Up into the clouds — Easter weekend ski touring in Valgrisenche

Mountain time by Guy Bowden

Moving forward slowly, one foot after the other. It’s the closest I get to meditation. That feeling of emptying your mind of the daily worries and tasks, and concentrating solely on effort and the beauty of the mountains.

We’d decided to spend a couple of nights ski touring in the Bezzi refuge, above Valgrisenche in the Aosta Valley. Take advantage of the long weekend, switch off and get away from it all. A busy week away at work with two 1am finishes, followed by early starts, and a late return home on Thursday meant we decided to take it easy for the first day out Friday.

Rather than setting out early for a peak, we simply headed straight up to the refuge. A few hours of skinning surrounded by impressive rocky peaks and scoping out the next couple of days skiing. The day was rounded off with a couple of beers in the sun outside the refuge and I was definitely relaxed and in the holiday mood.

There’s no lying in at a refuge, so we got up early and headed out for a gentle trek up the valley before the climb started in earnest to the Becca Traversiere. A few steep sections and a final bootpack and we were at the cross at the top, looking out across mountaintops as far as we could see.

Despite the weeks of sunshine and no fresh snowfall we found a powder stash on the way down, then paused for sandwiches before the second, but shorter, skin up of the day. Navigating our way along the ridgeline we found a fun descent back down to the refuge.

Chat over dinner concentrates on the exploits of the day and exchanging experiences — other adventures, both close to home and far flung. We spoke about tours in the Italian and Swiss alps and our table mates’ recent skiing trips to Georgia and Lebanon. So many more places to go.

The final day saw us climbing steeply straight out from the refuge. It seemed never ending, but we were gaining height quickly. I felt strong despite the previous days efforts, but noticed the difference as we got up to 3000 metres and was soon needing to pause more often. As the peak we were aiming for, the Truc Blanc, came into sight the clouds were moving in quickly. Soon we were engulfed in them with only a few metres visibility. We carried on through the whiteout and came to the summit. Missing out on the view, and in freezing conditions we quickly changed to downhill mode and started skiing down the other side.

Chattery iced up windblown snow shook us around as we cautiously descended. Finally we came out of the clouds and hit a pitch of perfect powder snow. The reward for all the effort!

Putting skins back on at the bottom we readied ourselves for the last few hundred metres of climbing. This took us up to the Becca de Giasson and more great views — soon obscured by the cloud that came in with us. As it cleared we took a few minutes to look around us, take in the surroundings and scope out the descent.

Some things are worth waiting for — and the snow on this descent definitely was. Fresh tracks down pristine powder, nothing to think about but skiing itself. We descended down to soft spring snow and enjoyed the ride. Further down we hit the trees and navigated our way through tight turns in spring snow. A final narrow run next to a dirt track brought us to the field above the cars and the last few turns.

Photos by Guy Bowden

An awesome easter weekend. Three days that have cleared my mind as well as a three week holiday. More hut trips are being planned and more adventures are on the horizon. What are you planning?

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