Our original plan was to head to Zermatt for a week of 4000m peak bagging along the Swiss/Italian frontier ridge. The terrain along there is pretty complicated however and the weather forecast we had wasn’t looking too helpful with strong winds forecast all week and cloud coming and going too. So we shelved that idea and I spent quite a bit of time staring at guidebooks, maps and weather forecasts.
The weather did look better further south, and so after our warmup day around Chamonix we got in the car and did some driving. The Haute Maurienne has some classic ski touring terrain as well as a few peaks you can climb along the way. With our unpredictable weather forecast I tried to plan a route and a sequence of huts that meant we’d get the most from the week.
This meant that we ended up traveling against the standard flow of people after a couple of days, but it did mean we climbed the fantastic arête of the Alberon and then the Arberon in good weather early in the week. We had quite a bit of fresh snow fall on the third day, giving us some bad visibility skiing, but as we had a second night booked in the Aureole refuge it was no great stress to do an out and back ski.
The following day, the forth in the tour, involved lots of trail breaking in the new snow and everyone was feeling some accumulated fatigue. We had a great ski down to the Gastaldi refuge though, for a night in Italy as we’d just traversed the border. This is a great little refuge, with excellent guardians and as a bonus we were the only people in the hut that evening, so we were very well looked after. The spaghetti was superb!
For our final day we were aiming to close the circle that we’d made on the map since setting off at the start of the week. The day dawned nice and clear, and we had an early start to try and beat some cloudy weather that was due in later in the day. The forecasts timing wasn’t helpful though and before we reached our col the cloud, wind and some light snow had already arrived. This was a crucial piece of mountain, as we had to traverse across the glacier above an ice cliff before making a turn downhill back into the valley. Out came the map and gps, and I was feeling pleased with myself for putting in some gps waypoints earlier in the trip. We still had to be very careful though in the bad visibility and we crept along staying close together until we suddenly dropped below the main cloud layer and found the first groups coming up from the other hut. Then it was nice to relax and put in some powder turns as we made our way back to the car and toward the showers everyone was wishing for. A massive thanks to Rob and Laura for a fun week, lots of laughs along the way, although I’m not sure if I would play pick up sticks voluntarily again……