Wednesday, March 23, 2022

The Haute Route revisited.


The Matterhorn seen from the Col Vallpelline.

Eighteen years ago was when Stephen Yeates, John Donner and Mike Woolford completed the Haute Route with me.  Needless to say a lot has happened between then and now.

Mike was never coming back, having retired from hut to hut touring.  That left John and Stephen.  Then on the morning we were due to leave John tested positive for Covid.  Only Stephen was left.

The other complication was that the weather had been very hot and cloudy.  This meant that there was no overnight freeze and the avalanche risk had shot up. No matter which way you looked at it, I could not justify setting off.  I had to make the big call and break the bad news.  I then had to work out how we might re jig our plans.

It just so happened that my daughter Andrea was home for a few days and so I asked her is she wanted to join us.  Andrea is a Chamonix ski instructor and has been mountaineering since she was a baby, the added  safety back up of having her along could not be underestimated.

Andrea excitedly packed her stuff.

The forecast for the next few days was good and there was now a hard freeze every morning making eveything much safer.  Due to multiple challenges, [avalanche risk, covid and not least lack of  reservations in the huts,] we elected to join the Haute Route in the beautiful village of Arolla.

Firstly we used the drag lift to "catapult" us on our way, then we skinned up to the Pas Chèvre before descending the ladders.  We then skinned across the glacier and climbed upto the Dix Hut.  It has a good mellow vibe these days, the guardian is very layed back and the food, beer and wine are very good.

The next morning we left at about 7.30hrs.  Firstly we had to endure some pretty horrible skiing on boiler plate hard steep snow inorder to get us back down onto the glacier.  The weather was beautiful, yet there was a bitter wind blowing and I lost the feeling in my fingers.  

We climbed gradually up into the sun shine and stopped for something to eat and drink.  The next challnage is the Col du Serpentine. Sometimes it is possible to skin all the way to the top of it, but this year it needed to be "boot packed."

The track was in good condition and we quickly negociated the col before making the gentle rise to the summit of the Pigne d'Arolla.

Stephen approaching the summit of the Pigne d'Arolla.

It was then a ski down towards the Cabane Vignettes

It never fails to impress the first time you see the Cabane: You need to look  at the photo below  closely to see the Cabane.

The final ski into the Cabane is tricky, but having good skiers with me made it relitvely straight forward.

Again, a new Guardian at the Cabane.  She had only been there a week.  Mind you the Rosti was as good as ever.  Andrea claimed it was the best meal of her life!

The following morning we a woke at 5.30, Breakfast was at 6.00 and we were away soon after.  It was windy and cold .  We needed crampons on to leave the Cabane.

Stephen&Andrea set of from the Vignettes with the Pigne d'Arolla  in the background.

Only after 5 minutes of skiing there is an intimidating traverse where as a Guide, you absolutely need good skiers with you.  This then leads down onto a flat section which leads up to the Col Eveque in about 2hours. Again it was very cold.  We battled our way across the glacier fighting a strong cold wind, which was  tiring.

We arrived at the top of the col Eveque and stepped into Italy and some welcome sun shine.  We skied down for about 15 minutes[back into Switzerland] on some half decent snow, before stopping again to put our skins on for the approach to the penultimate col , the col Mt Brule.

Again this col needed to be negociated on foot carrying the skis and wearing crampons.  It was straight forward with a line of steps up it.

A 5 minute ski was again followed by the long climb to the summit of the Col Vallpeline.

Andrea&Stephen heading towards col Vallpelline

The final climb had been trashed by the wind revealing lots of bare ice
Andrea coming up to the col.

Then finally you get to see the view

Stephen&Andrea with the Applestrudelhorn in background

All that remained was to ski the huge Stockle glacier , then ski under the north face of the Matterhorn before eventually picking up the piste at Staffel and then skiing into Zermatt. Always  big final day. Yet is still one of the most rewarding.

1 comment:

Adman313 said...

Incredible! Thanks so much for sharing your journey, as intended the photos are a beautiful compliment to your words.