’s ready for the ride.

Side stepping the very top.

Side stepping the very top.

Athletic.

Athletic.

Aesthetic.

Aesthetic.

Liz getting it fresh.  No old tracks, no bootpack. Peeerrrrfeccckkkk

Liz getting it fresh. No old tracks, no bootpack. Peeerrrrfeccckkkk

Arc'in

Arc’in

Spinal

Spinal

entering the lower section

entering the lower section.

Fly'in

Fly’in

Den we got some sunnnnn

Den we got some sunnnnn

The lower couloir is super nice....

The lower couloir is super nice….

Courtes in the back ground.

Courtes in the background.

Low down in the couloir,

Low down in the couloir,

Just about to rap. One happy chap and a fat girl at the prom.

Just about to rap. One happy chap and a fat girl at the prom.

Till the next one folks….

Italian Fun Times

Me finding some pillows to jump off

Ones of those days of endless laps, good snow, and happy faces.  Why don’t I spend my winters in Courmayeur?  We headed through the tunnel this morning with low expectations  and came back through feeling happy with what we had packed in.  After a few quick tree runs we skied one lap of the Marbree Couloir from Hellbroner and finished off the day at Courmayeur launching pillows in the trees.  The perfect ski day.  I’d never been to the Marbree before and I can thoroughly recommend it. The light wasn’t perfect but it was still enough to see what you were doing an the snow was still light and fluffy in places even at midday.

Michelle Blaydon in the Marbree

Michelle Blaydon in the Marbree

Ally Fulton hucking in the trees

Ally Fulton hucking in the trees

 

 

Take Two….Gliere SE Couloir

The face seen from the Liason cable car station

The face seen from the Liason cable car station. The peak to the right is the Index

Today we succeeded   We succeeded in our goal of skiing this little known yet handsome SE Couloir of the Gliere.  This, unlike most of the lines I have skied in the Aiguilles Rouges is actually reasonably involved with a few pitches of steep “no fall” skiing near the top.  This was a great place to find my bindings weren’t properly set up and occasionally  I would land a  jump turn free-heel.  Scary.  We had been up to this couloir two days previously but found there was too much fresh snow and quickly realized we should be tree skiing. We turned back after three turns and ran back to the resort.   Ross still got a few photo’s here….

Today was different.  We had a clear view of where to go and how to get there (today I’m working so technically this was done on my lunch break!) and with the track already in from the top of the Cornu chair in Brevent we were up and starting to ski in no time. The snow was very firm at the top but got better the further down we got. Still it was an awesome line and well worth the effort. Here are some shots….

Take one, dropping in to the top of the couloir the first time.  To much snow and avi risk so i side steeped put after 3 turns.

Take one, dropping in to the top of the couloir the first time. To much snow and avi risk to high so side steeped out after 3 turns.

From the Col du lac Cornu looking over the the Aiguille de la Gliere which is the peak on the right in the distance.

From the Col du lac Cornu looking over the the Aiguille de la Gliere which is the peak on the right in the distance.

This time it was Ross' turn to go first.

This time it was Ross’ turn to go first.

Steep section near the top

Steep section near the top

Middle section

Middle section

Lower exit Couloir

Lower exit Couloir.

Dents Du Midi, Doigts North Couloir

The north face of the Dents Du Midi with the dent Jaune Couloir on the left and the North Couloir of the Breche Du Doigts on the right. Photo Courtesy of Luca Pandolfi.

The north face of the Dents Du Midi with the Dent Jaune Couloir on the left and the North Couloir of the Breche Du Doigts on the right. Photo Courtesy of Luca Pandolfi.

After 20 days of solid work over the Christmas/New Year period I felt ready for an adventure.  Not the kind of adventure where your surrounded by other people or doing something close to something you’ve done before.  Oh no, we had a different idea and an ultimately more rewarding plan.  The Dents Du Midi is a steep skiing haven away from towns, roads and people and far enough away from Chamonix that the cool kids don’t come and mess up your day.  The north face sports 4 impressive Couloirs, each one as aesthetic as the last and all providing different levels of difficulty.  They weave their way down through Eiger style rock formations and steep sided chutes and spit you out on the high alpine meadows above Val d’Illiez which was the finishing point for our two day tour.   We Started in Les Marecotes, a small and quaint ski resort which is easily accessible from Chamonix by train…..if the train is working…… which is wasn’t.  We actually drove to Martigny and embarked the Mont Blanc Express from there. From the top of the highest chair lift at Les Marecotes you hike up to the col immediately behind which takes about 30-40 minutes.  From this col you can see the Dents Du Midi in the distance with the obvious glacial shelf just beneath the summit ridge.  We skied down the diamond encrusted pow to the lake and poled our way across to the other side where we re-skinned and began the sweaty slog up to the hut @2882m, just short of the small glacial shelf.

We spent a relaxed night in this, the Dents Du Midi Hut and watched the sun set over the Mont Blanc Massif smug that we were all alone in the awesome place and with a good plan for the next day.  We had planned to ski the North Couloir of the Breche Du Doigts and then hike up the Dent Jaune Couloir.  We were going to skate across the glacial plateau to then ski either of other two Couloirs on the lookers left of the face.  Unfortunately we ended up just skiing the North Couloir of the Breche Du Doigts as the snow was firm and windblown with deep runnels – less than ideal for steep skiing.  It was still an awesome adventure in a totally new region that I will be visiting again in the near future.  Here’s some shots…..

At the top of the first hike with a awesome cloud inversion below.

At the top of the first hike with an awesome cloud inversion below.

The hut was like the Tardis....

The hut was like the Tardis….

But well kitted out on the inside with wood burner stove and 20 beds. Oh yer and a great view.

But well kitted out on the inside with wood burner stove and 20 beds. Oh yer and a great view.

The team, left to right, Me, Ginger Ben (O'Connor Croft) and Ross Hewitt.

The team, left to right, Me, Ginger Ben (O’Connor Croft) and Ross Hewitt.

On the hike up to the Couloir the next day.

On the hike up to the Couloir the next day.

Ross with his hip abscess.

Ross with his hip abscess.

Getting ready to Ski the firm chalky snow.

Getting ready to Ski the firm chalky snow.

Steep and firm. Not good for the first line of the year!

Steep and firm. Not good for the first line of the year!

Ben "havin it".

Ben “havin it”.