Les Courtes North East Face

Arve Valley

A truly inconic ski face, THE line of the Argentière Basin

Ski Touring Extreme

Distance
3 km
Ascent
943 m
Descent
943 m
Duration
3-4 hrs
Low Point
2.8 km
High Point
3.7 km
Gradient
50˚
VIEW ON MAP
Les Courtes North East Face Map

Description

Les Courtes is a true steep skier's mountain. There are no less than eight independent skiable lines on the peak. Out of these eight lines, the North-east Face is the most amenable and most frequently skied. It is also a convenient if tedious descent route for alpinists on foot looking for a way off the mountain. While the North-east Face is sometimes skiable in the winter months, it is much more common to find it in good condition in the spring. Unfortunately, the face is a victim of its own fame. When covered in good powder and while the Grand Montets lift remains open (not for long in May these days), it is not uncommon to find many teams on the face at the same time, sending sluff down on top of each other. While the slope is never 'extremely' steep, it is sustained at over 45 degrees the whole way meaning a fall will likely result in the skier ending up at the bottom of the face. This actually happens most years due to the volume of traffic on the face and perhaps due to the lack of experience of some aspiring steep skiers tackling the descent.

In order to tackle the face, climb it (which feels like a slog!) to the col at the top which overlooks the Taléfre basin and has huge views up to Mont Blanc and its satellite peaks. Ski back the way you came, choosing your exact line according to where the best snow is. The face begins to mellow at the bottom (as you'll know from climbing up) and the closer you get back to the bergschrund, the more you can enjoy the sensation of skiing on this huge and wild face.

Difficulty

Extreme

Extreme skiing terrain above 45 degrees. These routes are reserved for experienced experts.

Medium Exposure (E2)

2 out of 4

As well as the slope itself, there are some obstacles (such as rock outcrops) which could aggravate injury.

Remoteness

4 out of 4

In the high mountains or remote conditions, all individuals must be completely autonomous in every situation.

Best time to visit

January, February, March, April, May

Equipment required

  • Rope
  • Skins
  • Crampons
  • Glacier kit

Similar routes nearby

Guidebooks in this area