Splitboarding & Backcountry Snowboarding: March 2017

We ran two splitboarding & backcountry snowboarding weeks so far in March 2017. The first Trip and Split week ran 4th-11th March. Have a quick look at what we got up to on the first week.

Trip and Split 4th-11th March: Samoens

There were 4 guys along for the trip. Jim and James had previously splitboarded with us before on one of our Split and Mix courses and Sacha and John were new but had the required experience. Their Rider Social UIAGM guide for the week was David Gladwin.

The first mission was to the Bostan refuge which is an unmanned winter hut located at an altitude of 1,763 m at the foot of the Dents d’Oddaz towards Samoens. We decided that this lower altitude hut was the best option with a storm cycle due to come through that evening.

Having shopped for supplies we started the walk in beautiful sunny conditions from around the1100m mark. The total ascent would be roughly 600m although the total total distance covered was around 7km. After an hour or so we started to experience high winds in the valley. Searing and brutal gusts followed which meant we needed to layer up a little whilst splitting which is unusual.

Energy sapping winds whipped us until we reached the refuge where we quickly changed up into our bigger & warmer down jackets, un-iced the floor and got the door shut. After a little bit of splitboard kit admin we began to work on rope, crampon and transceiver techniques until it  was time to make dinner. A Leatherman knife is perfect for cutting up bread for the cheese fondue and getting the saucisson sliced, and we started cooking up on the gas stoves we had hauled up.

Having eaten plenty (always tastes better having carried it up) we broke out the chocolate, local digestif and pack of playing card for several rounds of the card game ‘shithead’. Always a fun card game and made for a great night, even in the cold.

The night was even colder. In the dorms there were blankets but we still slept fully clothed. Around 6:30am we woke up and realised that the storm had delivered around 50  – 60 cm of windblown pow and the avalanche rating was on a 4 level. Pretty high…..

The danger level meant that our safe riding options were super limited. Surround by windslab we took a short tour in the safest and lowest (sub 30 degrees) angled terrain we could find. After 300m of skinning we were rewarded with some deep and cold powder in a fun zone to ride back down to the refuge.

With the weather still wild (and getting even wilder) we took the call to move out. After a quick lunch we packed up to leave. Whilst doing so we looked out of the door and saw around 15 skiers walking up at pace towards our hut which was really pretty freaky given the conditions

Two minutes later we were making pleasantries and moving up at the already busy lunch table with a bunch of hungry French Gendarmes from the Savoie mountain division on a 3 week non stop tour  of the area. These guys were gnarly…

After a quick 40 minutes on a traverse we transitioned the splitboards to ride down the valley in super high wind, low vis, deep powder and grumbles of thunder.  After a speedy and managed descent (pow turns all the way) we were were back at the bus – conveniently parked next to a mountain bar /restaurant for a couple of well earned beers.

All in all it was a really fun couple of days and gave the guys  a real insight as to how to manage a backcountry trip when the elements are truly against you.