On Tuesday I skied the legendary La Grave route that is La Voute. This has to be one of the best runs that I have ever skied and I suspect it will take some time before I ski something that beats it.
I had in my head that I would work my way up to skiing it probably some time in March. But yesterday the conditions were good and my trusty partner Markku was confident that he knew his way into it. So off we went. After negotiating the upper, more gentle slopes of the glacier the route narrows in and steepens up significantly. After cutting back in you locate the abseil bolts and get set up. Depending on the snow conditions there’s a 30-40 metre abseil into a crazy couloir that leads you back to the road (two joined ropes advised).
It really is a true adventure. There’s chained bolts at the top so it’s just a case of threading the rope through and knotting it, putting your skis on your pack, making sure your harness is done up and then finally ensuring your pants aren’t full. After that you’re good to go…
In the morning we also skied Les Freaux couloir another 800 metres of bliss but without any rappel so it all feels a bit easy now I’ve done La Voute – it isn’t, so don’t underestimate Les Freaux especially when the conditions are icey.
We also did a ski tour the day before (16th January) starting from the Col du Lauteret and heading up the North face of the Combeynot (the route is called Versant Nord in the Sebastien Constant guidebook). After about 800 metres of ascent we had to drop the skis onto the pack and boot pack up through some really deep snow. We attempted to get to the summit col and then onto the summit but time was running short so we stopped about 80 metres short of the summit col. About 1000 metres of ascent in total and we were up and down in 4 3/4 hours so with that and the magic in La Grave I’m feeling pretty whacked.
As a boring note for some but potentially helpful for others… there was serious depth hoar just under the surface at around half height on the Combeynot touring route (so between 2200m and 2600m). Watch out when the new snow arrives – I won’t be going anywhere near those slopes for a while as they will be ripe for a big slide.
Apart from that life continues to be sweet! It was bloody freezing last night (-18deg) but the van continues to excel and the Propex heater is fully firing… turns out the exhaust pipe was blocked before so that is why it wouldn’t start. But I’m loving life in the van and have already turned down 3 offers to stay in people’s flat’s this week – though that decision could be swayed depending upon who was offering of course (no offence to those that did!!!) But I am really starting to get the impression that I must be starting to look and smell somewhat alternative now to the general passer by – I’ve passed 2 months of van living now!!
What else can I tell you… lots but you’d be even more bored! We need more snow but there’s maybe a bit coming this way towards the weekend though I don’t think loads is forecast. Oh and there’s hardly any ice – I seem to have chosen one of the worst seasons for ice climbing in a long time.