Wednesday 21 March 2012

Mont Buet N Face & Pte. Alphonse Favre NW Couloir

I've just got back from the second of 2 awesome ski days up in the Aiguilles Rouges, both of which provided great views, powder snow and perfect weather. 

Yesterday I teamed up with Damien, Josh and Ally to go and have a look at the NW couloir on the Pte. Alphonse Favre (the peak from where the classic Glacier Mort ski tour begins). I'd never heard of the line but apparently it started right next to where the Mort starts, so we figured we'd be able to find it. The skin up to the Col Crochues was pretty sweaty, as was the bootpack up the Mort approach couloir, and it got even sweatier when a Chamois deer ran across the top of the couloir and Ally said "Wouldn't it be mad if that started an avalanche", and then it did!Luckily it was only sluff and we were able to just stand there as it washed past but I think that had we had a rifle then there would have been one less deer in the area! 

Looking across to the traverse after the Col Crochues

Ally, Damo and Josh on the bootpack, shortly before nearly being wiped out by a deer!

Josh and Damo nearly at the top of the bootpack.

Me at the summit, where it randomly went really windy.

Once at the start of the Mort we stuck skis on, descended about 20 metres, and the couloir appeared on the left. We were a bit worried about avalanches so Josh ski cut the slope, and it did indeed slide, but once it had gone the snow underneath was fine.The run itself is just awesome - steep but not too steep, and a good combination of open slopes and technical, tight sections. The crux section is around 50 degrees and could probably be skied easily in good conditions but there were some rocks showing when we were there so we opted for to sidestep. Once out of the couloir we joined the Berard Valley right underneath the Col Berard, and enjoyed perfect, untracked snow all the way down. Awesome day.

The NW Couloir is the obvious line in the middle, with our tracks just visible coming out of the bottom.

Looking down at the entrance

Josh skiing

Damo negotiating the crux section.

Damo below the crux

Josh in the lower section

Ally on the ski down the Berard Valley


2 French guys skiing down behind us.

Today I joined up with Ally, Phil and Ross to go and ski Mont Buet's N face, a classic ski line from the top of the highest peak in the Aiguilles Rouges. Like yesterday, the lift up to Flegere was broken, so to access the Index chair we had to start at Brevent and then traverse the resorts, which added about an hour. Still, we were on our way up to the Col Crochues by 10 so not too bad at all. If anything, it was even hotter than yesterday, but we made good time round to the Col Berard, and then bootpacked up the ridge for a short while, skied down a bit and then got stuck into the long climb up to Buet.  

Phil and Ross on the bootpack

Ross a bit higher up

The approach isn't all uphill!

Normally I like to take my time on the way up, with lots of stops to look at the view and eat my lunch, but the lads just went and so it was a sweaty me who finally caught them on the summit! Joking aside, their speed meant that we were on top just 3hrs 30 after leaving the lifts at Flegere, and had plenty of time to find a good route down. 

The way in is apparently never very obvious, and it wasn't today, but Ross managed to find where he'd gone in last time, and we dropped in to skiers' left of the summit. The route down is not obvious at all and we had to ski short pitches and do plenty of route finding, and we gradually drifted rightwards most of the way, but we eventually found ourselves at the foot of the face and at the top of a really good little powder run, which got skied without a second thought! All that was left was a really fun but occasionally thin track through the forest and a beer in Le Buet. 

Ally on the summit

And me, with Mont Blanc behind.

Ally dropping in

And Phil doing the same

Half way down, with Phil skiing and Me, Ally and Ross chilling.

Ally on the powder field below the face

Skiing out, with the Chardonnay behind.

The track down isn't quite fully formed!

Heading for Le Buet.

Conditions on the face were generally OK - definitely skiable but pretty variable. If it was powder it would be unbelievable, but it's still pretty good right now. Thanks lads for a superb day.