Wednesday, 21 March 2012

North face of Mt Buet

Mt Buet must be one of the friendlier summits to climb in this mountain range but that takes nothing away from it being one of the finest summits to climb and ski.

On the way up

I like to think the ‘Friendly Rouge’ is like a small, mirrored image of the Mt Blanc Massif, with Mt Buet being a mini Mt Blanc. I don’t know if it’s actually classified in the Aiguilles Rouge range, but it feels like it is to me.

I’d set of to try Mt Buet’s North face about a month earlier, but had to turn around because I was trashed. Trashed due to skinning up on my big powder skis that weigh a ton, with skins that were 40mm too narrow and also I was battling the remains of ‘Man Flu’. It was touch and go!!

Dr Ebert in action

 So Ross Hewitt, Charlie Boscoe, (Dr) Phil Ebert & I went to give it ago.

We had to start from Brevant and then ski across to Flegere, as the bottom gondola at Flegere was closed like the previous day. This added a bit of time but not much, and once we got on with it we managed to be on the summit of Buet within 3 ½ hrs from the top of the Floria drag lift.

The skinning was good but really hot. One little thing that I would recommend is that when you get to the Col Du Berard, boot pack up the ridge for about 250m. This lets you ski across for a bit, and then join the main skiing track. The last few times I’ve always skied down the valley a bit and then joined the track, but this way is maybe not that much quicker but just feels nicer.

Ross arrived at the Summit first and said that when he got there, a helicopter had just dropped off two snowboarders who then went into the North face! This had a bit of a bitter taste to it after skinning up for three hours in the sun. I think these two boarders must have been filming as that’s the only way you’re allowed to heli-ski in this area, and they were good who ever they were as some of the lines they were taking looked pretty spicy! We all know heli-skiing is illegal here, and so it should be, as the Alps are too small! I know that sounds quite stupid, as the hills are big here, but not too big to skin up and ski down!

One awkward thing about the North face of Buet is that the lip of it has a cornice the whole way around, so you have to find a few sections where it’s possible to enter. There’s generally a good spot on skiers left from the summit, which is where we entered. The face has lots of these little spines, which gives it a sort of Alaska feeling, but these wee spines had interesting conditions on them. One side could be good and the other side could be crusty with some wind slab. So we got a sort of feeling as to where could be good.

The face is generally at 40˚, which is a nice angle as you can link a lot of turns with good pace but still have to keep your concentration. There are a few cliffs and rock steps that you have to watch out for but they do seem quite obvious to where they are.

A 300m bank of awesomeness sits at the foot of the face. So after all they jump turns on the face and then ripping it down the bank I thought my thighs were going to give in!

On the way out

Such an awesome face for skiing and would love to go back on it, but only with a heli bopper!

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