After milking out the last of the easter powder at Grands-Montets in the beginning of the week, and going for a failed walk up Aiguille de la Tête Plat (needed a rope for a passage we thought would be fine), it was time to start looking elsewhere for snow. Two days ago we (George Rodney and I) drove up to the other side of the valley and shot some hi-res photos of the northwest flanks of the Mt Blanc, including the beautiful triangular Aiguille du Gouter. One of the first lines I saw when I first came to Cham was the big couloir below it, a steep sustained face measuring over 800 vertical meters. I didn’t know its name then, but after seeing tracks in it on the photos I sat down and learned everything I could about the run. In 2008, the couple Pierre and Marie-Jo Trappier, whose last name was given to the run as they skied it every year, were caught in a slab avalanche on their way up the mountain. I knew I wanted to ski it and the snow looked good.
Last night it was decided I’d link up with George and his american friend Trevor in the morning, and try to beat the hot afternoon sun. Unfortunately we lost George due to a missed alarm clock so we were just a duo driving down to Les Houches at 8:30. In hindsight, George wouldn’t have enjoyed the 4 hour walk on his alpine trekkers anyway so maybe he was better off sleeping.
Line overview. Steep bootpack up the little couloir, and semi-sketchy traverse across the big snowfield. Snow feels solid so we weren’t too nervous. Once in the couloir, the snow turned into really rippable cold windblown snow. Total ascent is 1200 meters, descent 2000 meters.
9:30, Les Houches. Just stepped off the cablecar and put my skins on, then the walk begins.
The first bit is mellow, as you follow the old tramway track.
Unknown mountain face to mind-ski on the way up. So many crazy possibilities here. Is there a way down?
The ten o’clock cablecar taking steepskiers and tourists up the Aiguille du Midi. This is such a cool angle of the Glacier Rond, Cunningham Couloir, and West Couloir. One of the sickest mountain faces I have ever stared at.
Trevor past the first traverse, crossing an ugly refrozen wetslide from yesterday afternoon. At this time, the snow was concrete and difficult to walk up.
About halfway up and I was well reminded of how little touring I have done this winter. Oh and btw, how do you like the hair? Sure feels good on the mountain.
Trevor, with a spring-time Chamonix in the background.
Looking back down our first stage. Still a long ways to go.
Climbing up the ladder at the top of the couloir where the Trappier couple was killed in a slab avalanche. Using the ladder, you bypass the top convex section where snow usually loads.
A reminder of the realities out here.
Looking forward to our final climb, across the big snow face and end up on the sunlit ridge lookers left, right under the black triangle, Aiguille du Gouter.
Trevor, with Aiguille de Bionnassay in the back.
Halfway across the exposed traverse.
Trevor finishing the walk.
Time to ski! View down the couloir, with some old tracks in soft snow.
The skiing in the actual run was better than most of the snow around here after these last days of hot spring weather and high winds. After the latest dump the windspeeds went up to over 100 km/h and blew most of the powder off the mountain. On these north aspects it had stayed really nice and rippable, sometimes with a thin crust but 90% of the couloir was enjoyable!
Trevor getting after it
Thanks to Trevor for snapping some photos of me:
The top part was the most wind-affected.
Absolutely surreal environments to ski in. The view of the Midi! This snow was all time.
Towards the bottom of the run we were reminded it’s almost summer and conditions got, well, interesting:
Trevor managing a tricky section. So Chamonix!
The long walk back to Les Houches
Life down there still went on, as if we hadn’t even been up that mountain in the background.
Back at the parking lot where the adventure begun 8 hours earlier. What a day!
Guess who will sleep well tonight. Literally falling asleep as I’m writing this…See you all soon.