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Couloir du Capucin

The approach to the Col du Tacul, dead aheadIt’s great to have game partners and my friend Pat is at least that and quite capable and fit, too. He’s between guiding gigs right now and eager to get out above Chamonix to ski and climb anything. We had some friends ski a line from the Col du Tacul and said it was fun so we headed off there.

We had heavy rain in the valley the day before which yielded less snow than we thought up high. Still, skiing some powder down the Valley Blanche was a nice change. At the base of the Geant icefall we headed up the Glacier Periades toward the Col. The surface was firm, testimony to the rain that fell up high. It made for great skinning.

The French Army was in da house. We felt saferWe quickly overtook all parties ahead of us, save for two guys well ahead. By the time I caught them at the base of the Col, they started up a different couloir. That had me questioning my own direction and I briefly started after the others. Pat assured me that we were going the right way and I happily booted the 100 meters to the top.

The final booter to the col

Pat nearing the topWe’d heard that there were a few rappels due to the bony conditions. We tied our two 30 meter ropes together and started down. It's not skiing in Cham unless you get to rappel.

The snow was soft on the rocks and couloir further down looked promising. We made quick work of the first two raps but at the end of the second I could find no existing anchor. I was surprised because our friends had done five raps. Likely, the new snow was obscuring it.

After rummaging around without luck, I found a suitable horn and used some cord I had and fashioned the next anchor. Is this block solid?? I unclipped just to be funny.We both did the third rap and decided we could put skis on there. There were still some sharks to negotiate before getting into the main couloir. We each used the rap rope as an anchor as we donned skis on the 50 degree slope. I pulled and coiled the ropes once I was ready to ski.

Pat not weighting it too hard. Why push our luck, right?Unfortunately, conditions were pretty poor. The soft snow was blown into drifts and there was plenty of barely-covered firmness below. I side-slipped down past some rocks and finally into the couloir. Pat managed a few turns in the same section but was pretty nervous doing so. Yeah, the runnel sucked.

The snow was only marginally better in the gut with some breakable and wind slab. Pat went first and the snow was deep enough to add some security. But when I went, the second ski cut was enough to occasionally cut a small slab loose, one of which took me off my feet for a moment. Exciting.

I finally made a turn, or a jump, as my friend Charlie would point out. He's a style whore.

As the slope mellowed to about 40 degrees and then to 35, the skiing got better and stability improved. It was almost powder skiing down onto the glacier and finally out onto the Leschaux. The cruise back down to the Mer de Glace and the train at Montenvers was nothing less than pleasant. We didn’t really even have to wait for the train. All in all, a good day of technical skiing with some rope trickery thrown in to make it feel like Chamonix. 

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Reader Comments (1)

Again.... amazing trips you have there. Really envy you for being there, and beeing fit enough to do this kind of stuff.

This means training for me... hehe

Enjoy the time

April 11, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterHitsch

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