Vadim was back again to climb in these Alps and we decided to base ourselves in Grindelwald. What an exceptional valley for climbers! From the magically silent cliffs of Hintisberg and the Engelhorner, to the ice palace at the Jungfraujoch, and the wild jaunt ascending to the Mittellegi Hut, this valley has everything for the ambitious mountaineer (and hill walker and tourist!). We were hoping to climb the Schreckhorn, Monch, and Eiger, but of course the weather determined our program.
We started with a few climbs in the surrounding valleys, then worked our way up to the heights. Cow bells echoing off the high walls surrounding Hintisberg sounded the way towards the Eiger. The changeable weather then chased us to the Mediterranean Sea and a couple more limestone cliffs.
Have a look at the photos and let me know when you are coming! Autumn air is creeping into the weather, and it looks like climbing possibilities shall be with us for a good number of weeks still.
Frank and I climbed the Ruinette in perfect conditions. A full moon the evening before lit the Chanrion lakes as if it were broad daylight. The forecasted temperature at 4000 meters was just under 0 degrees, so it was not cold. In fact, the occasional moderate breeze from the East made the temperature perfect for this fine alpine ascent.
Located in the upper Val du Bagnes, La Ruinette is the broad peak visible from the road to Verbier from Le Chable. It’s a deliciously, varied climb of 1300 meters from Chanrion, starting with a nice hike to the Col de Lire Rose. With some delightful scrambling and a few fine moves on nice gneiss, one arrives on the upper snow field. Another couple hundred meters of elevation gets you onto the final summit ridge to the top.
La Ruinette is the perfect peak for someone looking for a fine day out with stunning views and no major obstacles. And so close to home!
We spent a few days smearing our way up a few of the famous Grimsel slabs. Located between Meiringen and the Grimsel Pass, this little valley of Haslital is well known for its plethora of technical, multipitch rock climbing. Though our technique was certainly improving after more than 30 pitches on these smooth slabs, my toes were killing me! This area is smack dab in the middle of other world class climbing areas such as Graue Wand and Winterstock above the Furka pass, the Salbit valley below Andermatt, and the Englhorner range above Meiringen.
These climbs are part of the multipitch rock climbing trips I organize. Have a look at some of the places we can visit together.
Andy and I climbed the Terrasse a Choucas above La Fouly yesterday. The heat has finally arrived in these Alps for the first time this “summer”, making this north facing, rock climbing route at 2000 meters, an ideal choice. Olivier and Andrea Roduit, Charlie Fellay and Jean-Yves Michelod put this route up a few years ago in the Val Ferret. The climbing is varied, with the more difficult moves on slab/friction. 10 rappels gets one quickly back down to the base and into La Fouly for cold beer.
The forecast calls for sunny days with afternoon thunder showers probable for the next 5 days. The high peaks are still in great shape for ski mountaineering, and as the snows from last week’s fall quickly melt, the pure rock routes will quickly come into shape.
Variable weather had me wondering where we would end-up for our Haute Route. As it worked out, the fluctuating cumulus clouds lead us to heavenly climbs and descents. This kept the crowds at bay most days, leaving us tranquil in the huts. 80cm of fresh snow was deposited as we started, giving us fabulous runs to the valley floors. The climb over the Pigne d’Arolla was done under perfect blue skies. Wednesday, we skied cool powder then corn to Arolla, then skinned up to the Bertol Hut. The clouds were thick at times, cooling us for the climbs, but breaking enough to let us enjoy the downhill runs. The preparation for the PDG was apparent in bit and pieces. The Swiss Army was setting up the high altitude posts for this prestigious race. Download the App to follow your favorite team. Jamie and his two friends, Bill and Andrew, made for super companions for this Alpine traverse. Thanks so much you guys!
(Update: Dec.11) Jamie has produced some mind blowing prints of his shots.
And I have this great urge to thank my sponsors for everything they have done for me these past few years. Mammut has been with me since I started selling their gear in my shop 15 years ago! Their colection has exploded into a vast array of Gor, polypro and wool. Handling a Mammut rope is a climber’s dream.
My first pair of skis were K2, and I still get super excited to feel the wind in this team’s sails, year after year. The energy I get from each turn of these skis, makes me convinced I am flying, not skiing, trough these fabulous Alps.
Scarpa has pushed the limits for so many years with their telmark and randonnée gear. The idea of putting baffels into a plastic boot, completely made it for me. The lightness one has, moving up and down through these hills, is a feeling not attainable by any other boot. I often forget to take my F1′s off at the end of the day becaues they feel like a pair of runnng shoes.
Thank you so much, you happy skiers who skied with me, for a wonderful winter season. Here comes sumer time!!! (And just a few more Alpine ski decsents…)
A classic, and apparently quite “a la mode” now, the Mont Velan makes a great day (or two) of ski mountaineering. We climbed a SW facing couloir from the col d’Hannibal to reach the summit. Then skied a sweet couloir into Italy. 2200 meters of skinning and cramponing made it a full day in these hills. I’m looking forward to more days like this, this spring. Come join the fun!
Searching for a big face on a large mountain, we found the Balmhorn, smack dab in the middle of the Bern-Valais border I love to ski. Though I wanted to ski more spring snow, we decided to go here because of the strong Foehn forecasted. Spring snow would probably remain frozen all day (it was), but powder at altitude is still good. I’ve wanted to ski this face for years, so it was a blast for me to finally get on it! On the map, it looks steep, rolling off the flat summit towards the elbow of the Schwarzgeltscher. It’s a good long climb of 1800 meters from Spittelmatte, and good steep skiing on a north face. This climb can be a bit technical, requiring some crampon use on the upper glacier, and ski crampons, after the freeze/thaw cycles in spring. We got to use all of our cool alpine gear, making it a proper alpine, ski mountaineering summit, in a day. And the ski descent was superb!
April snows will certainly add the alpine snowpack, creating great conditions for alpine ski ascents like these this Spring. We will climb some of these peaks in a day, and others over two days. People should be able to skin for 4-6 hours and be comfortable skiing down steep slopes. Send me a note if you would like to join in fun. Prices will start at around SFr.170.00. Details can be found on the new page I have created for Alpine Ski Mountaineering.
Winter bloomed into Spring this week as I prepared for another five day heliski safari. Though in the past, I’ve traveled far and wide looking for adventure, this week I chose to stay close to home. We flip flopped between Switzerland, Italy and France, riding lifts, helicopters and skinning to get to mature, spring snow. We started with a traverse across the head of our very own Val du Bagnes, from the summit of the Pigne d’Arolla, down the Otemma Glacier, then skinning up through the Fenêtre de Durand. The ski down on the Italian side was a trip to the Moon- it was so wind blasted. But with a supreme descent into the belly of Val d’Isere, back to the back-side of the Mont Blanc, then down the 8km long Tré La Tête glacier to Contamines, with a savage return to Bagnes, even *my* head was spinning. I’ve tried to whittle the photos down to a manageable number, but failed miserably. I hope they demonstrate that sense of adventure we all experienced, right here in my back yard.
I’m kinda at a loss for words at this point. The days are blending into a (very) cold smoothy, filled with wild fruit and adventures. Skiing off piste with Chris these past two days heightened my being on these slopes, who chose on day one to ski from Bruson, all the way to the Val Ferret, then through herds of Ibex and Chamois on day two. I’m glad I took these photos to share with us and keep these mind’s images alive…
The Avi danger is down to level 2. There really are no bad layers in the snow pack to speak of. The warm ground is our only concern now. These creep and glide avalanches can go at any time of the day and night. And since the whole snow pack slides, it is very impressionable. Swiss Meteo is forecasting temperatures to drop even more by Saturday. Expect temperatures to go below -25 @ 3000 meters with NE winds blowing at 55km/hr. Get those mittens ready!
After 30 days of non-stop skiing, I’m given the chance to reflect on all the wondrous adventures we’ve had together. Verbier has been blessed with the most memorable skiing in many,many years. Every run was in such great shape, alpine and treeline. I very nearly never left the valley. I wandered the ridges and combes, above and below tree line in search of good light and deep snow. Storm after storm hit us, driving us back into the light of the forest.
The most memorable was just last Tuesday, when Fi and I skinned up the Rosablanche and off the back. We skied down virgin couloirs filled with boot-top fluff, the 2.5 meters of accumulated snow, now compacted into the softest blanket of easy powder. We toured up another glacier, through another high pass, and skied down the most magnificent decent into the Bagnes valley in perfect conditions.
It has been blue-bird since that day. It’s cold, but the sun is intense. The wind has blasted the high peaks, revealing ice and rock. But the skiing is still stellar.
Meteo Blue is forecasting 5mm each day from Thursday through Saturday evening. We could get a fresh dusting to soften things up by the time I am back on my feet!