Tuesday 25 February 2014

Breche Puiseux

After a few sunny days in the mountains, Phil, Jack and I thought that things would have stabilised enough for us to go on an adventure to the Couvercle hut. However, Phil went for a recce on Sunday morning and found that whilst it had only snowed a couple of centimetres in town, the high mountains had got hammered on Saturday night and that there was far more snow than we'd realised. Time for a new plan.

After much discussion we agreed that we were all keen for a night out in the mountains and that we should just go for a night at the Requin hut and see what took our fancy. You can do virtually all of the tours from the Requin off the first bin but we wanted to be nice and early, ahead of the crowds and the heat. There was also an element of quite looking forward to a few beers looking at the view from hut, but as Jack said "Things are bad when this constitutes a lads' night out!"

A quick beer at the Midi before heading down the Vallee Blanche.

The Vallee Blanche at sunset was pretty special.

Home for the night. 

After a brilliant ski down in perfect powder we were greeted with a MASSIVE feed! Best of all there was no-one else staying in the hut so we actually got some sleep, aided by several beers and glasses of wine. A good night was had.

The next morning dawned clearer than our heads (must be the altitude...) so we decided to head up towards the Col du Tacul and see what looked good. Unfortunately Jack had put his back out on Sunday so once we'd crossed the Salle a Manger he headed home and Phil and I continued. 

There are several options for skinning up the Glacier des Periades, all of which involve being under seracs. Some people had gone hard right and then crossed the glacier higher up but this really does put you in the serac firing line so we instead went straight up the middle for about 100 vertical metres before cutting into the narrow gully on the left. You're still threatened by seracs but you're much further from them and there are also fewer of them above you.

Unfortunately the track up had been blown in by winds overnight so we ended up trail breaking for about 400m vertical, which felt tough but it was amazing to be on our own up there, ahead of the hordes who would be on the first few Midi bins. We made good time up here - a serac over your head is an amazing motivator - and then chilled out once we were higher up and checked out our options. 

We were both tempted to go for the Capucin Couloir but with no track up to it, lots of fresh snow and no reports of it having been done this year, we decided that there were too many unknowns and that we weren't brave enough to go and drop into it without more info. By this stage some of the people from the first bins were catching us (not a word of thanks for the track from any of them - the cheek of it!) so we opted to head for the Breche Puiseux and got on with it. The Breche Puiseux is my favourite tour in the Valley and if there's a better ski tour in the Alps, I'm yet to find it so we weren't too disappointed to be going for "plan b".

The skin went smoothly and so did the bootpack but by the top we were really feeling the altitude and our earlier trail breaking efforts but the views were just incredible and we managed to do the whole ascent in the shade so life was good. 

Touring towards the Breche Puiseux. This traverse had some funky snow on it and would have felt pretty dodgy with the hot sun on it. Glad we stayed in the hut!

A couple of punters.

Just before the bootpack.

Phil bootpacking.

Some more people heading up the bootpack as the sun hit.

Me abbing off the far side of the Breche.

Once on the Breche we got off the far side as quick as we could and skied down the whole of the descent without seeing another soul. The scenery off the back of the Breche is amongst the best in the Massif and the view of the Grandes Jorasses is mind blowing. As if that wasn't enough, we got superb powder most of the way and even the stuff lower down was still pretty good.

Me with the Jorasses behind. Photo Phil Ebert.

Me in the powder higher up. We stuck near the other tracks because there are enormous crevasses the whole way down and we weren't keen on locating any. Photo Phil Ebert. 

Another Jorasses shot. Photo Phil Ebert.

Phil skiing faster and smoother than I had done on the lower section. 

Safely down on the Leschaux Glacier. From here we checked out the Capucin Couloir and it looked pretty grim and wind blown. Good shout. 

Near the end of the glacier we found a tiny pitch of nice powder so Phil opened them and I closed them. Who said romance is dead?

Hard to get lost on the Leschaux Glacier!

Having negotiated everything else with ease, Phil stacked it hard on an almost flat track. It happens to the best of us, Phil. 

Once back in town Jack was good enough to come and pick us up so we headed for a late lunch and a beer. It might not have been the "raddest" option in Cham but we had a great couple of days and the Breche Puiseux delivered as ever. I've now done it 3 times and I'm sure I'll be up there again soon.

The forecast is calling for a lot of snow over the coming days so things are looking good for the skiers out there. Climbing conditions remain generally pretty poor and I don't think they'll be improving for a while so it's more powder, powder, powder for the foreseeable future!