Saturday, 23 January 2010

Col de La Buche

Hardcore side slipping! Taken from the Col looking into the descent couloir.
Line of ascent from the Nantillons glacier to the col de la buche.

Rock climbing made easy!

Nearing the col after a long slog in crampons

Peter near the bottom of the Couloir

The Descent Route

After 36 hours of eating, some exercise was needed so Peter and I headed up to the Plan de L'Aiguille and skinned across to the foot of the Nantillons Glacier and climbed up to the Col de La Buche, between the Petit Charmoz and L'Aiguille de L'M. A team had gone to the very bottom of the Nantillons icefall but it was still very grey looking so nothing doing up there yet.

Anyway, having climbed the ladders at the bottom of the Couloir we cramponned up to the Col in fairly unpleasant and sugary snow (whoever put the track in is welcome to a beer in Chambre Neuf courtesy of me). From the top the initial drop in is over 50 degrees but with soft snow we side slipped it without too much trouble.

The Mont Blanc ski descents guidebook ("The Book of Death") gives the descent AD+, 40 to 50 degrees, which is currently about right, and you don't need to ab at any stage, which it mentions as a possibility in the book. That said, a fall wouldn't be great even with the perfect powder we found.

After getting out of the couloir we headed skiiers right until under the North face of the Grand Charmoz and then tried to go skiiers left and find the exit couloir talked about in the book. After 2 attempts and 3 hours of utter fannying around we gave up and skinned back up to go and find the ladders going down from the Envers hut. To find these you basically pass under the Glacier de La Thendia and ski down staying just left of the rock band which leads to the Envers hut. You then see the odd tree - keep going from tree to tree and the ladders start at the 4th tree you get to. Great tour but don't bother trying to find the sneaky way out, it doesn't seem to exist even when viewed from below, just take the snowed up ladders and ab in between them (we had 2 x 30 metre ropes and it was fine) if the snow is dodgy. Enjoy.