Spring Laps

Spencer: Slash

Location: Grands Montets
Snow: Soft/slushy
Weather: Bluebird, hot

More hot & sunny weather has settled over the valley this week, and although I’ve been more motivated to get out on my bike than to go touring lately I couldn’t say no to some springtime laps on Grands Montets this lunchtime.

Crowds are still low thanks to the later-than-usual French holidays and generally low snow year, so plenty space up there today and no queues for any lifts.  Off piste was skiing OK in good spring snow but mostly quite bumpy, but the pistes were in prime condition with a lot of lips forming at the sides for some fun little airs and gaps.

More storms are due to arrive on Friday-Monday and Wednesday-Friday (currently) so we’ll get a decent top-up of snow up high but I really hope we get some good weather too to finish the winter off nicely.

Nice One

Andy, Graham, Sandy, Rob: OK snow far skier's-left off the back of Grands Montets

Location: Grands Montets
Snow: Mostly crunchy bumps off piste, mostly soft/slushy on piste
Weather: Sun & cloud

Not much skiing for a few days while dreich weather invaded the valley over the weekend.  Back to classic spring conditions today for some easy Grands Montets laps from 12-2.30pm.

Pistes off Bochard were skiing really nicely; soft with lots of lips to find at the sides, and good smooth spring snow off piste in the smoother sections.  Off the top, much crunchier and bumpier; too much work for me today so I stuck to more Bochard pistes, then a very fun & slushy Pierre à Ric run home.  Not too busy anywhere on the mountain today either; more of this for the next two weeks please!

Couple Of Laps

Lorne: Picking through rocks off Floria (no camera today, phone pic will have to do)

Location: Flegere
Snow: Heavy spring snow
Weather: Overcast then snowing

Just a quick lunchtime ski around Flegere today before the weather really comes in over the weekend, and just a couple of big laps off Floria as it turned out.  Off piste snow was pretty heavy but spotting the smoother sections was the way to go again for some nice turns, and some fun little lines weaving between rocks.

By 1pm the sleet/snow had started pretty heavily and most lifts were due to close at 1pm so two runs was enough.  Probably my last ski on Flegere this winter ahead of full closure on Sunday.

Springtime On The Midi

Rob, Bouch: Heading towards Grand Envers from the Midi Arete

Location: Aiguille du Midi
Snow: Mostly soft, deep spring snow; heavy low down
Weather: Hazy cloud

A nice lazy start today for a 1pm Midi lap, heading down the Grand Envers for my first time in two years.

Most of the lift traffic was sightseers so we only saw two other skiers on our main descent, nice and relaxed.  The snow started off as decent chalky snow for the first pitch, softening to nice spring snow in the middle and getting pretty heavy low down, but finding the smoother sections let us get some good speed up for nice long turns.

Another t-shirt Mer de Glace exit got us home via Montenvers, then beers at La Terrasse to make the most of the late-afternoon sun.  I love springtime.

Rob, Bouch: Mer de Glace exit beside the glacial stream

Hot Tour

Rob: Taking in the views towards the Mont Blanc Massif from Col de Beaugeant

Location: Aiguilles Rouges
Snow: Firm & choppy in the shade, spring snow in the sun, very heavy low down
Weather: Bluebird, very hot

A change of plans midway through today’s tour but we still ended up with a really fun descent in good spring snow and hot temperatures.

We had planned to ski a new route to us, the NE Couloir of the Aiguille de l’Encrenaz, so headed up Flegere from the first bin and around to Lac Blanc …where Rob remembered he had forgotten to pack his rope (2x30m ropes required for the abseil midway down the couloir).  Not a disaster though (besides me carrying my rope for no reason) as we headed to Col de Beaugeant instead and would make a decision there for either the normal descent to the Berard Valley or Col de l’Encrenaz to Le Buet or Col des Montets.

A pretty easy but very warm 1h30 skin got us to the final climb which was the driest I’ve ever seen it; no crampons or axes required.  The ski entrance was holding nice soft snow but putting skis on would be tricky so we took the 10-15m fixed rope abseil.  The bottom of the rope is buried making the rope quite tight so I just downclimbed while holding the rope and Rob and Kev abseiled properly.

Off the back the snow was pretty nasty, tracked, firm and choppy so we decided to head to Col de l’Encrenaz to find the same spring snow as our ascent route.  Not too tracked at all on the descent, starting with firm spring snow, getting perfect in the middle with lots of space for big turns, then very heavy at the bottom.  Sticking left of the main gully was the right decision, as the snow at the bottom was deep, heavy and unstable from what feels like the warmest day for the year so far.  I left my gloves, goggles beanie off for the whole descent and probably could have done without my jacket too!

A quick walk to Col des Montets then an easy hitch-hike back to town finished things off nicely.

This is the second time I’ve skied this route, and also the second time in spring snow, but I’ll definitely be returning for a mid-winter descent sometime; it’s a fun one.

A Day Of Two Halves

Luke, Ginge: Bumpy but softer lower down

Location: Aiguille du Midi/Brevent/Flegere
Snow: Refrozen ruts then spring moguls (Midi), spring snow/slush (Brevent/Flegere)
Weather: Hazy cloud, hot

Ginge is back in town this week but only free for one day’s skiing today (his first and only of the winter) after spending a few days and nights up the mountain on a climbing mission, and without touring gear, so we mixed things up today with a quick Midi lap then an afternoon on Brevent/Flegere.

Midi queues were low at 10am, mostly consisting of non-skiers again, so it was another pretty relaxed ski on the Gros Rognon.  Unfortunately our timing was way off as it seems that everything on that aspect all the way up to about 3200m had melted and refrozen overnight but not had time to soften this morning.  So it was a pretty nasty descent to start with through refrozen ruts, softening to easy moguls once we joined the Classic route which was pretty fun.  Another stripped-down Mer de Glace exit got us to Montenvers for a 12 noon train without many others heading down.

A lunchtime descent of the same route would have given the snow time to soften but we wanted to get a full day in and not much easy-access off piste will be skiing well in the morning anyway.

Ginge, Luke: T-shirt Mer De Glace exit

On to Brevent, Top Bin and Cornu had both closed, presumably due to high avalanche risk on the hottest day of the winter so far, so we headed straight across to Flegere for laps of Floria and Index.  Mostly deep spring snow off piste with plenty lips to find, getting very heavy and slushy lower down and the pistes skiing very well.

Ginge: Wee air on Flegere

See you next winter Ginge!

Quick One On The Rognon

Martin: Tracked powder at the top of the Gros Rognon route

Location: Aiguille du Midi
Snow: Tracked powder at the top, spring snow lower down
Weather: Bluebird, warm

Redemption today for yesterday’s failed plan with a lap down the Gros Rognon route off the Midi.  From a 12pm bin with only about 10 other skiers it was a nice relaxed ski with mostly tracked shallow powder at the top and a few untouched sections easy enough to find for some big fast turns.  Lower down, nice spring snow once joining the Classic Valley Blanche route, a bit mogulled but not too bad, and a good ski out on the Mer de Glace once stripping down to just baselayers on top.

It’s feeling pretty summery in town this week so my flipflops have had their first outing of the year for apres ski burgers but I’m still making the most of the snow while it lasts.

Resort Laps

Martin: Traversing to Hotel Face

Location: Brevent/Flegere
Snow: Soft everywhere, sometimes a bit choppy, good pistes
Weather: Bluebird

No-one to tour with today so Martin and I had planned a Midi lap at lunchtime.  But… the Midi had been closed for an hour with “Info at 12pm” announced.  Not sure if it would actually reopen we headed up Flegere instead and across to Brevent for some spring resort laps.

Two laps of Hotel Face off the top of the mountain got us some mixed off piste snow; mostly soft, sugary and smooth sticking to the old avalanche paths, choppy elsewhere and a few safe untouched stashes when it opened up lower down.

Back over on Flegere things were very heavy off Floria so just one long piste lap in very nice snow then home.

Martin: Top section of Hotel Face

Surprisingly quiet on both mountains today; get out and enjoy it this week!

Meadow Skipping

Graham: Lots of space to play halfway down

Location: Vallorcine
Snow: Mostly 15-20cm powder, some wind slab
Weather: Bluebird but cold & windy on the ridges

Spring touring season is upon us with Easter holiday crowds in full effect this week and nothing but sunshine on the long term weather forecast.

Somewhere new for today’s plan: Couloir Pissoir on the Swiss border near the Aiguille du Tour, hoping for good snow and with a couple of good looking bailout options along the way if necessary.  The guidebook says to skin in from Trient but that seemed like a long trek and we had read a few blog posts detailing routes from Col du Passon or Col de Balme so we went for the latter option as we were keen to avoid Grands Montets’ crowds.

From the Vallorcine gondola we got up to Tete De Balme and around to the col to start our climb to the ridge in pretty cold and windy conditions.  Joining the ridge from the Swiss side Graham triggered a 20cm deep windslab above us on a 35-40 degree slope so a cautious approach was kept in mind for the rest of the day.  We took the ridge directly up, featuring some pretty tricky mixed climbing (for me anyway) with some nasty shallow snow and plenty of loose rocks to deal with.  I got up fine but crampons and an axe would have made things feel a whole lot safer, and I think I will do the odd day of cragging this summer just to keep my climbing confidence up.

Reaching the top of the ridge we weren’t exactly sure where we were at first, seeing lots of tracks on the peak opposite us, thinking that it could be the Pissoir and the couloir was hidden to looker’s-left.  Vaguely remembering this guide after a while and checking the map we knew it couldn’t be (actually Pointe des Grands) and the Pissoir was still a long long way away.

The terrain below us looked fun (one of our bailout plans anyway) and the snow stability on steeper slopes was questionable, so we settled for some mellow-but-fun skiing.

Lorne: Looking towards Pointe des Grands

Only the drop-in to the first section had a gradient to be a little worried about, so after traversing to the safest point I tested the snow as best I could (firm where it began to get steeper) then dropped in finding perfect shallow-but-smooth powder below for some fun long turns.

Through the descent, another few pitches of similarly creamy smooth powder before things got a bit choppy where the sun had baked the snow and a few small wet slides on steeper slopes.

A pretty good 4×4 exit track got us most of the way back to Trient with just a few small sections to walk, before a short walk back to the car we had dropped this morning.

Graham: Exit to the car at Trient

Looking back at things now, accessing the Pissoir from Col du Passon is definitely the easiest way in so maybe we’ll have another go this year or next.  There’s a lot of terrain to explore in this whole area and maybe worth checking out options off the 4×4 track in summer on the bikes too.

Lunchtime laps

Martin: Cutting through the soft bumps in Lavancher Bowl

Location: Grands Montets
Snow: Soft and a bit bumpy
Weather: Increasing cloud

Just a few quick lunchtime laps today on Grands Montets again.

The car park was packed when we arrived at 1pm but it seemed like most of the crowds were either at lunch or queuing for Top Bin so we pretty much walked straight onto Bochard for a run skier’s-right of Lavancher Bowl to the tunnel.  The snow was fairly tracked and bumpy but soft enough to cut through on long, fast turns; stiffer skis definitely helped today.  Nipping through the left side of the Magic Trees afterwards was nasty and heavy; not really worth it.

Graham: Wee air in Lavancher Bowl

Off the Herse we stuck fairly central for similar snow, then as the clouds rolled in we called it a day with a fast ski down Pierre à Ric; skiing pretty well but too much traffic to dodge meant we weren’t going flat-out.  Early laps of the Plan Joran gondola should be really good over the weekend but I’ll probably rest up before some spring touring on Monday/Tuesday.

Martin, Graham: Clouds rolling in off the Herse

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