I don’t really think of winter mountaineering starting before November. October in the Alps always seems like an extension of summer, a kind of “encore” for the locals after all the tourists have all gone home. But for me it is not just the time of year – it’s the conditions: it was a pleasure to climb Y Garn with Paul Riley on the RC Annual Dinner meet and enjoy the distant views and the dusting of snow on the tops but we didn’t need our Ice Axes. Therein lies the nub of it.
Three things have happened to me in the last 24 hours: yesterday the weekend warriors were out and I watched the first Ski Mountaineers of the year making their way up Prarion, the 2000m peak behind my house. This morning I looked out of my window and noticed the snow cannons were operating; these snow making machines are used early in the ski season to create a base to the piste which will last until April. The third thing is that I got my Ice Axe out in anger this afternoon. After climbing Aiguillette Des Houches (3254m) I decided to come down the steep west ridge which was knee deep in corniced snow with steep drops on both side, not somewhere you would want to be without an Axe and Crampons. “C’est commence” the Winter Alpine season is here, from now until March the thermometer outside my front door will barely climb above zero and my garden will be under the snow for the next four months.
A quick internet search reveals return flights from Manchester to Geneva starting at £55 for the week of the Rucksack Club “Winter Alpine Meet” and with shuttle bus transfer about 20 Euros each way that’s less than a tank of petrol. Why drive to Scotland praying for snow but expecting rain when you could come to Chamonix on the WAM and have guaranteed On/Off Piste Skiing, guaranteed Ice Climbing, guaranteed Snow Shoeing and guaranteed Ski Mountaineering. Even a bottle of Scotch Whisky is 30% cheaper here in the Alps than where it is made. It’s a no brainer.
For more details check out the December Meet Staff or contact me – details in the Club Handbook.