Spring 2011

Spring snow in the Bernese Oberland   15th April 2011

Mont Blanc de Cheilon    6th April 2011

Back to the Dix Hut with Rob and Ali, using the hut as a base for a 3 day tour, skiing over Mont Blanc de Cheilon and the Pigne d’Arolla, starting and finishing from Arolla.

High up above the glacier de Giètro, with the rocky peaks of la Ruinette, the Grand Combin and the Mont Blanc Massif appearing in the distance

Mont Blanc de Cheilon is the very striking craggy peak that dominates the view from the Dix Hut, and from this view you could well wonder how one might reach the top with a pair of skis… But round to the right, the west flank opens out as a glacier, permitting access to the winter/ski-tourers summit.

In the shade all morning and with nobody else about, it was a pleasant climb amidst spectacular surroundings, always with the massive wall of La Ruinette as a backdrop; a truely wild place to be.

Smiles all round!

Traversing the final glacier to the summit, again is straightforward enough but the sense of exposure and knowledge of the serac cliff that lies somewhere below us…make for an exciting time all round.

A short rocky scramble leads to the summit of the ski-tourers summit.

Time to enjoy a sandwich and the view looking west, and to prepare for the ski back down. The snow was still good despite the heat of the day that surrounded the mountain; the slopes stayed long enough in the shade to keep a hint of the powder that had fallen 2 days before.

It’s only when you look back that you can appreciate where you’ve been.

 Sunshine and showers on the Haute Route    2nd April 2011

A week of a mixed forecasted weather set the scene for the start of this Haute Route week, but with as much sunshine as there were to be showers on the horizon, reaching Zermatt by the end of the week still seemed a definate possibility!

A clear start to the morning from the Mont Fort Hut

Having decided against hiking the many hours in a whiteout to the Trient Refuge on the first day, it was a bit of an anticlimax to spend the afternoon taking the train through the rain to the Verbier ski area. However the next day all was clear again, as we set out from the Cabane du Mont Fort for the touring peak of the Rosablanche.

Looking on towards the Rosablanche, in the distance on the right

Enjoying the cool of the morning sun, it was a welcome a mellow start to our tour,journeying over 2 cols, with amazing views, no crowds and the promise of powder for the descent from the peak to the Prafleuri Hut.

The Grand Combin dominates the view on the first part of the dayA short scramble to the Rosablanche summit

The Rosablanche is mostly a glacier with small rocky peak as its summit. It was nice to take time to scramble to the top and see all the fine mountains of the western Alps all around. The ski down to the hut was lovely, lots of whoops from the team! The fresh snow was still light and powdery, and it was fun to get a long ski down to the hut.

An early start the next day took us through the descending gloom to reach the Cabane des Dix, more snow overnight with this time a clear start the following morning.

A cheery band of lights following down from the Col des Roux

The Pigne d’Arolla is the highest point on the tour and its great to climb another peak after all the cols which make up the journey. The tour now felt a little busier as we were amongst the several other teams all doing the Haute Route. Understandable when the journey is so well-known and popular, but yet there is still loads of space for everyone to share these mountains.

Touring past the striking backdrop of Mont Blanc de CheilonThe zigzags above the Col de la Serpentine

The Pigne d’Arolla is a peak designed for being skied! – glacier approachs on all sides and ski descents all the way back to the valley

The final ski down to the Vignettes Hut

Another early start for the final day to Zermatt, 3 cols to cross, one of which involves some booted climbing. A day where everything learnt on the tour so far is brought together, hopefully with enough energy to enjoy the final long ski descent back to Zermatt and at an hour not too late in the day…

Approaching the Col de l’EverqueLooking on towards the Dent d’Hérens and the route to Zermatt

Skiing down a series of glaciers, beneath the fine north wall of the Dent d’Hérens…

…and of course the west and north faces of the Matterhorn, the peak this ski-tour has been aiming to reach all week…

Not far to go now…!

Cheers go to Luke, John, Espen, Richard and Ric for making it a great week!

Andermatt   24th March 2011

Another week of off-piste skiing and touring which began at last with a blizzard! Based out of the small town of Andermatt in central Switzerland, a venue that has become a free-rider’s paradise; 1500m of uplift to the summit of the Gemsstock, with 10 times more in potential off-piste descents.

The view looking west from the Selabodli

The weather pattern of winter 2011 continued for us this week however. Having had our quota of fresh snow for day 1, each subsequent day was spent exploring further slopes on touring skins to reach untracked snow. Day after day of clear, fine weather gave us great views all around. For once Mont Blanc is no-where to be seen…but the eastern Bernese Oberland, and further a field Monte Rosa and the Mischabel helped us find our whereabouts in the Alps.

From the top of the Gemsstock, ski descents in all directions

Looking back at the Pizzo Centrale…

A fine ski down…

Lots of space to ski in……before the slope meets the main valley

It’s a long descent overall back to Hospental……to await the train back to Andermatt