The first Friday of February was rubbish. A rainy miserable day it was, and all we managed was one run across to the Mont Blanc bar in Vallandry for a hot chocolate, then straight back home. The second Friday in February couldn’t have been any different. After a week of much colder weather and consistent significant dumps of snow, conditions were ripe for some adventuring. The night before, I got in touch with a friend to see how she was planning on spending the forecasted bluebird day and the response included instructions to bring my avalanche kit and be on the 9am funicular. Right then!
9am the next morning came around, bluebird it certainly was, and psyche was high. First stop was a jaunt into the Bois de l’Ours trees. Traversing down and around the snow was already magnificent, giving us a taster of what was to come. It was no less than amazing. And this was just the start! We swiftly got ourselves back up on the lift and round to start the hike up to the Pointe du Four, a 2,469m peak high above Arc 2000. We got a little distracted on the way up the Clocheret lift and decided to drop in below it for another quick powder run before getting back on the lift to begin the execution of plan A: skiing the couloir de la Pointe du Four.
First was a 45 minute hike to the drop in point. This involved some quite steep ladder-like climbing and in places I was glad to have some previous rock experience as I’m quite sure I would’ve been quite scared otherwise. Plus I got to put in some nice moves where there were rocks to hold onto on the very last ascent up to the actual Pointe du Four. Teetering on the top we were all pretty apprehensive about getting down to the top of the couloir itself. A blind crest masked the first 30m of descent, and it looked pretty frikkin nails, especially considering what we’d just climbed up to get there, and the fact we now seemed to be stood on quite an exposed ridge. With hearts pounding, we made our way down to the top of the couloir itself and breathed a momentary sigh of relief. Safely down off the ridge above, we were now at the top of the main attraction for the day.
Standing on top of the significant wind-lip at the mouth of the couloir, we peered in and took stock of what we were about to do. Far below us we could see a piste.. a long long way below us in fact – we had a lot of sweet fresh snow to ski down yet! Two or three people had already been down before us, which in a way was reassuring – the snow hadn’t slipped and the wind-lip was a lot less intimidating with tracks already through it. Sheryl dropped in and it wasn’t long before we heard a lot of excited wooping and hollering as she made her way down to the next safe point to wait for me and Neil. Neil was next and looked like he was having similar amounts of fun. Then it was me.
Now generally, I’d say I’m not very good at skiing narrow stuff. In fact, I’d normally totally avoid anything with the word “couloir” in its description. So what was I doing at the top of this one?! Narrow and unknown.. I got it stuck in my head that I’d have to side slip it, and even after dropping in and almost immediately putting a turn in, I still thought I had to do that. I can’t deny that I was pretty scared at this point.. though not as scared as I was getting off the top of the actual Pointe du Four above us. But even so, you get a plan of attack stuck in your head and you go with it. After a little while I started putting turns in and found I am actually capable of tighter shorter turns than I realised. But even so, there was a lot more faff and side-slipping than I’d've liked, and from that point of view I’m a little disappointed in myself for not skiing it properly. I eventually reached the others and we were faced with this wonderful gully of beautiful snow, and I couldn’t wait to ski it! Sheryl went first, then me, then Neil. It was amazing! So smooth, such a glorious feeling of gliding easily through light icing-sugar snow. Words don’t really do it justice.
By the time we reached the bottom we were buzzing like little kids who’d eaten way too many sweets. So so stoked! It was incredible to think we’d just done what we’d just done. I’m not sure any of us could quite get over it! And all before lunchtime too. Taking a chairlift back up to Arc 2000 we kept looking across at the couloir and chattering excitedly away about how awesome it was. Incredulous wasn’t really the word! I was especially incredulous because it had been my first proper hike, and we’d done something I didn’t think I was capable of. Sheryl commented that I’d find everything else disappointing after that, and sure enough she was right, as I discovered when later that afternoon we did Col de la Chal. I’d been wanting to do it for a while, but after the buzz of the morning, it was just a gentle jaunt at best. Nice snow, and pretty rad to ski down a valley I ride down in the summer, but just nothing on the Couloir de la Pointe du Four!
Check out Neil’s edit from the day here. Thanks are also due cos all but one of these photos are stills I took from his gopro footage.