Monday, 14 March 2011

'Keyhole couloir'

This week I have a few days off, and having had a lazy weekend letting the body recover from a succession of busy weeks, and with a window in the otherwise pretty poor weather forecast, I met up with Will for some adventuring out the back of Courchevel today. Will has been busy as always on skis this winter, and has managed to work out some new lines (probably previously unskied) on some of the peaks out behind Courchevel. He was keen to show me one of his discoveries, involving a bit of alpinism, some mixed climbing, and a short abseil (and hopefully some powder)...

Long distance shot to the 'Keyhole' (on the ridge), more of this later:

A fairly steady skin up on firm spring snow leads to a col on the ridge:

For the full mountain experience we didn't head straight for the couloir and went summit-bagging:

Bit of an airy climb on inconsistent powder with big drops either side:

Tricky skiing back off the summit, with very variable snow, and lots of rocks not far from the surface!

Getting to the 'Keyhole' involves a bit of insecure mixed climbing this winter:

Will at the 'Keyhole':

On the other side it was all looking quite good:

The top section is steep (50ยบ ish) and leads straight into a choke-point - abseil needed this year. Looking back up from below the anchor:

Looking down from below the abseil, mmmmmmm!:

A bit of 'Ambiance':

Will giving his skis a quick grind on the abseil:

Some good snow makes all the effort worthwhile:

Will ripping it up:

Lots of space lower down:

What a great day! Climbing, summit, abseiling, powder... it was all there.

It has to be said that right now powder is hard-won in the 3 Valleys though, the strong winds of the last few days have done a lot of damage, leaving some interesting crust on alot of slopes, and still a high risk of avalanche on certain slopes - the rain-crust from January is still making its presence felt.

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