Sunday, April 24, 2011

The Haute Route Chamonix to Zermatt

I have just completed the High Level Route in near perfect conditions where for the first four days we didn't see a cloud, the snow was very stable and the crevasses were well filled in.

I was joined by 4 good fit skiers who however had no previous ski touring experience.
Rob Faure Walker,Becca Ratcliffe, Charlie Clarke and Alex Mcmullen. We had a day together doing some initial training on Les Grands Montets.

The next day we had a leisurely start and headed up to the Argentiere Hut for our first night and gain some valuable acclimatisation and rest before what was to be a very big day.

We awoke at 4.15 am and had a pre dawn start with some pretty testing icy skiing in the dark. Our plan was to pass via the col du Passon as this is now locally considered a better option than the traditional col du Chardonnet due to the stone fall and terrible bottle neck problems which are encountered. This proved to be a good move because we did not see a sole all day and then enjoyed a memorable descent of the val d'arpette followed by 10 mins walk to our awaiting taxi which whipped us over to Le Chable so we could get the cable car to the Mt Fort Hut.

Unfortunately Becca starting suffering from very bad "shin splints" and was in considerable pain and seriously considered bailing.

We looked at the options and decided to fill her up with pain killers and go for it.
Another stunning traverse and we arrived at the Prafleuri Hut where we plonked Becca in a deck chair and proceeded to ice her shins while we sat around in the sun drinking beer.

The traverse to the Dix Hut was a mixture of some good snow , some passages across mud and grass and we even explored some old ruins that had been uncovered by the draining of the lake.

From the Dix hut we traversed the Pigne d'Arolla [3790 meters] in very easy conditions despite quite a cool wind. We arrived at the Vignettes Hut early at around 11.00am and set our self up for the afternoon by eating an emormous dustbin lid sized rosti.

I set the alarm for 4.15am I got up heard the wind then looked out of the window and then went back to bed. We were going no where the weather was horrible. We all then had a council of war and looked at the options. We decided to sit it out taking the gamble that the weather would be better on the Sunday. Several games of Monopoly later [Of which I was the moral victor] and we were up at 4.30am. We were greeted with good weather and we were on our way by 5.30am.

The extra days rest served us well because Becca's shins were much better and we were now all super acclimatised and we flew. We hit the final col du Valepline at 10.00am.
All that remained was to ski down towards Zermatt where it is hard to imagine a better back drop than skiing under the north face of the Matterhorn on pretty good spring snow.
The snow eventually ran out so we had to walk - but who cares we had made it.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Lets do anything in the mountains other than ski

Just spent 6 great days with Francis Bridgeman and his extended family and friends. The skiing was limited to Grands Montets and it was mobbed. So I decided that the best thing to do was to show everybody how to do a crevasse rescue.
We did this on the top of Grands Montets.
The next day we went to Verbier in an attempt to find some different snow. It was crap. The visibility was nil the snow was firstly ice then slush interspersed with mud and a scattering of rocks.
Not unsurprisingly I suggested to Francis that we went rockclimbing. This proved to be a very good choice - we climbed the Via Cordia and the next day we climbed the Voie Caline.
Yesterday we went back to Les grands montets , not to ski but to learn how to use ice axe and crampons. The Grands Montets was mobbed and it wasn't possible to get to the top so we started with our ice axes on the piste. This seemed a much better option than using skis.
We then finished off the week with a mass ascent off the via Feratta above the plateau d'assey.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Last of the good snow

Reuben and Fiona joined me for 4 days skiing. We didn't see a cloud and it was hot. We spent a day at Grands Montets, then in Courmayeur followed by Verbier and we finished by skiing laps on the top of Grands Montets.

Saturday, April 02, 2011

Apres Ski Acupunture

Just finished a very varied week of ski touring and off piste skiing that did not always go exactly to plan.At one stage we even aquired an extra group member when an unwanted Russian decided to join the group for a descent of the Argentiere glacier. Nevertheless we did get to ski some spectacular descents.
Our group was made up of a group of friends who from Ireland and we were never short of exllent banter. Paul, Carrol Barry Pat Steve.

We skied at Le Tour on the 1st day finding our feet. The next day we skinned up the Argentiere glacier but had to turn around due to poor visibility. The next day we skied at Les Grands Montets. Then following the theme of the season we headed to where the snow has been exceptionally good and went to La Thuile where he hit very good snow conditions and spen the day putting fresh tracks in 30 cm of light fluffy snow. Mind you it soon warmed up an the afternoon was as bad as the morning was good.

I was keen to show everyone the wonderful Crochue/ Berard ski tour above La Flegere the next day. Although the scenery was as spectacular as ever plus the snow looked perfect- it was covered by a very thin ice crust which made the skiing challanging at best and a kind of nightmare at worst.

So I made the decision to return to where I knew the snow would be good, the huts would be good the food would be good and we would get world class ski descents: This season it is Alagna/Gressoney.

We spent the night in the quite wonderful Vigevano Rifugio and I experienced unique Apres Ski Acupuncture treatment for ski pole elbow. This was good - but what was better was the fact it was snowing hard and it was windless and the forecast was blue skis te next day - setting up a perfect scenario.

Sure enough it was good. We skied amongst others the iconic La Balma. Not unsurprisingly and rather satisfyingly the boys told me it was there best ever days skiing. It was then back for some more apres ski acupunture provided by the the doctor and raconteur Carroll Odolan.

On final day we headed for the Colle della Salza and on the descent found the best snow of the week tucked under the north facing cliffs.

Ps My Ski Pole Elbow has been fixed.