With the temperatures remaining high Paul and I were still thinking the best snow was going to be found on higher north facing slopes. After looking through the maps and guide books to try and find a suitable face, we started to focus on La Tsanteleina, a peak that sits right on the French/Italian boarder.
Standing at 3602m we knew it would be an early start and a long day as the nearest we could park was at 1875m which was 8km away from the bottom of the face.
The alarm went off at 3.40am, picked Paul up at 4am and headed off, we started hiking at 4.30am in the pitch black, with the melt/freeze it meant the start was easy to hike as the snow was frozen solid, we then picked up the summer access road and started to skin from there.
As we were skinning up it became apparent that the face was highly unlikely to be in a skiable condition, it was obvious the wind had been very strong over the last few days and we were sure that the face would be stripped of snow. We decided to continue anyway as it was a good fitness test and with such beautiful scenery it would be silly to have turned around.
We both felt good and kept a good rhythm, a lot of it was was flat, but from around 2500m it started to get steeper and we put ski crampons on as the snow was very compact, we continued up to around 3000m and the last section was concrete-like snow and almost too steep to skin so we put skis on our back, ice axe in hand and continued the last 150 vertical meters to the plateau below the north face.
Once at the plateau we could see all of the north face and it was obviously un-skiable, there were huge patches of glacial ice and the little snow that was on there would have been bulletproof, so we found a nice rock, sat down and had some lunch with great views into Italy and beyond.
After eating and rehydrating we set off back to the car. The snow was really bad 99% of the way, we took a fall each as skis decided to go different ways. I think I made about 10 ‘good’ turns so for 5.5 hours up it was a lot of effort for the reward. Fortunately we managed to ski/skate the whole way back and didn’t need to put skins on again.
It was a good test and really interesting to head into terrain that neither of us of had been to or seen before. It is probably the most beautiful tour that I have done and will definitely be heading up there again at some point, even if its just for lunch again.