I am sure this will be remembered as the driest January the Alps have seen in a very long time. How can I be sure? It did snow around Christmas and, sadly, we haven’t seen a single flake falling since then. Fortunately, there is still a decent amount of snow around. The last snowfall was a big one and the low temperatures have helped greatly. Having said that, we are desperate for new snow now!
The only positive aspect of this draught is the very low avalanche risk. You don’t have to be an avalanche professional to work out that without precipitation and with these cold temperatures, the snowpack has now bonded very well. So when I got back from Berlin last week I immediately started to look around to find mountain faces where snow was still decent and the pleasant surprise was that I found a few. So I called my friend Adelaide who lives in Flaine and asked her whether she wanted to go ski touring together. She is a great girl and she is always up for touring. We decided to go to the Colonney, on top of Flaine. It’s a reasonable 2 hour hike, good to stretch legs
We started right at the top of the Telecabine Aup de Veran and we ended up just below the Tete de Colonney. Technically, the tour is longer. If you go over the Cheminee de Monthieu then you can ski down to the refuge the Veran.
On the way up I could not believe how good the snow was and that really excited me thinking about the descent. That is definitely one of the many aspects I love about ski touring. I really enjoy having the time to look around, feel the snow, and think about the route up and about the one down.
Another aspect is probably finding a rhythm not just with the legs but also with the mountain environment around. I have to confess that the majority of the time I feel intimidated by the high peaks and mountain faces. I constantly have the feeling of being just a guest up there and the most difficult lesson to learn is to understand when you are welcome and when you are not. I know it might sound a bit crazy but it’s exactly how I feel.
When you are in that environment, if you want to have a pleasant journey and make it home safe is essential you learn to feel and read the mountains around you. As I said before, you are only a guest out there and they are the ones who decide when your time is up
Adelaide and Samuel at the end of an atrocious long traverse. Don’t get fooled by the smile on Adelaide’s face. She is almost a mountain goat and she has super sharp edges. Look at their right hand side, do you see the cliff? It’s been a while since last time I found myself on an exposed face in a no-fall situation and I can tell you I didn’t miss it. It’s on traverses like this one that you feel the difference between being on skis or on splitboard. The ski boot gives you a much better support than the soft snowboard boot. Having said that, I would never swap my splitboard for a pair of skis!
It was well worth it though. Look at the view from here. The name of the rock on the right hand side is Chapeau Gaspard. Does it look like a hat? I often wonder where many names of peaks come from
Although this is not the summit (probably only 50mt below) we decided to drop in from here. It was getting late and I wanted to avoid the long exposed traverse at all costs. So ski down from here, get to the flat and then put skins on again sounded a smart move, with the only downside that we were going to need approximately an extra hour to get back. Which was fine because the decision came following Rule No.1: make it safe home. And when you follow that rule you never go wrong. Even Rule No.2 was observed today: reduce any unnecessary exposure. Sometimes it’s that simple
This face was such a fun terrain to ride. Plenty of features to play with and when the snow is super stable like it was today, you can just concentrate on your turns, without worrying about islands of safety, exit points, etc. The last bit of rock covered in snow you see at the top is the Tete de Colonney 2,692 mt.