It was mid day when I found myself at work again, skinning of course, and my favourite type of day, which means classic from the car ski touring.
We travelled up a well beaten cross country ski track, and into the valley above before I realised I’d been here several time before, I was back in Italy and heading towards the Benevelo refuge. But suddenly we stopped, and there was a lot of discussion. Someone was holding a ski in one hand, and a binding in the other. Even I know this was less than ideal…. And sure enough I was taken off, stuffed in the blue sack and the next thing I know I’m hanging to dry in Chamonix, and not Italy.
The next day felt like Deja vu, although this seemed to be a different valley and an earlier start. Through the trees again and then up a very steep slope. I sensed the weather wasn’t too great, as we didn’t really stop much, even with a very long flat section along the bottom of the valley.
There was relief when the hut came into view and I was soon hanging to dry in a nice warm spot high in the roof with a good view into the hut. It was spotlessly clean, full of books on the shelves, like a library, and the hut guardian was busy looking after everyone. I slept well after the long day, and the skiers seemed to as well.
I was put down the front jacket rather than the rucksack, a sure sign of a short ski before the uphill skinning. We went across a frozen lake and then up an interesting route onto a ridge line where I was kept on for some downhill before the main ascent. This seemed to go on for an awfully long time, and the snow was very wet and kept sticking to me before it was kicked away.
I was taken off quite quickly at the col, the skiers weren’t wasting anytime, and I was strapped to the side of the rucksack for the ski down, so I got a great view and a little drying too. The snow looked great higher up, as we made a long ski into the valley, but lower down it looked terrible. Not much fun at all.
That night I was hung up in a hotel room. Very nice. What a contrast the next morning. Clear blue skies and frozen hard snow. My friends the ski crampons came out quite quickly and then soon after we were carried on the rucksack for quite a while. It must have been pretty steep.
We were back on the ground again, and on up to another hut which I know well, the Vitorio Emmanuele. I had a little rest in the sunshine whilst the skiers consumed more coffee and cake but we were off quite quickly again, doing another couple of hundred meters worth of ascent. I was in the rucksack again, but whilst I was being taken off, I saw that they were heading down the same valley as yesterday, but today the snow looked perfect, the top layer was softening on the hard snow underneath – hero skiing.
I couldn’t understand why we didn’t stay at the hut, until I saw the weather the following day – a day for being indoors. Now this feels like Switzerland, and there’s fresh snow that I’m getting pushed through. We’re breaking trail and it’s a long ascent in the clouds. Suddenly we stopped again and I fear another “Harry the ski” moment. But I realise we’re above the clouds and the peaks of the alps stretch to the horizon. The summit is close and I know I won’t be enjoying the descent view this time, which is a shame as it looks like a good ‘un.