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Alpine Climbing & Skiing: Frost Guiding Blog

Pigne Heli Drop

~ Sunday 30th September 2012

 I'm not a big fan of helicopters - "10,000 parts flying in close formation" and all that - but with one day of good weather and lots of fresh snow in the mountains it seemed the best way to get up high. Flying from Sion with HeliAlps was surprisingly casual - simply phone the day before to discuss plans, then turn up in the morning. The pilot arrived just behind us and in no time at all we were zooming up the Val d'Hérens. All too soon we were circling the Pigne summit. 

The recent storms have left lots of new snow, but the wind has blown most of it away leaving the Pigne summit quite icy. Elsewhere there are deep drifts and thinly covered crevasses but conditions are pretty good underfoot. With a crevasse-photographing mission we set off for a closer look...

Vignettes hut and Dent Blanche

Crevasses below the Vignettes hut.

Gran Paradiso

~ Thursday 27th September 2012

Back to Italy again for the Gran Paradiso, this time from the Chabod side. Weather all over the Alps has been terrible with snow, cloud and very strong winds making poor conditions high up, but there was just a slight chance of a window on Tuesday morning. In the end we didn't quite make the summit - as we reached the shoulder at 3800m we had a fine view of the next wave of bad weather approaching from the west, and decided to retreat before it arrived. 

The Gran Paradiso is famous for it's Ibex, and on the way down we came across a group of 8. They're surprisingly tame - although this pair were having a good fight - and you can get quite close!

Gran Paradiso

~ Saturday 22nd September 2012

 Climbing the Gran Paradiso with the Dutch Army yesterday. This was part of a fund raising trip by the army in support of families of soldiers killed and injured in Afghanistan.

Conditions were great - if a little chilly - on top with amazing views. For a group of people on their first mountaineering trip the organisation and fitness was impressive, with almost everyone making the summit. 

 

Mont Blanc

~ Tuesday 18th September 2012

 Last week's acclimatising days went well but the forecast for our planned summit days was hopeless - lots of snow on Wednesday and then very cold and windy. Luckily we were able to re-schedule - a few frantic phonecalls to rearrange work/holidays/flights/transfers/hotels...no pressure then!

Things looked good for Sunday Monday with reports of great conditions on the mountain. The new snow had filled in the Grand Couloir and mostly been blown away higher up. Sadly conditions in the Tete Rousse hut were not so good - the grumpy guy messed up our booking so we only had 1 night instead of 2, then he "forgot" to put us on the early dinner despite our 1.30am breakfast. Oh well, we were in the smelly winter dorm so weren't going to sleep much anyway. The bag rustlers and door slammers kept going until late, then the snorer took over only to be amusingly thumped by the guy next to me. Soon pre-dawn chorus of bag rustlers started up then it was time for the 2 pieces of dry bread they call breakfast.

And we were off! Things improved in every way as we left the hut behind, making quick progress up to the Gouter hut.

The painfully early start meant it was still dark leaving Gouter, dark all the way over the Dome du Gouter in fact. And Cold! Eventually a stunning sunrise lit the way over the Bosses and the final ridge, then, there was no more up! Summit!

It was now downhill all the (very long) way. A quick break in the Gouter hut revived the legs a bit. Despite living in a drafty shed at 3800m the Gouter staff seemed efficient, happy and polite. They even enforce the "no boots in the dining room" rule. These guys deserve a new hut! 

A quick scramble down the ridge and we were back at Tet (offensive) Rousse. Grumpy guy grudgingly sold us some water, then we tackled the remaining 1100m down to the train/lift/Chamonix - hard on the feet but better than another night in the hut! 

 

Trient

~ Wednesday 12th September 2012

 An excellent couple of days around the Trient plateau, with nights at the Orny and Trient huts. Perfect for crampon training and acclimatising, and pretty nuch deserted at this time of year - there were only 10 people in Orny, maybe 20 at Trient. 

Another sunrise...red sky in the morning....

It's late season and even after last week's snow the Alps are dry - there's a huge bergschrund on the Trient side of the Col Sup du Tour, and the Cham side is very dry. Aiguille du Tour normal route is OK, but dry and loose. 

 

but it's not that deep...

Zermatt 4000m peaks

~ Saturday 8th September 2012

 As the snow settles down conditions are quickly becoming very good in the high mountains. We travelled back round to Zermatt on Wednesday and walked round to the lovely Ayas hut. 

Clouds on the way to Ayas

On Thursday we were first away from the hut. A little overnight thunderstorm had left some (more!) fresh snow so we had the pleasure of trail breaking all the way up Castor - well worth it to have the summit to ourselves and stunning views. 

On the Castor summit ridge

Following team above the clouds

As we descend another team go up the summit ridge

That left plenty of time to climb Pollux in the afternoon. Excellent conditions, but by now it was quite busy with the usual silliness at the fixed ropes - a mini Matterhorn!

Yesterday we were away early for the long trek back round to the Breithorn. Beautiful views from the summit and good conditions made for a nice end to the week. 

Breithorn

Mont (very) Blanc de Cheilon

~ Tuesday 4th September 2012

 All change again this week. The weather at the end of last week has left a lot of snow high up - apparently 120cm at the Margherita hut - but even lower down things are plastered. We walked over a snowy Pas de Chevre to the Dix hut, then made a challenging ascent of the Mont Blanc de Cheilon. Totally dry last week , the difference was hard to believe. Snowy mixed climbing up the ridge, then knee deep ploughing up to a very snowy summit ridge. 

 

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