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France backcountry ski 2009

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Craig + Eric + Ken climbed the Dome du Gouter (4304m) by its North ridge from the Refuge des Grands Mulets, then skied down the "old normal" Grand Mulets route back to the hut . . .

light of the full moon and lights of the valley, west toward St Gervais + Combloux + Sallanches

I woke up in the middle of the the night and watched skiers starting out from the Refuge des Grands Mulets a couple of hours before our planned time

early skiers guided by headlamps and the light of a full moon -- with the Dome du Gouter and Aiguille du Gouter

Craig + Eric starting out skinning two hours later -- but the moon had set by then (because we were on the north side of the mountain)

leaving the "old normal" Grands Mulets route (exposed to falling seracs) and skinning up onto the north ridge of the Dome du Gouter

Craig leading, now on crampons

Chamonix valley lights below Eric

Craig + Eric on the edge of the ridge, getting thru a steeper section

dawn light on the Aiguilles Rouges + Aiguille du Midi + Aiguille Verte - (but not on us yet)

another party near the summit of the Dome du Gouter (4304m)

skins off near the Col du Dome -- and glad to join with other descending skiers after the high winds hit - (later we found out that the Aiguille du Midi lifts had been closed)

getting lower on the "old normal" route, the wind is still blowing hard, but some of that snow is collecting in our valley, and skiing the "fresh" is kinda fun, when it's not too variable

almost back down to the Refuge des Grands Mulets, where we snacked and picked up our extra gear.

Then once we got down to the level of the traverse back to Plan d'Aiguille, the wind near the ground was no problem for us. But the lack of snow on some of the ridge crossings was a hassle:  taking skis off and on, also punching thru the surface while carrying skis.

Final surprise:  When we reached the Plan d'Aiguille lift station, they told us the lift wasn't running, and we had to wait almost an hour until the winds subsided enough for them to operate to take us all the way back down to Chamonix.

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