Saturday, 26 September 2015

First powder day of the season!

Well, it was more piste to be honest but we did ski some powder so I'm claiming it.

I'm in Austria right now and it seems that winter has already arrived over here, with heavy snowfall down to about 1600 metres. I went for a training hike with my mate Robbie on Wednesday and this was the scene at 1900 metres - 

It was awesome to feel winter arriving but I might have appreciated it slightly more had I not been wearing trainers....A beer and knödelsuppe sorted everything out.

With bad weather also forecast for Thursday, there was no way Sharon and I were going to be working on Friday, especially given that Stubai was due to open for the ski season that day. (Yes, I know it's only September but Stubai has "guaranteed" skiing between October and June, plus any other time they get snow, which is my sort of ski resort).

Conditions turned out to be superb, with some pockets of lovely low angle powder and some immaculately groomed pistes. As if that wasn't enough, we also enjoyed an excellent (and reasonably priced) lunch and a cheeky weissbier too. Life in the Alps can be so tough.

Sharon loving the creamy pistes.

Austrain efficiency - this is at nearly 3000 metres!

We even found a peak to scramble up, although I couldn't figure out from the map exactly which summit it was.

Matt "The Alpine Clown" Livingstone, who is a regular fixture on this blog, would appreciate that his standard mountain greeting was engraved on the summit book holder on our little peak. 

Loving the view.

King of the castle.

Sharon on some nice, low angled powder with an amazing cloud inversion below.

Yes it's mellow but for September, this felt pretty good.

Wednesday, 2 September 2015

Well that was fun.....

As part of my continuing mission to get photos around the Massif, I'd run into the problem of Mont Blanc's "wild side"; the Italian part of the range. After several days of hiking around the Val Ferret and Val Veny Valleys, I concluded that the only way of getting decent photos of some features was from the air. Not a chore by any means, but not cheap either.

Jack, Tom and Sharon joined me on Sunday and we went through the tunnel to Courmayeur where I realised a long held ambition (sorry, "did some work") by flying around the Mont Blanc Massif in a heli. We flew with GMH Helicopter services who were really helpful, tailored the flight to exactly what we wanted and were superb to deal with throughout. Before any allegations are made, they didn't offer me a discount to say that (!) but they deserve a pat on the back for doing such a good job.

Some of the shots are from Jack, Sharon and Tom but I had over 1100 photos to go through so who took what is tricky to figure out; apologies for the lack of photo credits.

Plotting. When paying by the minute, efficiency counts.

Pre-flight checks. Looked alright to me.

Headed for Mont Blanc.

All done at the Dômes de Miage. Trying to get the required shots while not hanging around too long was tricky but sitting in the open door of a helicopter, hovering above Mont Blanc is pretty cool whatever the situation.

The Dômes de Miage looking pretty dry.

The west face of Mont Blanc.

 Looking up at the Freney Pillars and the Innominata ridge.

Cool close up view of the Dent du Géant.

Grand Jorasses south face.

One last look before landing. 

So, an amazing experience but unfortunately one I might not be repeating anytime soon unless the lottery numbers come up. 

After a really long, hot summer the weather is a bit rough in Cham now but the sun looks set to reappear in a few days. As has been the case most of the season, I'd say that rock climbs, away from potential rockfall areas, would be the way to go when the good weather returns. The Envers des Aiguilles would be a good shout, as would the Aiguilles Rouges.

Hopefully autumn will begin to creep into the Valley soon and mountaineering conditions might begin to improve. In the meantime, get your rockboots out and enjoy some golden granite.