Tuesday 10 January 2012

Bel Oiseau ENE Couloir

Psyched for a day of touring, Jack and I skied the Bel Oiseau (2628m) today, a stunning peak next to the Emosson Dam. The skin up is pretty long (we skied from the small town of Finhaut, making it about 1300 metres of ascent), but takes you through some really nice forest and then into the big bowl of Plan des Marais, and then finally onto the north ridge of the peak. You don’t actually top out, although the high point we skied from is actually higher than the official summit. Go figure.

In the baking sun the skin was pretty sweaty, but we took it really slowly, and had plenty of breaks and chatting, so it all felt pretty stress free. By the time we finally took skis off for the final summit ridge, all of the Frenchies were long gone having skied up and down very quickly on their superlight skis, and we had the summit to ourselves. It’s quite a summit too, with perfect views across the Mont Blanc Massif, the Rhone Valley, and even out to the Bernese Oberland.

Jack on the final summit ridge

Summit Views

As I asserted yesterday, I thought that south facing slopes would be best, but as we were skinning up the NE facing bowl we couldn’t help noticing how good the snow was, and how poor it was on other aspects. Some guys we’d seen skiing down told us that the classic line from the top, the NE Couloir, had a massive cornice at the top, so we’d decided to avoid that and just ski the ascent route. However, just before reaching the summit, we walked straight past the ENE Couloir, and couldn’t help noticing that it looked incredible, so that was decision made. The entry is pretty steep, and the line gets 4.3, 43 degrees, 300m, but it is mainly pretty steady and the snow was superb powder, albeit with a bit of crust for the first 50 metres or so.

Looking up at the ENE Couloir (Green, only the exit visible) and the NE Couloir (Red).

ENE Couloir from the drop in.

From the bottom of the Couloir it was perfect powder virtually all the way back to car, save for a short bit of crud in the forest above La Lechere, so we were both grinning from ear to ear all the way down after having spent all of last winter skiing sugar!

Me in the couloir

Skiing. Fun.

Perfect views, epic powder & a nice little peak - this really is as good as touring gets, and with the sun hardly touching the NE facing slopes that we skied, and them being surprisingly unaffected by the wind, it’s going to be amazing up there for a  few days yet. Enjoy.

 Sunset views across the Rhone Valley