Like the first days

The crow Jules Berger, whose great appetite for beautiful mountain ski routes was curtailed by the lockdown, invites us to share his first post-confinement outings in the Mont-Blanc massif. First measures of a beautiful symphony of steep slope that already seems to be touching its end.

Dans la partie haute du couloir Couturier à la montée / The upper part of the Couturier couloir on the way up.
Jules Berger

The discontinuation was brutal. From one day to the next, passing from the effervescence of a Chamonix winter to the life of confinement is unsettling. Throughout the winter, between working as a ski patroller and slots of good weather conditions, I had started to have a good series of descents under my belt and I was counting on adding more. But the health crisis appeared and I had to store away my skis for an undefined period of time … Then the human got the upper hand and, finally, the urge to ski wasn’t that strong. It has to be said that the weather in April was incredibly sunny, only two days of precipitation during the month… The ski conditions would not have been phenomenal.

Selfie dans le couloir Couturier à la montée / Selfie in the Couturier couloir on the way up.
Jules Berger

At the beginning of May, a small “monsoon” hit the region. The mountains turned white and the projects had the green light again. On the 17th, the Aiguille de Midi cable-car opened again, but we didn’t want to have to stand in line queuing. The desire for an outing far from the crowds was essential. We left from the village of Argentière to go and ski the mythic Couturier couloir on the Aiguille Verte.

Lucas Perrier sommet du couloir / Lucas Perrier at the top of the couloir.
Jules Berger

The rhythm was cool, because after two months of inaction, it was the return to sport. Returning to the mountains was really good for the head but bad for the legs and there was the 950 metres of couloir to track. The weather was superb, at 10:30 I was at the summit of the Verte, a major summit in the Mont-Blanc massif, it was just for me while I waited for Pierre and Lucas who arrived gently.
The descent was excellent, powder snow over two thirds of the couloir then spring snow. A path on the lower part in the Z route prevented us from taking the rope out at the bottom lock. Skiing this couloir in such conditions is rare! The motivation had returned, spring would have a feel of a renaissance.

Pierre Espieusas sur la calotte de la Verte / Pierre Espieusas on the icecap of the Verte.
Jules Berger

May 21st, motivated by a cheerful group of ski patrollers and favourable conditions, direction the Gervasutti couloir, Mont Blanc du Tacul.

Départ du Gervasutti / At the start of the Gervasutti.
Jules Berger

A short ascent on skins by the normal route and there we were at the summit of the couloir. 800 metres of between 45 and 50 degrees on just softened spring snow ! This couloir, despite its easy access, is still impressive. Well steep and overhung by a serac, it is a true steep slope. This May 21st , we were the first, but behind us, there was a crowd. The following days, up to 30 people found themselves in the couloir on the same morning. I didn’t really feel comfortable. Far too many people in a small sector, not really my vision of the mountains.
Ten days later, the conditions still seemed to be correct on the Italian side on Mont-Blanc, the « Himalayan » side of the massif.

Lever de soleil a la sortie de la Kuffner, sous le sommet du Maudit / First sunrays at the top of the Kuffner, under the Maudit.
Jules Berger

Arriving at the small bivouac de la fourche, we noticed that on the eastern side, only the spur of the Brenva was still skiable, so action ! Got up at 00:15… Difficult ! We chose to climb up the Kuffner ridge of Mont Maudit, an itinerary which is less exposed to seracs than the Brenva spur and more varied on the ascent. The ridge was climbed easily and, in 6 hours, we were on the summit of Mont Maudit. A small amount of checking from the Col de Brenva to identify the entrance into the maze of seracs and crevices where already the snow had begun to gently soften. The timing for skiing the spur in good conditions meant us leaving the col at 4 450 m. Sadly, that time, it was not possible to ski from the summit of Mont Blanc.

La grande pente de la Brenva / The wide slope of the Brenva.
Jules Berger

From the col to the summit of the spur, which easily zigzagged between the seracs and, in less than two, you arrive at the top of a big slope. Great surroundings guaranteed ! The snow was excellent, a 4 star carpet from top to bottom. The sector is impressive with seracs on both sides, as large as buildings. We passed the Gusfield couloir at the bottom of the spur, the steepest part of the itinerary where the ice was, in some places, exposed.

Grande pente de la Brenva avec les séracs qui surplombent / Wide slope of the Brenva with seracs overhead.
Jules Berger

The long climb on skins back up to the Aiguille du Midi allowed us to breathe. The confinement was far behind us. This last descent truly represents the skiing that I love. A wild sector, a descent which is almost intimate with the mountain. Now, space for the summer. It is time to put away the skis after this subdued winter and unexpected spring. So, if the confinement and crisis are without doubt going to change the way we live and consume, the appeal of the mountains hasn’t changed.

Remontée a l’aiguille du midi / Back to the Midi.
Jules Berger

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