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The Cosmique Double

Below the Midi, Cosmique hut dead ahead.I’ve been in Chamonix just a touch over a month now and I’m feeling more settled. I’ve met more of the locals and have been out skiing with some of them. It’s been super fun having access to local knowledge. Chamonix is completely intimidating until you figure some of this stuff out. That happens a lot faster with some inside info.

After having dinner with some of these folks, my friend and mountain guide from the states, Pat and I decided that ticking the Cosmique Couloir, one of the most classic and accessible Chamonix lines, was a good idea. With its westerly aspect, it would need some sun to soften and this wouldn’t happen until later in the afternoon. In order to kill time we decided to tick the Cosmique Arête, another Cham classic but a climbing objective, beforehand.

The trick of this link up would be getting through the Arête and to the Couloir with soft snow while still making the last tram down from the Midi mid station.

Cosmique Arête

Pat and I met for breakfast at the Elevation at 0930. We were in no hurry with our mid afternoon objective. We caught the tram up and were walking, yes walking, down from the tram to the base of the Arête. It was killing us to be on foot and not on skis. It took less than 30 minutes before we were booting up the track to the base of the climbing.

The views never suckThe Cosmique Arête is classic because it’s close to the tram and it’s super easy. There is some “up” climbing but most of the time it feels like the objective is horizontal. Me at the second rappel

Pat coming down first rappelThere’re a couple of short rappels and we got away with one 30-meter rope for all of them. The weather was fine and I did much of it in a t-shirt. Some of the sections are exposed but the snow ledges along which you move are well packed out. Kevin Mahoney at the "office"We eventually got into some slower traffic but it wasn’t too bad. We even ran into another good friend guiding 3 clients.

We did a short belay up the “crux” which is a short boulder problem involving a nice finger crack move or two to a ledge. The slab next to the crack is drilled out for crampon front points so it’s pretty easy. Pat sending

Not minding the wait

The final bit before the ladderI could live without the belay next time. A little more up climbing through a shallow chimney system brought us to the top of the arête and the ladder to the Midi station platform. Very civilized ending. We finished with a coffee at the restaurant and stage two of the day.

Cosmique Couloir

With skis on we blasted back across toward the Cosmique Hut. Some sidestepping got us to the ridge and we looked around a bit for the entrance. We picked the right side, which had more signs of traffic and eased in. The top was frozen still so my first couple of turns was tentative. We did a short angled rappel into the business. Looking up I realized the direct entrance would have been more elegant but we probably still would have rappelled the firm snow.

With skis on I eased out into the couloir to check the snow. It approaches 50 degrees right here but the snow was softening nicely. The first turn confirmed our timing was good. Pat pulled the rope and did the same, sidestepping through a choke like I did. From there it was careful but fun turns…forever.

The length of the couloir surprised Pat and me, suspecting the run approached 2,000 feet or more. Snow conditions remained generally perfect throughout.Pat below the North Face of the MidiAt the bottom we turned right and headed down the margin of the Plan Glacier to the Glacier Rond. A long ascending traverse brought us back around below the Midi and to the mid station at 1615. No problem catching our ride back to town. Nice day, for sure. 

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Reader Comments (8)

Hey Brian,

Just to let you know that I followed you recommendations and have just received the Nanga Parbat and the... wait for it... Plum 145! Wanted the 165 but found a good deal on the 145... Will receive the binding next week and am hoping to try the kit once before summer! Will be tight!
Thanks for the time taken to answer my questions and also a big thank you for the inspiration. I'll probably end up buying a Camp bag next year so your sponsors should be glad :)

Keep ripping... and writing :)


April 10, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterRichard Ferron

Nice day out. Just a random follower of your blog which is always interesting. I'm sure you've said somewhere but how light are you going with skis and bindings are you using for these types of days? Actually more the Col du Cristaux (good ski also!) sort of day as the amount of walking required for Cosmiques means you don't exactly need to save weight.

April 10, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterStephen

That's pretty exciting, Richard. That is going to be one light set up. The only thing you miss with the 145 is adjustability. If you're set with boots, that doesn't really matter.

The rig should be perfect for long tours with ample climbing and chill descending. My hunch is that ski will do well on spring corn and any other snow that doesn't have deep funkiness that is going to push around a light ski like that. I'll be curious to hear what you think.

April 10, 2014 | Registered CommenterBrian


After spending time with the crew at Plum, I don't have many reservations anymore using race bindings for all the skiing that I do. Mind you, I'm not skiing big bumps and I'm not hucking cliffs. I ski powder and steep stuff in a very controlled fashion.

As for skis, I'm still undecided on what I prefer. I've done most of my skiing here on Dynafit Cho Oyu 182cm. They are a pleasure on the up, of course, but get pushed around some when the snow is variable. I'm not completely sure but the shovel may be a bit fat compared to the rest of the ski, causing some swimming of the tip in powder. I'm sure there are smarter people out there that could comment on this sensation.

I agree with you that with many of the lines in Chamonix, access is so easy that a bigger ski is not a big problem. I lot of the so-called "extreme" skiers here use pretty fat and long boards. Why not? A heavier ski is going to be more secure in many situations although there is a point of diminishing returns with this when making lots of jump turns, for instance. But you certainly don't see Andreas Fransson counting grams with his gear.

As my tastes evolve I may shift toward a slightly heavier ski in the 1,300 to 1,500 gram range, save weight on the binding and keep the length under 180 cm. Yeah, I have a bit of ski ADHD for sure but my ideas change with more experience.

April 10, 2014 | Registered CommenterBrian

Sick to see some full on Cham Randoism from Randoman!

April 11, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterChugach Lover

More on the way, brother.

April 11, 2014 | Registered CommenterBrian

"Ski ADHD". Priceless. Just one look at your quiver confirms that, my friend.

FWIW, I'd agree. Race skis, while interesting and iconoclastic on a Grand Teton descent, just don't have the heft to handle variable conditions. Sure, you *can* do it, particularly if you have the nuts and the chops to handle the exposure and ski-ability compromise (which you obviously do). But it is less skiing than survival, IMHO. Just put a bit more meat underfoot and the smile factor curve starts to bend steeply higher.

So, so stoked for you, mate. I'm totally enjoying the vicarious pleasure.

When do we see a post about the non-mountain experiences (french nightlife)?

April 11, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterMW2

True enough. My hunch is that I'm just a shitty skier and all my ski choices are actually fine. But I'll keep trying others just in case I find the one that makes me look like I actually know what I'm doing. Besides, buying skis is seriously fun. That's why I don't have furniture...well...besides my ski bench.

April 11, 2014 | Registered CommenterBrian

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