Monday, March 12, 2007

Cham in the Sun, Gervasutti and Piseux

Surprise surprise, wonderful weather for once, perfect forecast - no questions asked, we are off to tick off some long-standing plans for Cham.

More surprises await though. First one - Midi benne is closed because of wind and we depart at 9 instead of planned 7 30. Too bad, we'll go directly for our plan - Gervasutti couloir on Tour Ronde - see this beauty!

Certainly the plan is (as usual) too Napoleonian for me - first couloir, and an S5 to start off - but whatever, just being there is great - i forget the questions and breathe in the air of my temple. It is like last year at Jungfraujoch - sun, mountains, snow. Perfect planet, no problems - breathe in and pray. Snow is also perfect, 20cm of new untouched powder. Down and up we go. A couple of people here and there in the goulottes, a guy has already made steps up our couloir.

Going up the couloir with skis isn't as bad as i thought i manage it pretty well and still close my eyes and ears to the piercing cry of my body - how are you going to ski down that???

Next surprise, the wind that made the telepherique start later gets at us at the second part of the couloir - best of them all, fresh snow blown at you upwards. Very cold and unpleasant - not recommended to try alone at 3000 meters, after 4hr sleep in the car and a long drive from belgium before that. But no choice there. We don't even manage the last 100 meters separating the top of the couloir from the summit - down, the only thought.

No summit again. That is how Cham is used to treat its worshipers.

Here i finally open my eyes and ears to the painful truth - there is no way i'm putting on my skis in this thing - i'm crazy, but not that crazy...We did bring 2 60m ropes for a reason - a couple of painful rappels and i'm down, watching my partner make his curves. Mmm, i should probably learn to ski at some point - not today anyhow.

Going down Vallee Blanche, we are alone again in a windless world. My temple is back. We cannot resist, put our skins on for the most pleasant experience of the w-end - a happy stroll up Helbronner to get a look at the Torino refuge and get some more of the powder. Weather is finally perfect - we even manage to forget the wind. For once, no other place i'd rather be.

Next objective - refuge de Requin, happy place, probably my favorite here.

And off to bed at 8 pm to be up early next morning for another couloir - a more realistic Breche Piseux this time. We still are too heavy - 2 60m ropes, crampons, ice tools - i'm surprised at my sherpa capacities myself. Certainly, we are long as long could be.

Just enough, a quick rappel gets us down to Mont Mallet glacier - and here the wind catches up with us again. A painful descent down the wind-blown piles and a short serac traverse gets us finally exhausted to the Leschaux. Blissful push to the end of Mer de Glace, and a painful drive back brings us in short 6 hours home. My car made its first test drive :).

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