At least five-feet of fresh snow is coming this weekend (insha’allah). I realise, quite suddenly, that the few hours I have free this morning before a few days in the UK are my last chance to get some decent exercise on the two-week-old crud covering our mountains.
For quite a while now, I’ve wanted to see what the west couloir of Brèche 3159, behind the Argentiere Refuge and easily visible from the Grand Montets, looks like up close. You take the main road for the Glacier du Milieu, then peel right at about 2900m and hop over the moraine. I think the couloir is about 250m tall, most of it is around 40° but there’s one or two slightly steeper bits. The snow was absolutely horrible, which is just what I was looking for – a good solid workout for the legs. I’d say if you were there an hour later in the day, once the sun has been on it for a little while, it’d be some bloody lovely skiing.
The climb itself is great fun – a narrow, rock-lined, shadow-filled couloir, with reflected sunlight bouncing off the bright-orange granite of the Arete du Jardin that towers over you, making the snow under your feet glow faintly-pink. Near the top, there’s a decent ledge under a central rock where you can comfortably put your skis on, but above that there is a very short rocky section which brings you to the breche, overlooking the Glacier des Améthystes and the distant Tour Noir. If you have long legs and healthy lungs, you can easily be up and down this in three or four hours.
Inspired by eagle-filmed video footage of the skies around Montenvers, I thought I’d try training Neville, an ex-Swiss Air Force reconnaissance chough, to hold a camera and follow me down as I skied. He tried, bless him, but I think the angle might be a bit too steep at times. You try getting a good grip on something with feathers, though. Not easy.
Thanks, Neville, for the shit video footage.