Freitag, 1. April 2016

Les Drus - Direct North Couloir

After having spent most of the last two months in Norway skitouring, I was very psyched to climb some ice and mixed lines in my favorite alpine spot Chamonix.
As in this period I am quite short of time after having arrived to Bolzano I just had 10 hours to sleep a bit, pack my stuff and get ready to start again. Time is precious, so you better try to make the best out of it!

22.03.2016 - Mont Blanc du Tacul - Pinocchio


For the next day me and Thomas planned to climb something easly accessable and so we went for "Pinocchio", a nice mixed couloir (about 8 pitches up to M6) on the east face of the Mont Blanc du Tacul. The ice was not always very thick but all in all the conditions were ok and so after about 3- 3 1/2 hours we had done the hard pitches. But then we decided to keep on going towards the summit and the descent the Contamine-Mazeaud. As a consequence we returned to our skis quite late and had to descent the second half of the Vallée Blanche in the light of our headlamps - so romantic...
I had a bit of a headache because I had not been very high up for the last months and skiing down the icy slopes of the Vallée Blanche was not sooo much fun, but it had been a great day out in the mountains.   

The next day it was quite windy and so we had time to recover and decide what to do on thursday.
In the town we met Aaron and Martin, two friends of ours that had also come to Chamonix to climb and ski. Martin was a bit ill and so for the following day we planned to do something together with  Aaron.
Nowadays, if you have a facebook account and the right contacts it is quite easy to get some inspiration. We saw a post of Colin Haley and Dave Searle: they had climbed the Mont Dolent Northwest couloir and the descended by ski on the italian side to Val Ferret. It seemed to be a very good option and so we decided to go for it. As Martin could not come with us he offered us to pick us up in Val Ferret, so we would not have to hurry up to much trying to catch the last cablecar to return  back to Chamonix.

24.03.2016 - Mont Dolent - Northwest Gully


We took the first cabin to the Grands Montets, and from there we skied down to the Argentiere glacier, then skinned up and went to the very end of the glacier basin where the route starts.
We followed the left couloir for about 300m and then traversed diagonally to the left following a snow ramp that leads to the north ridge.

Underneath the summit on the last steep slope we had a quite scary moment as we saw two skiers, a man and a woman descent the icy slope sidestepping... as the girl didn't seem to feel really confortable I offered her to take her iceaxe off the backpack...a few meters lower her binding opened unexpectedly - I didn't even see it but fortunately Aaron and Thomas were behind me and helped her to take off the skis and put the crampons on.  
After a few hours of steady climbing, at 13.20 we stood on the top of this wounderful peak.

The descend was not very complicated. We first descended the southeast ridge by foot and then skied down towards the Val Ferret. There we "enjoyed" 10km of skating to get to the parking where Martin picked us up.
The weather on friday was bad and we needed a restday - a perfect combination. We still were not sure about what to do the next day. One option was the Direct North Couloir on the Dru but we knew that it would be quite a long day and I wanted to be back home on sunday for eastern...

26.03.2016 - Les Drus - Direct North Couloir


It was about 07.50 when we arrived to the parking of the cablecar in Argentiere...early enough? so we thought until we saw the crowd of saturday-skiers and alpinists waiting in front of the ticket office. Hmmm, and now what should we do? It was out of the question that we would manage to take the first cabin, so we thought about a valid alternative, but we could not find one :-). We just waited for our turn and finally we got to the top of Grands Montets at about 09.50. We put on the crampons and started at 10.00...yes, quite late - again.
We got to the base of the route after 1h40. There we did a little break and and at about 12 o'clock we started to climb.

We climbed up the lower part quite quickly and soon came to the start of the more technical pitches. We roped up and Thomas started climbing the M6+ pitch. As I followed it suddenly began to smell like seemed like climbing in a public toilet...probably someone had some digestive problems and had to "let it out"...
The following M5 pitch was quite short and as I wasn't sure if I already was at the right anchor I followed on climbing linking up also the third pitch (M7), what ended up with some simul climbing.

The fourth pitch is the crux of the route and is graded M8 - perhaps soft - don't know. Anyway very esthetical and the climbing is very good and not so scary.

A fifth pitch (a bit exposed) leads to the last part of the route, an approximately 250m ice couloir. This is the point where the direct couloir joins the classic route. This last part was almost the most strenuous part, probably also due to our blunt crampons.

At about 19.30, with the last light we reached the col.
From there we quite quickly abseiled the route and hiked back to the Grands Montets where we arrived at midnight. One hour and some turns on the icy slopes later we arrived at the car. Perfect timing :-)

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