Friday, March 29, 2013

Floundering in Snow

It's Easter, and our whole team is together preparing for the race that is now in less than 100 days time.  We're checking out the finishing straight of the race, from St Hilare to Monaco.  From last time we know the importance of taking the time to get familiar with the areas we'll be racing through - knowing the valleys and checking out possible ascents that likely could be done by foot.

The problem we have is two fold.  Firstly the weather is terrrible and secondly there is far too much snow, and fresh snow.  The later makes many of the routes we want to check out impossible, especially as the avalanche risk is extremely high with a very unstable snow pack.

So today Tom and I set off, properly equipped with snow shoes, to check out some potentially cunning routes and even more cunning launches.  Dad had the job of driving round to the other side of the mountain to meet us, whilst we spent lots of time route finding in the forest.  This proved to be more difficult than expected due to the snow underfoot, incessant rain from above and virtually no visibility thanks to being engulfed in cloud. We located one path and then skirted around to find a second route up, however we overshot and the path we found and followed took us to only 500m or so from where we needed to be but unable to get there, thwarted by either a ridge too dangerous to traverse, thick forest that was more or less impenetrable or open snow fields which made a worrying 'whuuump' noise every now and then as we gingerly skirted around them.  Common sense prevailed and we retraced our steps, dropping 250m in altitude to ascend once again on the correct path a little further along.  Snowshoeing was tough as the snow had virtually no structure and even with the shoes we were sinking in deep, making each step hard work.  Finally, we arrived at the col we were aiming for, a cunning launch option we thought, but no, it wasn't to be.  The ground was too flat and there were tall trees in front making launching here more or less impossible.  At least we ruled out this option for the race!

By the time we reached the car we were both soaked.  Tom claimed his boots were more like buckets of water due to the amount of snow that had found it's way in!  We still have 3 days of the Easter break and there are signs the weather may improve for Monday so we may get one day flying in!

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