Col des Cristaux

A taste of steep skiing

Chamonix valley was going mad the last week! Perfect conditions on the north faces of the Argentière basin and almost every single extreme descent has been skied. Just to name a few, there was a rare repetition of Col Armand Charlet (3rd time ever?), Col de l’Aiguille Verte has been skied minimum twice and the classic NNE face of Les Courtes looked like a piste.
We went for a little scouting expedition -or may call it a normal skitour- in the upper Argentière basin and discovered that one of the last unskied north facing lines was probably the easiest of them all:

Col des Cristaux – NE Face
AD, 5.1, E2 / 45-50°+ for 500m

Luckily I ran into this small group of UK/US guys who agreed to ski it together with me. I was a bit late that day but they waited for me at the top of the Col. Super thankful!


Our variation of the Col des Cristaux and the normal descent marked dotted. Photo by courtesy of Ross Hewitt

Our direct variation was probably a bit steeper than the given 5.1 but soft snow made it relatively easy to ski straight off the Col. A party of two had skied in front of us and from our group of four I was the last to set off. That meant high concentration from start until we hit the normal route. Here the snow had a little crust due to its more eastern aspect but the slope is wider and turns are made easier. From there on and a traverse to the far eastern part of the face we had great powder first, then good spring snow further down. All in all it was a nice ski day but quite busy later the day. A large group of skiers/snowboarders followed us 1h+ behind and turned around in the middle of the face.

Photos by Colin Campbell, Nick Malik, or me:

Bootpack and the Col

The steep top section

Not always 100% perfect: crust on eastern aspects

The powdery middle section

Last but not least: good spring snow


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