Tuesday, 4 January 2011

Into the wild

Mont Brequin to Orelle - the Integrale (almost).

I was stood up by clients in Val Thorens today, and with good visibility holding out felt in the mood for some adventure.
The Mont Brequin was beckoning and from the Cime de Caron it looked like the whole of the far side of the Combe Sans Nom was still untracked:

A mix of traversing, sidestepping & hiking takes you along the ridge to the Pas de la Masse. Passing the Pierre Fendue:

At the Pas de la Masse I decided against going right to the top of the Brequin as the 45/50º couloir was looking a bit thin - alright to climb but not great for skiing:

A traverse just below the summit took me onto the wide open slopes of the Combe Sans Nom, not a track to be seen over this side, any previous skiers having taken the first entry at the very start of the ridge + the short exit at Plan Bouchet. Slightly wind affected snow, but great powder nonetheless:

And some more powder:

Lower down the snow was a bit more variable, but a long traverse into the Combe Noire gave yet more powder turns:

And then some more:

Heading towards Notre Dame des Anges the snow was thinner, but still just as soft:

Decision time - cut out here & skin back to Plan Bouchet, or head ever downward to see if the snow would hold out all the way to Orelle. With no-one else in tow to complain if things went a bit pear-shaped there was only one obvious option - downwards!

Approaching the Traverse of Doom, with the critical footbridge below (miss this & you get wet feet!):

The Traverse of Doom - I had to admit defeat just round the corner and take the skis off for 10 yards as the snow had melted & the path was only 3 feet wide):

Traverse of Doom from below:

Huge surface hoar flakes in the valley bottom:

A scratchy ski down a path gave way to a very snowy road down to Bonvillard:


Below Bonvillard the skis came off for 5 minutes bushwacking through some trees & scrub, before the road emerged again at La Fusine, with its typical Mauriennais stone-built houses:

Below La Fusine the skis went back on for some careful turns down to Francoz, where the bottom of the lift finally came into view:

An epic descent!! 2200m of vertical, with powder turns all the way down to the bottom of the lift (with some interesting conditions in the middle, admittedly). After a drink in the café it was time to head back up the lifts for some more powder-hunting. Looking back across at the Mt Brequin complete with one solitary ski track - I wonder who that could have been!

The afternoon was filled up skiing lines off the Cime de Caron, amazingly, despite being in full view of the lift, there were still swathes of powder to be found in the Caron couloirs... Happy Days!

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