Les Arcs, where else ?!
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  • words and tales from out on the trails

    20 February 2008

    One day in France, one day in Switzerland

    I woke up very early on Saturday (this is becoming a bit of a habit of mine) to drive down to Martigny and over to Chamonix for some ski-touring with a couple of old high-school friends, the Stewart brothers. We met at 08:30 in Argentière to meet up with the guide that the lads had kindly organised, and get gear sorted out. We then headed for the Brevent télécabine and up it.

    (click pics for bigger versions)

    Mont Blanc in the morning sun

    This first of two day-long tours took us off the back of the Brévent area close to the Col Cornu. After some bootpacking and a short skin, we reached the first descent of the day. This was a very interesting "secret" bowl with a big height differential, plenty of untouched snow, and some very exciting terrain features making the whole thing very whoopy.

    in the secret bowl

    At the end of this, we were funnelled into a couloir which spat us out at the Pont de l'Arlevé. From here we skinned to a small summit, la Tête Noire de Pormenaz.


    reaching the top of the Tête Noire de Pormenaz

    From the Tête Noire we descended into and down a lovely untouched halfpipe-like creek.

    5 men, 10 skis

    Now we wanted to descend to Servoz so traveresd into a couloir that would take us that way. The snow here was very choppy at best, but we'd had our fair share of the good stuff. A while later we reached the Châtelet d'Ayères refuge where we enjoyed refreshments before the final push down to Servoz. Being that Servoz lies at about 800m, the last few hundred of vertical had to be walked. This was a very pleasant stroll in the late winter evening sun.

    end of a great day

    We just missed a train and so had to wait 45 minutes for the next one, but it didn't really matter.

    Bright and early on Sunday we all met at la Forclaz where we attached the skins from the outset (there are no lifts leaving from here!). From the Col, we followed a gradually ascending (and in places technical) trail up and out onto the pastures.

    la Pointe Ronde

    We zig-zagged up to a small col and then followed close to the ridge to eventually reach the summit of the Pointe Ronde (2700m) for about 1:30.

    Asmus looks out over the Valais

    We found a nice patch of grass allowing us to enjoy lunch with stunning views of the Trient Glacier.

    Trient Glacier

    After half an hour of lazing about in the sun, we kicked ourselves into "concentrate" mode. Our guide had seen an untracked pitch to ski down, but this would involve traversing part of summit ridge to get there. Despite my lack of touring boots, I really enjoyed this alpine scramble.

    Asmus showing how it's done

    the rope comes out

    After about 20 minutes of ridge negotiation, using a rope for some extra safety in places, we were able to put our skis on. So here started the real reward for our 1200m ascent: a reasonably serious couloir with some pretty good snow in it. Below the couloir and out in the open, the snow was predictably wind crusted in places, but we remedied this situation by heading straight for the scattered trees we could see ahead. The snow here was excellent and the terrain reminded me of Champex and Bruson. Much fun to be had.

    Ten minutes later we were back on the ascent (now descent) trail, and another ten minutes later we were drinking cans of Löwenbräu followed by glasses of Swiss-Piss (Cardinal Lager).

    well deserved beverages at the Forclaz

    This fantastic tour looks a bit like this on paper:

    the route

    1200m of pain

    The weekend's excellent guiding and 1st class local knowledge was provided by Danish guide Asmus Nørreslet.


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