Saturday, February 23, 2013

Good cold weather

The start of the school holidays coincided with the start of the first real settled weather of the winter. The hoilday makers must have been delighted with the perfect conditions. However what is perfect for your piste skier is not good for some one searching fresh tracks. We need constant top ups of fresh snow. The only way to find it is to climb for it , or use a helicopter.

Mark Locke and I did both: On the Sunday we found some fantastic snow skiing the couloirs down to Trient. The only issue was that Mark snapped a ski in half and we ended [or rather he ended] up with a long walk down through knee deep untracked snow.
On the Monday we skinned up from La Flegere and around to the col des Encranax. From where we had a superb run back down to Le Buet.
On Tuesday we met up with Alison Smith and Kate Ferguson and flew to the summit of Petit Combin. We found exceptional snow conditions all the way to the valley.

Wednesday we returned to the world class tree skiing of Giettaz where the descents were as good as ever despite a slight navigational mishap brought on by skiing some incredible snow into a cul-de-sac.
Finally on Thursday we went to La Thuile. The high spot of this was in fact lunch at the Hotel Maison de la Neige. The snow we found was good but tracked and high up the wind had got to it. But all in all a good 5 days.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Key Note presentation to Liverpool School of Management.

I was given the opportunity by Professor Murray Dalziel ,Dean of The Liverpool Management School, to deliver a presentation on managing risk within the context of Mountain Guiding . To be more specific climbing the North Face of the Eiger.
I left Chamonix and flew into Liverpool and gave the presentation in the evening. The presentation format was that of an interview between my self and Professor Murray, interspersed with photos taken over 20 years of attempts.
We then took a question and answer session from the students.
The next day I flew home and started skiing again.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

More Non Touring Days

Justin Emrich turned up with 3 of his pals, Mathew Pete Mark. It was about 6 years since Justin & I had last skied together and 15 years since we 1st skied together.
We decided to start with the beautiful secluded ascent of the Arpille an ideal place to kick off your ski touring career. However unbeknown to me there was the annual ski touring race to the summit. Fortunately by the time we got going the race was well and truly over but race refueling stations were still open and we availed ourselves of them.
We arrived at the summit of the Arpille and were all alone. I then had a shock as we descended as there had obviously been a major mis- communication because two of the team could not actually ski. Consequently the descent took longer than anticipated.
We agreed to split into 2 teams and one of the party decided to go back to being a snowboarder having accepted that a day at Milton Keynes Snow Dome doesn't equip you with the skills for off piste skiing.
Anyway the next two days it snowed and snowed and we had very good powder in Courmayeur and then in La Flegere where Justin claimed he had skied one of the best pitches ever. AND Justin should know because you will have to go along way to see someone who skis better than him.

Monday, February 04, 2013

More "Bad" Weather equates to more fantastic skiing

Francis Bridgeman and Vincent Smears joined me for a week of ski touring. This would have been fine with little snow and clear weather . We had neither. Instead we had heaps of the stuff and little visibility. Apart form one day when we forced ourselves to the summit of the Petit Crois Baulet over looking Sallanches, we contented our selves with skiing powder through the tree in Megeve, Combloux, La Flegere We did have a clear day in Courmayeur but the avalanche risk was too high to ski tour and besides by this time the boys were well and truely sold on their big fat White Dot Skis.

Saturday, February 02, 2013

Four seasons in a week

Just finished a continuous 10 day stint of skiing in every type of snow and weather. At first the conditions had been very cold and this meant that the snow was preserved well. Although it hadn't snowed for a bit, with some effort a lot outstanding descents could be found. I spent the 1st 3 days with Reuben & Fiona Berg, a day at Le Tour then an exceptionally good day in Courmayeur and finally a stella day in Geittaz which if you know where to go has some of the best skiing in the alps.
Next Kevin Tuck and his pals turned up for some suffering. Ski touring with hangovers. We had a memorable traverse

of the Aiguille Rouge via the ski tour know as the Balcon Sud, capped by an outstanding descent to the col du Montets. This ski tour ended by what was probably the 1st British descent of a new line: The railway line to Vallorcine. [It was closed for refurbishment]

The next group of victims turned up on the Monday. Andy Chetwood, Tanya Thompson, Laurence Whyatt and Mike Dowling had an ambitious plan to traverse the Monte Rosa ski area over the col de Lys and down to Zermatt. Needless to say the weather stopped this idea even before they arrived. So the consolation was a perfect day of powder skiing in Combloux/Giettaz.
The bar was therefore set high in terms of what the group expected. However the wind picked up and increased the avalanche risk significantly which meant on our second day the descent of the Berard Vallee called for some careful route choice as there was a lot of spontaneous wind slab release.
On the Wednesday the wind was even stronger as we battled our way to the top of Punte Croce high above La Thuile.
Thursday , just when we thought the wind might calm it blew harder as we skinned up the Argentiere as the Grands Montets lift system closed around us due to high wind.
On Friday we awoke to tropical rain. Everything was shut in Chamonix. I decided to take a long punt on traveling through to Italy. We drove through the tunnel and it was raining even harder. The car-park was awash. The only glimmer of hope was that the descending cable car came down covered in snow. As we traveled up in the lift the gamble had paid off. We had a memorable day tree skiing with some very good snow conditions.