|Touring the Alps with Scream Team Guide Geoff Unger|
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This month we check in with Scream Team athlete Geoff Unger, who undoubtedly leads a life filled with far more Screamer Moments than any of us back here at the office. A native of Seattle, Geoff is one of the most well trained and highly certified (IFMGA/UIAGM) mountain guides in the country. He’s a vital part of the Scream Team who has helped test our hats in some of the most extreme, and picturesque, places in the world. We caught up with Geoff after leading yet another ski tour through the Alps, this time bringing along his own father for a remarkable journey beginning in Chamonix and culminating in Zermatt.
I was particularly excited about this trip as my father was along for the journey. I’ll never grow tired of this magnificent scenery, but there’s something extra special about sharing it with others, particularly your own family.
To get the trip rolling and get some acclimatization under way we took the tram (cable car) up from Chamonix to Aiguille du Midi (literal translation “needle in the middle”). It was me, my dad and three friends. That ride is a nice way to get over the jet lag for those who have recently flown in and it makes the first day of the trip just a bit easier. We then skied the famous Vallée Blanche, an off-piste ski route, 20km long with a vertical drop of 2700m. As you might expect, the views are stunning, so much so that words could never do them justice…you really have to see it. Call me…I’ll show you the way!
Day 2 began with another lift and the real start of our tour, including a good 3000 feet of climbing to the mountain lodge where we’d spend the night. For perspective, this is far from a mountain top shack. It’s an impressive building that can sleep over 100 people.
The next day is gentler. You ski down, making your way to the next valley where you end up at Verbier. From its sunny plateau, Verbier offers its own amazing views. In the shadow of Mont Blanc and the Grand Combin, it is located at the heart of one of the biggest ski areas in the Alps: Les 4 Vallées. We stayed in a mountain refuge for a couple of nights, enjoying both piste and off piste skiing by day.
From there we continued the tour over rolling terrain, skiing down, then skinning up to the beautiful summit of Rosa Blanche. The ski down from there, though actually on a glacier, is some of the best powder you may ever experience. We spent the night at Cabane de Prafleuri, an isolated cabin in the heart of the Alps.
The next day was a very physical one of ski touring that included some traversing to Lac des Dix (legend has - named after 10 bandits, who had a mountain hideout, they would come down to loot the town then climb back to their hide out ) then ended with a stay at Cabane des Dix, unexpectedly for two nights because of challenging weather. No rest for the weary – we used the delay to practice ‘White Out Navigation’ and ‘Crevasse Rescue and Beacon Search’, which the group seemed to enjoy. You hope never to need such expertise, but you’ll be glad you practiced if you ever do.
The next day was a climb nearly 3000 feet up to Pigne De Arollo - the highest point of our trip, with the Matterhorn looming in the background. From there you ski right off the summit and shortly arrive at the Cabane des Vignettes, with breathtaking views of both the Valley of Arolla and the Matterhorn. This perched rock edge is something you’ll not soon forget. That night we enjoyed the Swiss specialties of Rösti (consisting mainly of potatoes) and Croute Au Fromage (bread, soaked in white wine and baked covered with bacon and cheese). No one was disappointed.
The hearty meal was a great precursor to the final day that included touring up and skiing down, past three cols, including one with your skis on your back, ascending with ice axes and crampons. As you come out over the last col you’re right beside the Matterhorn, an absolutely inspiring view. We then skied directly under the North face of the Matterhorn and into Zermatt.
The last of our ten days was in Zermatt, during which we skied to Italy for lunch of wine and speck. I was sorry to see the tour with my father have to come to an end, but as they say, all good things must do so. I’m glad to have been able to share this part of my world and life with him…and I extend the same invitation to all you fans of Screamer to grab your hat, give me a call and I’ll guide you through a journey you’ll never forget.
Thanks to Screamer for being part of all of my adventures!