It’s the end of the season out here in the Alps. The lifts in Chamonix have been shutting this week, and today is the final day for the Grand Montet. Not that we’re lacking in snow, and in fact as I write this there’s a few inches of fresh snow right down to valley level, and we haven’t had that for a while now.
Last week I finished off my winter work season with five days skiing with Sam, working for High Mountain Guides.
The brief was pretty open, and the weather forecast looked pretty unsettled but Sam was very flexible. We spent a day warming the legs up at the Grand Montet, which happened to have had a fresh dump of snow overnight, and we were treated to plenty of fresh powder skiing, especially as we were prepared to skin and because some of the lifts were shut meaning no one else was skiing down there.
After that we escaped the northerly weather by heading south into Italy and the Grand Paradiso national park. The Benevolo refuge was an obvious choice and we booked ourselves in for a couple of nights.
Waking up at the hut on day three with plans for a full days touring, we were greeted by some pretty stormy weather. It had snowed during the night with accompanying strong winds. Quite a few people at the hut had a leisurely breakfast, and a few folk didn’t venture out at all. We were keen to “have a look” and so headed out. It was very cold (-10 at 2500m) and that air temperature combined with the wind meant that we were skinning uphill in down jackets and warm gloves. After an hour we reached a decision point and with the wind howling across the ridge above and the cloud still coming and going we turned around and skied some great pockets of soft powder all the way to the hut.
It was now only 9.30, and we arrived back before most people had even thought about leaving the hut. After warming up by the stove a bit we decided to rest before venturing out for a second ski, so it was siesta time.
The second ski was a bit longer and had some technical skinning and kick turns. All good practice, and there was plenty of un-skied snow on the way down.
The last day at the Benevolo dawned clear and cold, and we skinned up to the head of the valley to a little peak called Gahsia, which at 3346m is high enough for some great views including Mont Blanc, Grand Paradiso, Grand Combin, Matterhorn, Tignes, Monta Rosa. It feels like you can see the alps end to end, although it was too cold to hang around for long up there.
More nice skiing back down to the hut, this time on a variety of snow including some wind affected patches. We followed this with obligatory pasta and coffee at the Benevolo before good combat skiing along the valley back to the car.
For the grand finale, it was the Vallee Blanche. We had an hour and half skin up to the Col Entreves on the Italian side, before plenty of untracked snow back to the main route. Amazing weather and conditions and a real treat for Sam on his first VB, and a prefect day to end my winter season on.
Until next time!