Friday 25 March 2011

Glacier Mort & Aiguille Croulante

In the search for a good ski objective, Tom came across a description of the South Couloir of the Aiguille Croulante. With plenty of sun forecast we decided to take the Grand Montets up, skin up to the end of the Argentiere basin, climb the NE face of the Col des Cristaux, traverse a ridge onto the summit of the Croulante and then ski the line into the Talefre basin. Phew!

Tom heading up the Argentiere Glacier

It had only first been descended in 2000, by Pierre Tardivel, so it is a pretty obscure line but we were confident it would be good as we started skinning. It was boiling hot though and keeping up a good pace meant we were pretty sweaty by the time we reached the foot of the Cristaux. We quickly changed into crampons and began heading up and it just got hotter and hotter.

Climbing towards the Col de Cristaux

It was at this point that we decided that skiing a south facing line, in the afternoon and with the temperature somewhere around 20 celsius (literally) wasn't a great idea. We stuck the skis back on and skied the lower section of the Cristaux, which provided a nice little pitch of about 45 degrees, and then shot out back to Grand Montets. After much debate about to salvage the day we ended going rock climbing at the Le Joux monolith -never a bad option.

Conditions in the Argentiere basin are pretty all the over place right now but the basic theme seems to be skiing bad, climbing good. The Ginat, Swiss Route on the Courtes and the Couturier all looked excellent and had teams on them, but the ski descents like the NE face of the Courtes looked awful.

North face of les Courtes

NE face of the same mountain

Today I went out with John on a powder hunt in the Aiguilles Rouges and opted for the Glacier Mort. I'd done it a few weeks ago with Jack and knew it held good snow even a long time after snowfall, and was sure it would be good. We also teamed up with Matt, Andy and Tristan, so it was a very sociable day. The approach was, unsurprisingly, boiling but with plenty of banter and awesome views it wasn't too much of a chore. From the top of where most people drop in we decided on a whim to carry on for 20 minutes to a higher peak and were rewarded with an awesome little steep pitch.

Andy, John, Matt and Tristan about to drop in

This is taken from where most people start the descent but we carried on to this peak and skied down the tracked gully straight from the summit - well worth the extra effort.

View from the drop in

Andy joining the normal descent

After that it just got better and better. I thought the top would be good but assumed the snow would get heavy lower down, but we had perfect powder from the top almost to the bottom of the valley. There were quite a few tracks but you didn't need to look to hard to find fresh ones. We also found some really nice little gullies and drop offs, so pretty superb all round.

Matt and Tristan mid way down

The ski down through the trees to Le Buet was, frankly, desperate but it is nearly April so you can't expect much. As per usual we were greeted by the welcome sight of the Hotel du Buet so several beers were consumed, and then when we finally made it back to Flegere to collect the car we couldn't exactly walk past the Hotel Rhodedendrons without having a few more, so it was a wobbly bunch who finally made it back to town!

 (At this point I should add that we hitched to avoid driving!)

John shredding

Awesome day and still plenty of good snow in the Rouges for those willing to earn it.