The Drus, Verte and Droites looking very cold and wintery

The Drus, Verte and Droites looking very cold and wintery

February 12th 2013

Dent du Requin - Ice is Nice

Cautious Tom- a man perfectly suited for a fast and light Alpine hit in what was quickly turning into a Patagonian style weather window. With tons of fresh snow about, bitterly cold temperatures, and a new storm system moving in within a day I knew that ‘Cautious’ wouldn’t be the man to bail. Which was good news as arriving at the Midi it was indeed ‘minus baltic degrees’ and the skin up to the base of the Requin was an excellent omen for skiing but not a great one for climbing. In a way everything conspired against us on Sunday but amazingly we got away with one of the best Chamonix goulottes I’ve ever climbed…

Tom on the approach to the Requin with the Verte in the background

Tom on the approach to the Requin with the Verte in the background

Arriving at the shrund and the already precarious snow bridge we had crossed last time had collapsed. In fact the whole shrund had collapsed leaving holes everywhere and maybe the worst shrund crossing I’ve ever done as the only alternative. By the time we’d scouted about and desperately tried to find an alternative crossing it was getting late. Thinking light thoughts over an unconnected snow bridge we finally made it onto the mountain; this was quickly turning into a bit of a mission. By now it was 1pm, and the weather had started to move in. High cloud quickly warmed up the face around us and a huge snow mushroom high up the couloir released sending an impressive powder avalanche down the Sorenson-Eastman. Hmm…

These snow mushroom collapses would continue throughout the day; terrifying to watch as a huge billowing cloud would come diving down on you, but also completely harmless- the snow had not had time to harden or settle yet and apart from a twinge of panic it provided a new experience in the mountains, though not one I’m keen to seek out again.

Tom negotiated two further shrunds and then beasted up the access couloir above. As we got closer to our intended line things started to feel a bit more positive. There were no obvious mushrooms hanging in Ice is Nice and the route looked fat…really fat. Two easy ice pitches bring you to the only tricky pitch of the route which is a real gem. It’s not often that I find perfect nevee plastered on angles up to 90 degrees but this pitch had it all. Fun climbing, steep sections on bomber axes, and good rock pro every 10m- it was maybe the best pitch I’ve ever climbed of that nature in Chamonix. Ice certainly is Nice in this gully.

Ice is Nice is the obvious ice streak just above the rope

Ice is Nice is the obvious ice streak just above the rope

Go Time!

Go Time!

Stellar climbing on the crux pitch, © Tom Grant

Stellar climbing on the crux pitch, © Tom Grant

Stellar climbing on the crux pitch, © Tom Grant

Stellar climbing on the crux pitch, © Tom Grant

Tom sending high up

Tom sending high up

Tom sending high up

Tom sending high up

As I brought Tom up I lost sight of the Aiguille Verte opposite and as we topped out from the route we lost sight of pretty much everything. It had started to snow. Everything turned Scottish and pummelled by the biggest spindrifts I’ve ever dealt with every few minutes, we rapped back down the route.

Top of the route

Top of the route

Hmm now to get back down

Hmm now to get back down

Let the spindrift begin!

Let the spindrift begin!

Rapping down a waterfall

Rapping down a waterfall

Dont look up”…”What?”…

...

…”oh right”

Clipping in to our skis it was an epic powder descent following our tracks in a white out and snow stinging our eyes. Cutting it fine? Maybe, but then I don’t often spend all day grinning ear to ear with how much fun I’m having…thanks Tom for an excellent day out.

A huge slide ripped down the gully just as we rapped out of it...bit epic

A huge slide ripped down the gully just as we rapped out of it…bit epic

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