27 January, 2010

Joffre Central Couloir - Denied!

Stoked to get out, after too much work, not enough training, and the drive and hunger to ski a great objective myself and Paul Cordy found ourselves headed to ski the Joffre Central Couloir.  This prized gem of a ski descent, hosts steep consistent 50-55 degree slopes with numerous 60 degree sections, rappels, ice, and rock.  The route itself is approximately 1000m, but the full descent to the valley holds up to 2000m of vertical relief.  (Photo Left:  Mt Joffre, Central Couloir)

We started our day off, plodding up the Anniversary Glacier, and onto the Southeast Face route, pitching out one spot for some minor mixed climbing.  On the ridge we climbed up and around the Australian Couloir, and to the Peak, to the entrance of the Central.  We didn't really plan on skiing the Couloir, until we got on top of it, and saw what great condition it was in.  (Photos Below:  Paul Cordy Digging (Left), Alex Wigley rigging to rap (right))

Not able to get in without a 25m drop, off a seriously overhung cornice onto a 60 degree slope, we began tunneling through where the cornice was supported enough to get into the line.  An hour and a half later, and a slightly bent shovel handle, we were through staring down the giant Couloir.  The one unknown crux of the route, a right hand sloping sloping ramp over a cliff, dropping us into the heart of the line.  We went for it, beginning by rapping down through our hole onto the 60 degree 2.5m wide gulley, and down climbing 10m to a rock fin to put our skis on.  The snow was perfect.

The light was fading, so we moved fast, skiing down the first ramp to the unknown crux.  Me first, Paul following.  I skied down to the crux to build an anchor, and set a rappel, but found the rappel to be over 20m.  Our 30m rope was not going to cut it, especially if we wanted to bring it with us for any other un-anticipated rappels.  Game over.  Time to start climbing.  Paul set an anchor, I climbed, and we leaped frogged out 5 - 30m pitches.  The crux of the climb, getting into the cornice hole, leading a 70-75 degree horrible faceted cornice/rock snow with a fatal fall below.  Cowboy country to say the least.  Both of us made it through, without the snow falling apart too much, stemming through the hole.  It was nice to get up on top and stand on flat terrain.  (Photo right by:  Paul Cordy, Alex Wigley rapping down to the first gully.)

Topping out a second time, we bailed down the Australian Couloir, moonlight and stars leading the way out.  The snow was perfect, giving us a great descent to the valley, after a great failure but coming home alive and safe.  Stoked to get out and experience that line again, this time with a longer rope, and perhaps a snow picket.  (Photo left by:  Paul Cordy, Alex Wigley leading the 70-75 degree Sugar Pitch)


  1. Alex - even before i saw this story I've known that Central is out of my league. This really confirms it. Question - did you see that story about the snowboarder who tomahawked your crux section? If yes - why then did you not bring twin 30m ropes?

  2. Lee,

    I did read that trip report. Being in that Couloir, and talking about how they did fall down it, I can't even comprehend how you wouldn't die. They also rapped off the top of the cornice, where as we went through and then rapped. We were not expecting the middle rappel to be huge, another person I talked to said that section sometimes go's just on skis too.

    Twin ropes for sure next time. It gave me a great idea for a new enchainment too!

  3. nice attempt Alex. sounds like you made a difficult but wise decision - there can now be a next time :-)

  4. We'll be back... but hey a little night climbing action is always rowdy fun!

  5. Nice work A Team.
    That rapping in/cornice shot should fetch a few dineros.

  6. I'll let Paul know that he can make some cash from that last photo so he can take more time off work!

  7. You are a crazy man.

    Next time bring a BASE chute.