Tuesday, 5 May 2015

Grand Bec N ridge N couloir

A few days ago I went for a quick leg-stretcher up the North couloir on the Grand Bec North Ridge. In the photo below this is the couloir going up to and then following the ridge on the left-hand face:

Although seemingly tiny compared to the imposing lines on the NW face proper this still gives 400m of 40-50ยบ skiing, with 1100m of rolling terrain below that down to Plan Fournier.

Conditions however were a bit less than ideal, with a very solid (some might say icy) base in the couloir with a mix of old powder, crust, and thin slab on top. As I approached the bend as the couloir hits the ridge this turned into 5cm of soft crust on top of very hard icy snow so I decided simply turn around at the ridge rather than follow the top 150m of the couloir for the full tick...

Here is some POV footage from the descent showing the mix of snow encountered - the snow actually got better and better (and better) the lower I dropped, with the best skiing being the last 300m vertical before running out of snow, where low clouds had deposited some nice fluffy powder on top of the smooth spring snow base!

Grand Bec - N ridge N couloir from Simon Christy on Vimeo.

Clients often ask about skis for touring, and today was a prime example of the range of conditions you can encounter in just one descent. For my money, the Whitedot Ranger Carbonlite is still the go-to ski for a wider touring ski: light, torsionally stiff, progressive flex, not too much sidecut (so not too twitchy in heavier or crustier snow) and loads of fun to ski!

**Note: since shooting this footage we have had lots of snow, high winds, then lots and lots of rain to a very high level so conditions in the mountains have changed completely...)**

From a coaching point of view there are some really interesting points which are well illustrated in this video - to do them justice though I will try to put together a separate video/post... watch this space!


  1. Nice skiing of that crust. Looking at the up track it does not hold your weight that well. When transitioning into the turn and exiting it, what do you think is the optimal technique? I am always a bit wary being "stuck on the rails" mid turn and stacking it.

    1. Hi Anonymous, thanks for taking the time to read the blog!
      The crust was breakbale but actually quite supportive (which doesn;t make sense really but there we go...). In terms of transition it was definitely a case of making the skis light and getting them onto the new edge and partly steered (by a small amount) into the new curve so as to avoid any 'hooky' incidents - it definitely had the feel of snow that would trap one ski while the other went off in the other direction... A little hop/jump, edge change in air and slight direction change in summary...