This morning a press release landed in my inbox bearing the news that Britain’s best known ski personality, Graham Bell, had completed the “challenge” of skiing the Monte Rosa, the second highest mountain in the Alps, on Midsummer’s Day. At the top it was minus-25 and they managed 1,200m of vertical descent before the snow ran out.
My first thought was, “Brilliant, what fun!” Then, “Wow, I wonder if they stayed at the Margherita Hut” – the highest manned hut in the Alps, whose guardian I interviewed for Fall-Line magazine’s March issue (read it here http://tinyurl.com/6a6mol8).
In fact, the five-times Olympian and Ski Sunday presenter, along with photographer Daniel Taylor and mountain guide Gianni Carbone, arrived by helicopter from the Aosta valley – so while they did succeed in making the descent yesterday in rather poor snow and taking some wonderful pictures, I would hesitate to call their trip that much of a challenge, given that they are experienced skiers. Good on them, nonetheless, and anything that encourages people to get up among the peaks, winter or summer, is a brilliant thing in my view.
Graham has written an excellent piece on the Ski Club of GB website – read it here http://tinyurl.com/5wj786k. And it turns out that 21 June was the day the Margherita Hut opened for the summer season, so if they’d wanted to stay overnight there, it would have been in the winter room.
Regular readers of this blog may remember that I went to the Monte Rosa recently, on skins from the Alagna side, on a five-day ski tour organised by Zuba Ski (see various March posts). We picnicked on the first day at the Col de Lys after quite a tough climb from Punta Indren to about 4,200m, where Graham also stopped yesterday to admire the views over Italy and Switzerland.
Right in front of us, and to our left throughout our subsequent descent to the Monte Rosa Hut, was the magnificent Lyskamm north face, a 45-degree-plus slope of ice and rock that plummets more than 1,000m from the domed summit to the Grenzgletscher.
As we admired it I was astonished to hear from our guides – Michele Cucchi and Mario Zaninetti – that every few years a handful of people ski this face. The conditions have to be right, of course, and I am told August is the best time, as the type of snow falling then is wet enough to stick to the steep slope.
Now that really would count as a challenge for Graham Bell…
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