Monday, April 22, 2024

It's never as planned. A 35 degree temperature change overnight.

The mighy north face of Les Doites

David Brooksbank and I "re-teamed up."  The last time we had been together it was for an epic ascent of the Weisshorn.
This time we joined up it was to ski together.

We arrived  at Le Brevent lift station already to start with a ski tour in the Aiguille Rouge. David went to the ticket office to buy his lift ticket.  But the resort was closed...  Fundamentally they had decided that it was too hot.  Which meant there was a distinct possibility of  avalanche wet slides.  
So after a rethink we headed to Les Grands Montets.  From here climbed up over the col des Rachasses and then headed for the Seracs of Rognan glacier.  [Not the worst plan B.]
Col des Rachasses

We skied  across to  below the north face of the Doites and onto the Argentiere glacier and down it , eventually joining the lift system.  We even found some fresh tracks.

The next day, Sunday , we skied the Vallee Blanche.  As a result of it being so hot the previous day the snow had melted and then re frozen, making the first section an icy horrible rutted affair that had  little to do with anything resembling skiing.  Yet we survived and fortunately the snow improved.  We crossed below Mt Blanc du Tacul and put our skins on.  We then headed up to the Italain side of the Vallee Blanche. An area that where again the scenary never fails to dissapoint.

Dent du Géant

After a sandwich and a drink we skied down the Combe de la Vierge eventually crossing back into France and joing up with the normal descent route.

A crevasse ...

on the left north face of Tour Ronde on the right Mt Blanc.

David with the Geant Ice Fall.

We carried on down until the snow ran out- 

It had been blisteringly hot.  When we arrived in Chamonix it was 28 degrees C.  We walked into the awaiting bar for some rehydration therapy, somewhat fryed by the sun.

On the Tuesday the weather was no longer beautiful.  Plus there had been  no overnight freeze.                Le Brevent was partially open, so we used the lift system to gain some height before heading off up to the Col Cornu and into the Aguilles Rouge national park.  Yet it became apparent that the conditions were unfavourable to venture any further.  The consolation was a very good descent of the comb de Charlanon back into the lift system.  We then decamped to Les Grands Montets for the afternoon.

Wednesday.  Winter returned. The previous day it was nearly 30 degrees.  Then it dropped 35 degrees and snowed... 
We headed for the Grand St Bernard .

Inauspicious start.

David arriving at the hospice.

After about two hours of steady ascending we arrived at the Hospice.  There was an impressive amount of snow.  It came up to the covered-bridge that spans the two buildings.  [In summer huge tourist coaches can easily pass under it]

We continued on past the Hospice and continued to and on into Italy. [Our third country that morning]
4 m of snow?

Walking back to the magnificent hospice

Hotel Italia 

For comparison: Summer.

We climbed up to the Fenetre de Ferret, where we peeled off our skins and skied back the way we came on good soft snow.
Looking back to the Col du Gd St Bernard.

David making sweeping turns with our high point in the background.

We then headed back to the Hospice but not before encountering a bit of wind.

There is always something extra special arriving at Hospice in bad weather.  The feeling of sanctauary is complete when you open the big oak door and step in side to be greated by warmth and silence  - a feeling of complete safety.
The door of the Hospice.

After a good dinner and a good sleep, we awoke to see our bedroom window had been plastered with snow.  The temperature outside was -11c.  
After breakfast we ventured outside and set off to see if there was anything we could climb in these tricky conditions.

Although there apparently been over 30cm of snow overnight, it appeared to all have been blown away, clearly creating big wind slab avalanches somewhere.  Nevertheless I reasoned if we choose our route carefully and stayed of steep slopes we could achieve something.  This is what we did:  Firstly we skied down the Comb des Morts in fresh snow before stopping at its end and climbing up to the East col of the Barason valley.  The weather was in and out yet we still got to see something.

In addition we enjoyed good skiing all the way back to the car park and finishing an action packed week on staggeringly different fluctuations in temperature and conditions.

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