Tuesday, April 18, 2017
Ski traverse of the iconic col de la Grand Casse and unforgettable smell of ‘Eau de Drying Room pour Homme’
Charles Sherwood , Charles son Tim and Charles brother Simon arrived in Chamonix to be greeted by perfect weather. Charles has ski toured all over the Alps with me over the last 25 years. Simon and Tim had not. They were both good skiers but ski touring was new to them. The challenge was to find somewhere Charles had never been plus somewhere that was suitable for an introduction to the sport. We started with a familiarization day at Le Tour. Apparently according to Charles this was the first place Tim had ever skied, Tim reasonably couldn't remember. Either way it seemed like a suitable place to start his ski touring career. We skied off-piste so we could get use to the new skis and boots and then got to grips with the skins by making an ascent of the Tete de Balme, modest but ideal training. The tomb stone on the summit has an S on one side and a F on the other, hence the passport. The next day we drove around to the Vanoise, to the town of Pralognan. The plan was to take the two chair lifts out of the village and then follow the valley up to the Col de la Vanoise Refuge. Regular readers of the Blog will probably have an inkling "the plan' was about to go awry: The lifts had closed due to lack of the essential ingredient. The lift company had not thought it necessary to update their website with this somewhat critical information. No one skis [or for that matter does anything] in France to enjoy its customer care. There was still a cable car going up another hill but it wasn't in the direction we wanted, but it would at least gain us some height. We took it. At the top there was some snow . It gave us approximately 15 seconds skiing Before we were walking again: Not the start I would have wanted as the aim was to get the newbies enthusiastic about ski touring. They were however un phased and thought it was a beautiful walk [which I suppose it was.] Eventually after about 40 minutes we arrived at the snow line and could put our skis on our feet and skin up the beautiful wild remote valley. Eventually we arrived on the col where the views over to Tignes were breathtaking.
Monday, April 10, 2017
Arguably there can be no better way to spend quality time with your children than on a multi day ski tour. Especially when it all comes together with perfect weather and conditions on what is undoubtedly one of Switzerlands great ski tours. Clearly it requires a lot of planning to get everyone together even more so when there are two fathers and their adult children. Thursday 6th April Simon Allen and his two boys Christian and Alexander were joined by Mark Dravers and his son Chris. We met in Argentiere where everyone was kitted out with ski mountaineering boots , skis and all the other ski touring paraphernalia. We then "crowbarred" it all in the car and headed around to the col de Pillon. Our plan was to use the ascent of the mountain , Les Diableret as our warm up , training peak. The plan for the day almost got torpedoed before we started because as we ventured out of the lift system at the top the wind was blowing at over 100kph. Hardly the best introduction. Yet as we skied down and got into position the wind dropped and that was the last indifferent weather we were going to see for the next four days. After we climbed to the summit we then skied down to Les Diablert Hut in excellent snow. It is a fantastic Hut , good food, beer, showers and wifi. We were the only guests. Friday 7th April We took the first lift up with the workers to the summit of Glacier 3000 ski system and the had a magnificent ski down to the col de Sanetsch. After the avalanche debris there is a long climb up to the col Pucel. From here , providing you get the line right, [which we did] you can ski all the way down to the Cabanne Audannes and a very welcome beer. Saturday 8th April We left the Audannes at about 7.00am and were treated to a beautiful sunrise as we looked back toward the cabanne. We arrived at the Wildstrubel Hut about 1.00am. There was no wind and it was extremely pleasant sitting on the terrace drinking beer watching the other parties who had set off later than us struggle up the final slopes. In the evening we joined in what seems to be a ritual of watching the sun set. Sunday 9th April We left the Wildstrubel Hut at about 7.00am. The goal was to traverse the Wildtrubel mountain and the ski out to the Gemmi Pass. We enjoyed solitude all the way to the summit. We then had world class spring skiing all the way to the lift station. "All" that was then left was the small matter of getting back to the car at Col de Pillons which was some considerable distance away.
Monday, April 03, 2017
Saturday, April 01, 2017
Next we skied down to the foot of the big gulley which leads up to the Glacier du Morte. We strapped our crampons on , stuck the skis on our ruck sacks and climbed up the couloir , which gets pretty steep at the top. The ski down was very good. Although the track through the forest back to Le Buet was "faster" [read icy] than we wanted. Tuesday 28th March. We got dropped at Le Tour by my new driving daughter Andrea. We headed up the lift and then skinned up and over the col just to the right of the Grandes Otanes. We couldnt believe the sight of the exceptional skiing which awaited us. On the Thursday we decided to go on an overnight ski tour. We drove through to Sierre. We parked the car and took the Funcicular to Crans Montana. We then worked the lift system up to the Plaine des Mortes glacier from where we climbed the spectacular Rohrbachsteim 2950m After which we skied down to the Wildstrubel Hut- which at present I would have to rate as the best hut in the Alps that I have visited in terms of its welcome, food and general ambience. Friday morning we were a way by 7.00am just in time to arrive on the summit of the Wisshore 2948m to enjoy the sunrise over the Plaine Morte Glacier. From there we traversed the glacier before climbing up and on to the summit of the Wildstrubel 3244m. The ski down got better and better and the spring snow was very good all the way to the Gemmipass cable car. From here we descended by cable car to Leukerbad. After some lunch we took the bus to Leuk, then a train to Sierre where we picked up the car and drove back to Chamonix. Saturday was to be our final day. The weather was threatening to change. We headed to the summit of the Brevent and skied off behind the ridge making our way around to the Col du Brevent. The weather was cold and windy and the snow was not softening up. It wasbone shattering skiing and and had zero to recommend it. We decided to head back to La Flegere. This proved to be a good call. The wind dropped and the sun came out. We traversed around to Lac Blanc and the made our way over to the deep gorge which leads up to Col L'Encrenaz. Instead of climbing up the col we skied towards Col du Montets again enjoying good spring snow. Inevitably by the time we hit the road it was decidedly soggy and there was rather a lot of vegetation sticking up through the snow. All in all it was another excellent day. Andrea was there to pick us up in her Land Rover and rive us home.