Sunday, 4 January 2015

Ben Nevis on the Grande Montets...and then some

And so, my 4th day of putting skins on skis was in a tired and hungover state and for the 3rd time in a week, at the base of Piere a Ric. Lets make this the LAST time I skin up this piste...


I woke at 0820 on my last day of my trip to Cham and headed downstairs for a well needed coffee and a bite of breakfast. Greeting me in the kitchen was Colin. "Will you be ready to catch 0850 bus?" I suddenly remembered agreeing to do a 'max height' day on the Grande Montets with Colin the night before whist drinking in the NBC. And so, I hurriedly brewed up a coffee and rushed upstairs to throw what ever I may need for our skin up the GM.

We made the bus, but I wasn't feeling to great. The lack of sleep after getting in late and the alcohol still circulating round my blood stream really wasn't going to help me today. And it showed. Colin clocked in at the Lognan in just over an hour from setting off from Argentiere. Me on the other hand, joined him 20mins later. We sat in the sun, had something to eat and drink and watched as others were setting off in our proposed direction, putting a track in for us. Just as we were about to set off, Colin had noticed that a pin on his toe piece of his binding was protruding more than it should, so spent the next 15mins trying to fix it. In my hurried state of packing, I had forgotten to throw in my screwdriver, and the ones at the tool station just weren't small enough. I quite liked the extra 15min break, but before long, Colin gave up on fixing his binding and decided to continue regardless.

We followed the track the group before us had set which zig zagged its way up the Pylones piste toward the top of the Herse chair lift. I was getting tired and Colin was now a long way ahead. We passed the top of the Herse lift and continued towards the Col Des Rachasses. By the time Colin had got to just below the col, I shouted up to him that I'll just wait below the front face of the GM for him. My heel was killing me for no apparent reason and I was knackered. I stopped to take off my boot and have a drink. Savoring the view across the valley to the Aig' Rouge, this all seemed worth it. Sat in the snow, high above the Chamonix valley with blue sky above, the silence and solitude was relaxing. This is why we journey into the mountains, to get away from reality and for a brief period of time, ignore the rest of the world and it's problems. The pain had now gone and so I continued up to the Col, only to be greeted by Colin on his ski back down. By now it was nearly mid afternoon and about -17 at the Col with the wind chill. I de-skinned, clipped boots and bindings into downhill mode and off we went, back down the way we had come up.

At this point, we had about a foot of powder which was a joy to ski after having to endure the hard ice packed pistes of Verbier, La Tour and Piere a Ric. The course at the beginning of the week really had worked wonders with my skiing. The slope was about 32 degrees (measured using an app) and I felt pretty confident. We traversed across towards Bochard, dodging the odd rock and boulder along the way, skied some more powder into the sun and with a thump, landed back on the hard, concrete like piste. The ski down, the lower altitude and being in the sun had now warmed my extremities and brought on the dreaded hot aches in my hands! A few minutes of swearing and arm flailing and we were off again, back to the Longon and then continued back down Piere, dodging a piste basher on our way down.

We had to walk the last 500m as it was just too rocky to ski and I don't think my skis could take any more rock shots. So to date, this is my 'max height in a day' best: approx 1,800m of ascent. It's nothing to brag about as people have done way more, but I'm happy with that. And to refer to the title of this post, putting it into perspective, we skinned from sea level to the summit of Ben Nevis (1,343m), and then some.

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