Aiguilles du Brouillard Couloir south-west first ski descent
On 17/01/2011 Davide Capozzi, Luca Rolli, Roch Malnuit, Laurent Dupré and Lionel Hachemy made the first descent of the SW Couloir on Aiguilles du Brouillard (P.ta Saviotti), Mont Blanc
Davide Capozzi, Luca Rolli & Co are on a roll and have recently carried out another great steep descent in the Mont Blanc mountain range. After their first descent of the Voie Anderson in April 2010 and after the North Face of Aiguille Blanche de Peuterey the Italian duo, accompanied by the Frenchmen Roch Malnuit, Laurent Dupré and Lionel Hachemy carried out what is believed to be the first ski or snowboard descent of the SW Couloir on Aiguilles du Brouillard.
The gully is located between Punta Baretti and Punta Saviotti and leads to the South Ridge which, in turn, leads to the summit of Punta Baretti (4013m). The five alpinists carried out the descent in a single day and ascended to the top of the gully – circa 100m beneath the ridge – and then descended at 16:00. They have graded the 1000m line 40°/45° (5.2 E3). Since this is likely to be the first ski or snowboard descent, we thought it interesting to find out a little bit more.
AIGUILLES DU BROUILLARD - COULOIR SOUTH-WEST
Interview with Luca Rolli and Davide Capozzi
Luca, tell us why this gully in particular?
Well, seeing that the classic descents which are in condition are full of moguls, we decided to look elsewhere. Davide is really good at this, it was he who pulled old photos of this gully out of his magician's hat. The gully has a taste of discovery, a feel of something ancient, far removed from the masses of raging, hardended freeriders.
So Davide it was an old dream of yours, carried out it complete solitude
Yes, the Miage has always fascinated me for it's wild aspect which renders it isolated and less popular. I'd noticed the gully down Aiguilles du Brouillard a few years ago while descending the more famous Bonatti couloir on the Petit Mont Blanc. Tardivel had skied down the left-hand gully which leads directly off Punta Baretti, the the right-hand gully was still untouched and it's just as long: 1000m! I've got some dreams which are still waiting to be realised, and there are some which will probably never see the light of day. Descents such as this one are often the fruit of abnormal winters like this one, so you start looking around and discover new and unexpected descents.
Luca, tell us about the ascent
The snow was really hard and had frozen once again. When I put my skis on I was unsure whether the afternoon sun would have managed to transform it enough. But luckily it had and the descent turned out to be pleasant, with the sun setting over the Miage glacier. It's something that'll be hard to forget.
So Davide the descent was carried out late in the day
Yes, in descents like this one, you're really tired and descending at four in the afternoon in January is something particular. You drink a last sip of warm tea, exchange a few words with the others and the ski down as quickly as possible before darkness sets in.
Luca, you always use skis
Yes, I always take to the mountains with my skis. This is what I chose a long time ago and this is how I like it. I still have so much to learn and don't feel the need to try another piece of equipment to glide through the snow. At the moment I'm happy with my skis.
While you Davide use your snowboard
In all these years I've always descended with other skiers and skis and snowboards are two different pieces of gear, each with their own advantages and disadvantages. I think that skis are the perfect tool for moving in the mountains, but using snowboard is easier on certain types of snow and often you get less tired on descents like this one, which isn't a factor that should be underestimated.
Mont Blanc, always Mont Blanc... this range exerts a massive attraction doesn't it Davide?
I've got Mont Blanc in front of me every day, it's difficult not to go there. While I think that the home mountain, the one you know best, is the one which makes you feel protected and safest, I realise though that this is nothing but a pale illusion.
What about for you Luca?
Skiing on a terrain you know well is the winning card to survive in an environment like this one, for surviving in the mountains which, in winter, are not benevolent towards man. What I do is already pretty much “at the limit”, consequently I do it somewhere which I know fairly well.
Last question Davide: what do you need for a descent like this one?
Above all you need plenty of motivation, awareness that the day will be long and you also have to accept the risk that the planned descent won't be in the condition. If that happens, then it's best to turn back and go home.