TR: Chamonix Day 14 – Couloir Marbrées

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We had originally wanted to ski this couloir the day before, but there was a chilly northerly breeze that Jerome was afraid would prevent the couloir softening up, which would make it an absolute death trap. But today was still with a slight southerly, which meant we could go and ski one of the bigger lines off the Helbronner – the Couloir Marbrées. Total vertical is well over 2000m, and a decent proportion of that being in excess of 40 degrees in a setting where falling was certainly not recommended.

Again as we were aiming to ski snow that was softened by the sun, there was no rush and we leisurely made our way through the tunnel and into Italy, and rode the three stage Helbronner tram. Each time I ascend this lift I am especially taken by the scenery, perhaps even more so than the Aiguille du Midi, and given the perfect bluebird conditions this was no exception.

After a lovely coffee and croissant at the top of the tram it was time to put on our skis and traverse to the Col de Rochefort where we would be dropping in, but not before it was time to take some photos of the amazing surroundings:

Dent du Geant
Dent du Geant
Matterhorn in the distance
Matterhorn in the distance
Monte Rosa
Monte Rosa

The Peuterey ridge, site of Jerome’s recent ascent

Arête de Peuterey
Arête de Peuterey
Aiguille du Midi & Vallee Blanche
Aiguille du Midi & Vallee Blanche

Mont Blanc du Tacul and its couloirs – most of these are skied when in condition by crazy Chamoniards in April/May/June:

Mont Blanc du Tacul & Couloirs
Mont Blanc du Tacul & Couloirs

Roping up for the short bootpack up to the col:

Roping Up
Roping Up

Nicole under the Dent du Geant:

Nicole & Dent du Geant
Nicole & Dent du Geant

It was then time to drop into the couloir. While not death defyingly steep – the first stages are around 45 degrees before mellowing to about 40 degrees, the snow was firm and slowly being turned by the sun, a fall would have been near impossible to arrest. So it was this potential exposure below that upped the ante, so the first turns were very deliberate and careful. As we slowly made our way lower the snow softened and the pitch mellowed, and it finally became fun. As usual we didn’t get any photos of the steepest section but we came in on the top right of the below shot and followed the diagonal ridgeline down:

Looking up the Couloir
Looking up the Couloir

I remarked at the time that this was the ‘biggest’ line I had ever skied. I don’t really know how I quantified this in my mind, but I think it was probably the longest, most direct and steepest sustained pitch I had skied to day.

As we got lower it was time to jump a couple of rimayes, play amongst the seracs and enjoy the superb corn snow in the sunshine:

Seracs
Seracs

Richard on the Glacier
Richard on the Glacier

Richard on the Glacier
Richard on the Glacier

Courmayeur in the distance:

Courmayeur
Courmayeur

This shot was taken about 2/3 of the way down, we entered at the dip in the top of the photo:

Looking up
Looking up
Mont Blanc & Peuterey Ridge
Mont Blanc & Peuterey Ridge

The lower faces of the valley were just a superb playground of corn snow – we had an absolute ball:

Downtown Courmayeur, Glacier Toule & Dent du Geant above:

In Courmayeur
In Courmayeur
Look, up in the sky.....
Look, up in the sky.....

We then finished the day as one should when skiing in Italy, with a nice pasta, red wine & gelato:

Mmmmmm.......Ice Cream!
Mmmmmm.......Ice Cream!

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