Alpine Climbing & Skiing: Frost Guiding Blog

Grimentz and Zinal

~ Wednesday 30th January 2013

 Once the undiscovered secret of the Swiss Valais, Grimentz and Zinal are now firmly on the ski map. Make no mistake, the secret is out...After spending the last 3 days there dealing with the inevitable huge queues, lack of parking and old, slow lifts I'm wondering why it's so popular. To make matters worse the weather was awful and the snow terrible. They still don't piste properly either, leaving lots of deep soft snow everywhere which is really hard to ski. Grimentz? Don't bother. Go to Verbier instead. Here are some pictures to give an idea of how bad it was (*)

Happy skier in Zinal

Happy skier in Zinal?

5 minute skin from the lifts...

A 5 minute skin leads...

...leads to this!

...to this!

and this...

and this!

and this!

And this!

And this!

Straight off the lifts!

But this is straight from the lifts. 

(*) not to be taken too seriously. 

Serre de Vuibé Couloir

~ Friday 25th January 2013

 I've looked at this couloir for years, many times from below and once from the top before having second thoughts...Today at last, conditions, free time and a friend to ski with all coincided. It's an amazing line, around 900m vertical metres of gully with the start at a "good" 45 degrees, and a bit of a surprise when we found an unskiable rock step 100m down needing a short abseil! 

Thanks to Hannah for the skiing, company and the photos. 

Skinning up the glacier de Pieces

Steep start

In the gully

Rosablanche

~ Thursday 24th January 2013

Nuits Blanches on Tuesday,  Rosablanche on Wednesday! Verbier was pleasantly deserted, and we were the only team heading over the Col de la Chaux. We saw a couple of others after that but pretty much had the Rosablanche to ourselves - there were 7 tracks on the glacier from early-morning heliskiers!

It's a long ski down from the top, and with a series of lifts to catch to make it back over from Siviez to Verbier we had to get a move on, but we made it with a good 15 minutes to spare. Phew. 

 

Nuits Blanches

~ Tuesday 22nd January 2013

According to a local expert Nuits Blanches is always "in", so we went for a look. He's not wrong, it's there, but very different from last time. The reservoir purge has left a big brown streak down the top pitch, and it hasn't been climbed much so there are very few hooks and steps. And 2 definite roofs on the top pitch! All quite challenging. 

View across to the Shiva/Grand Bleu wall. 

Abbing in, hoping you can climb out again!

Abbing in, hoping we can climb out again!

Long view down the top pitch, guaranteed atmosphere!

Grappling with the roof at the top, trying not to add to the brown streaks...

 

Val di Rhems

~ Tuesday 22nd January 2013

 This is the valley parallel to Valsavarenche, and is similarly steep-sided and shady in winter - perfect for ice. Hidden away at the end of the valley are the 2 classics Entrelor and Sogno Realisticco. 

Cogne Ice Climbing

~ Friday 18th January 2013

 Just back from 2 days ice climbing in Cogne. Plenty to do there but with lots of places in the Alps being a bit short of ice, it's quite busy in Cogne. We climbed a very wet and cold Patri left-hand. -15 in the carpark but still pouring water on the steep pitch. Then today a dry and not quite so cold Sentinel Ice. Oops, no it was actually Stella Artice. Sentinel Ice isn't there at all! (Both have "ice" in the name and start with "s"...)

BMG Cascade Training day

~ Tuesday 15th January 2013

 Pictures here from the BMG Cascade Training day held in Arolla on Sunday. Perfect weather and good ice meant we made an enjoyable ascent of the tunnel left-hand route, ideal ground for looking at the various issues of guiding on multi-pitch ice.

Protecting the belay with an early screw

Ice and blue skies - alpine cascades!

After lunch we went to the "ice boulder" at the Hotel de la Tsa. This was something of a change of atmosphere with a full-on paint-ball battle going on on the other side of the boulder - an unusual objective hazard! Still, top-roping and "bouldering" here is great for technique training and trying technical ice, as long as you keep your head down when topping out. 

Pic Artsinol Ski Touring

~ Friday 11th January 2013

 This is a great short tour off the lifts in Evolene. Sadly the views were hidden in the clouds but we still had a good ski down - 1600m vertical to Evolene. 

Mike skinning up.

More ice...

~ Thursday 10th January 2013

 ...and if you're prepared to walk a bit the Cascade des Ignes is excellent. We snow-shoed up and climbed the ice, then decided to continue up the snow above the ice pitches instead of abseiling. After a bit of a slog round the top of the cliff, wishing we'd carried the snowshoes up the route, we got some quality bum-sliding back down the classic ski route. 

 Dachstein mitts and Nomics? 

 

Ice Climbing

~ Thursday 10th January 2013

 It's been very warm over Christmas and a lot of the ice has fallen down, but there's still stuff to climb...

Alpiniski Marecottes

~ Thursday 10th January 2013

 We had a great day out in les Marecottes checking out the course for the upcoming Alpiniski world cup ski race. For anyone who thinks ski racing is all about sprinting up hill, this course has some proper downhill too! After the long boot up the la Golette gully...

the course climb steeply halfway up the Point des Perrons...

before a great ski down to the dam.

Skins back on for the climb back to la Golette, with a quick boot past the arsenic mine (!) Skiing down la Golette is steep and the descent carries on with technical skiing under the lift line before a final boot and steep descent to the finish. Great as a day tour, pretty tough as a race. 

 

Christmas Skiing Summary

~ Wednesday 2nd January 2013

 Santa brought lots of snow for Christmas, but also lots of wind, cloud, avalanches and warm temperatures. Challenging conditions!

Excellent powder at Arolla

Untracked to the valley!

Look closely and you can see the snowboarder crawling from the avalanche debris. Cat 3 day, steep lee slope, jumping off the cornice...

To complicate things further it's been quite busy with record ticket sales at Verbier and more people in Nax than I've ever seen there before - the new lifts have made a big difference with chairs replacing the old drags. The refurbished Bendola lift at Grimentz (still no seats though!) broke down first thing in the morning causing a frantic drive around the Val d'Anniviers in search of a working lift with no queue - St Luc came up trumps with excellent skiing. 

13 year-old cruising big turns in the Orzival bowl!

Today the sun came out for our tour to the Col des Ignes. With great snowcover right to Evolene someone suggested skinning from the house...which is a long way. Worth it though. Great views and the best snow of the winter (so far) 

 

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