The winter that keeps on giving – Part 2

Col Des Chasseurs – Les Contamines

This was a lovely day out on a fantastic ski tour that I can’t recommend enough.  There is nothing I like more than exploring a new area for me.  Coupled with a good group of friends who have also not been on the tour before creates an element of anticipation and team cohesion that I really enjoy.

The route took to the Col de la Cicle from the Contamines and then along the beautiful ridge to the Col Des Chasseurs.  This ridgeline makes the tour so worthwhile with dramatic cornices and cliffs to navigate on one side and sweeping views across the National Parc and Lac Jolie on the other.

The ski down from the col was beautiful.  Alongside smiles and giggles, we each put in our own ski tracks like a personal signature confirming the wonderful snow conditions as the day’s anticipation evolved into a sense of achievement.  I love it when a plan works out well.

Nonne Eveque Couloir

Without fresh snowfall for a couple of weeks, the lower level ski tours in the Chamonix Valley were getting tracked out so we decided to pack some provisions and head out into the high mountains for a couple of days in the hunt for some good snow. The plan was to head up to the Couvercle refuge in the stunning Telefre basin. After dumping our food and stove in the hut to get rid of some weight, we planned to explore some of the steep terrain and snow filled couloirs around the basin.

The Nonne-Eveque marked in red.  Its steep narrow couloir makes this one of the hardest ski routes along this face.

As we reached the top of the Valley Blanche that morning a vicious cold wind was already doing its damage on the snow and exposed skin and it didn’t let up as we approached the refuge.  After taking shelter and getting some heat into our cold hands through a jet-boiled cup of tea, we waited to see if the wind would retreat so we could carry on with our plans.  After a couple of hours it seemed the wind was getting stronger and the snow that we had come to seek out was fast disappearing or becoming polished and wind slabbed.  There certainly wasn’t going to be any good skiing for a few days in the Telefre basin.

With rapidly deteriorating conditions we decided to pack all our kit and head home.  It seemed a shame to go all that way and not ski anything so we decided to return via the Moine/Vert ridge and ski the steep southwest couloir from the Breche Nonne Eveque.  We hoped this would be sheltered, have nice snow and bring us back onto the Valley Blanche via the Chapoura basin whilst avoiding all the crusty and wind slabbed snow via the normal route down.

Me skiing down in the last bit of powder before the icy choke at the bottom of the couloir.

Whenever I agree to ski something really steep and new to me, apprehension weighs heavy in my mind as a fall can have consequences that you don’t really want to be thinking about.  Menacing doubt about my own abilities started to plague my thoughts on the skin up to the col.  But I really didn’t want to ski back down the Telefre glacier with the slabbed snow building so I got my head together and made my way up to the top of the couloir with some strong words with myself and a positive mantra repeating over and over in my mind.  It was with utter relief when I reached the top that we stepped onto deep soft snow on the other side and a steepness that wasn’t too stressful to manage. Phew!!!

After the initial nervous turns on the narrow top section, the rest of the couloir held nice snow and we steadily made our way down to a narrow icy cliff at the bottom that we abseiled down to get onto the snowy moraine of the Valley Blanche.  Sheltered from the wind in the couloir, the vicious icy wind greeted us as we reached the exit that was so cold it froze my insulated water bottle within the ten minute transition from getting our crampons off and skis on. It was time to go home to a warm shower, a hot meal and a cozy warm bed. I didn’t miss staying out in the mountains this day one single bit!

The sun was setting as we got down from the Couloir. The plume of snow blowing off the ridge in the distance gives the only hint to the conditions.

Looking back towards the Nonne Eveque Couloir.  You can just see my partner Ross about to ski down from the exit on the right.

Some of my favorite pictures from the Winter

My passion is to ski tour, climb and explore the high mountains in the winter and I am lucky enough to have been able to enjoy the whole winter season here in the Alps being busy doing just that.  Whilst I have spent a lot of my winter this year touring through the alps, the incredible snow conditions has meant that I have also spent a fair few days just skiing deeeeeeeeeeep snow. FUN!!

When the weather is not so good but the snow is fresh and cold it is always good fun to get to the trees and powder pillows for some hopping and jumping!

And when the sun comes out we can finally get to climb some of the bigger mountains to find the good snow….

Me climbing the Midi Plan Traverse Chamonix:

My best ski buddies celebrating after an epic powder day in the trees.  The photo makes me smile as it reminds me of the fun I had but I also think it sums up my 2013 ski season quite well.

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