Saturday, March 23, 2013

l'Épée du Tacul - 2893m

Friday March 22, 2013

This is one of those really scenic Chamonix tours that also offer some fantastic powder and steep skiing.
Between the dramatic rock features, the seracs and infinite snow fields this is the kind of day where I have to pinch myself…
Today Philippe and I decided to tackle the Épée du Tacul.  You start off by taking my favorite center-of-the-universe-tram to the top of the Aiguille du Midi. This takes you 9,230 feet up in no time and you get to start your day at 12,600 feetIt all started in the clouds today and we got worried about visibilty but the day cleared up when and as we needed it to. We skied down the Glacier du Géant via “Petit Envers” all the way down to “la Salle à Manger” (the dining room) on the glacier du Géant. This involves some really nice skiing between crevasses and seracs with some of it on rather steep terrain. By the time you’re at the Salle à Manger you have dropped in excess of 6,000 feet and you haven’t even put your skins on yet!
At the Salle à Manger you ski across the Glacier du Géant till you reach the bottom of the Glacier des Périades at about 6,000 feet or so you get your skins on. You head south east on the glacier while trying to veer left enough to avoid the potential serac falls. After gaining about 2,000 feet you take a sharp left to head north east and gain another 1,000 feet and some till you’re at the bergschrund. From here you ski down in an arc that takes you first south west and then north west for some really fun skiing some of which is a bit over 45° in some shorter sections while the most part is 35 – 40°. You lap this a couple of times till you can’t do it anymore (or it’s getting to late to catch the Montenvers cog train) and you finish off with a 4,000 ski out on the Vallée Blanche. To my knowledge, there are not a whole lot of better ways to spend a day.

Topo map: 3630OT (Chamonix)
Dominating aspect: NW
Starting elevation: 12,600 (Aig. Du Midi)
Elevation where you put on the skins: 6,000 feet
Bergschrund elevation: 9,300 feet
Elevation gain to the pass: 3,300 feet

Here are the pictures (click to enlarge):

View down the Petit Envers slopes, its all quite tasty and its all
before you even put on your skins.
More nice slopes as long as you keep out of those pesky crevasses. The
ones we see here are not the ones we worry about, it's the ones
 you can't see that'll get you...
Skiing around the seracs ads to the ambiance.
These are here just because...
OK, I'll quit the serac pictures now...
Dent du Géant (tooth of the giant) peeking through the clouds.
Looking back down our skin up to the Epee a rescue operation for a guy who
fell into a fairly deep crevasse. The chopper landed four times...
This is the third landing, the second one was for medical personell this one
for extra gear. This must have been a challenging extraction. We were later
told  in one of those amazingly non-descriptive medical formulations that the
guy was stable. It hit me then that dead could probably also be seen as
fairly stable...
Philippe working his way up the Glacier des Piérades.
Halfway up view of the Dent du Géant (4013m) to the right and Aiguille de
Rochefort  (4001m) to the right with Glacier de s Piérades in between
Of the three features here l'Epée du Tacul (épée is sword) is the middle one,
the lower one is Chandelle (candle) du Tacul and the high one is Aiguille
du Tacul. After this it was all skiing so no more pictures...

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