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skykilo

[TR] Les Hautes-Alpes - Cherchez Les Pentes Raides

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Trip: Les Hautes-Alpes - Cherchez Les Pentes Raides, Vol. I

 

Date: 4/1/2008

 

Trip Report:

Having made three research trips to Finland over the years, this time I had to seize the opportunity to ski the Alps. Sixteen days, sometimes spending sixteen hours in the lab, north of 60 degrees lattitude with a stressed-out must-succeed attitude, I was ready for release.

 

They were having a late winter in Finland throughout my sojourn. In a fitting ending, the morning I left Jyväskylä, I walked to the train station through a blustery snow storm in which I had to don all my ski gear, including goggles.

 

Here I am waiting at the train station.

LeavingFinland.jpg

 

I often felt more uncomfortable and disoriented on my trip through Europe carrying all my crap than I do atop a steep, exposed slope with my skis. Due to a lack of infinite travel funds and procrastinated planning, my itinerary to Geneva was

 

Jyväskylä -> Tampere -> Frankfurt -> Mainz -> Geneva

via

Train -> bus -> plane -> bus -> train^3

 

I was very happy to see Ryan at train city in Geneva after a frustrating hour with the telephones.

 

His rippin' Scottish ski buddy Jim drove directly to the station for the Aguille du Midi. Finally, time to get high. I was ecstatic to ski powder after three weeks, so much so that I immediately headered twice from the Col du Plan.

 

Ryan and I formulated a low-cash, no-class Washington scrapper strategy to ski the Aiguille d'Argentière the next day, starting from Argentière at 4 am. I must admit that we forfeited our style points by stopping au Refuge d'Argentière for some eau gazeuse and cookies.

 

Mont Blanc and Chamonix for scale and scope

BlancEtCham.jpg

 

L'Aiguille d'Argentière from the top of Les Grands Montets

AigDArg.jpg

 

Ryan skins up the Argentière Glacier so early in the morning.

WASteeze.jpg

 

Dave skins up Glacier du Milieu with La Verte(!) in the background.

TraceVerte.jpg

 

We were going to ski the Barbey Couloir, but the weather went to shit, so we skied the classic route that we'd just climbed.

 

Ryan skis Milieu.

RyanMilieu.jpg

 

Drew skis Milieu.

DrewMilieu.jpg

 

That was a can-crushing (dénivelé de 2650 m!) day that made us all feel great. We took a good night's sleep, bought food and liquor, took the tram up Grands Montets, then headed to the Argentière hut to facilitate an early start. Next up: Les Courtes, one of the most classic ski lines in the universe.

 

Les Courtes - 1300 m of orgasmic glory. Thanks to Damian for the photo. See his website at http://steepdeepjapan.com

LesCourtes.jpg

 

Ryan looks like a kid with candy. Wonder why?

Candy.jpg

 

Nearin the top of Les Courtes. We were early in the season and the glacier ice high on the face wasn't covered. We took a slightly steeper finish with a thin coating of powder over rocks.

CourtesClimb2.jpg

 

Drew in the place to be

HautesCourtes.jpg

 

Let's get this party started? I proclaimed the edge-worthiness of the icy snow below the veneer of powder, so I was the first to demonstrate. Sidestepped the first bit off the top because of lurking rocks.

 

skykilo, sultan of sidesteps

Sidesteppa.jpg

 

We all survived the landmine-infested top bit. Drew starts the party.

DrewSki1.jpg

 

March 30 is quite early for Les Courtes, so we suffered on the top bit. But then we got to ski more than 1 000 m of the most incredible steep powder that hardly sluffed. Dave demonstrates.

MasiSki1.jpg

Get it, Dave.

MasiSki2.jpg

 

Now for an interlude to admire La Verte.

LaVerte.jpg

 

We scored big. Satisfied, Ryan and I were discussing mellow plans for the last day; then we saw a good forecast. So we reoriented ourselves for something sicker: Couloir Ouest on Aiguille du Chardonnet.

Chardonnet.jpg

 

Too bad, not only was the delicate traverse to get to the top 250 m too scary sans corde (we didn't take any rope or avy gear on this one), but the summit shot wasn't in skiing condition either.

ChardArret.jpg

 

Sky, still stoked.

CharHigh.jpg

 

Powder makes a good consolation prize.

CharPow.jpg

 

We enjoyed great turns on our descent to the Argentière Glacier. Ryan revels.

RyanChard.jpg

 

Through the squeeze to the hanging glacier

RyanConstrict.jpg

 

Glutton

RyanAuDessous.jpg

 

Next: Grenoble and La Grave.

 

 

 

 

 

Gear Notes:

Hate it.

 

Approach Notes:

Télépheriques rock.

:rawk:

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