Friday, 16 May 2008

La Face du jour

Today I went for an explore in the Tarentaise to the North face of the Pierre Pointe.
Situated in an isolated valley above the picturesque villages of Le Monal and Le Clou this is a great place to escape the crowds (I didn't see another soul all day - the odd marmot excepted).
The "Rampe Nord" on Pierre Pointe is a stunning line taking the obvious left to right rising ramp line on the picture below:

This is a fairly serious proposition, weighing in at 5.3 on the "cheek-clench" scale, featuring 800m of 45ยบ with some steeper pitches thrown in, all with a fair bit of exposure, as from halfway up the initial ramp the rest of the route takes place with cliffs below.
Unfortunately a couple of slightly cloudy nights had affected the snowpack which despite being north-facing was pretty rotten, making for a frustrating approach to the face. The couloir itself was in reasonable shape, with a light layer of fluff overlying some more or less solid/refrozen snow underneath...and despite appearances from afar had continuous skiable snow with only a couple of narrow sections.
600m up the face and the trail-breaking was taking its toll. Clouds were boiling up behind the summit ridge, and I thought I heard a rumble of thunder (storms forecast for this afternoon...) so the decision was made to leave the last 300m to the summit for another day. The snow on the face proved to be very skiable (as long as you didn't think about the cliffs below..) right down to the sluff cone below, followed by a long haul back through the porridge to the car.
I'll definitely be back to finish the job at some point though - stunning line, quiet valley - what more can you ask for? (other than clear nights to get the snowpack refreezing again..)

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