Col des Cristaux

5.1, E3, TD-

Photo by Ross Hewitt

Today we decided to go for Col des Cristaux in the Argentiere basin, a line I’ve been wanting to ski for a while.

The Argentiere basin is world famous for steep skiing with many extreme lines on offer for those who dare. The Col des Cristaux is the easier of the north east facing steeps in the Argentiere basin, a natural ‘first steep ski’ for most skiers in the basin. Today’s team was James Sleigh, Annika Farjh, Dan Thornton, Fergus McCarroll and myself.

We set off for first bins and after a straight forward ski tour to the bottom of the basin we were at the bergshrund and switching to crampons at approx. 11am.

Skinning on the approach
Annika and the Argentiere basin
Almost there..

Having only previously boot-packed on the Aiguille d’Argentiere, I was excited to try a longer and more sustained boot pack. To ski the Cristaux you must boot pack the whole line which is approximately 600m of sustained 45-48° angled slopes.

Sleigh set the pace as we marched up the Col. The boot pack was already in as you’d expect after a few clear weather days which made it easy to climb the Col at a good pace although we twice had to hold firm and dodge sluff avalanches from skiers above us. The first sluff avalanche caught me by suprise and I felt myself getting slowly buried and pulled down the slope which wasn’t ideal. Because it was so hot I had taken my gloves off which was a decision I instantly regretted as my hands were buried by the sluff, clinging on to my axe in one hand and pole in the other. The sluff didn’t stop coming and I was on the brink of being dragged down the slope as I felt the weight of the snow building up on me so I had to side step out of the way which was a straight forward manoeuvre but made difficult because I’d had my head buried in snow and couldn’t see anything. Anyway, moving on..

at the bottom of Col des Cristaux
Fergus marching up the Col
Transition time
Amazing views down the basin

We continued until a rock band fairly close to the top and made the decision to take cover from more skiers above and then decided to call it a day as the weather was coming in and soon the snow above us would turn crusty as we lost the sun. A quick switch to skis and we skied down some nice spring snow, hopped over the shrund and made our way back to Grands Montets, ending with a happy whiz down the home run. Thanks to all for a day of new experiences and new terrain. I’ll be back to make the summit next time.

Annika switching back to skis
stoked mountain goats!
Sleigh opening up
Sleigh enjoying spring snow
Dan opening it up
Dan shredding
Dan hopping the shrund
Annika shredding
Me enjoying the nice spring snow
Sharing the stoke with Dan 

2 thoughts on “Col des Cristaux

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