Mark wrote:
 >        Great to hear Killington reports from Randy & Geoff - I sincerely
 >appreciate 'em.  Geoff, please provide a Whistler report upon your return.
 > Dana, how 'bout giving us some 2nd hand reports from the Washington
 >Cascades?  John & Jim, whereabouts in the Selkirks are you going to?  .....
 >and Denis and OTH Mike, where are the Canada reports ???


Here's one that I've been working on for a little while.  You've shamed me
into finishing it today.  :-)


Insert my best Swiss-German here...  "Dr geilsti tag vor saison" (The
greatest day of the season)

For 6 weeks I waited patiently for our plans of a helicopter ride to
materialize.  It had been postponed twice for weather and safety
reasons.  All last week I had prepared myself for another disappointment,
thinking that we would not be going again.  I watched the weather and
hoped.  On Thursday morning it was rainy and windy at around 1000m in La
Chaux-de-Fonds and I was thinking the worst.  But by Thursday night the
story changed.  Saturday's weather came into better detail.  Sun was in the
forecast.  The guide said there was near 100% chance that we'd go.  Could
it really happen?

I spent Friday night in Lenk to meet my friends that would be
going.  Chregal, Andy, Marco, Jonathan, and myself got together for a quick
drink and it was off to bed.  At 5am Saturday morning I was leaving in a
taxi-van from the Tipi-bar in Lenk and headed for the Valais.  The heli-pad
was just up the valley from Martigny and near the village of Verbier.  It
was my first helicopter ride for any reason and that alone was quite a
rush.  I found there was unnatural feeling of levitating off the ground as
the helicopter starts to take off.  At 7:45am the five of us and our guide,
Ruedi, were standing on the summit of the Petite Combine at 3800m.

The view from the flat top of the Petite Combine was truly amazing.  To the
east was the Mount Blanc.  That really is a _huge_ mountain.  To the
distant west the distinct shape of the Matterhorn was clear and all 4200m
of the Grand Combine hung over us to the south.  Everything was bathed in
early morning light and I was about to ski on my first glacier.

The high glacier skiing was great.  Above 2500 meters the snow was soft and
light with just a touch of a wind skin.  There was really excellent skiing
the entire length of the glacier.  We listened very carefully to the
instructions of the guide because we knew we were in crevasse territory,
always staying to his right or his left.  Sometimes directly in his
tracks.  The color of glacial ice was so blue, it reminded me of tropical
waters.  Below the glacier we crossed the frozen lake which forms from
glacial melt in the summer (Is the term "moraine lake"?) and from there
snow turned really poor.  We had pure porcelain for about 1000
meters.  About half of which was through the forest.  It may have been
better to wait until later in the day to give the snow time to soften but
we had more business elsewhere and time was running.

We found our van waiting patiently for us at the end of our run and we
hurried off to our next destination...

Outside the city of Sion we drove up a winding road through acres and acres
of vineyards to reach a small spot along the road where two helicopters had
put down to pick us up.  Next stop, The Wildhorn.  Jonathan, Andy and I
piled into first heli which had posh leather seats.  Andy asked the pilot
in german to "make some action with the helicopter".  Being it was german I
missed what was going on until the heli drifted right, dipped it's nose and
seeming dropped off the edge of the mountain road.  I let out a couple of
Renson-ish "Oh Yeahs!" as we swooped down through the valley.

The skiing on the Wildhorn was spectacular.  The powder on the summit was
getting a bit old but was holding up just fine.  Nice boot deep fluff and
just a bit more in other small pockets.  The guide found us some steep
shots and the sun had softened the snow perfectly by early afternoon.  We
took a brief brake for sausages and rosti at a little refuge, called the
Wildhornhut.  I  was reminded a lot of the AMC hut on Mount Madison.  It
was a beautiful break in the sunshine in the middle of grand mountain peaks.

After the quick break we headed out on foot to ascend a small peak called
the Iffighorn.  The climb was short and peak was not so spectacular but the
skiing back to the valley would be more interesting from there.  After an
hours hike we stopped took some pictures and sun bathed for a few minutes
and then started the descent back to the valley.

The snow lower on the mountain was softening nicely in the afternoon
sun.  We found two nice steep chutes which brought us to the lower angle
forest near valley floor.

After reaching the end of the snow and a brief walk we found our van
waiting patiently for us and we hurried off to our next destination...

Within 10 minutes we back at the Tipi-bar where the day had begun.  We
ordered a round of "hot-shots" and beers.  It was 4:20pm.  It was "Dr
geilsti tag vor saison"

You can check out my friend Jonathan's web site to see pictures from the
trip.  See the links under "Swiss pics" for "Petite Combine" and
"Wildhorn".  There are some good ones.  The photo
that is marked with the route we took on the Wildhorn was taken from one of
lifts at the Lenk ski area, where we skied nearly every weekend this
winter.  Enjoy!


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