After a week of summer temperatures and rock climbing in t-shirts at 3000m...
|Voie Contimine on Pointe Lachenal - 6b 250m
...winter conditions returned to Chamonix with a 30-40cm dump of snow down to ~1500m. Andy had been down visiting Dave and Lara down in Gap but was due to return on Monday morning with an eye for skiing some of Chamonix's well known steeps. After a 05:30 start to drop Monica off at the airport and a nice drive through the sunny Aosta valley, he arrived in a decidedly damp and dank Chamonix. All skiing plans for the day were ditched in favour of bolt clipping in Aosta...so back through the Tunnel du Mont Blanc again!
I was working at 03:45 the next day, so Andy went up to ski the Col du Cristeux with Sandy Simpson, Ross and Michele. Ross's details from the day: http://rosshewittblog.wordpress.com/2013/04/23/col-de-cristaux/
Despite having 900m of ascent and 500m of 45°+ descent in his legs, Andy was up for more! With word of good conditions on the North East Face of Les Courtes, the plan was set. Alarms set, dinner eaten, bags packed and off to bed.
Braaaap...brraaaap... text arrives from Andy at 07:57 "on your way........?"
Oh shit, I've set the alarm for 07:45 instead of 06:45. Hmmm....woops!
Finally got to the queue for Grands Montets around 08:30, not quite awake but fed and caffeinated. Up, across, up some more and we're at the start of the skin track leading its way up to the bergschrund and the start of the bootpack. 10 people in front of us, damn. Me to Andy - " apologies for the inevitable sluffing from the people ahead". Doing my best to make up for the late start we catch half of the people ahead on the bootpack and the rest are only just ahead when we make it to the col at around 12:15.
A short wait for the first few people to make their way tentatively down the top 50m of 50° bumpy, crusty snow and we get our chance to ski this intimidating face. I go first and just side slip and step down through the narrows until the face widens and snow improves, Andy comes behind daring to make a couple of jump turns. At this point the 5 or so people just ahead seem to be in no rush so we just continue past them before cutting left on the the more east facing side of the wide couloir, hoping for less tracks and maybe some sun softened snow?
Our luck is in and we get 600m of perfect spring snow, allowing us to let off the brakes and get some wider, more flowing turns in. I'll let the pictures do the rest of the talking:
|Andy on the Bootpack with the Argentiére Basin in the background.
|The final few hundred metres of bootpacking in the midday heat.