A “REST WEEK” IN CHAMONIX

The east ridge on Courte with Grand Jorasses behind

After guiding Haute Route two times in two weeks I was looking forward to a week off, to get out climbing and skiing on my own. Before I was back in Chamonix, Colin Haley called and asked if I wanted to climb the north face of Droites with him the day after. Still not fully recovered from my cold I said no, but after a couple of hours of regret I said yes.

On April 10. we had a “cragging” approach to the 1000 meter high face by taking the first lift in the morning and starting climbing at 10 am. We did the classic route, Ginat, and found good conditions on the snowy, lower part and OK, but a little dry conditions on the steeper upper part. We did not go to the true summit, but as most others only climbed to the Breche des Droites. The climb took us 5 hours and 30 minutes. The “descent” was down the south side and then up the south side and west ridge of Les Courtes making it a very long day. And in the afternoon clouds, we had a hard time finding the Col de la Tour the Courtes.

Some days later I went up to ski the Gervasutti couloir on La tour Ronde with Colin and Marion Poitivin. Tour Ronde is a small summit on the French-Italian border close to Helbronner. The skiing was not the best, lots of rock at the top of the couloir and fresh snow on top of a hard layer further down. But we had a good day out.

The day after, Colin, Magnus, Jonno and me, headed up the Argentiere glacier for skiing the NE-face of Les Courtes. Descending it some days earlier after the Droites-Courtes climb we thought that conditions would be perfect for steep skiing. And it was, except for the skiers right side of the face. Magnus tried that and ended up tomahawking the entire 700 vertical meters, 45-50 degree face. We feared the worst and was very relieved to see him move after the long fall. Jonno called rescue while Colin and me started skiing down to Magnus. Except for some bruises on the arm, Magnus was fine. But he was taken by the PGHM rescue to the hospital in Sallanches for a routine check.

On April 16., Colin and me took the last lift to sleep at the top of Grand Montets to start early the next day. We wanted to do a linkup in the Argentier basin by climbing the three north faces of Verte, Droites and Courtes in one go. We started at 5 am the next morning and climbed Verte up and down by the classic Couturier couloir. This day was more about endurance then technical climbing so we did routes that we could simul-solo. After Verte we climbed the Lagarde direct to the true summit of Droites. As last time, we descended the south side and ascended Courtes from the west. The plan was to downclimb the NE face and then climb the Swiss route on Courtes. But after descending the NE our motivation was lame  for climbing the Courtes again. So we walked back to our skis and skied down to Argentier. After all we was satisfied with three summits and after ascending and descending around 3000 vertical meters in 12 hours.

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