Monday, April 22, 2013

Bonatti Couloir - Italy

AAI Guide Liz Daley has spent the majority of the winter in the Alps, splitboarding. The following is a trip report from one of her adventures:

Looking back on the season here in Chamonix, it's been insane how good of a winter it's been. There's been more snow in zee Alps than I've seen here in the past four years. The freeriding has been amazing and riding bigger lines in pow for a change has been awesome!

Drew Tabke, Freeride World Champ himself, has been crashing on mine and Dave's couch for countless nights this winter and we were hungry for a mission with this awesome snow pack. I've been obsessed with the Bonatti Couloir on the Petite Mont Blanc all season and have been waiting for a good window to get back there. The couloir is almost 3,000 ft long and super wide, it almost seemed more like a giant face. It's directly adjacent from the super gnar of the West face of Mont Blanc. We saw no one back there the entire day except some people who were getting heli dropped at the end of the flat Miage.

It was so nice to get away from the crowds of Cham. I'm sick of worrying about people either dropping in on my head or worried about sluffing people below me, back here there were no such worries. Only worries of rockfall and slabs, super! It's a fairly big day to do it in a day so we decided to stay at a hut to make the approach a bit easier.

G7 in the Toponeige, Mont Blanc

Sunrise at the Elisabetta Soldini hut.

The easiest way to ski this couloir, in my opinion, is to stay at the Rainetto bivouac atop the Petite Mont Blanc and drop in from the top. When we got back in the basin the weather was horrible so we decided to stay under the clouds at the lower hut. When we woke up the entire approach to the up and over way was solid ice so we decided to boot straight up the thing.

'Merica! The snow seems super stable and shreddable!

W Face of Mont Blanc across the glacier, behind the clouds.

2.5 hours we got to the point towards the top where the route splits and gets steeper. I'd been making hasty pits the whole way up and was getting no results. Though when we got higher I was getting an 8 inch and a deeper sheer slab result. This kind of creeped me out so we dug a couple pits on different aspects of the face, getting pretty much the same results everywhere. Drew and Dave thought it was "probably" ok and I was pretty sketched out at the time. Due to the uncertainty amongst the group we decided to retreat 300 ish feet from the top.

Drew dropped in first and ripped huge GS turns down half of the face. Super clean, great snow, stable, confidence inspiring. Phew!

Half way down the face the sun appeared from the clouds directly above the line, shedding a celestial light down the couloir. It was like the line to heaven.

Then I did it. Then Dave did it. It was the "best steep skiing I've ever had"- all of us. Perfect snow that you could really charge.

I was kind of bummed we didn't make it to the top but glad we had the balls to turn around. "If that was fail, I don't wanna win" - Davide De Masi One of the most magical descents I've had in the Alps. YEAH!

--Liz Daley, Instructor and Guide

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