copyright 1994,1995 Wesley Alan Wright
|Au Col de Roche Noire|
|Base||1276m (4185')||Summit||Approximately 2200m (7216')|
|Skied Vertical||Approximately 924m (3030')|
My first experience with the randonnée tradition of alpine skiing. The idea is that you fit a somewhat shorter, wider alpine ski with a special rigid plate-like binding that has a hinge at the toe and and a releasable lock at the heel end. Use a regular alpine boot or a somewhat lighter, more flexible alpine touring boot, throw on some climbing skins, and away you go. Slither up to the top, then lock down the heel and cruise to the bottom. Or so they say.
Our trail began in the small village of La Rivière d'Allemont along a relatively flat road, around a corner, and over a couple of streams to a steep and narrow valley.
Trouble began early. I was using my old reliable Lange Tii Team boots and an old pair of Gilles skis. Lange did not build these babies for this sport: a heavier and stiffer boot is hard to find. Feet began to scream, and we had only just begun to climb.
And climb we did. Sometimes steep, sometimes icy. Sometimes cold and shadowy, sometimes hot and sunny. But always harder than I expected. First Gilles and then a large party of others raced passed me as I struggled along panting.
This continued for maybe three hours. At last, we hit a bit of a saddle, some sun, less wind, and a respectable view (there were many good views, but this was more of a forced march than a scenic drive, so I didn't appreciate many of them). We ate and decided what to do next. Gilles was all for more climbing, but I had to concede exhaustion. Besides, we still had to ski back down what we had just gone up, and my instruments indicated that was at least 2500' of vertical through untracked snow.
So we adjusted our equipment for downhill mode and away I went straight into a face plant.
I was aware before we started that one of my bindings wasn't quite right, but I wasn't aware just how wrong it was. The release setting was stuck on DIN 3, and application of screwdrivers to adjust this setting proved futile. I could easily pull my foot out while standing still -- when in motion, the slightest aggressive move resulted in a release and a tumble.
After a dozen or so such incidents, I was swearing at the damn Frenchman, who by this time was too far down the hill to hear my cussing.
Nonetheless, the snow was magnificent. Six to eight inches of firm but untracked powder-like snow on a stiff but resilient base. Managed to get in many fine turns between tumbles, but I sure wish I had my trusty Völkls under me. Made for a rather exhaustive run, so I am glad we stopped climbing when we did.
When we finally returned to the car, there was an irate drunk old man complaining about all the cars parked on his road. When I didn't move mine for him fast enough (hard to drive with those Langes on), he grabbed me by the shirt and wanted to start a fight. We managed to settle him down without incident, but two Frenchmen trying to kill me in one day was two too much.
Blisters on my feet the size of one franc pieces, a dehydration headache, cold, wet, and happy.
The big question is dare I dump more money into this sport? Not this year, but soon...
Back to Day 02 Alpe D'Huez, or on to
Day 04 Watched skiing on TV (Tommy Moe wins Gold)
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Wesley Alan Wright
Last update November 15, 1995