Like them super steep? Chamonix-based extreme skier and climber Ross Hewitt knows where to bag all the monster big mountain descents
1. Grand Gervasutti couloir, Chamonix
An all-time classic. And one of those big lines on Mont Blanc du Tacul that draws your eye every time you ski in the Vallée Blanche. It’s just so aesthetic with 800m or so of vert, and a pretty steep entry before it eases to about 50° until the bergschrund (crevasse). I’d wanted to ski it for years but it’s rarely in condition. I finally got it done in June 2013 when there was the perfect cold snap.
2. South Face of Les Courtes, Chamonix
I skied this on my own after climbing the north-east slope (in itself a classic ski) and traversing the ridge to the summit, which is quite extreme with cornices on one side. I didn’t get to start skiing until mid-afternoon but the line still held cold and perfect powder. By the time I’d abseiled the 80m cliff at the bottom and got down to the road below it was about 7pm. A long day but well worth it as it was so very rewarding.Ross in action on the south face of the Aiguille du Chardonnet | Photo Cedric Bernardini
3. West Face of Mount Barille, Ruth Gorge, Alaska
This was getting on for a decade ago, but it’s so memorable. Some of the best snow I’ve ridden in the big mountains. We were on a mini expedition, camping for a couple of weeks, gauging conditions. And when our eyes opened to how the snow stuck better than anywhere in the world, this was the obvious choice. Right above our base camp, wide and steep, it was about 55° once over the big cornice then angling out to about 50° then 45° – perfect.
4. North East couloir, Lanin volcano, Chile
On our way up this 3770m volcano, the ski conditions became worse and worse, with any hope of skiing from the summit fast disappearing. But the NE couloir had looked white from 20 miles down the road, and we couldn’t believe our eyes when we looked in, and it was full of chalky snow. I’d broken the buckle off my boot and it was permanently in walk mode, which played a lot on my mind during those first 50° turns!
5. Grassi Marone Stratta couloir, Petit Mont Blanc, Italy
Often dismissed, as you can’t actually ski from the summit, but if you’re in the area you can’t miss this gem of a couloir. I was there with my girlfriend and some mates, just exploring really. But the north face line we ending up taking was so deep and perfect, reminiscent of the Dolomites with huge walls and an incredible atmosphere. It didn’t top out, but 800m is still a big line.
Ross Hewitt is a member of the Berghaus team of outdoor athletes, berghaus.com