Alpine Climbing & Skiing: Frost Guiding Blog

Ski Touring in Switzerland

~ Sunday 26th April 2009

Probably the best week of the year! Good weather and some of the best ski touring in Switzerland. Our planned Haute Route Impériale was sabotaged by Air Canada and missing bags. Instead we started from Arolla, did part of the Haute Route, and finished with the final 2 stages of the Tour du Ciel. There are more pictures here.

Day 1 we headed over the Pas de Chevre to the Dix hut for lunch, and then skied la Luette in the afternoon - some good snow, but had our first suspicions about the "ubiquitous crust" covering the alps...

Powder on la Luette

                         

                         

Next day we left the hut first by mistake - and had to break trail all the way up the Pigne d'Arolla with 40 people following us. We left the crowds at the summit and skied down the Brenay glacier, then over the Col des Portons and down to the Otemma glacier - fresh tracks all the way. There was a welcome refreshing breeze for the climb back to the Vignettes hut.

Using a rope for the steep entry

                            

                          

                        

                          Day 3 started in clouds, but with enough visibility to ski the steep Glacier de Vuibe descent below the Vignettes hut - and another battle with "ubiquitous crust" - before climbing up to the Bertol hut. 

Day 4 we climbed the Tete Blanche, then on to the Tete de Valpelline. We were the only team on top - after more trail breaking - and skied some good snow from the summit, with fresh tracks back to the col. Unfortunately the rest of the Stockji glacier was pretty awful! Well earned big beers at the Schonbiel hut with one of the best views in the alps!

Big beers and big smiles at the Schonbiel hut

                         

                               

                  

             On friday we headed down from Schonbiel, then up to the Col Durand - a big, steep climb through impressive scenery. Skiing the north side of the col is steep, but we found good snow, with more perfect powder (at last!) on the glacier below. Amazingly, in the space of 2 turns, the powder turned to spring snow which made for a very fast descent and a quick climb up to Grand Mountet hut in time for lunch. The hut had sold out of big beers, so after a quick small one we headed up to the foot of the Arete Blanche on the Zinal Rothorn - and another 600m descent of excellent spring snow.

 

Last day, and maybe the best. A steep climb on hard snow up to the shoulder of le Blanc de Moming. The summit is reached by a steep scramble, roped up and carrying skis. This is an incredible viewpoint, surrounded by 4000m peaks - Dent Blanche, Ober Gabelhorn, Zinal Rothorn and Weishorn. Skiing the north side is a 2000m descent in amazing scenery below the Weishorn and Zinal Rothorn. Knee deep powder at first, 2 crusty turns, then perfect spring snow right to the car park in Zinal!

Roped up fpr the final climb

 

 

Powder in April, north side of Blanc de Moming  

 

Dynafit Guide Skis - More!

~ Thursday 16th April 2009

 Well,  I've had a few weeks on these skis now. At first it was a bit of a shock - I've spent the rest of the winter skiing on 188cm Movement Thunders with Scarpa Spirit 4 boots, and the change back to a smaller ski and bendy Scarpa F3 took a while to get used to. 

The Dynafit info says they designed the ski to cope with "the daily needs of mountain guides" - which is a broad design brief! So far I've skied piste, powder and everything in between and they seem to cope well - all crashes definitely blamed on the skier not the ski. 

The first thing I noticed was going uphill - with relatively little sidecut compared to my old Movement Demons the ski goes in straight line when breaking trail, and gives better edge grip on hard snow. 

Although it is quite short - 178cm - the Guide ski is fairly stiff, especially in the tail. It has a "dual radius" sidecut - this means the radius is slightly tighter in the back third of the ski - ie behind the foot (are you reading this Alan?) The idea is to make faster short turns and it seems to work. Maybe it makes life harder in tricky snow, when accidental forward/backward weight movement  seems to have a dramatic effect. 

So overall I'm really happy - this is a fairly lightweight, fairly wide ski which still works well on hard icy snow.

The Dynafit Speedskin system works well - but no better than any other system really. The only advantage is that racers can remove the skin without removing the ski - this saves crucial seconds but means you don't get a rest at the top of the hill! A possible problem is when skiing short distances downhill with the skins on - the rubber front clip stretches and I've twice lost a skin. I'm also a bit concerned about the durability of the rubber whereas a normal Coltex metal clip lasts ages. And you can't use the skins on other skis. Other systems will fit Dynafit skis though.

The new Coltex non-sticky skin glue is great. It's odd stuff - it really doesn't feel sticky and even skin-savers won't stick to it. No problems though, hot or cold, and even after dropping a skin in the snow it re-stuck easily. 

Salewa Clothing

~ Thursday 16th April 2009

 salewa

 

 

                          For the last few weeks I've been skiing around in the Salewa "Mountain Guide Edition" clothing. This range is designed by Salewa with the help of the Austrian guides, and includes a shell jacket, softshell jacket, trousers and thermal top - and a head band for the full "euro look". Both jackets have factory glued IFMGA badges, and all the clothes have subtle "Mountain Guide Edition" labels. It's all based on existing "Alpin Xtrem" models though, so is a good guide to the rest of Salewa's gear. 

First impressions were good - well made gear, nice colours - (even "pineapple") and a very fast efficient service from the staff. Sizes seem small - I'm a Large in other makes, but an XL 52 fits well in Salewa, 

The "Clark" thermal is a neat fit - it's supposed to be, but I probably wouldn't wear it to the pub. Really comfy base layer though. 

The "Pleasure" jacket is a Paclite shell. It's amazingly lightweight, good pockets, hood fits over a helmet and is easily adjusted, and the jacket fits well even over a duvet. Excellent.

The "Elemento" softshell is a strange mix of softshell with Primaloft insulation front panels. Actually, this seems to work well - it's a neat fitting jacket which is surprisingly warm. It has good pockets plus a skipass pocket on the sleeve. 

The "Zeli" trousers are amazing. They're pretty complex, with a mix of materials, removable braces, gaiters, adjustable width lower legs, thigh vents and 3 pockets. The legs fit well over ski boots - a problem with some trousers. The impressive thing is that Salewa seem to have made trousers which cope with everything from sweaty south facing skinning to 80kph blizzard at 3800m. They are comfy, stretchy, lightweight but hardwearing. Excellent.

Last, the headband...well more of a "buff" really. I've never owned one before, but now seem to use it lots! Neckscarf, facemask, spare hat, even a headband. 

So, only good things to say about Salewa. Ski touring days involve a big range of conditions, and ski touring rucksacks are always too heavy, so lightweight gear that works is fantastic. 

 

Zermatt Ski Touring

~ Thursday 9th April 2009

A brilliant 2 days ski touring in Zermatt taking advantage of good weather and snow. There are more pictures here.

First, we climbed the Breithorn from Klein Matterhorn, reaching the summit above a sea of clouds. 

Near the Breithorn summit

              

                                                                     We skied off the top and down the Theodul glacier all the way to Zermatt - 2500m of descent.

 

Theodul glacier with the Breithorn above

 

                              

                                         Next day, we skied and skinned round to the Schwartztor glacier, and again found good snow and fresh tracks. 

Schwartztor glacier, Pollux above

Spot the skiers...Schwartztor glacier

 

Arolla-Zermatt

~ Monday 6th April 2009

 A mini Haute Route from Arolla to Zermatt at the weekend with a group of Finnish skiers. They flew in from Finland in Friday - minus boot bags which went to Copenhagen! Luckily the boots turned up early on Saturday and we set off to the Bertol hut. This is a long climb, especially if you've just arrived from sea level...and have chosen a Volkyl Katana/Marker Duke touring set-up. Not exactly lightweight.

Next day we climbed the Dents de Bertol and skied great powder, then headed over to Tete Blanche. The descent to Zermatt had some varied snow, but was very fast with three strong skiers. A great weekend! (more pictures here)

Heading to Bertol, Mont Collon behind

Skiing to Zermatt, Matterhorn behind 

Zermatt Off Piste

~ Friday 3rd April 2009

A good day yesterday in Zermatt despite the weather.  More cloud, wind and a surprising amount of fresh snow meant we turned back from the Breithorn, but had a good ski down the Theodul Glacier. This is really well filled in and in great condition at the moment. 

Weather on the Breithorn

The gorge below the Theodul glacier

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