travel quest specialist travel listingssearch

If you fancy developing your skiing with some ski mountaineering or ski touring then read on. This account is of a trip billed as an introduction to ski touring and gives a hint of the highs and lows of such an experience. The ski tour was run by The Eagle Ski Club and led by Mountain Guide Rob Collister.

Eagles in Arolla

The eight Eagles relaxed with a beer on the terrace of the Hotel Du Glacier and reflected on their previous week's endeavor. Seven aspiring ski tourists had joined Guide Rob Collister some six days earlier to embark on a hut-to-hut ski tour in the picturesque area around the Swiss village of Arolla (see map).

Having warmed up with a day's off-piste skiing using the Arolla lift, where the only casualties were a few worried trees, the team departed on an overcast Monday morning for the ascent to the Bertol hut. In addition to the ascent of a couple of peaks (Tete Blanche 3724m and Pigne d'Arolla 3772m), generally stunning scenery (the Matterhorn from the Pigne d'Arolla in particular and everywhere else in general), constant reassessment of the plan due to variable weather, and copious cups of tea, there were a variety of other experiences worthy of mention (names have been withheld to preserve reputations!):

The sight of your haarscheisen spilling out of your rucksack, setting off downhill without you and then the joy of skinning back up again after descended in pursuit.

The character building ascent, using chains and ladders, to the Bertol Hut – the postman must have nerves of steel!

Rob's 'You don't have to be having fun to have fun' variation on the 'no pain no gain' theorem.

Trying to fathom out the Byzantine rules of the Snowdonian variant of the game Liar Dice. It's difficult enough when sober, how do people manage when they've had a dram or two?

Arrival at the Mt. Collon hut on the Italian side of the border, having eagerly anticipated and discussed the menu, only to find the hut unguarded and more importantly unheated. (Note: It's a splendid spot, worth visiting for the view from the outdoor WC alone however a bivvy there gives a whole new meaning to the phrase 'chilling out').

The contrast of the unguarded Bouqetins Refuge with its woodburning stove, plentiful supply of fuel and well stocked larder. Blessings to the pilgrim who left the fresh loaf of bread and the ingredients for a tuna-mayonnaise salad.

Enjoying a beer on the terrace in the breathtaking surroundings of the Chanrion hut after descending from the Pigne through snow conditions ranging from glorious powder to sticky crud.

The moment when an icy slope discovers the weakness in your uphill kick-turn, followed by the urgent attempt to translate the theory of ice-axe braking with your ski pole into practical experience.

It may sound like an average tour to the seasoned ski mountaineer, but all of the team enjoyed it immensely. The week had fully lived up to its billing as an ideal introduction to hut-to-hut touring, an alternative offered was 'some of the best bits of the Haute Route without the crowds'.

The party departed on the Saturday and whilst our tour had been without major incident the scars of avalanche, evident on the trip down the valley through the village of Evolene, reminded us that danger is never far away in the mountains in winter.

Dan Carron, Eagle Ski Club member

Rob Collister is an International Mountain Guide and very experienced ski mountaineer. In addition to guiding on tours like the one described above he also offers private guiding or tuition in ski touring, climbing, mountaineering and wilderness trips – throughout the year and throughout the world. In 2000 he is guiding an Eagle Ski Club expedition to Kedar Dome (6830m), in India.

The Eagle Ski Club is a membership organisation set up for ski mountaineers using both Alpine and Nordic (Free-heel/Telemark) equipment. It runs an excellent programme of tours every year ranging from introductions to ski mountaineering and off piste skiing, to ambitious expeditions to the worlds highest mountains and remotest backcountry. There is also a programme of UK events, including ski weekends in Scotland and walking and climbing weekends throughout the UK. Take a look at their web-site for more information and a membership form.

Rob Collister :

For Information about The Eagle Ski Club:


TO TOP    

[click term to return to article]
haarscheisen Ski crampons
skinning Climbing skins are attached to the base of the skis for ascending slopes. They allow the skier to slide their foot forward but grip when the foot slides backwards. Originally made of animal skin (hence the name) they are now made of man made materials and are attached to the ski with a non setting glue.
uphill kick-turn A technique for turning 180° at the end of a traverse up and across a slope. The skier then continues climbing on another upwards traverse and the end of which they will again kick turn.
Gourmet food when you have just spent several hot, sweaty hours climbing to the hut!
beer Now you're talking!

© Copyright travel-quest 2000/1/2    Site design by: quest-designs travel web site specialists