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Cold, dark and narrow: the Modica-Noury on Mont Blanc du Tacul

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For the first outing of the year, I teamed up with Morgan Baduel and Karin Payot for a go on the classic Modica-Noury ice gully on the East Face of Mont Blanc du Tacul, next to the even more popular Gabarrou-Albinoni. With the Vallée Blanche in excellent condition very early on this year, we used the ever popular approach by gravity, enjoying beautiful light but high winds on the Midi ridge, then a quick ski down followed by a few minutes of skinning, saw us next to the bergshrund.

Unfortunately, the high winds we had hoped to be sheltered from blew straight in the gully, bringing constant spindrift and defeating any hopes of warmth. The 300m snow gully before reaching the ice proper was full of deep snow and made for slow progress until we reached the first pitches. While the ice was really good on the first surprisingly steep two pitches, we were unfortunately shut down on the third crux rope length, as the near vertical 20m wall offered such thin ice that protection would have been impossible.

Abseiling down in the spindrift, then downclimbing the last section, I nearly fell into a secondary bergshrund when a snow bridge collapsed under me… We only had to ski down the rest of Vallée Blanche, unfortunately in crusty snow and with heavy packs. No summit, many bouts of hot aches, but still a good day out!

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