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Alpine Climbing & Skiing: Frost Guiding Blog

Arolla Ski Touring

~ Sunday 27th December 2015

Tour of Mont Collon today. This is a longish day through some stunning scenery with great views. There's no tricky skiing so hopefully we'd be ok even if the snow wasn't good, and the glacier should be ok even with the current thin cover. Early season is often a worry on glaciers if you've seen the same spots in late autumn, but this year there's so little snow that it doesn't look that different!

Skinning out of Arolla to the Vignettes hut is awkward at first (no snow!) but you can get up the winter line (normal ski way) and the glacier is fine on the left going up. There are some big crevasses in the middle, so sticking left is a good idea.

Surprisingly, the little descent to the Col de Chermontane is well filled-in with almost spring snow, and passes easily.

Tour of Mont Collon. Guided ski tour

We used a rope on the way to Col de l'Éveque, and I was glad we had. There are a few huge, open holes on the slope up to the col. No track either, although a few people have been up the Pigne.

Ski Touring Arolla. British Mountain Guide

Looking back, the Pigne is (unsurprisingly) very open, and the existing track takes a fairly odd line!

Descending towards the upper Arolla glacier is quite tricky, and needs some careful skiing around bare ice with some big crevasses!

Arolla Skiing with Frost Guiding. Mont Collon.

After that there's some nice open skiing on good snow. Phew. The snow lasts all the way along the flat to the hydro plant, but from there down the lower glacier glacier is a battle, very rocky, ski on/off...and a relief to hit the track down to Arolla!

Arolla Ski Conditions

~ Saturday 26th December 2015

Burning off the Christmas turkey today with a little tour to the top of the ski area. There's lots of piste preparation going on and it looks like more runs opening soon. Gorgeous weather and no snow forecast, but plenty of people out skiing and touring and there's some nice snow if you hunt for it.

Worth remembering that today's sparkly surface could be tomorrow's buried weak layer.

It's been warm during the day but in the shade and at night it's cold enough for some big surface hoar...

mountain guide ski touring Arolla conditions

Arolla Ski conditions

~ Thursday 17th December 2015

Arolla lifts are going to open as planned this weekend! There's not much snow at all, but a huge effort making snow and building pistes mean the area will be skiable for Christmas. The forecast is beautiful too - not ideal if you're hoping for snow, but some nice weather for skiing.

la Luette from Pas de Chevre

Arolla Ice Climbing Conditions

~ Tuesday 15th December 2015

First ice climbing of the season today. Arolla tunnel left-hand route. It's still a bit thin so a bit trickier than normal, and you have to be careful where you put screws. We climbed left side pitch 1, straight up the middle pitch 2, then good ice on the left exit pitch - climbing the easier centre was a bit thin and wet!

Janine Frost on the second pitch

Arolla Ice Climbing

Graham Frost, British Mountain Guide

2 new bolt anchors have appeared since I last did the route. The first is on the left, top of pitch 1, and currently tricky to reach going up as there's not much ice. I belayed on screws on a comfortable ledge 5m lower. The second is well-placed on the big ledge next to the old tree anchor. Both work fine for abseiling off, but there's a lot of loose rock on the top ledge which is hard to avoid when trying to reach the anchor, and directly above anyone who might be following.

Ice Climbing Courses

Ski Season!

~ Monday 14th December 2015

Proper start to the ski season yesterday with the BMG CPD ski day, run by Alison Culshaw. A good wake-up call for the ski legs and plenty of great ideas to work on. You never stop learning!

Arc'Teryx FREE delivery

~ Saturday 12th December 2015

FREE 2-day delivery on Arc'Teryx orders! Santa must be working overtime!

Morocco Motorbike Tour

~ Wednesday 2nd December 2015

I've spent the last 3 weeks riding a motorbike round Morocco - an off-season holiday from mountain guiding. In fact we had 2 weeks in Morocco as to avoid the 2000km cross-Europe ride to Spain we took the ferry from Genova to Tanger - a slow 48 hours on the ferry each way, but cheaper and quicker than riding across Europe in November and it gave a real feeling of travelling - no quick-hit short-haul flights!

The aim of the trip was to ride some off-road sections through the south and back up through the Atlas. Challenging riding with sand, rocks and even a bog, and some tricky navigating too. Maps aren't that good in Morocco. We had 3 plus a GPS but they rarely agreed.

Motorbiking Tizerkine gorge nr Tafraoute Guide

Carrying gear, water, and food for overnight camps on a motorbike makes for a heavy bike. Fuel is an issue too - it would be bad news running out!

British Mountain Guide motor biking

Visiting the painted boulders in Tafraoute. These are well known, but a bit faded and shabby now. To be honest it's a bit of an eyesore in a stunning, wild landscape.

As well as visiting the well-known climbing areas of Tafaoute and Todra, we saw some fine rock climbing objectives in the middle of nowhere! No idea what this is called and you'd need a good 4x4 to get near it, but it looks amazing.

Snow in the Valais - Winter is here!

~ Saturday 21st November 2015

After a rather gloomy start to the day with cold snowy conditions (which didn't deter snow castle making)...

The sun made a brief appearance, just long enough to persuade me out of my gore tex shoes and jacket before it snowed heavily again for the rest of the afternoon!

Guided Off Piste Skiing

And still our geraniums go on! I think they should get the "Last Man Standing" prize for Evolene area this autumn...

British Mountain Guide - Ski Touring Arolla

Meanwhile, Graham is motorbiking round the Moroccan desert. I'm not sure how he's going to get his bike back to Evolene next weekend but sure that when he does there will soon be ski touring and off piste blogs to follow this rather domestic one!

Janine

Rock Climbing in Evolene, Valais

~ Friday 9th October 2015

Here's a recent article about rock climbing in Evolene and the Valais published by Adrex.com:

http://www.adrex.com/en/earth/climbing/articles/evolene-godforsaken-climbing-gem/

We know some of the photos look familiar but worth a look for ideas for next year anyhow!

Evolene climbing Graham Frost British Mountain Guide

Mountain biking around Evolene

~ Tuesday 6th October 2015

First attempt at filming myself mountain biking around Evolene. Lots to learn about edits...

Arolla Mountain Guide Biking from Frostguiding on Vimeo.

Skiing Touring in Arolla with Frost Guiding

~ Tuesday 6th October 2015

Arolla is great for ski touring and off piste skiing away from the crowds.

Good memories from last year - thanks to Mark Michie for this nice short ski touring film from a day trip to the Pointe de Vouasson!

https://vimeo.com/117658406

Arolla Steeper Skiing

~ Sunday 4th October 2015

It's autumn again, the time of year when grown adults get surprised then excited as the first snows start to fall in the hills! This Powder Magazine article is from a couple of years ago but there's some nice pictures of steeper skiing in Arolla - good motivation.

http://issuu.com/powderflipbook/docs/powp-flip-arolla-final/55?e=7946257/9343418

Alpine Climbs Guided in 2015

~ Saturday 19th September 2015

Frost in the garden and fresh snow in the hills, worn-out boots and tired legs - sure signs of autumn and the end of the summer season here in the Alps. Time to look back and reflect on an exceptional alpine summer...

Big thanks to everyone who's made it such a good season - clients, guides, Judith (and Mike!) Claudia at the Mélezes and everyone else who's helped. Hope to see you all again next year!

Dent Blanche

From memory, I've guided these alpine routes this summer...plus a few rock climbing days and some via ferrata.

Arolla

- Courone de Bréona traverse x3

- Dent Blanche South ridge x2

- Aiguille de la Tsa x2

- La Luette

- Eveque traverse x2

- Pigne d'Arolla traverse x2

- Pigne-Mont Blanc de Cheilon traverse x3

- Mont Blanc de Cheilon normal route x2

Moiry

- Pointe de Mourti - Dent des Rosses traverse x4!

Grand Mountet

- Besso-Blanc de Moming traverse

- Mammouth traverse

Zermatt

- Matterhorn Hornli ridge x2

- Monte Rosa West Ridge

- Taschorn South ridge

Saastal

- Dri Hornli

- Weissmies traverse

- Portjengrat

Others...

- Balmhorn

- Aiguille du Tour

- Aiguille d'Argentiere Whymper route

- Mont Dolent normal route from Fiorio bivvy

- Perrons traverse x2

- Wiwannihorn Ostgrat and Steinadler

Plus a long list of routes climbed by other Frost Guiding teams...

Weisshorn East ridge, Obergabelhorn Arbengrat, Eiger Mittelegi x3, Alphubel Rotgrat, Tsalion West Ridge, Douves Blanches, Salbit South Ridge, Finsteraarhorn, Monch, Jungfrau, Breithorn, Pollux, Castor, Lyskamm, Nordend, Mt Vélan Hannibal ridge, Mont Blanc, Stockhorn South Ridge, Bietschorn, and I'm sure I've forgotten a few...

Aiguille de la Tsa

Alpine Progression / last week of the season

~ Saturday 19th September 2015

As summer turns into autumn we rounded off the summer season yesterday with the "Ostgrat" on the Wiwannihorn. It's been a varied week for the Progression course with plenty of weather, starting at the Moiry hut with another traverse of the Pointe de Mourti-Dent des Rosses.

Dent des Rosses

Summit of the Dent des Rosses

We traversed the Couronne de Bréona on Tuesday, going South to North for a change, and with an eagle for company!

Crux crack of the Couronne de Bréona

Thursday gave us just enough time to do the Evolene via ferrata in the dry before walking up to the Wiwanni hut in the (damp) afternoon.

Evolene via ferrata

The forecast was good for Friday and it looked promising at first, but never really cleared. We raced up the Ostgrat, and finished the abseils as the first snowflakes of the best ski season in 50 years began to fall...

Wiwannihorn Ostgrat

Climbing the Monte Rosa

~ Friday 11th September 2015

Success climbing the Monte Rosa yesterday! It was fifth time lucky for me after 4 previous attempts were frustrated by weather or illness or snow...but well worth waiting for, with guides and clients equally excited to reach the top.

Climb Monte Rosa British Mountain Guide

It's a long way to climb from the Monte Rosa hut, and as the guardian insisted on a 2am breakfast the early hours of the morning are spent in a confusing jumble of rocks behind the hut. Soon, the glacier provides more excitement as you navigate a complex field of crevasses on the lower glacier, all still in the dark.

Matterhorn from Monte Rosa British mountain guide

Sunrise brought some spectacular views, but not much relief from the biting cold - a rare thing this summer!

British Mountain Guide climbing Monte Rosa

The summit ridge starts with an airy snow ridge, followed by exciting rocky climbing in spectacular positions. This is the highest rock in Switzerland!

Climbing west ridge of Monte Rosa with British Mountain Guides

As everything else starts to look small, the summit arrives - a fine perch and at last some shelter from the cold on a sunny ledge in Italy!

Mountain Guides on Monte Rosa summit

Summit of the Monte Rosa!

At the Silbersattel, just below the fixed ropes on the descent.

...and back down the lower glacier with fine views of Liskamm

Return through the crevasses on the lower glacier

Pigne d'Arolla Traverse

~ Tuesday 8th September 2015

We seemed to be the only people on the Dix side of the Pigne d'Arolla this morning, the second day of having the mountain to ourselves. A dry winter followed by a long, hot summer has taken its toll on the Pigne d'Arolla, and the Dix side is currently spectacularly crevassed. Luckily the late season snow is freezing hard overnight and the bridges seem to be solid, but some sections need good balance and a careful approach! The views from the summit made it all worthwhile!

Pigne d'Arolla from the Dix hut. An intricate track weaves through the crevasses.

Don't fall to the right...

Careful footwork needed!

Fine views to the Matterhorn and Dent d'Hérens

Emerging into the sun above the worst crevasses at the Mur de la Serpentine

Climbing Mont Blanc de Cheilon

~ Tuesday 8th September 2015

Perfect weather yesterday to climb Mont Blanc de Cheilon, and there was no-one else on the mountain - fantastic. The normal route is is slightly delicate condition with some careful cramponning needed on steep snow above the rock ridge, but the rock is all dry and the "winter" descent is in good condition, and is easier than descending the normal route.

Mont Blanc de Cheilon Guided climb

Climbing Mont Blanc de Cheilon British Mountain Guide

British Mountain Guide Mont Blanc de Cheilon

Success Climbing the Matterhorn, Eiger and Taschhorn!

~ Tuesday 1st September 2015

Although the main summer season has finished and we've closed up the big chalet, we still had teams at the top of the Matterhorn, Eiger and Taschhorn yesterday. A good start to the autumn!

No pics yet from the Eiger or Matterhorn, but here are a few of the Taschhorn. The 9th or 10th highest peak in the Alps (depending on which list you read) the Taschhorn together with it's neighbour the Dom form the highpoint of the Mischabel range. The approach is a challenge in itself - 1650m of unrelenting uphill from Tasch.

First sight of the Mischabel Bivvy hut

The Mischabel bivvy is a lovely spot, sitting in the col at 3800m with stunning views.

Cosy Inside the Mischabel Bivvy Hut

With all the walking done on the approach, the route starts right from the door and follows the ridgeline for over 1km. Never difficult, but sustained and exposed, and with a bit of dubious rock!

Dawn over the Lagginhorn and Weissmies

Climbing the Taschhorn with Frost Guiding

Climbers on Taschhorn British Mountain Guide

Taschhorn guided climbing

Downclimbing the lower part of the ridge

mountaineering courses with British mountain guides

Climbing the Tsa, Besso and Blanc de Moming

~ Saturday 29th August 2015

This week's Alpine Progression Course, like last week, started with some pretty poor weather - rain in the valley and snow high up. Good for the glaciers but not so nice for the Bertol hut walk-in! We were slightly damp by the time we reached the hut, and we spent the afternoon nervously watching the snow fall and wondering why there was no-one else there...

Happily the morning brought perfect weather and a beautiful day on a snowy Aiguille de la Tsa.

Dawn light over the Dent Blanche, Matterhorn and Dent d'Hérens

Snowy climbing on the Tsa top pitch

Re-fuelled and ready for more we tackled the "long but scenic" approach to the Grand Mountet hut on Tuesday. Plan A had been the Zinal Rothorn but it was still looking plastered with snow, so we aimed for Besso instead. This is a good plan B, with lots of climbing on solid red rock, great positions and fine views (and a bit of Valais rubble thrown in for good measure)

Fine climbing on good, red rock on Besso

Down-climbing the fine arete that leads to Blanc de Moming

And back up the first pinnacle

There are several pinnacles, some you go round, some you have to go over...

Great intermediate climbing with Frost Guiding

It's hard not to be distracted by the view from Blanc de Moming

Guarding the cairn!

Alpine Mountaineering: Eveque, Mont Blanc de Cheilon, Pointes de Mourtis, Dent des Rosses

~ Saturday 22nd August 2015

After a long, hot summer the weather finally cracked this week and it rained...then snowed! Luckily things cleared up fast, but left some challenging conditions in the mountains with fitness and some "Scottish" techniques required to climb anything! Big efforts from our IFMGA mountain guides and clients alike saw some good results though - Dufourspitz, Dent Blanche South ridge, Pigne d'Arolla, Mont Blanc de Cheilon traverse and normal route, L'Éveque traverse and normal route...and a lot of tired, sunburned but smiling faces around the table on Friday night!

Pictures here from the Alpine Progression course, with a very keen team of 4.

Day 2, on the snowy Pointes de Mourtis-Dent des Rosses traverse

Day 3, the excellent Couronne de Bréona traverse

Cunning tactics required to cross the Éveque bergschrund

Airy positions on the Éveque SW ridge

And the higher you go, the "airier" it gets

Descent on the Éveque normal route

Sw ridge on the right, normal route on the left skyline

Sun halos and snow mid-way on the Cheilon traverse

Smiles all round on the final arete, Mont Blanc de Cheilon

Mont Blanc de Cheilon from near the Cabane des Dix

Climbing the Dent Blanche

~ Saturday 8th August 2015

Dent Blanche, emblem of the Val d'Hérens, and a beautiful climb on solid rock. A great end to the week. Rather than the long slog back down to the valley, we spent a pleasant afternoon enjoying the hut hospitality, then trekked out via Tete Blanche and Bertol yesterday.

Climbing Dent Blanche Grand Gendarme

Mountain Guide Dent Blanche

British Mountain Guide. Mountaineering on Dent Blanche

Dent Blanche Summit!


"The woods are lovely, dark and deep,

But I have promises to keep,

And miles to go before I sleep,

And miles to go before I sleep"

Climbing the Matterhorn and more...

~ Tuesday 4th August 2015

Busy times with the alpine season in full swing. As the seemingly endless spell of perfect weather in the Swiss Alps continues (touch wood, fingers crossed...) and memories of last year's awful weather begin to fade, the list of routes climbed by our British Mountain Guides is growing fast...

Matterhorn, Eiger, Dent Blanche, Obergabelhorn, Salbit South Ridge, Weisshorn, Mont Blanc de Cheilon, l'Éveque, Finsteraarhorn, Monch...to name a few from the last fortnight.

Pictures here from a few of them...

Mont Blanc de Cheilon traverse British mountain guide

Guided climbing in the alps

Matterhorn Hornli Ridge Mountain Guide

Climb the Matterhorn with Alpine Guide

Fixed ropes, Matterhorn. Guided climbing alps

Dawn on the Eiger Mittelegi (pic Andy Perkins)

Climbing the Eiger British Mountain Guide

Salbit South Ridge British mountain guide

Climbing the Dent Blanche South Ridge

~ Wednesday 22nd July 2015

We made the long haul up to the newly extended Dent Blanche hut on Sunday. Most of the new building is dedicated to a radio repeater station for the police and border patrol, but the hut now has indoor toilets and a proper boot-room - a big improvement.

An evening thunderstorm soaked the rock, but luckily it didn't freeze low down and dried quickly in the morning, allowing us to climb the excellent red rock of the Grand Gendarme direct.

Climbing Valais 4000 Metre Peaks

Dent Blanche Grande Gendarme Mountain Guide

Climbing Dent Blanche British Mountain Guide

Guided ascent of Dent Blanche, Arolla

Climbing Dent Blanche final summit slopes

Airy climbing on the Dent Blanche descent

Progression week

~ Friday 17th July 2015

As the heatwave continues it's been tricky finding good conditions, but rocky ridges have been a safe bet. After a technical glacier day on the Moiry glacier...

6:1 crevasse rescue haul

...we had a rare (recently!) cloudy day on the Pointes de Mourtis-Dent des Rosse traverse.

With some "a cheval" ridge riding!

Followed by some excellent climbing up to the main summit of the Dent des Rosses.

A semi rest day of training and multi-pitch climbing in Arolla...

Next we went up to the Vignettes hut on a hot and sweaty day, ready for the traverse of the Éveque. The approach to the S ridge of the Éveque is still fine, but it won't survive too much more hot weather!

Conditions on the ridge were perfect, smiles all round!

Descent from the Éveque down the normal route is airy and a little loose, but leads quickly to fast glacier.

After a second night in the hut, and hoping to do the excellent Pigne d'Arolla-Mont Blanc de Cheilon traverse, we left the hut early. Sunrise was stunning, but with huge thunder clouds on the horizon we opted for the scenic, but shorter, Pigne traverse.

Clouds building, and cows lying down. Time for cake and tea!

Weekly Summary

~ Saturday 11th July 2015

It's been a busy week...hot and sunny, but with Frostguiding teams finding good conditions on a good variety of routes.

- Lagginhorn normal route, Jagihorn rock climbing, West ridge of Dent de Tsalion, Aiguille de la Tsa, Douves Blanches, Salbitshijen South Ridge, Bishorn, Couronne de Bréona, Monta Rosa summits, Point de Vouasson, Pointes de Mourti, Pollux, Gran Paradiso

Today is changeover day, with new people arriving and some staying on for a second week. Their "rest" day seems to involve paragliding and via ferrata!

Mont Dolent

~ Friday 3rd July 2015

Mont Dolent is a crucial peak on the Swiss Perimeter - the borders of Italy, France and Switzerland meet on the summit. With 3 countries only a step away, you can do your banking, drink nice coffee and buy an unreliable car without walking too far (or many other variations on the old joke)

We hiked sweatily out of Swiss Val Ferret in the heatwave, passing through the lovely la Peule alpage on the way.

La Peule alpage

Later, and even hotter, we reached the Grand Col Ferret.

Grand Col Ferret

Even later, and hotter still, we collapsed at the Fiorio Bivouac hut, a fine spot to finish the day with tomorrows objective in view in the background.

Fiorio bivouac

Sadly the heatwave meant any hopes of firm snow were in vain, even with our 2am start time. Snow, like revenge, is best served cold. When it's warm and wet it means upwards progress needs character-building effort, but eventually we reached the airy summit ridge of Mont Dolent.

Fine views to the Argentiere basin

Looking back down the summit ridge

Mont Dolent summit virgin - not on the summit!

Aiguille d'Argentiere Whymper Route

~ Wednesday 1st July 2015

A warm welcome and pleasant evening at the Trient hut was somewhat compromised by a 3am breakfast...but a long day ahead and a warm forecast left no choice but a pre-dawn start.

Bleary eyes and poor camera focussing in the early morning!

We found great, well-frozen snow at the fenetre de Saleina - surely a good omen for the Col du Chardonnet?

Argentiere North Face seracs in the dawn light

A quick scuttle past the Argentiere north face seracs revealed the truth though - the Swiss side of the Col de Chardonnet, (in)famous in ski-touring circles, was looking very bare. A determined pull got me over the bergschrund, then 10m of nice snow-ice led into a longish section best described as "mixed".

Swiss side of the Col du Chardonnet. Nice

Thankfully there was still some nice snow at the top, and we soon popped out at the col. Feeling somewhat committed to the plan it was a relief to find the snow in France still nice and chilly. A quick descent, a sharp left turn, and a tiring slog following Ibex tracks up the Glacier Supérieur du Chardonnet put us in position to tackle the tricky bit of the Whymper route, which weaves a complex line up the NW face. This is in fact the line of the first ascent of the Aiguille d'Argentiere - an all-star team of Whymper, Croz, Charlet and Payot climbed this way in 1864, presumably unaware that a more direct and easier (though serious) line existed up the hidden Milieu Glacier. It must have taken considerable optimism to continue when faced with this view!

Hidden amongst the rock buttresses lies a narrow gully, which leads up to an impressive position on the NW ridge.

Glacier Supérieure du Chardonnet, and the narrow "S" gully of the Whymper route.

Above, a steep rock face seems to block the way, but at the last minute the snow finish of the North face appears and offers a great finale. The exposure on the face is huge, amplified by the contrast with the narrow gully below!

The final steps on the north face with the Saleina glacier far below

Counter-balanced on the Aiguille d'Argentiere Summit Ridge

The summit of the Aiguille d'Argentiere is a magnificent spot with stunning views, tempered by anticipation of the descent of the Milieu glacier. This is steep, long and serious - an eye-opening exercise in cramponning! It's a relief when the angle eases and you can enjoy the view.

Abseiling Thoughts...Is your belay plate worn out?

~ Saturday 27th June 2015

A week working on the BMG Alpine Summer training course let me see the world from the "other" end of the rope for a change. A "client" perspective on being short-roped, belayed, abseiled and generally looked after! One thought was on abseiling...

"Stacking" is the normal, safe way to manage abseils, and leaves the second and third person with this view, as the leader disappears in to the void.

Then we looked more closely...

...especially at the top of the belay plate where the rope bends sharply round an edge.

which made me happy to have a newish one!

GORETEXeu trip to the Balmhorn

~ Thursday 18th June 2015

2 days in the Oberland with a huge team from GORETEX Europe. As part of their ongoing relationship with GORE, the BMG provided guides for a big, international group of competition winners hoping to make the ascent of the Balmhorn. I say "hoping" because the weather was looking doubtful, and the Balmhorn is a 1700m ascent from the hut - a tough challenge for people who'd flown in yesterday from all over the world!

The Oberland seen fro the Balmhorn.

The pre-dawn saw us leave the hut in damp, cloudy conditions. Not ideal. Reaching the glacier a couple of hours later after a long and confusing ascent through moraine, and we were still in the clouds. Luckily, as we joined the summit ridge at 3000m, we climbed above the clouds into a stunning inversion! Good snow conditions, stunning views, and a fine summit were a well-earned reward!

Emerging into the sun on the start of the summit ridge

Resting before the final part of the ridge

Nearing the top, with fine views to the South

The last 15 minutes of a long ascent!

Teams above a sea of clouds

Ceuse Rock Climbing

~ Thursday 11th June 2015

Just back from a week in Ceuse, near Gap in the South of France. Ceuse is arguably one of the best cliffs in Provence, which makes it one of the best in France, which makes it one of the world's best. It's famous for very hard climbing on perfect, pocketed rock, but luckily has lots of great climbing in the mid grades too. It's high, so not too hot in the summer, and has a great campsite at the bottom. The catch is the the walk-in - a stiff hour or so uphill from the campsite, laden with a huge 80m rope - ideal preparation for the imminent summer Alpine season! Climbing partner for the week was our Webmaster "FreeRange" Chris, but we got the work stuff out of the way quickly and the rest was pure holiday.

Day 1 warm-up at Demi-Lune

Luke from London going for it on Super Mickey

Finnish Anna going for it on Privilege du Serpent

Chris on Tabernac

Afternoon storms approach

A quick Éole route before catching the train

Paragliding in Evolene

~ Wednesday 3rd June 2015

Helping out the Evolene Paragliding school by driving their bus this morning. There are some great take-offs above Evolene, accessible by long walks or short 4x4 drives (with special permission)

This morning was spectacular, with perfect flying conditions and great views for a first flight...

Or for more experienced flyers logging the required 50 flights to get their licence

Then this guy came along to show us how it's done!

Buff Headgear

~ Tuesday 2nd June 2015

I've been trying out some different Buffs recently. Summer and winter, you need protection from wind, cold and sun, and Buffs seem to do it all with simple, lightweight and cheap headgear. There's a bewildering range of styles and patterns to choose from but you'd struggle to beat the Original Buff. It's a scarf/hat/headband/face cover depending on conditions, and we're giving one free with Alpine bookings.

I've been using a Bandana Buff too. Basically the same shape as an Original Buff but with a little extra material - a tiny change that seems to make a big difference. The extra triangle covers the back of the neck as sun protection, or drops further down the throat at the front for wind protection when worn as a neck-scarf, and it also works well as a Bandana!

For hot summer or ski touring days when you need sun protection without overheating, the Headband is ideal. Comfy, very lightweight, and not too warm, it keeps the ears and forehead safely covered and protected from the sun, without boiling your head like a warm hat would! Comfy under a helmet too, or as a sweatband. A Buff takes up about the same space as a hanky, but looks much more stylish!

Holiday Rock Climbing!

~ Wednesday 27th May 2015

It's off-season for work at the moment, the short break between ski season and the start of the summer. There are still good conditions in the mountains for skiing and mixed routes, but it's also perfect for rock climbing. Not too hot yet! I've just been in Finale Liguria for a few days. Here the rock climbing is excellent, food is cheap and tasty, and you can see the sea - always a novelty for Swiss-based people!

Scenery is stunning, from sublime...

...to intriguing!

Temptation!

Great cliffs, short walk-ins for post-ski-touring legs, sunny-side for cloudy days, shade for sunny days. .

Haute Route

~ Saturday 2nd May 2015

The Chamonix-Zermatt Haute Route is the Haute Route, and probably the world's most famous ski tour. Not surprising then that it can be busy. Many teams start on a sunday or Monday and have a week to reach Zermatt, which means every week a wave of skiers leave Chamonix. Our cunning plan was to leave a day or so later, and with a few extra days to play with we hoped to avoid the crowds and take in a few variations on the way.

After a warm-up on closing day in Le Tour, we skied a very quiet Vallée Blanche on Tuesday, with a quick tour up to Helbronner on the way. Dramatic exit from the Midi lift!

Dent du Géant

With perfect weather forecast, we set off for the Trient hut on Tuesday, the classic first stage of the Haute Route.

Cramponning up from the Argentiere glacier on day 1 of the Haute Route

On Wednesday we back-tracked to the Aiguille du Tour while the rest of the hut headed on for Prafleuri. This gave us a great ski on spring snow down to the Col des Écandies, and a nicely softened descent from there to a tasty lunch in Champex.

Aiguille Verte and Mont Blanc from the Aiguille du Tour

Tiny skiers on the vast slope below the Aiguille du Tour

Tricky conditions on the Col des Écandies

Thursday saw us on the first lift at Verbier for a peaceful skin round to the Rosablanche. Behind the Mont Fort wave and ahead of the Trient teams, we had the place more or less to ourselves.

Rosablanche summit

At Prafleuri we spent a very pleasant afternoon pondering the bathroom design!

Next day there were few options at first other than to follow the classic traverse to the Dix hut, but then we broke off left to Arolla. Bad weather forecast for Saturday meant a night in the valley and a rest day was tempting!

The new Pas de Chevre ladders

After a day tour in Arolla on Sunday we headed up to Vignettes on Monday only to be frustrated by terrible weather on Tuesday. Relief when Wednesday dawned bright and clear for the big stage to Zermatt! A great finale and some fantastic skiing - fresh tracks in powder with a stunning view.

Classic shot in front of the Matterhorn at the Col de Valpelline

The awesome scenery on the Stockji glacier descent

...and some great snow

Arriving in Zermatt we had a day to spare, a weather window and a 4000m peak to ski. The Breithorn is quickly accessed from the Klein Matterhorn, a wallet-emptying but very rapid lift!

Skinning above the clouds on the Breithorn

Chilly team on the summit!

Skiing off the top

Ski til the snow runs out! (Bar out of shot to the right!)

A great trip, and a very fine end to the ski season...although maybe it's not over yet!

Skiing the Tsalion East Face

~ Friday 10th April 2015

Today was a day off work but perfect weather and a keen partner meant no lie-in. An evening recce up the Ferpecle road found reports of good conditions from various teams walking out down the road, so we set off early for the long skin to the Col de la Tsa.

Emerging into the sun at the col, we continued to the foot of the Dent de Tsalion.

Every time I've been up the Dent de Tsalion I've looked down the East face and wondered if it would be skiable. Today, there were 3 tracks and some perfect looking snow...

Steep skiing on the Tsalion East Face

"The first turn is the steepest", and not without consequences here! The next few turns are pretty steep too, with considerable atmosphere tucked in close to the serac.

Lower down, the angle relents as the slope opens out, and the snow was perfect.

Skiing the Mont Miné Glacier with Frost Guiding

Fast skiing on spring snow down the lower Glacier du Mont Miné, a quick shuffle through the bushes and an easy slide down the still-snow-covered road and that was the end of a fantastic day on a descent I've dreamed about for years. Skiing adventure at its' best!

Arolla Ski Touring At its best!

~ Friday 10th April 2015

It's been a busy and varied week in Arolla with some of the best weather and snow of the winter. The only bad weather of the week on Sunday gave us some great ski conditions, and a not-too-hot ascent to the Cabane des Aiguilles Rouges in the afternoon. There, we were well placed for a quick skin to the Point de Vouasson, and a brilliant ski down the shady side of the Mont de l'Étoile.

Glorious morning light climbing the Point de Vouasson

Skiing the shady side of Mont de l'Étoile on the way to la Couta

Next, it was off to the Cabane des Dix with a "father and sons" team, and a great afternoon ski down the Col de Cheilon. The following day was clear but cold and windy, with stunning views from the Pigne d'Arolla summit before a challenging ski in windblown snow down to the Cabane des Vignettes.

Skiing fresh tracks below the Col de Cheilon

In the sun at last touring on the Pigne d'Arolla

Tricky windblown snow, but great views on the way to Vignettes

A very scenic tour to the Pointe d'Oren before returning to Arolla rounded off 3 days off excellent touring.

Summit of the point d'Oren

Eagle Ski Club Slightly Steeper Week (Part 2)

~ Saturday 4th April 2015

We did a lot of "Slightly Steeper" skiing this week, so it's a two-part blog...

Climbing out of the clouds on Mont Rouge

Skinning the top slope. Pigne d'Arolla and Mont Blanc de Cheilon in the background

Fine views of the Perroc, Dent Blanche, Tsalion and Tsa

David's birthday turns!

We'd been lucky with the weather all week, but Friday our luck ran out. Having already switched to plan B to avoid the clouds, we skinned up the Pallanche de la Cretta in deteriorating conditions.

It's not all blue skies...

On the same week last year we came up here hoping to ski the north gully below the summit, and today we were frustrated again. Maybe next year!

The summit... I think.

Eagle Ski Club Slightly Steeper Week

~ Wednesday 25th March 2015

This week is the Eagle Ski Club "Slightly Steeper" week, billed as E3 S4 in Eagle grades. For people who can skin 1000m every day and ski 40 degrees in control, there's no shortage of "slightly steeper" skiing in the Val d'Hérens! Based in the friendly, family-run Hotel les Mélezes in les Hauderes, there's a huge choice of areas within 20 minutes' drive.

The week started with a wet weekend - it's never good to arrive in the rain - but it meant fresh snow for Sunday...

Down to the Vallon des Ignes.

Perfect weather on Monday but a poor forecast for Tuesday pushed us into making the long climb to the Pointe de Vouasson. Tough going for day 2, but worth it for the descent to Evolene. Reaching the summit we found only 1 set of tracks in the huge NE face - and they turned right onto the "normal" route, leaving us the un-tracked glacier tongue.

Skiing off the top of the Pointe de Vouasson. Perfect.

Blue sky, white snow, fresh tracks.

Nax on Wednesday, with the excellent lift access giving post-Vouasson legs a break! We still ended up skinning around 800m, but saw no-one and skied un-tracked slopes all day.

Skiing the NE face of Mont Noble

Off Piste on the North Face of Mont Noble. All the tracks are ours.

Today the forecast was poor, but happily it turned out ok in Evolene. Up the Pic d'Artsinol, down the Dixence side, and back up over the Rionde de Vendes before skiing a great spring descent into the forest - new ground for me too! The ski world is fond of "secret" spots, but often all it takes is a little touring. With a map, some imagination and a little luck we've skied 4 days now without meeting anyone or skiing tracked snow!

Arolla Ski Touring

~ Thursday 19th March 2015

It's been a funny old week. Fresh snowfall is a distant memory, and with endless sun it feels more Easter than mid-March, yet there's still plenty of good ski touring in Arolla. It's not all about powder after all! The hills have been oddly quiet this week too. Today was a public holiday so there were a few teams heading to the Pas de Chevre, but none turned right to Mont Rouge, and the rest of the week we've had the place to ourselves.

All terrain skinning

Still some soft snow on shady slopes. Un-tracked in the NE face of Mont Noble.

Using the Arolla lifts gives access to a great shady descent to the Vallon des Ignes, and avoids the 500m of steep skinning from la Gouille on the way to Mont de l'Étoile. 1000m up for 1900m down!

Charging into the Ignes Couloirs on the way to...

...Mont de l'Étoile.

Great views from the summit.

Steep climb to Mont Rouge

Perfect spring snow on the descent

Spot the snowboarder in the huge north face of Tseina Reifien

Eagle Ski Club Grimentz (Pt2)

~ Saturday 14th March 2015

For a change of scene we made the short drive over to St Luc on Thursday. A pleasant cruise round deserted piste and some epic button lifts lead to the Bella Tolla. From here an eye-opening traverse on early morning frozen snow left us looking into a long, north-facing descent - which was well worth the effort!

Remember it hasn't snowed for over a week!

Bella Tolla in the distance - deserted and un-tracked the whole way!

Quick descent to the Illsee

And a quick climb to the Illhorn. Still haven't seen anyone all day (except for these 3 of course)

Steep, shady skiing in the Illhorn NW couloir.

...on perfect grippy snow

...before re-emerging into the sun.

After so much good and spookily deserted skiing, it was a challenge to find a grand finale tour for the Friday! We decided to go sunny side, skiing down open slopes below the Becs des Bossons hut (no time for a coffee stop!) before skinning back up to the Basset de Levron. It's a good sign when you have to make a track to a col...

Reaching the Basset de Levron

...because you know it won't be hard to find un-tracked snow on the other side!

Fine views south to the Moiry valley and Dent Blanche

Poor photo of perfect snow. Tiny figure skiing the south face of the col

As it was still only 1pm we gambled on finding some good cold snow on the opposite aspect - a 15 minutes skin after lunch led to another fine descent.

Cold snow on the NE face below Pt 2761

All that remained was a fast cruise down the road below the Moiry dam...but as it happened, this was where we earned our turns! Re-freezing crust turned to long stretches of old avalanche debris on the road, the last thing the legs need on the afternoon of day 6!

Thanks everyone for a great week's skiing!

Eagle Ski Club Grimentz (Pt1)

~ Saturday 14th March 2015

Here's Part 1 of a huge blog after yet another great week Day Touring in Grimentz with the Eagle Ski Club. The mood in the Moiry Hotel on Saturday evening wasn't too upbeat - everyone had seen the forecast of warm temperatures and absolutely no snowfall, and it was T-shirt weather in Grimentz. However, with plenty of skiing on all aspects, the Val d'Anniviers area again delivered a week of excellent skiing with lots of fresh tracks - and the odd bit of "character building" snow to provide the necessary learning opportunities!

Big turns in the Vallon de Réchy

Hiking up the Tsa

Col de la Brinta, with fine views of the Weisshorn, Bishorn, Zinal Rothorn, Obergabelhorn

Skiing into the Col de Tsan

Cloud of the week over the Weisshorn

Crash landing!Sensible bird decided to walk home.

Grimentz and Zinal Off piste and day tours

~ Tuesday 3rd March 2015

It's been a wild and variable week in Grimentz, Zinal and St Luc, with "both sorts" of weather, plenty of fresh snow, plenty of wind, and some little glimpses of blue sky. Still, the area has plenty of options with something for all conditions, and we've had some great skiing, touring, on-piste, off-piste, back-country, call-it-what-you-like skiing!

Enough snow to cover the old tracks on Col de Louché

Weisshorn towers above the clouds

Hiding in the trees, bad weather fun!

Blue sky powder in St Luc

Blue and White

Green and white below the Tuono

Winter Room Haute Route

~ Friday 27th February 2015

Last week was the annual Winter Room Haute Route week. The idea of the trip is to complete the classic Chamonix-Zermatt Haute Route before the busy season, making the whole thing more challenging and a lot wilder. With a poor forecast and me floored at the last minute by a nasty flu bug, British Guide Ben Bradford stepped in to save the day. Not much Haute Route was possible thanks to weather and conditions, but there was still some great skiing and a true "winter room" adventure! (thanks to Ben Bradford for the photos).

This trip will run again next year - one day, we will succeed!

Great Off Piste conditions on the improvised "Haute Route"!

Arolla and Evolene Off Piste Skiing

~ Thursday 19th February 2015

4 days around Arolla and Evolene over the weekend, with good skiers, better-than-forecast weather, good snow and very few people. It's supposed to be peak holiday week, but the pistes were quiet and the off piste deserted. Superb.

With the Euro in crisis it's perhaps not surprising if Eurozone tourists avoid Switzerland, but after the initial shock at the end of CHF-Euro pegging British Sterling has recovered fast and the exchange rate is now back to last summer's level (in Feb 2014 1£=1.48CHF. It's now 1£=1.46CHF) Switzerland still isn't cheap, but when the skiing is this good it's worth it!

Straight off the Arolla Ski Lift, 5 days since it snowed!

Off Piste skiing in Arolla

Off the lift, turn left, ski this...

Eat this!

Repeat!

Cogne Ice Climbing

~ Thursday 19th February 2015

A late blog catch-up for our ice climbing trip to Cogne last week. We stayed at the excellent Ondezana hotel in Lillaz, which is perfectly placed for the walk-in to Valeille and the Lillaz ice climbs. Arriving in Cogne to find lots of fresh snow meant options were limited to start, but a day on the Lillaz Cascade, with a slog up to Loie in the afternoon, made a great warm-up.

Cogne Ice Climbing - Lillaz Cascade

Day 2 and another link-up. First, Ibex Gully, a short route with a big approach and a meaty finish in dry conditions! It's just left of the classic Lillaz gully, so we "finished" up that, making a "full" day.

Looking down the second-to-last pitch of Lillaz Gully

Having walking past it twice, Lau Bij was tempting for day 3. Steep on pitch 1, and "funky" on pitch 2! An Italian couple followed us, giving us a good colloquial Italian lesson on the steep bit!

Climber following us on pitch 1 - Lau Bij, Cogne

Looking back down (along) pitch 2, Lau Bij

Yet another link-up on Day 4, tired arms just managing Coyote in the morning sun, before someone suggested doing Tutto Relativo in the afternoon shade...

Arolla Ice Climbing

~ Sunday 1st February 2015

Cold and snowy in Arolla today but there's plenty of ice. First stop was the reliable classic the Usine Électrique, which is good but seems a bit steeper than last year.

Ice Climbing in Arolla - Usine Electrique

After a well-earned coffee and warm-up at the Hotel de la Tsa we finished the day doing some increasingly steep and technical top-roping on the excellent ice boulder.

Learning Ice Climbing Techniques on the Tsa Hotel Boulder

For more information on our ice climbing courses see here.

Grimentz and Zinal Off Piste and Day Tours

~ Tuesday 27th January 2015

3 good days in the Val d'Anniviers, with full value from the valley skipass too. Day 1 in Grimentz with fresh tracks down the Vallon de Réchy, day 2 in St Luc with a great adventure up behind the Weishorn Hotel and down to Ayer, then today in Zinal and Grimentz. Forgot the camera for the first 2 days but remembered it today.

Off Piste in Grimentz with plenty of nice snow

Skiing to the Moiry dam with Frost Guiding

Today's mystery picture

Ski touring weights...

~ Friday 23rd January 2015

In the previous blog I mentioned the strong team...Weight matters in ski touring, especially if you want to do bigger days. There's a compromise to be found in uphill/downhill performance (but it's not all about the down!)

It's about 1600m up the point de Vouasson from la Gouille. Hard work on a pair of these...

167cm K2 Brightside with Dynafit TLT Superlite

Or on these...

Dynafit Manaslu 187cm with TLT ST

Not so bad on these...

Movement Fish with Dynafit Race binding - and yes, that's a pair!

But it takes strong legs to get these up there!

180cm Rosignol Sin 7 with Marker Duke

Point de Vouasson

~ Friday 23rd January 2015

Best ski day of the year! (so far...)

At last there seems to be something resembling a base and some reasonable snow cover. Plenty of wind and still lots of instability, but at least the skiing is improving.

Today, with a strong team (more about that later!) and a brief for a "proper" day, we set off for the Point de Vouasson from la Gouille. Worried at first that we might find yet more thinly covered rocks and windblown snow, it was a relief on the ascent to find some promising conditions.


Early on, blue skies and good-looking snow

1300m later and still smiling!

It's a long way up the Point de Vouasson, but it was worth it. Great views, perfect weather and no-one else on the mountain other than 2 early birds with skinny skis, tight trousers and a taste for steep skinning tracks (We made our own fat ski/baggy troosers track)

The summit with fantastic views

Good snow!

Good skier!

Good day!

Arolla Ice Climbing

~ Thursday 15th January 2015

Back on ice today at the tunnels in Arolla. Less than 10 minutes from the road, plenty of ice, and 4 pitches of good climbing with each pitch slightly steeper than the last.

Ice Climbing on the Arolla Tunnel routes

Even found some turf placements!

Keeping a close eye on the Abalokov anchor!

Ice Climbing in Arolla

~ Tuesday 13th January 2015

Arolla is high, high enough to have ice even in this warmest of winters. Today, looking for a mountain day, we ski-toured up from la Gouille to the Cascade des Ignes. This is a pretty safe bet for ice, sitting as it does in the shade at 2300. It is a stiff approach slog from the road though, and showshoes or skis are usually essential.

Cascade des Ignes Icefall from the approach

Skinning with a large climbing 'sack...

The first pitch is the steepest (baby I know...)

Fine Ice Climbing on the Cascade des Ignes

There's a good bolt belay on the right after 45m or so. Then 2 easier pitches lead to the long snow exit.

Smiling despite spindrift

With lots of windblown, soft snow we decided to abseil back to our skis instead of walking round.

Ski down was good at first

Not so good lower down!

Just us and the chamois today

Ski Sunday PDG coverage

~ Tuesday 13th January 2015

There was great coverage of the BBC/Frost Guiding teams Patrouille des Glaciers race experience last Sunday night.

You can watch it here with BBC iplayer (it starts at minute 32) and see lots of previously unbroadcast footage and Graham Bell's personal account of the adventure.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b04yfhqc/ski-sunday-20142015-11012015

Grimentz Ski Touring and Backcountry

~ Saturday 10th January 2015

Rumours of "no snow" in the Alps are exaggerated...a little bit. It's fair to say there's not much snow, but there was enough for some good skiing last week with the Eagle Ski Club in Grimentz, Zinal and St Luc.

Skiing off the top of la Brinta

Fresh tracks off the Grands Plans lift

Great snow below la Brinta

Big turns on the way to the Weishorn hotel!

Thin, early-season snow-cover always creates 2 problems - avalanche risk and lots of rocks to hit - so it's worth being very wary off-piste. Many of the usual big descents are dangerous or un-skiable, but with a bit of careful choice there's still some good touring around. It will need a lot of snow to sort things out, and a huge amount to properly cover the bare ground where the thin cover has already avalanched. In Particular the steep gullies in Grimentz, the main entry to the Orzival valley, and the East side of Col de la Brinta have all avalanched to the ground this week.

Looking into the Orzival bowl just after it was blasted

The face right of the top chair in Grimentz - a remote release by skiers on the tracks visible.

East face of Col de la Brinta - the return from Rechy.

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