Sunday, 24 February 2008

Aiguille du Fruit NW couloir

2nd time lucky.

This stunning line on the West side of the Aiguille du Fruit had been on the hit list for a while, with an abortive attempt in January. With 3 weeks of stable weather I was confident the couloir would be safe, the question was whether any good snow was left...

A solo mission today saw me negotiating some wet slide debris across the south side of the Col du Fruit to get to the bottom of the couloir. The lower section of the couloir was on the firm side, with a spindrift-polished runnel in the middle. Indecision after 100m, the snow feels OK but definitely on the crusty side, what will it be like higher up? The couloir is quite enclosed and faces North West so I was reasonably confident it would still be soft on the left bank.
A quick couple of turns on the lower crust proved it to be reasonably skiable, so confidence boosted I swapped skis for crampons and axe and headed up again.
Variable conditions finally revealed an old boot track at 2750m, which eased the effort to the summit ridge just under the 3000m mark.

The direct finish was already in the sun and had some grim snow in it, so I opted for the right-hand finish, well-shaded, to the col overlooking the South Face (big cornice):

Looking towards the summit. Left for another day, with a rope and partner...:

Looking down:

After the first 50m of steep the slope eases to a shade under 45º for the rest of the couloir. As expected the far left bank was still holding some pockets of very soft snow:

With scenery like this you can't go wrong:

Looking back at the Aiguille du Fruit. The couloir starts directly below the summit goes up diagonally rightwards to the ridge right of the summit:

Another great day out in the Vanoise...

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