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19.03.2011 Dreams and Nightmares on the Aiguille du Midì

Having friends in the reservations black market of the Aiguille du Midì lift station comes in handy at this time of year. Sneaking through the theatre of long queues and delayed openings is the only way to ensure an early ride up.
On the way up to the Glacier Ronde and West Couloir we didn’t see anyone dropping into the Cosmiques so we decided to go for it.
Normally you have to run to get a first track here but this year, a“few problems” at the exit of the glacier has kept out most of the crowds so far. Once again, the snow in the couloir was great

Kristy Shelley getting the party started

Me dropping into the third pitch

At the exit of the glacier the situation is worsening everyday so we had to equip another belay before the fixed rope

Tom Greenall looking for the way

Kristy on the 2nd rappel

On the way back after the big traverse we split into two groups, Johnno, Mark and Kristy carried on towards the middle station while Tom and I traversed towards the old lift station to ski down the amazing slopes of La Parà.
Normally when I arrive here after having skied a big line on the Aiguille du Midì I feel the worst is over and start to relax myself, enjoying the big turns on this slope with the perfect angle and snow.
This time, strangely enough, I felt like waiting a bit before following Tom who had just dropped into the face…
By the time he had put 3 turns in it, a big crack followed by thousands of little ones broke the face into giant blocks that start to slide all around my friend.
I want to scream but no sound will come, I’m so shocked by what is happening in front of my eyes.
Fortunately Tom realised instantly what was going on and was able to ski fast out of it before the big blocks started to take speed.
Under the massive weight of the slide, all the slopes around start to collapse and join the deluge.
Within thirty seconds all the face is gone, and I feel caught in a big trap.
We are forced to ski on big avalanche debris all the way down to the old lift station.
Hearing the helicopter approaching for a while I wonder if the snow might have arrived down at the tunnel but Tom soon tells me “Not to worry I can see cars are still running!”

Tom cat …8 lives left!

The slide was 200m wide, at least 1km long and 30cm to 2m thick, and in some places, a 3 tier slide.

Once again in this scary season, the mountain is showing us we cannot feel safe, not even in our own backyard

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