Well, that went by in a hurry, one moment I’m skinning up the Argentierre Glacier with Crystal, Brian, and Ashley, the next I’m packing my car and moving to Jackson. Phew, I’m glad I’m settled in one bed with my suitcase unpacked.
After our adventure on the Rhone Glacier, we had more down days due to weather and warm temps. We filled in the time with laps on the Grand Montets, attempted to skin around Faverge in gail force winds with scary slides on the steeper slopes, and went to the gym for some moderate work capacity sessions. But then, the sun broke, one more time. It was our last Thursday in the valley, three days before departure, and the clouds parted just long enough for a big (ish) adventure.
The top Tram at Grand Montets was closed again due to high winds, so we rode up as far as we could before skiing the last few hundred feet to the saddle. We chased the Norwegian Nordic Team boys that we had met a couple night before. Needless to say, they were speedy, even with their massive packs for 8 days on the Haute Route. Remind me to leave the uphill cardio to the kids who do that professionally.
The first 1000 ft. of turns to the Glacier were spectacular. Chamonix had received 2 feet of snow in the past 48 hours, and it was smooth, fluffy pow the whole way. As we established our surroundings, wind, temperature, and potential spring warming at the bottom, we decided to head up the Col de Amythest instead of attempting the Col de Chardonnay – the Col de Pouisson – Le Tour route. It would have been awesome, but with spring temps rising rapidly, we didn’t want to put ourselves in danger.
Glacial travel can be deceiving. It’s flat, it’s white, and the sun sparkled off the snow as we followed the tracks of previous travelers to avoid the crevasses. I estimated it would take us about 20 minutes to get to the base of the Col de Amythest. Yeah, I was wrong. All that flat, white, sparkly stuff was much longer than I had imagined. The Col de Amythest is right at the top of the Argentierre Glacier, on the left hand, it is moderately pitched, the three obvious crevasses on the way up. Lesson Learned: if it looks 20 minutes away, you’re probably wrong.
The skin track up the Col was windblown and soft, Crystal and I alternated breaking trail all the way up. Breaking trail is hard work, and I’m not usually the one doing it. Now, before you give me a hard time, this isn’t because I won’t do it, it’s because Jamon, Adam, and the rest of the crew I ski with in SLC are so damn fast, I don’t have a hope in hell of leading. If I’m only 5 minutes behind, I’m having a really good day.
When we finally made it, I was beat, hungry, and ready to rip my skins off. It was a little heavy and wind affected at the top, but as soon as we passed the second crevasse it was a beautiful 3,000 ft. ski back to the glacier. 4,000+ feet of hiking and 8 hours later, we were ready to shuffle back down the glacier, put our feet up, and sip on some vin chaud.
Ashley and I stopped at the retreat on Grand Montets for some cheese, meats, fruit, and vin chaud as we watched couloir after couloir wet slide. It sounded like we were on a landing strip, and we were grateful for our decision earlier in the day. Skiing anything moderately pitched and in the sun was definitely out of the question. But sipping on some post ski wine, was not.