Following Thursdays aborted mission to the Col des Courtes plans were reset and on Friday Ross, Mel and I skinned in to the Argentiere Refuge. Mel & myself enjoying some evening sun on the 'Terrace':
After some deliberations we decided conditions on the Courtes NNE Face were too good to pass up on. I wanted to get back on this face in good snow, having skied from 100m below the summit ridge last year in 'marginal' conditions...
Alarms were set for 4 a.m. and by 4.45 we were skinning towards the base of the face in the darkness of the pre-dawn. Lights were visible on the North Face of the Droites, heading for the Couloir Lagarde, Swiss route (?) on the Courtes, as well as some really early birds ahead of us on the Courtes NE face...
Me on the lower part of the face as dawn breaks:
Conditions were great, with a good boot-pack from our French friends up ahead. As we climbed higher things got more interesting, with some hard grey ice under a thin coating of snow giving short sections of front-pointing. Ross on the upper third of the face:
We caught up with our trail-breakers as we approached the summit ridge, with great views over into the Talefre and Geant basins, when gusts of wind weren't trying to knock us off our feet:
After 10 minutes wind-lashed rest on the ridge we put skis on and got stuck in. The first 50 metres were a little 'tense' with quite a few rocks, and some bare ice patches, visible and hidden to spice up the 'warm-up' turns.
First turn...concentrate (only 600m to the glacier):
Mel just below the top:
Ross at the top of the first buttress, 100m down the face:
And ripping it good style:
Conditions below the top section were fantastic, with soft chalky snow and not too many hazards other than the odd ice streak.
Coming to the snow ridge 1/3 of the way up the face, plenty of spindrift blowing about:
Ross just above the bottom runnels:
Mel heading towards our gear stash:
Two happy bunnies below the face:
Les Courtes NNE Face, 600m at 45-50º: