Friday, March 05, 2010

End of a fantastic month.

The last few days in Andermatt past in a blur - on the tuesday we'd planned to do a tour from the Guspis valley up to two conspicuous rock towers, and down the other side down to a dam to pick up the Hospental summer road, but as we booted up (in knee deep again, where does this stuff come from?) to the col, we could see that our objective was totally enveloped in cloud, so we decided to carry on up left and do some of the colouirs on the other side like we'd done before. Question was, skins or carry on booting? It'd taken us no more than 10 mins last time, but now there were no tracks and deep snow. We opted for the booting, but soon wished we'd skinned, as breaking trail in thigh deep powder soon got tedious, not to mention sweaty. Two unhinged Swedes on teles were already eyeing up the steepest part of the drop when we got to the top - they'd skinned up, and overtaken us. They dropped in, but actually seemed to have quite a miserable time - crusty hard-pack, heavy from the morning's sun exposure. We traversed to the right, into the colouir we'd followed previously, now seemingly gloriously untracked again. However, it was one of those feelings - "if it looks too perfect..". We took all the precautions we could, and I was first. It was harder skiing this time, with the snow heavy, but from what we could gather, a lot better than that which the telemarkers got. Crossing over to the less steep part, it was perfect, with the bit in the shade proper fluffy powder. Where previously we'd donned skins and gone back upwards, we carried on down towards the Vermigel and the long, tedious pole-out along avalanche alley. The afternoon was spent pottering around in the main bowl.

On the Wednesday the weather was stunning, and although we were tired, it was just too good for another rest day, Sarah said. We did a couple of runs and then pulled into the avalanche rescue training area - pretty cool, just punch in the number of burials, and the number of minutes, and get searching and probing. We have Barryvox Pulse transceivers, digital and capable of giving both estimated distance and direction, and also the ability to mark and ignore already located signals. Compared to the analog models that only gives to an estimated distance, it's a lot easier. Both me and Sarah found a single burial within 4 minutes, and three within 15 - the time after which survival becomes more hypothetical. Of course - on nice and flat ground, sun beating down, and no lives actually at stake, it's rather different from the real thing, but training is essential.

We then channelled our 'inner Angus' and sat ourselves down on the sun deck and had a long lunch in the sun.

We were back at Oberalppass Thursday to attempt one of the tours that Krister had recommeded, with 1000m of ascent. Unfortunately, once at the usual col, the weather had drawn in again, and we were umming and aahing what to do. We decided to carry on a bit further, and ripped the skins off the skis and put them on our backs, and scrambled up along the exposed ridge. Visibility was poor. When we came to the next col the plan was to drop down left, and then carry on up to another SAC hut, but we could see not much at all. We dropped down right instead, and skied down towards Andermatt - what turned out to be a lovely run in improving conditions.

And so, our last day was upon us - with crazy snowfall during the night and morning we weren't in a hurry, until suddenly the heavens cleared, and we had ourselves a rare combination of clear skies, fresh powder and barely any people. We had possibly our best day's skiing - kick-ass runs down an untouched Felsental, and the main powder bowl.

Now all that remained was the packing and cleaning. Strange how quick a month flies.

On Saturday morning we ferried all our kit down to the station and headed for Zurich airport and onwards back to Blighty. Our good friends Cath and Dave had kindly allowed us to leave our car on their drive for the month, and Dave came to pick us up from the airport. We had a nice dinner at theirs, and Sarah and I quickly re-jigged our packing from skiing to ice climbing - we had a total of 14 hours on UK soil, and without Cath and Dave's kind help it would have been much more of a painful experience to turn around. We'd really missed them - we have skied a lot with them, but as they're now new parents, they passed on the snow for this season. We've actually seen Cath and Dave quite frequently as a consequence of this trip, and baby Jessica is growing visibly between visits. We drove from Cath and Dave's up to a hotel near Stanstead where we were on the 6:30am Ryan Air (yes, I know..) flight to Torp, Oslo the next morning.

In summary, Andermatt was great. We'll definitely be back.

No comments: