Sunday, 16 March 2008

Tignes classics

Having spent the week working in Tignes I decided to stay on for the Saturday to make the most of the great conditions following the big snowfalls during the week, and tick a couple of classic lines that have been on the 'to-do' list for a while...

The main plan for the day, the West Couloir on the Grande Parei, was put on hold as from closer inspection from the bottom of the first pitch down the Vallons de la Sache the slope below the couloir looked extremely uninviting. A change of plan then, and following some bush-whacking to get out from the extended finish to the Vallons I headed up high where the North face of the Pramecou was looking particularly fine (apart from the usual rocky finish):

A huge queue for the cable car and very wind-affected snow meant I left the north face of the Grande Motte for another day...the classic Tignes north face trilogy (Motte, Pramecou, Balme) will have to wait.
A short skin up to the Pramecou, 5 minutes in the sun, then onto the North face, with great soft snow sloughing off on each turn in true Alaska style. Looking down from 100m in:

A great little slope, the bottom of the face is also at the start of the walk up to the Grande Balme, another Tignes classic and obvious line which catches the eye from Val Claret or Le Lac. 10 minutes quick hike, a couple of minutes to give 2 French riders a head start and it was straight into more great soft snow in the top of the couloir.

Looking down on the french riders from the top:

The french guys just above the dogleg:

Just below the dogleg, skier visible down and left of the gazex on the wide slopes below the couloir:

A couple of great powder runs before midday, not bad considering the delayed start for the morning's detour via La Sache...

Back up the Grande Motte and over to the 3500 couloir and a change of snow. This clasic line is easily accessed by traversing from the top of the cable car to the obvious breche. The couloir was in perfect spring conditions (though I was maybe 30 minutes late for prime spring snow) and gives 1000m of descent to the Leisse valley floor. A short step down and I was able to put skis on 1m below the entry and make turns down the initial steep entry slope into twide main gully.
Looking back up from 200m down (entry on R):

Looking back up from above the Couloir des Chamois exit:

1000m of great skiing and a long traverse later i put skins back on for the climb back out to the Leisse chair. A sweaty half hour later and the welcome relief of the chairlift took me up to the Panoramic for a well-earned cold-drink. A quick descent of the north face of the Petite Balme took me back to Val Claret at 2.30pm, where common sense got the better of me and I decided to call it a day and hit the road for home in time to watch the Six Nations 'final'.

More snow due in the next few days, but for big mountain skiing it looks like South facing may be the way for the next couple of weeks...north face of the Grande Casse is still very bare with huge patches of blue ice...

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