Ski touring season is upon us in Chamonix with sunny weather & great snow cover
Touring season is upon us in Chamonix this week, with sunny weather and great snow cover.
I'm still recovering this week from a bit of whiplash after a nasty crash before the weekend, but with the weather so nice it would have been a shame not to get out and enjoy it. The last real snow was over a week ago so everything directly off the lifts is fairly tracked-out so on Tuesday Graham and I decided to ski tour to a lesser-known route: Couloir du Pissoir near the Aiguille du Tour.
We had planned to ski this route last April, but being the Easter holidays we were keen to avoid early morning crowds at Grands Montets and attempted to access it from the top of Le Tour's ski area which proved to be too long an approach. This time we went via Grands Montets instead, taking surprisingly quiet first lifts up to the top of the mountain before crossing the Argentiere Glacier and heading up to Col du Passon. There was a good skin track in place, a little firm and slippy at times so ski crampons helped, and similarly a good bootpack track up the final 50m to the col.
The ski from the Col du Passon down to Le Tour is a Chamonix classic which should be on every new ski tourer's list, but we had bigger plans and traversed the Tour Glacier to climb over a col around the Aiguille du Tour and onto the Trient Glacier, then a final short rising traverse to cross the Col du Pissoir on the north side of the Aiguille du Tour at 3,177m elevation.
To descend we took a gentle face towards the north-facing Couloir du Pissoir where the gradient steepened to a little over 45 degrees for the entrance then mellower angles for the rest of the descent towards Trient. The snow was a little crusty in places where the sun and wind had gotten to it but we were able to spot the softer snow OK and easily found deep sugary spring snow most of the way down especially on the NE-facing left banks. Considering it's been a while since the last snowfall the whole descent wasn't too tracked at all and we found some fun rolls, banks and mini couloirs to play on as we went.
Further down, more ski tracks merged into the route and then led out to Trient on a good track through the woods. In the past we have stashed a car in Trient the night before or first thing in the morning but this time we went for the hitchhiking option to get us back to the Grands Montets car park via the Vallorcine train.
The route was a pretty fun ski tour and only 1,000m of ascent for nearly 3,000m descent which is pretty good value. I'll be back for more in the future I'm pretty sure.
For the next week the weather looks to be staying mostly sunny with slightly warmer temperatures so there should be some good spring conditions for piste skiing and ski touring alike - get out and enjoy it!
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NB: Off piste skiing and mountaineering are dangerous. The opinions expressed in these articles are very much time and condition specific and the content is not intended in any way to be a substitute for hiring a mountain guide, undergoing professional mountaineering training and/or the individual's own back country decision making.
Location: Chamonix / Mont Blanc Valley