Tuesday, 8 April 2014

Adventuring with Trine - Dômes de Miage and Chevalier Couloir

Topping out....
Sadly my dodgy knees (37kg bags are BAD on expedition....) put an end to our Haute Route plans for last week so came up with some good plan B's! Both of us were pretty keen for the traverse of the Dômes de Miage especially as neither of us had spent any time in that part of the Mont Blanc range. Hearing that you could pretty much walk up to the Tré-La-Tête hut cemented my decision - for some reason walking uphill isn't painful, just skinning and stairs!
Getting tired of 'skis on, skis off' for all the snow patches we decided to walk quite a lot!
As we wanted to enjoy our excursion, we chose to stay in the Conscrits hut and not bring our own dinner and stove up. And 2500m of ascent in one go sounds painful... This also meant that we were able to time our ascent to the huts for good snow conditions. We walked up to the Tré-La-Tête hut on firm snow, skis were unnecessary and trainers appreciated. After a leisurely lunch at the hut we put our skis on for about 100m before realising that we would have to walk down to the glacier... The snow was soft enough for us not to use crampons, although sinking every now and again was pretty annoying!

Skinning (at last!) up to the Conscrits hut.
The Conscrits hut is very well
equipped, complete with drying
room and mini library!
The eventual skin up to the hut was actually not too bad, just a bit hot, and we made it in plenty of time for dinner. The hut custodian seemed oddly familiar to both of us, even though neither of us had been there before... Then I realised it was Christophe from the Charpoua hut, who had been less than impressed with my lack of phoning ahead to book spaces a couple of summers ago; fortunately he didn't remember me! As there were only 8 of us overnighting in the hut, Trine and I got a room to ourselves and had a ridiculous amount of food put in front of us.

A litre of Earl Grey and a slab of victoria sponge make a good teatime snack!
Christophe heading off on his splitboard to do a new descent.
The wind on the ridge...
The next day was pretty painful for me on the uphill but I made it! The ridge is a pretty cool place to be being a perfect knife-edge snow arete. The strong wind catching our skis made it a bit more exciting than it should have been but the ridge was over all too soon. Our gamble at leaving the hut a bit later (8am) paid off as the icy snow had transformed nicely for our descent. I was pleased that I made an obligatory straight line, small drop across a bergschrund, not that there was much choice in the matter! The bushwhacking back to the car wasn't as horrific as I had anticipated (trainers for the win!). All-in-all a pretty amazing first multi-day ski tour!

My only skiing photo! I was too busy trying (and failing!) to stop faceplanting....
Being full of climbing psyche and short on time we then decided to go up the Chevalier couloir on the Petite Aiguille Verte. With thick cloud and rain in Chamonix we thought this would be a good option for not getting lost on a glacier...
Terrible weather at GM....
Floating above the clouds.
Surprisingly it was an inversion, creating stunning views from the top of Grands Montets! Even more surprisingly, there was a big stash of skis at the bottom of the route with 3 ropes of two climbers each ahead of us. The route was in good climbing condition on the whole, although the snow was variable in the first two thirds it was at a pretty amenable angle. The schrund was a bit overhung, unconsolidated and awkward, but once you're over that the rest of the route is fun!

Luckily there were only two skiers doing the couloir that day and they didn't cause any major avalanches onto us. The other 3 groups were knocking a lot of stuff down though for some reason they were all pitching the entire route and we quickly overtook all of them. I didn't have very high expectations for the Chevalier but it was actually really fun (except for wading down the North Face in waist deep sugary snow...) thanks Trine for suggesting it!

Climbing through the inversion.

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