Steep skiing : the north faces of Pic Sans Nom and Ailefroide for Benjamin Védrines and Nicolas Jean

Dans la partie finale de la descente du Pic Sans Nom, sous la facette NW ©Coll. Védrines.

It’s a feat to link together two very rare ski descents. On Friday May 10, French Benjamin Védrines and Nicolas Jean skied two summits in a row, the north-east face of Ailefroide, and the north face of Pic Sans Nom, in the Écrins massif, France. Extreme steep skiing, and a sequence that leaves you speechless. Here’s how they did it.

Even without a rope, they’re a rope party, used to sharing great days out in the mountains. This winter, Nicolas Jean and Benjamin Védrines climbed the Agneaux on five different routes. This spring is exceptionally snowy above 2800 meters in the Écrins, and the duo wanted to make the most of it. Above the Glacier Noir, there were a few clues: as early as May 4, steep skiers opened the ball by skiing the north-west couloir of the Pic Sans Nom, then the Coup de Sabre, and the more classic Col du Glacier Noir. A glance from the heights of his Monêtier-les-Bains stronghold must have confirmed these rare conditions for Benjamin Védrines. But still.

Pic Sans Nom, June 2014. ©Degonon

In 2014, Hervé Degonon, a French guide and steep skier as discreet as he is prolific, attempted what seemed like the impossible: to ski down the north face of Pic Sans Nom from the summit. Located in the Ecrins massif, which is less famous than the Mont Blanc massif, this exceptional descent didn’t get the coverage it deserved.

The itinerary consisted of three abseils down the extremely steep north