Kate and Sophie Ski Mountaineering Course • February 6-10, 2012

Kate and Sophie, skiers and climbers from London, came over for a private 5-day course of instruction in ski mountaineering with Kathy.

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Kate on the left and Sophie on the right (even their mothers wouldn't know them wrapped up like this though), riding the lifts at Mégeve on day 3 of the course. Days 1 and 2 were spent at Grands Montets and in the Aiguilles Rouges, learning touring techniques and some rope tricks. On day 3 we were ready for a true tour. The weather was cold! And the wind had been on the snow up high, so we were looking for some manageable snow, and sunshine with less wind. We found... some of what we were looking for!


Our objective for the day is the Croisse-Baulet, a popular day tour for skiers from Geneva and Annecy. The Croisse-Baulet is on the right, the Petite Croisse-Baulet on the left. Leaving the ski area on nicely groomed service roads, we enjoy a last bit of flat terrrain before our climb.


The snow, pleasant in the trees, turns to wind-hardened cardboard at the summit of the Petite Croisse Baulet. We search for smooth patches that will hold body weight and not hinder our attempts to turn, as we descend to the Col de l'Avenaz.


Continuing on up toward the summit of the Croisse Baulet, we get a taste of what we have to look forward to on the way down! Clearly this day's outing will not be about skiing pleasure.


However, the views were fabulous, and the temperatures warm for a change (we were in the middle of an extended freezing cold period in the Alps). It was also rewarding to see the clouds and cold wind we were escaping over the Mont Blanc massif, as well as the valley smog we had risen above.


Sophie and Kate arriving on the summit.


Kate enjoys the pause, with the ridge of the Aravis behind her.


Leaving the summit behind, we managed to stitch together some smooth hard slab sections for pretty good skiing after all! At least some of the time...


On day 4, we got up onto the Argentière Glacier for some more ropework and glacier instruction. Again pretty burly skiing conditions to get down the steep slopes from the top of the Grands Montets (hence no smiling powder photos!), but sunshine and views are our reward.


Breakable crust and truly challenging skiing conditions made the always-tricky roped skiing exercise even more interesting.


Next on the agenda, snow anchors and crevasse rescue demo.


Kathy descends into the "crevasse" to "rescue" the "victim" (her pack).


Wrapping that up just as the evening shadows engulfed us, it's time to pack up and get back to a cup of vin chaud! Sophie is kitted up for the temperatures.


Negotiating the complex terrain at the glacier's edge.


On our last day, a short tour over the Col Cornu gave us a chance to consolidate skills and cover a few things we had left until last. Although the breakable crust thwarted our efforts to ski much, we did have beautiful views and only light wind.


Descending over the Col de Glière, Sophie has a chance to practice lowering Kate down steep snow. We managed this still-difficult snow competently, if not gracefully!


Though somewhat of a whirlwind tour of the discipline, Kate and Sophie are set up now to practice, hone, and refine their skills both as skiers and climbers. Have fun and be careful, as my Mom always says!