It’s been some years now that I’ve got to meet William, his son and daughter for some steep skiing in the Dolomites. Rozzy’s partner Tom joined us few years ago, the steep and technical Forcella del Vallon chute was his “initiation” to couloirs in the Dolomites, this winter it was Loraine’s turn, Hugo’s fiancée. To me it feels like that you have to be a bold skier to join William’s family, and these two guys have been up to the tasks with no problems. Ha!
I can’t say these are hard days at the office. Wait a minute, yes they are. I have the freedom to choose among the most beautiful itineraries, and why not, even the most complicated ones, sure I always have and feel my responsibility as a mountain guide, but I’ve always had the nice feeling of spending some great time on skis with good friends, so to speak. This time, probably because of too much thinking of which beautiful lines to ski together, I also got sick after four days.
Our date was fixed for mid february this winter, I was from feeling all right after a bad fall the beginning of the month (that caused a torn meniscus and sprained ankle). A big snow fall came on Feb 2, and after less than a week the snowpack got beaten up pretty badly by the north wind…I had very little expectation for the upcoming ski days with these guys. At least the weather was on our side, and with the sun everything is more beautiful, even the snow got pretty good for us. On our first journey skiing across the Sassolungo massif, we climbed the steep and sun facing couloir up to forcella del Dente to ski down the north side. The steep couloir featured some pretty firm and grippy snow, and it was a good ” steep skiing baptism” for Loraine and it was a good start on the strait and steep for Loraine, who looked hesitant and excited on her first turns,probably because she had all our eyes pointed on her skis. The open bowl after the couloir still had some powder snow, and we got off the mountain so quickly and smooth that we reached the lifts at Monte Pana, Val Gardena way before lunch. At the point I came out with one of my crazy ideas, and with some bites of a sandwich wolfed down quickly we rushed down the grooms towards the Seceda for the second lap of the day across the Odle massif. It was about some proper ski launches to go through some rocky steps, dribbling via ferrata cables sticking out of the snowpack, and a lovely powder pitch before skinning to the fairy tale hut of Brogles, which stands in front of the picturesque north side of Odle massif, Reinhold Messner home mountain.
The next day we drove to Cortina d’Ampezzo, up to Rio Gere lifts, we hadn’t skied any Cristallo couloirs yet, so we had to take the chance of a beautiful sunny day to tick something off our wishlist. The tough climb up to Forcella Staunies, with skis on the backpack from the old lift mid station to the top has its advantages these days, in my opinion. Number one, there are way less tracks these days down the classic descents the other side, as you have to climb from 2.5h to three hours to earn your steep turns. Number two, you get so hot (probably a bit tired as well) on top of the blue metal fence on top of the col that the view down the abyss of the Adriana Couloir is no longer freaking scary and it doesn’t give me that dizzy feeling anymore. Probably I used to get so freezing cold on that 20 minutes ride on the chairs, the Staunies North couloir now seems less intimidating to me. As we dropped in with some rope work (it’s generally icy or rocky for the first 30 meters), and we passed the narrow and steeper bit before turning to the right, the couloir looked so perfectly straight, smooth and firm (with excellent grip), that after linking some jump turns down I was pretty happy to pull over to the side so to leave the steep run clear . There was no time left for faffing around, everybody was so concentrated and we just smiled at each others here and there. We enjoyed a wonderful descent down to the Staunies North couloir, the whole north side of the Cristallo massif was just for the six of us.
The third day it was about the time to ski around the Sella massif, this time we picked up a beautiful adventure from the Pordoi to Plan de Gralba, Val Gardena, via the Piz Miara steep couloir. I took the rope off my backpack already at the drop-in so to secure the guys down under a monster snow cornice on top of the couloir, we rapped down abseil anchor in the middle of the descent, and one last time on a unexpected narrow snow-free spot before the exit couloir. Talking about the skiing, we had a perfect wind pressed snow couloir, some powder before the rappel, an interesting boot pack down followed by a short butt landing jump (no kidding!), some great corn and finally a soft powder gran finale. High five to the Bula restaurant in Selva di Val Gardena for the excellent pizzas at 4.30pm, it was a fantastic late lunch! And of course a big thanks to the boss of Piz Miara, an ibex who came close to us while we were relaxing before the drop-in. Such a true nature beauty.
And here we go, third day out featured the Tre Cime di Lavaredo ski traverse. We took it easy and more comfortable today, using the skidoo service to reach the Rifugio Auronzo, we just had to boot pack for 300 meter up the steep couloir between the West and the Big Peak. It was also my first time among the most famous towers of the Dolomites with skis on my feet, and I confess that it was a very exciting run. The snow was not bad at all, but our eyes were constantly looking behind us, the steep north faces of Lavaredo are so dramatic no matter if you’re a climber or not. We went on skinning to Rifugio Locatelli to ski down the Sassovecchio valley, it’s a great way to explore something more of the beautiful Dolomite mountain range of Sesto. And then there’s the Rifugio Fondovalle to welcome you at the bottom of the run, its cuisine is always the best treat at the end of a good ski touring journey.
What about the last day? I told you, I got sick on the last day, too much stress! Hey, somehow I had to rest.
Here below you find a lot of images, maybe too many, but I wanted to share some of the beautiful moments I had together with William, Rozzy, Loraine, Hugo and Tom. Big time! See you next year guys.