Saturday 3 March 2012

Aiguille Croulante Attempt

So, yet another failure for this week! Fil a Plomb, Gabarrou-Albinoni and now the Aiguille Croulante. Surely I'm going to get something done soon?

In my defence conditions have been pretty tough, none of the failures have really been due to me messing up, and I've had a really fun week with my mates, so I musn't grumble. Today's mission was to climb and ski the S couloir of the Aiguille Croulante, a stunning line which was only first skied in 2000 as it is a bit hidden away at the back of the Talefre basin.

The south face of Les Courtes as seen from the hut. The Croulante S couloir is hidden but the red line shows roughly where it is.

Yesterday we approached the Couvercle hut via the VB and then a skin of around 2 hours. The skin is apparently normally pretty easy but with the sky high temperatures we've been having, it was a bit of a slushy nightmare. 

Nearly there

Still, staying at the Couvercle is always a pleasure and well worth a bit of effort - 

We were delighted to find that we had the hut to ourselves and quickly got the fire going and also had a bit of a general tidy up - 

This morning we were away at 5am, and soon realised that we were a bit early and so took our time and got plenty of photos as the sun came up.

Aiguille Verte

Talefre Basin

Tristan & Mont Blanc

Really wishing it would warm up a bit! The story of the day.

Once at the foot of the couloir we were getting a bit concerned that there were a few too many clouds and not enough sun. The couloir faces South (officially, we thought it was distinctly SW though) and was really icy when we got to it, just as we had expected. The problem was that we had also expected some morning sun to soften up the bullet hard snow, and there was no sign of it arriving despite the forecast predicting a sunny morning. About half way up, with the clouds thickening and no sign of any sun, we decided to bail. We could have continued but if the sun didn't turn up, we'd be looking at a 500m downclimb with sections of 50 degrees, armed with one axe each - not very appetising.

Looking up at the couloir from below

Tristan heading up, but it wasn't to be.

Soon back in town we felt better when the sun never really arrived on that part of the Massif (although Cham itself had pretty much wall to wall sun) so we would have had to bail anyway. The line looked superb though, so I will definitely be back to do it soon.

After the most epic start to winter, things seem to be going a bit pear shaped after this unbelievable thaw that we've had. During January you could almost ski anywhere and be able to get back to the Valley, but now even a lot of the snow high up has gone, and the bottom of the VB looks like May right now. However, there is talk of more snow on the way, climbing conditions seem to be slowly getting there, and April (the best month of the year, every year) is coming :)