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.
The Black Crows posse of Bruno Compagnet, Minna Riihimaki and myself headed up to stay in the sweet Couvercle refuge for a night. The team excited about a trip to the mountains and the beautiful Couvercle refuge. Bruno pointing out lines Still some good flat snow with no sastrugi on Gros Rognan. Beautiful late afternoon light on the Mer de Glace. The 2016 Corvus Freebird and the Navis Freebird, both amazing touring skis. They say you should always be doing something with your hands in a photo, the weirder the better! Some people still dispute climate change. Here we have June snow conditions in mid March! The last rays of the afternoon before the sun sets behind the Chamonix Aiguilles Minna on the boot pack to the Pierre a Beranger. I’m getting on well with these glue less Evotec skins – time will tell for the final verdict. So much faster putting skins on and off without the cheat sheets. Hut nights at the Couvercle, Bruno enjoying a glass of red. We were joined by French Alpinists who had been on Viva Gel and Whymper. They were obviously feeling the cold and put a lot of wood on the fire. It was so hot that I went to bed on my boxers and couldnt sleep until 3 am. A bit of digital art to show off the partial eclipse of the sun
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).
When Ez and myself decided to do the Colton Brooks we had already done a few day routes and so were working well as a team and were fully acclimatised. We wanted to get up and over quickly, which isnt an issue for a man like Ez with his national level of fell running fitness, but we also took skis to get down to Cham quickly. The climb is one of the most esthetic lines I have been on, never hard but the ephemeral streak of ice taking you through stunning and improbable terrain under that enormous shield of rock is a fantastic journey. We took four ice screws and moved together the whole way, only slowing momentarily when Ez decided that he didnt want to risk his new screw bottoming out in some shallow ice and would retrieve it and place one of mine. He then proceeded to fumble and drop his new screw in an ironic karma moment.
After rapping the couloir we stepped into our skis and glided effortlessly down to Cham in the dark. For some reason I had decided only to take a tikka headtorch. The short beam length and blueish light let me mistake a light grey slab of granite for neve and saw sparks coming off my edges like a locomotive pulling an emergency stop before a couple of tomahawks landed me back on my feet. An hour or so after leaving the couloir and we were back in Cham for a beer then bed.