Tuesday 28 February 2012

Aiguille d'Argentiere, Glacier Milleu.

Although there is no shortage of sunshine right now in Cham, there is a distinct shortage of fresh snow, and with temperatures rocketing (13 celsius in the Valley tomorrow), it is slightly tricky to come up with objectives. We had planned to go to La Grave today but plans changed last minute and we decided to stay here and see what we could find.

I was out with Matt and Tristan, so ice climbing or alpinism wasn't even discussed as an option, Matt being staunchly passionate in his hatred of anything requiring 2 axes. We eventually decided on the Aiguille d'Argentiere and were joined by John Vincent, a Cham "local" and general good egg.

Aiguilles Chardonnay and Argentiere from Grand Montets. Our line is marked in red.

Matt or Milf?

Having skied down from the Grand Montets we started the long skin up the Glacier Milleu, a notorious sun trap which can be an oven on warm days. Luckily it wasn't quite as warm as it can be, and we were up to the bergschrund in a couple of hours. One small bit of beta is that there are some really icy sections and ski crampons are vital if you want to avoid sections of walking and skidding around.

Once at the bergschrund we changed into crampons and got stuck into the bootpack, which takes in a 400 metre vertical height gain and is mostly about 40 degrees. In beating sun and at nearly 4000metres, it felt pretty tough but such is life.

Tristan and Matt earning their turns

After nearly 5 hours of uphill we eventually reached the summit and the views were just stunning. I'll let this little video do the talking -

Self Portrait on the summit

John down climbing back to the skis, which we left about 10 metres below the summit.

The ski down was excellent, mainly on really fun spring snow, and taking in some steep ish terrain near the summit as you ski down what you bootpacked up. Here's some spring skiing porn -

Me on the steep upper section

Me shredding it

Tristan doing much the same only faster and better

Matt next to some funky ice formations near the bottom of the Argentiere Glacier.

So, no sign of any powder but with some superb spring snow and corn to be had, us Chamonix skiers can't really grumble.