Category Archives: Ski Mountaineering

Four Weeks of Wildness

The weather has been wild for four weeks now, providing me with challenging route choices. I have been skiing hut to hut for most of this period, reserving and canceling huts to take us to what I hoped would be the ideal area. I’ve been twice back to the Italian Paradiso and across the Haute Route from Chamonix to Zermatt, enjoying the company of great clients.

The Wallace Bros booked me early this winter for an Haute Route, April 22-26. Little did I see that the year was for 2014. We exchanged emails, they made their payment, then I talked about fresh snow, psyched for our trip. They responded with 2014, Doh! I said. But they saw something and came this year anyway. That something is what I’ve been studying for some time now, and really appreciate it when I am with others who share that desire to discover that something. Coincidences, our choices, and most importantly, the constant discovery of our thoughts leading to the emotions we feel, is the trip I take every day with people pushing themselves to discover themselves and the world we live in. Atop a mountain couloir, preparing for the descent, or leaving the hut for another day with others, what thoughts do I have that determine how I feel at that moment? Am I in the present, aware of my every movement, or hurried by others packing their backpack for the day? It’s contagious, this feeling of being in the now…

We had 5 days of almost perfect blue bird conditions, five days, wedged between four weeks of wildness. The spring snow finally ripened into perfect corn on the 2nd and 3rd day, with a melt/freeze cycle that left 10 solid centimeters of frozen corn snow, slowly softening, from the east towards the south then onto the western aspects, the sun slowly rotating around the horizon, thawing that spring snow’s upper layer, crystal by crystal, providing the most loving and entertaining carve under foot as we joined Olivier, Seb and Jean-Phillipe on a supreme slide down the Pigne d’Arolla to the Cabane des Vignettes. The power and smiles radiating from each of my lovely friends feed my own feeling of elation as we rode together down these pristine slopes, no tracks in sight, the slope disappearing over the edge of the next slope leading to who knows where…

We slapped on skins to get back to the Vignettes Hut, then enjoyed yet another plate of rösti and beer under the smiling eyes of Karine et Jean-Michel. The hut has had a huge face lift, providing good comfort in the high mountains. The days are blending one into the next. The food was so fine at the Trient Hut. The granite was spectacular between Chamonix and Trient. Beatrice and Pierre are leaving the Dix Hut after more than a decade of service.

The years blend too… It’s been thirty years since I traveled parts of this fine Haute Route- Chamonix- Zermatt.

The weather is forecasted to move in again this week, adding more snow to the snow we have. I have a few days to plan more trips for this summer before heading back into these and the Bernese Alps mid-May. Pure Alpine Rock, US east coastal sail, Corsican rock, Mt.Blanc-Matterhorn-Eiger conquest, summer Haute Route, Cote d’Azure/Calanques sail and rock climb, and any trip that you may propose. And next winter trips to Gulmarg and Kangaamiut…

Let me know your ideas so we can share the present together…

Verbier Opens for skiing

Televerbier opened the lifts to Attelas yesterday, November 2. There were lots of skiers out and about. What a novelty to ski on packed snow! I opted instead for a wander up to Gentianes today. It was super warm with 4C at 2000m. I needed only a short sleeved shirt to get me above the Cabane de Mont Fort where the wind started to puff. The snow was humid even at 3000m on the steep, southern aspects. Have a look at the low res shots I took on the way up to get an idea of what conditions were like today.

The forecast calls for this foehn to stop tomorrow, then another moderate dump on this baked base. That could make things quite skiable!

The Mont Velan

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!

Balmhorn

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.