February and March ’21- Skiing during the Covid Years

Weird environmental seem to be happening more frequently these past years. From the 600 mm of rain that fell in the Alp Maritime in 12 hours this autumn, to this weird Martian day I woke up to in a strange bed heavily hungover after Searle’s birthday party, trying to make sense of what was going on. Turns out it was possible the biggest Sahara sand storm on record which transported sand as far as Finland. We went out kite skiing, enjjoying the wind and marvelling at the deposits of sand on our clothing, later to learn the sand had traces of Cesium 137 from the 1960’s French nuclear tests in Algeria – a paper mask might not stop covid but it may have been useful to avoid inhaling too much of that into our lungs!

A dry November and December was followed by the mother of all January’s. Without the usual ski resort avi control the steep sided Chamonix valley started to feel a little like it did in ’99 when houses were destroyed by avalanche with their occupants. Fortune seemed to favour us and the weather broke long enough for some essential avalanche control work by heli deployed daisy bell.

February was another drought and after skiing Pointe Percee North Face on disgusting snow, it was time to change tactics and look for better options. A ski and fly out the Pas de Chevre was a extrordinary experience for me, skiing those big open powder slopes then flying effortlessly over the combat zones down to beers in the sun at Argentiere. I’m a novice paraglider and it was my first time employing ski n fly tactics in the mountains. Pas de Chevre was one of my big goals for this winter and boom, it happened like clock work. For me ski n fly will be my future tactic of choice for the big lines like the Peuterey Ridge, I just need to keep building my experience and abilities slowly and surely.

While it was dry and hot we took to our bikes exploring Annecy venues around Semnoz, Talloire and Yeyrier, all so good and a pleasure to have bigger vistas than in our tight sided valley.

Another day I joined Ben Tibbetts and Valentine Favre (World skimo champion who just did Chamonix – Zermatt in 26 hours (https://runthealps.com/something-truly-badass-just-happened-in-the-alps/?fbclid=IwAR0pl0cuuOaaHf-2naRvW3cJRYl1SU_XJmcgkzgdkWIKJhbvAGzsavxL89c ) to ski up Mont Gele in Italy’s beautiful Valpelline. This is a great client day and there is a beautiful refuge and bivi hut to break the 1900 m into 2 days. The summit has incredible 360 views from Mont Blanc – Grand Jorasses – Grand Combin – Dent Blanche – Dent d’Herens – Monte Rosa.

Finally the snow returned and with it motivation to ski lines. The talented photographer Aaron Rolph joined myself and Tom for a lush day on the Premier Pointe de Tricot’s North East couloir which was almost despatched at pedal to the metal velocity. A few fabulous days at Skyway with friends followed, notably Luca Pandolfi. We skied Entreves, Marbrees, the lower trees – high quality snow on world class runs, just having fun, with lots of friends around us, eating and drinking like you do in Italy. It was an incredible shock and saddening to hear of Luca’s passing in an avalanche on the Monday in his homeland near Grand St Bernhard. His gentle loving nature, enthusiasm and happiness will be sorely missed.

Then it was time to hit the Swiss lift systems where we explored the untracked forests finding a plethora of untapped sick pillow lines down 40 degree glades. This was a massive moral boost and just so much fun having spent most of the winter touring for every single metre! During this period we revisited the Orny Couloirs, enjoying the return to the high mountain.

More recently my focus has been closer to home on the big runs in the Argentiere basin. After a lifetime of living out of hotels and refuges as an engineer or guide, I prefer to sleep in my own bed and have a longer day from the valley floor. In the last week we did 4 day trips to the basin to ski the Cristaux, Argentiere Y couloir, South Face of the Chardonnet and Col des Courtes. These are big days in anyone’s books and I’ve called upon my summer 5000 m vert bike missions on my Nomad to power a pair of 100 mm skis and maestrale’s up and back. I’d love to get my hands on a pair of Scarpa F1 LTs for the bigger end of season missions but seems Brexit and confinements is making my chances of getting a pair from the UK non existent. Oh well, I shall keep going with what I got for now!

Newsletter

As the year draws to a close I can’t help but reflect on what a vintage year it has been –  if I was lucky enough to be your guide then thank you for making it utterly brilliant for me – check out the photos below and revive some of those incredible memories. With the shortening of the days I’m sure you feel the craving to get out in the mountains just like me. It’s time to start dreaming and planning your next adventure whether it’s some specific life goal or simply getting a boost catching some winter sun in the Alps. For winter 19/20 I  will be guiding out of Chamonix from November to May and I still have  some gaps in my calendar so if you having been dreaming of that place where the magic happens then don’t delay, get in touch before its too late. It will be a pleasure to spend time in the mountains with you again or get to know you if its your first time. rosshewittguiding@yahoo.com

December 1st winter kicks off on skiing the Toula Glacier with the opening of Skyway (Helbronner) on the Italian side of Mont Blanc. The Aosta valley has ALOT of snow right now with its huge option of early season touring and sidecountry. Mid-December I’m holding a 3 day avalanche awareness course for the new employees at Bluebird Cafe and Solocal who are Chamonix newbees. Aiguille du Midi opens on December 13th and Grand Montets is already open at the weekends.

January and February will be deep endless powder days based in Chamonix and Skyway including some Valley Blanche action. I am also guiding in the secret stash spot of Sainte-Foy for the second year running and can’t wait to get back for its legendary trees and easy access backcountry.

March and April I already have 2 steep camps with clients who are looking to access the steep and deep in the big mountains. Snow cover will be at its best and the longer days open up the classic ski touring possibilities. The mind boggles at the endless possibilities.

May sees the return of 2 clients hunting specific big lines in Chamonix which is always a great time of year for the high mountain.

Opening the Entreves Spur, Skyway, Chamonix

Early December days at Skyway are some of my favourite

Avalanche course crew on Brevent

Avalanche awareness and terrain management course on Brevent

Ross Hewitt enjoying deep january powder days

Deep endless powder days, Plan de l’Aiguille

Ice climbing in Chamonix

Ice climbing in December and January

Snow anchors and crevasse rescue

Teaching snow anchors & fundamental skills for crevasse rescue

building and equalising anchors

Teaching how to build an ice screw anchor and equalise it

La Sentinelle ski meet Chamonix

La Sentinelle ski touring meet was in Chamonix this year and Monte Viso in 2020

La Snetinelle with Bruno Compagnet

Good cop, bad cop at La Sentinelle

traditional dining, La Sentinelle ski meet Chamonix

Traditional mountain food at La Sentinelle

Snow Sport of Great Britain ski test at Pila Italy

Snow Sports of Great Britain ski test at Pila, Italy

safety and skier for a British independent fictional film

Thats a 70k camera! Working as a guide and stunt skier for a UK film

touring in the Vanoise

Ski touring in the Vanoise national park

bespoke ski guiding for an Australian based client

Bespoke ski guiding for Andrew

backcountry picnics in Sainte Foy

No rush for the powder in the Tarentaise, enjoying a backcountry picnic

steep camp for 2 British clients looking for the magic

Steep camp heading to ski Aiguille du Plan South Face

touring under the Giant Argentiere basin north wall

Returning for Aiguille d’Argentiere

snowboarding Mont Blanc

Deep day on Mont Blanc early May

col des cristaux, the classic big steep line in the Argentiere basin

Riding giants, those dream lines forming the North Wall of the Argentiere  glacier

Midi Plan traverse, classic alpinism

Classic alpinism on the Midi Plan traverse

Passing the Vallot shelter en route to Mont Blanc

Dawn at the Vallot shelter on the way to Mont Blanc

glorious sunrise near summit of Mont Blanc

Sunrise on Mont Blanc as we summit

classic Swiss ridge scrambles

Scrambling with stunning views

Jegigrat Traverse

Classic Swiss ridges, this one done in a day hit from Chamonix

Sunset on the Matterhorn

summit of the Matterhorn under 4 hours, winner!

Summiting the Matterhorn under 4 hours

sunset over the Matterhorn

The Matterhorn at sunset

Classic Italian ridges in a day hit from Chamonix

Classic Italian Ridges easily accessible from Chamonix

Christmas at Skyway

Christmas as Skyway

Climbing Mont Blanc

Bosses Ridge Mont Blanc Ross Hewitt Guiding

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