Posted by: sunshack | February 14, 2013

Uphill

This winter, I’d decided, would be the one where I got the hang of skinning up on my skis. I’ve had a few attempts in the past, with mixed success. Mostly I’d been not getting into a rhythm, and as a result been getting tired too quickly. Before I’d arrived anywhere else that is.

I started by planning to get more altitude fit, by skinning up the piste in Grimentz. This proved not to be too good a strategy as the snow was deep, and I’d fallen over the day before on the ice in the village, hit my head and upset the balance in my back. I failed to reach my destination, was very slow and the weather was not nice!

My next attempt was to skin up to the Cabane Becs de Bossons, 45 minutes beyond the top lift in Grimentz. It’s in a different commune, and is a popular destination, and has just been extended adding a new lounge and more bedrooms.  Skins on, and I set off up the path. The path was quite narrow, on the tilt, and had recently been trodden by some snowboarders. Everywhere there is a hole, my skins are clinging to fresh air. Still, the day was fairly sunny and warm, and I was in no hurry.

Path to Cabane Becs de Bosson

The path around the ridge to the Cabane

Cabane Becs de Bosson

It took me longer than I expected to get there, but not by much. After my lunch and checking my route with the very helpful Hut Guardienne I followed the skinning track back to the Col, and dropped down into the Grimentz system. I celebrated with a really big slice of Tarte au Myrtilles.

The weather was again playing a part in my plans when I was contacted by Chris Fecher of Tinderbox Ski Schoolin Chamonix. We had planned a short Ski Tour after some tuition in Chamonix. Now the approaching weather turned this plan on it’s head. We would still be going to the Hospice Grand St Bernard, and instead would return to Chamonix the same day.

If you want to see some footage of the route up to the Hospice, Ski Sunday visited and the film is on You Tube. I think they had better weather!

An early start for me, met up with Chris at Martigny, and we left the car in the parking area of the disused Super St Bernard ski station.

2 cars and a lonely snowplough at Super St Bernard

We stopped for a warm up and a quick sandwich at the Emergency Hut just over halfway up to the Hospice. It felt good to get out of the cold wind. Loved the antique Telephones. In addition there was a good supply of firewood, pots and pans, some Matches in  a jar and Blankets.

P1030740

I was receiving coaching on my technique whilst we ascended the trail, which was probably not ideal. Fortunately for me, Chris is very patient and eventually the Hospice appeared out of the freezing fog. I was convinced no-one was home.

Arriving at the Hospice Grand St Bernard on skis

Arriving at the Hospice Grand St Bernard on skis

Once inside, we received a very warm welcome and were told that we were the only visitors that day. The Tea was wonderful, came in a large jug and you drink it without milk from traditional bowls. We had time for a quick look around the main area and also the Church which is quite ornate.

Inside the Church Hospice Grand St Bernard

Date on the wall Hospice Grand St Bernard

The Hospice is where the famous St Bernard dogs were bred to carry out rescues. They are no longer kept up there in winter, but they do have dogs there each summer.

The weather was showing no signs of improving, and we wanted to get back to the car before dark. It was very tempting to stay on overnight, but the forecast was not good. Back out into the freezing fog, off with the skins and a much quicker ski back to the Super St Bernard car park.

Stripping off the skins at the entrance to Hospice Grand St Bernard

Stripping off the skins at the entrance to Hospice Grand St Bernard

Back at the car, the thermometer read -10c! I’m already planning a return to the Hospice, I’d like to spend an overnight there, it’s an amazing place.

Huge thanks to Chris from Tinderbox for his coaching and patience. All photos of me are with kind permission of Tinderbox Back Country Ski School

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