Monday, 21 July 2014

Twins with Hans

Hans and I climbed and skied the Twins Monday morning.
We got off to an alpine start, but by the time we'd started up Mt St Bernard, head torches weren't really necessary. The morning was cold and a little blowy with high cloud.
It was the first time I'd climbed the Twins since the fires and I was keen to see what such summer pruning had left us in the way of winter grooming.
Hans won all the equipment awards for the day with pattern bases, fritschi bindings, skins and crampons. I had ill-fitting skins, no crampons and broken boots. At least I remembered the coffee.
We could ski the fire trail all the way down to around 1200m, and decided on climbing the northeast spur, Hans on skis, and myself just boot packing through the mess that the fire had left until the snow forced me to phoque up.
The snow was ice and windblown sastrugi, both of which tested our edging. I thought several times about insisting Hans give me one of his crampons as my technical abilities were tested on the slippery north summit. I'd forgotten how steep it was.
The sunrise, whilst not spectacular, was rewarding. Whilst having planned to drop into one of the southern gullies in the search for similar conditions to yesterday, it was difficult to convince ourselves we'd find anything but windpack and ice.
We climbed to the trig and had some bananas and hot coffee, and then skied back down the plateau, and then the east face. There was no corn, and the descent was quite technical.
At the bottom, I discovered that the German word for 'shit-house' is fairly similar to the english. Our descent wouldn't have made great television. A pleasant way to start the day though, before wending our way back to Melbourne and work. 

Saturday, 19 July 2014

Glades of Glory

I've been skiing with some of these guys for nearly 40 years now, and they're improving with age. Some of them have almost got the hang of it, although it's pretty much proven impossible to drag several of these clowns anywhere where they might have to climb. I do still like ripping it up with them though, and also that their collective maturity shows no danger of ever increasing. 
July really turned it on for us this year with sunshine and over a metre of snow to low levels. Driving up on Friday night, the wind switched cold, furious and SE, almost closing the road. I was lucky to scoot through without chains.
Most of the mountain was turned into a block of scoured ice, but everything on the other side of the valley was magic come Saturday. It was still blowy, and most of the lifts were on hold - which is always good because it means things won't get tracked out in a hurry if you're prepared to walk up Mary's and then skin up the Orchard. We had some great runs amongst the glades down to Blue Ribs.
Pretty much everywhere was awesome on Sunday. We only went exploring during the late afternoon for the novelty of hunting on new grounds. We got two runs in, each about a thousand feet vertical, from Loch down the gullies, chutes and glades that constitute its western faces. I have never skied these before, but they are pretty impressive, the Glades of Glory.  


Monday, 14 July 2014

Bastille Day

I often get dragged off to France this time of year to see the in-laws. Whilst this is important for the kids, and gets me into the French Alps to run around heaps, my heart at this time of year would rather be in the Vic Alps; especially after such great snowfalls.
I came home ahead of the family this year, ostensibly to work - but had in fact secreted my skis in the car at Tullamarine, and hit up the freeway as soon as I had cleared immigration and customs. The world cup final was on but nobody was broadcasting it on the radio in any language I could understand. There was also news of a pair of missing snowboarders on Bogong which didn't sound good.
I got to Bright for breaky, and Feathertop was looking magnificent. The snow was also quite low on Buffalo as JP rang to inform me he'd just fired up the rope tow on St Bernard and that things were primo. Murph was up, and Dean, a snowboarder and photographer with some pretty flash gear. We took turns jumping the St Bernard cornice with Dean desperately trying to get a good photo. My jet lagged legs weren't quite up to the task as I first blew the healpiece on my right, and then left La Sportivas, which meant I was now effectively skiing in ugg boots. Back at Wang for lunch, I drilled some holes and used copious amounts of wire and gaffer tape for a repair job of sorts. 
After lunch we hit the road in the Delica, with our objective to suss out the northwest couloir off Little Baldy. It wasn't quite adequately filled in, however the southerly and west facing slopes off the road looked amazing. We had about a half-dozen runs down these on very firm wind-affected snow with patches of better stuff surprising us in patches. With the snow so solid we didn't bother much with skins as boot packing seemed less fiddly.
Then on up to Blowhard, which has an amazing cover for this time of year down to very low levels. I had 3 runs down Blowey, finding good snow on the second. Mt Renes was next, and whilst the views were great, the east face was scratchy. Considering the snow, we then tried something different by climbing CRB hill from the saddle (a surprising amount of climbing), and skiing the ridge all the way down to the chain fitting bay where Murph was waiting for us in the car.
I'd hoped to get out to either Freezeout or Feathertop the next morning, however the weather had already come in and I had "issues" with both my chains and diesel so headed back to Melbourne to regular texts from my wife of the fireworks over the Eiffel tower.
So a great Bastille Day for everybody except the poor families of the snowboarders as it turned out.