Kathy and Mark's touring • November - February, 2017

OK, we'll admit to being out of touch for some months. Truly, we are not hiding, just catching our breath before we begin a fairly busy ski touring season.

We thought we would post a bunch of photos from some of this winter's outings. Full disclosure: we do have an ulterior motive, however. And that is to convince you that the snow season in the Alps so far is perhaps not as bad as you might have heard.

The winter season started rather normally, with a bit of snow here and there. But December proved to be as dry as a bone, and by the New Year, we were all feeling a bit anxious. A nice healthy snowstorm followed in early January. Things were looking up! But then another very cold, windy dry spell dominated central Europe once again. The wind blew much of the new snow away.

Eventually, the cold relented, the weather became warmer and more unsettled. Intermittent snowfalls that occurred in late January and early February helped. Now, as I write this, on February 4, more snow, considerably more, is in the forecast.

But even in a rather dry year, which we are so far "enjoying", we can still have lots of skiing fun.

So here are some pics which, hopefully, we convince you we are telling the truth!

You can click on the grey bars below to jump down the page to a particular trip, or just scroll though all of them.


November 20, 2016 • Grands Montets off piste

January 1, 2017 • Via Feratta des Evettes

January 9, 2017 • Touring above Punta Croce, Italy

January 17, 2017 • The Petit Croisse Baulet

January 20, 2017 • Rochers des Enclaves, Contamines

January 23, 2017 • Col de la Cicle, Contamines

January 25, 2017 • Col des Dards, Chamonix

January 29, 2017 • Aiguilles Crochues, East summit, Chamonix

February 1, 2017 • Glacier du Tour Noir, Chamonix

February 2, 2017 • Vallée Blanche, Chamonix



November 20, 2017 • Grands Montets off piste


Just one photo from what was actually our second day of skiing this season. The lower part of the ski Grands Montets ski area opened for a weekend, and we took the opportunity to skin up from the top of the Bochard lift, over the Col de Rechasse. There were a few tracks from other hardy folk, and the wind had densified the snow a bit, but who can complain.


January 1, 2017 • Via Feratta des Evettes

Alright, I'll admit that these few photos are not likely to make anyone think there's much snow in the Alps, but the reality was that such things as rock climbing and perhaps waterfall climbing made more sense than skiing.

So, to get up and out of the chilly valley floor, we took the Flegere lift up to do the shiny new via feratta called the Via des Evettes. The route wanders up the rocks above.

Mouse over to see the line.


Kathy on the Pont du Singe.


As always, the views from this side of the valley are stunning.


Nice job, Compagnie du Mont-Blanc.


The final section up a clean wall, just before the Pont Himalayen.


The walk down was surprising icy.


January 9, 2017 • Touring above Punta Croce, Italy

Finally, the drought of December 2016 came to and end. Several days of bad (or good, depending on your point of view) brought quite a bit of snow to a parched landscape.

We took a day tour with our friend and colleague, Kathy Murphy to a high pass above Punta Croche in the Aosta Valley in Italy.


The strong north wind following the snows of early January had already blown much of the fluffy stuff away.


Kathy and Mark.


January 17, 2017 • The Petit Croisse Baulet

This is an easy tour and a great little outing. Unfortunately, most of the snow above timberline was pretty wind-hammered. but we did find some very pleasant skiing just down into the woods.


The summit of the Petit. We considered going on to the higher Croisse Baulet behind, but the snow quality looked dubious at best.


We descended down into the woods, enjoying some great snow. But had to pay a small price to climb our way back out.




January 20, 2017 • Rochers des Enclaves, Contamines

This tour is on the high ridge that separates the Beaufortain to the south and the Arve Valley to the north. Though most skiers come in from Hauteluce, we approached from the Contamines Mont-Joie ski complex.

In this photo we have just left the ski area and are skiing across the Grande Pierriere.


More wind carved snow.


The firm snow did make for quick travel.


Arriving at the small summit before the Col de la Gittaz.


Though powder was in short supply, the snow was remarkably fun.


And lower down, we did have some really great moments.


Great skiing where the snow had been protected from the wind.


January 23, 2017 • Col de la Cicle, Contamines

We had such a good time on the tour of the 20th, that we decided to go back to the same area and do one of our favorite short tours, the Col de la Cicle.

One of the things we like so much about this outing, is that even though you start in a ski area, the back side of the ridge feels very remote.


At the Col de la Cicle.


The easterly winds had blown all the loose stuff away, leaving a super-fun chalky grippiness that called for fast, high pressure turns.


The snow down below the trees was still fluffy.


January 25, 2017 • Col des Dards, Chamonix

The cols above Lac Blanc are probably the most popular ski tours in the Chamonix Valley. There are two of them, the Dards and the Belvedere.

Though the Belvedere is more open and direct, the Dards offer more interesting terrain, with occasional hidden pockets of untracked snow.


We found one of those untracked descents. The snow ranged from wonderful to awful. Oh well.


January 29, 2017 • Aiguilles Crochues, East summit, Chamonix

This tour is half climbing, half skiing. It starts with the first col of the classic Crochues-Berard, but then wanders off into less travelled realms.


The crux is a climb up a steepish snow gully on the north side of the Aiguilles Crochues. It is seldom difficult, but one needs to be a bit picky about conditions.


After the gully, there is a fine ridge section leading to the summit.


A short descent from the summit to the skis- on spot. One can't always ski from the top as it's sometimes rocky and always quite steep. But the snow had blown in on the face and we managed with the aid of a belay rope.


The descent is the same as for the Col des Dards, and again, on some rather wind sculpted snow.

When is it going to snow again?


February 1, 2017 • Glacier du Tour Noir, Chamonix

Finally, more snow! Hooray. The view of Mont Blanc from the top of the Grands Montets cable-car.


The only sensible way to get to the Tour Noir Glacier is from the Grands Montets lift system. And on a sunny, snowy day, the line was formidable. But it was worth it.


Looking across to the Tour Noir on the left and the Pointe Kurz on the right. Mouse over to see the route up the Tour Noir glacier.


The initial descent down the Glacier des Rognons. Not bad at all.


More good clean fun.


Touring up the Argentiere Glacier with Mont Dolent behind.


Looking up the Glacier du Tour Noir.


A few skiers had been ahead of us, but there is lots and lots of open untracked snow.


On the way down.


Unfortunately the sun is about to "set".


February 2, 2017 • Vallée Blanche, Chamonix

This is our first Vallée Blanche of the season. With a thin snowpack at low elevations, and lots of thinly covered crevasses and rocks, we waited a good while before venturing into the big back yard. But the new snow of the week before suggested it was time.


We were not alone.


Unfortunately, the weather blowing in from Italy chased us down the hill with a powerful tailwind and threatening fog.


Coming down below the Petit Rognon, next to the Géant Icefall. With all the wind, this area was remarkably smooth and filled in, and great skiing.


A bit breezy, however.


Below the icefall, getting blown back to Chamonix.


Impressive scenery, as always.


The lower glacier was quite dry, and we had to walk a short ways to the "Grotto".

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