Wednesday, 22 February 2012

Sunny randonnée to Pointe de Pelluaz

I decided to attack an ambition long held in my quest to climb, randonnée, some of the most beautiful mountains in this part of France.

When I awoke I found the skies blue, the air cold and crisp and a perfect day to set off and ski up to the Pointe de Pelluaz, and gaze from the top across the mountains to Mont Blanc in the not too far off distance.

The village of Bernex I expected to be busy but I hadn't expected pandemonium such as I found where various owners and occupants appeared to leave their vehicles wherever they wished, regardless of others and disappear. I continued to the nearby Relais de la Chevrette, a delightful little savoyard restaurant near to the Dent d'Oche to park and get my Gecko-skinned skis ready, check my pack contents and start my climb. It was about -3C and the snow lying about me was dry and powdery still.

I crossed the Dranse streaming down towards Lac Léman and slid my skis uphill towards the main climb, using the small enclosed steep meadow under deep snow below a shuttered chalet to join the main piste.

After about 50 minutes I reached Pré-Richard and continued to ski through the swell of people milling about around the Ski School Meeting place, and dodging the young skiers and snowboarders descending to this same spot at a speed far above their competence. Once out of this area it became a little more peaceful although I was being passed almost constantly by skiers as they descended whooping, shouting and laughing on their way down.

I reached the spot I had skied to with Bob at the end of December when we cooked up some noodles before our freezing descent and continued upward as the same skiers whizzed past, took the lift back up and whizzed down once more. Like this they passed me time and time again.

At about the 2 hour mark I found a lone ski lying on the snow at the edge of the piste. I stopped and looked around to see if i could see anyone who might have fallen. Only much later having stood the ski upright in the snow and continuing onward and upward did I see the reason for that lone ski.

Accidents wherever they happen are, for the sufferers, often awful experiences. This was evident now. A man of indeterminate age, was lying in the middle of the piste, an icy and snow covered rough 4x4 track to the mountain ridge above and surrounded by a half dozen people attempting to give assistance. He lay in the recovery position his face covered in blood that was staining the snow, waiting for medical help and as I passed and continued upward, for there was nothing I could do to help, I heard the distant helicopter approach.

And now on my final climb I wondered if I might complete it in under 3 hours. Need to push and in the event I reached the Pointe de Pelluaz in 2 hours 54 minutes. The view - stunning.
The lungs heaving, the stomach empty, the thirst needing more than juice to quench it.
And so 15 minutes later having skied down I was at the bottom. Pulling off ski boots, brushing off snow from the skis and as I did so another group of skiers arrived having skied from a different peak and route. We acknowledged each other's ascent and descent and off I drove with an incredible sense of achievement, elation and exhaustion. A beer was needed.

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