Italian Powder

The last week had me getting very frustrated with getting up at 645, having coffee and breakfast, preparing kit and deploying to the lift inly to find opening delayed several hours due to unusually large dumps of snow or rising temperatures. By Sunday I’d had enough of this routine and was ready to forget skiing for a while and went indoor climbing to at least get some exercise. The evening saw us ensconsed at Elevation’s bar catching up with friends Hamish and Hannah who were in Chamonix as part of their business tour visiting distributers for their cool merino wool clothing company. If you haven’t heard of Mons Royale check them out at http://www.monsroyale.com/ , I am fully convertwed and don’t wear anything else now for skiing. They make alternatives look like they were styled for pensioners. A few beers later and we decided to get home for a dram and invited another friend round. He didnt show and as the drinks went down I completely forgot about and arrangement I had made to go to the midi with him. Sorry!! When Luca Pandolfi texted to go ski in the morning at Helbronner it seemed worth getting up since it had been shut through bad weather.

Another reasonably early start had us waiting in the cafe at Entreves waiting for opening. I wished I hadnt bothered, cloud was rolling in, the wind was howling probably destroying and powder that had fallen and who knows if the Italians could be bothered opening. They opened to the mid station and a few desperate skiers when up to the mid station to ski the lowers which had seen heat, slides and refrozen into a mine field. We had more coffee. After all its cheap and world class in Italy.

Eventually the top lift opened and we were up. What followed was a day of high urgency trying to get as much volume technical skiing in as possible having not been tired from skiing for a while. Luca is always interesting to ski with, looking at the mountain with slightly different perception from me and keeping me on my toes to make sure I didnt end up somewhere wide enough for a board but not for my 191 skis. The first shot saw us edging over a lip hanging off an ice axe with spin drift pouring over and obscuring the skis, after 2 snow boards had created a trench the teetering tip and tail boucing feeling was a quick wake up call (as if 5 cups of coffee werent enough!). The rest of the day followed this pattern with 5 descents off the helbronner, all bar the first with abseils. On the last run Luca had spied a line which I failed to see and was very nervous in case the ribbons of snow through slabs were too narrow for skis and without crampons and slabby rock with no anchors it would be committing to go there. Instead we decide to follow a line that Davide Capozzi and the Italian Team had just gone down following a traversing line from under the cables rightwards round snow arretes and threading rocks and couloirs. Late in the day the sun was stunning positioned to backlight the Dames Anglais on the Peuterey Ridge like some medieval biblical event. Why are these rock spires called the Dames Anglais, the French will tell you – ‘because its as cold there as and English girl’.  This off course meant it was late in the day and with darkness fast approaching and the last bin down long gone the day ended skiing some of the worst rubble, crust, wavy nastiness which reduced me to beginner level forcing traverses and kick turns all the way to the road. A bit of combat down the side of the road and hopping over a running stream had nature remind me who is boss as the ice axe snagged while ducking a branch clotheslining me to the deck as if I had just received a short arm tackle from one of the NZ rugby team greats. A superb day out, equally mental, physical and technical demanding. Thanks Luca! http://www.lucapandolfi.com/

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