Alpine Climbing & Skiing: Frost Guiding Blog

Ooh, Aah, Arolla

~ Tuesday 28th January 2014

 After a few days in the Grimentz-Zinal (Zinal-Grimentz) mega-resort, it was a shock to ski down through the trees this morning to find the Arolla lifts not running...but they saw us coming and switched them on as we arrived. 

It wasn't too busy on the lift

Yesterday everything in Grimentz was windblown above 2200m - not a good sign in Arolla, where the skiing starts at 2000m, but weirdly here there was no sign of wind. 

Turn 1

Turn 2









I know, it's only powder skiing but I like, like it, yes I do!

Count the skiers


Grimentz and Zinal Off Piste

~ Saturday 25th January 2014

 Just another average day in Grimentz and Zinal. You know, miles of untracked powder, no queues, perfect weather. 

Despite confusing rumours the new Grimentz-Zinal (or is it Zinal-Grimentz?) lift opened this morning. Worryingly the lift drivers had been drinking heavily prior to the first run...

It was worth the risk though. CHF25 000 000 well spent. 

After a perfect run down to the dam there was very little enthusiasm for "Couloir Saxlund". 


Morning in Zinal, back in Grimentz for the afternoon. 

Can't get no satisfaction? Straight off a lift on a sunny Saturday afternoon, we didn't touch a track for miles. Sssshhhh! Don't tell anyone, it's the secret ski resort!

 After a second run of untracked powder we all agreed that Peter Hardy doesn't know his rocker from his sidecut, and that it might just be worth skiing off piste this winter after all. 


~ Friday 24th January 2014

 Second car in the Evolene car park for the morning skinning today, with 5-10cm of cold fresh snow - extra points scored for skinning on powder days of course. Higher up it was pretty windy - the top of Evolene lifts is around 2600m and the amount of drifting snow was impressive.

The piste patrol had already blasted and ski-released lots of small-medium windslabs but you could see snow drifting everywhere. The old deep weak layer still exists on steep north-facing slopes, but yesterday and today's northerly wind is creating a big windslab risk on the other aspects, so today's bulletin mentions avalanche risk on all aspects again. Great.

I've just been asked for opinions on the Dynafit TLT5 and 6. My trusty TLT5s are now on their last legs - I'll be sad to bin them but bits are falling off faster than I can repair them! It's not really the boots' fault as they've been my main boot for 3 seasons and skied 200+ days, lots of lift access and day touring, ice climbing, etc. The tally is now up to 6(!) forefoot buckles replaced, both ankle pivots replaced, and both spoilers broken. Here's the latest:

Looks like the pin broke ages ago - the broken end is rusty. 

These have been great boots and you can find them fairly cheaply now so they're still a good buy. I've replaced them with the new TLT6, which seems to be an even better ski boot. It doesn't have the forefoot flex (which I quite liked for skinning) so feels much more solid downhill. The buckles are much better too - they stay closed while skinning and skiing for a start - although it remains to be seen how long they'll last. The shell has a bit more volume than the 5 but you'd be hard pressed to tell in a blind test. I got a shell size smaller (28.5 instead of 29) then had to get them stretched lots. The 6 comes with 2 tongues - stiff and very stiff. Even with the softer tongue they feel fine skiing a big ski (K2 Sidestash) Without a tongue they're great on small skis and it's still one of the best uphill boots around.  

Ice is Nice

~ Wednesday 15th January 2014

 A change of scene for the last 4 days, swapping skis for axes. Day 1 was an introduction to ice for Avi and a warm-up for seasoned veteran J...The Tsa boulder first, then an exciting attempt on a fast-melting tunnel left-hand ended in retreat. Finding beach-towels all over the Usine Électrique we finished the day with some "character-building" rock and dry tooling...

First time on ice - looks promising!

An early start on day 2 got us to the bottom of the Tunnel Right-Hand (just) before the crowds. There's not much ice in the Valais at the moment, so weekends are inevitable busy. Great climbing and a well-earned lunch at the Pension Lac Bleu before making the long drive south to Cogne in search of more ice. 

Climb when ready!

The usual places in Cogne were full but the Petit Hotel was a fine second choice - a short walk into town, friendly, great service, sauna, huge breakfast - highly recommended.

On Monday we found great conditions on Tutto Relativo, and a good link-up with Eau des Cristaux.  

Type 1 fun

Some of the team preferred Stella but we settled instead for Tuborg. Here's Avi enjoying his fourth day of ice climbing.

Definitely Type 2 fun. Note the "This Way Up" arrows. 

Aggghhh! The Telegraph!

~ Friday 10th January 2014

Mountain guides all over the Alps will no doubt be pleased to hear Peter Hardy has decided not to ski off piste this winter. Hopefully he will now take up brass rubbing or some other "safe" pastime instead. In good journalistic tradition I can't reveal sources, but I have first-hand accounts of how Peter Hardly has used his career to scrounge free holidays in return for a few paragraphs of clichéd rubbish. Skiing for him is more Free-lunch than  Free-Ride...

- To claim guides are playing Russian Roulette is ridiculous. Guides' training, experience and work is all about making good decisions based on fact and sound judgement, not guesswork. 

- Backing up poor arguments with  false claims about victims of recent accidents is unforgivable - the young Swiss guide killed this week would never have described himself as "one of Switzerland's top guides" - he was just a highly trained professional, passionate about the mountains and sorely missed by his family, friends and colleagues. The fact that the accident happened during an avalanche safety course is no more than a cruel irony. 

- The avalanche category was 3 - not "3 or 4"

- Is he trying to imply Xavier de la Rue is losing his nerve? Is he trying to compare himself to Dominic Perret? 

- There's been a large thaw at high altitudes all week, rain, and a freeze is forecast next week...



Grimentz and Zinal Off Piste

~ Friday 10th January 2014

 It's been another great week's skiing in the Val d'Anniviers. 20cm of fresh snow on Saturday made for tricky driving on the way there, but that was a price worth paying for good ski conditions all week!

Avalanche conditions are still very delicate so careful route choice is crucial, as is strict 1 at a time skiing on any slightly steeper slopes...Big, shady steep slopes are best avoided for a while yet - it will take a long time for the snowpack to consolidate. 

Category 0 terrain

This is the new lift in Grimentz. Nearly finshed, just a few little corners to tidy up. 

Avalanche risk!

~ Wednesday 1st January 2014

 With desperately sad news of 7 deaths in Switzerland since Christmas, it's worth re-iterating the current high avalanche risk. It's a frequently under-estimated "only" Category 3, but I've been seeing lots of avalanche activity, feeling lots of "whoomphs" and seeing plenty of surface cracking, even yesterday in theVallon de Rechy in Grimentz (a popular, easy access tour) Generally, I've had the feeling that the risk is very high, and this article suggests the only reason the SLF can't say Cat 4 is the lack of large spontaneous avalanches, otherwise we currently have Cat 4 instability .

That article and the SLF website (in English) say the risk won't decrease for a long time, and SLF say it will increase again tomorrow.

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