TR: Chamonix 2013 – Col du Passon

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Richard on Glacier des Rognons
Richard on Glacier des Rognons

After yesterday’s epic on the Rectiligne we were keen for more high alpine fun. The weather forecast was for clear skies but warming temps ahead of a weekend of average weather. We made the decision to do a classic Chamonix ski tour – the Col du Passon. It’s a great option as you get to ski from the top of Grands Montets which is a lovely descent in and of itself, then after a 700m vert skin/bootpack you have a 1500m descent to Le Tour. Last year I had skied the Tour Glacier in spring conditions and loved it so it was a good chance to give it a go in some pow.

We started early and got on the first tram at Grands Montets, and after a quick coffee it was time to get stuck into it.

From the top of Grands Montets
From the top of Grands Montets
Looking across to Col du Chardonnet
Looking across to Col du Chardonnet

We went wide skier’s right on the glacier and found some lovely powder snow. It’s not for the faint hearted out there due to the crevasses but as usual Jerome found a route that was entirely safe and with untouched snow. 900m of virgin powder to get the day started is always nice.

Richard on Glacier des Rognons
Richard on Glacier des Rognons
Our tracks on Glacier des Rognons
Our tracks on Glacier des Rognons
Looking up the Argentiere Glacier
Looking up the Argentiere Glacier

You then cross the Argentiere glacier and put your skins on & climb up the opposite side. The first section was the hardest with steep kick turns on the moraine, and then it was a pretty pedestrian 600 or so metres of climbing. The weather certainly warmed up and the heat sapped our pace a little bit, but there was no need to rush so we took it all in our stride.

Crossing the Argentiere Glacier
Crossing the Argentiere Glacier
Skinning up to Col du Passon
Skinning up to Col du Passon
Skinning up to Col du Passon
Skinning up to Col du Passon

It’s nice exploring new areas as you get new views and perspectives on the classic Chamonix features. This time it was a great view back to Grands Montets and no doubt these photos will be studied to find some nice lines.

Argentiere Glacier Icefall
Argentiere Glacier Icefall
Looking back at Grands Montets
Looking back at Grands Montets
The team having some lunch
The team having some lunch

We reached the base of the couloir and transitioned to bootpacking, Nicole elected to be short-roped with Jerome whereas I preferred the freedom of going solo with Ice Axe and Crampons. The snow was perfect and the crampons were probably overkill but they don’t detract from the climb so it was good to have them. Before long we were at the Col and ready to ski down.

The skies began to turn grey in anticipation of the incoming poor weather for the weekend, but while the light was a little flat you could still see well enough to have a great time.

Bootpack up to Col du Passon
Bootpack up to Col du Passon
On the Glacier du Tour
On the Glacier du Tour
Richard On the Glacier du Tour
Richard On the Glacier du Tour
Richard On the Glacier du Tour
Richard On the Glacier du Tour
Richard On the Glacier du Tour
Richard On the Glacier du Tour
Richard On the Glacier du Tour
Richard On the Glacier du Tour

Even though the Passon is a very popular ski tour the Tour Glacier is vast and we skied lovely untracked powder from 3000m down to about 2000m where the warmth began to affect the snow quality.

Jerome Chillin'
Jerome Chillin’
Richard's Tracks
Richard’s Tracks
Jerome Loving It!
Jerome Loving It!

The last few hundred metres were a pretty sloppy affair, but before long we popped out on the beginner piste at Le Tour. This ski tour is unusual in that you aren’t punished for an epic descent with a horrendous combat ski along some creek bed which is often the case over here. Even though the snow was pretty snotty for us, this has the potential to have epic powder right to the valley floor in the right conditions.

Looking back up from Le Tour
Looking back up from Le Tour

We then jumped on the bus back to Grands Montets to get the car and Jerome drove us to Vallorcine so we could take the train to Verbier for the weekend. Jerome had a long-standing booking with clients for the weekend so we thought we would do some sightseeing and we were fortunate enough to find a gap in the bookings for legendary Australian Mountain Guide John Falkiner who would show us around his adopted home area of Verbier.

All tuckered out on the train to Verbier
All tuckered out on the train to Verbier

Col du Passon is a great option with one lift ride and a modest climb netting almost 2500m vert of fantastic skiing. Well worth checking out.

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