Ever since watching the film steep I have wanted to ski this line, first descended by Steffano De Benedetti, its one of the most beautiful mountains the alps has to offer, the skiing is technical but the whole thing goes without rappel and it had never been repeated.
The last few years I have been following how the line looks in the spring, knowing I had reached a point in my skiing where i would be able to make a descent. My final decision to finally go came last Wednesday when I drove through to Italy with a friend specifically to take photos after seeing it was getting close to being good in the last few weeks. There was bad weather coming and I decided to go once it had passed, however the Following Tuesday I received a text while at work….
It had been skied two days before I was planning to ski it myself. At first I was dejected, not sure what to do. However I came to the realization it wasn’t that important to me to make the first repeat, it was more about the beauty of the line and i still wanted to go. So on Wednesday afternoon me and Tom Grant headed up to the Torino refuge.
I don’t normally use guardianed refuges and it was my first time in the Torino, the guardian was friendly and the food was excellent, but what else do you expect in Italy! We left at 1.30 am planning to head up the normal route on the Tour Ronde and ski its South face to access the Brenva glacier. As i reached the summit ridge on the Tour Ronde, Tom caught up with me and told me he had to descend back into France. His Son was ill and I would have made the same choice, he was happy to go down alone and i wanted to carry on so we agreed to stay in contact via text to let each other know we were safe.
The snow on the Tour Ronde South face was smooth and frozen solid, I enjoy this kind of skiing but lower down I soon hit a load of avi debri, not so much fun to ski on. The Brenva glacier is well filled at the moment and the route across the flat section is relatively simple, although with the current high temperatures I doubt this will last for long.
The climb up the face went smoothly on the refrozen snow but I was starting to feel the altitude for the second part of the climb. Luckily for the last 100m I was able to use the pervious boot pack where the snow had stayed cold and arrived at the summit at about 8.45 am.
I knew it would soon be hot and stopped only for 15min to eat drink and prepare myself to ski. The slopes from the summit are not too steep but you soon arrive at the couloir which allows you to access the face. This is probably the steepest part of the route and extremely exposed. A few jump turns in good powder snow and I was traversing over a small ridge to the main part of the face.
The snow here had refrozen and was just softening, this part of the route never exceeds 50 degrees but is still technical. I would link a few turns then make a small traverse to gain another strip of snow or step past a few rocks.
As I got lower the snow got better and better and was soon perfect corn. Before I knew it I was at the steep couloir which joins the top of the route to the ramps. The snow was still a little hard here where it had got less sun but I could see more perfect corn below and shot through it at quite high speed.
I skied the rightward trending ramp in one shot, its only about 40 degrees here so no more jump turns until its end where there is one last small crux to exit.
I crossed an icy runnel and side stepped through a short rocky step and a couple of minutes and a few big turns later I was back at the Brenva Glacier only 45 minutes after leaving the summit.
Lower down leaving the glacier the sun was burning and the snow was like soup but I didn’t care by that point! I stopped on the moraine for a short rest and then got back to my car for about 11am. It was one of the most enjoyable days I have had in the mountains.
Thanks to Tom for coming with me and congratulations to Luca, Davide, Francesco and Julian for a well deserved second descent just before mine.
As I was alone the pics are a bit crap, but its hard to take photos of yourself skiing!
Last week a group including myself, Cedric Bernardini, Brendan O’sullivan, Tom Grant and Sylvain Reynaud headed up the Tour Ronde for some corn skiing and for the view into the Brenva basin from the summit.
Having skied several other routes on this mountain I had still never been to the summit as it is rocky and you ski from just below it, finally I have put this right!
From the top we spotted our next big objective was in condition and another that was not far away…. Then some great spring snow for the descent on a beautiful day. Normally I am looking for the biggest steepest line to ski but this made me remember how much fun stress free skiing in great company can be.