A steep, narrow couloir in wild high mountain terrain

Statistics

Analysing terrain data

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Exposure

Exposure

The exposure grade does not take into account objective hazards (stone fall, seracs, etc) but only the consequences of the skier falling.

Low Exposure (E1): Exposure is limited to that of the slope itself. Getting hurt is still likely if the slope is steep and/or the snow is hard.

Medium Exposure (E2): As well as the slope itself, there are some obstacles (such as rock outcrops) which could aggravate injury.

High Exposure (E3): In case of a fall, death is highly likely.

Extreme Exposure (E4): In case of a fall, the skier faces certain death.

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

Description

** Disclaimer - Unfortunately, the exit of the classic Pas de Chèvre has become increasingly dangerous in recent years.

As climate change has caused an accelerating loss of ice in the Mer de Glace, the moraine walls surrounding the Pas de Chèvre exit couloir have become steeper and more lethal.

The moraine here is now inherently unstable and prone to collapses of potentially large volumes of material.

While it is still possible to find short windows in winter where cold temperatures and sufficient snow cover can allow skiers to pass through the moraine without excessive risk, these windows are increasingly fleeting and difficult to judge.

It is therefore largely no longer advisable to use this exit. An alternative option is to locate an abseil line leading to the Mer de Glace from just below the Flame de Pierre ridge.

After skiing the Pas de Chèvre, skin up a short way until on top of the Dru moraine.

From here ski down heading south east towards the bottom of the Flame de Pierre ridge and locate the summer trail.

Walk down the summer trail (it's not usually possible to ski it), taking care to safely downclimb a couple small steps and using crampons if needed.

After dropping around 200 metres elevation, there is the first anchor to skier’s left side off of the path.

It may be difficult to locate at first and consists of two bolts on a rock slab.

Gaining the anchor is exposed, so take care.

From here, make a series of 3 abseils; 50 meters, 55 and finally 30.

Two 60 meter ropes are needed to get down.** Route - The Rectiligne couloir is a classic Chamonix steep ski descent off the Grands Montets and down towards the Glacier du Nant Blanc, beneath the mighty Drus mountains. With its easy access from the Grands Montets top station it sees many descents but should not be underestimated despite this.

The couloir is steepest at the top (about 45 degrees for a short section at the entrance) followed by 300 meters of 42 degrees.

The entrance is - depending on the snow coverage - sometimes a bit rocky and can require some careful down climbing or a short rappel over the steepest section to get in.

It is also most narrow at the top and skiers will need to perform a couple of neat jump turns.

The couloir quickly opens up a bit allowing for bigger turns when the snow is good, yet, surrounded by steep rock walls, it feels narrow and offers an experience of skiing enclosed by the mountain in a wild setting. Ski down the Nant Blanc glacier in the middle of the snow covered moraine ridges, keeping to its right bank to about 2400 meters where it joins the Pas de Chevre route.

Regardless of its easy access and increasing popularity, the Rectiligne couloir takes place in a high mountain environment and requires glacier knowledge, some ski mountaineering skills and navigation skills.

Be careful of the bergschrund in early season when it is not filled in, as well as the big crevasses further down the Nant Blanc glacier. Gear such as glacier equipment, rope, harness and ice axe, are mandatory.

Often a rope is needed to exit the trees below the Nant Blanc glacier (15 meter abseil) and onto the moraine ridge that leads down to Mer de Glace.

Sometimes a rope is needed also for the top or in early season to manage the bergschrund or the final step out of the couloir that can be icy.

In these conditions it is advisable to bring some cord and rock protection to build an anchor, there is no in situ gear.

In good snow coverage it is easy to ski out of the couloir.