Wednesday, 7 May 2014

Chipie's Line

Who needs Cham?

After a slightly 'ho-hum' day off the Midi on Monday checking out lines which generally weren't looking too good, Oli and I relocated back to my home ground, where I was confident we could score some good conditions... I knew that the North face of the Grande Casse was in good conditions, and originally we thought about doing a 'in-a-day' hit from the valley - but a combination of tired legs and sore feet from the Petit Mont Blanc walk out (see here), the thought of a 2200m vertical day, when neither of us was particularly fit and then a chance message from my friend Chipie over in Tignes set us off on a new adventure.

Chipie had talked in the past of a 'hidden line' on the Grande Casse with relatively easy - if slightly exposed and committing - access from the Grande Motte lifts in Tignes, and a beautiful 50º North-facing slope as the reward.

Oli on the NW face of the Motte, our access route in the distance up the snowy ridge:

Perfect powder below the col - not bad (well, incredible actually) for the 'access route':

Time for some boot-packing, with a real wilderness feel:

As we got to the top of the ridge it became clear that accessing the slope we originally planned to ski was not going to be a great idea, with a big traverse on 50º shale partially covered with snow, and the top of the main slope looking like a minefield of shark's teeth from close range. Not fancying a game of Russian roulette we opted for plan B, and skied great snow 150m back down the ridge we had climbed - a beautiful 45º pitch with big exposure on both sides:

Then it was time for an 'interesting' traverse out onto the main face, with some big cliffs lurking underneath:

And on to the main slope - a smooth 50º billiard table with good soft snow - perfect conditions!:

Time to relax as the angle eases:

After a short section of crust we then enjoyed 600m of perfect spring snow down to the start of the boot/skin back out:

Looking back up to the line - just left of centre:

A hot sweaty hike then even hotter skin eventually got us up to the Col du Palet where we had possible the best skiing I have ever done on piste in Tignes - perfectly groomed, nicely softened spring snow, and not another skier to worry about - that certainly doesn't happen when the lifts are open!

Getting back to Val Claret at 3pm we decided we should make the most of our day tickets, and headed back up the Grande Motte for a pleasant run down the North face on cold chalky snow:

Still not quite believing our luck with the conditions we cut across onto the Wall which was nicely softened spring snow... truly one of those rare 'Midas touch' days, where everything we skied turned to gold. Even later on, sat around a beer with Chipie, Oli & I couldn't stop smiling! Due to work and family commitments this may (hopefully not) be my last ski day of the winter, but if it is then what a day to end on!

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