Monday 27 May 2013

Grand St Bernard & Pointe de L'Ifala

Yet another couple of non-glaciated touring days in the final week of May!

With only a couple of good days forecast I wanted to make the most them, so yesterday Sharon and I went through the Mont Blanc tunnel into Italy, bound for the Petit St Bernard Col.We were surprised that the internet said it was open, but figured that they must have cleared it despite the reports of masses of snow.   Well, either the internet site was wrong or they'd closed it overnight, because the barriers were down when we got there, and so we decided to go and explore the Italian side of the Grand St Bernard Col. We knew it was closed but we wanted to just drive up and see if we could find somewhere to ski.

Luckily for us we found some random back roads which took us to the snow line from and there we toured up in a freezing cold wind for about 500 vertical metres before skiing back down. I've absolutely no idea where we were, but it was great to be out, and even better for the fact that we didn't see another person all day.

Heading up, the peaks of Gran Paradiso behind.

Me on the ridge of Godknowswhat Peak, above Godknowswhat ski area.

Today (Monday) was due to be a beautiful day, but after a few really cold days of touring, I was determined to be properly equipped today and so took a flask and some mittens. Ironically enough it was one of the hottest touring days I've ever had, and the biggest worry was heat exhaustion!

The chosen objective was the N couloir of the Pointe de L'Ifala (a summit which I climbed last autumn), above the Emosson Dam. Matt was keen, and so was Mooresy, despite having driven overnight from Wimbledon! True dedication.

The skin up was frankly horrific, with the searing heat sapping every bit of energy. Despite the relatively small height gain, I was as buggered as I've felt for years on the way up. Eventually there was nothing for it but to shed some layers...

Matt and Tom with some (artificially?) large packages

We eventually finished skinning, and did the final 100m to the top of the couloir on foot. 

This is how I looked for about 3 hours today. Me at the top.

The views were absolutely stunning from the top, and from there we had a superb ski down. Unfortunately everyone who had skied the couloir before had side slipped and left a huge trench, which meant that turning was impossible and so we had to side slip too, but after that it was great skiing all the way. We picked a pretty interesting way down and though the snow was slightly soggy, it was really fun, rip-able stuff.

Chamonix Valley, 27th May. Looks like March!

Matt leaving the trench in the Couloir.

Onto the first good section of skiing.

It might not be glaciated, but it's big country above the Emosson Dam.

Matt lower down

We took the line on the left, and our tracks are just about visible if you click on the photo. 

Never has a Coke tasted so good. 

There is still an incredible amount of snow above the Dam, and touring looks possible virtually everywhere above 2000m. The weather looks poor for next week, but there should definitely be some options if we do get some sun.

For the first time this year I saw some British climbers in town today, and I can't help thinking that they'll be disappointed this week - winter still reigns here for now. Sorry, climbers! I'll keep updating the blog as things progress but if you are coming out this week, bring your skis.