Les Courtes, North East Spur

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.

NE Spur Les CourtesNE Spur Les Courtes-6 NE Spur Les Courtes-26 NE Spur Les Courtes-48 NE Spur Les Courtes-64

Tom enjoying the refrozen crusty snow through this section.NE Spur Les Courtes-92

Tom having fun.NE Spur Les Courtes-105

Max enjoying good pow. NE Spur Les Courtes-117

Tom ripping it up.NE Spur Les Courtes-119

Max blasting to the bottom. NE Spur Les Courtes-132

The skiers are at half height. The bootpack is obvious. Steep.NE Spur Les Courtes-137 Can you spot the 4 skiers?NE Spur Les Courtes-141

Still looks steep from this angle!

Couloir Cache – the secret couloir

Yesterday I was invited to ski Couloir Cache and the Brenva glacier with Chamonix locals Cedric Bernardini, Luca Pandolfi and Sami Haapasalmi. I skied this run once last year with Philip Ebert and had fresh tracks and an amazing day out so was excited to go back. After skinning up to the col we found that a local Italian team had beaten us to the untracked line but we didnt mind as it turned out to be Luca Rolli and friend who was one of the team that first opened the couloir. This year the entry had a good snow covering so after a long rap we put on skis and edged along the 50 degree shelf that is undercut by a twisting couloir. Before reaching the start of our couloir we side slipped down about 15 m. Where last year were bare granite slabs, this year a foot of snow was sufficient to avoid further rope work. The snow was heating up here quickly so it was nice to get to the demi lune col that marks the start and be out of the danger zone.rectify this on the final small pitch above the glacier and aided by an almost excessive amount of caffeine intake fired off down. I’m still not sure what happened next but I felt a large jolt like I had carelessly buried a ski tip and got highsided. After a couple of tomahawks I landed a fakey snowplough and stopped. Looking at my gopro footage the tips didnt bury and I can only think my pole went through to the bed of the couloir as it got ripped out my hand when the strap snapped and my elbow feels like it got bent back the wrong way. Next time I wont pay any attention to Luca’s comments  and will be limiting my caffeine intake somewhat.

The remaining decent of the glacier was on lush powder and allowed us to swap turns  and savour the magnificent scenery all the way down to the tunnel entrance just in time for a pizza lunch in Courmayeur.

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Here is my gopro footage: 

Same run with more snow last year with Philip Ebert:

http://vimeo.com/21660494