Thursday, 24 March 2011

Val T to Val D'I

Last weekend I embarked on a Val Thorens to Val D'Isere ski tour with Mark, David, Keith and Glynn. The plan was to do this over 4 days, with 3 nights in mountain huts along the way...unfortunately the weather had other plans, and high avalanche risk and zero visibility turned Day 1 into a warm up day on & around the pistes of the 3 Valleys, finishing with a road transfer up to Pralognan.

Morning of day 2 and we used the Pralognan lifts to ease the journey up to the Felix Faure hut on the Col de la Vanoise.

Lots of people heading up from Barmettes, mostly out on day tours:

After lunch at the refuge we went in search of powder...
and found it off the shoulder of the Pointe de la Rechasse:

An early start on day 3 to cross the Col de la Vanoise and head into the Leisse valley:

High avalanche risk on north-facing slopes made choice of line a tricky business, but by staying on ridge crests where the wind had stripped most of the snow we were able to weave a safe line up to the Col des Pierres Blanches. South face of Grande Casse in the background looking very thin, next year perhaps?

Some more nice turns:

Approaching the Femma hut - it was at this point Keith mentioned hearing a 'snap'...:

Anyone wondering about the level of avalanche risk need only look at the slopes opposite the Femma hut, pretty much the whole hillside had spontaneously released in several slabs:

A warm welcome as always from Claire the gardienne. Time to rest weary limbs on the suntrap terrace:

It was while putting skins on first thing in the morning on day 4 that the cause of Keith's "snap" became apparent when his whole ski folded in two...oh the joys of ultra-light touring kit!
After some deliberation we decided the traverse of the Col du Pisset back to Val D'Isere was the best option (short of calling in a helicopter) and set off to nurse the broken ski over the Col:

Looking back down the Rocheure valley:

East face of the Dent Parrachee looking a bit thinner than when we skied it last spring...:

At the Col du Pisset, watershed into the Val D'Isere valley:

Having nursed the broken ski down the top part of the Manchet valley it eventually became too tricky for Keith to ski, so to make life easier I set him up on my Gotamas and took his one remaining good ski. 100m later as I gently traversed a powdery slope there was another audible 'crack', and this one had given up the ghost too!
After some cursing and muttering we continued on, somehow managing to make the ski slide occasionally, and resorting to some serious survival one-ski skiing, until eventually we caught sight of some army skiers ahead. David charged off and managed to find the Captain, who agreed to let me use their spare skis (the battalion always carry extras when in the mountains) to get down to le Manchet.
Never been so glad to see a pair of 'snowblades' in my life! Merci!!

Some of the army team on the skate back to Le Manchet:

Keith's 2-part ski, handy for transporting...:

As it turns out, there may have been a mounting problem with the skis, with the wrong glue being used which allowed the carbon weave of the topsheet to fray & create weak points... all this did serve to reinforce my view that ultra-light touring kit simply cannot be as resistant & hard-wearing as a solidly made (if heavier) ski.

Anyone out there thinking of buying Black Powder skis from Alpcontrol think very hard - all they consist of is a carbon weave topsheet, a PTex base, and some (very) soft balsa wood inbetween the two - and make sure whoever mounts them uses Araldite or similar epoxy resin!!!

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