A letter from Valgrisenche

The second opus of the Sentinelle, an event dedicated to free and carefree ski touring, took place last spring on the edge of the commune of Valgrisenche, a branch of the Aosta Valley. As is the custom with our Italian neighbours, it was bright, warm and enjoyable. Bruno Compagnet, co-creator of the event, tells us about this Sentinelle with photos taken by Pascal Tournaire.

Whoever is embroiled in the organisation of an event in open countryside has to have a good sense of humour and adapt to the fluctuations of moods. All the more if the event in question takes place in the springtime in the high mountains with the snow as the principal partner which, as any good magician knows, is reluctant to divulge its conditions several months in advance.
So, when, followed by around thirty skiers along this valley, a neighbour to the Aosta Valley, I found myself making the tracks on a lovely carpet of fresh snow and in bright sunshine, I smiled with relief and enthusiasm. Only the absence of Minna tarnished the picture. Stuck in Chamonix due to antibiotics. What a shame she couldn’t see the outcome of her work in these optimal conditions.

Pascal Tournaire

In everyone’s opinion, this Italian trip will stand out in the annals of our community, and those who were lucky enough to have participated in it were left with the feeling of having experienced something special.
Today, while writing these lines long after having felt the pleasure of the fresh snow and the silence of the glide, I am pleasantly plunged back into the memory of these days when the participants, the place and the conditions were in harmony providing us with an exceptional experience. Living together for several days far from our daily lives, sharing our differences around our passion in common, is where the spirit of La Sentinelle resides and Valgrisenche was going to be the melting pot.

Pascal Tournaire

Bezzi

Nesting deep at the end of the Val Grisenche, is the Bezzi hut where we were to establish our base camp. Having been warmly welcomed by the couple of guardians and their team, we were able to relax in this agreeable place.
Ideally situated at almost 2 300 metres altitude and still partially buried under a thick blanket of snow, it was a harbour of peace and warmth where the conversations continued, at times, long into the night.

Pascal Tournaire

The ritual

The sentinels were aligned, or nearly, the last ones were put in to place accompanied by the humming of a drone piloted by Ensli. Pascal unwrapped his Nikon and Mateffy attacked his long course as cameraman in chief…
The start was given with the heartening prospect of a beautiful day’s skiing. A long flat in the shadow of the impressive north faces to find the rhythm. A first stop to take off a layer of clothing and have a drink. I looked at the finger pointing to the great line that we spotted a few days earlier with Layla.
A first summit in the cold and wind. A fixed rope and a rappel for everybody before attacking the first descent, under the guidance of Fred and Michele. Application and division between the guides and the sentinels.

Pascal Tournaire

Free skiing in the powder

Skins on again… Second climb. We follow the frontier ridge between France and Italy. The view is magnificent. My fascination for mountain skiing arises from the ceaseless contemplation renewed by the changes in these landscapes. Once again the simple and exhilarating pleasure of skiing together in a bowl of powder snow where each can create their own tracks.
The third climb attacked our reserves but nevertheless our group saw only the beauty and promise of fluffy perfection. It was time to rest behind the ultimate ridge. It was in the sun and sheltered from the wind. Facing the cirque which we had cherishingly tracked, together we observed our route and shared the remains of our food. Conversations often turned to the snow and technical aspects. Due to fatigue, this at times slipped into talking utter rubbish.
Then we returned to the hut where Julie, who had joined the adventure at the last minute to fill Minna’s shoes, gave us a smiling welcome and announced that an aperitif awaited us at the bar.

Pascal Tournaire

Blessed days.

The next day and the following one replicated the first with good weather and great snow. So, three days of intensive mountain skiing interspersed by GOOD meals and snow workshops. The slopes facing the hut stayed in perfection condition and, before downing several beers in the sun, a number of us climbed up to share a descent in sight of the cameramen and under the watchful eye of the others.
In the often narrow culture of skiing, hooked on a performance which tears, with a completely elitist commitment and the volatility of the connected or instagrammed world (of which we are also players) we can only wonder of the success and the support membership of the many followers of La Sentinelle. And, without doubt, La Sentinelle reflects this aspiration, for a certain number of us, for those things which are simple and natural.
We thank all our partners for allowing dozens of skiers to share an enriching experience in such an exceptional areas.
Have a good summer and rendezvous next winter.

Bruno and the the La Sentinelle team.

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