First Descent by Davide Capozzi - Mont Emilius
Unknown to most, Mount Emilius is the mountain that overlooks the city of Aosta. In 2013 Julien "Pica" Herry and I rode the North Face of Becca di Nona and on that occasion we couldn’t help but notice the huge north face of Emilius. Making a complete descent of this frightening face seemed like an immense dream, and finding the right conditions seemed like something even bigger.
The week before the descent a friend of mine happened to send me a photo of the face, taken from the summit of Becca di Nona. This picture awoke my desire to check it out for myself. Even though not rideable from the summit, I reckoned that snowboarding the main gully would be highly satisfying in itself. Julien immediately agreed, he too wanted to give this beautiful peak a go.
On April 13. we set off from Pila at 5:30am, and after about six hours we topped out on the NE ridge at an altitude of 3370m. From here, with two short rappels, we began our descent. The city of Aosta dominate the scenery below, despite the summit towering 200m above the ridge. The view view was spectacular and it was great to be up there on our snowboards.
The descent was steep and exposed: a 450m slope/gully around 50° at the start, then slightly less down the rest of the couloir. Unfortunately the snow wasn’t ideal: the warm spring sunshine followed by the cold nights had frozen the snow solid. For it to be a fun descent we would have had to wait till at least mid-afternoon. But we reckoned that the return to Pila would have been too dangerous at that time.
We decided to wait a bit, just enough to let the first rays of sun reach the face to have a little bit more light. The descent turned out to be very challenging, but despite far from ideal conditions, we managed to ride more than we expected.
After about an hour we finally reached the base of Emilius: all we had to do now was the return. The snow throughout the return was terrible and we had to switch between skinning riding a few times, which made it take almost as long as getting up.
After our descent both Julien and I were really happy, even if for the moment our dream of skiing Emilius from the summit remains locked away. Who knows, maybe one day we’ll unlock it!
- Davide Capozzi