Sunday, April 24, 2011

The Haute Route Chamonix to Zermatt

I have just completed the High Level Route in near perfect conditions where for the first four days we didn't see a cloud, the snow was very stable and the crevasses were well filled in.

I was joined by 4 good fit skiers who however had no previous ski touring experience.
Rob Faure Walker,Becca Ratcliffe, Charlie Clarke and Alex Mcmullen. We had a day together doing some initial training on Les Grands Montets.

The next day we had a leisurely start and headed up to the Argentiere Hut for our first night and gain some valuable acclimatisation and rest before what was to be a very big day.

We awoke at 4.15 am and had a pre dawn start with some pretty testing icy skiing in the dark. Our plan was to pass via the col du Passon as this is now locally considered a better option than the traditional col du Chardonnet due to the stone fall and terrible bottle neck problems which are encountered. This proved to be a good move because we did not see a sole all day and then enjoyed a memorable descent of the val d'arpette followed by 10 mins walk to our awaiting taxi which whipped us over to Le Chable so we could get the cable car to the Mt Fort Hut.

Unfortunately Becca starting suffering from very bad "shin splints" and was in considerable pain and seriously considered bailing.

We looked at the options and decided to fill her up with pain killers and go for it.
Another stunning traverse and we arrived at the Prafleuri Hut where we plonked Becca in a deck chair and proceeded to ice her shins while we sat around in the sun drinking beer.

The traverse to the Dix Hut was a mixture of some good snow , some passages across mud and grass and we even explored some old ruins that had been uncovered by the draining of the lake.

From the Dix hut we traversed the Pigne d'Arolla [3790 meters] in very easy conditions despite quite a cool wind. We arrived at the Vignettes Hut early at around 11.00am and set our self up for the afternoon by eating an emormous dustbin lid sized rosti.

I set the alarm for 4.15am I got up heard the wind then looked out of the window and then went back to bed. We were going no where the weather was horrible. We all then had a council of war and looked at the options. We decided to sit it out taking the gamble that the weather would be better on the Sunday. Several games of Monopoly later [Of which I was the moral victor] and we were up at 4.30am. We were greeted with good weather and we were on our way by 5.30am.

The extra days rest served us well because Becca's shins were much better and we were now all super acclimatised and we flew. We hit the final col du Valepline at 10.00am.
All that remained was to ski down towards Zermatt where it is hard to imagine a better back drop than skiing under the north face of the Matterhorn on pretty good spring snow.
The snow eventually ran out so we had to walk - but who cares we had made it.

1 comment:

Phreerunner said...

Sounds great, Mark - it reminds me of some of John Howarth's tales, but I don't think he enjoyed that level of success!
I'm booked on a version of the route in August - I doubt I'll get such good weather!