One of my biggest dreams was to ski the mythical Couturier Couloir off the mighty 4122 m Aiguille Verte…in powder. From one of the wildest summits in the Mont Blanc Massif a 1000 m of sustained 50/55 degrees. I went up to the refuge prepared for a solo adventure. I knew Gabriel Rivas was heading up with some other friends though he was wanting to ski Col de la Verte. In the end Gabriel teamed up with me and yesterday that dream became reality. Twenty years in the waiting, lots of sacrifices to obtain this one including many jobs, and it lived up to all expectations. What a mind blowing adventure. Great snow, amazing company, intimidating situations with the smattering of snow and the ever present death ice out right acting as a constant reminder to go canny. The line went clean using the lower traverse into the Washburn variation. SUPER STOKED.
After we chatted on the rognan col for a long time and said our goodbyes, I wanted to drink beer and Gabriel was gonna straight line across to the Argie hut to stay another day.
Down on the flat glacier below, a moments lapse of concentration and Gabriel hit a block of ice at speed and tomahawked hard into other blocks of ice. Would you believe it – we’ve just skied the Couturier??! When I got to him I could see the impact on his helmet had probably broken his nose. Struggling to breath and with lots of internal pain, it was an easy decision for me to call a rescue chopper. 3 years ago I javelined head first into the ground out riding and the damage to my back almost prevented me breathing so I could imagine where he was at – its pretty scary when your ribs cage locks out, completely different to being winded which is bad enough, more like drowning – when I flew to the Netherlands the next day for work I had to get Alan White to carry my bags!
Fortunately the rescue was quick, unfortunately Gabriel suffered 3 broken vertabrae, 2 broken ribs and contusion to a lung. Get well soon Gabriel and thanks for an all time day. I drank your share of the beer last night too!
All the North wind we have had has filled in the right hand branch of Y Couloir really well this year and I have been wanting to go there for some time. I was weighing up going solo to Croullante or going to the Y but persistent afternoon cloud on the Aiguille du Midi made it an easy decision to go for Y off the first Grands Montets bin. Late in the afternoon my friend Kirsti Lehtimaki from EPIC TV messaged me saying she wanted to ski and had a friend coming too. Next morning her friend Matthieu Vigier came along with Chloe Laget and Couttet Berbere so we had a sociable skin up the classic Millieu Glacier. The lack of snow meant very firm conditions on the way up and we used ski crampons for the 1400 m climb.
On the summit there was a cold 5 kph wind blowing and I didnt linger long wanting to find the entry to the couloir, having only skied the left branch before. In the couloir it was thankfully a bit warmer and after passing 5 m of rocks at the top we put on our skis on flat corning spring snow.
Y Couloir (TD, 45 degrees, 5.1/5.2 600 m) as seen from Col des Courtes. Its the big line branching below the summit of the Aiguille d’Argentiere (3901m). Y Couloir with the 60 m step at the base with the stunning golden granite spires.
Julbo Aerospace goggles – the ultimate variable venting bootpacking and touring goggle. The big lines of Couturier and Au Coeur du Monde or Col Aiguille Verte right hand (1st and only? descent by the Scottish extreme ski legends Paul MacLeod and Ewen Moffat with the Dane Thomas Husted in 2001).
The North Wall of the Argentiere Glacier – a lifetime of extreme ski dreams in one place.
Me happy on the summit.
I was really happy to see such good conditions and lots of direct sun.
Matthieu skiing cautiously between softer patches. The Black Crows Navis Freebird is an astonishingly good ski.
Kirsti skiing ice axe in hand!
Me in the upper section, Thanks to Kirsti Lehtimaki for the photo.
Still on firm snow at this point and putting in the chop turns to avoid any uncontrollable build up of speed.