Sunday, 18 April 2010

Spring weather

This week has been a bit of a mixed bag: on Thursday, with a sunny but cool day forecast as per the Wednesday Will & I headed round to the Maurienne valley to make use of the Aussois lift system for an attempt on the East face of the Dent Parrachee. This is a relatively unknown descent, but weighs in at 5.3 on the "scale of scariness", with a long section of 50º with tricky route-finding through rocks before coming out onto comparatively gentle 45º slopes for the rest of the face. The Dent Parrachee at 3698m is the 4th highest summit of the Savoie, and an emblematic peak in this valley.

With the day starting sunny, we were a bit concerned that the face would heat up too quickly by the time we made our way up the 1300m of the normal route. Sadly, exactly the opposite was the case, and as we climbed higher the skies clouded over.. As we stood on the summit it was snowing, and neither of us was particularly keen to get involved with the route-finding on the east face in flat light, so we retreated down the normal route via the Couloir de la Louza, which is itself quite exposed (for a 'voie normale') with top the 300m at 35/40º sitting above cliffs... the Chaise du Pape (Pope's Chair) for those who know it..
Crust, crust and more crust was the order of the day, before we finally got out onto some reasonable spring snow

Yesterday Ginny & I headed back into Les Avals, via a slightly longer route than Wednesday thanks to the Roc Merlet lift being shut. The days objective was the North couloir on the Roche Nue, a short but sweet descent right at the head of the Les Avals valley. A tedious approach with balling-up skins was followed by 300m of knee-deep boot packing up the couloir itself, and a short scramble onto the summit. The couloir gave excellent skiing, with good powder all the way down, followed by good spring snow back into the valley. Video to follow...

Today with another blue sky forecast I went out for a bit of a session to explore some couloirs I haven't skied in the 3 Valleys. Despite the forecast as I took the lifts up from Mottaret it was definitely cloudy, so the spring snow options were scrubbed, and I went for Plan B instead, and skinned up to the Valdez couloirs above the Glacier de Borgne valley. With sketchy visibility this was a good test of finding the right entry from memory & intuition... Is this it??:

A bit of a leap of faith found some good powder in the couloir... as luck would have it the weather cleared a bit as I skied out of the bottom of the couloir...:

With a good hole in the clouds I tempted fate by heading off up for another line off the Pointe de Borgne, ignoring the steadily increasing snow, wind, and even the rumble of thunder. Eventually I found myself stood at the top (of something):

Visibility even poorer than before and no signs of letting up meant careful skiing, though once again I had managed to find exactly the line I was after, despite the conditions. Once again as I skied out of the couloir the skies started to clear, and by the time I had skied down to Mottaret it was completely blue...! Typical...

After a quick snack in Mottaret it was time to head home - through a hailstorm! Spring weather...

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