Courmayeur off-piste skiing – 8th March 2019
New snow in the back bowls – 5th March 2019
With the weather starting to become more and more unsettled, bringing in welcome new snow but also wind and at times, poor visibility, it was even more important to choose the right slopes to ski on, despite the great looking snow. With a little bit of touring we kept to this plan, and still found some great snow.
Grand St Bernard ski-touring – 3rd March 2019
Another popular destination for hut-based ski-touring, the accommodation at the Grand St Bernard Hospice is a good stopping-off point for ski-tours in the local Italian and Swiss Alps.
Our main summit day, ascending Mont Fourchon, being at the weekend was a tad busy, so it was great to find some of the slopes for the descent less busy. Fun to share the mountain with a couple of happy dogs though…!
… and still some good snow to be found on our north-facing slopes.
Wildstrubel summit ski-tour – 27th February 2019
The Wildstrubel area of the central Bernese Oberland in Switzerland makes for a good multi-day ski-touring venue earlier in the season. Starting and finishing in Kandersteg we were able to use the mountain hotel at the Gemmi Pass and the Lämmeren Hut to support our 4-day tour, taking in a number of the nearby peaks and cols.
With it being the second week of continuous fine sunny weather, the snow conditions were a little in doubt, but with a good eye for slope aspect and time of day, the skiing proved to be quite reasonable.
By the third day we were keen to try the Wildstrubel summit itself and with wall-to-wall sunshine we ascended the glacier summit in good time.
From the top you have a fine panorama of all the Valais Alps before you, and skiing from the main summit had good firm, compact snow at a great gradient for sweeping down your first turns of the day!
Further down the descent the snow was to become spring snow, which was still fun to ski, much better than its frozen state during our ascent.
The main dilemma of the afternoon was whether we should continue to skin up a second peak as the sun was really very warm by this point. The decision was quickly made and the team made a good ascent of the neighbouring Steghorn, though this still felt tough with the heat and tired legs. Yet from the summit we had a great view looking back at our morning’s journey on the Wildstrubel…
… and the descent, skiing on the softened snow, wasn’t too bad either!
Half-term week Vallée Blanche – 21st February 2019
A number of families of keen off-piste skiers had been brought together by the Ski Club for a week of fun and adventurous skiing around Chamonix. By the end of the week, on a good weather day, two teams, with 2 guides, skied the Vallée Blanche starting from the Italian side at the Helbronner and the Skyway lift.
The skiing at the top section was open, with good snow amongst the spectacular views. Further down the descent we were moguls skiing to the side of the Giant’s Icefall, the complex section of crevassed glacier, giving the team a good visual geography lesson.
Before the glacier ends there can be the opportunity to ski along narrow, filled-in melt-water channels in the ice (not crevasses!) which are like skiing an enclosed luge.
Much easier for the shorter skis, so some walking helps as well!
Schoolhouse Ridge – 11th February 2019
Setting off from the Glencoe village of Ballachulish, Schoolhouse Ridge is clearly seen. With a little exposure and a number of short rocky and steeper snow steps, this ridge takes you to one side of the Munro circuit of the Ballachulish Horseshoe, and today was certainly a fine day to try it.
The terrain was good for the team to use their axe and crampons, and then with height as the difficulties increased we roped up into two teams. With amazing views of Glencoe and the surrounding mountains and coastlines we had a very enjoyable time climbing the ridge.
Eventually the ridge joined the main mountain that would become Sgurr Dearg, a Munro, so we continued along the journey to reach this summit.
Returning back along the ridge of Being Bhan we were able to have a good view of the line of our ascent.
Central Gully in Coire an t-Sneachda – 10th February 2019
After a windy training day at the Ciste crag, this route was to be the first winter climb for one of the team, and the second for the other. Today was a fine day for the weather; clear, not too windy and a good cover of snow and ice on the cliffs in Coire an t-Sneachda.
Central Gully is a grade I climb with occasional short ice sections. It was in good conditions for the climbing and not too busy once we got started.
We climbed the route in a series of 5 pitches; it is one of the longest routes in the corrie.
Quite windy still at the top of the route, but a great winter climb and a fine winter’s day out in the Cairngorms.
Powder skiing above Arolla – 29th January 2019
Using a couple of drag-lifts at Arolla to make a good start on the height gain, we soon had some powder turns in the sunshine! A day to explore as much as possible by touring, though this involved breaking trail most of the way, but we were able to find plenty of slopes where nobody had been to yet with he new snow.
A busy Saturday on the Bel Oiseau – 19th January 2019
Above the Swiss village of Finhaut lie a number of spiky peaks and high cols, between which a number of ski-tours journey. The peak of the Bel Oiseau looks very striking from the valley and the col d’Oiseau is a popular objective, particularly at the weekend. However, with a little local knowledge a whole untouched slope lay waiting for us…
Ski-tour on Pointe Ronde – 18th January 2019
This is a fantastic ski journey when it comes in to condition, and when you all find yourself as one of the first on the mountain after new snow. Starting from the Col de Forclaz the journey follows a trail up through the forest to reach an alpage and from here you zigzag up the back slope to reach the open ridge which eventually arrives at the summit of the Pointe Ronde.
Once on the open ridge the views all around are amazing, looking across to Verbier and the Rhone valley. Many of the high mountains of the Valais are visible such as the Matterhorn and the Dent Blanche.
The team were skinning at a good pace and we reached the summit in just over 4 hours. Still a long time to be touring and it was good for folk to recover for a moment before setting off to enjoy the snow on the descent.
Lots of opportunity for fresh tracks on the upper slopes of the mountain and then through the larch trees to reach the alpage.
Fresh tracks at the Grands Montets – 15th January 2019
With a short ski-tour needed to reach the upper slopes of the Grands Montets, on this morning few folk had been up on the glacier. It was great to be one of the first teams down this usually popular run with lots of fresh tracks, and it was interesting to search out the journey lower down through the crevasses.
Fine views on a wintry day from the Cabane Loriaz – 14th January 2019
On the day after a big snow fall we headed up through the forest above Vallorcine to reach the upper slopes and the Cabane Loriaz. The snow was deep, and there was a fair bit of trail-breaking to do but eventually we got the views looking back across the valley. The refuge was very welcoming with its hot chocolate, tarte myrtille and friendly dog.
Vallée Blanche from Pt Helbronner – 1st January 2019
A great way to start the New Year! The team headed through the Mont Blanc tunnel to ascend by the Skyway lift system to reach Pt Helbronner, the Italian start to the Vallée Blanche.
Perched on the high crest of the Italian-French border there are great views all around from here from Mont Blanc to all the way east to the Matterhorn and Monte Rosa.
It was our aim for the day to combine the descent of the Vallée Blanche with some ski-touring, and this helped us travel around the bowl of the glacier to be more in the sunshine. It was fantastic being out in this environment, it wasn’t too busy and the views were amazing.
After cruising round the slopes of the Grand Rognon for many turns we eventually travelling through the the more complex section of the Salle à Manger, with the impressive Géant Icefall in the background.
Heading down the final section, here with the Grandes Jorasses and the Dent du Géant in view, we were going to find the snow conditions a little thinner… But despite the rocks and the moraine the team arrived in good style to reach the end of the descent.
First ski down the Vallée Blanche – 29th December 2018
The recent snowy weather has by now done a good job for this time of year at filling in the glaciers high up. Yet below a certain height the rain of a few days previous had done a bit of damage to the potential ski conditions. Even the Midi arete at the start of the Vallée Blanche was looking a bit thin..!
We went to have a look, finding the arete was not completely equipped, nor straight-forward, being more similar to its summer mountaineering condition. Yet once the skis were on the snow cover and quality were pretty good.
We decided to ski the Petit Envers descent of the Vallée Blanche, the snow was fairly compacted but still soft and the cover was good. We were able to head to the left of the Petit Rognon before heading down past the Requin Hut and the Salle à Manger.
Needless to say, the final section was a little icy and rocky but we were able to keep our skis on until just before the steps up to the Montenvers train..!
The Grands Montets by the ski-touring approach – 26th December 2018
Following a period of poor weather, snow in the mountains and rain in the valley the sun finally came out for everyone to enjoying the new snow on Christmas Day. The following day we headed up to explore the Grands Montets, which this winter season will be without both its telepherique lifts.
Skinning up from the top of the Herse or Bochard lifts still gives access to the upper slopes of the Grands Montets, now as a backcountry outing. It is different to having the ease of the lift but still within around 1-2 hours you can reach a point where you can ski.
Heading down the after all our efforts, with the Aiguille d’Argentiere in the background.
Winter Climbing in Coire an t-Sneachda – November 2018
The winter has arrived early at the end of 2018, affording three separate excursions into the Northern Corries on Cairngorm to go climbing and mountaineering. Conditions have been really quite snowy, with the buttresses being well covered.
A group of teenagers heading in towards the back of Coire an t-Sneachda.
To the left of the corrie is the crag known as the Mess of Potage where on one day we went in to climb route named Pot of Gold.
Pot of Gold takes a line directly above the climbers
Stepping out round the buttress to start the pitch.
On a second day we returned to climb Hidden Chimney Direct which first takes a corner on the right of the crag, before crossing easier ground to find the chimney itself.
Very snowy conditions made the chimney good fun to climb!
… and a great view looking back out of the corrie towards Loch Morlich and Aviemore.