End of Indian Summer – Early Winter – Avalanche Awareness

Our indian summer is coming to an end. A deep depression moved over us yesterday, starting with strong Foehn winds of over 200km/hr., then depositing 27cm of fresh snow here in Verbier last night. What a change, and it looks like winter is on its way. Yabba Dabba Doo!

We profited with this last blast to hike into our Val de Bagnes with Cherries and Stephan. These two have been getting close to mother nature for years from their base here in Verbier. Stephan is a professional mountain guide and Cherries a professional accompagnatrice de montagne. Going out hiking with her is a while new experience. She stripped the bark off a tiny root for me to eat, which provided an amazing amount of flavour and water. Picking tiny leaves and flowers, she was a wealth of information on so may aspects of our environment. It was overwhelming. They have started taking people far and wide, to not only hike and climb, but discover the wonders of nature. Their latest, the Selvaggio Blu on the Mediterranean island of Sardinia, looks like one of the most dramatic hikes around. Send them a note to get on next year’s wonderful trip in the spring.

I will again offer a series of avalanche courses starting in late November and early December. Have a look at the avalanche awareness page for some preliminary dates that may work for you. It’s real fun, hands on stuff, that helps you understand how the snow pack develops over the winter and what to look out for. Hope to see you soon in the snow!

Autumn Rock Climbs

After a cool and wet summer, we have been experiencing a wonderfully warm and dry autumn. Temperatures have been very mild, making for fabulous rock climbing on warm rock. One still needs to carefully choose the aspect since climbing in the shade means cool fingers and dramatically lower temperatures. Add to that, a wee bit of air movement, and one wants that light puffy jacket.

You’d think that all these wonderful colours and low light would inspire me to take a half decent camera. But I have settled for the iPhone and a touch of Lightroom filters to bring out what I saw on these climbs. Whether sharing new experiences with clients, friends, or family, in the mountains or on the water, fine autumn weather is magic. Don’t you think?

Intro to Alpinisme in September

Come join us for an Introduction to Alpinisme and take advantage of the perfect conditions this September. Summer has been cold and wet and the forecast for September is perfect. We will climb a fun peak, using crampons, roped together, on snow and rock. The first course, this weekend, September 6-7, is Sfr.490.00/person.

I have just finished an intro to alpinism in Zermatt and Saas, climbing some of the 4000 meter peaks in the valleys. Conditions are excellent now after many days of fine weather. Working with Jonathon of Alpine Ascents International proved to be very entertaining. Lots of enthusiasm was found all around as we romped from valley floor to mountain peak, moving from comfy hut to comfy hut, and even finding time for a Via Ferrata. Using the lifts scattered around these valleys helped our return to the valley floor, saving our knees for more fun days ahead.

Aiguille de Chardonnet

After a full month’s hiatus in Hawaii with my two kids, Anya and Kevin, Ton and I climbed the Aiguille de Chardonet in what seemed to be one of the finest days this summer. The weather has been mostly cold and wet, breaking many records for precipitation.

We left the Trient Hut at 3:00 AM under a half moon and crystal clear skies. There was not a breath of wind, making the sub-zero temperature feel mild. Walking across the Trient Plateu towards the Col Superior de Tour on a soft bed of 10cm of consolidated snow was magical. The lights twinkled in the valley below while the stars tried their best to illuminate our path with the moon. Passing through the shadow of the west facing col, we used headlamps again. I’ve never seen conditions so good for mid-summer. The 20cm of fresh snow was forgiving, offering good traction on the 30 degree slope. We still haven’t put on crampons!. Headlamps off again in the moonlight, we see 4 other parties ahead of us, having left from the Albert Première Hut. An hour later, we gain the “Boss” as the sun comes over the horizon. I feel the energy in me surge as this magical moment quickly passes. Gaining the ridge proper, the real technical climbing begins. Our pace slows with the harder moves on snow covered rock. With 4 parties ahead, we are forced to wait at each tough section. We gain the summit at high noon exactly, so happy to be outside and on top on this splendid day.

The descent involves short roping down sustained slopes, then 3 rappels of 30 meters to arrive onto the glacier. Zigzagging between crevasses and overhangs, the route finally “let’s up” on the flat Tour Glacier at 3100 meters. flat  Conditions were excellent for all the snowy parts but challenging on the rock sections.

Chardonnet -A short video clip of us going up onto the Boss. It may take a minute or two to load depending on your connection.