Day 28 and Steve arrives

3rd of Feb & no rest for the wicked

No sooner have we set foot back at home base then our next visitor arrives courtesy of the ever reliable Alpy bus.

Huge thanks and fare well to the 7 who race back to Calais and Heathrow for the most brilliant 2 weeks.

We did at least get Saturday off and spent an enjoyable afternoon soaking up the Sun in the garden with a fine cup of tea then into Town to rent some kit and of course a beer in the Terrace bar.

Day 30 .. finding some ski legs.

To break Steve in on a rented pair of Cham 98s (Steve never really bonded with them sadly) we zipped around the lovely picturesque Pistes at Flegere & Brevant. We were having so much fun we almost missed the last lift!

Fantastic way to close the day with spooky cloudy Midi and an atmospheric light show on the Dru.

Italian days … 24 to 27

So Monday you get lowered into a couloir for the start of some of the best turns of the season .. how to top that.

Day 24

Spent the day with mini adventures on the Gressoney side, finally took advantage of Tibetan Tuesday at the prayer flag cafe and Angela joined us down Bettolina

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Day 25 – Ice cream tour

I am sure the ice cream tour has a proper name but basically up the Bettaforca chair and skin up on the right, navigate some slightly tricky terrain and then lovely turns down to the valley the other side. The route ends up at the Gelateria in Saint Jaques then a short walk down the road or in our case ride in the back of a pickup to Frachey to get the funicular to the bottom of the prayer flag cafe chair. better known as the Alpe Mandria chair.

Fabulous day had by all despite the strange snow constructions on what should have been a lazy zig zag down a road to the Gelateria but instead became a comedy combat ski. Sense of humour lost about 4 zags in. Have a look at the end of the film and the wiggly line image.

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The black line is the road. The turquoise our improvised route.

Day 26

The lovely soft snow has turned a bit crunchy. We were lured into the trees ‘cos they looked so pretty. The lesson here is just because it’s pretty doesn’t mean its nice.

The white stuff on the trees turned out to be frost not snow, some crunchy turns and a great lunch in Punta Jolanda.

 

Day 27 – The Grand Stolemburg Couloir

The quest for epic led to Mike’s search for something steep and hopefully deep (but not too steep or deep) and the Stolemburg Couloir was the result. More than 30 degrees so potentially risky but aspect, snow conditions and history lured us in. Also it is now dead easy to get to thanks to the new posh chair installed which drops you off a few meters above the Indren.

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So a short stomp up a little slope and here we are.

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As it was Mike’s idea he was expendable and went first, with us all following sensibly spaced out. Was for sure worth it, so much so we did it twice. Here’s Ed flashing the girly custard lady poles.

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There was a little walk out at the end .. sensibly we skinned up the second time. Much more efficient. Sadly Mike’s snowboard had a rather terminal encounter with a rock so is in the hospital for repairs. Luckily was just the board not Mike.

Just for fun the Piste down to the cable car was closed for racing but they were finishing just as we ended our second run so elected to mingle with the racers then zip down the piste rather then navigate the slushy, windblown, icy (I know how can it be icy & slushy at the same time!) off piste route we did on the first lap.  Can you spot Ed?

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Despite me coming a cropper on the icy post race piste we made it to the cable car and even had time for hot chocolate in the cat cafe. They have a new cat since last year and a dog and a puppy.

The traditional home run was replaced by the valley of the Mos and an interesting route down it. We should know better than to blindly follow Mark.

It was our last day in Gressoney so home for packing and last night feast ready for early start in the morning. Back to Chamonix for me and Mark and back to the UK for everyone else. See some of you again in March!

Next week Chamonix with Steve & Alpha Rich …

Malfatta Monday

Day 23, what were we thinking …

It’s Monday so what else for it but Malfatta. One of Rich’s obsessions (along with the Poubelle couloir at the Grands Montets and more realistically Lavancher bowl all the way down to the road),

So we can tick one of the list at least thanks to Rich’s research, prep, rope clue and skills of persuasion.

The snow conditions were pretty incredible so we expected the couloir rope shenanigans to be slightly more straight forward than some scientifically researched you tube videos would lead us to believe. So armed with the off piste book, map, GPS, the avalanche research of snow history, aspects, steepness etc.. 2 ropes, harnesses and a bit more gnarl than normal we set off.

After the longest traverse ever we reached the top of the famous couloir.

Mission 1. Get us all down safe and sound.

Mission 2 don’t get back to Alagna too late to get the lift back up!

Glad to say both missions completed with some degree of competence and panache. My newly defined rule of thirds applied.

1 third effort (epic traverse & scary couloir)

1 third amazing down (check out the snaps and the video) and …

1 third penance of combat ski back to civilisation (it had it’s moments but wasn’t too terrible .. no walking needed at least)

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the route
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at the top of the Coulour
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down there?
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made it
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I did what exactly?
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the down
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the down
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the down
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the down
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the down
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the obligatory combat ski down som old slushy Avalanche debris
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I did that!
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team Malfatta
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waiting for the bus
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waiting for the bus

 

And finally Chris & I are feeling proud our skis are too fat to fit in the Alagna bubble so have to become honorary snowboards.

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What a day!

Day 21 and we are off to Italy.

A week off from Chamonix

You have a season pass for Chamonix so what do you do? Take a week off and go ski somewhere else of course.

There is something pretty special about Gressoney in the Aosta valley, the middle ski area between Champoluc & Alagna.

We left Chamonix in bright sunshine and arrived at our temporary accommodation of a tiny house until our favourite Hotel Anderbatt had enough room for us all.

Imaginative use of slings and carabenas improved the storage solutions.

Sunday tree fun

The trees down from the Prayer flag cafe (sadly no prayer flags any more) didn’t disappoint and we discovered the alternative to the traditional home run “The Bertolini” (proper name Bettolina. A grand day out was had.

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Apparently it wasn’t epic enough so began the scheming for what will now be known as Malfatta Monday.

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Malfatta Monday (day 23) coming soon…

 

 

 

Back in time one Day .. Day 18

After the up of day 17

Time for a wind down for me at least .. the rest plotted a mad cap adventure (Charlie’s words not mine) involving a route from the Top of Brevant around the back and back to the Valley floor. They were thwarted due to the vagaries of the Flegere & Brevant lift info so headed to La Tour in the end in search of powder.

Check out Badger Patrol’s Chamonix flickr Album

for some great pics of the snow at La Tour.

I popped up the Flegere Gondola for a couple of hours feeling a lot like a seasonaire as really not bothered by the minimal skiing (only 2 lifts open) to taks some Sunny snaps with the big camera across the Valley to the Mere De Glace and Mont Blanc.

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Back to the apartment for lunch then into town and up the Aiguille Du Midi for more picturesque views and a great spot for a Skype Video call with Mum and Dad.

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Cracked open the moonshine and tried to fit too much cabbage into a too small pan. A great accompaniment to well travelled haggis to celebrate Burns night.

 

Italian Bowl laps and Gnarly Ed.

Day 19 and some very fine snaps of Italian Bowl descents.

Always a great place for photos and especially Ed with the rope to look extra special gnarly for the home run.

It took two attempts to get the uncooperative subjects to ski / board down the right part of the ridge.

The view down into the Chamonix Valley and across to Flegere never ceases to amaze.

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Then we have the avoiders of the home run checking their facebook profiles ..

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Earning the Down from the Grands Montets

Day 17 and the top lift on the GM is still out of action

So to satisfy the quest for something fluffy I was persuaded to skin up. Hmmm..

Starting at the top of the Bochard lift and an epic traverse saw us at the start of the skin a bit further from the Herse lift gearing up for just a short up they tell me.

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I can however honestly say it was worth the effort of some truly skilless kick turns on my part to be almost the only people up there and the down was just incredible.

I guess we wont get to see it like that very often so all rather special. Huge thanks to Chris for her endless encouragement to get me round those ruthless 180s.

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I won’t mention the pair who did 2 laps to our one ….

The end of an epic day with even more friends joining us for Tarteflette tea and of course the Dru.

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And then there were 9

Waiting for friends to arrive and an aborted tour.

20th Jan with the rest of the gang showing up that evening we decided a mini adventure to Les Contamines was in order. A deserted car park and 5 Ski Randonnee passes later found us clinging onto the vicious Button lift (Thanks to the very galant lifty who helped me and Chris but left the boys to fend for themselves) then contemplating the entry to the skin up which seemed sketchy at best due to the aspect, angle and amount of snow.

One very wise decision later justified by the significant Avalanche just along from where we were due to ski but couldn’t see from our vantage point and the rapid decline in visibility left us testing my skinning ability back up to the top of the resort to enable us to find the picnic spot and the home run.

Suitably motivated we finished the day with some Avalanche Tranceiver practice and made it home in time to fish our newly arrived friends out of the nearest bar.

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And here comes the snow.

The garden has pretty much filled up with snow by 22nd Jan.

The snow meant another day of confinement to les Houches. Plenty of fluffy stuff to be found both in and out of the trees. A very fine welcome for the new arrivals.

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Rain stopped play

21st Jan and some shenanigans in the small car park for the apartment and rescue by the friendly neighbourhood digger followed by an aborted attempt to go skiing where we wussed out .. well no-one likes to ski in the rain.

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We are now tunneling out of the front door.

A touch of Italian

The search for sun took us to Italy and Courmayeur. For sure plenty of Sun to be had and some truly terrible off piste.

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Great spot for lunch though

And to feed the Obsession with the Dru, some morning light.

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Followed by evening light on the Midi

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To be continued …. Day 17 and the quest for fresh tracks ……