Wednesday 5 May 2010

Haute Route - Aborted!!!

With high hopes we set off last wednesday for an haute route on steroids, the basic idea of which was to avoid the motorway on the normal route and ski as much steep terrain as possible.

Started off at the Argentiere Refuge, which was very nice indeed. Much nicer than the bivi these 2 guys (spot the light!) will have had on the Droites! Not sure if it was a planned bivi, but either way it will have been a chilly night.

After deciding against the Barbey Couloir on the Aiguille d'Argentiere we went up to the Col Superior du Tour Noir, the obvious low point in the middle of this photo.

Final slog up to the col.

Worth it for the view. The Matterhorn looked so close it was hard believe the route would take a week!

We dropped into the SE couloir off the col and found some good 45 degree spring snow, albeit in boling temperatures (I was in a t shirt and thin shell jacket and was dripping with sweat).

However, as we got lower (still above 3000 metres!) the snow got worse and worse and in the end it was knee deep slush, really tough skiing. At one point a wet avalanche came past us, which wasn't massive but big enough to be concerning, so if you do this couloir, get up early.

Despite the poor snow low down, the top half was superb, and it is a great ski and an amazing line, so highly recommended if in good nick. The guidebook gives it 5.2, 45 degrees, 600m.

SE couloir is the obvious curving couloir coming down from the col right of the peak.

After a night in La Fouly we had a good look at the forecast and reluctantly decided that the 2nd day would have to be our last. We got up early hoping to climb and ski the Pointe de Drone, but bad visibility stopped us, and we opted to cross the Col de Bastillion in order to reach our pick up point at Super St. Bernard. The col isn't really a touring col and required a bit of easy mixed scrambling to reach, but provided a nice gentle ski down to the road.

It's now 5 days later and the weather looks rubbish for a good while yet, so a good but disppointing call to abandon. There's always next year.