Tuesday, 25 May 2010

Dent Parrachée - East Face

Some unfinished business from a few weeks ago...

Having been shut down by the weather on the East Face of the Dent Parrachée a few weeks back, Will & I were both keen for a rematch. A quick look through binoculars on the way back from the Haute Maurienne last week convinced me there was still enough snow on the face, so with Greg keen for action the 3 of us walked in to the Dent Parrachée refuge.

The East Face from Termignon:

Not quite enough snow for the Plan Sec button lift...

Looking at the peak from the walk in to the refuge, with the normal Breche Loza route visible heading right of the skyline ridge:

A 4 a.m. start saw us skinning towards the Breche de la Loza in the dark:

Dawn breaking over the Ecrins skyline:

Will in the Loza couloir:

Nice scenery:

Greg on the exposed traverse into the Chaise du Pape:

Will on the summit ridge:

We made the summit at 8 a.m., and spent a bit of time peering in to the top of the face & waiting for the snow to soften. The East face is one of the classic steep descents of the vanoise, first skied by local extreme skier Yves Anselmet, and starts with 150m of 50º slopes, picking a tight line through rocky couloirs, before opening onto 'Les Grandes Pentes', 400m of 45º, and finally narrowing to a tight funnel to exit the main face. The 2 cruxes are the top rocky section - which we had scoped through binoculars and figured a line that might go, and the bottom funnel which looked extremely deeply runneled by soft snow releases from previous days - but we had a plan...!

Will on the summit, Mont Blanc and Grande Casse behind:

First turns down the shoulder - 50º with big exposure:

First tight section:

Carefull skiing required to not send sluff onto the man below...:

Will & Greg exiting the upper face (they're in there somewhere!:

Enjoying the wide open 45º slopes below:

"Variation des 3 Mousquetaires": Will scoping our alternative line - from Termignon we had spotted a couloir skiers right of the face which by-bassed the runneled exit. Continuous steep skiing on good spring snow on the sides of the couloir, the only question mark was wether it actually was skiable all the way, as we couldn't quite see the bottom through the binoculars, or without actually comitting to the couloir...:

In the couloir, from here we could see a clear way through:

Greg surviving a short runneled section:

Looking down the exit couloir:

The East Face from below, 700m looking very fore-shortened:

View from the Crete des Ferrieres:

With a high snow-line we avoided the classic descent down to Termignon and hung a hard left. A short hike up some scree got us onto the Crete des Ferrieres, from where we could drop in under the North face of the Dent:

A long hot skin up the Glacier de la Mahure followed:

North face of the Dent Parrachée, some future projects on here, but a bit more snow needed currently!:

By 1230 we were at the Col du Moine, from where some great spring snow took us back to the refuge, for a well-earned cup of tea & rest before a gentle stroll back to the car...:

Friday, 21 May 2010

Petite Ciamarella - North face Direct

Day 2 of our Maurienne trip.

After a lazy afternoon and an early night it was another 5 a.m. start to head for the Petite Ciamarella.
For the first time in weeks the skies were clear from the word go which made a pleasant change. The summit is centre in the picture below, with the normal route skirting left before traversing back right to the summit. The line of descent was by the 'Face Nord Direct' dropping straight from the summit to the cliffs below before following a ramp-line through the cliffs, giving the most direct descent from the summit.

On the way up, approaching the mid-height seracs:

View north into the Vanoise - Mt Pourri on the left, Grande Sassiere & Tsanteleina on the right, with Mt Blanc behind:

The summit in sight:

Grande Ciamarella through a breche on the summit ridge. The North face dropping left (and currently very icy):

Not far now:

Looking across at yesterday's line on the Albaron:

A quick scramble was needed to get onto the summit block....Greg trying the direct (and overhanging) variation:

Petite Ciamarella summit:

Perfect snow on the upper shoulder, chalky, grippy, smooth...

Looking back at the line from below. Following the shoulder gives the best fall-line from the summit, and despite a slightly crusty ramp-line the Direct avoids having to traverse hard right or left as per the standard descents...:

Albaron North East face

After 2 weeks of seriously unsettled weather, the forecast finally started to look more predictable, so Will, Greg & I set about plotting a short trip. We decided to avoid the honeypot effect of Chamonix, and headed instead for the Haute Maurienne, hoping in particular to ski the North face of the Grande Ciamarella, a classic steep descent, with 500m at about 50º.

The beauty of spring skiing is high access on the roads, which combined with last weeks cold temperatures and snowfall meant we only had to walk 5 minutes from l'Ecot before putting skis & skins on to climb up to the Evettes refuge:

Approaching the refuge it became clear the Grande Ciamarella was far from skiable, with the face almost entirely covered in grey ice:

The refuge is unguardianed midweek, so we set about warming the place up... Will improvising with his ice axe (we discovered the axe & chopping block outside the next day...):

After a good meal, Greg discusses routes with a new friend:

Setting off at 5 a.m. the next day morale was low, Greg was laid up with a stomach bug, and the early mist turned into 45 minutes of heavy snowfall as we skinned up the lower glacier:

Finally as we climbed higher the weather started to clear, and the surrounding summits started to reveal themselves:

The day's objective was the North East face of the 3637m Albaron, a steep and slightly exposed descent from this classic Mauriennais peak.
Skirting crevassed areas on the skin up to the Selle de l'Albaron:

Below the North East face. The ski descent takes the obvious hanging slope before traversing hard skier's left above the cliffs to pick up a couloir in line with the summit:

Tomorrow's line on the Petite Ciamarella - the Face Nord Directe, takes the sunlit shoulder then the exposed rampline through the cliff band (more logical than it seems from this angle!):

Looking across at the upper face from near the Selle de l'Albaron:

A nice scramble up the ridge to the summit:

Will on the summit of the Albaron:

Looking down the face:

Will at the bottom of the first pitch (having just come back from Chamonix where if you wait for 5 seconds someone else has skied your line Will had a little trouble adjusting to the fact that noone else was around...).
Perfect snow conditions, chalky packed powder on a smooth base:

Questing off on the traverse:

The traverse turned out to be straightforward, not the rocky scrape we had expected, and put us high up in the central couloir. More great skiing followed with steep chalky snow down to the narrows which gave 5m of icy sidelipping around rocks before opening onto the lower face.
Looking back up at the main face, Will bottom right of picture:

Below the exit gullies, great snow all the way... powder to the bottom of the gullies, then perfect spring snow all the way back to the refuge:

An easy slide & skate across the Evettes flats and a short skin through hordes of Marmottes took us back to the refuge for a welcome lunch and an afternoon lazing in the sun and plotting tomorrows trip...
Alpenglow on the Grande Ciamarella: