Sunday, November 26, 2023

My first ever November ski tour.


Gd St Bernard Monastery.

Its not even December yet and the snow is plentiful- above 1800 meters.  A short  weather window materialised and Harvey and I took the opportunity to visit the Gd St Bernard Monastery.

We drove  from Chamonix around to the parking at the now sadly defunct Super Grand St Bernard ski station and left the car at the road head.  I sort of assumed that in late November, we would be alone.  But this was wrong - I reckon there were over 70 cars already parked.

We put the skins on and headed up the snow covered road.  Instead of going directly to the Monastery we headed up a parallel valley, the Combe de Barasson and then up to the Swiss Italian border at the west col.

Despite the beautiful view we didn't hang around because there was a bitter wind.

Harvey at the col with Mt Blanc in the background.

We then skied back down to rejoin the main path at the entry into La Combe des Morts and then headed up to the Monastery. We arrived at about 3.30pm - at this time of year the days are short.

Despite all the cars at the car park, there were actually only 6 people staying the night.  Dinner was excellent and very socialble with interesting conversation.

The next morning dawned bright. I have been lucky enough to visit the Monastery may times over the last 25 years- but I have never seen it look better than this.

Looking out or the Monastery window 8.00am

But it was windy...At first I just assumed it was at the col, but I was wrong.  The wind proved to be quite challanging all day.

Harvey Sturgess on his 1st Alpine peak

We eventually managed to battle our way to the summit of Mt Fourchon where surprisingly  the wind seemed to be a little less strong.  

The ski down was fine.  Not great because the wind had compacted the snow but the snow cover was extraordinary.

Heading back up the road.

Monday, November 13, 2023

A suprising early start to the Skiing season. November 12.


La Flegere.

The weather had been shocking. Torrential rain, rivers bursting their banks, mud slides.  But above 1800meters it has snowed.  Not just a sprinkling that barely covers the rocks, but meters and meters of untracked white stuff. Not unsurprisingly the avalanche risk was high.  

These conditions are ideal for refreshing snow-science skills because there is lots to see and learn. Plus there is no better time to review avalanche transceiver protocols for the forth coming season.  Mind you the slight snag was that there was only one lift open- The gondola at La Flegere.  Once you were at the mid station it was a question of using skins because all the chair lifts were not open.

Harvey and I were not alone.  It was a Sunday and the first day in a while that had been half reasonable.

It was crazily busy as we walked up the main piste.  Nevertheless there was so much snow that there was plenty for everyone.  We found a quiet sheltered area and did some avalanche transciever training.  Then we dug a huge snow pit and looked at the different layers and made some asseessments of how stable the snow pack was.

Harvey Stugess 

The ski back down was wonderful and I didnt touch one rock - remarkable for November.