We had a fantastic weekend with the great guides, Michel Piola and Christian Hug.
The idea of this course was to learn how to plan you ski-tour trip. We learned how to prepare the ski-tour exit with the map, how to perform orientation with compass and altimeter, how to preview the avalanche situation, and then how to estimate the avalanche danger in the real situation, etc. The course included the theoretical part, which happened during the week, and 2 days of practice on the weekend. The practical part took place in the massif Aiguilles Rouges – the mountains opposite to the Mont Blanc massif.
We started from the parking Gare du Buet. The plan was to go to the Refuge de Loriaz and to do some practice on the way. There was plenty of fresh snow – it was snowing all the week. Actually the avalanche danger was marked as 3-4 today! Ideal conditions for an avalanche course! From the parking a nice view opens on Aiguille de Loriaz and Mont Oreb. Aiguille de Loriaz reminded me of our summer trip – we tried to climb but failed – we have not found the start…
The snow was deep and in the beginning we had to break our own trace. But luckily in the forest a trace appeared and made life easier. At the end of the forest we stopped for a small picnic and practice in ARVA searching.
Refuge de Loriaz is a very nice and friendly chalet guarded by Valéry Poliart. There are plenty summer and winter activities to do around. There is even an ice climbing site close to the refuge.
We had the best weather possible for orientation course – zero visibility! Our guides divided us into 3 groups and each group had an individual task. First was to find the easiest way up to a small nameless pass. Second – to find an evacuation way down to the valley. And finally the third group was looking for the way down to the river Eau de Bérard and then – up to the Refuge de la Pierre à Bérard and then to the Col de Bérard.
We dug a snow pit and Christian explained us how to evaluate the snow-pack. Finally I did a “sliding block” test, that basically means making a small avalanche in the pit we dug out before. Actually, despite of the general avalanche danger in the region marked as 3-4, it was not easy make the block of snow to slide. I succeeded only when I moved to the middle of block and jumped several times.
Thanks to Michel and Christian we spent a really amazing weekend, got a lot of new information and had possibility to practice. I already passed several avalanche courses before, but this one was the top!