Complete Ski Descent Down Mont Blanc’s Brenva Face

Skiing down Mont Blanc is fairly common in spring, but doing so on the wild and steep Brenva side is different. One bad turn will end up being your last.

But on May 20, Ross Hewitt of the UK, with Nico Borgeot and Gaspard Buro of France, accomplished the feat. Hewitt had dreamed of doing the descent for over a decade.

The trio completed what they call the Missing Link, a combination of the Poire-Major-Sentinelle. Others have skied these individual classic routes on the Brenva Face.  The hard part for Hewitt and company was finding the exact place and the right snow conditions to link these snowfields, separated by rock and serac barriers, without taking the skis off. Finding those linkups allowed them to make the complete diagonal descent across the huge Brenva Face.

Years of waiting

“It could take a lifetime for the serac bench to be traversable on skis, or it might never happen,” Hewitt said.

However, observing the face over the years, he spotted a possible line. “A vision was born, clear as day, [that] grew into an obsession,” he admitted.

The team left the Cosmiques Refuge before 1 am on May 20, in cold — for late spring — and quite windy conditions.

“I skinned from Col de la Brenva with expedition down jacket, goggles, mitts, and boot heaters on full,” Hewitt recalls.

On the descent, the skiers reached the serac of La Poire (The Pear) but then cut diagonally across the face, traversing leftward to join the Major route and then the Sentinelle, PlanetMountain reported. The skiers made only one 60m rappel. They managed to carve turns down everything else.

Brenva face at sunset, with the main routes and couloirs marked.

The Brenva Face on Mont Blanc with the main routes marked. Photo:


Afterward, Hewitt described the experience as follows:

Grandiose on a scale impossible to convey with mere words. Gigantic snowfields, towering skyscrapers of ice, swathes of golden granite and 4,000 ft of abyss to the glacier. Like the Grand Canyon but GRANDER, or maybe more akin to the Himalayan giants.

Angela Benavides

Angela Benavides graduated university in journalism and specializes in high-altitude mountaineering and expedition news. She has been writing about climbing and mountaineering, adventure and outdoor sports for 20+ years.

Prior to that, Angela Benavides spent time at/worked at a number of local and international media. She is also experienced in outdoor-sport consultancy for sponsoring corporations, press manager and communication executive, and a published author.