Over the last week, Zac, Sarah, Anna, Jon, Chris and I have been in Chamonix practicing our ski touring ready for some of us to tackle the Haute Route in 2 weeks time. We caught up with Pete and Tish at Sterling Base camp, and then it was down to business with a day tour on the Aiguilles Rouge.
As a warm up we headed up from Flegere to the top of the Index lift, and from here started the slog up to the col. The traverse was pretty icy, and as this our warm up it was made more exciting by the exposure; a bad slip is unthinkable on the long traverse, as it would at best result in a long climb to regain lost height.
The traverse is followed by a more gentle climb, and then its downhill all the way; most of us found our technique a little lacking when we got to the tightly packed trees. In fact when we got to the bar at Le Buet, it was only Anna who had really enjoyed the final part of the descent.
Our base for 3 days was the Refuge D’Argentiere, reached from the Grands Montets top lift. The descent can be icy and a bit scary if you’ve not been on a glacier before. The threat of invisible dangers is always at the back of your mind.
Our first tour from the hut was up to the Col D’Argentiere, 3552 metres. This entailed a long climb up to the col (5 hours) followed by a 1 hour ski back down. To enjoy ski touring you really have to ignore that last statistic …… treat it like a day out with a ski at the end as a bonus !!
The route was fairly busy, but luckily we were on hand to show the French how it was done… or not.
Next it was up to the Col du Tour Noir, 3535m, but a lot shorter than the previous tour. Again, the most enjoyable part was the ski down, and as a bonus this tour finishes above the hut: most of the time any day ends with the climb back up to hut from the glacier ; you’re tired and the snow is slushy… a real bugger. Of course, when the hut was built the glacier was a lot higher.
I wonder where it went???
Friday was our last day up at the hut, and we had a gentle ski back down the glacier to Argentiere.
Back in Chamonix we caught up with Pete and Tish again and had a relaxing early evening on their balcony.