Last week we had good friends Nick and Pa to stay here in Chamonix.
I had just two days off work whilst they were here, Nick was keen for an “adventure” and was keen to tick off Mont Buet as that was one of the classic tours in the area he hadn’t managed to do whilst here for a season a few years ago. I was keen for a bit of training as well, and with such stable weather and snow conditions I was interested in something more than the normal route – a grand traverse of the “ladies mont blanc”.
It was however, Nick’s first ski tour of the season, and perhaps a two thousand meter day wasn’t such a good idea? But if you’ve only got one day of touring for the whole season, it has to be good one! And Nick is no stranger to big days in the mountains…..
We set off reasonably promptly, and made our way up through the forest past the Loriaz refuge and into the sunshine, where the temperature steadily climbed until we were down to our base layers and getting through the water supplies. At the top of the col de la terrace we switched to ski mode and skied down the north facing slopes on surprisingly good powdery snow, which had just a few tracks. The downhill was all too brief, soon we were back uphill to the first summit of the trip – the Cheval Blanc.
This uphill was a bit of a slog, the sun was beating down and the ski track was pretty steep. Nick was starting to feel the altitude, but we made good time. From the summit we started a long traverse towards the bulk of Mont Buet itself, across some fairly steep slopes in a long gentle traverse. Thankfully not losing too much height.
The final north ridge of Mont Buet was an impressive looking ridge, which looked pretty steep head on. We had crampons and an axe each but no other climbing gear but thank fully as we approached the angle relented and the track already in place up the ridge was very good.
Seven hours and 2400m of ascent since setting off we were finally sat next to the summit block finishing the water and eating a final museli bar. Nick was feeling understandably pretty spent, what a route for the first ski tour of the season!
We had plenty of short rest stops for the legs on the way down, the snow was a mixture of soggy wet snow, and well skied hard pack. The lower valley was in excellent condition, and we were back at the van just under nine hours after setting off.