Tuesday 8 March 2011

Aiguille de L'Encrennaz, NE Couloir

On Saturday I went up with Damien and Emma to ski the NE couloir of the Aiguille de l'Encrennaz in the Aiguilles Rouges. We'd heard really good reports about conditions and were pretty sure it would be immense. To get to the route you skin to Lac Blanc from the top of the Index chair and then continue rightwards until beneath 3 obvious wide couloirs, and climb the central one.

Skinning towards Lac Blanc

Climbing the couloir

From the top of the couloir you are on a small col and there is a single peg to ab off to get you started. We abbed in and found that some people had basically side slipped the whole of the top 60 metres of the run, creating a deep trench of hard snow. We could maybe have side stepped it but with a cliff underneath we decided to ab, which took forever with skis on. For the final ab we had to take skis off and it was all generally a bit of a faff. If I had my time again I'd take 60 metres ropes, and keep crampons on. Had we done this we would have been ready to ski within 2 abs but as it was there was a lot of messing around.

 Damien realising that he's going to have to take his skis off midway through an abseil!

Once on skis the couloir is superb - a steep (45 - 50 degree) slope narrows to a short little sideslip, and then some more couloir and a final narrow section leads to easy ground. The snow is pretty good right now - nice and grippy and very stable.

Emma dropping in at the top of the couloir

Once on the easy ground we were expecting some good powder but unfortunately there had been a bit too much sun on it and we ended up with a mixed bag, but mainly crust. Still, it was great fun heading down through all sorts of terrain to the col des Montets, and the views were incredible.

Damien + View

 The route from below, with the skiable section marked in red.

The weather is currently pretty good and there were big plans for this weekend of heading to the Eiger in a 4 consisting of Me, Jack, Tom and Rob, but Tom and I can't get out of work. The other 2 have gone on their own today as the weather window looks like it might be a bit shorter than first thought.

Don't worry though, Tom and I have got a pretty good consolation prize lined up.....