Aiguille du Plan north face descents
Two recent descents of the North Face of the Aiguille du Plan (Mont Blanc), by Julien Herry, Lionel Hachemy and Roch Malnuit on 07/04/2011 and, a day later, by Davide Capozzi, Luca Rolli and Francesco Civra. With skis and snowboards down a face which has extremely few descents.
"A truly impressive descent. The most striking I've ever done." This is how Davide Capozzi describes the descent of the North Face of Aiguille du Plan at Chamonix, carried out last Friday with Luca Rolli and Francesco Civra. Seeing that Capozzi doesn't choose his words lightly, it's certainly something worth examining. And while a quick glance at the photo highlights just how impressive the face is, Capozzi's text reveals that – just like for ice climbs – this type of descent needs not only a serious and attentive courtship but also a pinch of luck...
AIGUILLE DU PLAN - FACE NORD by Davide Capozzi
This is one of the most exposed descents in the Mont Blanc massif and was skied for the first time by J.M.Boivin and L.Giacomini on 03/07/197 and snowboarded by B. Gouvy and J. Ruby on 01/06/1990. Since then descents have been few and far between and the most recent was two years ago by Andreas Fransson and Tobias Granath with skis. The face rarely comes into condition and the exposure hasn't tempted many others to give it a go.
Our descent was made possible thanks to Julien Herry who after months of careful watching confided he believed the face in the right conditions to be skied. I expressed my doubts, in particular because of the central section (which turned out to be the hardest part of the descent). Nevertheless, on Thursday 7 April Herry decided to give it a go along with Lionel Hachemy and Roch Malnuit and not only did they manage to ski the face (with two abseils in the upper section and three to breach the lower serac), they also found excellent snow conditions.
Herry phoned me in the afternoon and told me about the descent in all its details. I immediately talked to Luca and Francesco, it seemed an occasion not to be missed and so the next day we set off along the long crest on Midi-Plan and we descended down the face. The descent had all the characteristics of an extreme descent: exposure, commitment, complex route-finding. Impressive. A descent which reminded us of the fact that you don't simply need to be a good skier, you also need to be a good alpinist and at times even this doesn't suffice: an hour later a small serac collapsed, triggering a snow avalanche on the slope below, right where we had skied. We'd been lucky.