“I’m keen to come, but I have to be back in Niseko early afternoon,” said one potential group member. “I’m keen too,” said another, “but I can’t get to the trailhead till after 9am.” And so started the putting together of a hasty blat up Weisshorn, which on paper should only take us 4 hours. With most in the group with other plans for the day, it was not going to be a case of smelling the roses. Efficiency was the key.
In the end, we got away from the end of the snow-clearing at around 8:45am, under a dull blanket of cloud.
It was early January 2020 – the year that people will talk about as that winter season that took forever to get going. Still, everything is relative – we started skinning right from the car, we were surrounded by lovely white fresh snow, and the surface conditions were light and fluffy. By the time we’d chatted and skinned right past our turn-off point, it was time to get our bearings and find the right ridge we were supposed to be on.
Once we were on the ridge to the right of the deep gully between it and the ski area, it was easy going, weaving up through the trees. It felt unseasonably warm. We were quite quickly shedding layers.
And it was bushy. We weren’t surprised to see this, as we’d bashed around through the bush on other trips this season too. But still, we’d have liked to have seen an extra 2m or so of base.
While the approach skin along the road added somewhat of a flat start to the trip, once on the ridge proper it didn’t feel like it took too long to get beyond the treeline. It was blowing a cold breeze, so we tried to keep to the lee of it, on the right side of the ridge, as much as possible.
Still, by the time we’d got to about 850m, the wind was blowing a gale. Where we’d had patchy skies previously, the clouds rolled in, and we found ourselves questioning whether it was wise to push on. The snow conditions were deteriorating quickly too the higher we went.
And everyone had a busy day ahead of them.
We all agreed to traverse around to the old derelict top cable station at around 900m, and assess our options. By the time we got there, the weather only seemed to be getting worse, so we made the call to rip skins and head on down.
Of course, as soon as we were all ready to descend, the skies cleared up. Sigh. We made the descent anyway, quickly blatting down the cat ski slope – there appeared to be nothing operating today.
Arguably Alistair had the most appropriate skis for the day’s snow conditions – a thin layer of wind-affected snow had us on less hefty planks struggling to ski with style…or so we said, wanting to blame the tools, rather than a clear gap in our skills compared to Alistair!
The return along the flat access road was average at best. It certainly wasn’t downhill enough to ski, and on more than one occasion I considered putting the skins back on. I think next time I probably would.
I arrived back at the car with more than a little regret that we’d not got to the top, or had the chance to lap a few of the upper slopes.
One more peak to add to the list of ‘next time’.