So today Graham, Bouche, Sandy and myself got an early bin up the Grandes Montets and went to have a look up the Argentiere Basin to see how things were looking after all this stormy weather we've had.
We were really hoping that the NE slope of the Courtes would in good condition as we've all got this on our list. The slope is one of the best classic steep lines in the Massif, it's 700m long and is at a consistent angle of 48° for the whole way.
As we approached the face we saw a lot of snow pouring out the bottom of the slope. This was due to a lot of the rocks to the side and above warming up in the morning sun, which released most of the fresh snow lying on them. This did give us a big cause for concern as neither of us were keen on the idea of being swept away! The face does look in ok condition, not full of powder but still doable and I think a day of sunshine could do it the world of good.
We had the Col des Cristaux, which is another classic ski line a few couloirs over, as our back up plan. The slope is a bit mellower than the NE slope, going at 45° for 500m, but it still a major ski line.
Once we got round to the Cristaux we notice more fresh sluff tracks at the bottom. We talked about it for a while discussing where we would cross the Bergshrund and where we would come down, but doubt started to creep into our thoughts and we decided against it. As we chilled out and had a look around, this massive amount of snow came tumbling down the main part of the Cristaux which sort of gave us a fright to think we could have been there but also pleased us knowing we made the right choice.
We also happened to notice a skier on his heading for the Col des Courtes on his own. This is quite a big line as well, so were quite surprised to see him on his tod. As we watched him this huge pile of snow came rushing past him which got us all on our toes, but he seemed happy and decided to carry on with crossing the bergshrund. As I watched him start to cross the shrund I told everyone how much I hate climbing over bergshrunds, especially on your own! No sooner after the last word came out my mouth we watched the bridge which this guy was standing on collapse away from his feet, sending him into some nasty icy hole! Quite a horrible sight to witness. I quickly started skinning up his tracks to help him escape from his pit, but in a few seconds we saw him clamber his way out off a lower section! We all felt so relieved seeing this but I bet no one was as relieved as much as him.
The guy got himself together and after getting away with this one he decided to ski down. When he approached us I asked him if he was ok, his reply was simply 'Oui, C'est bonne!'. Really we all knew he just wanted to get home for a fresh pair of undies. We smelt it!
It was still a really good day even though we never got anything done. We got taught that simple lesson today. That we can't just rush and get on these things because we've put in a bit of effort to get there, but to make even more of an effort and come back when it is ready. These hills will still be here next year, you've just got to make sure you are too! (God that sounds seedy!)