09 February, 2010

Ski Touring Skills Weekend 4th - 7th February

On Friday I joined the first ski day of our Ski Touring Skills Weekend for a ski day in Megeve. We had a group of 12 with Jonny Baird and Klemen Gricar, IFMGA Mountain Guides looking after everyone. With a forecast of heavy snow we headed out of the Hotel Regina in St. Gervais to the ski lift at La Jaillet in Megeve, as we got to the top of the lifts the heavens opened with amazing heavy snow.

Working our way through the lift system and pistes we enjoyed lovely powder on the piste and headed towards the start of our ski tour for the day. Our aim was the Petit Croisse Baulet which stands at 2009m on the side of the Aravis chain of mountains, that splits the Megeve/St. Gervais valley from La Clusaz and Grand Bornand. This is a great little ski tour, especially for our gang of first times tourers, its a gentle walk to start with along a well established path before it slightly steepens and climbs through the trees to the summit; its also great in snowy weather as you have the trees for aided visibility and a good ski down.

The guides ran a session on "how to" put your skins on and adjust to bindings into walk mode and some basic skills on skinning, before we set off. Everyone caught on really quickly and was enjoying the uphill, as the climbed steepened the first uphill kick turns were done with only 1 or 2 fallers the basics of these turns were practised on the rest of the ascent.

At the top everyone had enjoyed the effort of going up, despite not getting a view of the mountains, we took skins off, had a bite to eat and headed off on the ski down. In the time we had walked up somewhere around 40cm of new snow had fallen so there was some good powder to ski between the trees. It got heavy low down and there were a lot of comedy falls and crashes in the snow, lost skis and plenty of giggles! We made it out on to the piste at the Giettaz ski area just in time to catch the last lifts back up to Megeve and home for a welcome cup of tea and hot shower.

No photos from this day due to the snow but Klemen took these great pictures on Sunday when the sun came out and the group headed out for a ski tour from Les Contamines.

Getting ready for the off.

Jonny reads the weather and avalanche forecast for the day

Jonny shows how to adjust your bindings for the uphill

Heading off up the hill

Wonderful views as the sun finally comes out

A quick rest for food and water on the way up

Richard enjoying the skiing back down

The team enjoy a beer and vin chaud at the end of the day

05 February, 2010

Rupert Rosedale (1972-2009)

Some very tragic news...Mountain Tracks guests will be saddened to hear that Rupert Rosedale one of the UK's leading alpinists and a trainee mountain guide was killed in an avalanche on Ben Nevis at New Year http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/wiltshire/8436753.stm
We send sincere condolences to his family and as a close friend of Nick and his children for many years we publish Nick's tribute to him....

"I first met Rupert in 1992 when he came on an Alpine Intro course that Phil George and I ran. What I immediately noticed about Rupert was his enthusiasm. No matter where he was, what he was doing, or who he was with, Rupert sparkled with a love for life. I knew from the start that mountains and climbing ran deep in his veins. His parents Rachel and Barney had lived in Nepal for many years and Barney was an expedition Doctor on Chris Bonnington's Everest expeditions in the 70's before residing in Marlborough, Wiltshire where I first met them. So it was no surprise that Rupert excelled on the Alpine course and his love affair with the Alps began.

Rupert was desperate to find a way to spend more time in the Alps and pursue his love of skiing so I introduced him to Gavin Foster of Ski Weekend which landed him a ski guiding job for the following three winters in Chamonix. He quickly mastered alpine and telemark disciplines on and off piste and spent all his free time ski touring or ice climbing. His keenness - cramming in climbs before work - and feats of endurance were legendary, earning him the nickname of 'Super-Ruper'.

I well remember this enthusiasm infecting me on a ski tour of the Vanoise. I'd invited Rupert to 'back-mark' me on the week long traverse with six clients. On arriving at the Col de la Vanoise refuge we watched a group of French aspirants descending the South West Face of the Grand Casse. It looked really good but as we had to ski out out to Bourg St Maurice the following day it wasn't on for us. Rupert however had other ideas and pointed out that it was a full moon and why didn't he and i nip up and back during the night! We waited until after dinner and for the face to re-freeze before cramponning for 3 hours to the summit arriving at midnight as the moon obligingly popped up to light our telemark ski descent. We got back in time for a couple of hours kip before heading off with our clients to complete the tour, no doubt full of the joys of spring! In hindsight one of my alpine highlights.

By the mid 1990's Rupert had fully embarked on his career as an outdoor instructor and was actively pursuing the qualifications-train. About this time I had bought Isallt an old farmhouse above Rowen in the Conwy Valley and Rupert, needing a base in Snowdonia, became its first resident. The house needed a lot of renovation and in return for accommodation Rupert set to on the property honing his building skills which he would later put to good use in his homes in Chamonix and most recently Vallorcine. From a nearby farm came Makalu his border collie, a constant companion on countless adventures in the hills.

During this time he became very close to my two young children as they were growing up, forever taking them on short voyages of discovery in the woods around Isallt, this special bond with them ultimately culminated in Rupert taking Archie to the summit of Mont Blanc on his 17 birthday. The sum total of their acclimatization had been re-roofing Ruperts farmhouse in Vallorcine at 1200m, not surprisingly Archie was feeling a bit under the weather in the later stages of the climb but Rupert gently and skillfully coaxed him up.

Nothing was ever too much trouble for Rupert, I don't think I ever saw him get upset or angry about anything, let alone raise his voice, he commanded respect by virtue of his leadership and expertise. So by 1998 I was employing Rupert regularly as a freelance instructor and that summer I invited him to co-lead a canoe expedition down the Nahanni river in the North West Territories of Canada. Equally at home on rivers as he was on the mountains, he brought so much to the trip. From his ability to motivate everyone in the darkest moments {there were a few}, to his boundless energy. This I well remember him demonstrating when he and I took off for a mad dash to the foot of the Lotus Flower Tower in the Cirque of the Unclimables. After 24hours non-stop activity I was utterly exhausted as we made our way back down through forest crawling with Grizzly Bears and yet he somehow managed to keep me going until we re-joined the expedition.

By 1999 I was ready to leave Marlborough and return to the mountains and Rupert was my obvious successor. In the ten years he has been Head of Outdoor Activities at the College, thousands of students have been fortunate enough to have come into contact with Rupert and for many he has made a profound effect. This is clearly shown from the amazing response since his death to the Facebook site: RIP Mr Rosedale set up by one of his former students.

During this period of his life Rupert continued to cram so much in, as well as his demanding full-time job, he was always away climbing. Yet still he found time to meet his wife Ulrika who shared his passion for the mountains and together they set up a loving home in Marlborough for their two beautiful children Ted and Svea and more recently turned their attentions to the renovation of their terrific farmhouse in Vallorcine. In typical Rupert fashion no task was to big and he was determined to do as much of the re-building work himself.

His ambition was to become a mountain guide and bring up his family in the mountains. Not only was he an exemplary son, brother, husband, father and friend, he would have been a superb guide, utterly dependable, always smiling, an excellent climber and skier, just a joy to be out with. For those of us who were lucky enough to have shared time with Rupert, he was a gift, a special man who will never be forgotten."