Another sunny day in the mountains with Alistair Hurst, this time we headed up the Argentiere basin with our aim being to ski the North-east Couloir of the Col des Cristaux. I headed up to attempt this two weeks ago but turned around about a third of the way up due to heavy snow and a lack of motivation to boot pack the whole thing on my own. Luckily today I had Ally to run up the thing before me with his long legs, he was at the top one hour before me!
Photo taken from google.
Getting first bin on the Grand Montet we were putting our skins on by 9:15 and started heading up the glacier with about 10/15 other people also going to ski some of the steeps up the basin.
It was hot from the word go with shells off straight away and still being too hot. After an hour of nice easy skinning we were at the bottom of the Col with three people who had just crossed the bergschrund in front of us. Ally thought the boot pack didn’t look that hard with there being some good steps in already when he said about 45 min to an hour I knew that wasn’t realistic for me but it was spot on for him.
Ally looking back down the Col after reaching the top with me just right of center just over half way. It looks a long way down from here and with rocks below you cant really afford a fall, we skied the left hand ridge and then half way down we traverse to the right of the boot pack, the first half was steeper probably closer to 50′ with it getting a little less steep on the lower right hand face.
Ally had a nice hour in the sun while waiting for me to get to the top so he took some nice pictures, this ridge line photo shows the steepness of the Col.
The guy on the right was hit by an avalanche on the lower half which took him about 100m and over the schrund, he skied away fine with his sunglasses on his head, lucky escape!
The view over the top looking towards Mont Blanc and the Grand Jorasses on the left. This was just after midday and the sun was belting down on us at this point which made the last few steps very hard!
Ally dropping in below the big cornice, I opted to rap the first 30m so I could avoid negotiating the rocks at the top.
After putting the rope back in my bag while trying to stay in one place on the face I had a look down at what I had to ski and the nerves set in!
Only making a half dozen turns in the top 200m of the Col my confidence came back just as the snow became very mixed. It was a combination of hard wind blown snow, deep heavy slush and wind slab which made for difficult slow going skiing.
Just after jumping the Bergschrund, carrying a lot of speed into the heavy slush which I still have not found a way to ski properly.
No great turn photos from today as we just wanted to get down and there was no deep powder for the classic fun day out ski photos, It was overall a really good tour which didnt require too much effort, and it is nice to have done another Chamonix steep.
Thanks to Alistair for some good photos.