Barry and I have been based from Saint Gervais les Bains the last three days. On Wednesday we climbed a seven pitch route at the excellent La Duchere near Les Contamines before travelling to the Rifugio Torino to overnight.
Yesterday, we climbed Les Aiguilles Marbrees (3535m). We also tried to access Le Petit Flambeau traverse and the Aiguille de Toule but both were in terrible condition. Therefore, we dropped down to the Val Ferret and went multi pitch climbing at Mochet.
Today, we climbed the classic Arete des Cosmigues in good conditions.
Martin and I drove through the Tunnel du Mont Blanc today to visit the crags of the Val Ferret. First, we visited Placche Pre de Bard. The harder routes we had hoped to climb were all wet but we still had a nice couple of hours climbing one of the easier eight pitch routes.
After this we visted Mochet. This crag gave nice single and two pitch routes on perfect granite.
For the past nine days I have been out skiing with Mountain Guide Graham Frost (www.frostguiding.co.uk) and Ric, Pete, Margarite, Charles, Sonia, Griff, John and Nic from the Eagles Ski Club. As I reported on the 21st April, we had a warm up day at Le Grand Montets ski area. The next day, we embarked on our hut to hut tour. The plan was to spend eight days ski touring between Chamonix and Zermatt. However, unlike most Haute Routes, our aim was to use no public transport and ski all the difficult sections. This version of the Haute Route requires great weather and good stable snow conditions.
The first day of our tour began with a descent of the Glacier des Rognon followed by the ascent of the Col du Chardonnet. From here most teams continue to the Trient Hut. We continued to the Plines Bivouac Hut which gives a stunning, quiet location to spend the night.
By continuing to this hut, it put us in the perfect position to ski the Col de la Grande Lui variation of the Haute Route. A 600 metre skin gives access to a 2000 metre descent into La Fouly. We timed this right and had some excellent spring snow on the descent. There was still snow all the way to the road so walking was not required.
Following our overnight stop we continued via the Val Ferret and the famous Col du Grand St. Bernard Monastery. Following some lunch in this very welcoming place we descended to the Plan du Jeu Hut. This day requires very stable snow as the ascent of the Val Ferret is severely threatend by avalanches. The next morning, from the Plan du Jeu Hut we made the steep ascent to the Col de Proxy and Montorge from where a spring snow descent gave access to the Valsorey valley.
From here the ascent was made to the Cabane du Velan. This hut sits in an amaxing location overlooking the Plateau du Couloir on the side of the Grand Combin, is very friendly and highly recommended. We had hoped to continue on to the Plateau the next day but very poor weather forced us to retreat to Bourg St Piere. Unfortunately, the weather has not improved over the last three days. However, we have made the most of our time by completing two more ski tours and one days lift served skiing. On Saturday we ascended the Tete de Balme from Le Tour before enjoying a nice descent. The ski area has been closed for a couple of weeks and therefore we had the area to ourselves. Following an early start on Sunday we travelled through the Mont Blanc Tunnel to the Val Ferret from where we skiied the Pas Entre Deux Sauts above the Bonatti Hut. Again, we did not see any other ski tourers on the hill.
Yesterday, was our final day skiing. We spent the day at a quiet Grand Montets using up the last of the energy we had left in our legs!
I arrived in the Alps late Monday evening and following a rest day on Tuesday I have been off piste skiing and ski touring for the last five days.
On Wednesday Malcolm and I met at Les Contamines ski area and had a good day out using the lift system to access off piste terrain. We also skinned a short distance to gain access to good spring snow and some nice tree skiing.
Malcolm and I met Cube on Wednesday morning and headed to the Vallee Blanche above Chamonix. We skinned across to the Italian border before descending towards Chamonix. We skied the right-hand side of the ice fall which is in good condition this year. This area of the descent provided some good snow but other areas of the Vallee Blanche were very variable.
Robbo, Jon and Mikey joined me on Friday. We had a good day out at Les Contamines finding some excellent spring snow off piste and spending time looking at avalanche rescue and ski touring equipment and skills.
The weather forecast for the weekend was poor so we chanced a trip through the Magic Tunnel (Tunnel du Mont Blanc), so called because often when it is raining in Chamonix it is bright sunshine in Courmayeur. We were not disappointed and have spent the last two days in the sun. On Saturday we visited the Bonatti Hut in the Val Ferret. This is a brilliant hut with great food, friendly staff, comfortable rooms and showers! After a 6.30am breakfast on Sunday we made the ascent of the Col de La Manatra. The snow above 2300m gave brilliant skiing. We were joined by only one other team and had amazing views of Mont Blanc and the surrounding peaks.