Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Ski ascent and descent of the Col du Tour Noir

The bad forecast for Tuesday did not eventuate; it was a fine sunny morning.  Simon slept in after another session at Bar'D UP.  After breakfast we decided to have a go at skiing the Col du Tour Noir - a nice ski route up from the Argentiere Cirque further up from the hut.

There was a queue for tickets at Argentiere, then a queue for the first telepherique (cable car), then a longer queue for the second one to the Grand Montet.  Everyone was on it skiing the fresh snow.

We started skiing from the Grand Montet about midday.  The snow was really good compared to our previous visit - there was a good layer of soft fresh snow on top.

We skied a more direct route down to the glacier.  A few guided groups were skiing down too.  We met a group of Germans with a guide on the glacier and had a brief chat.

A dramatic powder avalanche came down the north face of Le Droite in the distance.

I was getting good grip with my skis (skin glue residue) as we skied up past the Refuge d'Argentiere and commenced climbing the Amethyst Glacier.  It was nice skiing. The cloud base kept quite high so the views were good.

My bottom lip has been blasted by the sun so I was wearing a bandana over my mouth some of the time, along with applying some heavy duty lip protection.

I skied up to a "false col" where six skiers were resting - they departed soon after I got there.  The proper col was further up and did not look far - but it was!  My skis were balling up so I stopped to put my skins on and have some chocolate and a drink.  Very hot today in the sun with no wind, so I was sweating a lot.

One more push to the Col, at last!  The altitude slowed my down, more so than on the Col Chardonnet and the Col l'Evenque.  I arrived there at about 5pm, I think I started the climb at about 2pm so it took 3 hours. Great view down to the Saleina glacier and across to the Fenetre de Saliena.

The clouds looked like they might descend so after a short rest I started skiing down.  The snow up high was crusty and difficult to turn in but it got better as I descended to Simon who was making good progress but was still 45 minutes from the top.  We descended together and got some nice powder snow in sections, then wetter snow lower down that was easy to ski in.

The glacier was visible but crevasses were not a problem on the ski route.

It was slower skiing down the Argentiere glacier on wet snow, then the traverse to the cat track and down it to the lift station.  The track down to Argentiere was marked closed due to sections that have melted out, but we had a good run down with nobody else around.

A short walk to at the bottom took us to a bus. Back in Chamonix we headed to Elevation 1904 Bar for coke, coffee, burgers and beer.

Tomorrow we are thinking of skiing in the Grand Combin region from the Panossiere hut.