A short drive through the Mont Blanc tunnel to Italy where Gairy and I checked out the trails at La Thuile the location for the FATMTN event – a couple of hours riding with the trails to ourselves followed by the best spaghetti Bolognese known to mankind at La Grotta.
We then took a spin up the Val Ferret to lay eyes on the Col Ferret ie the crux of my trip – unsure of how stable the snow is on the Col itself I will be waiting until later in the season and hoping that conditions improve.
HAPPY NEW YEAR
Great start to the new year. Got out on snow for a few hours – just what the doctor ordered!!
Fully impatient with the lack of snow, I rode the Whiteout up to the Brévent ski area and spent the night with the specific intent of testing my gear and clearing my head.
A 4×4 track gains around 1000m over 5km – the first 1.5km was gravel and dirt.
Half-way up with around 3 inches of snow on the ground the view of Chamonix was a nice reprieve.
Once on top at -8C/18F and with a definite wind blowing I set up camp fast, eager to see how the Hilleberg Unna tent, Western Mountaineering Versalite sleeping bag and the Klymit Static Insulated sleeping pad performed.
All three worked extremely well, minimal frosting/moisture accumulation inside the tent, base layers dry within an hour of being in the bag and plenty warm, the pad which I placed on a 3/4 length thermarest was both comfortable and did not transfer any cold up into my back.
All told a great 1st snow adventure in my new locale!!
Getting invaluable information from locals regarding my route the crux of which is the Col Ferret (Petit Col Ferret) an Alpine pass that takes me into the Aosta Valley. The Col Ferret pass separates the Mont Blanc Massif from the Pennine Alps.
The Col Ferret is 700m (2296ft) climb from the Val Ferret valley floor with a face angle of around 40* – this of course means there is a likelihood of avalanche. Thankfully at the bottom of the Col and a safe distance back stands the Refuge Elena which has ‘winter rooms’ that provide a basic shelter in which to set up camp, it is likely I will wait for a safe window here.
To minimise avalanche exposure I will incorporate an opposing face and switchback to traverse upto and follow the ridgeline to the top of the Col Ferret to the ascent on the backside.
The first thing I noticed arriving in the Chamonix-Mont-Blanc valley is how steep the terrain is.
With the vertical prominence of 4695m (15404ft) and gross elevation of 4810m (15780ft) the Massif is truly massive.
Downtown Chamonix is quiet as the local businesses gear up for winter season which is about to hit. First snowfall in town was last Wednesday with snowline retreating back up to around 2000m.
I took the Whiteout for a spin around town and today up by the Mer de Glace …trails need snow!