1st Anniversary Ski Tour

Trip Start Oct 26, 2006
Trip End Aug 2007

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Monday, March 19, 2007

One year ago this past Monday, Holly and I were exchanging marriage vows in the Collin's Shelter on the powdery slopes of Alta.  It has been eventful first year....had some skiing adventures....went to brother Mark's graduate school graduation......bought Dave and Ann Marie's house.....sold our condo.....had a Seattle wedding party....spent some quality time living with Holly's parents.....went on some biking adventures....lived apart for two months while Holly went to French School....and of course put our lives on hold to build some memories hangin together in France.  With a nice high pressure system settled in for the week we thought what would be a better way to celebrate the year than going on a multi-day ski tour in the valley past Villar d'Arene.
Day 1 - The first day was our actual anniversary so we thought we would start it off right and sleep in.  After a casual morning of coffee and french toast (apparently called "pain perdu", or "lost bread" by the french), we picked up some last minute supplies and hitchhiked the five or so kilometers to the trailhead.  Luckily soon after we stuck out our thumbs the post office lady was leaving work to go home for lunch.  She graciously offered to drive us directly to the trailhead (not a bad start).  It was only a little over an hour skin to the Refuge de l'Alpe.  We were able to enjoy the rest of the afternoon drinking some tea and looking at the mountains before dinner.  Our anniversary dinner started with some saucisson and cheese before our main course of pasta with a minestrone soup for a sauce and of course a bottle of wine.   For dessert: some tea and chocolate.  Unfortunately we didn't have the refuge all to ourselves.  A French father and son were there to join us, but we did have the "anniversary loft" all to ourselves. 
Day 2 - Our next destination on our tour was the Refuge du Pave located at 2841 meters.  After a breakfast of oatmeal and of course instant cappuccino, we spent the morning and early afternoon climbing up the valley.  The refuge is located next to a frozen alpine lake below the ridge that separates the Chatelleret valley on the south side of La Mejie.  The construction of the refuge was less than spectacular.  It resembles more of a backyard shed than historic mountain refuge.  After lunch of saucisson and cheese we spent the afternoon digging out the refuge, drying our clothes, and melting water in the sun (I was a little concerned if we had enough fuel).  This nights dinner started with some couscous we found in the shelter mixed with saucisson and cheese.  For the main course we thought we would mix it up and have vegetable and cheese soup served as sauce with our pasta.  For dessert:  but of course tea and chocolate.  When it was time to turn we nestled under the eight wool blankets we had gathered from the refuge's multiple beds with a warm water bottle between us. 
Day 3 - Wow, did we get the number of blankets and warm water bottle thing dialed!  What a great sleep.  After another breakfast of oatmeal and cappuccino, we packed up our things and said goodbye to the Refuge du Pavé.  Our day's route would take us down the valley we climbed up and up the next valley to the Refuge Adele Planchard located at 3169 meters right below La Grande Ruine.  The ski down from the Pavé started with a south facing couloir that started right from the refuge and ended with some wide open turns down the valley.  Then the skins went back on the skis and we walked up to our next refuge.  The Planchard was our favorite refuge of the trip.  It was located in a beautiful location and the refuge construction was impressive.  There was a large double wall on the south side of building.  The outer wall was glass and the inter wall was painted black.  There were operable panels on the inter wall at the top and bottom.  During the day these panels were open to let the air warmed by the sun circulate throughout the main room of the refuge.  I've read about this type of wall in green building literature but this is the first time we witnessed it.  Boy does it work.  This was by far the warmest refuge even though it was at the highest elevation.
Day 4 - On our last day we woke up and finished the last of our cappuccino and oatmeal before we got dressed skinned up to the col below the La Grande Ruine topping at 3766 meters.  Holly basked in the morning sun while I made the final boot pack to the summit.  What a great way to start the day.  We then skied back down to the refuge and gathered the last of our stuff.  The snow was cream corn on our ski back down the valley to the parking lot.  Before our hitchhike back we celebrated our tour with a couple crèpes, a hot chocolate, and a cup of coffee.
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