Monday, May 01, 2023

April ski touring .

April is considered a good time to embark on high mountain hut to hut tours.  The idea of disappearing into the mountains and staying in them for several days, is for many people the major delight of ski-mountaineering.

Indeed as Mountain Guides this is one of the trips we are in the most demand for.
Yet for everything to align and make this possible is also one of the biggest headaches Guide's can face.
For example planning a trip which takes in a Friday and or Saturday night is fraught because the Huts are inevitably fully booked.  What's more, many of the Huts now demand a deposit when making the booking.  There is little flexibility in case of bad weather especially if you are a big group.
But it is what it is , and here is an example of how Bill, Greg and I "extruded" five days skiing out of what was a rather mixed forecast.

Our plan was to head to the Bernese Oberland.  As Mike Tyson is credited with saying most of his opponents had a fight plan until they were hit in the face.  Our first punch was the avalanche forecast.  

Just where we wanted to go was about as dangerous as it could be: Catergory 4/5.Red   Instead we delayed a day and went skiing at Les Grands Montets and climbed over onto the Argentiere glacier and headed up to the Aiguille du Grand Montets-what was five years ago a functioning cable car station. It was a wonderful day.

Argentiere Glacier

At this time of year, fortunately the conditions stabilise quickly and so we headed to the Oberland.  We drove to Visp and left the car in the station car park.  We then took  a series of trains to Grindlewald.
Visp railway station

At Grindlewald we bought a sweet for 95chf and got a free ticket to the top of the Jungfraujoch.  

Exspensive Sweety

The journey used to be by the most expensive train ride in the world.  Now part of it is by the most expensive cable car in the world- which takes you in front of the North Face of the Eiger.   The Swiss work the senses so thoroughly that you barely notice the efficiency with which they are simultaneously working your wallet.
Despite spending nearly a 100 million CHF on this new cable car- its not actually possible to take a photo of the face without it being blocked out by the cables of the opposite cable car.

North Face of the Eiger.

Once at the top we followed the labaryth of tunnels which lead to the glacier.

It takes just less than an hour to get to the Monchjoch Hut.  This is now a much better place to stay since the previous Hut Keeper was moved on.  He was a world class git like no other.
Even better the new team have special " Mountain Guide Beer" for a late afternoon aperitif .

The next morning we were up at about 6.00hrs and were greeted by a beautiful sunrise.
Sun rise from the Monchjoch Hut window.

Our goal for the day was to traverse to the Hollandiahutte via the Louwitor col. We left the Monchjoch Hut at about 7.15 and skied back towards the Jungfraujoch before turning right, skiing down somemore , before skirting around the base of the Jungfrau and heading upwards.
The Jungfrau with the Spinx in the foreground.

Bill & Greg heading up with the south face of the Monch in the background.

We arrived at the col Louwitor 3658m and then decided to climb the peak slightly above it called the Louwihorn 3778m.  The only issue was there was a bit of mist swerling about which limited the views.
Nevertheless as we made the long descent of the Kranzberg glacier we soon dropped back below the clouds and enjoyed satisfactory views.  
The ski down was fine, not great because the cold wind had not allowed the snow to soften up.  
We stopped at the junction of the Grosser Aletschorn glacier for a sandwich  and to stick our skins on again for the climb up to the Hollandiahutte 3245m.
Its just possible to see the Hollandiahutte sticking out of the side of the ridge on the right.

The Hollandiahutte is siutated in a wonderful position and the welcome was warm from the new team who had only this season taken on the franchise.  Beer was good, food was good.

The only water has to be melted from snow.

The problem the next day that the weather was no longer good.  Inevitably we had to consider our options... Initially we had a forecast with one bad day, followed by a good day.  This was followed by a new forecast which suggested we had a couple of bad days.  Therefore the descision was made to bail.  

We skied down the long valley to Fafleralp.  The snow was difficult and the visibility was unhelpful.  Despite, this we made good time and avoided any drama.  From Fafleralp we found enough snow to wiggle our way down to the large village of Blatten.

Conviently the Post Bus was waiting for us.

It was just a short train ride back to Visp, from where we drove back to Chamonix.
The weather the next day in Chamonix was slightly better than forcast and so we headed up the Aiguille du Midi.  It was slow to open because of the fresh snow.  There were ominously few people in the cable car with skis.  Yet when we got to the top there was just enough visibility to give it a go.  We found knee deep fluffy powder and we had the place to ourselves.

Bill Millsbelow the Salle Mangér Vallée Blanche.

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