Splitboarding Gran Paradiso

A last minute invite to join a 5 day splitboarding trip in the Alps came through and I jumped online to try and get myself organised. After some missteps and a load of delays at Bristol Airport I made it out to the Abondance valley with all my luggage. That evening we prepped some gear ready to start early the next day.

Day 1 was all about getting to grips with gear and technique again. We did some resort laps in Chatel to warm up and get used to our boards before donning harnesses and crampons to walk up a ridge and climb a ladder. Next up we transitioned and skinned up the Chesery. As always my kick turns were rusty. It was warm and the snow was soft for a nice run down. After another couple of laps we stopped for a safety refresher and transceiver practice. You can never do too much of this. Finally a run back down to the car park.

With confused weather thanks to the combination of the sirocco bringing Saharan sand and hot weather and an incoming cold front, it was decided that for day 2 there was no point going far. We would spend another day local so we toured up from the Bise lake. It was hot making for some challenging conditions, but it was good to get a proper days touring in and work out any niggles in gear before heading further afield. Views were incredible with a couple of sightings of the Alpine Ibex up on the ridges. The yellow tinge from the sand making this look a little post apocalyptic.

Day 3 was wet. A late start, followed by a three hour drive through the Mont Blanc tunnel into Italy to the Aosta valley. Here we geared up in the rain before hiking up to the snowline with everything on our back. As we got higher the rain became snow. It was still pretty wet though. It was a relief to start skinning instead of walking. No one wanted to be hanging around so we marched up towards the refuge. A 900m ascent. When its warm, and wet, you end up in a nightmare situation in terms of layers. You are wearing a shell so you dont get soaked, whilst at the same time sweating profusely. Everyone was happy to get to the refuge.

On Day 4 we woke up to see it had continued to snow overnight and temperatures had dropped. The cloud had lifted and we could see our surroundings. Today we would go light – and not take harness, ice axe and crampons, or need much food. We climbed 600m, descended 1000m of powder before climbing 400m back to the refuge. A big open powder run is just fun. By the time we climbed back to the refuge it was hot again and we were ready for lunch.

The afternoon was spent resting and preparing kit for the next day when we would leave early, taking all our stuff to climb over 1200m to the summit of Gran Paradiso.

As always it was hard to sleep knowing you had to be up early. It was important we had everything ready and got out early. By 6:30am on Day 5 we were on our way. Slowly but steadily we moved up the mountain. It was hard going with the altitude and heavy pack having an increasing impact. For the last hour I could feel a tightness in my chest. After 4 hours we had made it to the top of the skin track. For the last section we moved over to harness, crampons and ice axe. It looked like we were on top of the World.

The whole way up I could see how good the snow was. The run down was going to be incredible. 2000m of powder then some bushwhacking and dodging trees and finally a hike.

Many thanks to Paul at The Rider Social for a good time and organising a great adventure.