Winter 2017

Ski-tour and mountaineering on the Eiskögele – 29th March 2017

As part of a ski-touring week based in the Ötztal valley of the Austrian Tirol we spent 3 days around the Langtaleck Hut at the end of the valley beyond Obergurgl. From this mountain hut base a number of day-tours are accessible that take in a variety of mountain terrain, good skiing opportunities and the odd peak to summit. For Andrea and James this was their first time staying in an alpine hut, which had been a really friendly environment with plenty of good food. The skiing was going to be interesting as there hadn’t been any new snow for over a week, yet with good timing for judging the spring snow and the discovery of powder still in existence high up the potential for fun skiing was always there.

Arriving at the hut after a 2 hour approach












Setting off on the middle day, ski-touring in a great location












Beyond the glacier takes us to our high point on the col












We enjoyed a fine and varied descent all the way down to the valley floor












Our next objective, the peak called the Eiskögele lies ahead, just below the sun












This time there was a little simple mountaineering to be done

To the right of the col the ridge continued to the summit of the mountain










Returning from the summit a short section of via ferrata brought us down past the cliff barrier to the welcome slopes below. A little tracked but still powder!

Great looking back at where we’d come from…



Aiguilles des Entrèves south face – 16th March 2017

This slope is a steeper way in to the Toule glacier along from Pt Helbronner. With a short ski tour around to the Col des Entrèves there is then a short section of mountaineering along the ridge to the point where access is gained to this big slope. Slightly steeper at the top with a few rocks to negotiate, but soon after the slope opens up with loads of space for turns and plenty of exposure!

A team below me on the ridge approaching the Col des Entrèves












Once past the rocks the slope looks quite appealing…












…its not too steep but feels really high up!


Vallée Blanche variant, the Combe de la Noire – 11th March 2017

A short ski-tour allows easy access to this fine slope on the right flank of the Vallée Blanche

Being a north-facing slope helps keep the snow soft

A great sense of space as we ski above the main Vallée Blanche below


Big snow in the trees and gullies at the Grands Montets – 8th March 2017

For 3 days this week a fantastic amount of snow arrived in the Mont Blanc Massif, plenty falling at lower altitudes. This did result in some huge avalanches around the area in the higher mountains, so it was great to make the most of the snow in between the trees and in the gullies leading down the lower flanks of the Grands Montets.

Olly going for it in Couloir Philippe











…and Alan

Heading down the couloir Plan Joran with Argentière down below


Grand St Bernard ski-tours – 27th February 2017

The hospice that nestles in the Grand St Bernard pass on the Swiss/Italian border operates as a welcome mountain hut accessible only by foot through the snow during the winter months. Ski-touring to and from this accommodation lends itself to some great winter mountain adventures, with numerous cols and the odd summit as possible objectives with hopefully some good skiing for the descent.

After a warm-up day skiing around Bruson (near Verbier) in a white-out and with the promise of new snow, our team set off for the Grand St Bernard pass for a 3-day ski-touring trip. Thanks to Chris Bedford for 2 of the photos.

In mid-winter the hospice looks to be in a very striking location amongst complex rocky peaks and cliffs. Our ski summit, Mt Fourchon, is the lower-looking snow peak on the right between the formidable Grandes Jorasses (far right) and the Pain de Sucre (centre).

Despite the rocky terrain all around the ski-touring in this area is often straight-forward and is ideal for those who are relatively new to the activity.

Expect an uphill ascent of up to 3 hours… but this does get you to some spectacular places, all achieved by your own efforts.


Mt Fourchon was our main summit on the second day, we left our skis below the final boot-up section to this rather small and exposed summit

For the descent always some interesting snow and situations..!

With the wind and the sun potentially playing havoc with the snow it was great to still find powder in some places, and spring snow here on this south-facing slope.

Great after all the uphill efforts to get many splendid turns in


Half-term holidays on Cairngorm! – 14th February 2017

An introduction to ski-touring was on the cards for a family of 5, using the Cairngorm mountains near Aviemore as a base. We were fortunate to have enough snow for our adventures and much sunshine but also unfortunately this was accompanied with high winds. Each day we were able to focus on touring skills and enjoy some off-piste skiing (with the help of the Cairngorm Mountain ski lifts). Highlights were reaching the summit of Cairngorm (twice so everyone could try it) with some incredible views and particularly high winds on the second visit, and also a fine off-piste ski descent of the Ciste Gully!

Approaching the summit of Cairngorm on the less windy day…

The view from Cairngorm looking south towards Ben Macdui and Cairn Toul

A little windier this time, with the whole family

Atmospheric skiing, happily reaching the pistes soon after

Fun for all the family!


Good timing with new snow on the Croix des Prélayes – 3rd February 2017

More snow arrived just in time for our final touring day of the week, which helped to make the approach slopes of this little peak much more enjoyable. A couple of hours of skinning lead to a ridge we needed to boot up and before long we were all at the summit. It was exciting to be the first to drop in to the slope on the other side, but the snow was good and this made an adventurous end to our ski-touring week around Vallorcine. Thanks to Cathy O’Dowd for the photographs.

The small summit of the Croix des Prélayes, surrounded my much space and only one real option for skiing.












Great timing with the sunshine arriving for this shot!


Col d’Annibal, beneath Mont Vélan – 1st February 2017

Peculiar winter conditions during the previous days meant that there was no snow to walk and ski on below a certain altitude, so it was helpful to be able to drive as high as possible to start our ski tours. With a recent snow fall followed by a sunny day we decided to head round to the road end at Bourg St Bernard in Switzerland with the goal being the Col d’Annibal. This was a good climb up to beneath the west face of Mont Vélan, with a promise of a good ski on the return.

The skinning was straight-forward to begin with, the views over towards the Mont Blanc appearing in the distance

Eventually the snow pack became too firm to make a skinning track so booting up the slope became the option























The steeper slope then opened out into the bowl below the complicated face of Mont Vélan with its many gullies and buttresses












Our high point at the Col d’Annibal, hard to imagine the great Roman general passing this way with all his elephants 2200 years ago!












A very enjoyable ski descent












Finding the best snow on the steeper approach slope












An interesting descent through a variety of terrain


Awesome snow and ambiance at the Col d’Emaney – 20th January 2017

Our team headed over the back of the Marécottes ski area to explore the Lac de Salanfe basin. Here lie the peaks of the Dents du Midi and the Tour Saliere, and further left again is the Col d’Emaney, our high point. Despite the strong winds of recent days the snow on these slopes seemed unaffected by the wind, indeed it was an amazing soft cushion for the skis after a week of variable snow.

Skinning up towards the sunshine and the col

Arriving at the col d’Emaney

Quite an exciting location for lunch!

Fantastic snow for the descent back down to the lake

Heading back over the frozen lac de Salanfe


Ski-touring above the refuge Loriaz – 16th January 2017

Good new snow and freezing cold temperatures had us seeking out the sun today. This was the first day of our touring week, so we headed up to the Refuge de Loriaz and then on up to the peak known as le Charmo.

Our starting point for the tour, above the village of le Buet

On and upwards through the forest…

… to reach the open alpage level

… and a welcome hut and a hot drink!

An atmospheric summit, surrounded by mountains and space

Great snow for fresh tracks

Not bad for the ski down!


Beyond the barrage d’Emosson – 29th December 2016

Not much new snow this week, so we made the most of the sun and the stable weather to explore on touring skis and escape the Christmas crowds. Fortunately the road up towards the Emosson dam was still mostly clear so we could drive up a fair way. The ski tour took us across the sweep of the dam and up behind the formidable Perrons ridge in search of good snow.

Easy access into the wilderness behind the first spire of the Perrons.

On route to the Col de la Terrasse


Early season skiing at Courmayeur – 15th December 2016

Sweeping down the slopes with the Freney face of Mont blanc catching the afternoon sun in the background

Much more shaded on this side of the valley but this makes for firm. soft snow for skiing