Monday, April 30, 2012

The High Level Route

Continuing the theme of difficult conditions Henry Alex and James [split board snowboarder] met for an attempt on the Haute Route. This was to be Henry's 2nd attempt having been thwarted by the weather on the previous attempt at the Mt Fort Hut a couple of years ago This is what happened. We met and had a days initiation skiing around Les Grands Montets in good powder snow conditions but crap ski touring conditions - ie lots of snow but unstable weather with poor visibility and very high winds. Saturday 21st We set off from the Grands Montets in strong winds. So much so that the cable car closed just behind us leaving us virtually on our own. There was group putting a track in above us who had left from the Argentiere Hut. So we decided to give it a go despite the indifferent weather. We made it to the Trient Hut in deep snow . We were the only group to make it through and we were alone in the Trient Hut. Over night there was an almighty storm which put down a meter of snow. Sunday 22nd We left the Hut in waist deep snow and no visibility. We cautiously edged our way towards the Col des Ecandies before fighting our way up in shoulder deep snow. The reward was un tracked windless powder, virtually to the Village of Champex. From there we transferred to Verbier and the Mt Fort Hut. Monday 23rd We left the Mt Fort at 7.00am in good weather and took in the summit of the Rosa Blanche before finding some exceptional snow on the descent to the Prafleuri Hut which was full of the Swiss Army who were preparing the way for the famous Patrouille des Glaciers Tuesday 24th. This was always going to be a difficult day for James our split boarder because of the traverse above Lac Dix. It wasn't helped by the return of the bad weather. Wednesday 25th. We left the Dix Hut around 7.00am in very strong winds. As we climbed up to the summit of the Pigne d'Arolla it was gail force. The descent down to the Vignettes Hut was difficult and dangerous. A slab was kicked off and tripped us up and sent a couple of us on an unwanted toboggan down the slope. During the afternoon and the evening the dreaded Foehn wind got stronger and stronger. Thursday 26th We awoke at 5 .00am and the wind was howling. There was no choice to to descend down to the village of Arolla thus concluding a very adventurous ski tour even if we did not make it all the way to Zermatt. Still we were the only team to set off from Chamonix and get as far Arolla.

Monday, April 16, 2012

April showers bring unstable ski touring conditions

Peter Folkman had a long term plan to head to the Dolomites for some ski touring. It became apparent that there was no snow.
We changed plans and agreed to head to the Bernese Oberland, but as our week got nearer it was clear that the weather was not going to be co operative for Hut to Hut touring.
Nevertheless we did get some good skiing in.

The stand out days were our descent of the glacier de Morte behind La Flegere where we had knee deep un tracked snow to ski.

It did snow a lot and we had a day skiing the top of Grands Montets in poor visibility but lots of fluffy snow. Plus some crevasse rescue

I think the most rewarding day was when we drove around to Arpy next to La Thuile and climbed the Punte Crocce. This is a wonderful ski tour that leaves from the road head and winds its way up through the trees to a summit with an old Napoleonic ruined Fort with a wonderful view point. Almost as a bonus we had excellent skiing back to the Land Rover. Even better saw no one.

Friday, April 06, 2012

The Bernese High Level Route: Diablerets to Kandersteg

The ski tour from Les Diablerets to Kandersteg is one of the finest multi day ski tours in the alps. Chris Dovell and Lia Heisters and I have just completed it.
One of the things which was truly exceptional about this particular ski tour, was how quiet it was
In total we saw a handful of people on the whole expedition. On two of the days we saw no one.

This was what we did.

1st day climbed the Summit of Les Diablerets which is the most westerly mountain in the Oberland

Day 2 .Left the Prarochet Refuge at 7.00am and skied down to Col du Sanetch and then continued to the summit of the Wildhorn.[3248] We skied down to the Cabanne des Audannes

Day 3 In poor visibility we left at around 7.00am and traversed to the Wildstrubel Hutte- possibly one of the best run refuges in the whole of the Alps thanks to the efforts of the wonderful Heinz and Margret.
Day 4 Over onto the summit of the Wisshore. [2904m] [secret listening post for the CIA] and then down onto the glacier Plaine Morte before climbing to the summit of the Wilstrubel[3244m] in fairly windy conditions.
Then a ski down with fresh snow and fresh tracks before a short skin up to the Lammeren Hutte.
Day 5. It was snowing quite hard and the visibility was not good. So we gingerly left the Hutte around 7.30 am and navigated our way over a col before the visibility improved so that we could enjoy some good skiing where we joined a track which eventually lead us back to the cable car which took us down to Kandersteg