25/4/12 to 27/4/12 Ski touring in the Alps

New windslab avalanches behind and left of the Mountaineer on the approach to Pointe D'Areu.


Andy Townsend demonstrating crevasse rescue.

For the past six days I have been on the British Mountain Guides ski test. As previously reported, we have been in Les Aravis, the Aosta Valley and Grand Montets.

Conditions since then have been pretty difficult due to the large volume of new snow followed by strong winds (120 kmph at the Grand Montets) followed by a rapid warming of the snowpack (the freezing level has risen from 1400m to 3650m in a couple of days). However, we have managed to get out each day.

On the 27th April we attempted the Point D’Areu in Les Aravis but had to turn back due to severe avalanche conditions. Yesterday, we climbed up to the very top of Le Tour ski area and found some large windscoops to complete our crevasse rescue and steep ground assessments in. Today, we headed back towards the summit of the Grand Montets to practice skiing in ascent and descent on glaciers with a rope on.

All the candidates were successful. Congratulations to Paul Chiddle, James Thacker, Mark Walker, Andy Nelson and Andy Townsend. I was also successful.


23/4/12 to 24/4/12 Tete D’Entre Deux Sauts and Grand Montets

Skiers returning from a descent through the trees at Grand Montets.

Yesterday, the weather was poor in Chamonix. Therefore, we made the drive through the Mont Blanc tunnel to the Aosta valley. We had a great day out ascending Tete D’Entre Deux Sauts. This 2729m peak is accessed from the Bonatti Hut which is regularly visited in the summer as it is on the Tour Du Mont Blanc. The hot chocolate at this hut is fantastic!

Heavy snow started during the late evening in the Chamonix valley. This has given us some great powder skiing today at the Grand Montets ski area. The snow continues to fall as I write this. According to the weather forecast, 60cm of new snow is expected.

22/04/12 Campsies

Out in the Campsies on Sunday. There was no snow in the Campsies, but views further north showed snow above circa 750m on Ben Lomond, the Crianlarich hills and Ben Vorlich & Stuc a’Chroin. Light north-east winds and the odd shower during the day.

22/04/12 Trou de la Mouche, La Clusaz

James Thacker and Andy Towsend approaching the Trou de la Mouche.

This morning in the company of a number of Mountain Guides and Aspirant Guides, I drove round from Saint Gervais to La Clusaz. La Clusaz is a ski area in the mountain range of Les Aravis. From here it is possible to do a number of ski tours.

We had a great day out touring to ‘Trou de la Mouche’. This is a large rock arch which visualy appears like a giant mouth (hence the name).

20/04/12 Grand Montets

The Aiguilles Rouges today from the Grand Montets.

I have been out today at the Grand Montets ski area near Chamonix with Andy, James and Mark. We had a great day skiing powder in variable visibility. In addition to this, we spent some time practising crevasse rescue.

There has been significant snowfall in the Chamonix area over the last few days.At some locations this has formed as windslab which is easily triggered by a single skier.

19/04/12 Trossachs

Out in the Trossachs with Pamela today. There was soft snow from circa 650m and the higher hills had a good covering and were looking pretty wintery. Turf wasn’t frozen below 800m. Just the odd shower , which was falling as rain/hail on a very light north-east wind.

Pamela at circa 650m with Ben Lomond's North-east face in the background

18/4/12 Les Contamines

James analysing the snowpack near Les Contamines.

James Thacker and I have been out today in the Les Contamines area skiing on and off piste and analysing the snowpack. The ski conditions are still good around the resort. The local issued forecast is a moderate hazard. From our observations the snowpack is generally well bonded. However, we did see some spontaneous point release avalanches on northerly aspects.

17/4/12 Verbier

The Mont Blanc Massif from Verbier.

Damien and I have spent the day off piste skiing in Verbier. Verbier provides some excellent terrain for the off piste skier with nice couloirs,tree skiing, bowls and gully lines. Snow conditions need, as always, consideration at the moment. We witnessed a number of skier released slides.

9/04/12 to 14/04/12 The Lakes

I’ve been working in the Eastern Lakes for Sam Sykes on a Gold DofE training for the last five days.

Swirral Edge and Brown Cove 10th April

Overnight on Monday into Tuesday there was fresh snow down to about 500m. Winds stayed mostly north westerly to northerly during the week with the odd shower falling as snow or hail high up. Despite the relatively cool temperatures the snow receded all week with only coire rims and the odd gully holding significant snow by Saturday.

Catstye Cam 11th April

Looking South-west from near Satura Crag 12th April

12/4/12 and 13/4/12 Cabane Des Dix and the Pigne d’Arolla

The Pigne d'Arolla from the Plan De Bertol on the 9/4/12.


The view north from 3500m on the Pigne d'Arolla.

I have just had an excellent couple of days in the Arolla area.On the 13th of April in the company of Mountain Guide Andy Teasdale and the Eagles Ski Club, I headed into the Cabane Des Dix via the Pas De Chevre. This is an excellent, comfortable hut with great food.The morning of the 14th was mostly clear with some clouds so we headed up the Pigne d’Arolla. This is an excellent ski peak. The descent was on excellent powder, followed by some heavier snow before switching to spring at the bottom.The descent from the Pigne to Arolla is around 1700 vertical metres.