Last week my good friend and aspiring International mountain leader Oli Carr and I headed through the tunnel du Mont Blanc into Italy for a spot of snowshoeing and a reconnaissance mission for ski touring (for when more snow finally arrives!).
It was a relatively leisurely start with the obligatory Italian coffee stop and stock up of food and suplies "mainly Grappa".
Starting in a small village at 1800m called "Bonne" high above the Aosta valley, we set off towards the Refugio Degli Angeli, 1150m above us. Normally in the winter, this would be a great ski touring route, however there was very little snow & it wasn't until around 2400m that we needed to put snowshoes on. The trail up started on a hardpack fireroad and eventually turning into narrow singletrack covered with a hard crust & 10-20cm of chalky snow. The sun was blazing down with hardly a cloud in the sky and there was not a sound nor anyone around, Absolute tranquility.
As we moved further up the trail, the snow became much softer and we found ourselves sinking with every step. We put our snowshoes on and decided to walk straight up the mountain instead of trying to traverse our way up. Walking up a 30° slope for over an hour is pretty bloody tiring but much quicker than sinking with every step. This was my first tour at altitude and I was certainly feeling it! the thirst, the sore head and the feeling of lethargy setting in! As Oli put it "A type b kind of fun". I had also forgotten to zip my gaiters into my trousers and was starting to suffer from cold, wet feet due to snow getting in through the tops of my boots.
After setting off, we arrived at the refuge four hours later. It was clean, comfortable and very very cold. For the next couple of hours, Oli proceeded to melt snow for cups of tea & refill our camelbacks. We also polished off the bottle of Grappa, which certainly helped to warm the cockles! while I tried to thaw my frozen toes! After a tasty re-hydrated chicken curry dinner, we braved the cold and headed outside to gaze at the incredible, star-filled night sky
The following morning, we where awake around 7am and where lucky to witness an awesome sunrise.
After forcing a breakfast of muesli down our throats , we left the refuge and where hoping to climb a little higher, unfortunately the snow was getting a bit too deep for the dog to be able to plough through, so we turned back and started the descent.
We decided to take pretty much the same way down as we had came up, this was fast and somewhat entertaining.
During the descent, we done a bit of avalanche transceiver training where one of us would go and hide behind a rock while the other would try to find the partner using just the tranceiver, since Nanuq also had a tranceiver, we done some multiple burial scenarios too! Its all good and well to have the neccesary tools for safety when in the backcountry, but they are useless if you dont know how to use them.
Overall, it was a very enjoyable wee tour, I'm really pleased with some of the pictures I managed to get and I'm looking forward to coming back when there is enough snow to ride the awesome terrain we encountered.