Come rain, snow and ice…..

I’m generally always happy to see the first falling snowflakes in the mountains, hinting at the good times ahead, but this time I wished it could have held off a little longer!

I’ve spent a good part of August and September in the Alps this summer and have fluctuated from basking in the glorious alpine sunshine, to snow plodding in full on blizzard conditions, to sunburnt climbing shoulders to abseiling in the snow…all in the space of a few days.

A few weeks ago I joined an introductory Alpine Mountaineering course run by  UCPA  / Action Outdoors in Chamonix, a superb mix of rock climbing, snow & ice techniques and general travelling in the mountains.  My article on the course can be read here in Trek and Mountain magazine:  Alpine Skills .

The first day of the course we went rock climbing  to brush up on our multi pitch skills. Having come from the UK, I assumed it would be chilly, so seriously overdressed…. It was super warm and summery:

The great conditions continued as my group climbed a multipitch route on the Aiguille Crochues. It was chilly as we left the Index lift, but soon I was dripping in sweat again as we headed up to the base of the climb…

Fortunately my course mates were Swedish and it was imperative to them to select a nice bottle of grog for the summits. And it was still warm enough to enjoy it in the sunshine at the top:

This weather continued for ‘ice school’ on the Mer de Glace, where I was in a sleeveless top until we got deeper into the glacier… But ominously, after a day of slashing ice in relatively warm conditions, it started dribbling with rain as we waited for the Montenvers train down….

Then it was time to put all we had learnt together and climb the Petite Fourches ( Little Forks) at 3520m, but in the morning when we were due to walk to the Albert premier hut it started chucking it down. However, confident in us, our guide Pierre took us up regardless and we woke up the next morning to a dusting of snow across the mountains to begin our ascent. However, the snow fell harder and harder and it became too dangerous to try to belay and rock climbing- so we climbed to the top of the Tete Blanche and retreated back to the albert Premier and then back down the valley. Yes, this is August the 31st.

I was  back home in the UK for about 4 days, until I headed out to Champoluc in the Aosta Valley for a few days activities with a new adventure company: AWAY- As Wild As You.

Arriving in Champoluc I was greeted with the sort of autumn weather I like, warm and sunny during the day with crisp evenings and morning,  perfect for a little yoga trekking, mountain biking, canyoninig and climbing.  More about that trip coming soon here.

Then I began an “epic” journey across northern Italy to the Dolomites. ( epic as I had to drag a bag bigger than me and a back pack on and off about three different trains)   Arriving in San Cassiano in Alta Badia it started out so well for my hut to hut hike across part of the Alta Via N.1 trail, organised by Dolomite Mountains

But by day three things began to change and come the day I was meant to go on a trail run, it chucked it down on the hike up to the Rifugio Lagazuio.

Then more snow came the next day, scuppering my plans to climb some of the classic routes put up by pioneering female climbers in the 1900’s.

We did however take an icy hike through the WW1 tunnels at Lagazuio…

And we managed to get out onto the Cinque torres however for some easy and airy climbs. It was chilly, but we climbed in trainers and gloves so the easier routes were fine. It was actually quite pretty abseiling off our route with the snowflakes beginning to fall around us again. Read more about that here on PlanetSKI and for more detail about the trip, here on Striders Edge

Never have I not welcomed snow so much! But I am urging it to come again soon in abundance as I’ll be swapping my climbing shoes for skis…

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