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Saturday March 19th – Back on the piste
Change Over Day, Extreme shopping, had the aspirant Chalet Boy (Tim) attempting to shop. Then followed by a piste half day, actually snow not that bad, now watching the rugby which is bad.
Team for next week have now turned up having left really early to get here in time to watch the rugby, was it worth it?
Friday March 18th – Pic Blanc du Galibier
Decisions, decisions…..woke up early to see bright blue sky, so seem to recall last night before we went to bed the plan was for La Grave today, even though the wind was howling outside.
This morning the wind was still blowing, but laying in bed I’d thought of a couple of other options we could do, one was to go to Nevache the valley to the North of Serre and tour up to Col du Chardonet, but that would involve a long flat stretch, or skin up to Pic Blanc. So called the friendly guide Per up to ask his opinion, and as Elaine was not too keen on LG, we opted for Pic Blanc, which is a fair bit higher than the Col du Galibier we did last week.
Pic Blanc (to the left)
Have to admit to being a wee bit nervous in making plans in case I’ve overlooked some major issue, like is it too warm, or too much wind resulting in loading of upper slopes, will the snow pack just be wind blown crud, and a whole load more other factors that could screw up the day, and last not least how safe will it be?
So when we pulled up at the parking was relieved to see a fair number of groups already skinning up the initial slope. In fact must have been nigh on 30 people going up!
We took it nice and steady, averaging around 330ms per hour including stops. And snow pack was most encouraging with powder all the way, well so it seemed.
As you can see there had been a few slides.
Once out of the first valley it opens up a fair bit and you get to see the summit. It was fairly howling at times with some strong gusts with the fine wind blown powder covering up the tracks very quickly, which did make me think how safe it would be further up.
Tim with Col du Lautaret down behind him
In fact a couple of people on their way down stopped to talk to us and they had seen a big slide occur as a couple of skiers had started down from the summit due to the accumulation of wind blown snow from the other side. So we more or less decided not to try to go to the summit.
That said when we were closer we could see the various groups taking a different route up. However we had not climbed all this way to ski in other peoples tracks, so we opted not to do the summit not so much on safety grounds but on getting going back down before all the others.
Looking across to La Meije and main La Grave ski area (to the right)
On the descent as ever we encountered just about every type of snow, deep wind blown powder which made life quite difficult through to spring snow, as it had warmed up a fair bit. It did have me thinking that a good guide would have probably found decent snow all the way down, but looking back up, all the groups, and most had guides did follow our tracks.
Did have a couple of very sweet pitches really charging down the slope which was great skiing, just have to let the skis run. Again had me thinking should have been on my Missions today…….
Once we were back down gave Kiki a run around and then had a great soup up at the Col du Lautaret, and there we could see a few groups skinning up the North face, did almost have me thinking of going back up again to get some more in!
So tomorrow, more of the same, do I take the Missions this time?
PS Do have a very silly sun tan after today!
Thurs 17th March Woke up to this.....
Been snowing nigh on 12hrs, when we went to bed was not laying down here (too wet) but should imagine fair amount up top, more fun in the trees today me thinks!
Well after a fair amount off faffing, (these clients need to get their s**t together) get boot liners heat moulded, kit & gear sorted out, we eventually made it up to Claviere (too embarassed to say what time).
Before we left Serre I was amazed at the number of people walking around, as we drove up through Montgenevre that too was really busy, and in Claviere it seemed almost festive, and I did comment that maybe it was a Bank Holiday, and sure enough it was!
So know you want to know what the snow was like?
First run I messed up, and we went down through the trees in heavy snow, I then sussed that the better runs through the trees were to be had on the North facing slopes, pretty obvious but normally you'd expect to ski those lines but it was so warm!
Bit miffed that again they did not have the top lift working so we had to make do with numerous runs through the trees which were still pretty good, though if you strayed away from a North facing aspect you soon found super heavy sludge :)
And as ever lunch, which we had quite late was sublime............
Still a good day in the office!
Happy days! Managed the trees without hugging any though did end up in a gully with skis every which way while still attached. Thankfully Tim untangled me. Had good and not so good snow among the trees - and at one stage, while not following Baylis too closely (er, in case of cliffs) we all got separated in our own world of trees and heavy snow.. But it was just a case of following the chair lift...
Managed to persuade Baylis Tours to stop for lunch at the best restaurant in Claviere. Mountain mushroom pasta again. Best ever.
The Dogs Blag
Went for a walk with Herself while they did a post lunch run on long feet. Accosted by a very big bouncy brown labrador who insisted on rolling me over, running after me and generally not leaving me alone. Typical Italian male.
Then at Mojo's, the Best Bar in the World, I was given beer. Which was green. Tasted good,though, begorrah...
This is me -Tim- who's holidayed with his nibs on many occasions. I'm now the client as after getting my new boots' liners heated this morning I asked the man in the ski shop what I owed him and coz we'd had a good chat he said it was free. Gav - who so far on his trip has been able to spin this bloke a yarn - then said he'd now not hesitate to bring his other clients to this shop. So Elaine and I decided if I was the client he must be the guide and dear Gav positively bristled with excitement at the prospect. Well as the day unfolded let me explain why he's been massively overpromoted in this role:
1)He takes us to Claviere on the day the Italians are off work celebrating the 150 year anniversary of the unification of their country. So nice and quiet and so pleased we'd left France to show them some solidarity.
2)He recommended I get a 36 euro "Milky Way" pass and up the mountain the 2 main top lifts were closed- the link to the Milky Way took us to very low watery snow- so we spent the day going up and down one lift again and again again.
3)Off the first chair we'd gone 10 yards before we were off piste in deep heavy snow for the descent: nice warm up
4)First few off piste runs were heavy wet deep snow as the mild weather killed the fresh snow and Il Guido then looked at his compass and concluded the N facing slopes would be better!
5)He then found some better snow but blew it by losing us through a long forest run only to emerge with two young female boarders and then I had to pay for lunch (at least he found a restaurant!)
So Per- where are you ? We need to sack this domestique and find a real guide, although Jes, Andy, Bing he has found me the best bed in the chalet.....
Wed 16th March Montgenevre
Could have sworn I made a cast iron plan last night to meet group of Snowheads who are here in Serre for a “Steep OffPiste Guiding Week” at the main lift in Monetier.
In fact as I was driving through Monetier I saw, and stopped to speak to a Guide who said he was on his way to Montgenevre, I didn’t think to ask who he and his colleague had in their vans.
It was only when I was waiting down at the lift deciding to ring Graham “Admin” team leader that I found it that they were all in the vans I’d just seen – “Cock” !
So headed off to Montgenevre after them, and arrived up there to see that they’d had a reasonable snow fall, so all was looking good, except we then had a re- run of last year when we took a couple of friends up there who were not given the necessary lift pass exchange paper work that lets you have a free day up there if you have a weeks Serre lift pass.
And like last year the lift office were totally intransigent over sorting it out, so they had to pay again for their lift passes (not all of them as some did have the slips needed) and we eventually got going nigh on an hour later.
Good news was that the snow was good, bad in that you could not see the slope for the cloud! But once down in the trees we had some super runs.
We had two guides, Alan and Jean Luc and I think about 17 in the group, so after a couple of runs the group was split into two, and that was much better.
So good snow and poor viz was the name of the game.
After a few runs in the same bowl finishing off with a gnarly single track run out, which though technical and fun, was not as good as doing the available powder through the trees I started to get a wee bit frustrated as I knew where the snow would be better.
So come the lunch time stop, I “advised” the guide that I’d be going off to do a couple of runs, and in the end I was joined by six or seven others, oblivious to last year’s cliff escapade!
Have to admit to being quite chuffed as they all said that the run was some of the best skiing they’d had, or words to that effect.
So back with the Guides after lunch and we did a classic run from one of the high lifts at Montgenevre (2400) down to La Vachette 1365 – though only 500ms was any good with the last being down a track.
Good day, no complaints and good to ski with so many like minded souls, thanks!
Now what’s the plan for tomorrow?
Tim’s now arrived so what do we do?
Been on the phone to Per in La Grave he has an infection in his foot though promises he’ll be alright for next week.
LG could be an option for tomorrow with today’s Guides or do we go back to Claviere, decisions, decisions…….
Have some video and images but not able to upload just yet
Tuesday March 14th - day off!
Both decided that a day off today was in order as knee(s) needs a rest, conditions looked flat, and we both needed to catch up on some work stuff, and because being out here for five weeks we can!
And looking at the forecast looks like that could be a good decision with snow forecast more or less every day and well into next week when the "team" arrive. Think touring will not be on the cards if that forecast holds, but as ever "Wait & See" !
Finally taking a day off after 9 days of action. Having coffee, lunch and catching up on work at The Station which is still a good day at the office! Also managed some retail therapy - bought a VERY bright lime fluffy shell like my beloved North Face black one that I have ended up wearing every day as it is sooo perfect weightwise. My new one is for age 12-14 but fits perfectly and was reduced by 20 per cent so was around £45 (there's a navy/lime one if any of you girls are interested?!).
The Dog's Blag
Oh My Feckng Dog!??????
Monday March 13th - Clavier at its best!
Think yesterday made the mistake of trying to ski open bowls and should have stuck to the trees, no problem today as we spent all our time in the trees in Claviere, and it was so empty!
Did hear reports that they'd had more snow over that way than here, but don't think that was the case, but what there was turned out to be very light at around 30cms, probably more up top.
First run was a beauty in the sunshine and with the snow frozen to the trees and no wind, really good. Was hoping that one lift would be open that takes you to the top, but that area is very prone to slides so the lift was shut.
Sort of lost count of the number of runs we did, though started to get a little heavy lower down but I'm just fussy!
Then we met up with Nick & Kathy who had been doing x-country between Claviere and Montgenevre on much better pistes than down this way, hardly surprising given the difference in altitude, so another plan that worked out well!
And where we had lunch was classic Italian epicurean, been there before with Per for lunch, and again last week, but only for capucino.
Only other customers in there was an American ski guide, Max and his client. Max now lives in Chamonix, but prior to that was in La Grave for 7 years and on a day like today still rates little old Claviere highly.
Italy and Claviere at its best!
Left for Turin airport and had a very easy trip, and coming back was only 1hr 40min!
OMG today was AMAZING. Soooo much better than yesterday when we assumed perfect powder with first lift and had very sticky deep snow except for the initial run down.. But in Claviere it was so empty and 90 per cent of the powder among the trees hadn't been touched. I just followed Baylis Tours, got told off if I EVER strayed onto a pieste (I think he suffers from Powder Rage), and had a brilliant time once I had worked out how to avoid being hung up in a tree. This is the first time that I have to say that skiing seems better than boarding, as I don't think I would have made it without constant tree hugging on a board as the pesky little buggers were extremely close together.
After two and a half hours we returned for LUNCH. yes, lunch! Unheard of on Baylis Tours but, hey, I was not complaining. Thank you, Nick and Kathy, otherwise it would have been an energy bar in the car! The restaurant was like something out of Venice overlooking St Mark's Square but with a vista of the pistes. I had taglioni with mountain mushrooms - completely delicious. I know, this is turning into a foodie blog!
Now have very quiet apartment without Nick and Kathy. Miss you guys!! Especially gastromically! We're eating left overs tonight.
The Dog's Blag
Had an early walk with Herself down to the Patiserie to buy breakfast for everyone. Then another Under The Duvet Trip in the Travellers Van where I got left for a snooze. Then we had lunch in a restaurant where I was allowed to explore and almost made it into the kitchen. The Scary One said they should put me on a spit - so, shen he went to the loo, I got The Nice Laughing One to give me a piece of his slab of veal.
Sunday March 13th
Was woken up at 05:30 by blasting* which carried on for most of the morning. Game plan was to get first lifts up after exchanging the traditonal X-Country skis for Skating Style skis, not the best of decisions, as I was to find out later!
*Pisteurs lobbing dynamite around
After going to the shop arrived at the lift 15mins before they were due to open, few other keen boarders and skiers (all Brits) there. Looked like only around 10cms so hopefully more further up. Sure enough at 1800 was around 15-20cms and we were all excited at the prospect of what it would be like at the top, only issue was that the next lift to get up was not open, so we decided to head back down and that was a good move as it turned out to be one of the better runs of the day, all untracked and more importantly "light" powder.
We eventually made it to the top of the new Vallons chair and whilst on the chair could see various people struggling in the powder, alarm bells started to ring, and I realised that the powder was obviously quite heavy as a number of snowboarders were having to dig themselves out.
We went off to the left away form Cucumelle, traversing through some deep but very heavy powder. The run was not brilliant, light was very flat and snow so heavy had to almost straightline it, Elaine baled and went back on to the piste which was probably the better move.
We went up again and this time after seeing a guy skiing in what looked like better snow I went below Cucumelle and had a much better line but has to be said still hard work in the flat light.
Went up again and this time headed over to Monetier to see what that was like.
Eventually came back home for lunch and then after some fuel into X-Country mode and back up to Monetier with Nick & Kathy.
The Skating Style skis I had were hard work and unlike the more traditional style which I used yesterday, and quickly developed an Ok technique these were far more demanding and I need to swat up on how to ski them!
That said the pistes were not in good condition, very slushy which I'm sure did not help, more or less the end of the season now with the mild temps, in fact for the second day in a row there was no one at the little hut to pay for a "pass".
Heart rate was way higher than yesterday, av141 over 70 mins though was a quicker pace.
Went to the Frog bar to watch the second half of the rugby, great atmosphere. British army in, with quite a few Scots amongst them.
Been snowing heavy concrete for the past four hours or so, Col du Lautaret shut due to high winds etc - spoke to our guide friend Per, who lives just baoive La Grave and it's storm force winds over that side, whilst here quite calm!
All good news for next week - Per still thinking of Queyras - staying in St Veran - but could all change with this snow - so maybe not so much touring!
My knee not good after the concrete powder of today!
Jeees what a day, seemed quite weird, morning started off with me thinking I'd be going out with Herself and Himself and they left me at home with the two others the Nice Laughing One and The Scary One who thinks I don't know my place.!
So after a bit of crying I settled down, and think I even managed a few Z's in "my place" the Scary One's bed.
Then they came back and we all had some food, with some very fatty Pork stuff evidently, tasted well good.
And then we were off in the Traveller's Van again, seemed to be the same as yesterday with me chasing Himself on those long thin skinny skis he was on.
Did run across a lot of the white stuff to see the Nice Laughing One and The Scary One and at one point thought I was going to drown in it, so I stuck to the track after that!
Was bliss to be back home, then no sooner had I settled down and dried and we were off again with more of that wet white stuff falling all around me.
We then ended up in another place where many people were shouting at that thing they all sit in front of showing rather fat men chasing a ball up and down a field, I was well lucky in that I met a nice person who must have felt sorry for me and gave me some food, so being a nice dog I sat on her lap where I felt much safer especially when they all started shouting at that thing! Mama Pooch would have barked her head off. If I look a bit alien in the photo it's becuase I well am...(also seem to have obtained an alien Chav voice)...
Now back home and hopefully that's it for the day! Well good!!