Alpine Climbing & Skiing: Frost Guiding Blog

Eagles Ski Club High Summits Week

~ Sunday 18th April 2021

This week started out as the Winter Room trip but was delayed due to Covid. So, no winter rooms, and only 2 visiting Eagles, but some great skiing!

Battling some weather we made it to the Dix hut to be rewarded by a clear but very cold day on Mont Blanc de Cheilon. -20 in the morning apparently, and the route stays tucked in the shade for most of the way. The ski off made up for it though.

Next day we went up la Luette. Only a 600m climb above the hut, but untracked skiing right from the summit to the tongue of the Cheilon glacier.

Final summit of the week was the Pointe de Vouasson. Only 2 other guests in the hut made for a quiet evening! A good peak to finish the week, with great views back to the earlier summits. Lots of good skiing where we seemed to go through several seasons - freezing on the summit, sunny powder, some cloudy "skiing by feel", and finally spring snow turning eventually to grass before a 5 minute walk to the road. A good end to a good week, hopefully to be repeated next year with a bigger team!

Is Light Right? Ski Touring and Weight Saving

~ Sunday 7th February 2021

When you're going uphill on skis, weight makes a difference - every gram counts. Going downhill wide skis, stiff boots and safe-release bindings make life much easier, but weigh more. Somewhere, there's a perfect compromise between uphill/downhill performance!

An interesting start point is to think about summer gear. A summer Alpine boot and crampon weigh about 1.3kg, so that's the extra load on each foot when cramponning up snow.

A sensible lightweight skitouring set-up (boot, binding, ski and skin) weighs more than double!

(Scarpa Alien, Plum WEPA, Dynafit Cho Oyu 88mm ski + skin)

That's quite a light set-up and is harder work on the descent unless the snow is good. You'll get much more ski performance from a bigger ski and stiffer boot like the Dynafit Hoji, K2 Wayback 96 +skin, Plum Pika weighed here...but at almost 3xsummer boot weight!

The K2 Wayback is a great ski but still definitely in the touring range. A more "Freeride" ski like the Black Crows Navis 102mm (plus Dynafit Hoji, Plum Guide, skin) takes the total to a nice, round 4kg which really doesn't help if you want to "aller plus loin".

Big skis need bigger boots like the Salomon Shift 130...a "lightweight" stiff boot. Here, with the Black Crows Navis/Plum Guide/skin.

Add a Salomon shift binding for extra security and downhill performance...and the uphill will feel much further than it should. (Black Crows Navis/Salomon Shift Pro 130)

Or go the whole way with a stiff boot, Shift binding, and a 112 Blizzard Rustler. We've almost reached 5kg! (And that's a skin, not a green leg, in the boot!)

Now, if the old adage about "a pound on the foot is worth 5 on the back" is true, then swapping the Alien/Cho Oyu/WEPA set-up for the Shift Pro 130/Shift/Rustler set-up is like putting 10.6kg in your rucksack!

The Ski Season...so far.

~ Thursday 28th January 2021

It goes without saying that it's been a strange year. The Covid restrictions have made it very difficult for everyone of course, with British skiers also having to come to terms with Brexit! Switzerland has kept the lifts open, but restrictions have made travel all but impossible, and very delicate avalanche conditions await anyone who actually makes it to the mountains.

The early season was very dry in the central Valais and skiing off-piste meant dodging rocks...

Ice was good though - here's the keen team from the Grand Hotel Kurhaus learning to climb ice.

Avalanche conditions were bad because of the thin snowpack - here's a lucky escape on a sunny Saturday in Arolla. The classic trap of skiing fresh tracks next to the piste, then spreading out across the steepening slope until it got too steep. A small slab, but enough to carry the skier 150m downhill and bury his skis. The green line marks his ski-less walk out!

The avalanche problem was partly create by wind - if you can see drifting snow, you know to expect windslab.

Luckily we managed to find enough stable snow for the first day on the road to becoming a British Mountain Guide - at least for the 4 candidates who were already in France. 2 others were unable to travel.

There has been some good touring. Here at the Col de Bréona, with 1500m of descent on gentle angles to les Hauderes.

Massive avalanches on the Pointe de Vouasson, a local classic descent but best avoided for a few weeks i think!

And some more excellent skiing on the Pallanche de la Cretta - after a long slog up in fresh snow we enjoyed 1500m of fresh snow all the way to the valley bottom.

As I type this it's pouring rain at 1400m, Cat 4 avalanche risk and Cat 5 in the upper Valais, the lifts and even the road to Arolla are closed and it's forecast to continue for 48 hours! 2021 is turning into a very unusual season.

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