This is the Dave Butcher photo diary of a ski mountaineering trip from Argentiere to Trient.
In 1992 I booked on a ski mountaineering course with Glenmore Lodge in the Cairngorms. Unfortunately, It was cancelled due to lack of snow so, having built up to doing such a course I looked elsewhere for one. I booked with Peter Cliff for a 6 day course based in Argentiere ending with a 3 day tour.
The weather was hot and sunny making for difficult snow conditions – lots of heavy ‘porridge’ snow away from pisted areas.
Peter Cliff, Tony Brindle (aspirant mountain guide and management consultant)
Kieran (a London Underground engineer), Ed (a management consultant living in Coniston), Peter (a forester), Sheila (a GP from London) and me, Dave Butcher.
We spent the first 3 days being taught how to ski difficult snow, which we all did quite badly! On the second day we went to the top of the Grand Montets lift and attempted to ski down the icy mogul slope. Peter Cliff stopped us part way down and told us how badly we were all skiing and that if we fell over on the next section we would go down a crevasses and die. Not the best way to put our minds at rest, this course was the first time skiing off-piste for most of us. This made us ski more slowly and carefully. We skied around under the cable car through loads of avalanche debris to the Bochard piste, the easy bit compared to what had gone before. We repeated the exercise but on the second time down from Grand Montets headed for the Argentiere Glacier, the sun had softened the surface and it was much easier. We came down through the icefall and crevasses to reach the Lognan lifts. It was exciting and we wanted more but practised using avalanche transceivers instead. Shirley was not going well, her arthritic hips were preventing her from skiing well in the difficult conditions and PC decided that she would be unable to do the tour and told her she would have to stay behind. Sheila had joined the course knowing this was a possibility and was disappointed but not surprised. Kieran looked very stylish with his feet looking as if they were bolted together but unfortunately this style meant he was not very stable off-piste where a wider stance would have helped. We should have done a 1 day tour from Brevent but when we arrived from Argentiere it was shut for maintenance so we made for Flegere. Peter had a run in with the lift staff over him travelling free as the mountain guide with our group. He was not happy after this and we stopped at the top for a tea break so that he could relax a bit. Then up to L’Index for a tour to Brevent. Just as we were about to start a series of avalanches came down the slopes under which we should have skied. We would have down there if we hadn’t stopped for a tea break! The plan changed again and we practised digging snow pits to test the snow condition and then skied around Flegere for the rest of the day as preparation for the 3 day tour coming up.
This ski tour was my first ski mountaineering trip in the Alps and lasted just 3 days in May 1992, previously I had skied 3 Munro’s as day trips and done a few weeks in total of downhill skiing, mostly in Scotland and 1 week in Austria. The weather was sunny and warm most of the time.