Summer in the Mountains

Posted in Uncategorized on July 11, 2008 by suooze

Chris walking to the hut

Chris walking to the hut





After a wet and miserable spring with snow falling in the high mountains till mid June we thought it would be a slow start to the summer season, fortunately we have been blessed with glorious sunshine and warm temperatures for a few weeks now.  Inter-dispersed with a few noisy and spectacular thunderstorms and the odd frontal system we are enjoying perfect climbing conditions.


So far we have had guests successfully traverse the Domes du Miage, ascend the Gran Paradiso in Italy, do a number of training days on the glaciers around the Chamonix Valley learning those essential mountaineering techniques.  Our programme gets busier towards the end of July with Mont Blanc ascents, Eiger climbs, an assault on the 4000m peaks around Zermatt and our first Matterhorn climbs of the summer.


On Sunday our first trekking tour began, the Classic Haute Route Trek from Chamonix to Zermatt.  I joined our team of 6 on their walk to the Albert 1er Hut above Le Tour, with Andy Perkins as their intrepid guide.  With a slightly inauspicious start sitting out a passage of violent thunderstorm activity in the minibus we relocated to the café for a coffee and as the weather improved everyone made the final adjustments to their rucksacks before we headed up the lift to the Tete de Balme.  Our walk to the hut began with a gentle stroll through the flower meadows, traversing the slopes towards the Le Tour glacier.  Rounding the corner on the Bec du Picheau you get the most amazing view of the Le tour Glacier and its huge waterfalls and seracs, a magnificent site even in the hazy sunshine between the rain showers.


Crossing onto the moraine wall of the glacier we ascended straight up to the hut at 2700m crossing some snow patches and bracing ourselves against the increasing wind and rain, the hut was a welcome site and shelter from the weather.  As the guests settled into their rooms and headed to the dining area for lunch, I had the inauspicious task of walking back down to the bottom again to collect the minibus and dry out before the beckoned on Monday morning! 


Since them the Haute Routers have made it to the Vignette hut, ascended the Pigne de Arolla and headed to a cosy pension in Arolla for a much deserved night in a comfy bed and a hot shower, they are due into Zermatt over the weekend, a report and pictures to follow on their return.


We still have some spaces on our Mont Blanc Climber from the 9th – 16th August our Haute Route Treks from the 2nd – 11th August and the 30th August – 8th September.  Or join us for a wonderful trek around the Bernese Oberland from the 9th – 16th August or a quick weekend of alpine mountaineering on our Best of Chamonix Weekend 18th – 21st September. 



The Season Ends on a High Note: Elbrus 2008

Posted in Uncategorized on May 25, 2008 by mattdickinson

Every year in May, Mountain Tracks heads east to Russia and Mount Elbrus the highest mountain in Europe. This Advanced ski tour is a cultural feast and an exciting mountain adventure. Elbrus is one of the worlds ‘7 Summits’.

Mountain Tracks has an enviable success record on Elbrus, and this year was no exception.

The trip of seven members (+Mountain Tracks guide) assembled at the impressive new Terminal 5 at Heathrow. Without delays we boarded a half empty plane and arrived to spend a pleasant evening in Moscow. A Pizza meal was followed by a round of Vodkas at the newly refurbished hotel.

The next day we travel by plane and road to the Ula-Tou area in the Caususes. Here we spent 3 days acclimatising and ski touring. The weather was cold and mixed. One moment the sun was blazing on the snow, the next moment we were wrapping up against heavy snow falls. Also a great range of snow conditions were experienced: Hard pack, crust, spring snow and powder. Each day was 6-7 hours and 1000-1200m of up-hill. We were treated to fine hospitality at the mountain lodge and food which would match the very best from the Alps.

Base camp for Elbrus is called ‘The Barrels’. Thankfully there is not an oil-drum in sight. The accommodation is in large circular cabins, which are very effective in strong winds. The Elbrus region had been raked by wind and snow before we arrived, and very few people had succeeded on the mountain in 2008. In fact at the Barrels the snow depth was 3 meters!

We had two summit days in the itinerary, so a good dose of luck with the weather was necessary for success. At 4am we were disappointed to wake up to strong winds and snow fall, so a frustrating day was spent in the camp. However the next day was glorious, we had been given a chance to summit.

The team moved well, and certainly benefit from the extra day of acclimatisation the previous day had given. The early morning views were nothing short of world-class, the Caucusses are a magnificent range of mountains, worthy of more attention from climbers and skiers.

At 5000m most of the party left their skies, preferring to continue on foot ( with crampons). Although it was possible to ski right to the top, the group chose to go ‘light weight’ for the final section to ensure success.

The effects of altitude, mainly dealing with the thin air, really kick in above 5000m and all members of the group found the last 500m slow an tiring. However the reward, to stand on the highest mountain in Europe is certainly worth the preparation and effort.

Thanks to the ‘team’ for the enthusiasm and effort.

Also to our excellent Russian guide, Igor.

For details on our 2009 trip click on

The \'Barrels refuge\' under 3m of snow6am on Elbrus summit day. Amazing early morning cloud touring at its very bestTop of the world. (well, Europe at least...)5600m - 2000m.. Thats a 3600m descent!

Arizona training weekend!

Posted in Uncategorized on April 9, 2008 by mtracks

Last weekend we took advantage of some cheap flights to leave the city and the winter behind and head to the heat of the Arizona desert for our first “Haute Route Trek” training weekend. We were joined by our friends Gaby and Robin. With (still) 13 weeks to go until the HR we took things nice and easy with a 4 hour trek along the Peralta Trail to Weaver’s Needle. April is a great time to go to Arizona – with temperatures in the mid-80s fahrenheit (about 30 degrees celsius) and the desert landscape was full of vibrant colours.

Zinal 2008: Five go Free Riding

Posted in Uncategorized on March 31, 2008 by mtracks

The 27th of March Me, Dad and Tara left Chamonix for a simple two hour drive up the Rhone valley and then the Valle d’Anniviers for a weekend of off piste skiing in the Swiss Alps. My sister, Tara (14) is an awesome telemarker, using her first ever fat skis “BumTribe’s” she just cruises everywhere she goes. Me, I’m Archie (16) and for this trip I’m on the Salomon X-Wing furys, I love speed and these planks look like they should fly. Dad, well he’s a bit old school but he can put on a good show and well I have to admit his skis are the fattest of all of ours!

We arrived at our friends Eric and Penny Kendall’s home, well right now there’s not much more than the four walls standing as they are renovating it to a deluxe 8-10 bed chalet, its going to be fantastic. For more info take a look at Their chalet is situated in a small hamlet called Mottec at 1560 m. Just above Mottec is the ski village called Zinal situated at 1670 m which is well known for its glorious off piste and free ride area. Penny is a great cook and within no time we’re tucking into bangers and mash, not exactly a well known Swiss recipe but it sure hit the spot with us.

The next morning dawned bright and clear, at breakfast (porridge and fruit) you could cut the anticipation with the bread knife. In the Val d’Anniviers you have the choice of five resorts, Chandolin, St Luc, Vercorin, Grimentz and Zinal. We chose to start at the end of the alphabet for our first powder day. At 8.45 the 5 minute ‘free’ bus ride deposited us next to the Zinal telecabine were we could see the lift slowly ascending through a white cloak of wispy but quickly disappearing cloud. At the top there was so much snow, it was unbelievable. Minutes later we are looking into the ‘free ride zone’, its untracked, wow, now we knew we were in paradise.

Penny is a professional photographer and Eric is a Journalist and together they make a really good team, this is their first winter in the valley, really lucky for us to have some local gen. Dad had only been to Zinal once before but seems to have a powder sensitive nose, he just sniffs it out wherever he goes, must be some trick they teach you at Mountain Guide school. From the word go it appeared that this trip was going to be a good opportunity to enjoy ourselves, take photo’s and find some wonderful skiing.

Much to the relief of Tara there was no need for skinning because the lifts took us everywhere we wanted to go and with the bonus of not having to queue. We spent the morning putting in fresh tracks and Penny took some really good photos. There were some fun cliff jumps, but one was quite rocky and I nailed my ski’s. After skiing the free ride area we began to be aware that the snow was gradually getting baked so we decided to descend to Grimentz via an awesome route by the Moiry Dam, a massive wall of icy concrete. The descent was brilliant because there was no one else there and therefore we had acres of untracked powder to play with. The highlight of skiing next to the dam was that a lot of snow had been plastered onto the concrete face and this gave us, especially Dad the opportunity to ski up the wall, it looked pretty cool! Arriving in Grimentz we had a picnic which filled us up with the energy we had lost in the long ski. Then we hopped onto a bus which carried us five minutes up the road to Mottec and the chalet. That night we enjoyed another splendid meal whilst viewing the pictures that Penny had taken of us that day.We were looking forward to another memorable day of skiing.

On Saturday we woke around the same time, feeling slightly more tired. The five ski areas all work on the same pass, however they are not joined by any lifts, only by a free ski bus. There is a piste between Zinal and Grimentz called the Chamois. However, it was the only piste not open, this did not deter us, in fact it meant that we had the whole of this incredible terrain to ourselves. 1300m of untracked powder. The start of the run began with a great, steep descent into a lovely couloir, we took it in turns to go down with Dad below taking pictures, he’s a wanna be photographer…! the couloir was great and it increased everyones confidence. Once we had finished the couloir Dad and I pelted it down the slope towards the flatter area. “We were in sync flying down the mountain, and then out of nowhere loomed a wind scoop, shaped perfectly for the best suicidal jump. Dad hit it first and with the elegance of a flying HIPPO he flipped through the air in slow motion, CRASH, he was rolling through the snow like an Abominal Snow man out of control.” The Chamois was great with its steep couloirs, its beautiful smooth rolling off piste and of course its perfect jumps, its a shame Dad could not land them. We reached Grimentz after traversing the mountain side along a small bumpy and icy track through beautiful forest.

Quick stop at the Coop for our picnic ingredients and on up the Grimentz lift system to the Panorama view point at 2850m. Incredible views of many 4000m peaks of the Peninne Alps including the Matterhorn. For a descent we choose the north facing slopes off the back of the mountain, another completely wild off-piste run, just us, powder, well a little crust and a few chamois. Lunch is munched in the sun by an ancient summer cowshed. The snow became more and more ‘interesting’ as we descended further but miraculously it lasted (just) until we reached the village of St Jean. Must have been a tough assignment as Dad fell asleep (power nap apparently) on the bus ride back to Mottec.!

To find out how you can feature in your own off piste adventure click on

Spring has sprung – not quite so fast….

Posted in Uncategorized on March 9, 2008 by suooze

Tim holding his groundCrevasse rescue practise!Peter enjoying his descentThe ski downViews of the CourtesChristian with the route up to the Col Tour Noir behind himMichelle put’s her skins on for the start of the climbOver the last few weeks Mountain Tracks have been out and about enjoying the sunny weather across the Alps.  It felt like spring had arrived for the last couple of weeks with endless day of sunny weather, not a cloud in the sky and rising temperatures.  The snow was faring ok in the higher areas and the guides have been working hard to find good snow off piste to keep everyone happy. 

Last week saw a return to winter weather and a really cold blast of air from the North East and a small fall of snow across most of the northern Alps.  Some welcome powder snow was enjoyed by all, in Chamonix in the early part of last week.  Nick moved his Gressoney Off Piste Advanced course to Chamonix so they could enjoy the better conditions around the Mont Blanc region.  They had a great final few days skiing on the Vallee Blanche, Grands Montets and doing some ski touring. 

On Thursday our Ski Touring Skills course guests arrive at the Hotel Regina in St. Gervais, ready to learn and brush up on all you need to know to become an avid ski tourer.  Friday saw them, under the guidance of mountain guide Christian Tromsdorff, ski the Vallee Blanche via the Grands Envers route practising some crampon and ice axe techniques.  Saturday was an early start to the Grands Montets for a big ski tour up towards the Col Tour Noir.  Rising above the cloud layer we were greeted to beautiful sunshine and we set off towards the Argentiere Glacier.  It was skins on and the start of a 3 hr tour up the Glacier des Amethystes towards the col. The group had plenty of time to master the kick turn on the way up, as well as taking in the stunning views of the surrounding peaks.   

The ski down was excellent with soft creamy snow and fresh tracks most of the way down.  The hard slog of the climb had been worth it for the descent!  On the lower slopes we all stopped to discuss and practise some crevasse rescue techniques, Christian showed the group a number of useful knots and methods of travelling safely in glaciated terrain.  We did a few simulations of someone falling down a crevasse and how you would get them out, which everyone found useful and informative.  We then skied back to the bottom of the Grands Montets after a long day for a well deserved beer in the bar. 

As Britain prepare to be hit by yet another winter storm, we too are looking forward to a week of abundant snow fall according to the French weather man.  Hopeful this will bring an over due dump of snow to us and our guests who have arrived in different resorts this weekend will be able to enjoy perfect conditions.  We have the last of out Off Piste Performance courses in Ste. Foy, Nick will be guiding a group in Chamonix and we have an advanced course in Andermatt in Switzerland.   

Next week sees the start of the ski touring season with the first of our Haute Route tours getting underway.  Annie Donovan and Bryan Hogg are leading our Portes du Soleil Tour and Julie-Ann Clyma will be off round the Western Oberland High Level Route with a group. 

We still have spaces on some of our later season ski tours such as the Berner Oberland Tour in April, Silveretta Alps and late season Haute Route in May.  If it’s downhill only you want then come and join us in Zermatt for a week of intermediate off piste skiing, get those last turns of the season in before it really does become spring!!!  

Mountain Tracks on the Eigerwand!

Posted in Uncategorized on February 21, 2008 by mattdickinson


There really has been some excellent ski conditions this year. And coupled with good weather, this has meant that MTX groups have been skiing great snow amongst the highest Alpine Peaks.However mid season I have taken a little time off from guiding to complete a long term ambition: To climb the Eiger North Face in winter.

I enlisted the help of fellow guide and all round ‘mountain sportsman’ John Bracy.

We summited with one bivouac on the ‘brittle ledges’. The face was cold and icy, but generally in good condition. It was a very satisfying climb, especially visiting all the famous places on the face… Difficult Crack, Second Ice Field, Flat Iron, Ramp, Spider etc.

Recently, Joe Simpson (Touching the Void) has released a film about the North Face called ‘The Beckoning Silence’. If you haven’t already seen it, I highly recommend it.

I hope to enjoy these photographs of this magnificent peak. Those doing the Oberland tour with me in April will pass right beneath the face.

Matt Dickinson




Off Piste Advanced group in Chamonix

Posted in Uncategorized on February 8, 2008 by suooze

Nick looking relaxed!Dudley and the group enjoying a well earned rest stopNick Steel.melissa putting in some great turns!Olly leading the way.

Yesterday our Off Piste Advanced group here in Chamonix enjoyed 2 fantastic runs on the Vallee Blanche. After snow on Wednesday it dawned cold and clear on Thursday morning and Olly had planned a trip to the Aiguille du Midi for the day.

After a cold and windy descent of the arête we set off down the Enver du Plan route on the glacier, the snow was perfect and we enjoyed the first two steeper pitches in deep and light powder. With Olly’s skill and knowledge we wove our way around the crevasses and seracs in search of untracked powder and our efforts were rewarded with pitch after pitch of perfect powder snow (see the pictures above).

Arriving at Montenvers perfectly timed to catch the train back down to Chamonix, we stopped for a quick lunch before heading back to the Midi lift station for a second time. Exiting the cable car at 2.45 we set off down the ridge for a second time in the biting wind. This time we were the only ones on it, making the walk down much quicker and easier. Setting off across the glacier towards the Rognan we enjoyed the splendid views up to Mont Blanc the Grand Capucin, Dent du Geant and the Grand Jorasses in the afternoon light. The snow down next to the Rognan was great, soft creamy powder and everyone enjoyed their ski, all be it on tiered legs.

This time we had to make the hike up to the buvette as we were too late for the last lift up to the train station. After a short slide of the glacier and a 15min walk to the track down to Chamonix, everyone enjoyed a quick drink and some chocolate. We then set off down the infamous track to Chamonix in the fading afternoon light, as the sun dipped behind the mountains we negotiated the now ‘interesting’ bermed corners and rocky patches on the path. Arriving at the bottom of the Planards slope just as the last rays of pick glow on the Aiguilles of Chamonix faded into the night sky. Tom from Chalet Lounge was ready to take everyone back to the chalet for a cup of tea and hot bath before dinner and well deserved beer!

Today everyone is off for a ski tour over the back of the Flegere ski area and down into the Berrard Valley to finish at Le Buet. They should have a great day with the sun shining again and the fantastic snow conditions.

If you fancy some of this, we still have places left on our Advanced off-piste course in Chamonix starting on 29th March. For more information click on Advanced Adventure Chamonix 29 March-5 April