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The cold world of skimo & alpine climbing

The cold world of skimo & alpine climbing

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Skimo in Chamonix by Dave Searle

Courtes North East Slope and more…

This last few weeks has been crazy. So many good ski days with good friends in cool places. This week I managed to get a cheeky lap of the Bec de Rosses NF in Verbier. It is an iconic face due to its looming presence over the Verbier Ski resort and its fame from the Freeride World Tour finals. I was surprised how unsuitable it is for skiing with weaving no-fall couloirs, hidden sharks (rocks under the snow) and massive exposure at the top, yet they still hold one of the most prestigious freeride events there and everyone goes oh so fast. Scary.
Today, however was something else. It feels like a while since I have had a big day out (except for my last big day off the midi). I’d seen some photo’s of the NE slope of the Courtes looking in primo conditions and knew that it could be my first real chance to ski it in good snow. I had a feeling that it was going to be busy and I had mentally prepared myself for a race…. With the growing popularity of skiing steep lines in Cham the key is speed from the word go, unless you want to be behind someone on a snowy face where you could easily get knocked of by a sluff from above. I knew this and in my mind I was ready to go as fast as I could to get to the top first. I set out with Davide de Masi, Liz Daley, Drew Tabke and Tom Grant but, for a number of reasons I ended up being the only one to ski that line. I was pretty lit for it and only the sight of two guys halfway up the face who had started from the hut (cheaters) gave me the slightest doubt as to whether it was the wrong thing to do. I charged up their boot pack and arrived at the col 10 mins after they had started skiing. They sent a sizable sluff of the face which nearly took out a couple of my friends who were starting up the bottom third. When they passed me I warned them, as politely as I could, that they should exercise caution as there were people below who they could hit with there sluff. They exploded at me and a minor argument fired up which I thought was pretty peculiar given the situation. I think they were just jacked up on skiing a big line like this in good snow and had little to no respect for others because of it. I got to the top and waited for the next guy behind me, Niki, to get to the col. I had been monitoring the other teams on the face and decided it was a good time to ski. Everyone below was in safe spots and I could weave a line around them and not drown them in my sluff. The snow was incredible and the line lived up to my expectations and more. Perfect skiing angle and face. Truly a skiers dream and something I have wanted to ski for a long time. 15 minutes (at 12.20) later I arrived at the flat glacier at the bottom to find Tom, Liz and Dave soaking up some rays.
I was keen for some more so we quickly decided to go up for a look at the Col Des Cristaux. We started up with caution knowing that there were 6 people above us who could drop in and sluff us. I had to break a different track up the first third to stay out of the way of the teams above, which was a tough few hundred meters of deep faceted snow. On the way up we watched some of the people dropping into the already crusty snow at the top and quickly made the decision to turn around when it stopped being good. We stopped a few hundred meters short of the col. The snow was once again incredible and we all arrived at the bottom within a few minutes of each other. Skiing back to the car my legs were about ready to give up on me.
Such a fun, long day which really challenged my fitness and provided 1500m of awesome skiing in what still is one of the best skiing areas of the world. Thanks all who were involved (except the rude, arrogant guys on the courtes, you nearly ruined my day).
The Northeast Slope of the Courtes
The North East Slope of the Courtes
Looking down from the col  waiting for Niki to top out.
Looking down from the col waiting for Niki to top out.
Happy times back at the bottom, Still psyched on my La Sportiva Lo5's.
Happy times back at the bottom, Still psyched on my La Sportiva Lo5′s.

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