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Alpine Climbing & Skiing: Frost Guiding Blog

Summer!

~ Wednesday 29th May 2013

 ...or not. It was summer yesterday, but this morning things all look a bit different. Yes, that's the snowplough. 

Mountain Biking Evolene

~ Tuesday 28th May 2013

 It stopped raining or snowing the other day - just long enough to go out on the bike. The Raid Evolenard is coming up soon and the route is (just about) clear of snow. 

 

A swivel-eyed loon in Evolene

Midi (in)Action

~ Thursday 16th May 2013

 Another trip up the Aiguille du Midi...Plan A was to climb the Cosmiques Arete but, with a strong and acclimatised team, I decided to start up the Arete a Laurence below the Cosmiques hut. Plastered in snow, this is a nice warm-up and gave us a great and quiet climb up to a coffee stop in the hut. 

Thinking I'd been clever by leaving time for the inevitable Cosmiques abseil bottleneck to clear I was a little surprised to find the team we'd followed out of the lift 2 hours earlier still trying to rig their ropes...surprise turned to disbelief after watching for an hour...and finally to a resigned U-turn and retreat for us. Good luck to the rest of you...did you make the last lift? 

Vallée Blanche Touring

~ Friday 10th May 2013

 Pictures here from a couple of trips to the Midi in Chamonix. Other ski areas are all closed or closing now, but the Midi still has great skiing. The bottom of the Vallée Blanche is getting wetter and rockier by the day but we still skied right to the stairs up to the little lift on Thursday. Up high it's peak season for steep skiers - teams on the Midi North face, Tour Ronde north face, normal and Gervasutti couloir plus lots of other stuff. There seems to be a lively British steep scene in Chamonix

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We've had 2 good trips, once touring over to Hellbronner and down the right bank Vallée "Noire" with fresh tracks all the way, then Thursday up the Tour Ronde normal route before skiing great snow down the Vallée Noire again. 

Pure Haute Route

~ Friday 3rd May 2013

 Last week was the "Pure" Haute Route with the Eagle ski club. The plan was to ski the classic Chamonix to Zermatt journey without using roads, which means traversing the Grand Lui and St Bernard passes on the way to Valsorey. The bad weather from the end of the previous week wasn't a promising start - there was 50cm fresh snow in La Fouly on Saturday morning. Happily the warm spring temperatures stabilise snow quickly, and Chamonix being Chamonix there's usually some brave types out trailbreaking the minute the clouds lift. Sure enough, by Monday there was a good track on the Col du Chardonnet and ski crampons were essential. 

Swiss side of the Col du Chardonnet.

After a whole day in the sun we dropped down into a surprisingly thick Swiss cloud, and spent an amusing few minutes trying to find the lovely Envers des Dorées hut - later it cleared to give us a grandstand view of the next day's stage. 

There's a hut there somewhere - and a sneaky cloud approaching.

The Grand Lui col.

The Col de la Grand Lui is wrongly marked on French maps and looks unlikely from a distance, even with a track leading to it! Reached by steep booting, it leads to a great perch above a 1900m descent, a fine spot for second breakfast. 

Skinning to the col

The final steep ascent

Col de la Grand Lui

If the descent is long enough there's bound to be some good snow somewhere...and so it turned out. First turns in pretty awful crust, then we reached some great spring snow, cruising big turns (and bracing for the inevitable sticky slush lower down!)

Great spring snow

 The Auberge des Glaciers in la Fouly deserves a special mention. Quality accommodation, great food and a sunny terrace. 

Next day, an early start for the long climb to St Bernard. This is deceptively easy on paper - low altitude, no glacier - but in fact it's a long and complex climb through tricky avalanche terrain. Happily we had well frozen snow and made quick progress. 

High up on the way to St Bernard

An irritating cloud had been following us all morning, catching up just before the col and spoiling the descent into Italy. Lunch at the monastery and a quick ski back into Switzerland saw us relaxing in the sun at Plan du Jeu. This is a great little hut in a lovely setting just out of site of the industrial mess of the St Bernard tunnel entrance and the sad remains of the "Super" St Bernard ski lifts! 

The next stage starts with a brutal climb straight from the hut - 800m of steep hard snow and a mix of skinning and cramponning. Over 2 small cols, then a great spring snow descent before the final climb to the Vélan hut, where we passed the afternoon on the terrace eating rosti and watching others slog to Valsorey in the sun. 

Crossing Col du Prox

Perfect spring snow

Cabane du Vélan

Sadly, after 4 days of blue skies (apart from our annoying little cloud) the weather turned at Vélan. All forecasts agreed, several days of bad weather were on the way. Being optimists, we pushed on to the Col de la Gouille in the morning, finding by far the best crust of the week on the descent! Then it was back to the valley and back to Argentiere (thanks to Alplinks for the taxi) Always disappointing to turn back, but we'd completed 5 days of great touring in some fantastic terrain - good skiing, good company and good touring!

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