Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Line of the Week: Mt. French Arch Couloir (Hole in the wall)

The French Arch couloir also known as the Hole in the Wall or the French Finger is actually one of many couloirs not only in the French Drainage, but on the North face of Mt. French. The arch couloir is further back in the French drainage, almost to the col with the Haig glacier. In fact on the particular day I skied the Arch couloir proper, my brother and a friend skied the next chute over. Something to keep in mind is that slough from each chute flows out of holes on the climber's right side wall. So slough from the line my brother skied, flowed into my line! Therefore it is important not only be mindful of the slough from you and your group but also the slough from the next couloir over! The dual sloughing also means that the ski through the arch will be firm and scoured! Bring crampons.

Skiing the Arch!
Skiing out the adjacent couloir.
The French drainage is always confusing to navigate and it is recommended that you are familiar with it via a trip beforehand so that you can get to the line efficiently. The upper part of the chute is heavily wind scoured and might not even have coverage. The top out is not really well defined.

Round Trip distance: 16km
Line length: 300m
Top elevation: 3000m
Total elevation gain: 1250m
Other options in the area: Aside from the other couloirs that probably contain heavily wind affected snow, Mt. Maude, and finishing off the rest of the French-Haig-Robertson traverse are two excellent alternatives.

Hillmap route

Fun fact: Not only did we team ski the arch and its adjacent couloir, but I forgot my skins that day and still managed to make my way up the French drainage on foot with crampons and with only minimal wallowing. A legend and mystery to this day!

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