Snow: Mostly 15-20cm powder, some wind slab
Weather: Bluebird but cold & windy on the ridges
Spring touring season is upon us with Easter holiday crowds in full effect this week and nothing but sunshine on the long term weather forecast.
Somewhere new for today’s plan: Couloir Pissoir on the Swiss border near the Aiguille du Tour, hoping for good snow and with a couple of good looking bailout options along the way if necessary. The guidebook says to skin in from Trient but that seemed like a long trek and we had read a few blog posts detailing routes from Col du Passon or Col de Balme so we went for the latter option as we were keen to avoid Grands Montets’ crowds.
From the Vallorcine gondola we got up to Tete De Balme and around to the col to start our climb to the ridge in pretty cold and windy conditions. Joining the ridge from the Swiss side Graham triggered a 20cm deep windslab above us on a 35-40 degree slope so a cautious approach was kept in mind for the rest of the day. We took the ridge directly up, featuring some pretty tricky mixed climbing (for me anyway) with some nasty shallow snow and plenty of loose rocks to deal with. I got up fine but crampons and an axe would have made things feel a whole lot safer, and I think I will do the odd day of cragging this summer just to keep my climbing confidence up.
Reaching the top of the ridge we weren’t exactly sure where we were at first, seeing lots of tracks on the peak opposite us, thinking that it could be the Pissoir and the couloir was hidden to looker’s-left. Vaguely remembering this guide after a while and checking the map we knew it couldn’t be (actually Pointe des Grands) and the Pissoir was still a long long way away.
The terrain below us looked fun (one of our bailout plans anyway) and the snow stability on steeper slopes was questionable, so we settled for some mellow-but-fun skiing.
Only the drop-in to the first section had a gradient to be a little worried about, so after traversing to the safest point I tested the snow as best I could (firm where it began to get steeper) then dropped in finding perfect shallow-but-smooth powder below for some fun long turns.
Through the descent, another few pitches of similarly creamy smooth powder before things got a bit choppy where the sun had baked the snow and a few small wet slides on steeper slopes.
A pretty good 4×4 exit track got us most of the way back to Trient with just a few small sections to walk, before a short walk back to the car we had dropped this morning.
Looking back at things now, accessing the Pissoir from Col du Passon is definitely the easiest way in so maybe we’ll have another go this year or next. There’s a lot of terrain to explore in this whole area and maybe worth checking out options off the 4×4 track in summer on the bikes too.