Quite a mixed couple of weeks since the last blog.
Our stable spring weather came to an abrupt end, which coincided with six days off and friends visiting. I had planned some big mountain days with Matt, but a week of high winds at altitude put paid to that.
It was actually nice to have some rest, after a pretty busy ski season of guiding and training/racing. Well, the rest lasted a day, and then it was back out on the skis in-between baby bouncing time at home.
Emma and I had a few good skinning trips to Les Houches, going uphill on the deserted pistes and skiing down in the slush. The slopes at the bottom are getting pretty bare now, it’s a slalom course between patches of dirt and mud…..
Matt and I had a couple of great skis, from the valley. The Aiguillette des Houches was fantastic, with a coating of fresh snow hiding all the old tracks. We had to walk for about fifteen minutes or so, and then skis on up the forest tracks and then the open slopes to the summit. We then skied down the north facing valley towards Servoz, before traversing around back towards Les Houches. It was a great three and a half hour round trip, and my fourth time on the peak this winter.
I did manage to fit in a days guiding during my week off, covering for a friend Charlie who had a couple of clients for a Vallee Blanche. Unfortunately it was Easter Sunday, the first good days weather up high for a week and it had dumped with snow the night before. All this added up for a busy day on the Midi lift.
Despite me getting there early to get a reservation, we weren’t on the lift until ten thirty. We popped out of the low clouds about half way up the lift, with stunning weather above the cloud inversion. The snow was amazing as well, knee deep at the top and plenty of fresh tracks to find. But despite the weather forecast, the cloud wasn’t dispersing and we dropped into the “ming” quite quickly where it was snowing gently as well.
The snow was still nice and soft, but the visibility was awful. We were skiing very close to the Gros Rognon so we traversed towards it so as to use the rock wall for contrast. It was during this tricky skiing that I had, (what my selective memory thinks), was my first little powder crash of the season. Almost a sit down really, but when I had righted myself my pole was a little out of shape. I put a tiny bit of pressure on it and… snap! So one pole only….
Two minutes later, and an almost identical sit down as I looked over my shoulder at my two skiers, this time losing a ski. I was going so slowly it wasn’t hard to find but I couldn’t seem to clip back into the binding. It turned out I had snapped the back part of the Dynafit pin binding clean off. Ah. I had visions of having to ski down the rest of the glacier on one ski, in bad vis and in deep snow. Not good.
I reassured my clients, and got my ski strap out. Using this and a sling from my harness I managed to fairly successfully secure my boot to the rear binding, with only a minimal amount of movement. I had to ski fairly carefully, but we actually dropped out of the clouds around the Requin refuge which made the skiing a lot easier.
The queues for the train back down were fairly long and tedious, and so it had turned into quite a big day….
The day after was due to be a good sunny day as well, and it was time to finally ski up Mont Buet from the valley, a classic ski tour that I’d never got around to doing. With 1800m of ascent from the valley it’s no easy tour, but Matt was game on his heavy skis, and my dad was keen to snow shoe up the valley to the site of the summer refuge as well.
There were plenty of people in the car park who had the same idea as us, but once we were on the trail it didn’t feel too busy and we slowly passed people on the way. It soon warmed up in the sun and I was pretty glad of the early start, especially as the snow was going to get pretty soggy by mid morning. Due to my bigger skis being out of action from the day before, I was on my race kit which was quite the contrast to Matt’s older K2’s and Fritchi bindings. Although he did take great pleasure in overtaking people on more modern lightweight kit.
Three and a half hours from the car we were on the windy summit, and with a rendezvous with Dad at the Cafe, and the family at Les Houches we didn’t waste much time, and the huge amount of untracked powder was calling anyway…. Where I was jealous of Matts wide skis, compared with my skinny short ones. Very pleased I managed to stay upright and put in some nice turns, with only the occasional wobble. I still had enough “beans” for an uphill ski at Les Houches with Emma in the afternoon.
It was definitely time for a couple of easier days, although we still seemed to get out for some pretty long walks with the baby rucksack and a great little hour at the Snells field boulder, for my first climb outside this year. My arms are weak…..