Thursday, May 28, 2015

Still very good skiing to be had - if you know where to look

So Alison, Yvette, Kevin and I parked the car at the Emosson Dam and started walking across the Dam at about 6.30 am.

Our first challenge was to negotiate the building site . We then traversed the Dam and just beside the road dumped our training shoes and stuck on our ski boots , skis and skins. We then climbed the 800 vertical meters to the Col de la Terrace.

At the col we stripped off the skins and were treated to a spectacular view across to the Aiguille du Chardonnet and the Trient glacier.

By now it was about 9.00am and the snow had already nicely softened up. We were provided with excellent spring snow conditions as we headed back towards the reservoir [which seems to be missing the ingredient it was designed to store]

It was then back the way we came , but not before stopping for "brunch" at the excellent cafe just above the Dam.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Just when you thought it was all over... Winter returns.

Steve Callaghan contacted me because he wanted to restart climbing after a long lay-off . He felt he was a bit rusty and wanted to brush up on his skills. We devised a plan through an exchange of emails , met up and headed up to the Mer de Glacé. This is a very good place to cover everything there is to know about ice axe ,crampons, rope work , steep ice climbing and look at how stuff has changed in the thirty years since Steve had last been climbing. However it was difficult to imagine how he had ever been away because he took to it all like a duck to water,

This was despite the weather being more arctic than alpine. Winter had seemingly returned and the temperature had dropped by 30c in a week.

We had the whole of the Glacier to ourselves.

Our first day was a success and so the next day we headed up the Aiguille du Midi to attempt the iconic Cosmiques Arete. Not for the first time the Aguille du Midi was slow to open , primarily because it is run entirely for the convenience of the people who work on it and not the paying public. Eventually it did open and we descended the ridge and plodded round to the start of the route. Luckily there was a party in front of us, I say luckily because it was they who ploughed through the 130cm of fresh snow. Eventually they became exhausted and it was left to Steve and I to gallantly plough the furrow.

Wednesday, May 06, 2015

Ski Season Ends abruptly.

The weather messed with our plans again. Peter Folkman and I had a plan to traverse the Eastern Oberland on skis. The weather had different ideas. There was just one day of good weather forecast. We decided to go skiing on Grands Montets. The previous day it had snowed and there was the rumor of very good powder skiing high up.
Unfortunately this was just a rumor and the first run off the top was horrible. Luckily the snow softened up and we did end up having several very good runs and certainly better than the skiing parachutist who seemed to have not seen the cliff.

The skiing down the Argentiere glacier was excellent.

This was to be the last of the good weather. We decided on a radical plan. Ditch the skis and head south to Provence for some rock climbing. Four hours after leaving Chamonix we were in Orpierre complaining about being too hot and smearing our selves in sun cream.
Orpierre is one of Europes key place s for rock climbing.

We booked into the Cean Hotel about 5 km outside Orpierre. The hotel is run by the brother of Luc Alphand the famous French ski racer. It is a good place to stay and even better it serves the family beer : Biere Alphand which we road tested and found to be excellent.

The next day it rained. Then some more. This was the start of the rain that caused flooding in the Chamonix area, plus big full depth avalanches which closed the Montenvers railway. We visited Sisteron and took a look around the Citadel. Well worth a visit.

The next day the weather was great and we climbed on the Quatre heures crag.
The desecent involved a free rappel
After the climbing we drove to Buis Les Baronnies. We found a hotel and went out for dinner in the bustling center of town.
On the Sunday we climbed the one of the classic routes of the area Les Trous on the impossing Saint Julien crag which dominates the local land scape.

On the Monday we decided to climb the new via ferrata which had recently been built. It boasts that it is one of the finest in France. Certainly it is well conceived and well built. Plus the views all around are spectacular.
Once we had finished it was back to the car for the drive back up to Geneva so that Peter could catch his flight home. I then drove back to Chamonix [where it was still raining.]