Col de Miage, W Couloir

With a load of snow hitting the Alps over the past couple of weeks, I’ve been keen to get the skis out of storage and get in a good tour. So when Latitude 60 sponsored athlete Joel Evans suggested heading up the Glacier de Miage, I didn’t take much convincing. We set our sights on one of the west couloirs of the Col de Miage. We couldn’t find much information on these couloirs, but guessed they’d offer about 500m of skiing in the 40-45 degree range.

The tour took 2 days. On day 1 we headed up from the parking lot at La Gruvaz (1090m) to the Refuge du Plan Glacier (2680m), a small hut buried into the SW face of the Aiguille de Tricot. We’d been advised to set off early, warned that it could take a while to get there. This proved true, and we both felt pretty wasted after 7 hours of hiking and skinning through deep snow to arrive at the hut just as the sun was setting.

29 - annotated2

On day 2, we set off to ski one of the west couloirs. After surveying the various options from the hut, we settled on the far left couloir (red line in photo) as it seemed the most filled in and least exposed. Ultimately we stopped about 200m from the col as the upper section consisted mostly of glacial ice and firm neve, neither of which we really fancied skiing. However, the snow below us was excellent, with deep, light powder for a good 1000m of descent. The final section of skiing back to the Chalets de Miage was less memorable, with a thin layer of snow covering rocks and bushes. Nevertheless, the skiing higher up more than made up for this; though a lot of work to get to, Joel and I both felt it was some of the best snow we’ve skied whilst touring around Chamonix. Let’s hope it’s a sign of things to come this winter!

1

Joel starting up the 4×4 track at the beginning of the long walk-in from La Gruvaz.

3

Catching sight of our line for the first time – the Col de Miage separates the Domes de Miage (right-hand side of the photo) from the Aiguille de Bionnassay (peak in the top left-hand side of the photo). There are several west-facing couloirs that drop down directly from the col. [Photo: Joel Evans]

4

Leaving the Chalets de Miage (1560m), there’s a long skin up to the Refuge du Plan Glacier (2680m).

5

Joel kick-turning his way us a 40 degree couloir.

6

8

Yet more kick turns.

9

Joel approaching the refuge as the sun sets.

12

The view from the refuge was pretty spectacular.

14

Joel psyched and motivated to get going in the morning.

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On leaving the refuge, we clipped straight into our skis to start the day with a 200m descent in deep, cold powder. Not a bad way to start a day’s touring.

17

At the beginning of the ascent on day 2. We skied the far left couloir that tops out just as the ridge begins to steepen.

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Bootpacking up the couloir. [Photo: Joel Evans]

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Joel gets in a few steep turns about half way up the couloir. The couloir is about 500m long and is sustained at a bit over 40 degrees. Overall, it feels like a slightly shorter and less steep version of the Cosmiques, but still reasonably serious as a fall would likely see you tumble over a cliff band at the bottom.

24-2

Powder!

26-2

More powder. [Photo: Joel Evans]

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And yet more powder! [Photo: Joel Evans]

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Getting caught out by a rock lower down. [Photo: Joel Evans]

30

Traversing yet another stream. The final section of the descent was a bit shit.

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