Col du Plan North Face

Wow what a day! On Monday 6 May Martin, Fergus and I skied our first ever run on the North Face of the Aiguille du Midi, the north face of the Col du Plan. 600m of steep exposed terrain visible from Chamonix and rated 5.3 E4, this is the ‘easiest’ route on the famous north face of the Aiguille du Midi.

At some point in a Chamonix skiers’ life you can’t help your mind wondering to the imposing north face of the Aiguille du Midi. Can I ski that? Which line would I want to ski? Will I be able to do it?

The Col du Plan is the obvious first choice out of all the routes on the north face, it’s the shortest and also the least technically difficult, although its exposure rating is the same as the bigger classics like the Mallory and Frendo (E4). There are two entrances to the face, the direct entrance at the col and the Tournier Spur variant. We went for the direct entrance (60m rappel). The top section is a fairly steep 45 degree hanging snow field above a serac which lessens in gradient as you ski down. After skiing this face, you enter a steep couloir with 1x40m rappel followed by 1x30m rappel. The couloir is steep, up to 50 degrees and very narrow. There is an ice bulge near the bottom which requires another 15m rappel before you can ski cleanly out of the bottom and towards the Plan de l’Aiguille cable car.

Col du Plan North Face. Photo Ben Briggs
Col du Plan North Face. Photo Ben Briggs

On arriving at the Col du Plan we met Tom Grant and Johanna Stalnacke getting ready to rappel into the face. In the build up to this day we had talked about various scenarios in which we’d like to ski the Col du Plan for the first time, and our first choice was to follow a small group ideally with no-one behind us. So this was perfect and we decided to go for it. Tom and Johanna are exceptional skiers and I had skied with Tom in the Capucin couloir back in February. We were very happy to watch them drop in first and we were excited to follow. We waited for them to go before preparing our ropes and dropping in to the north face.

Fergus peaking over the edge
Johanna Stalnacke skiing the top face (small black dot below centre)
Me rapelling into the north face to join Martin down below
Intense!
Me rappeling down to Martin
col du plan
Martin ready to ski his first turns on the north face
Me taking it all in 
Arriving to the rappel after some amazing turns on the top face
Ski tracks on the top face
Fergus dropping down the first rappel into the couloir
Looking back up at what we just skied!

Thanks Martin and Fergus for sharing the experience. I’m sure we won’t forget it in a hurry….!

Here’s a short video from the descent

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