Saturday, 14 March 2015

Col du Tour Noir & Argentiere basin conditions

With the good weather holding, I had a great, cruisy day in the Argentiere basin yesterday with Owain, Dane and Morgan (the only one without a blog. Loser.)

There was no firm plan other than to take in some nice views, check out conditions and (hopefully) ski some nice spring snow. As it turns out, we did all 3 by touring up the Col du Tour Noir and had the added bonus of enjoying a beer at the Argentiere hut on the way down. Not too shabby!

"Famous" Dane Burns.

Owain skinning with the Pointe Domino behind.

What a hero. Photo Morgan Sinclair.

Dane skinning up with Les Courtes and Les Droites behind. Every time I go into the Argentiere basin I forget just how big everything is. When you consider how good the skiing, climbing and scenery are up there, it would certainly be a contender for the single best mountain valley in the World.

Finally at the col and Owain shows off his pointing skills. Morgan, lacking a guides badge, can't compete.

Velvety snow on the way down.

Nice afternoon light on the ski out.

Dane cruising home.

While up in the basin I was able to get a good look at conditions and it seems that, despite the massive lack of snow, things are pretty good all round. 

The ski touring is thin but if you wait until the afternoon there's plenty of spring snow to be had and all the sunny lines looked nice. The classics cols and the Milleu and Y routes on the Aiguille d'Argentiere are all good, provided there is some warmth in the middle of the day to soften things up. The north facing lines are pretty wind battered though so I'd give them a miss and stay in the sun.

Climbing wise, there's plenty to go at. The rock routes behind the Argentiere hut are completely dry (although the ones further up, towards the Col du Tour Noir need a bit more sun before they're ready to go) and the north faces look good. The north face of Les Courtes was quite thin but the ice looked in good condition and there were several teams climbing it. 

Les Courtes N face. (This and the next 2 shots are high resolution, click on them to see them full size).

The steeper, top half of Les Droites looks really good but the icefield is quite black and accessing it looked thin too. Once you were halfway up you'd be fine but getting there might be tricky! There was no sign of anyone climbing it. The routes on the NW face looked really good though and I'd imagine that the Richard Cranium Memorial will see some ascents soon. The Lagarde couloir looked formed but the lower section is slightly thin.

Les Droites NE & N Faces.

Les Droites and the Verte.

Over on the Aiguille Verte, conditions looked really good. Vivegel, Late to Say I'm Sorry and the Couturier all looked pretty thick so they will likely be popular too. 

All in all, tons to go at, now we just need the sun to come back!