Tuesday, 21 April 2009

Pointe Eales NE Face

Still in the relaxed holiday spirit a call from Ross & Al on Saturday saw a 'speed-pack' followed by a frustrating drive over to Chamonix (Gorges d'Arly shut again...), a 2 minute change in the Grnads Montets car park, and finally I made the very last cable car to the top with seconds to spare!!

The plan was for the NE Face of Pointe Eales (Col des Courtes), at the very head of the Argentiere basin, with 400/500m of 50º powder in prospect..

5* bivvy location (complete with central heating):

Al getting comfy (with his own 'special' central heating):

5.30 alarm call and by 6.30 we were picking our way through the crevasses down towards the bottom of the Droites in an attempt to keep as much height as possible:

A long skin up the Argentiere glacier finally brought the face into view, with skies clearing, and a bit of sun hitting the top of the face:

Ross drags his Sanouks towards the rimaye:

Aiguille D'Argentiere looking stunning in the morning sun:

The bottom of the face is split by several rimayes, so ropes were kept on for a while until we were well clear. Ross and Al ploughing a trench with their DIY snowshoes:

By 11 o'clock we were well established in the middle of the face, when the cloud level started to drop, nothing too alarming (nice & cool actually). Al ploughs on ahead:

10 minutes later at about 3400m the weather swung completely, and in came the cloud, snow and wind; 2 minutes later the first spindrift avalanche came in from above, and it was time for a quick change to downhill mode to beat a hasty retreat. Interesting times getting into Dynafits on 50º+ with spindrift trying to knock you off balance...:

Despite the poor visibility the face gave awesome skiing (about as easy as a 5.4 slope could possibly feel !) with big fluffy powder on every turn, and in 5 minutes we were back over the lowest rimaye and onto the safer slopes below. Al in the cloud:

Time for tea and cakes:

Photo taken from the same spot as earlier looking up towards the face...bit of a change...

Shame the weather didn't hold 1 more hour as we would have hit the top and had a perfect descent of this classic slope... oh well, next time (might be 5th time lucky for Ross!).

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