As forecast the sky was cloudless and as blue as it get this morning

01 May 2009

As forecast the sky was cloudless and as blue as it get this morning and after a solid freeze last night the only question was powder or spring? Either was taking a bit of a chance as we were expecting an ‘in-between’ day, so both Chris and I opted for powder and were rewarded with some great skiing. Chris and Suzanne ‘skinned’ to the Col des Fours and then over the next little Col and enjoyed skiers winter snow, meaning not perfect but it’s the first of May and it was an excellent result. Bravo you two! My team of Colin, Derek, Paul and Ray ‘skinned’ to the Glacier Pers and also had a great result skiing powder for the first half of the descent, followed by a stretch slightly trickier snow before arriving on spring snow towards the bottom. We left perfect ‘Alpine’ tracks top-to-bottom, even in the more ‘educational’ snow, which is a tribute to the continuing development of our skiers and well done Colin, who being the least experienced of the group, skied really well today. Once through the gorge Derek went home as he was feeling unwell and Ray returned home also because of his knee, so Colin, Paul and I skied the Marmottes to check out the spring conditions. As predicted the spring slopes needed another day to set-up properly but we stayed on top and had a nice finish to the morning. JM is in town for a few days of touring with some of his team that will be going to either Greenland in May or Chile this September, but I haven’t yet heard from him. More sun is forecast for the rest of the weekend, and what a way to wind up an absolutely stunning season! Below in Olivier’s own words, is a report on his last tour. I think he writes in English incredibly well, especially when he’s fluent in French, German, Spanish, and English. PS. Well done Stocky for sponsoring Tony on his big ride. Thanks!

Just to let you know I come back of a fantastic tour de la Meije, done in good snow conditions and sunny weather. Mariannne Debrie, Philippe Sorlin and Katherine Kerr were part of my little team and we were all impressed by these wild mountains of Oisans Massif (near La Grave).
This massif is offering probably one of the most technical touring area you can find in France and the combinaison of altitude, glaciers, narrow couloirs and steep slopes provide an incredible mountaineering ambiance. The itinerary is both skiing and using alpinism skills. We were lucky with the weather, to travel during 6 complete days and visit three huts which are like eagle nests:
Adèle Planchard hut (3169m) is on a snowy ridge, facing a big North face of 1000m high, and the Barre des Ecrins (highest peak in Oisans, 4088m). In the morning when the sun is rising, all the mountain you are skinning on is getting pink and red, the light is unforgettable… This day we climbed Grande Ruine peak (3765m), a narrow canine with a 360° panoramic view at the top.
Promontoire hut (3082m) is on a rocky shoulder, at the bottom of south face of Meije. This impressive mountain is a long succession of rocky needles pointed to the sky. The access to the hut is impressive and from the balcony you dominate the huge glaciar Etançons valley.
To get the last one, Aigle hut (3450m), you climb with ice axe crampons to brêche de la Meije (3357m), abseil down 60m on the other side, traverse with skins in the middle of crevasses, under the huge north face of La Meije (you can see La Grave 2000 meters lower!). Then the itinerary is traversing under dangerous seracs which are falling down very often, and then you are stuck at the bottom of big cliffs… And a steep snowy 200 meters couloir! Again rope, crampons and ice axe, carrying skis, the outdoor is climbing this couloir in a fantastic ambiance, with stream-lines running down to La Grave.
At the top of this couloir, an easy flat traverse on Tabuchet Glaciar will get you to Eagle hut, which is one of the most emblematic hut in the Alps: a little wooden box at 3450m high, 18 beds, staffed by Marie, a young girl (aged 22) living in La Grave. No easy access, you need to be sure of the weather before to arrive there! But what a view! and what a run down too the day after: 2000 meters downhill, first of all in the middle of seracs and crevasses, and then on a fantastic smooth spring snow, like a soft carpet!
This is really part of my best time in mountain, even I am not very objective!… When I came there for the first time thirty years ago,, this is where I decided I will be mountain guide….

This enthusiasm is becoming a little dark with a bad fall of Katherin Kerr. She got injuried during the traverse Promontoire-Aigle and was very courageous to be able to keep going with her injury to get outside the North side of La Meije. From Aigle hut, she got down with helicopter. Verdict: fibula broken… She got surgery last Monday in Ireland and was very sad to cancel her trip with us in Greenland mid May.

Thank you to all three for this fantastic travel in our french mountains and I wish Katherine a good recovering…

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