Tuesday, 24 April 2012

Easter Skiing in the Alps

So its been a pretty hectic month in which I have moved house and had an amazing 10 day trip to Chamonix and the Aosta Valley in Itlay. I been doing a fair bit of skiing over the past couple of winters and have been trying to get to a standard where I can happily ski off piste and in more serious places outside of the resort. Naturally I have drawn to ski touring and ski mountaineering and one of my main aims has been to ski up and down a 4000m peak in the Alps. So with that in mind I headed out with good friend Jon to meet up with some Chamonix chums and make an attempt on Gran Paradiso - the highest mountain wholly in Italy and 4061m. We started by acclimatising in Chamonix - a couple of days skiing off piste on the Grand Montets and a traverse of the Valle Blanche to Pt Helbronner. This included some of the worst snow and terrain I have skied in - horrible death crust on soft powder and a descent of the right side of the Geant Icefall made for an epic day! Although there were a couple of nice powder spots.

Skinning up to Pt Helbronner

A short section of nice powder before the death crust

The scary Geant Icefall

We then headed through the tunnel into Italy and the stunning Aosta Valley. We left the road at Pont at the head of Val Savarenche and due to the lack of snow we had to walk and carry skis for all but the last 200m of ascent to the hut. We were all really impressed by the Vittorio Emmanuel hut - despite it being very busy it never felt crowded and the food was awesome and plentiful. After a pretty wild night (weather wise) we delayed leaving the hut until about 7am. It was really cold and windy. Our first glimpse of the summit after 30 minutes of skinning was not encouraging and the weather got worse.

Storm over the summit
At just over 4000m - time to retreat!
We battled on in some serious cold and windy conditions with little visibility to the bergshrund about 50m from the summit. Greg was happy to summit solo but we opted to turn round as we were worried about hypothermia and frostbite (Jon and Trystan did get some frost nip on their cheeks and nose). The skiing was pretty scary to start as we were in a white out and all the blown snow had created some dodgy avalanche conditions. As we dropped out of the cloud we picked up upped and enjoyed some nice fresh powder and lower down some good hard but grippy spring snow. 5 hours up 1.5 hours down - why would anyone ever walk up an Alpine peak? I'll be back sometime to bag the summit!

Loving the descent

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