Tuesday 29 January 2013

Cornes de Loriaz & Arpelline

With the weather beginning to clear, the forecast was for good mornings and cloudy afternoons for Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Friday saw Matt and I heading up for the NE couloir of the Cornes de Loriaz, which involves a skin of about 90 minutes in the forest, and then a further hour or so to the foot of the couloir and finally a long bootpack. After the forest there was no track in, so we broke trail up the cone at the foot of the peak, before accepting that it was getting steep and that we should swap skis for boot soles.

Looking across to the Le Tour glacier, with our skin track visible

DEEP snow on the bootpack!

Having swum up bottomless powder for what felt like a very long time, we got to section which was just shallow snow over slabby rocks. With no desire to either climb or ski this section, we turned round and skied from where we were (which I guess was about 60 or 70 vertical metres from the "proper" top of the couloir). We skied a bit of cruddy snow near the top, but the lower half of the run was just perfect powder. As if that wasn't enough, the lower angled slopes that we'd skinned up earlier we still amazing, making the descent pretty perfect all round.


Looking down on an amazing cloud inversion from low in the couloir

Matt just before the big open slopes beneath the couloir

"This is what owning what cannot be owned looks like"

Looking back up at where we came from. Our tracks are visible if you click on the photo to enlarge it.

Once back at the top of the forest track we had a collective rush of blood to the head, and decided that we should go and try to locate the Barberine couloir. With no real details about it, and armed with not very much kit at all this wasn't the wisest plan, but the snow was SO good and spirits so high that we convinced ourselves that all would be OK. However, by the time we'd skinned the short distance to the Chalets de Loriaz we were engulfed in cloud and even our enourmous levels of psych couldn't convince us to carry on. As it turned out I had a good look at the couloir from Switzerland the next day, and it looks hard to locate the correct entrance even with good visibility, so I'm glad we didn't go hunting for it in the mist.

Having admitted defeat we stopped for a drink (see below) and then headed down. 

Matt came armed with some sloe gin. Seemed rude not to have a tipple.

The day wasn't quite done though, and with us both still bouncing off the walls with enthusiasm we decided to ski down the gully straight below the Chalets de Loriaz instead of following the forest track that we'd climbed at the start of the day. Our bravery (stupidity?) was rewarded with some fantastic tree skiing in fluffy powder (and the occasional "tricky" section), before finding a handy traverse leading us out and onto the track.

Skiing some awesome snow in our bonus couloir

Low down in the bonus couloir

It all got a bit "sanglier" in places!

What an amazing day. Thanks Matt.

Saturday saw Sharon and I looking for a slightly easier option, and we went for a tour up the Arpelline, a small peak above Martigny. After some shenanigans finding the correct place to park, we skinned up through really scenic forests before emerging onto a stunning plateau, with views across the Mont Blanc Massif, Verbier, Grand Combin and the Bernese Oberland.

Heading up through the forests

The Arpelline plateau

Less than 2 hours effort put us on top, and from there we soaked up the views, ate a leisurely lunch, and then skied down in some great low angled powder, as well as the odd steeper section when I was in charge of route finding :)

Looking across to Mont Blanc and the Aiguilles Rouges

Sharon in the powder

Mont Buet and the peaks above the Emosson Dam

Overall, another great day, and a really nice half day tour - highly recommended.

Unsettled weather on the way now, so hopefully we'll get a load of fresh snow just to top things up, but either way winter is off to a great start.