Early Winter Steep Skiing

After weeks of beautiful autumn weather, interspersed with periods of heavy precipitation from the south, the main alpine ridge splitting these Alps from the Italian south side to the Swiss north side, has a snow pack that has matured into a seemingly end-of-the-winter stable snow pack. Gilles and I had a look at Hannibal’s Couloir on the Mont Velan, and found it to be in perfect condition! And this is one of those typical late spring itineraries too. It was steepish, firm, chalkey snow in the SW couloir, then primo powder on the lower moraines back to the car.

Snow: Skiing: What is it that attracts us to this idea, this lifestyle, this culture of skiing? I do love winter so. Why is that? The excitement of what is to come? Snow? It changes, therefore is always different, leading to the unexpected. It’s really never the same. It’s so incredibly playful.  You never know what you’re going to get. Full of surprises. Always wonderful in bright light, completely blind in a white out. Now that’s uncomfortable!

It’s a funny start to the winter. But then again, I guess they all are. At any rate, the more season starts I do, the more I realise every season start is “funny” (interesting- tantalising- refreshing- new- unpredictable) and for me, it’s the skiing over this 3D surface, which truly keeps life interesting. It’s like flying, yet so much more, because one is constantly refreshing Earth’s contact with each turn. One is re-checking-in with each turn and with the weightlessness between turns. It’s this perpetual touch and go with the ground, requiring continuous monitoring of one’s place on Earth, coupled with the knowledge that I could blow it at any moment and fall into the pillow I’m floating on, that keeps me young.

You? (comment below the photos?)

End of Indian Summer – Early Winter – Avalanche Awareness

Our indian summer is coming to an end. A deep depression moved over us yesterday, starting with strong Foehn winds of over 200km/hr., then depositing 27cm of fresh snow here in Verbier last night. What a change, and it looks like winter is on its way. Yabba Dabba Doo!

We profited with this last blast to hike into our Val de Bagnes with Cherries and Stephan. These two have been getting close to mother nature for years from their base here in Verbier. Stephan is a professional mountain guide and Cherries a professional accompagnatrice de montagne. Going out hiking with her is a while new experience. She stripped the bark off a tiny root for me to eat, which provided an amazing amount of flavour and water. Picking tiny leaves and flowers, she was a wealth of information on so may aspects of our environment. It was overwhelming. They have started taking people far and wide, to not only hike and climb, but discover the wonders of nature. Their latest, the Selvaggio Blu on the Mediterranean island of Sardinia, looks like one of the most dramatic hikes around. Send them a note to get on next year’s wonderful trip in the spring.

I will again offer a series of avalanche courses starting in late November and early December. Have a look at the avalanche awareness page for some preliminary dates that may work for you. It’s real fun, hands on stuff, that helps you understand how the snow pack develops over the winter and what to look out for. Hope to see you soon in the snow!

Autumn Rock Climbs

After a cool and wet summer, we have been experiencing a wonderfully warm and dry autumn. Temperatures have been very mild, making for fabulous rock climbing on warm rock. One still needs to carefully choose the aspect since climbing in the shade means cool fingers and dramatically lower temperatures. Add to that, a wee bit of air movement, and one wants that light puffy jacket.

You’d think that all these wonderful colours and low light would inspire me to take a half decent camera. But I have settled for the iPhone and a touch of Lightroom filters to bring out what I saw on these climbs. Whether sharing new experiences with clients, friends, or family, in the mountains or on the water, fine autumn weather is magic. Don’t you think?

Intro to Alpinisme in September

Come join us for an Introduction to Alpinisme and take advantage of the perfect conditions this September. Summer has been cold and wet and the forecast for September is perfect. We will climb a fun peak, using crampons, roped together, on snow and rock. The first course, this weekend, September 6-7, is Sfr.490.00/person.

I have just finished an intro to alpinism in Zermatt and Saas, climbing some of the 4000 meter peaks in the valleys. Conditions are excellent now after many days of fine weather. Working with Jonathon of Alpine Ascents International proved to be very entertaining. Lots of enthusiasm was found all around as we romped from valley floor to mountain peak, moving from comfy hut to comfy hut, and even finding time for a Via Ferrata. Using the lifts scattered around these valleys helped our return to the valley floor, saving our knees for more fun days ahead.