Petit Mont Blanc, NE Face :
Couloir Grassi Marone Strata
AD, 5.2/5.3, E3 – 850m @ 45°-50°
First descended in 2011 by local avant-garde snowboarders Davide, Pica and Luca, this line – located right next to the famous Bonatti Couloir – hardly sees any traffic.
Despite the fact that this Couloir tops out nowhere, it is a line that shouldn’t be ignored. The dark towering walls of granite rock make for an absolutely stunning ambiance in the upper part of the couloir.
Jonathan and me arrived in Chamonix right in time for a big easter snowfall. After skiing cold powder in the Lavancher Bowl and in Vallorcine our local friend Andi came up with the idea to ski a line in the Miage basin: A place both of us haven’t been before.
Excited to ski in a new area we headed through the tunnel to Courmayeur.
When we arrived, weather was dominated by Foehn influence; a big weather system that seems to last for more than two weeks now.
Long story short: Snow was terribly wind effected in every aspect we could see. Skiing one of the big open lines on Petit Mont Blanc was no longer a option we could seriously consider.
Andi had skied the NE couloir a couple of times already, but it is so deeply entrenched in the NE face of Petit Mont Blanc that we expected to find the basin’s best snow in there. We started the climb up the couloir and snow felt good in the beginning. We reached the narrow and really steep bottleneck of the couloir about half way up and passed it. The couloir then lays back again as it starts to get wider at the same time. We continued to climb up a little further but had a bad gut feeling about the snow pack here in general. The couloir above us looked pretty blown in. If we trigger that big slope consequences might be high.
After a brief discussion we changed crampons for skis/board and started our descend: