As a little “amuse gueule” I decided to climb up to the Roche Noire above the Pipay sector of the 7 Laux. I climbed via the forest track and this photo gives an interesting view of the conditions. From Pipay at 1650 meters to the exit of the forest some 250 meters higher up the forest was a layer of frozen snow covered with pine needles and other detrius. A clear sign that it had not snowed for a long time.
Exiting from the forest I had a clear view of the west face of the Roche Noire. The descent is rated 2.2/E1 although I’m not sure what this applies to. I climbed via the left shoulder. When the snow is better you can descend the couloirs on the face.
At this point I crossed a couple of groups of snow shoers. I told them the forest was very icy and they needed to be extremely careful if they descended that way as the ice was hidden by pine needles. I should maybe have been more insistent but figured if they kept their snowshoes on it would be ok. They looked very confident.
Some patches of surface hoar were visible, but largely in sheltered spots like the woods or in this post hole.
I fitted ski crampons to climb the steepish (35 degrees) slope to the summit. The only avalanche activity I saw was this sluff under the north slopes of the Belle Etoile
otherwise everything was frozen solid. Snow conditions were mixed. In places some powder (n/w and shallow s/w faces), otherwise there was icy snow with a bit of the 5cm of fresh that fell last weekend, cut up by freeriders in places.
Coming down I heard the thwap, thwap, thwap of the securite civile helicopter. It hovered over the entrance of the forest where crossed the snow shoers before dropping a rescuer on the whinch. I feared the worst.
One of the snow shoers I’d spoken to earlier had figured he’d be better without his snowshoes and had slid on the ice I’d told him about hidden under the layer of needles. The bill, a leg bone snapped clean in two and a great deal of pain. I hope he is able to walk okay but he won’t be snowshoeing again this winter. The “chevaliers du ciel” did a great job as usual.
As sad end to the season for him and an indicator of the main risk at the moment.