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Ski touring - Argentiere basin - any tips?

 Poster: A snowHead
Poster: A snowHead
We’ve started discussing options for a little ski touring trip in March with our guide. He’s come with a couple of options for a three day trip - either two nights in the Argentiere hut or one there and one at the Albert Premier. First option would include the aiguille d’argentiere via the meileur glacier. Any other must dos in that area? I’d say that the aiguille d’argentiere is probably our level - not up for anything desperate on Les courtes, droites etc
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 Obviously A snowHead isn't a real person
Obviously A snowHead isn't a real person
Don't expect the quiet wilderness:



That's on the way up to Coul du Tour Noir from an old TR:

http://snowheads.com/ski-forum/viewtopic.php?p=2718945
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 Well, the person's real but it's just a made up name, see?
Well, the person's real but it's just a made up name, see?
Col du passon is very nice and not hard. The three cols route is a standard maybe stay at the trient hut. Col du Cristaux a bit harder. There’s a couple of glacier routes the tour noir and the amethyst. Maybe just skin to the top of the Argentiere glacier. The Aig du Argentiere would be a nice thing to do I’ve only done it in the summer.
I suspect the guide is going to be your best option for ideas.
My choice would be Aig du Argentiere one day then down via the col du passon the next.
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Thanks guys,
Col du passion does look nice. I had a minor epic on the Aig du Argentiere when I was 20 (in summer, ahem, 27 years ago Shocked ) and am quite keen to get up there again. Only descended by the milieux glacier but my recollection is that the top 500m would be quite a sporty ski. Doesn’t seem steeper than the Armancette which we skied last year though
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 Anyway, snowHeads is much more fun if you do.
Anyway, snowHeads is much more fun if you do.
@jedster, there are all kinds of options and pleasure to be had up there. A few observations for what they are worth:
The Milieu Glacier is supposed to be a cracking descent. One of the top of our pops for this season. If you intend to ski from the top, it is significantly harder and more serious than the Armancette Glacier. Baud's book of death gives the Armancette AD, with a 200m 35 degree crux. The Milieu is D with a 250m 45 degree crux. Many however crampon down that section, stashing the skis at the bottom.

If you fellas are doing the Milieu, the Passon might seem a bit tame. Also, timing can determine your fun on that. Goodness only knows why, but I did it twice with my chums last season and we all ate a certain amount of snow in terminal breakable crust on both occasions. Maybe that is just us! Get it right though and I would guess it can be sublime.

There is some super skiing around on the Swiss side around the Grand Lui with all kinds of steepness and perhaps a night at the A Neuve hut (no guardian in winter but wood and a big stove). Similarly, if you ventured to the Swiss side, Mont Dolent is a stunning climb and terrific ski. If you do that you can get tied onto your guide on the summit ridge and get your money's worth!

If you are looking to avoid the crowds, see what you can organise from the Plines bivouac hut. I never even knew that it existed, but fully intend to get up there this year.

Have a top time. Might even bump into you in one of the huts.
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@HammondR,
Quote:

Baud's book of death gives the Armancette AD, with a 200m 35 degree crux

I've got the book but you have to be careful because when he quotes that he is talking about skiing the Armancette from the Col de la Berangere not from the top of the Domes - the section down to the col is the crux and is 40 degrees I think. Still fair point and as I remember the Milieu feels pretty exposed in descent as you are looking straight down the bloody thing and its a long way. Honestly though I don't know if we'd ski from the top. Guess it will depend on what our guide makes of the snow conditions. He did suggest that we could handle the NF of Mont Blanc (from the summit) which I think is also 45 degrees and pretty airy. That is one for the future though - I'd need to be really well acclimatised to handle the altitude and that needs a longer trip.

Mont Dolent is a good idea too. I know what you mean about getting tied on to get your money's worth. The Domes des Miages had a spicy ice arete when we were up there and having the Greg mess around with ice screws and put in a fixed rope while we tried not to look down the North Face was properly atmospheric Very Happy
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 Then you can post your own questions or snow reports...
Then you can post your own questions or snow reports...
What about Aiguille de l’Amone: https://www.bentibbettsguiding.com/aiguille-de-lamone-ne-face/

Need to ski down it like Jeremie Heitz though 😉
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 After all it is free Go on u know u want to!
After all it is free Go on u know u want to!
@jedster, fair enough, you obviously know your stuff. I have only been down the Milieu after climbing the North Face in about 1992. In those circumstances I didn't notice it, but like everything out here, it only gets grizzlier every year.

Mont Dolent really is a fabulous trip. I went up there in spring with a chum last year and we both loved it. The only drawback is all the up is human powered.

Even though we were pretty fit we stayed in the bivouac hut half way. French Rando Guy (basically all the French we saw going up) all did the 2000+ metres up and down in a day. Most had no harness, crampons, ski crampons, axe, or rope, only tights and religious artifacts to see them safe.

If you are a climbing team a much more memorable way up would be the Gallet Ridge. Though it isn't a climbing plod (AD+), it is a really aesthetic line. You can then ski back down the same way if you have gonads grande, or the regular ski, which is worth all the effort. We will be going up the Gallet this spring because it just looked so good, and you get to stay in this bonkers red hexagonal hut held up with string.

As for the NF of Mont Blanc; chuffing Nora. Don't know about you, but I think that getting my legs to obey commands after about 2000 metres in a day at over 4500m: that is a consideration for April.

If you have a guide, make the most of it like you did on the Domes de Miage. If someone falls on one side of the ridge, the guide jumps the other way. That's VFM!

On a more serious note, if you are guided up the Argentiere and are going well, the Barbey Couloir down the other side looks a terrific route. One of the undoubted advantages of a well connected and experienced guide can be up to date information on what is in more amenable condition.

Still hoping to catch up with you in a hut, preferably with a big fire.
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Quote:

Still hoping to catch up with you in a hut, preferably with a big fire.

that would be great.

Quote:

I have only been down the Milieu after climbing the North Face in about 1992. In those circumstances I didn't notice it

Yes - can see that!
I'd been up the Fleche Rousse arete (1991 I think) but ended up off route in a 60 degree ice gulley (I think Y couloir) with one axe and no ice screws. Had a go at chopping handholds (ridiculous given limited experience and talent but descent was blocked by hideous rock fall). Took a fall onto a DMM wallnut wedged between blue ice and the rock at the edge of the gulley. Probably only fell 30 feet but ended up with my crampons waving in my second's face. I literally couldn't believe the protection had held. We quickly concluded that there was no way we were getting up the ice. After I stopped gibbering I managed to force a route up the rock was to rejoin the route. Think my nerves were a bit shredded by the time we were heading down the Mileux. Snow cover was a bit thin (was the tail end of some very dry years and a hot august), we were bombed by big rocks (one the size of a big old TV set bounced over our heads while we moving together on the steep section) and then the last snow bridge on a big crevasse had collapsed meaning that we had set up to protect a running jump. My partner lost interest in alpine climbing after that trip... It was the last proper route I did too. Truth is I think most Brits heading top Chamonix to take their first steps in alpine climbing have similar cock ups. You need to learn from them rather than get killed by them. I was never going to climb hard stuff (see lack of talent above!) but you can get into all sorts of escapades at whatever level you climb in the Alps.


Quote:

As for the NF of Mont Blanc; chuffing Nora. Don't know about you, but I think that getting my legs to obey commands after about 2000 metres in a day at over 4500m: that is a consideration for April.


Completely agree, I'm reasonably fit and have good natural stamina but I do feel the altitude. I'd find the last 1000m on Mont Blanc REALLY hard without proper acclimatisation. Think I'd want to take a week and spend a few nights high up before I tried it.
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Ski the Net with snowHeads
@jedster,
Happy days. Particularly from a 25 year distance.
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snowHeads are a friendly bunch.
Very Happy
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 And love to help out and answer questions and of course, read each other's snow reports.
And love to help out and answer questions and of course, read each other's snow reports.
@jedster, did anything come of this?
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 So if you're just off somewhere snowy come back and post a snow report of your own and we'll all love you very much
So if you're just off somewhere snowy come back and post a snow report of your own and we'll all love you very much
Was actually just to post a follow up.
Short answer no.
We got of the plane on wednesday 28 in GVA to receive a call from our guide that we had been fearing - he felt the weather outlook was just too bad to make it worth setting off - strong foehn fighting with a depression coming down from the north. High winds, cloud and avalanche risk. We weren't that surprised but thought he would come up with some kind of lower key plan. Unfortunately the weather systems were just too big and covered too much of the Alps.

In the end my mate and I did a couple of short tours around Les C in weather windows but the upside is that between 29th and 6th we had three days in Les C with 30cm of fresh overnight. What an end to our seasons! We were mainly skiing with our kids and needing to respect avalanche risk between 3 and 4 all the time but it was wonderful.

Next year...
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 You know it makes sense.
You know it makes sense.
Well, that's not so bad is it? Looking at this interminable unsettled weather, I wondered how you got on.

It really has been squeaky bottom time all over the place here, with little sign of improvement.

If you are looking for companions to tackle some of these higher Chamonix routes next season get in touch. Our ageing band of plodders has accomplished quite a few this year, in spite of the post February dodginess, and we are fed up with just having each other!
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 Otherwise you'll just go on seeing the one name:
Otherwise you'll just go on seeing the one name:
Thanks - will definitely compare plans next season
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