Sunday 2 March 2014

Courmayeur, Helbronner & Vallee Blanche

A busy weekend! After a pretty cloudy and grey week, the weekend was forecast to be much improved and as if that wasn't enough, there's quite a bit of fresh snow around so I was confident that there was plenty of good skiing to be had.

First up was a day in Courmayeur, which is rarely a bad idea and certainly wasn't on Saturday. Tons of fresh snow but with acceptable avalanche conditions added up to an excellent day which just got better when the sun appeared for a couple of hours in the afternoon. Some brilliant tree runs were interspersed with a run off the Youla and then one off the Arp, both of which delivered miles of untracked powder. 

Tom Moores in one of the Youla exit couloirs. One of those, "why is no-one skiing here?" moments. 

Sophie at the top of the Arp.

Sophie and Tom after an immense run from the Arp. 

Sophie's skiing is really coming along :)

For Sunday we wanted to go big and decided that we should get up early and go for a mission at the Helbronner. The Marbrees Couloir was first choice but we knew it could be risky and so went through the Mont Blanc tunnel keen for adventure but with no firm plan. The Helbronner is nearly always quiet so we figured that if we got there 10 minutes before the first lift we'd be fine. 

Unfortunately it wasn't quiet and we ended up queueing for over an hour and only getting to the top at 10.15. By this stage it was heating up far too fast to go for the Marbrees so we went for a quick run down the Toula Glacier, which turned out to also be pretty spicy due to some funky slabs and extreme heat. The forecast had said that it was going to stay cold until after midday but I think they might have had the work experience guy doing the Courmayeur forecast at the weather centre as it was about 10 degrees warmer than predicted. Still, we skied fast and got ourselves down safely but not without the odd hairy moment. The Helbronner is an amazing area but today was a reminder that if it isn't right, you need to leave it alone. If anyone sees the bloke who does the forecasts for over there, give him a smack from me!

You are an hero. 

Possibly my favourite photo ever. Phil with a couple of chicks he picked up, plus some very nice scenery. 

Phil and Sharon about to head into the Toula.

Phil skiing too fast for me to get a good photo, as ever.

It's BIG country up there!

Nora jibbing the Helbronner. 

With plenty of day left, Sharon and I headed up the Midi for a Sunday afternoon VB and had a fantastic run down the Petit Envers before cutting hard left and skiing one of the couloirs behind the Requin hut. Conditions were great up the Midi and the James Bond track is in excellent shape so it should be possible to ski back to town for another couple of weeks unless it gets really warm.

A great end to a brilliant weekend.

About to start the VB and the view is as awful as ever. 

Sharon in one of the Requin couloirs.

Cruising home.

The forecast is now for some snow and bad weather for a couple of days and then a big high pressure, which may bring the first spell of settled, sunny weather of the winter. After a poor start to winter we've now got really good snow coverage so we could be in for some great touring and early season climbing. Stay tuned!