Sunday, 18 March 2018

Skiing and merriment with friends – Days 143 to 151

Saturday dawned wet and wetter, just in time for eight of Solihull Mountaineering Club to arrive. Or did they bring it with them? 

The team: Mike D, Rob, Roger, Ed, Mike R, James and, sitting down: Jackie, Alex and Jo (and Brian taking the photo!)
In Super Chatel just before heading back
They didn't arrive till dinner time so we left them to it, going to the chalet at 09.00am on Sunday morning instead. Hugs and hellos and off we went, it wasn't quite raining but it was never far away, actually snow above about 1300m with rain below for most of the week. We all stuck together for most of the day, reacquainting people with their ski legs. We stopped for lunch and watched heavy snow falling outside the window, deciding we didn't need to ski in this, we offered Alex and Rob a lift back to the chalet, could have done with a bigger car for all the people who wouldn't have minded a lift home!

Relaxing in Chalet Bernadine: James, Rob, Mike R and Mike D
James skiing some off-piste powder
Monday didn't dawn too wet, but was mostly in a cloud. We split from Alex and Rob immediately as Rob had left his lift pass on the bed! Haig went back for it but there was no chance of holding everyone else back. We headed off to Switzerland where the pistes were very pleasant, particularly when we could actually see them! We ended up doing the Swiss circuit in reverse (anti-clockwise – Montriond, Les Crosets, Champoussin, Morgins, Super Chatel, Chatel, Montriond), which avoided the brown piste 
Mike R disappearing into trees and snow
(a south facing piste in Morgins that is part of the clockwise circuit but not anti-clockwise and can suffer under warm, sunny conditions when the snow can soften and thin, mixing with the mud underneath making it unpleasant and brown!), but did mean a 10 minute yomp across Morgins town (avoided in the clockwise direction by skiing slightly downhill along a pavement at the side of the road where the snow is left for this purpose, but means walking up the road in the anti-clockwise direction). Oh well. Got back to Chatel to see big black clouds growing. That's us off then, accompanied by Roger and Mike R. Sadly we didn't make the car at Ardent in Montiond before the blizzard of heavy wet snow hit, so got in the car absolutely drenched. Only for it to stop! Hmm.

Jackies best skiing photo ever! Taken by professional photographer Ed
Mike collecting his skis in heavy falling snow, watched by Brian
Tuesday, weather, but at least this was 'lumpy' weather. Off piste was calling in Chatel so we quickly split to a smaller group of Jo, Mike R, Ed and James. What a day, the powder was amazing, no one could stay on their feet, if they could even see them. The visibility wasn't great so staying in the trees was good, when we ventured out to a plateau area B managed to drop 10 feet into a hole, he saw the odd star, and we just saw him vanish! Perhaps enough is enough. Perhaps not, it's cleared slightly, shall we do that roof? See Youtube video below

Snowman Brian after finding a deep, hidden 'bear pit'
Clear skies and fabulous off-piste on Wednesday
 Wednesday blue sky, what a change, Ed, James and Mike R headed off to 'serious' things, the rest of us just had fun. Well most of us, we ended up off piste in Chatel where whoops, hoots and giggles abounded, except from Rob who kept his calm despite losing one or both skis on a regular basis! Hearing Alex however was a joy, so he couldn't be grumpy! 

Brian skiing off-piste under blue skies
Thursday, more weather was forecast, though not starting as early as expected, a depleted group set out with Roger leading us through Avoriaz (or ‘Avoraz’ as he called it). James was poorly and Alex & Rob wanted a rest day? OK perhaps not, they managed to get the red via ferratta on the Tête de l'Eléphant in St Jean d’Aulps done before the rain set in. I had said to B I would like to leave before getting drowned, sadly not to be, moderately heavy wet snow above 1300mm and heavy rain below (sadly, when it’s like that you start a run in snow, but ski into rain as you go downhill, only to see it turn back into snow on the lift back up again, but by then, you’re wet). We should have left when Roger and Mike R did, but we did leave before the hardcore Jo, Mike D and Ed did. That'll be all our clothes drip drying over the bath for the fourth time in a week then.

Alex's 'rest day' on the red via ferrata in St Jean. Photo taken by Rob
Brian and Jackie during a pause in the off-piste tree skiing
Friday was forecast as pretty rubbish but it was their final day so all out, early and out to the Ardent lift at Montriond. As it happened the weather was much better than forecast and was mainly sunny all day. Slight hiccup, only Mike R made it through the barrier, turns out the other seven passes had been wrongly issued, six days yes, but Saturday to Thursday, not Sunday to Friday! Due to all the passes having been bought from our little resort in St Jean d’Aulps (well that way they get the money, so Si supports local) the problem had to be sorted there, so Ed and B headed back with all the passes, 20 minutes each way, plus queuing and arguing time! Arguing wasn't actually a problem, though queuing was. She could see that they hadn't been used on Saturday so did make good, but so much for an early start!

Friday lunch at the top of Morgins. Mike D, Ed, mike R, Brian, Jackie and James (Jo taking the photo)
That'll be Roger there stuck in the snow!
Roger, Alex and Rob plumped for slightly easier slopes after we'd all done a few together. B wanted to take the others on that one last run he'd finally managed to find open, so we headed towards Torgon. After getting through Chatel and into Super Chatel we found the whole of the onward area closed due to avalanche danger. Oh well, it'll be the circuit again then, the usual, clockwise way round (the ‘brown’ piste was brown, requiring a bit of negotiation to avoid bare patches, and ski rescue for complete strangers, but the snowy pavement through Morgins town was still OK so we could slide all the way through to the onward ski lift)
Selfie sillyness
Amazingly as we headed towards the last run back in Montriond and the bar at the end for a farewell pint we bumped into Roger, Alex & Rob, what are the chances? So Roger went to do another run with the majority while B and I went for a pint with A&R. We waved them all off in the van thinking it's been lovely to see you, but glad you are going. We can have a lie in, and not go out in hideous weather. So we didn't. Saturday was rain, but moderate snow above about 1200m and we were in, though we did go out today, much to my surprise and into fresh powder snow!

James, Mike in balaclava, Ed's hands behind him and Brian
Rob collecting his skis - again!
It was a great week, we got to ski with everyone in different groups. We had dinner in the chalet twice, Sunday and Tuesday which was lovely, we felt very spoilt and dinner out for staff night off on Wednesday. A lovely evening, joined by Cassie and Si and two friends who we had tried to meet up with during the day. Many calls and texts, they finally went over us, on a lift, waving at us, just before we went off piste in the trees, never to be seen again! Or not for a very long time anyway! 

In the bar for a last Apres Ski drink. Alex, Jo and Mike D
Mike R and Ed
Baz is an old friend of Si's from the Navy who was staying for a couple of nights between speaking commitments. He has studied Shackleton's voyage and rescue of his men, being involved in a recreation of the 800 miles and 16 day's at sea, eight men in a lifeboat before miraculously hitting South Georgia only to find they were on the wrong side of the island and being the first to trek across an unmapped mountain range (something we studied while in Punta Arena, Chile last year. See: . If that wasn't enough he is going to attempt to be the first man to trek across the whole of Antarctica, solo and unsupported in October of this year. We got a potted version of his talk which was very interesting and we wish him well. Shame he'd strained his groin out skiing....
Rob and Brian
Todays skiing in fresh powder snow, just us two, but it's colder with lots of snow forecast for at least the next two weeks. The latter part of the season is looking good!

1 comment:

  1. Wow! What a busy week. We’ve had skiing weather here again too.
    Even Cornwall, where I was meant to be going today but decided not to.
    Have fun in the last few weeks. Xxx
    H, I & M-D xxx