SNOWSHOE MAGAZINE FEATURED ARTICLE:

Snowshoeing in the Italian Val Ferret

As the window shutters of the hut creaked open, we were rewarded by the early morning views across the valley to the Italian face of Mont Blanc. It was still dark and the snow glowed in the moonlight. Above the sky was filled with millions of stars, twinkling against the deep blue of the night. A glance at the altimeter showed that the pressure had risen overnight. It was going to be a great day. Duvets were cast aside and slowly the hut room came to life, with six bleary eyed adventurers sitting up and emerging. Six o’clock in the morning is never usually an active time of day, but the room was full of energy and expectation for the day ahead.

One by one the group put on the hut slippers and shuffled downstairs. As we entered the main room of the hut, we were greeted by a strong aroma of fresh coffee and hot chocolate. The hut guardian cheerfully welcomed us into the warm room, and we sat down for breakfast. As we tucked into bread and jam, with cakes and cereals, the old hut dog waddled across to chance his luck with any leftovers. He wasn’t disappointed, as several hands disappeared beneath the table with nibbles and crusts.

Whilst drinking the hot coffee from the big bowls, we discussed the day ahead. Our objective was the Tête Entre Deux Sauts at 2729m / 8953ft, which offers an amazing viewpoint over the Mont Blanc massif. The evening before we had checked the weather and avalanche forecasts, and the day seemed perfect, with only a low northerly wind predicted, and 2 out of 5 on the European Avalanche Index. We helped the hut guardian clear our table, then headed out into the porch area to put on our gear. The still air temperature was about -5°C / 23°F, so we pulled on warm jackets, hats and gloves.

For safety we put on avalanche safety beacons, worn around our bodies, beneath the outer clothes. Even though the avalanche risk was forecast as low, it didn’t harm to stay safe. Soon the room was filled with various beeps and squeaks as the beacons were tested, then the staccato clicks of the snowshoe binding ratchets being adjusted and tightened. Poles were distributed and one by one we emerged into the winter wonderland. The snow was well frozen and the snowshoes made a crisp crunch as they gripped the icy surface.

Soon everyone was ready, and our headlamps cast pools of yellow light on the snow. The eastern sky was already becoming brighter with the imminent arrival of the sun, but the first hour or so would be by torchlight. To test the avalanche beacons we spread out and filtered one by one past a group member with their beacon in search mode. As each person approached, the beeps of the beacon became louder and shriller. Soon everyone was checked, and we set off up the snow slope behind the mountain hut.

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