Its always a pleasure to travel under the North Wall of the Argentiere Glacier and study the big ski lines and dream about the few hours they might be in condition in April or May. We hoped to ski some of the mid altitude couloirs in the hope they were more sheltered from the wind but in the first I wasn’t able to ski cut the new snow – it would slide a couple of metres then stop, not exactly inspiring confidence. After hanging out at the col and enjoying the surroundings we opted for some meadow skipping back home.
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).
Today was about just getting out for me. Its been an emotional period, I hadn’t skied for a couple of weeks, my back was untested after injury, I wasn’t sure if the psyche was there for skiing big mountains…knowing the NE spur of the Courtes was in made it the obvious choice, nothing too hard or scary to try and regain the feel for it.
I was joined by Max, Tom and Dave although Dave had to turn back with binding issues. We made steady progress climbing the face in the sunshine but as we arrived at the lower angled summit slopes, the sun moved off and the snow started to refreeze. We called it a day and skied from there.
This is the fifth route I’ve skied on this mountain and I think the 11th time I’ve skied off Les Courtes. Truely a skiers playground.
Afterwards we watched Sami Haapasalmi and his Finnish friends ski the right hand finish of Col Aiguille Verte. Hats off for ticking one of the steepest sustained ice slopes in the Alps.
Still looks steep from this angle!