Friday, 14 March 2014

Arpette Couloirs

I thought that the powder must all be gone now and that Matt, John and I should have been hunting spring snow but they convinced me that they could find some cold smoke and so off we went to Switzerland. The persistent weak layer in the snowpack this year has been particularly dangerous in the Valais region but the detailed Swiss snowpack and stability information online seems to suggest that the layer is so buried right now that things should be OK in some places. As the snowpack thins throughout spring it could come back into play but for now we were happy to go for it. 

After taking the Breya chairlift up from Champex we skied down into the Arpette Valley and started skinning up towards the Col des Ecandies. 

Get ready for the sweat fest!

Looking up to the Col des Ecandies and the Pointe d'Orny.

We had no firm plan for where to head but we had our collective eyes on the Aiguilles d'Arpette north couloir. Once under it though, things looked even better further up the Valley, towards the Pointe d'Orny so we pushed on. However, having started up one of the Orny couloirs the snow was pretty cruddy so we took the skins off, skied back to where we'd come from and resumed plan A. 

"Le super tafiole de montagne" having lunch under the Arpette couloirs.

Yes, John did bring a chocolate digestive sandwich.

The skin up the Arpette N couloir was pretty tough and whoever had put the skin track in was obviously a bit of a sadist as it was brutally steep. That said, I wasn't prepared to put my own in! 

Once we got to about 100m below the top of the line we decided that enough was enough and that we should ski down instead of bootpacking the final section to the summit. The snow was pretty good and we'd had enough uphill so we quickly got the skins off and started down.

John and Matt skinning up.

Ready to roll.

The couloir itself was OK, although a bit unpredictable but lower down we got the most amazing, low angled powder. It wasn't classic, January powder, more rippled and slightly wind blown but it was awesome to ski and the angle just egged you on to go faster and faster. Real pedal to the metal terrain, although I tried not to ponder what would have happened if I'd caught an edge at that speed...

John ripping the lower stuff.

Matt too.

The remainder of the ski out of the Valley was nice, mellow terrain and we soon found ourselves back on the Champex pistes.

John mincing the piste.

Overall we were blown away by the terrain we found today and the little powder stash at the end turned a good day into an amazing one. Cheers Matt and John for the trash talking and general good times.