Aiguille Verte- Y Couloir

Posted: June 9, 2014 in Ski
Tags: , , , , , ,
The Y couloir, can you spot us in the photo? Cedric Bernardini

The upper part of the Y couloir, we skied the lookers left hand branch. Can you spot us in the photo? © Cedric Bernardini

Last year I made several failed attempts on the Y couloir due to weather or snow conditions so as soon as it was filled with snow I was keen to go. It has always been a dream of mine to ski off all four sides of the aiguille Verte, and this was the third part of the puzzle.

Brendan told me that Mikko Heimonen and Jesper Petersson were also eyeing up the couloir and so we joined forces and a plan was hatched. I like the style of traversing a mountain, climbing up one side and skiing another, and as the Grands Montets lift had closed the easiest way to the summit would be to climb the Whymper couloir. So after skiing down the valley Blanche we headed up to the Courvecle refuge to spend the night. There were several other parties going to climb the Whymper who left at some unspeakable hour, while we stayed in bed for a good nights sleep.

The climbing conditions were good and four hour after leaving the hut I arrived on the summit at 9am with Jesper and then Mikko arriving not too long after. After preparing ourselves to ski we set off from the summit to the entrance of the couloir where after a few turns and traversing  in I realized we would have to wait for the sun and the snow to soften. Unfortunately the strong afternoon sun the previous afternoon had formed a crust covering the soft powder snow beneath it. The couloir faces west and so does not receive the morning sun and we had to wait until around 11am for the sun to hit us and make the crust breakable.

A short way down the couloir we were forced to make a rappel through a rocky section which was followed by some technical skiing through some rocks and an icy gully. After I skied through Mikko and Jesper used the rope again for a short rappel. I skied on in much better soft spring snow to a safe spot to wait for the boys. This was when I spotted some people climbing the couloir. We waited for them to reach us not wanting to knock any more snow down onto them and as they approached I soon  realized it was Ben Tibbetts. We apologized for he slough and Ben told me we would have 5 or 6 long rappels over the bottom section where they had climbed,I smiled and said I thought differently. Ben is a great photographer and got some cool pics which he has kindly let me post below. His write up of the day, and of many other adventures can be found on his guiding website- http://www.bentibbettsguiding.com/

After we parted way I skied down on the side of the gully and reached a point where I was over rocks and could not pass without a rope. However I could see a way through on the skiers right and told the others to traverse over while I climbed back up a few meters. From here Jesper lead down some nice skiing on the side of the gully past the split in the Y until the point where the couloir widens.

We had originally planned to go to the skiers left at the bottom of the couloir to make the rappels and as the gully was impassable on skis we changed over to crampons. I headed across where I could see that it would in-fact be better to stay on the skiers right where we would have more space to ski and could rappel into the couloir of Naia giving us more skiing. Jesper and Mikko changed back to their skis and I headed back over to them where I lead us down the best skiing of the route to the point I felt was best to rappel.

The last time this couloir was skied Andreas Frannson had been ripped off of his ropes and badly injured while making the rappels out of the bottom and I had this in the back of my mind when thinking of the safest way down. We made two diagonal rappels of about 90m in total into Naia. From here we skied on the side of the couloir all the way down to the ice at the bottom of Naia and continued on a snow ramp back towards the Y where we made one last 60m Rappel over the rock wall and burgshrund. All the time avoiding the central gully line where there were now intermittently wet snow avalanches from the slopes above. The line we took in the lower section is shown below. A massive thanks to Cedric Bernardini who spotted us in the couloir and took these great pictures. Check out his website for some amazing ski photography- http://cedricbernardini.com/

Rappels shown in green and skiing in red, can you see us again? © Cedric Bernardini

Rappels shown in green and skiing in red, can you see us again? © Cedric Bernardini

Once out of the bottom we could relax and enjoy the nice corn snow down the mellower glacier and moraine below until the snow ran out. From here it was a walk down the summer path and via feratta to join the bottom of the mer de glace. Having eaten very little all day the climb back up to the Montenvers exhausted me and I was glad to be taking the train and not be walking back to Chamonix. I though of Ben and his partner who would undoubtably be doing this later on that evening.

Mikko and Jesper are two of the most motivated steep skiers in Chamonix but also great company and it was a pleasure to spend the day on this adventure  with them. It was me and Jesper’s first ski outing together but hopefully the first of many. If you speak Finnish or just want to see some cool photos take a look at Mikko’s blog for the huge amount of skiing he does- http://powderlove.com/

View of Mont Blanc from the summit. Ben Briggs

View of Mont Blanc from the summit. © Ben Briggs

Jesper and Ben preparing to ski. Mikko Heimonen

Jesper and Ben preparing to ski. © Mikko Heimonen

Waiting at the top of the couloir for the snow to soften. Mikko Heimonen

Waiting at the top of the couloir for the snow to soften. © Mikko Heimonen

Looking down the top of the couloir waiting for the snow to soften. Ben Briggs

Looking down the top of the couloir waiting for the snow to soften. © Ben Briggs

Jesper and Mikko skiing. Ben Tibbits

Jesper and Mikko skiing. © Ben Tibbetts

Ben just after the split in the Y. Ben Tibbits

Ben just before the split in he Y. © Ben Tibbetts

Jesper in the middle of the couloir. Ben Tibbetts

Jesper in the same place. © Ben Tibbetts

Mikko a little lower in the couloir. Ben Briggs

Mikko a little lower in the couloir. © Ben Briggs

Skiing the lower section of the couloir. Cedric Barnardini

Skiing the lower section of the couloir. © Cedric Bernardini

Jesper skiing  just before the rappel into Naia. Mikko Heimonen

Jesper skiing just before the rappel into Naia. © Mikko Heimonen

Ben about to set off on the first long rappel. Mikko Heimonen

Ben setting up the first long rappel. © Mikko Heimonen

Happy boys at the bottom. Mikko Heimonen

Happy boys at the bottom. © Mikko Heimonen

Walking back down to the Montenvers after the skiing finished. Mikko Heimonen

Walking back down to the Montenvers after the skiing finished. © Mikko Heimonen

Nearly back, Ben heading down the ladders. Mikko Heimonen

Nearly back, Ben heading down the ladders. © Mikko Heimonen

 

 

 

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