Wednesday 9 January 2013

Monts Jovet, West Couloir

With the last snowfall over a week ago, Phil and I feared that our chances of finding good snow would be pretty slim on Tuesday. Conditions are pretty strange right now, with most of the powder gone, but not much spring snow around either. The south facing slopes haven't transformed yet, but the north facing slopes seem to have a bit of crust on them. Hmm. 

As is often the case, the better known options were looking pretty uninspiring, and we needed to "think outside the box" (as London marketing types would put it). Based on the fact that it was relatively low altitude, sheltered from recent winds, and doesn't get much sun in January, we went for the W couloir of Monts Jovet. This twin summitted peak is above Les Contamines, and the W couloir has long been lodged in my mind as an early season objective for when nothing else jumps out as a good idea. 

Unwilling to do the long slog up the peak from the end of the Valley, we instead rode the lifts up to the top of the Contamines ski area, and traversed over to the Col des Chasseurs. I assured Phil that this was quicker than the slog (as well as easier), but it turned out I was wrong about that and we ended up making our approach much longer, but also a lot more enjoyable as the ski down from the Col des Chasseurs was great.

A couple of panoramas from Phil on the skin up. I keep telling him how easy photography is with a subject this good, but he's not having it.

Phil on the short bootpacking section

Me skiing near the top of the Col des Chasseurs. Photo Phil Ebert.

Phil with Mont Blanc behind


The final powder before heading out right for our second ascent of the day. Photo Phil Ebert.

Once down at the Chalets de Jovet, we put skins back on and began heading up, pretty sure that Nora (Mrs Phil) had made the right decision by staying on the Les Contamines pistes as it was now 2.30 and we still had a long way to go! Oops. 

"Of course I know where I'm going!" Brits do ski touring. Photo Phil Ebert.

Still, the views were incredible, the banter excellent and we figured that we might as well go and take a look. As it turns out we made pretty fast progress, and after not much more than an hour of hardcore sweating we were on the S summit of Monts Jovet. The view from the top was stunning, and best of all the couloir looked in really good shape. 


The guidebook talks about dropping in 20 metres below the summit, but the only tracks into the couloir had gone much lower. On the fairly safe assumption that whoever had been there last knew better than us, we followed their way in and were rewarded with an amazing ski. The top entrance is said to involve either an abseil or a short downclimb in crampons, but the lower way in means you ski straight in and only sacrifice 20 or 30 metres of skiing. 

Once in the couloir we had superb snow, which was occasionally crusty but generally light and fluffy all the way, resulting in some good whooping from both of us. The snow was never quite perfect enough that you could just let rip and go for it, but 99% of it was fantastic, and well worth the effort of getting there.

Me on the initial steep section. Photo Phil Ebert.

Me in the couloir. Photo Phil Ebert.

This section was probably the best snow we found. Photo Phil Ebert.

Lower down, in the trees. Photo Phil Ebert.

Once at the bottom, it was simply a case of skiing down to the car via the "exciting" track to Notre Dame de la Gorge, and driving home to tea, cake and a well earned shower.

At the foot of Monts Jovets after an awesome ski. Photo Phil Ebert.

It was Phil's birthday today, and to have a day as good as today (my favourite of winter so far) is a pretty good celebration. Happy Birthday Phil!