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The Haute Maurienne. Spring 2013.

~ Monday, 25th March 2013

The Haute Maurienne is a really wonderful part of the French Alps. There is always a great welcome at the huts, stunning scenery all around and some fantastic ski touring.

This Spring proved to be one of the most challenging yet for my regular Eagles tour to the Haute Maurienne as far as weather and snow pack was concerned. Our first day, to the Carro hut was very grey and as forecast, heavy snow was falling by we got to the hut. The hut was un-guarded, so we had enough food with us for two nights, but none of us expected the dortoir to be so cold. On the second night we took our mattresses into the warmer living room which was heated by a wood burner.

The snow pack was continuing to worry me, due to the strong winds and constantly falling snow outside. The thoughts of a third night at the hut crossed my mind on the morning of our departure, but a brightening in the weather and a thorough slope test below the hut left me satisfied that it would be safe to start our descent to the valley. The snow continued to prove safe and the descent to L’Ecot was delightful and well deserved by the team.

Heavy going to the Les Evettes hut was rewarded with fine food prepared by the Guardian, priveliged access to the kitchen, which of course included a fridge full of cold beer and a cellar full of wine. A bright start on day four was perfect for our planned day, but before long we came across a considerably large area of deep hard windslab. Over a foot and a half of hard slab that released very easily was covered by six inches of soft slab. We turned back and headed in a different direction, towards the glacier below L’Albaron. The snow here was fine, but after a while the weather turned again. A drawn out lunch stop, whilst waiting to see what would happen left us deciding that the hut and fridge full of beer was the best place to be!!

 

Day five dawned beautifully, but with a crossing of L’Albaron out of the question, we descended again to the valley. Beautiful snow, followed by great coffee near Bessans left us feeling good about our next adventure, up to the L’Averole hut. Seb, the Guardian has opened the hut today and was very welcoming. A quick recce in the afternoon left me feeling good about tomorrows outing.

Our final day dawned as forecast, clear with a little high cloud, but soon again we were to discover windslab on our intended route. The aspect of this slab was completely opposite to everything else we had found. The main objective got shelved and we chose a steady line up to the Col d’Arberon instead. The main valley north of here, back towards L’Averole hut was wonderful. Lots of light snow and all of the team left plenty of fine tracks behind.

 It seems unfair to think that during a whole week we only really managed three worthwhile descents, but this was more than compensated for by the fun we had as a group, trying to make the most of very tricky conditions and weather. Many thanks to Julie, Will, Charles, Mark, James and Marcus for working hard all week, understanding the tricky calls I had to make and creating a wonderful group to share a week of ski touring with.