Meet My New Most Favourite Place Ever; Beaufort
The days may be getting longer but we are also getting fitter. What does that mean for backcountry skiing: multiple summits and crazy vertical days after days until we drop! It also means exploring areas we have only imagined in our dreams. Fortunately, the place we call home this season is a pretty amazing valley in the French Alps; Le Beaufortain.
For many people the valley is synonymous with amazing cheese, as this is the place where the delicious Beaufortain is made. For others, this is a place to vacation with the family at one of several ski resorts in the valley (Les Saisies, Areches,…). For us, it’s the place where one of the most prestigious races in Europe has been held over the last 28 years. When we first entered the Pierra Menta, the ski alpinism Tour de France, back in 2010, we covered a large amount of terrain. We had just enough breath and energy in us at the end to realize what amazing terrain had just been introduced to us. We all had one idea in mind and it was to come back as backcountry recreationists and explore all the goodness this area has to offer.
Well, 3 years later, we are lucky enough to be calling this beautiful landscape our backyard and training ground. We have been getting to know these amazing peaks, cols, couloirs one by one, day after day, and are loving it! Being friends with someone who has grown up in the valley and who is pretty much a Ski Encyclopedia may have something to do with our success getting the goods.
Now about the Pierra Menta. The race has been named after a really neat rocky landmark at the end of the valley. The legend says that a giant tripped while crossing the mountains and when he stood up, he was so upset that he kicked a rock, which flew over 200 kms and landed in Beaufort. To us, this beautiful landmark is a symbol of peace and solitude in the mountains as its presence seems very familiar and comforting. Days after days while skiing summits surrounding the legendary rock, I had just one idea in mind; Could we get so close that we would ski right next to the natural sculpture? And the answer was yes! After speaking with our Beaufortain friend, he planned for us a 2400m route (and countless amount of kilometers) to climb 4 summits and 3 cols all around the prestigious stone!
The days started at 9 am, with sunshine and blue skies embracing the countless snowy peaks. By 10:30, we were at the summit of Mt Rosset and this is when we first saw it… the PM! By 11:15 we were at the summit of the second peak: Rocher de St-Laurent, then by noon we were at the Roche de la Charbonniere. A long enjoyable descent later, we reached a plateau at the toe of the Pierra Menta. Each one of us climbed on our own, enjoying the moment of stepping alongside the impressive landmark. At the top, we sunk it the moment and proceeded to carve some delicate turns down its North Shoulder. The tour kept on going up and down and up and down but in our mind, we had touched the landmark, which was from then on engraved in our mind. We will never look at the end of the valley the same way. Back at the car by 2pm, it was all smiles and laughs with our French friends.
Now training for the Pierra Menta (the race that is), we rest assured that the giant’s stone will keep a protective eye on us during the 4 days of exhausting racing.