Bel Oiseau Couloir SW, Aiguilles Rouges, Chamonix

With Ross Hewitt and Tommy Cardelli

The name Bel Oiseau is familiar to about every person skitouring in our valley, especially the Col de Bel Oiseau. It’s located at the very end of Aiguilles Rouges, on the Swiss side. To reach this classic spot requires driving through the village of Finhaut, which used to be ideal for healing tuberculosis patients, this place is so isolated that no one would end up there without a reason… We chose Bel Oiseau because there are no lifts needed. The weather forecast was once again very variable, warm and windy up on the high mountain. The clouds were supposed to stroll in by the south, so maybe by going a bit more north would give us a couple of extra hours of sun. We weren’t going for the Col, like most of the people, but for the second summit in order to get to ski spring corn on the south face.

It’s positively surprising to see how quick the terrain change from a mellow slope to an aerial ridge. You need to juggle between skinning and boot packing, traversing and climbing. Bel Oiseau has 2 peaks, the first one is the real summit but the second one is a bit higher and opens access to the S and W faces, right above the barrage of Emosson and the huge concrete dams.

We decided to ski the SW couloir, straight to the artificial dam lake.Nice soft snow, feels like spring. Maybe a bit too much in some places… Map reading, path finding, grass cutting.

All this to end up in a tunnel without light at the end. The only exit without a boat. Luckily we found the boat in the tunnel and the light floaded in after climbing the vertical ladder to reach the door…