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~ Sunday 9th June 2013

 It's been a strange start to the season. Officially summer, but the Furka, Susten and several other passes remain closed by deep snow. Ski conditions are still good, with snow down to 2000m on north facing descents. Luckily the Gotthard Pass was open, the weather turned out to be perfect, and we found excellent conditions all week, although snow shoes were essential!

We were based at the slightly surreal Swiss military facility in Andermatt, training a group from the UAE Armed forces in preparation for their mountaineering plans (or maybe a planned invasion of Switzerland? Or future-proofing against a radical reversal of climate change?) The Adventure Training in the UAE military is run by keen mountaineers who have put a huge effort into organising an ambitious programme for the future, and inspiring a team of people more used to dealing with 50 degrees temperatures in the desert. 

Some of the guys had never seen snow before, but there was plenty at the Gotthard pass!

Plenty of snow at the Gotthard pass

Glacier ropework training

Snow shoeing is fun!

Building snow anchors

Building snow anchors

Jumaring practice

Apparently "juma" means Friday in Arabic and is also a popular man's name. This caused some confusion. 

At the end of the week we put all the training into practice and snow shoed up the Sustenhorn with an overnight at the Tierbergli hut. The guardian here deserves a mention - great food and a warm welcome. It's early days in the "hut meal of the season" competition but the bar has already been set high!

Funding cuts mean the Swiss army uses cardboard tanks

Funding cuts have affected the Swiss army. 

Mountain etiquette - stepping out of the track to let others pass.

The glacier approach to the Tierbergli hut, with a very snowy Wendenstock in the background. 

Single-file snow-shoeing up the glacier. Perfect for route finding  pointing out all the typical mountain features and hasards and discussing route choice in complex terrain. 

The beautiful and welcoming Tierbergli hut

Evening sun outside the beautiful and welcoming Tierbergli hut, our base for the ascent of the Sustenhorn

Sunset over the Apfelstrudelhorn

Reaching the summit of the Sustenhorn

A skier sets off for 1500m of spring snow. Bet he wishes he had snow shoes...

Cruising some big turns down perfect wide slopes of spring snow...