As a mountain guide you live not only in, but also with the mountains. Professionally you climb or ski peaks that know by heart. It's great to take people to places that are very special to them. With untouched powder fields far from slopes for the ultimate mountain experience. Still, there are always peaks that are on the hitlist. Peaks that can't be climbed or skied very often, because you have to wait for the right conditions. There are still many peaks in my backyard that I want to ski one day. That day came last week. I've skied a so-called 'taillante', where you can find lots of climbing routes during summer. Thanks to the huge amounts of snow in the southern Alps these rock slabs turned into a great descent.
Quite a lot of wet snow came down the last couple of weeks and my hopes were high. Especially when I saw some recent footage from the face. Together with my friends, locals Rogier van Rijn and François Kern, I decided to give it a go!
Why is it so special?
The Taillante is a famous steep face, because this face consists of a nearly 400-meter-long rock slab. On this rock slab you'll find a couple of climbing routes (for the climbers: around the 5B max). The climbing is pretty special. The face isn't that steep, but you won't be able to find any grip on it. It feels like you're standing on a mirror at an angle of 40 degrees. Very awkward. To climb this face you constantly have to stand on your feet. You simply can't grab something with your hands. The fact that you can ski a climbing face like that is pretty unique. Due to the smooth rock the snow slides down and there's never a lot of snow on the face. You can even find the hooks where you click your carabiners in below the snow.
The fact that the rock is so smooth makes it difficult to find this slope in good skiing condition. The snow simply slides off the face, or the avalanche danger is too high. A little breeze blows the snow from the snow as well. But the wet snow that came down the last couple of weeks stuck well to the rock, and thanks to the dry cold air of the past few days it transformed into great powder!
It's a bit of a hassle to get to the Taillante. You must first skin up the Col Agnel. That's a rather dull mountain road. After that you have to skin up a col and ski down on the other side before reaching the Taillante. You've already did some climbing, but the hardest part is still to come. Hike up in knee deep powder. Luckily we had François who hiked up like a machine and created the perfect bootpack. Sometimes our crampons hit the slippery rock, but there was enough stable snow for some guidance.
A very special descent!
It took a lot of time to get to the top and we knew that the descent would only take minutes. Yet, descents like this one are so rewarding. François was given the honor of first tracks. After a small drop over a rock band he skied down with huge high speed turns. Rogier and myself skied down after François and we shot some great photos and footage of the descent. The great snow gave so much pressure that we almost forgot that it was a very steep wall. We skied down fast with wide turns. Amazing!