Category: News on 26-08-2015
Col de Salenton mission: you almost have too much time to plan your route down when you skin up it. As Dave, Bary and Paul found out, life moves pretty fast...
Col de Salenton
Vertical Ascent: 900m approx.
Time: The time it takes to slow cook the cheapest beef
Time of year: Late January
Some friends of mine, fellow instructors Barry and Dave from REAL Snowboarding in Morzine had come over for a little mission in Chamonix. Conditions were great, despite the threat of depth hoar that had been bouncing around social media in the run up to our touring day. I decided on the Col de Salenton as I really like the terrain there, it’s little travelled and is pretty shady.
My route involved going over the Col des Crochues (30 mins), around the long heelside traverse before splitting up to the Col de Berard (25mins). Having just snowed, there were wide open spaces to make as many or as few turns as you like. The idea was to regroup at the refuge de Berard where we’d skin back up to the Col de Salenton (1.5 hours).
Always a lesson to be learned
As fun as splitboarding is, there are certain things you have to rein in a bit with all the extra weight and spiky things you need to ‘wear’ while you ride. For people who love to take air and let’s face it, most of us do, you have to make sure that your poles and other essential equipment are tucked out the way and securely fastened. Just about everything you carry is essential in fact…as Barry found out when one of his poles was lost to a deep powder landing, never to be seen again… We watched Barry touring back up to try and find it but alas he had to bail- 6km out to Le Buet. All on his own in a place he’d never been…luckily you can’t really go too wrong.
This is a rideoutable tour so it was no worries but no second phase for Barry and he headed down on his own to the Hotel Buet to socialise with the other tour-ists. This was a good little reminder that if you are ever doing a ride in-split out tour to make double sure of everything-esecially that you’ve got your skins in your bag.
Onwards for me and Dave after reattaching our skins in the freezing shade that had crept across. The cold didn’t last long as the long way to the col gradually shortened step by step. The glinting snow was so beautiful and light, as if it hadn’t been ridden all season. You can feel the difference between snow that hasn’t been ridden for 2-3 snowfalls and powder that’s on top of all that tracked out stuff – the feeling of bottomlessness is wonderful, as is the feeling of being the first one there all year (even if you aren’t).
Plenty time for day dreaming
A lot of people don’t enjoy going up then down what they’ve just skinned but I’m becoming a big fan. You have time to plan the line, check out the snow and on this occasion, being with a freestyler from round Avoriaz way, a chance to plan your Salenton Slopestyle Combo. There was certainly the right natural features for a decent selection of freestyle tricks. No respect for our Technique Extreme poles..
The plan was: backflip out on the right then back in with a backside three, slash the lip, back out right for a frontside three, transfer over the cornice and end on a big method out the windlip. As you can see above, the light was beautiful, at least for a while.
Reality catches up with you in the end
Approaching the last pitch the shade was creeping round and being January, it didn’t take long before all the glistening came to an end. By the time had come to start our descent, there was no sunlight and no track or wind affected snow to get any definition and this meant that our Slopestyle plans were well and truly scuppered.
Blinded by shade!
As I set off, I could see no lips and the cornice drops were as blind as the landings. The one 360 I did manage was twice as piddly as I meant it to be with the ground much closer than expected…
Having seen this, Dave decided that a soul run was in order: slashing banks, straight airs and roster tails that were unfortunately not backlit either.
Needless to say, when we picked up Barry from Hotel Buet bar, all equipment, poles and all were safe and sound.
All that remained was to get back to Chamonix and feed my friends the cheap cuts of beef that had been deliciously stewing away all day.
When hunger turns to anger
The replacement bus service due to the train tunnel closure put a bit of a dampner on my mood which had quickly melted down into “hanger”- the French word for when you are ‘ungry and hanrgy at the same time. Service has resumed after three years for an easy return to Chamonix from Le Buet by train.