On Friday Will & I headed up the Couloir des Italiens on the Grande Casse, probably the most classic steep ski in the Vanoise region, with 700m of face mostly in the 50 degree zone.
After several hours of literally swimming our way up through 50 degrees + of powder it got to the point where we had to decide either to push on to the top & be too tired to ski, or turn around where we were and at least get some fantastic skiing on the bottom 2/3 of the face. Powder turns won the day and we had some awesome skiing (see Fridays post) but I was left with the nagging feeling of unfinished business, and with conditions staying near-perfect I wasn't surprised when Will called from a trip up the normal route on the Grande Casse with Erika to suggest a rematch for the following day, and dropped everything for the 900m skin back up to the hut.
On arriving at the col in the morning there were already 12 people climbing the couloir, and rather than have all those pairs of crampons above our heads we opted for the Moyenne Face Nord, a classic AD+ climb and 5.2 ski which would give us a good view of the face, or a good back-up plan for skiing..
Climbing the Moyenne Face Nord:
On the ridge heading for the Grande Casse summit:
Having taken in the views on the summit we dropped down the 30m to the entry and it was decision time, with this view:
Gilles was definitely not keen, Will wasn't super-psyched, but I was definitely 'feeling it' and the top funnel looked OK, with some reasonable powder for the important first few turns... 3,2,1, dropping.. off we go...
Out of the funnel and on the big wall above the serac band:
As with all these things, with good conditions and the right mindset the skiing actually felt very easy... but with utmost concentration required all the time, falling is not an option until you get to the last 150m of slope, where you might possibly stop yourself, or maybe miss the seracs running across the bottom of the face..
And finally I could relax and slide over to the col for a well-earned drink & bite to eat..
As I sat looking back up I noticed someone else had dropped through the top funnel - and sure enough 20 minutes later Will appeared with a Cheshire Cat grin... good effort that man!!
The smiles say it all: