Monday 7 January 2013

Aiguille de Praz Torrent - Brèche de Praz Torrent NW Couloir

With temperatures rising in Cham, the powder of the middle of week was quickly being replaced by slush. Unwilling to accept that the good snow was gone, Phil, Tristan and I were joined by Olympic diving sensation Tom Daley (or it might have been his doppelganger and namesake Tom Moores) for a mission above Le Buet. We opted for the Breche de Praz Torrent, high above the Berrard Valley, which was supposed to provide a 200m couloir and, judging by our trip over the Col de Beaugent, plenty of powder.

It felt a bit odd to start the day skinning back up the Berard Valley having skied down it so many times, but half an hour after starting we had already branched off and were heading up into the bowl below the Praz Torrent.

Just after leaving the main Le Buet trail. The couloir is hidden but is in the obvious gap in the centre of the photo.

After another half hour we reached a narrowing and had to swap skis for crampons in order to negotiate some ice. It was only half way up this that it occurred to us that we'd also need to descend this section, and that without a rope that could be tricky...Still, no point dwelling on it until we needed to!

Phil on the ice

From there, we reached a steep band of trees and decided to keep bootpacking. Eventually the trees thinned out but it was still steep so we stayed on foot all the way to the top of the couloir, making it over 700 vertical metres of hiking with skis on our packs! Still, the snow seemed good so we figured it would be worth it. 

Me bootpacking in the trees. Photo Tom Daley.

Daley on the boot pack

Having finally arrived at the Col, we were rewarded with an incredible view up the Argentiere Glacier, and so we took a few minutes just to relax and take it all in before skiing down.

View from the top

Tristan and Daley getting psyched

Phil too

The top section was frankly pretty gripping and involved some tough side stepping followed by some narrow rock bands, none of which was much fun and all of which was negotiated much more easily by my 3 companions than by me!

Looking down the side stepping section

Stan in the narrow rock band

Once through that we had 200 metres of steep and deep powder, which provided perfect skiing. As is so often the case, the photos say it best.

Phil in the main couloir

Tristan lower down, on the final steep section. Photo Phil Ebert.

And me. Photo Phil Ebert.

Nearing the exit

Having got out of the Couloir itself, the snow was still great, and we enjoyed plenty of good turns, and only the odd bit of crust.

Phil and Stan at the bottom of the steep section, about to commence shredding!

Tom Daley getting introduced to combat skiing. This was the route we took to get around the icy section that we'd climbed up.

Overall the whole day is awesome, but it is a lot of effort due to all the bootpacking so you need to be keen! 

Finally, huge thanks to Tom, Stan and Phil for their efforts. I had a mild dose of the lurgy that is sweeping through Cham and so contributed absolutely nothing in trail breaking, and felt as weak as a kitten all day. All I got from the team was some mild banter, which was very kind of them given how pathetic I was! Thanks for your efforts and definitely my turn to break trail next time.