Aiguille d’Entreve, South East Face. 4.2 E2

Tuesday was spent in La Clusaz charging pistes and recovering from the Gervasutti and Paddys day. Heading into town early on wednesday I could already feel the heat at 7:45.  This was a good indication that we would have to move fast to ski something that wasn’t running water.

The South East face of the Aiguille d’Entreve is a beautiful line that works its way down from near the summit of the Entreve, towards the mid station of the helbronner cable car in Italy. Hoping for spring like conditions around midday we slowly plodded up and started traversing the ridge about 10:30. We were going to complete the traverse and return to our skis but after seeing a group drop in we knew we would have to ski it quickly to get the good snow.

The upper, 45′, section of the face was a little variable and chopped up but after a few turns it opened up to nice smooth spring snow all the way down to the bergschrund. Descending the glacier back to the station was a mixture of wind blown hard snow and deep thick slush that took strength to ski fast, especially on my skinny skis again!

Sitting with a good Italian coffee in the Torino refuge, over looking the face we just skied was a nice change to the coffee from the midi bakery I’m used to. Skiing the Valley Noir in perfect chalk down to the James Bond track we also had a little water skiing by Montenvers. Only taking skis off for the last 500m of the track before Plannards the James Bond is slowly going out of action. Lest hope for some much needed snow this weekend and make a few more powder turns before this season is out.

 

 

 

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Col des Cristaux

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James and Luke skiing the Col des Cristaux.

Rappelling the top 15 meters of this face last April I was determined to come back and complete the line. After a few recent outings with James and Luke they were keen to come and have a go at this with me on Monday morning. Taking the high right hand traverse down to the Argentiere glacier it was already getting warm, thankfully there was a nice breeze when we started skinning so things didn’t get to hot.

The bootpack was well established and reconsolidated by three climbers who were heading up just 50m ahead of me, we made good time up the face. The gentle breeze that cooled us on the valley floor had slowly grown in to constant wind with strong gusts that would catch you off guard  if you were not paying attention. The winds coupled with loose snow resulted in constant spin drifts and powder avalanches, which convinced Luke and James they should think about heading down. After they made up their minds they shouted up to me and I didn’t take much convincing to turn around about 100m below the top of the 600m face. Making a platform to put my skis on was a long drawn out affair with the wind filling it back in with snow and things getting very cold. Making my first few turns on the 45′-50′ slope in 6-8 inch high sastrugi was very daunting and it wasn’t too long before I opted to side slip the wind blown snow and neve down to James and Luke who were taking shelter under a cliff.

After a quick stop with the boys I headed down skiers left trying to find some skiable snow. There was some snow that had not been too affected by the wind but turns were seldom as it was so variable and unpredictable. Making my way down with a dozen or so turns and some fast side slipping I was down and over the bergschrund. After picking up all the skins and ropes we left at the bottom I headed towards the sun in an attempt to warm my hands up after only bringing soft shell gloves for this ‘spring’ ski.

Sitting in the sun I waited for James and Luke to get down, they contemplated down climbing but soon changed their mind when they saw that I skied it. Upon their arrival to my sunny spot we headed straight back to Grands Montets to grab a beer in the sun, where surprisingly there was not a breath of wind. A huge change from the face a few kilometers up the Glacier.