Not Valle Maira ski program • March 7 - 13, 2019

A group of buddies organized by Gordon King, came out from Seattle to ski with Mark and Kathy. The original plan was to ski in Valle Maira, in Italy (Hah! You can guess how that plan went wrong). Actually in the weeks and days prior to the trip we went from: there's not enough snow in Valle Maira, where else would we like to ski? (Answer: Chamonix and Zermatt). Then, woops, there's snow in Valle Maira but northern Italy is shutting down. No worries, on with Plan B. Then, woops! Swiss ski areas are shutting down, let's scurry back to Chamonix. Then, woops! Looks like we'd better go home to the U.S. now before they shut the border! Spoiler alert: everyone got safely home. Meanwhile, we actually did get in some very good skiing before it became clear the party was over!


Other trips with Clay Wertheimer

Berner Oberland ski tour, May 2005

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Usually we try to lead with a group photo so you can see everyone's smiling faces. But somehow we have not a single group shot with recognizable faces! So this will have to do. In this shot, left to right, are: Tobae, Mark, Gordon, Dan, and Clay. Beyond them are: François, Jérémy, Babeth, Isabelle, Roger, and several dozen other brand new best friends. But no. Seriously. We began with three days in Chamonix, the first of which was spent on the Vallée Blanche after a very well timed snowfall. Descending the ridge from the Aiguiille du Midi.


Morning of day 1: waiting for the guides.... Gordon King photo


The White Valley was very very kind to us on this day!


We took a wee skin up toward Italy, so that we could track up that beautiful pristine slope on the left in this photo.


Lower down on the glacier, gliding along.


A detour to scootch through improbable slots and chutes in a meltwater canyon of the Mer de Glace.


There's more than one way to skin this cat... Gordon King photo.


A sunny Sunday after a heavy snowfall, we joined several dozen other people on the Crochues - Bérard traverse. At this point, social distancing was obviously not yet the word on everyone's lips.


Approaching the first Col.


A walk in the sky.


Nearing the Brèche de Bérard.


Finding some decent snow on the backside.


And some blue sky.


On day 3 the forecast was not brilliant, but still we hoped to circumnavigate this ridge. This was about the best visibility we had all day, and it did not last.


Scurrying back home through the Contamines Mont-Joie ski area with our tails between our legs; even this was pretty tricky routefinding actually!


We still did not see the speed at which the virus was closing in on all of Europe including the Alps. For the next three days it was on to Zermatt. We hoped to finish up back in Chamonix for our last threee days of the planned program. Here we are approaching the Schwarztor descent, on very wind-scoured snow.


The Schwarztor is the sharp gap in the center of the ridge; the descent goes down from left to right through the steep icefall and eventually onto the flatter glacier covered in this photo by vally clouds.


Further down on the glacier.


Heading up again for a little side trip...


A cave at the snout of the glacier, several meters higher uphill every year.


A "Himalayan bridge" gets us back onto the ski slopes at the end of the day.


Day 2: A trip up over the ridge to Täschalp ... in a heatwave! The scenery, as usual, did not suck.


Hunting for shady powder on a rapidly warming afternoon.


Looks like we found some!


A lovely valley in the back of beyond.


Cruising down to Täsch with the usual suspect in the distance.


We ran out of snow just above the village.


Our go-to spot for sandwiches... if we can resist the other temptations in the case.


On what turned out to be our last day in Zermatt, and last day of skiing, we headed up the Hohtälligrat to ski on the Findel glacier. An incredibly scenic ridge wander.


Approaching our high point, with the Cima di Jazzi in the background.


Once again hunting powder on the descent.


A parting shot of Gordon earlier in the trip. At this stage things were happening fast: Switzerland was about to shut all its ski areas. Travel was becoming restricted. Gordon and company wisely decided to get home while the getting was good, and we too were eager to get back to the Chamonix valley and prepare to hunker down. So we cut things short. But we left with memories of good companionship, big mountains, all kinds of weather and all kinds of snow. As we head into a season of uncertainty, we can only hope that we'll have a chance to ski with some of you good people again.


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