Thursday, March 16, 2017

Sun Sets & Sun Rises . Ski Touring at its very best.

David & Antonia Francis joined me for five days ski touring. Prior to our meeting the snow conditions had been very unstable with lots of avalanche activity. I was keen to choose a very safe but interesting day trip to start our week off. Saturday 11th. David& Antonia drove from their house in Basel and I drove over the Col de Forclaz and we met up just above Martigny to climb the Arpille. The weather was perfect and so were the views.
Sunday 12th. The weather wasn't quite as good as the previous day , but it was still far from bad. We headed round to Beaufortain region which we accessed from Les Contamines ski area. As soon as we left the ski area we had the place to ourselves. We skinned up above the lac de la Girotte before enjoying a very long run down to Hauteluce
Monday 13th. After our two day tours it was now time to go on our long awaited multi day trip. The good weather had settled the snow and so the avalanche risk had diminished. The weather forecast was perfect. We drove from Chamonix to Crans- Montana. Parked the car a the foot of the Violettes cable car. Twenty minutes later we were looking across the vast Plaine des Morte glacier towards the Wildstrubel 3244m which would be tomorrows goal. Today's goal was to arrive at the Wildstrubel Hut. This meant passing over the Wisshore 2947m which is a very sinister place...
For a supposedly neutral country it has a lot of secret installations which rumour has it our rented to Donald Trumps country.
From there it was a short ski down to the wonderful Wildstrubel Hutte 2789m. We were the only guests.
Tuesday 14th. This was to be a big day. Made bigger by the fact that the planned next Hut , the Lammeren Hut, was full and so we had to go onto the Schwarenbach Hotel. It was minus 6 and quite windy as we left the Wildstrubel Hut. It was necessary to retrace our steps to the summit of the "Secret" mountain. As we climbed up we were treated to an exceptional sunrise over the Wildhorn.
We then traversed the vast flat Plaine des Morte Glacier before starting the long climb to the summit of the Wildstrubel.
Four hours from setting off we were on the summit. It was on the summit that we met the first other group of the day: Mike Turner a fellow British Mountain Guide had climbed up from the other side and we met on the top. The ascent had been quite icy and in places had been quite thought provoking, yet on the descent we had very good skiing and several memorable pitches. We skied on down below the Lammeren Hut and then polled across the Daubensee Lake on the cross country track before going over the slight rise of the Gemmi Pass and skiing down to the delightful Schwarenbach Hotel and a well earned beer. I was very pleased the Lameren Hut had been full otherwise I might never have discovered this place . If its a choice between a hut or a beautiful mountain hotel its a no brainer. Wednesday 15th. We left the hotel at 7.30am and skinned up the very steep slope to the Schwarxgratti pass 2383m
Once at the col we could see the route down. In the distance we saw three skiers coming down from the Steghorn pass. It was again Mike Turner and his two clients . They were the only people we would see all day.
Before we could enter the bowl we had the issue of getting over the ridge which was quite dramatic:
Once we were on the north facing slopes we had some very good skiing
Followed by some not so good skiing over some troublesome avalanche debris
Then further down it got even more interesting as the snow cover became thinner and thinner, yet still we managed to ski to within five minutes of the bus which arrived about a minute later and took us to Kandersteg railway station. Here ended a quite magnificent ski tour.

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