Skiing the NE face of Les Courtes
"...a symbol of the entrance to extreme skiing..." (P. Tardivel)
Through out the winter, I had been scooping at the impressive Nort East face of Les Courtes, Chamonix. I had been intrigued by it’s mighty slopes from the very first time I had seen it. Steep, wild and yet so inviting.
The NE face had looked hard and icy for months but after the late May storms it was covered in white fresh snow. A temptation we could not resist. It was time to take a step into the legendary depts of Adventure skiing in the Mont Blanc Massif!
As Pierre Tardivel had written in the Mont Blanc Topo “… this legendary face, symbol of the entrance to “extreme” skiing…is not to be taken lightly”. The winter in Chamonix had not been the most snowy and the waiting for the right conditions felt long, but in April things changed dramatically. Several storms hit the massif and left the mountains white of snow that stuck well onto most faces. By the time when most season workers and tourists had left the valley, we suddenly had the best conditions of the whole winter and no crowds around. It was a fantastic moment.
The Chamonix ski system were about to close in a couple of days and as we approached Les Courtes by the Argentière Glacier Basin, one of the last days of April, we realized how lucky we were. The mountains around looked fantastic and there were almost no tracks on the glacier.
When the Grand Montets cabin closes (May 3rd), accessing the Argentiere Glacier Basin and the mountains in there becomes a lot more complicated. We knew that it was one of the last chances to get into Les Courtes on a daily adventure and we had expected the area to be pretty tracked up. But it wasn’t!
To our big surprise, we found Les Courtes untracked and in perfect conditions. We had it all for ourselves! I had to pinch myself to check that it wasn’t a dream.
The climb was strenuous in the deep snow, but the snow felt good and stuck well onto the slope. After passing the bergshrund, which proved to be the crux of the climb, the whole face opened up. It surely was a special and very memorable moment to be there and the ski descent didn’t make us any less impressed.
Enjoy a video from the day at Vimeo: