Chere Couloir – An exciting day on the hill!!!

5.30pm the alarm goes off,  time to get up and drive to Chamonix. Bags packed, motivation is high, trying not to wake up Kez, failing miserably. Arrive at Johns about 8.30 with a couple of ideas for routes, Chere couloir we decided on as a good objective, a day route should be down in Chamonix drinking beer by 5 o’clock, or so we thought!!!

Get to the mid station and the thermometer is reading -22 deg, by the top we estimate it to be around -30 with a strong wind. Whatever it is its freakin cold!!! Walk down the midi arete, clip on skiis and make our way over to the start of the route. We can see 2 other teams on the route, not ideal but no real problem. We eventually start on the route about 11.30am.

The ice is emaculate the climbing challenging but straight forward, ice screws seem bomb proof and climbing goes quickly. A strong win is blowing, the wind chill taking the temperature down further, i get my 1st dose of hot aches at the 1st belay. John carries on up a narrow pitch, I follow now deciding to climb in belay mitts, makes climbing harder but hands warmer. 2nd dose of hot aches at the 3rd belay, what a horrible feeling, good practice for Broad peak though I tell myself. The team infront decide to turn around we ask why and they reply ‘too cold for us’, not your typical Scots, usually keen for anything.

We get to the top of the route without any incident, fantastic climbing, feel very secure on quality ice, time now to make a swift descent. Got to the bottom quickly at about 2.30pm and start packing up our bags to leave. John shouts ‘fuc**ng hell Dunc!’  I look up and see a Serac had fallen above us and was coming towards us! There was a big plume of powder and chunks of ice coming toward us. I start to run left but no way of getting out of the way, I start to run right but no chance. This is it then! I get hit by a block, I have no idea where but my cheek hurts now so I imagine it was there. Amazingly blocks fell around us but we were relitively unscathed as the dust settles. Lucky boys!! We have been humbled by the mountain! Time to get out of here!

Skiis on we decide to ski the vallee blanche to get back to the valley thinking there will be enough time. The skiing was okay on compact, crusty snow. The position was incredible and the light beautiful, skiing past the Gerversutti, dent du Geant untill we get to a fork in the path. We decide to take the one which has had the most traffic and we both think it’s strange that we are skiing over footprints untill we come to the side of a cliff and no apparent way down. We realise why there were footprints going back up and we realise our fate. The time it would take skinning up the way we cam would surely make us miss the train back to Chamonix, so we make a belay for the Requin hut, Bivvying out in -30 is not an option!

Fortunately there were people at the hut who kindly made us tea and soup as we attempted to converse with them in French. Between us we made ourselves understood and we reflected on quite an eventful day.

The clouds cleared about 10.00pm and revealed the most incredible landscape, the full moon lit up the snow and glacier like it was day time and we both revel in our luck of being in an incredible position on such an incredible night. This is the reason we do these things!
We sleep enough under 7 blankets each, going from boiling to freezing adjusting the number of blankets needed. We continue the ski down to the valley without any major incident apart from some dodgy binding problems hurtling my brand new ski toward a crevasse. thankfully it stopped before it was gone forever!
Getting back into the valley we head for a well deserved bit of food and think about day/s. I realise my fingers are tingling and could be from frostnip, early onset of frostbite. A cracking couple of days, great adventure and cracking pics!

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