Friday, 23 November 2012

Col Grand St Bernard and Pain de Sucre N face

It might be late November, and snow seems thin on the ground here in Cham, but the last couple of days have proved that there is already good skiing out there if you're willing to put the effort in.

On Wednesday Emma, Matt and I decided to go and have a look at the area around the Monastery at the Col Grand St Bernard, above Bourg St. Pierre. Parking up at the now derelict Super St Bernard ski area, we skinned up for about 1hr 45, and were soon scoffing soup, bread and superb cheese at the monastery (for 3 Euro each I might add! A real treat for those of us used to the extortionate prices charged in most huts). We had talked about carrying on and doing something else from the Monastery but opted for eating and drinking before simply skiing back down the snow covered road back to the car. 

There's plenty of history up at the Col

Emma and Matt skiing away from the Monastery

I thought I'd put this photo on for those odd people who prefer ice climbing to skiing - I'm guessing this sort of things floats their boat.

"We're all individuals"....."I'm not!!!"

Although we didn't do any touring past the Monastery, it was obvious that there was a lot more snow over there than there is in Cham, and with my appetite whet I decided to head back over today (Friday) for a solo mission to climb and ski the Pain de Sucre N face. The Pain de Sucre is not a well known peak, and at 2900m it isn't a very big one either, but it looks amazing from the Col Grand St Bernard, and the N face seemed a good bet for powder even 2 weeks after snowfall.

The skin up to the Monastery was pretty quick, and then I followed the road down the other side and into Italy, before hanging a right up into the bowl below Mont Fourchon. 

Looking across towards my destination - the Pain de Sucre is the obvious pointy peak in the middle of the photo.

Close up of the peak, showing my route up and down. 

There was a skin track for about the first half of the way up, but after that I was breaking trail through deep powder. That would be a pain normally, but it meant that I'd soon be skiing down the same powder, so I was pretty happy. 

The final ridge to the summit had to be tackled on foot, and with me up to my waist in snow it was tough but well worth it for the incredible view and the knowledge that I had an amazing ski to come. 

Looking across to the Mont Blanc Massif

I'm loving the panoramic setting on my new camera.


The ski down was indeed amazing, with light, fluffy powder for about 500m of vertical. Given that it's the third week in November and hasn't snowed for a fortnight, that felt pretty good but I was far too busy to take photos, so you'll have to take my word for it. It was so good to be skiing again, and even more so because of the quality of snow I found. The line itself is great too, with a short pitch of steepish snow just near the top, and then lots of sheltered little powder filled gullies.

There is a huge amount of really interesting looking skiing in the area around the Pain de Sucre, so I've no doubt I'll be back before the lifts open in Cham in mid December. 

In summary - skiing rocks.

Back in the happy place

Tuesday, 20 November 2012


After 7 weeks away, I'm now back in Cham and loving every second of it. The snow hasn't really arrived yet but it feels like winter, with the temperature low and a heavy frost on the ground until the middle of the day. Climbing conditions look superb in the hills right now, but with the Montenvers train being the only lift open, access is going to be tough. That said, there are plenty of options for those willing to walk (things have to be pretty good for me to be in that category) so I'll be looking to get out ASAP. In the meantime I have a little plan for some skiing tomorrow...

The last 7 weeks have been pretty frantic, and there is a report on my trip to Nepal here, and I'll be adding a report soon about the Wilderness First Responder course that I did last week. For anyone interested it is a superb course (and one I should have done a long time ago), so email me if you have any questions about it.

In the meantime, here's a few gratuitous mountain shots from Nepal -

Annapurna S face

Tent Peak base camp after a dump of fresh snow

Our high point on Tent Peak - it's not the summit but the view made up for it

Langtang Lirung at sunset

Chris Rounds just below the summit of Naya Kanga

Sunset over Langtang and Shishapangma