Weather….it depended which forecast you read. The tourist predictions kept on promising an unstable period which would bring snow…..this was a lie, every time. With the high pressure persisting conditions were pretty dire…. The die hard (bigger boy) skiers kept heading up in to the mountains. Searching, scratching, scraping, to get every inch of the snow that remained from the November deluge. Pete has a great write up of probably the third descent of the Frigor Coulior…it aptly describes the conditions.
I had sowed the seed with Pete that perhaps we should try and get up Mont Blanc. I though that would be a pretty cool objective in late December. It was a good idea given the current conditions. It was cold, the snow that was about was good and stable. However, acclimatization was going to be my problem having been in the valley working for all of December.
I needed some altitude. Pete was keen to go up Aiguille du Argentiere. Climb the Whypmer Glacier, then the X Couloir, round onto the north face and then to the summit. Descent would have been down the normal Milieu Glacier. I was keen, a 3900 meter summit would be great. Straight off the lift we were skiing over Sastrugi….. i wasn’t overly impressed…. Pete beamed at me with his normal enthusiasm for being outside. Looking up at the almost summer like Chardonnet Glacier it was obvious that it wasn’t going to get much better…. But its nice to be outside and not at work I kept saying to myself.
We ventured on, skis on, skis off, skis on, over bare ice until we could skin. The snow was odd. Really wind compacted, hard to touch, skins wouldn’t stick and ski crampons just cut through like butter making upward progress really hard!
We made it to the junction of the Chardonnet and Whymper glaciers and decided it was prudent to rope up. There were some rather scary looking cracks about. Slow, very slow uphill progress ensued…mostly at this point because I was getting spanked by the altitude.
At the top of the Whymper it was pretty obvious that we wouldn’t make the summit at my sorry speed, the towel was thrown in.
In true British mountaineering style we sat in a slither of sunshine on a ridge and had a cup of tea. It was wonderful.
Fueled up we skied down, still roped up until we were off the Whymper. Our poor skis felt the brunt of the descent with rocks and gravel everywhere. A few minutes of combat skiing got us off the Argentiere Glacier and back in the ski area to home
The High Pressure persisted…..as did we….