Back to Europe from Perù i found the Alps plastered in snow like i don’t remember to have previously seen them this time of the year.
The fact we have not been able to ride the Artesonraju in the Cordillera Blanca (our main and final object) left me with the desire of snowboarding something big before considering the season officially closed.
It has been raining low down in the valley almost everyday of July with rare stable weather windows.
I already made an attempt one week before but i had to turn back on the ridge half way up because of the bad weather, strong wind and no visibility.
The forecast was good but the conditions we found were not. I made my call based on the fact that even if i would have got a window once arrived on the top, with all that wind that has been blowing in the last day, the snow would have been fucked up; the two other parties that were on the ridge with us thought the same.
I rode the “Neruda line” in 2008 in deep powder top to bottom and i was not interested in scratching down the face with ice axes in my hands (http://www.lucapandolfi.com/2008/08/lyskamm-north-face/).
My partners at that time, Ben Briggs and Brendan O’Sullivan carried on just to summit and they got rewarded by a short and unexpected window that allowed them to go down the face.
This mountain is with no doubt my favorite one in the Alps and i felt i had to go back.
Matteo, my ski partner in Perù, was free and keen to go back so we made it happen again.
I convinced Cedric to come along and at the Gnifetti Hut we met Giorgio (with whom i have been in contact lately) which had the same goal.
At the base of the ridge we joined Jimmy Sesana, Glen Plake, PTor and Joe Vallone.
Was great to be there on that airy and aesthetic ridge with so many friends and the Gotha of extreme skiing.
Reached the top we watched Jimmy dropping into the Neruda line with tiny scratchy turns on the gnarly wind effected snow.
He will say later that it was the worse skiing of his life…said by him that skied that face almost 10 times, it means something.
The others chose to don’t follow him while my team decided to go to have a look to our objective, the rarely skied De Benedetti line, on the other side of the central rocky spur.
Unexpected knee deep powder was waiting for us at the top of the line.
Matteo excited dropped into the face, followed by the others, but after 100 meters the ice was close and the snow cover was getting thinner.
We had already few doubts about the lower part of the face, based on what we saw the night before on a picture taken from Matteo the previous day from the Margherita Hut.
The sound of the ice hit by the edges immediately confirmed that the last storm, with a lot of wind, did not improve the situation on our line.
It did not happen, again, at least the way i wanted but this is what make these descents so magic, flirting with them like with a nice woman, respecting them and being ready to go when the door is open.
Today the door shut on our face after few 5 stars turns.
We turned back and had great turns on the ridge.
The back up plan was to ski a very steep and sustained couloir on the south face.
We waited a bit for the snow to soft but bad weather was coming in.
After few turns i realized the snow was still too hard for me and i traversed above the serac finding better snow on its left.
The rest was a great smooth painting on the glacier’s creamy corn.
we did not skied what we wanted but we had a great day and some good skiing, with good friends on one of the most aesthetic peak in the Alps…not bad for being the 6th of August !