Author Topic: Haute Route - Ski tour  (Read 5785 times)

Haute Route - Ski tour
« on: April 17, 2017, 11:36:18 am »
As I don't inhabit any ski-touring fora this seems as good a place as any to recount my recent run/trudge along the Alps from Argentière to Zermatt. Clearly therefore, this is not strictly a Ride Report, so I beg the panel's forgiveness for my posting non-bike related guff here.

This is the Wiki entry about the Haute Route. Slightly daunting stat that only about half who attempt it are successful.

Originally mooted here but I thought the account deserved a thread of its own. I kept a daily journal a la my family's two recent cyclo-tours in Normandy, so the format here will be broadly similar, with a hideously messed up set of tenses as I juggle notes made in the evening following the day's events and my subsequent interpretation and memories.

Full account is complete (including elevation profiles, stats, routing notes, photos and the packing list).
Rust never sleeps

Re: Haute Route - Ski tour
« Reply #1 on: April 17, 2017, 11:44:19 am »
Day 0 - Sunday April 2nd. The evening before the off.
Hotel Couronne - Argentière. Meet everyone. We're five; Andrew (co-instigator and regular ski-buddy), Tom (fellow ski bum from Verbier '87/'88), and two of Tom's mates, Richard and Colin with whom he had an unsuccessful go at the Haute Route five years previously - unfinished business for the three of them.

Afternoon faff and more faff with kit. Andrew and I, as first time multi-day ski-tourers, are unsure as to exactly what we will need. Met our guide Nick at 6.30 who makes it clear that our enjoyment of the trip is indirectly proportional to the weight we carry on our backs. Bags emptied and stuff discarded. Weight is everything!  More faff. Preparatory (and last civilised) meal at Dahu next door. Not great. Very disappointing croute which I am unable to finish. This is unheard of.

(Nick was working as an independent guide in Tignes in '89/'90 when I was working in Val d'Isère and I pumped many clients his way. I'm never one to lose a name.)

The kit going into my ruc sac, less the shell troos -
Rust never sleeps

Re: Haute Route - Ski tour
« Reply #2 on: April 17, 2017, 12:05:21 pm »
HR Day 1 - Monday April 3rd. Argentière town > Argentière Hut.






Up early, brekkie and go (after another faff). Butterfly tum time.
Up hill to Grand Montets, ski in glorious sunshine with heavy pack. Superb. Met Nick at the half way point up the hill and the first thing he does is take us under the rope (CREVASSES !!) Powder !! Glorious.



Lunch at the mid-station and then a diversion to one side of the piste to check that our crampons fit. We have to do a little jiggling as the crampons Nick has provided me don’t fit my boots. I swap with Colin who has slightly smaller feet. Sorted. Up Grand Montets again and traverse as far up the Argentière glacier as we can. Then across the glacier and apply skins for the first time to head up towards the hut. First tip is to plant the skis in the snow with the bases facing the sun as soon as they are off. This warms them up and makes it easier for the skins to stick on.



We stop for a practice uphill skin and kick turn session. This is followed by downhill on skins practice (i.e. no heel attached). Options are to adopt the ‘toilet seat’ position (hang your arse over the back of your skis) or the faux telemark position. All go for the bog seat stance except me. I go for the telemark. Feeling good as the speed picks up but I hit a bit of different snow. Straight over the tips and land on my already broken thumb. Ouch. Bloody ouch !!!

Carry on skinning up the slope. I get stuck on the last kick turn and have to extricate myself. Doesn’t bode well. Skis off to clamber over some rocks and then a straightforward skin up to the Argentières hut. This is a minimal climb, perhaps 50m vertical.



Sort skis and skins, bag, ice-axe off. Faff. Beer, chat, good meal, a round of génépis on Nick. Faff, water fill, faff, clean teeth, journal and bed. (A hut standard evening meal is soup, a main course of some form of carbohydrate and meat, and a simple pud. There's no running water so you have to buy bottled water. It's not cheap as everything has to be helicoptered up.)

The scenery is stunning. Moonscape stuff. Unbelievable.

Rust never sleeps

Re: Haute Route - Ski tour
« Reply #3 on: April 17, 2017, 12:41:35 pm »
HR Day 2 - Tuesday April 4th. Argentière Hut > Trient Hut






Up at 6. Bad night’s sleep, but I was apparently snoring. Wee (long one) at about 3am. (It's important we stay hydrated but equally we don't want to carry litres and litres of water with us, so we all drink lots in the evenings with the consequent need to empty bladders at unsocial hours.) I can measure how bad the night’s sleep was by the number of times that I kicked the In Our Time podcast off - Islamic Maths, started at least six times. Brekkie is cornflakes, tea, stale bread and jam. It's hard to eat enough in the time available. Out the door at 7am. Icy ski down in the morning half-light alongside the moraine and then onto the glacier to the bottom of Col du Chardonnet (which we had viewed from the top of the Grands Montets viewing station yesterday afternoon).



Big climb ahead of us (900m). The second and last days of the Haute Route are apparently the toughest. The start of this ascent is a climb up a steepish icy slope and not a ski, so we strap skis to rucsacs, don crampons in anger for the first time and deploy ice axes. Two paces up the slope and just to the left of me Andrew’s left leg disappears into the bergschrund. He’s not great with heights, so this discovery, and the prospect of the climb immediately ahead of us (about two feet from our noses) leaves him noticeably shaky. We toe point up the slope with ice axe being used as a crampon point for the hand. The steep pitch is about 50m vertical.



Once this obstruction is overcome we can revert to skis, but we have to do the full transition; skins on, loosen boots, switch boots to walk mode, adjust pole lengths, convert bindings to tour mode. (Tip No. 2 - Never have your bindings set to 'tour' mode unless the skins are on. In tour mode the bindings' brakes are retracted, so if you put your unskinned skis down on anything greater than a very very slight slope you stand the chance of them simply sliding off down the slope, with a potential effort-heavy consequence.) All sorted and the slog begins. Starts off gentle enough but it gets steeper and a bit icy so we attach couteaux. Blue skies and stunning pink light illuminating the mountain tops opposite on the far side of the Argentière glacier, but we are in the shade. This transcends stunning, it’s gob-smacking.



Slog slog slog. Couteaux off when it became less steep but skins stay on.



Skis off and crampons on for the final steep pitch. Got to the col about 10.30. Sun beaming down on us. I’m down to just the Gill micro-fleece.

The view from the top. Where we're going -


And where we'd come from -


And a view down to the team preparing for the descent -


Seconds before I defy death -


Over the top and we're on to a 50m fixed rope. I go first with Nick’s belay device. Exciting. The others follow me, two with my prussic loops, Andrew with his sling and the last on Nick’s sling. At end of the fixed rope I transfer to Nick’s 30m rope and he belays me down, backwards, toe pointing. At the end of that there was a mildly hairy walk down (backwards) with a bergschrund near the bottom. All the way down I was being bombarded with ice and snow kicked out by the others above me, lumps both large and small.



I waited at the bottom to steer the others around the hole.



We switch to downhill mode and snatch a quick snack and gulp some water down.

Lots of photos. Glorious sunshine.

We’re in Schweiz, Suisse, Svizzera !! Bit of a ski down, one enormous lovely patch of untouched fresh snow. A bit of traversing and then another brief stop to transition in the most unbelievably spectacular mountainscape and a chance for more water and snacks.







I feel blessed to have been there.

Start climbing again, up to Fenêtre de la Saleina. It's the notch just above and to the left of the two in this pic -



Skin, skin, skin. Then, for the final pitch, skis onto bag, no crampons, kick steps to the col. Knackering !  Big time.  Constantly worried that I will overbalance backwards with the weight of the pack. That would be a sad end. Not all the snow was good and I lost footing slightly a number of times. Absolutely knackering. Did I say that before ?  Through the rock portal at the top and more water and trail mix.



A very gentle downhill ski until we were at the foot of the 100m climb to the Trient hut.



I was last away from the transition and took my time. (My broken thumb makes a good deal of what we have to do at transition quite awkward - even getting my rucsac straps undone is tricky.) Stopped lots. Absolutely pooped. Had to stop to take jacket off and stash it in my pack. Finally made it to the hut and followed signs to the ski store. Sheesh - it smells like a hideously unclean khazi. Surely this isn’t the hut’s sole facility ? (It wasn't even a khazi as it turned out, though I'm guessing it once was.)  Skins off and packed away (won’t need them until tomorrow afternoon now). Andrew shouts down that he’s ordered me rosti !  That’s more like it. What a lad. Weather is closing in. Lovely old hut, great vibe, people buzzing about the day, but knackered. Rosti arrives. Perfection. Best rosti ever. Andrew and Tom can’t finish theirs (unheard of for Andrew). I do, and polish off the last knockings of Tom’s. A vast jug of marche tea is finished in no time at all and I buy a Rivella (Swiss milk product fizzy pop). Yum, haven’t had one of these in years. Journal time and then bag sort. Everyone else goes for a snooze - lightweights. (It’s now 4pm, we got here a bit before 3, maybe 2.30.)

After supper we played French geographical Trivial Pursuit. Good for a few laughs.

What a day !  I’m calling it the Up Day, in the hope that there will be some Down Days.

I’ve overpacked. My shell leggings haven’t been close to being used. My full-on ski gloves went in the bag half way through Day 1 and haven't been out since. Don’t need the loo roll. Haven’t got close to my book as yet (Tim Moore’s Gironimo!: Riding the Very Terrible 1914 Tour of Italy). Wet wipes (I brought 12, two per day) haven’t been touched yet. Survived so far on one tissue which has doubled as my mouth wipe after cleaning teeth. Yuk. Spent much of today just in my Gill fleece. Soft shell troos are the biz !!
Rust never sleeps

Re: Haute Route - Ski tour
« Reply #4 on: April 17, 2017, 01:53:17 pm »
 :thumbsup: :thumbsup: :thumbsup:

Excellent writeup, sounds like a very cool trip. Ski touring and X-C skiing have been touted as good cross training and/or off season alternatives for cyclists, so this does fit reasonably well in the Rides and Touring forum.

Re: Haute Route - Ski tour
« Reply #5 on: April 17, 2017, 05:12:49 pm »
Day 3 - Wednesday April 5th. Trient Hut > Prafleuri Hut via Champex Lac and Le Chable (taxi assist)

Part 1 - Trient Hut > Champex Lac





Up at 6 again. Snowing, windy and murky outside. I go for thin gloves (error !), hat and buff, Gill fleece, jacket and soft shell troos - no long johns. Bad Error No. 2 didn’t become evident until later. No. 3 was a true schoolboy error. I packed rucsac and then realised as I put my boots on that I was in my thin hut socks. (Over time you develop a specific sequence for getting togged up and packed in the morning in the most efficient manner possible. I hadn't developed that technique by the third morning.) No way was I going to swap as this would have meant unpacking bag again and I’m starting to develop a reputation as a faffer. The last thing I want to do is hold the group up. Quote from Nick - “Being stuck in the queue for the loo is not an excuse.” I cranked boots up tighter to compensate. Still, the pressure to get out of the door led to me doing things a little faster than I was comfortable with, and I think it was this rush which led to Error No. 2.

Out into the gloom at 7am on the dot. Into ski locker and take a wrong turn back to the hut. Doh !  Transceiver detector outside hut peeps to let me know my transceiver is working (neat !) Skis on and ski down. When Nick did this route thirty years ago it was possible to ski from the hut, down the glacier and straight over the col. Now, the glacier has shrunk by about 40m and we have a trickyish climb up to the col. We rope up. Me at the back. (My station for the day as I’m wearing red so easily spotted, everyone else is in black.) Rocks and snow. Fixed rope. Tricky going. At top of fixed rope we deploy ice axes (cunningly stashed under our rucsac straps so get at-able when needed) which are effectively used as walking sticks. At bottom of climb there wasn’t much room and we perched on a smallish spot to stash skis and fix crampons.



Fingers were getting cold by the time we got here (my thumb in a splint particularly so) so I took the opportunity to switch gloves and in getting them out of the pack discovered Error No. 2. My water bottle with electrolyte mix was half empty. Agghhh! Bag now full of sticky fluid, and everything is covered in the stuff. At least most of my stuff is in ziploc bags. But, my ski socks (which I should have been wearing), my borrowed down jacket, the borrowed merino base layer, my silk sleeping bag liner and my book have taken the hit. Bugger bugger bugger. Nothing I can do about it now though.

Fixed rope hinders as much as helps. Rocks. Snow. At top of rope we just walk with ice axe assistance (and crampons). At least it should have been possible to walk up but it was much more comforting to lean into the slope leaning on your hands. Andrew particularly guilty of this and is caught and smilingly chastised more than once by Nick. We reach the top and prepare for going down. Ski off the top and we’ve soon cleared the murk. However, my goggles had been up and have frozen-misted up. Snowing more heavily so skiing was tough. Either have goggles up and can’t keep eyes open ‘cos of snow hitting eyes, or goggles down and can’t see anything ‘cos of goggle mist. The group are skiing quickly so I struggle to keep up. Opt for goggled skiing and slowly the clear bit on the goggles spreads as they warm up. Some nice bits of snow but as we descend it degrades. Powder, all the way through the snow spectrum to mashed-up and subsequently frozen rock-hard slush. This last is not easy to ski either stylishly or well.





Down towards Champex Lac and we are in amongst the trees and finally onto a snow-covered road (with one notable and enormous 3’ deep hole). Briefly onto a frozen piste and then onto another road. One 8’ stretch of tarmac which we gingerly walk over with skis on (except Andrew, he loves his new skis too much to do that to them). We comment that we’re glad to be doing this route today as opposed to, never mind next week, tomorrow. It really is Spring down here. Down finally to the Champex Lac lift station and skis off, boots to walk mode and we head for the café where we are meeting our taxi. A renversé for me and a rushed bag unpack and full damage assessment. I take advantage of the facilities and rinse the stickiness out of my socks and merino base layer. Wring them out and pack in a ziploc. Last out of the café (rushing my coffee) and into the cab to Le Chable below Verbier. (Every time you go into your bag there's a palpable fear that when you're all packed and ready to go, that you've left something behind. Leaving skins behind could be catastrophic.)

Part 2 - Le Chable > Prafleuri Hut





Richard jumps out at the supermarché to buy stuff he left behind in Argentière (toothbrush etc). Lift up to Médran (Verbier town main lift station) and we hop out and head to the Offshore (an old haunt and Tom are I are washed away in rivers of nostalgia). Coffee and porridge. Into the Mystic on the PA (they always did play good music). I chat with the waitress who tells me that 'Offshore Pete' sold the business four years ago but that he had been in town last week. Dang. (There again, maybe not dang. If he had been there beer would doubtless have appeared.) Also, that they are holding their 30th anniversary party on Saturday and would I like to come. I explain that sadly that won't be possible.



Porridge over and we jump on the bubble up to Ruinettes and switch to the Attelas lift. Joyous. The sun is out. Very emotional for me to be skiing here again. We scoot at speed down to the bottom of the Jumbo lift and squeeze on for the ride to the Col des Gentianes. We head down La Chaux keeping left where we soon start the skin up to head up and over Col de la Chaux.



Beautiful sunshine with the occasional puff of cloud, and a rather welcome cooling breeze. I was second up this one with Andrew racing away at the front. Transition at top. Ski down with a bit of a traverse, hill to our right. Then a long but not too taxing skin up. Over the top (just below Rosa Blanche where Nick offers us the chance to leave our packs and skin to the top for what looked like a glorious powder ski down, however, view from the group is that we shouldn’t do anything more than we absolutely have to to reach the end for fear of it compromising the attempt) and down, down on a glorious powder coated glacier to the Prafleuri hut. A fabulous ski down.

Rosa Blanche in the background


You Tube link to a vid of the glacier ski below.





At the hut we sit on the terrace soaking up the sunshine. Beers and tea and dry the kit. Skins out on pallets to load up every last photon from the sun. I hang my socks and base layer out.



View back up the hill from where we've just come, just to the right of the signpost's top -


I swapped into the damp base layer to ensure it dried out (which it did within half an hour - amazing what a bit of dry air, body heat and sunshine can do). Still warm outside at 5pm. Tom spotted a fox wandering up the face opposite (can they sense when an avalanche is about to happen we wonder). A stunning spot. I rinsed my sleeping bag (there’s running non-potable water here) and hung it on the racks outside. Went to retrieve it at 6.30 just before supper and it was frozen solid in the bright blue sunshine. Hung it inside on a line over a heater. I find out in 15 minutes if it’s dry enough to sleep in. (It was.) We have a room to ourselves. I completely emptied my bag before supper and de-skanked everything. In not bad order. Socks are hanging over a rad in the entry lobby, should be OK by tomorrow morning. There is a shower here for 5 CHF. Tom had one. Soft bastard.

(Loo mechanics interlude. The Argentière hut and Trient hut have eco loos - long drop, fluids run off and five pumps of a lever work a conveyor belt to take the solids uphill to a compost heap. Surprisingly unsmelly. Here, the running water is a reasonable flow but the loos have a bucket alongside for used loo paper.)

Now sitting at supper table, journal nearly done for the day. Tom and Nick are talking skiing in Colorado, everyone else has gone for a read or sleep. I ought to join them !!

Prafleuri hut is family run (as opposed to Club Alpin Suisse/Francais) and is delightful; happy smiley people, it has a lovely feel to it. Quite a contrast to the Trient hut where the guardian was a bit too rude for his own good. (Tom: “Can I have a vin chaud please.” Guardian: “Why don’t you have a beer, it’s easier.”) Rooms have a charging point (1CHF for two hours, and that turns the lights on too!)
Rust never sleeps

Re: Haute Route - Ski tour
« Reply #6 on: April 17, 2017, 05:51:57 pm »
Day 4 - Thursday April 6th. Prafleuri Hut > Dix Hut







Colin and Richard tell us today is a long traverse alongside the Lac des Dix. Strong left legs required.

Breakfast was pancakes, cereal, yoghurt, fruit salad, hot tea, coffee. Prob the best breakfast yet. And we had a lie-in. Brekkie at 6.30 with a planned departure of 7.30 (instead of the usual 6am eat and 7am start). Good night’s sleep for those in the lower part of the room (Nick, Andrew and me). Less good (too hot) for the others. Spoiled a bit by Nick’s nightmare in which he was apparently forced to sing to avoid being shot - he was found with a body in the boot of his car. We caught the singing bit ! Lots of chats around the dinner table last night, including a conversation where the challenge was to not use any words with the letter ‘E’. Jolly tough, I thought. Substantially difficult in fact. It was hard to talk for long on any topic.

Tom’s developed a blister on his heel and has applied Compeed. The hut is in a stunning location. Out by 7am with an immediate skin up. Not too bad. Clear skies (again) but the sun is behind a mountain. As we ascend the sun gets closer. We cross a bit of a col and are now on the long traverse alongside the lake and as we pause momentarily the suns rays race towards and past us across the snow. A magical moment. Very special. Nick decides to ski down to the lake straight away rather than staying high as there has been an avalanche right across the higher route and the debris makes things look a little ugly. Spring snow, in the sun, glistening ice crystals, not another soul in sight. How could you want to be anywhere else ?  Stunning. (I’m running out of superlatives to describe the scenery.)



Down almost at lake level


(As I write this I’m sitting outside the Dix hut, frying in the sun, bottle of Rivella in hand, a rosti and a half under, life really doesn’t get any better than this. Oh to be able to share it with Lu and the children.)

Glittering spring snow (flattering skiers, for the use of) gives way in very short order to the lower section of avalanche rubble. Skis off, rocks mixed up in the debris everywhere. Bit of a traverse and then a long long skin up to the hut.







I was pooped, walking approx 50 strides then stopping for a breather. Nick takes us to the right of the hillock hiding the hut. No-one else has been this way. He assures us that while it adds another 50m ascent, the route is easier than going the other way which ends in a tricky icy climb in the full glare of the sun. There’s a murmur or two of discontent amongst the troops but it turns out he’s a winner again. We get to the top of the rise to be confronted with a scene out of fairyland. The hut looks like it’s been photo-shopped into position. Nick peels off left to climb a little more to the very peak of the hillock where there’s a cross, but more importantly, mobile reception. He has a business to run. We ski down on spring snow, with as much speed as we can carry to take us up the last little incline to the hut. Why walk if you can use kinetic energy to carry you there. Aggghhhh !!  Half way down the slope my baseball cap blows off. Screech to a halt and side step back up to it.  This does however provide an even better angle for a shot of the hut.



I head straight down again but with my potential energy halved I come nowhere near to getting close to the hut, and stop about 50m short. I try to pole along but the gradient is just a little too much to make this comfortable. My legs are too tired to skate it. I opt for taking my skis off and trudging up to the hut, but as soon as I put my foot down I sink down to my knee. This last 50m took me about 10 minutes. Tough going. I’m about done in. Finally get to the hut and hang my skins out to dry. Park skis. Up the final few steps, around the corner and am confronted by the team sitting at one of three tables on the terrace, the most glorious vista, and a chef knocking up rosti and filet de porc outside.



View from the terrace -


We’re here early (about 1.30) so have the run of the place before the massed hordes arrive. Beer appears and we order four rosti and porc filets between the six of us and a bottle of fizz. The servings are massive but not enough for Andrew and me so we order an additional rosti with egg, lardons, cheese and cornichons between us. One more beer between us and we find our rooms. Everyone goes for a kip except me. I sort my bag for tomorrow (don’t want to be accused of faffing) and then retire to the terrace to write up my journal. The room (Le Pigne) has the most incredible view of anywhere I have ever stayed, including my chalet in Verbier which hung over the edge of the valley with a view all the way down to Sembrancher.

I skied all of today in soft shell troos and the Gill micro-fleece. Only variation is that I started with buff on my head and soft gloves and ended with baseball cap and bare hands. It’s hot work climbing up hills at altitude, in full sun, at midday and with a 12kg pack on your back. I stop often to take photos which is as good an excuse as any to catch my breath. I am working hard at trying to adapt my style to long slow strides, but I do seem to work best by blatting and then stopping for a breather. I keep trying to tell myself to slow down rather than stop but have been only partly successful. I find that the trick to going uphill is just like cycling, focus on a point in space immediately in front of you and don’t look up to the top of the hill. Before you know it, you’re there, sometimes. Sometimes there’s still what seems like bloody miles to go when you look up. This tactic is good for self-preservation, but it does mean I don’t soak the views in as I would like. I put my less than ideal tactics down to my Richmond Park hill repeat training, which emphasised brief but hard efforts followed by a breather. Perhaps I need to move to somewhere with bigger hills before I do this ski-touring thing again. (Ed - or get a turbo trainer.)

Lots of people (no-one from our party) arrive at the hut, have lunch and then head off for a post-prandial skin up and ski back down. Nutters. We’re in the business of preserving our energy.

What a glorious sense of achievement and self-satisfaction, especially with a beer in hand.

We’re due another shortish day tomorrow, starting with a stiff climb up to a col which is directly in our view. Looks like hard work.

Upstairs to lie down and listen to a shuffled Fleetwood Mac medley on my iPod. Cool. I didn’t feel like I slept but I was apparently snoring. There’s no running water in the loos. Dang. I was going to rinse my face. So far I haven’t washed and have been in the same top, troos and boxers since the morning we set off. I’m very crusty. As are my socks, even though they have had a rinse.

I lost my thumb splint in the cafe in Champex Lac. So far OK, but I haven’t fallen on it again, yet.

Ordered storage in the hut -


Inside the dining room this hut has mounted specimens of the local rock types. I would have loved to have a look but at all times the table underneath the shelf with the samples was occupied. (I’m not really a geology geek, just generally curious.)

View from our bedroom window -


Sundown -

Rust never sleeps

Re: Haute Route - Ski tour
« Reply #7 on: April 17, 2017, 08:35:06 pm »
Day 5 - Friday April 7th. Dix Hut > Vignettes Hut

Interlude
What I haven’t used: Shell troos, long johns, down jacket, 2nd thermal base top (only used 1st thermal top on first day and didn’t really need it then), only used big gloves twice, and then only briefly, but they were essential on the second occasion, ear plugs, loo roll. Only used hand disinfectant at Dix when they had run out. No need to bring tissues, there’s always some sort of paper available in the huts. Only once had one loo run out of paper, but all the other cubicles were well stocked, so no issues there. Still, if you’re caught short during the day it would be worth having enough loo roll for one event. And if you used that up you could easily replenish at the next hut.

What I could have done with: Eyeshades, SPF 50 lip sun-block (annoyingly I actually had one of these stashed away in my shell troos pocket, but as I never used those troos I never found it), head band (possibly) and maybe a floppy sun-hat.

What worked out perfectly: wet wipes, two per day is just right, soft shell troos, perfection, touring gloves - life would have been miserable in full ski gloves, I got the snacks about right (three bags of trail mix and a few Mule bars), water - I carried a 750ml bottle which I filled with electrolyte each day plus a 1L bottle. Only on a couple of days did I use all of the water up.

Hut Thoughts
Prafleuri. Running water, a true luxury. Take full advantage of this to rinse out clothes. Do this the moment you get there to give the stuff the maximum chance to dry out in the sun.
Always hang skins up the moment you arrive to give them the best chance of drying out.

Vignettes. No power points, anywhere. Up to then we had always been able to recharge stuff. I brought two spare camera batteries (and used one of them) and one spare satnav battery (and used that on the last day as a full charge would typically last a full day).

Trient. Grumpy guardian, a little too full of himself.

Prafleuri. Lovely people.

Dix. Nice crowd. I got a lesson in how to pronounce ‘Rivella’.

The day's account






Good brekkie at 6.30; bircher muesli, home-baked bread, plum jam. All outside and raring to go by 7.30.



Quick icy ski down and then a glorious and long slog of a skin up to an icy ridge. Vast open snow fields on the glacier. Plenty of photo opportunities.



Then a steep skin with couteaux. Big wind blowing, blue skies and snow devils. We're heading up to the top of that lump of ice.



(ETA: It was in precisely this area in 2018 that a ski-touring party were hit by a storm that left seven of them dead. Swiss Alps Storm.)

I was in my jacket and fleece all day. Opted for soft gloves. Never took them off and only for about 15 minutes were my fingers a little cold. (Yesterday I was so hot I wished I had lathered my arms in sun cream. Today I did, but never needed it.) At top of climb (which we did in the company of another guided British group) we set fair for Pigne d’Arolla at 3800m (which will be the highest point en route). Richard had a skin detach on the way up this climb and the other guide (Andy) helped him out. Quite a precarious skin up this one. Made it to the peak. Amazing views. It’s like being out of sight of land surrounded by a sea of Alpine peaks. Our destination is in sight (well, at least the Matterhorn is, which looms over our destination).



Our guide -


The team (less Nick and me) on top -


From the very windy peak it was a fun ski down, avoiding massive crevasses, to the Vignettes hut which is in the most ludicrously precarious position. Very blowy at the top, powder, chopped up crud, crust, a real mélange. Stopped half way down to catch our breath and have a drink, then pick our way along and, finally, up ever so slightly to the hut.





And again, just in case you missed the hut in the photo above -


Rosti and croute for lunch. Heaven. Easy afternoon playing French Trivial Pursuit with Nick and two members of the other group. I write my journal whilst waiting for supper. Big day tomorrow, early start, 5.30 brekkie, set off scheduled for 6.30. There are three cols to go over and a long ski out to Zermatt once those are done.

Another stunning view from our bedroom window -

Rust never sleeps

Re: Haute Route - Ski tour
« Reply #8 on: April 17, 2017, 10:35:14 pm »
Day 5 - Saturday April 8th. Vignettes Hut > Zermatt






These elevation graphs give as good an idea as any as to how the day seems like an endless trudge uphill. Spot how the downhill bits in the lower time-based graph are tiny as compared to the corresponding downhill bits in the upper distance-based graph. Similarly, check out how long we are going uphill for.

Early start. Alarms for 5.15 but we were all up by 5. Intestines have been trained to do their business early morn. Got into breakfast queue ahead of the crush and made the most of it. Good bircher muesli, pancakes + real bacon + scrambled egg (but only two spoonfuls of that, I was physically restrained from taking a third). Cram it all in and get prepped. Bag is packed, just collect ice-axe and boot up. I had left my boot shells outside overnight by mistake but someone was kind enough to bring them in. Phew.

Dark outside. Have to dismount pack to find head torch so I have half a chance to be able to see to clip in to skis (the pin touring bindings are a lot more fiddly than standard downhill bindings). The narrow passageway in the hut is full of people, all trying to do the same as us and keen to be off as quickly as possible which makes it tricky getting out.



I get outside. Tom is still inside (or so I think). I struggle to get sorted and the Satmap takes ages to get a signal. Nick calls me with a tone of impatience in his voice. Everyone is waiting for me. Agh. Up the slope a bit, side stepping. I’m at the back and everyone is conscious that there is a big day ahead and there is not a moment to lose. The second col is a crampon climb and unless you’re ahead of the crowd here you can wait ages. We have a cab booked in Zermatt for 4pm and we want to get there in time for a beer and, ideally, a decent lunch. It’s an awkward pole/push/side step on icy snow to get slightly back up the slope. I get rudely cut off by another guide when it’s bleeding’ obvious that I am the back marker in my group and exclaim. He lets me through and I do two slippy, get-you-nowhere strides and he starts pushing me really hard. “Poussez pas !!” I shout. Pillock, if I had fallen to the right here it would have been a very slow and dispiriting walk/climb back up.

As soon as we are over the rise we head straight off for the bottom of the first of the three climbs of the day. All a bit of a blur this. I recall a good deal of traversing, icy slopes, hard pack snow. Very eerie in the early morning deep gloom. Started with a head torch on but realised pretty quickly that there was enough light to see. Blatted along. Then trudge, trudge, trudge. Uphill slog. Light by the time we started uphill, sun behind the mountains to our left (we’re heading roughly SE). Beautiful clear sky, calm conditions. The world is a beautiful place.

I keep up with the pace without problem. Standard sequence is Nick, Andrew, Colin/Richard, me, Tom. Sometimes I’m ahead of Colin or Richard, but generally only in the earlier part of the day. Nick has moderated his pace pretty much perfectly from the cracking pace that was set on the first couple of days. Setting one's own pace is really tough. Mentally, following right in someone’s trail is easier to keep the pace going, but everyone has different stride lengths and cadences. This typically means that I catch up to the person in front and then have to pause, which breaks the spell. The cadence and stride length I am comfortable with works well until the gradient increases, when I start to struggle. I’ve tried shortening stride length, slowing the pace, and a combination of the two, but I really struggle to keep it slow enough that my output is sustainable. (Time to invest in an HRM perhaps.)

On one of the climbs there are some large globs of blood by the side of the tracks - prob a nose bleed. Yeeuuchh. Up to Col de l’Eveque (3377m) and at the transition Nick suggests that we stash the skins under our jackets instead of in our packs to keep them warm and help them dry out. Over the col for an all too brief ski down. Spring snow, crud, crust, and then, as if by miracle, a decent lump of steep untouched powder. Two perfect glorious turns in the virgin powder and then I blow it and fall as I reach the first bit of chopped up stuff. Dang. All caught on vid apparently. The team move off as I reassemble myself. Can’t afford to hang around. Valley bottom and we transition in readiness for the next slog. We have a drink and a quick snack but as another group approaches Nick chivvies us along to make sure we stay in front. This one ends in a steep walk up to Col de Mont Brulé (3232m) and we elect for crampons and going up independently. I’m just pipped to the start of the climb by another group and they are roped up without crampons. Tom also just misses a cut and gets pipped by another team who are roped together, which means that five of us get a decent and precarious rest at the top on some precipitous rocks overhanging a remote valley which leads down to Aosta. Sublime. (And we're briefly in Italy.)


About 3' behind where Nick is sitting is a largeish sheer drop, perhaps 1500'.



We transition, Tom arrives and we take the opportunity to take on more water and snacks. A short ski down to the glacier to begin the looooooong (and final) slog uphill to the last col (Col de la Valpelline - 3554m). Not steep, just relentless, and the group move at a pace I can maintain. Nick reckons about two hours should see us at the top and we start at 10.35. I promise myself a stop at 40 minutes and one hour 20 minutes. Just as 40 minutes clocks up Nick points out some rocks ahead where we will stop, so I plug on. Slump down at rock and drink half my bottle in one pull and stuff face with any snack offered plus almost all my remaining trail mix.

While we sit in the blazing sunshine a number of groups go past. The tail ender in one group is wearing a zipped up jacket, helmet and multi-coloured mirrored goggles, ready for an Arctic winter. He must have been roasting inside that lot. We were in shirtsleeves. Another solo chap with a large gut struggles past with a towel hanging out of the right side of his hat. Nick threatens to abandon us if we try the same trick. We eat a final round of snacks and I finish my electrolyte drink. There’s still a big haul ahead of us but we are on schedule to be on top by about 12.30. We set off and I hold the train for some distance but finally crack. I seem to be OK on first or second climb of the day, but run out of puff after that. I end up near the top walking 80 paces, taking a breather, then walking another 80, etc etc.



We gather just short of the crest and wait for Tom. Andrew strides onto the crest alone so as to capture our joint cresting and looks of wonderment as the Matterhorn slowly hoves into view. Wow. Just wow. There’s not many reveals in the world as spectacular and as gratifying as this one. Certainly the best I have ever experienced. Journey’s end. Well, not quite. We still have to get down to Zermatt.



Down, down, down. The snow changes character almost by the turn, some beautifully skiable, other sections not so (understatement). There’s a slushy schuss and I get a bit out of line but recover it well. The slush wins out in the end though. Just as I regain the tracks a slush gremlin catches my left ski and sends me off. My fastest wipe out for some time. (Legs are pretty weary by this point.) Oh the indignity. I was last one down and again, everyone is watching as they had gathered on a little crest to wait for me. I’m often at the back on downhills as I stop to take photos to try and capture the wonderfulness of it all.

We’re nearly there. Glory be. We pass, on the other side of the valley, Nick’s first day’s hut stop for the tour he is leading, starting from Zermatt tomorrow morning at 7am. No rest for a guide. Tough life. He has one night at home. Down more and we end up picking our way through trees, in slush, one 100 yard stretch of skis off and walking uphill, more trees, more side-stepping, hot, hot, hot. I pause occasionally in the shade of a tree to cool down. And, of course, after yesterday’s wasted application of sun cream to my arms, I didn’t bother this morning. Big error. I was boiling over but wasn’t willing to bare unprotected flesh to this fierce sun. Finally, about a hundred yards off I spy a snow cannon. Nearly on piste. Relief. A final push through the trees, a bit more side-stepping up, a crazy whizz through some branches and we’re past red netting and pylon protectors and we’re on piste. Slushy run down to Furri and we’re in civilisation. We stop on the gloriously sunny terrace of Restaurant Furri and order beers, shandies, Orangina, water and food. A final croute complet for me.



HUZZAH !  Time to eat, celebrate, self-congratulate, take it all in and have a beer. WE’VE DONE IT !!



The whole route -
Rust never sleeps

Re: Haute Route - Ski tour
« Reply #9 on: April 17, 2017, 10:59:09 pm »
When I find the time I'll add in the stats for the trip. I've got it all recorded, but not easily to hand. Watch this space.
Rust never sleeps

Re: Haute Route - Ski tour
« Reply #10 on: April 18, 2017, 09:30:58 am »
:thumbsup: :thumbsup: :thumbsup:

Excellent writeup, sounds like a very cool trip. Ski touring and X-C skiing have been touted as good cross training and/or off season alternatives for cyclists, so this does fit reasonably well in the Rides and Touring forum.
Thank you. It was fun. About as hard as I had imagined, but unbelievably rewarding. I'm completely hooked by ski-touring. All I need to do now is get a job so I can pay for next year's jaunt, wherever that is. (Oh yes, and that job has to allow me enough time off to fit this in along with everything else I want to do.)
Rust never sleeps

PaulF

  • "World's Scariest Barman"
  • It's only impossible if you stop to think about it
Re: Haute Route - Ski tour
« Reply #11 on: April 18, 2017, 10:22:49 am »
Sounds like a great trip and some great pictures

Re: Haute Route - Ski tour
« Reply #12 on: April 18, 2017, 10:27:08 am »
It was. And who knows, I might get to repeat it. I sat Joe down when we got back to go through the photos. His eyes were out on stalks. "Will you still be able to do that in three years ?"  Cheeky sod.  Yes, of course I will. He's already building it into his post-education plans.
Rust never sleeps

Re: Haute Route - Ski tour
« Reply #13 on: April 18, 2017, 10:41:17 am »
Just skimmed this and it looks wonderful! I'll (snow) plough through it in detail when I have a bit more time, but doing the Haute Route has been a dream of mine for a few years now. (Together with Riding the Divide, sailing across the Pacific.....etc) The last time I skied was a decade ago and that was on skinny skis with no edges doing cross-country at Nancroix.  Does one need to have decent Telemark skills to ski-tour or do the skis do much of the work for you these days?
'Something....something.... Something about racing bicycles, but really a profound metaphor about life itself.'  Tim Krabbé. Possibly

Re: Haute Route - Ski tour
« Reply #14 on: April 18, 2017, 11:02:56 am »
Just skimmed this and it looks wonderful! I'll (snow) plough through it in detail when I have a bit more time, but doing the Haute Route has been a dream of mine for a few years now. (Together with Riding the Divide, sailing across the Pacific.....etc) The last time I skied was a decade ago and that was on skinny skis with no edges doing cross-country at Nancroix.  Does one need to have decent Telelmark skills to ski-tour or do the skis do much of the work for you these days?
Yup. Time is running out for adventures. Sailing the Atlantic is on my list.

Modern ski-touring kit is pretty impressive. There's a whole new category of kit called 'freetour' which is perfect for jaunts like this. Bindings and skis are lightweight yet technical enough to ski pretty much anything. No need for telemark style, bindings now latch the heels down for when you are going downhill. Andrew happily used his touring skis and boots for a week of family skiing (both on and off piste) in February.

But you still have to do the work !!
Rust never sleeps

Re: Haute Route - Ski tour
« Reply #15 on: April 18, 2017, 11:33:03 am »
Developments in ski-touring kit mirrors developments in cycling. 'Freeride' was a response to the demands of snowboarders who found that the faff of split boards wasn't worth it. Hybridisation has brought the benefits of innovation into touring. In cycling, we've seen Mountain bikes and Road bikes hybridise into 'Gravel Bikes' then mutate into 'Adventure Touring' bikes. There are ski touring equivalents to Audaxing as well.

I had ambitions to do the Haute Route in the early 2000s. But a very expensive tour in the Bernese Oberland, that consisted of fog and snow, cooled my ardour. I did get to realise my ambition of a solo ski ascent of Cross Fell, the descent was an exercise in snow-ploughing my way over breakable crust.


Re: Haute Route - Ski tour
« Reply #16 on: April 18, 2017, 11:53:07 am »
That looks just fabulous. I'd love to do something like that (but my skiing skills are unlikely to ever be good enough, and there too many other things I want to do more).

Re: Haute Route - Ski tour
« Reply #17 on: April 18, 2017, 05:57:50 pm »
You do have to be able to ski pretty much any type of snow, but if that puts you off, you could always do it as a Summertime trek. I think it takes two or three days more.
Rust never sleeps

Re: Haute Route - Ski tour
« Reply #18 on: April 19, 2017, 01:57:18 pm »
Stats. Distance in Kms, elevations in metres.

Day 1 - Arg Town > Ref d’ArgDay 2 - Arg > Cab du TrientDay 3 Pt 1 - Trient > Champex LacDay 3 TaxiDay 3 Pt 2 - Le Chable > Cab de PrafleuriDay 4 - Prafleuri > Cab du DixDay 5 - Dix > Cab du VignettesDay 6 - Vignettes > Zermatt
Day’s total distance (with lifts and cabs)2711.810.221.220.511.79.4128.8
Running total distance2738.84970.290.7102.4111.81140.61
Distance under our own steam16.811.810.2012.311.79.4128.8
Running total distance UOOS16.828.638.838.851.162.872.21101.01
Day's ascent with lifts48901054680319587510641411
Day’s ascent UOOS190105468058587510641411
Running Asc UOOS1901244131213121897277238365247
Day’s descent29656701750013706158322510
Running Desc UOOS296536355385538567557370820210712
Start time09:5007:1007:0009:3010:0507:2006:2006:10
End time16:4514:4508:5010:0515:2012:5016:1014:05
Max Elevation33053345318014853145296937903581
Min Elevation122525421485720835227528451870
Rust never sleeps

Re: Haute Route - Ski tour
« Reply #19 on: April 19, 2017, 02:47:57 pm »
Route notes. Use Swiss Topo maps if you really want to follow this.

Day 1 - Argentière town to the Réfuge d'Argentière
From top of Grand Montets lift station (3295m), descend to Glacier d'Argentière, cross glacier and ascend to Réfuge d'Argentière (2771m).

Day 2 - Réfuge d'Argentière to Cabane du Trient
From Réfuge d'Argentière descend Glacier d'Argentière to foot of Col du Chardonnet. Ascend Glacier du Chardonnet to col (3321m) where we cross from France into Switzerland. Down Glacier de Saleina and then up and over the Fenêtre de Saleina (3261m), across Plateau de Trient to Cabane du Trient (3170m).

Day 3 Pt 1 - Cabane du Trient to Champex Lac
From Cabane du Trient down the Glacier du Trient and up Col Des Ecandies (2793m). Down Val d'Arpette to Champex Lac (1485).

Day 3 Cab - Taxi: Champex Lac to Le Chable (820m)

Day 3 Pt 2 - Le Chable to Cabane de Prafleuri
Lift: Le Chable > Médran (Verbier) (1522m)
Lift: Médran > Ruinettes (2277m)
Lift: Ruinettes > Attelas (2727m)
Ski down to La Chaux (2266m)
Lift (Jumbo): La Chaux > Col des Gentianes (2894m)
Ski to bottom of Col de la Chaux (2781m) and over the top (2940m).
Pass Lac du Petit Mont Fort and up to Col de Momin (3015m).
Cross upper reaches of Glacier Grand Désert, past Petit Mont Calme on our left and Rosa Blanche on our right, onto Glacier de Prafleuri. Pass underneath Le Miroir and down to the Cabane de Prafleuri (2657m).

Day 4 - Cabane de Prafleuri to Cabane des Dix
From Cabane de Prafleuri up to Col des Roux (2804m). Traverse under Les Roux (to our right) with Lac des Dix on our left. Head up the right (West) flank of Tête Noire (2957m) and ski down to the Cabane des Dix (2928m).

Day 5 - Cabane des Dix to Cabane des Vignettes
From Cabane des Dix ski down onto and across the Glacier de Cheilon and then skirt round the upper reaches of the Glacier de Tsena Refien and up and over Col de Tsijore Nouve (3409m), across the plateau of Col de Brennay (3633m) and up to Pigne d'Arolla (3790m). Down a glacial field and over Col des Vignettes to the Cabane des Vignettes (3160m) immediately on the other side of the col.

Day 6 - Cabane des Vignettes to Zermatt
Back through the close-by Col des Vignettes and traverse to a col (3160m) to the South. Ski down to the glacial plateau of Col de Charmontane (3024m). Skin up Glacier du Mont Collon to Col de l'Evêque (3377m) where we cross briefly into Italy for about 500m. Ski down and across to the Haut Glacier d'Arolla and then start the long skin and be-cramponed walk up to Col du Mont Brulé (3232m) where we again cross into Italy. Ski down onto the Haut Glacier de Tsa de Tsan and then begin the final skin up to Col de Valpelline (3554m). Over the top and back into Switzerland, down the Stockjigletscher, a dodge to the right onto the Tiefmattengletscher, on to the Zmuttgletscher and then down the valley to Furi (1870m).
Rust never sleeps

Re: Haute Route - Ski tour
« Reply #20 on: April 19, 2017, 03:23:30 pm »
Kit and Packing List

Hardware

Skis with touring bindings
Adjustable poles
Crampons
Couteaux
Skins
Ice-axe

Wear
Scarpa Maestrale boots
Mountain Equipment Soft shell trousers
Kathmandu shell jacket
Gill micro-fleece
Merino base layer (first day only)
Heavy ski gloves (only briefly, twice)
Soft shell ski-touring gloves
Merino boxers
Ski socks
Buff
Bamboo fibre beanie / Baseball cap
Neckerchief
Sunnies / Goggles
Ortovox Zoom+ (avalanche transceiver)
Petzl climbing harness and screwgate carabiner and snaplink

Deuter Guide 35+ rucsac

In lid outer pocket : -
  Whatever accessories I either wasn't wearing or was stashed in the jacket pockets (eg hat, goggles, etc)
  Active bag of trail mix
  Satmap
  Camera (mostly lived in a clothing pocket)

In lid inner pocket : -
  Head torch
  2fl oz hip flask filled with Glenmorangie
  3 x prussic loops
  Balaclava (never used)
  Cash bag
  Passport/Insurance card (never needed)
  Notebook and 2 x pens

In bag's inner pocket : -
  Avalanche probe
  Avalanche shovel
 
Loose in bag : -
  Hard shell ski troos (never used)
  Hut socks
  2 x water bottles (one 1L Evian and one hard plastic 750ml Nalgene bottle)
  Silk sleeping bag liner
  Bag of six separate 50g bags of electrolyte drinks mix
  Down jacket (never used)
  2 x bags of trail mix
  6 x Mule bars
  1 x block of Kendal Mint Cake
  Book (not once looked at - too busy writing up journal) (I ended up lending this to Nick - to be collected on our next ski-tour next year)
  Spare collapsible ski pole (group shared kit)

Daily use bits bag : -
  100ml Riemanns P20 SPF 50 suncream
  12 x wet wipes
  Ear plugs (not used)
  Toothbrush + paste
  50ml hand cleaning gel (used once only)
  Loo roll (only used to help mop up spilt drink)
  Bag of tissues
  Film canister full of ibuprofen (and almost empty by the end of the week)

Medical bag : -
  2 x boxes of Compeed plasters (not used)
  Roll of micropore tape (used to secure my thumb splint up to the point I left that behind in the café in Champex Lac)
  Tube of Diprobase ointment
  Tube of Ibuleve
  Red stretchy bandage

Electrical bits bag : -
  iPod + headphones
  2 x spare camera batteries (one not used)
  1 x spare Satmap battery
  Satmap charger lead and plug
  1 x spare AA battery (for transceiver) (not used)

Clothes bag : -
  Merino long johns (never used)
  Spare base layer (never used)

Miscellaneous : -
  SPF 50 lip balm (was in hard shell troos pocket and forgotten about)
Rust never sleeps

Re: Haute Route - Ski tour
« Reply #21 on: April 20, 2017, 08:02:05 am »
Developments in ski-touring kit mirrors developments in cycling. 'Freeride' was a response to the demands of snowboarders who found that the faff of split boards wasn't worth it. Hybridisation has brought the benefits of innovation into touring. In cycling, we've seen Mountain bikes and Road bikes hybridise into 'Gravel Bikes' then mutate into 'Adventure Touring' bikes. There are ski touring equivalents to Audaxing as well.

I had ambitions to do the Haute Route in the early 2000s. But a very expensive tour in the Bernese Oberland, that consisted of fog and snow, cooled my ardour. I did get to realise my ambition of a solo ski ascent of Cross Fell, the descent was an exercise in snow-ploughing my way over breakable crust.

I resisted buying any of the ski-touring hardwear for this trip for a few reasons: I might not have enjoyed it; you cannot know what gizmos/gadgets/features are of any use until you've had a chance to try the activity first, so get suckered in to buying kit with features that are completely superfluous; and finally that as I'm not working, buying it all would have been hard to justify (or afford).

Now I've done it, I'm pretty sure I'll be doing it again (job allowing) and I am familiar with how it all works, so as soon as I am employed and the coffers are suitably restocked, I think I'll be splashing out. Aside from anything else, when that 'once in ten years snow' does fall in sufficient volumes on the South Downs, I want to have the opportunity of skinning up so I can ski down. A solo ascent of Ditchling Beacon quite appeals.
Rust never sleeps

Re: Haute Route - Ski tour
« Reply #22 on: April 20, 2017, 11:40:15 am »
The other skis in the picture are cross-country, others had come in from Hartside. I'd started at the top of the Yad Moss Poma lift, traversed to the highest point of the Yad Moss Road, shuffled across the flat ground, and followed the edge of the infant Tees towards the summit of Cross Fell. That was in 2010.

I'd been inspired to do some touring by a TV piece that Nicholas Crane did in the 1990s. In 1996 we were cycle touring in Catalonia, and I saw a pair of XL Silvretta touring bindings and skins in a climbing shop in Barcelona, close to the Sagrada Familia. I picked up some 190cm GS straight skis for £50 from a shop in Preston, and some size 14 rear-entry Salomons in a shop in Blackpool. It's worth assembling some basic kit for the odd opportunity that we get, and I've had plenty of use at Yad Moss.

We did our first ski-tour in 1999. I'd had a good spell of work felling trees on the M6 verges between Penrith and Carlisle, with a snow-covered Cross Fell within sight for much of the time, so I had the appetite and the money. I took the bike to Val d'Isere as well, to build up fitness for PBP. Val is a good place for an introduction to touring, as the shops have the kit, there are lots of guides, and some good routes.

Our tours coincided with a series of very late heavy snowfalls, so we never finished any. We got involved in a house-building project, and the appetite and the cash never coincided again.

We went out with a company called Alpine Experience, based at Jean Sports opposite the Hotel Moris in Val. I never fitted in with their style-based way of skiing, but they tolerated me, mainly for the filming. I'm good at route-finding, and kick-turns, though.

My filming preceded the era of action cams, so it was always about other people. That fitted in well with the group nature of days out. Looking at the films now, it's noticeable that the tracks are close together, and don't cross. That's to limit avalanche risk, and conserve the snow for the next group. That also meant lots of nerve-racking traverses at the tops of long slopes.

The guides hated the arrival of 'Freeride' and action cams, as it brought people who knew little about avalanche risk onto dangerous slopes. At 2 minutes in this video there's a boarder stood still at the top of an avalanche they'd triggered. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uiWk6IZqwDk

The problem with the improvements in kit is that it pushes the boundaries of the activity into more dangerous areas. GPS and mobile phones make people feel more secure, and action cams push them to their personal limits. Avalanches are still very binary.

Quote
Rapaport was an established part of the freeride skiing circuit, in which athletes rapidly descend steep, rocky mountain faces, and she had appeared in many ski films and magazines.

Her death occurred nearly two years after the Chilean avalanche deaths of famed extreme skiers Jean-Philippe Auclair, a Canadian, and Carl Andreas Fransson, a Swede.

It also comes during a time of reflection within the extreme skiing community regarding the dangers of the sport. In December, skiing magazine Powder published a feature article asking if professional skiers were taking too many risks. Rapaport appeared on the cover.


https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/jul/18/matilda-rapaport-killed-avalanche-chile

Re: Haute Route - Ski tour
« Reply #23 on: April 25, 2017, 09:00:14 pm »
That's a really great write up, thanks, so much so I don't have the slightest desire to emulate. I'll read about it instead. Mind you, I wish I had years ago.

Re: Haute Route - Ski tour
« Reply #24 on: April 25, 2017, 11:23:06 pm »
That's a really great write up, thanks, so much so I don't have the slightest desire to emulate. I'll read about it instead. Mind you, I wish I had years ago.
I half-entertained this idea a few years ago, but there's always a reason not to do something which is as big an undertaking as this. I dithered a bit more then came to the realisation that I wasn't getting any younger and that if I didn't do it soon then I never would. All it took was a couple of phone calls and the payment of the deposit. Everything else after that simply became inevitable.
Rust never sleeps