Thursday, April 25, 2013

Worst Avalanche Forecast I have seen

So it went from 24c to 30cm of snow in the garden over night and the most widespread high avalanche forecast I had ever seen. All this coincided with the arrival of Agust Gudmundsson and his great pal Astvalur [Valti] Gudmundsson for 5 days ski touring. Clearly we needed a plan B and we needed it fast.
So we jumped in the car and 3 hours later we were climbing above the Mediterranean at Capo Noli
We found a hotel and climbed some bigger routes the next day. This was Valti's first real multipitch climbing and he was impressed.
The next day was very un Mediterranean - it rained so over a cappuccino in the port at Genoa we hit on the next idea : The weather forecast and avalanche forecast were now good for the next few days and so we took a helicopter form Sion to the top of the Wildhorn as a way of catapulting ourselves along our originally planned ski tour.
We arrived on the summit at 8.30am and enjoyed very good spring snow skiing , followed by a hot climb up to the Wildstrubel Hut where we were the only guests.
It was an early 6.00am start for our ascent of the Rohrbachstein 2950m
From its summit we skied and skinned back towards the lift system of Crans Montana , [where they obligingly opened the drag lift inorder to get us back into the lift system] before some more spring snow where we arrived at 10.00am for an a "late morning beer.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

The Western Bernese Oberland High Level Route

Charles Sherwood and his daughter Tabatha joined me for the ski tour which sets off from Les Diablerets and arrives in Kandersteg. The most remarkable thing about this tour was that it all went perfectly according to plan. We enjoyed perfect conditions [although rather hot] brilliant huts which were hardly occupied and not least some sublime spring snow skiing.

If only all ski tours could work this well!

Can't go ski touring lets go powder skiing

Once again the ski touring options became limited by the huge amount of snow that seem to keep spewing out of the ski. Francis Bridgeman his nephew Sahil Sinha and Vin Smears all had great plans for a ski touring hut based trip.
We had a wonderful day traversing the col de la Fenetre high above Les Contamines followed by a perfect descent on spring snow. Only disappointment was the bar at the foot of the gorge was closed.

We then had a couple of days skiing off piste around Chamonix before we learned once again that Itlay had had spectacular amounts of snow so we headed to Punte Crocce for some knee deep trail braking which was rewarded with some knee deep powder descents.

On our final day we headed back to La Thuile where we managed to hit conditions which were as good as any this season.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Bad weather stops High Level Route but its not all bad

Anik Mercure and her husband Francois Brissette traveled all the way from Canada to join me for an attempt on the Haute Route. The dates had been in the diary for a long time and every detail talked through. All the huts had been booked back in December.
We had a brilliant warm up day skiing the Crochue -Berard traverse in the Aiguille Rouge and Francois made a quick video of the day

All was good except the new weather forecast. Yet all we could do was pack our bags and turn up at Les Grands Montets at 8.30 am the next morning and hope the weather forecast wasn't as bad as predicted. It was snowing . We weren't going anywhere. Well anywhere near the Haute Route. Instead I quickly came up with a plan B.

All it did was snow and snow and snow. The next day we decided to head for Combloux to take advanatge of the last of the tree skiing of the year. This plan went awry when we discovered that a Piste Basher had crashed into a pylon on the key Christomet lift and closing half the resort. We did manage to rescue the situation by using our skins to access the off piste runs. There was a lot of snow:

The next day it was snowing so hard that we did nothing. However the forcast was now very good and so we decided to head Arolla and then the Dix Hut. It was from this point that we got a pretty fantastic mini ski tour in. From the Dix Hut we traversed the Pigne d'Arolla and down to the Vignettes Hut. We then headed to Zermatt and managed to ski all the way into the village.

The next day things got even better because we flew back from Zermatt to the top of the Pigne and were lucky enough to get knee deep fresh tracks down the Tsijore Nouve Glacier all the way back to the Land Rover certainly the descent of the season. Here is a quick you tube summary

We should have left it at that but on their arrival in Chamonix Francois and Anik had booked onto a Vallee Blanche descent where they had seen nothing. I suggested we ski it again . This time they did get to ski it , but had to endure the winning combination of chopped up frozen snow interspersed with boiler plate ice. In addition by way of a sub plot we narrowly missed seeing a plane force land on the Mer de Glace when the pilot seemingly realised he hadn't enough power to clear the Geant Ice fall