Sunday, May 01, 2016

The Weather! Sounding like a stuck needle in a Vinyl Disc?

It started badly - I made the call to Chris. I said the weather forecast looked like anything to do with skiing was going to be a bad idea. Or at the very least hut to hut ski touring wasn't going to happen.
Yet after nearly 18 years of climbing and skiing with Chris I knew that he is a very determined character. He took the view that whatever we did on skis would be an adventure. [Definition of an adventure is arguably something where the outcome is uncertain] So on that note we carved out a plan day by day.

Now Chris may have climbed 6 of the "7 Summits" including Everest , but until Tuesday 26th April 2016 he hadn't climbed Punte Crocce in the teeth of an Italian storm. Nor had he enjoyed the early stages of hypothermia while eating a sandwich in a wind swept ruined Napoleonic Fort.

Day 2 . An equally bad forecast , but with some new snow , high winds and significant avalanche risk. There was a need to be creative. We took a chance and headed to Liddes in the Valais , more famous as an International Cow Fighting venue than as a skiing destination. [I kid you not.]
Liddes is a "ski resort." The sort of resort that when you phone them up to ask what time they open , their response is what time can you be there? Well on this occasion, when we arrived it had shut up shop for the season. We abandoned the car , stuck on our skins and set off up the hill. This proved to be an inspired choice - we skinned up through a wilderness and after a pretty strenuous 3 hours arrived on top of the extraordinary Tour Bavon2476 meters.

The descent was pure 'Oligarch skiing' [Derived from the fact that Russians allegedly hire the slopes of Courchevel for their private pathetic use]
The difference was we had to walk for our turns.

Then astonishingly we had a forecast with two consecutive days of good clear weather. A phenomena I'd not actually seen in the last month - although high winds were forecast high up in the mountains around Chamonix. Therefore we fixed our target on a ski ascent not in the Chamonix area; but on Mt Velan 3740m.
The approach to the hut is as beautiful as any I know. It follows alpages,streams and mellow terrain. Yet to be clear- We did have to walk for about an hour before we could put the skis on and skin up to the hut.

We were treated to a beautiful sunset:

Breakfast at 5.30am and Chris and I were away by 6.30am and headed up to the crux of the whole climb namely negotiating the chains that lead to the col Gouille 3150meters. [1st photo on the blog] On its other side it was necessary to crampon down a very steep slope which sometimes its better to rappel. Depending [as a Guide] on who you are with...
From where we put our skis back on we arrived at the summit in just over 4 hours.

The view from the summit towards Monte Rosa and the Matterhorn was particularly impressive:

We then skied off the summit on slopes which were seemingly designed for skiing , not too steep , just the perfect pitch turn after turn.

On the ski route back the ski route passes off the end of the glacier and you don't go via the hut. It gave a ski of 1450 vertical meters before we ran out of snow and then had to walk back to the car.

Day 5 Our final day together The weather forecast was for it to deteriorate at 12.00am big time. The solution was to get up early! We parked the car at the Col des Montets and skinned up to the Col d"Encrenaz. [All usable lifts had closed for the season}

So off we set at 6.45 am

After 3.30 hours and a height gain of nearly 1200meters we were at the the col. So far we were ahead of the forecast bad weather.

From the col all that remained was to ski wonderful untracked snow to Le Buet

Then when we got down- it rained. A good five days of skiing considering my pessimism at the beginning. Plus we didn't need to use one ski lift all week.

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