added 1st January 1970
John- Ski Tour Gran Paradiso Ski Tour
added 12th April 2012
Day 1: April 7th 2012 The group met in Chamonix, and it was quickly apparent that we were a fairly homogeneous bunch, which always makes things go along more smoothly. Weather for the week was expected to be mixed, with deteriorating conditions in the middle of the week, and a possible weather window for the ascent of Gran Paradiso itself on the Friday.
Day 2: April 8th 2012: Valgrisenche - Bezzi Hut
After a comfortable night in Chamonix, we took a minibus ride through the Mont Blanc tunnel to the Val Grisenche where a few km walk was followed by a routine 500m skin up to the Bezzi Hut. Being Easter Sunday, it was fairly busy, but we had plenty of space in the 6-bed bunk rooms, and we spread ourselves out in one of the two dining areas. It was a real delight to be spending time in Italian huts where the food is excellent, and the extras affordable (2.50 Euros for water rather than 10 which I've paid in some Swiss huts). Decent wine too! As we were 11 clients, there were 2 guides (Olly and Ales) but we were lucky to have an aspirant guide (Paul) with us as well who added to the already high level of information and encouragement.
Day 3: April 9th 2012: Bezzi Hut - Col Bassac Dere - Benevolo Hut
Day 4: April 10th 2012: Benevolo Hut - Basei - Chivasso Hut
After another civilised departure from Benevolo Hut, we had another steady 900m skin up to the col Basei, where a peek over the edge showed us that the weather was coming in very quickly. Most of the peaks were still clear so we had excellent views of Gran Paradiso sitting over a sea of cloud. There was time to skin across to a subsidiary peak of Punta Basei, but things were changing quickly.
En route, I also made the unpleasant discovery that I need fatter skis as I was collapsing though the track at every step while all around me were skinning serenely.
Olly and four of us made a quick departure from the peak and headed down through the crust and into the fog. Here I was particularly glad to have the services of an expert guide as choosing the correct couloir to descend was not easy.
Day 5: April 11th 2012: Chivasso Hut - Pont
We were down in Pont for lunch, and luxuriated in the hot shower and twin rooms that were on offer. After the hard day previously, a few beers in the afternoon was much appreciated.
Day 6: April 12th 2012: Pont - Vittorio Emanuele Hut - (Col Moncorve)
We started the penultimate day with a short flat skin to the bottom of the ascent, from where we hiked up through the forest (with good views of chamois) towards the Victor Emmanuel hut, which we reached around lunchtime after another short skin.
I couldn't believe that a great bowl of pasta was only 5 Euros, and felt vindicated in my decision not to weigh myself down with too much extra food.
The afternoon was a choice between crevasse rescue training and another ascent, and I chose to go up but unfortunately had an episode of atrial fibrillation so didn't make it right up to the col (this was soon corrected at the hut with a dose of Flecainide). There was a great atmosphere in the Vittorio Emanuele Hut on our return with groups who has made the ascent that day, a small number who would be going up with us, and quite a few people who had escaped from the awful weather up in the Bernese Oberland.
Still managed to find some nice powder amongst the crust on the way down though!
Day 7: April 13th 2012
SUMMIT DAY Vittorio Emanuele Hut - Gran Paradiso:
Breakfast at 5.30 sharp meant that we were the first on the mountain, and this was a very good choice. With 1300m to ascend to the top of Gran Paradiso, and deteriorating weather, it was going to be a bit of a race. With harnesses on, we skinned steadily up onto the glacier through a mix of soft and windblown snow. The head/chest infection I had been fighting with for the past weeks seemed to kick in and I found it increasingly hard to get enough breath. Fortunately with the 3 guides the group could split up, so I found myself in the middle group going slowly but resolutely up to the col at around 4000m. The final section over the bergschrund felt particularly tiring, but after around 5 hours Paul and four of us made it to the summit ridge. Here it was skis off, and crampons and axes on, and we were short-roped for the summit ridge. It was a great final challenge moving up the final steps with a few runners put in for security, and we made it to the summit with enough time to enjoy a view over the sea of clouds.
Mountain Tracks and the other clients for a thoroughly enjoyable week.
If anyone wants to discuss this tour, ski touring or kit they need, please contact me through the shop and I'll be happy to chat, advise and respond. Nancy and I have been touring for seven years now, so still have tons to learn, but also have plenty of lessons learnt to pass on.
All photographs in this blog were taken by Aleš Cesen IFMGA Mountain Guide. To see the full album go to: http://www.cesen.com/agk/gallery.php?id=13042012