Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Great snow - pity about the Vis

On Tuesday Dan Braverman and I went on our 1st ski tour together over the Col Crochues. As we made our way up we noticed a staggering amount of people below us. The weather got worse and by the time we reached the col there was no visibility and it was snowing very heavily. Unsurprisingly all the other people turned round leaving a group of eight. Again unsurprisingly this group consisted of 7 Brits and Dan [US although he does live in The UK]
Once we got to the final col du Berard we had perfect powder it was just a pity we couldn't see very much. But to good skiers good snow is always more important than good visibility.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Grand Paradiso [almost]

Greg Knott Bill Mills and I headed for the Grand Paradiso national park in Italy on Friday. The forecast was poor for the Friday but it was meant to improve. We drove through sheeting rain which turned to snow by the time we arrived at the car park in Pont. We set off towards the Vittorio Emanuelle hut with the snow dumping down. As we climbed it suddenly got very windy and then just as suddenly the clouds parted , the wind stopped and we were left enjoying a beautiful late afternoon. Unsurprisingly the Hut was not busy.
The next day we climbed La Tresenta 3680 m and then skied back to the hut for a large bowl of Pasta.
On Sunday our plan was to attempt the Grand Paradiso. What we hadn't banked on was that there was a ski mountaineering race to the summit and back. [3 1/2 hours] for the round trip was the estimated winners time].
We made it to 3500m where the wind was brutal. We turned round and the race was cancelled because the conditions were deemded too dangerous.

Mind you: our consolation prize was 1000m descent in light fluffy powder all the way back to the car.

Monday, March 22, 2010

The weather forecast was wrong

The weather forecast was wrong [Thankfully] I arrived at the bottom of Les Grands Montets to meet Robert Blake- James and his 3 sons Richard Hugh and James. News came through that the top of Grands Montets was clear, there was 25 cm of fresh snow and there was no wind. All sounded too good to be true and for once it was not. We skied hard all day but were eventually forced off the mountain as the snow started to collapse under our skis suggesting it was all about to slide away in a great big soggy mush. Still it was good while it lasted

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Mark the Mountain Guide goes on tour in Switzerland [again]

I have had a very pleasant three days visiting International schools along the "coast" of lake Geneva. I was there to tell the children how I came up with the ideas and how I wrote the Mark the Mountain Guide books.
On Monday I went to the Ecole Riviera School in Montreux. On Tuesday I visited the International School of Monts-de-Corsier. Today I was at the La Côte International School.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Walking Dead.

This was weird firstly I got told not to wear my ski boots in a the Reception of the Grands Montets Hotel by the Idiot Manager. I pointed out that any Hotel that is only a 150 meters from the Grands Montets ski station and has a floor that isn't strong enough to take mountain boots is crap. And besides my boots weren't ski boots, but the moron wouldn't listen.
That was weird then to day Gerard Clarke and I were skiing down the beautiful Berard Valley having done the Crochue - Berard ski tour in the Aiguille Rouge when we came across a dead goat. Nothing terribly strange about that but this one was standing up.

Sunday, March 07, 2010

Big Kids Off Piste Safety Talk

I gave the inaugural "Big Kids Off- Piste Safety Talk" last night at the Church Hall in Chamonix to a lot of children and their parents and it seemed that it was a great success judging by the amount of questions I was asked.

The idea of this talk came from concerned parents who's children are good skiers and are more than capable of skiing off -piste. The problem is that A they won't listen to their parents and B although they are good skiers they think that is a giant Disney Land where nothing can go wrong.

The aim was not to tell them not to do it[ because they won't listen] instead my aim was to at least give them a rough understanding of what they are getting into. [Most people who have accidents do not realise it was dangerous]

The talk covered the piste signs and what they mean. Why for example skiing down a closed piste is never a good idea.

The flags which indicate the risk.

What Pisteurs do to make the resort safe and how they do this looking at Catex & Gasex. and helicopter bombing

How avalanches are formed. Most skier avalanches are triggered by their victims

How to read the signs that nature provides. Avalanche conditions need not only snow but wind. Reading where the wind has come from is critical to understanding the risk.

Obligatory Equipment for skiing off piste.

Safe skiing practice [ How to ski a slope to minimise the risk]

What to do if it all goes wrong [ie how to conduct an avalanche search]

Too Cold For Comfort

Generally it is possible to cope with very cold conditions, the issue is when it is windy and cold. I was up at the top of point Helbronner on the Italian side of the Valley Blanche. The plan was to take a group of Bankers for an introductory walk around the glacier. Even getting the rope uncoiled inside the building was unpleasant on the fingers. When we went out of the door and were faced with an icy blast, but I thought if we can get down onto the glacier we might escape from the wind. Then suddenly this guy came staggering towards me with half his face frozen. He looked like a zombie.His skin looked like melted candle wax. I turned to my clients and one of them had a big white blotch on his cheek. I turned around and rushed back inside. We had been out side no more than five minutes. I said to the other Guide I was working with "Its too cold and dangerous we need to go down."
No one seemed to disagree.