Friday, April 29, 2022

This was not what was planned.

Sunrise looking up the Aletsch glacier.

 The plan had been made months ago.  James ,Adam and I were going to ski the Western Bernese Haute Route.  Yet the weather did not know the plan and convened to wreck it even before we started.

I picked James and Adam up at their hotel in Aigle and then we drove to Col Pillions, Glacier 3000 cable car.  The resort was shut due to high wind and poor visibility.  We needed an alternative plan.  We then drove back to Aigle, then onto Martigny and finally to the car park at the old Super Gd St Bernard ski lift.

Neither Adam nor James had ever visited the Hospice and so this turned out to be an excellent option.  We skinned up road in a relaxed two hours.  The weather was no where as bad as it had been in the morning.

It snowed overnight and the avalanche risk went up.  The next morning the weather was indifferent.  The combination of a high avalanche risk  and not being able to see makes route choice particuarly difficult.

We decided to venture out on a short tour and headed up to the col Barrasson which marks the border between Italy and Switzerland.

The border stone.

We were rewarded for our efforts with fine snow on our descent, yet not much of a view.

The next day proved to be a memorable day. Even before we set off I was outside the Hospice where I found a credit card in the snow.  It was Jame's card.  We set off in good weather and lots of cold fresh snow.  Our goal for the day was Mt Fourchon.  The conditions were so good that we virtually skinned to the summit, as opposed to the previous ascents this winter that had involved some basic rock climbing.

Adam arriving at the summit of Mt Fourchon.

It was while sitting on the summit eating our Hospice prepared picnics that an extrordinary thing happened: The only other group were Anglo- Scottish and led by a very personable Italian Guide called Paulo.  We all congregated on the summit where we tucked into our lunches.  A conversation struck up and it transpired that one of their group had shared a house with Adam while they were medical students.  This was the first time they had met in 40 years .

We then skied down untracked snow, which was good at the top and not quite so good  at the bottom. [yet still good] 

We then made our way back up the "Italian Job opening scene road"

and back to the Hospice.

From there we skied down the road on some very sticky snow which I was glad to be finished with by the time we arrived back at the car.

Next we drove to Martigny where we did some repacking/ redressing in preperation for the next part of our trip.

Back in the car, we drove to Brig in about an hour..  In Brig we parked  and got a train to Grindlewald.  But not before James lost his credit card for the second time that day.  It was while waiting for the train that the women who sold the tickets came to reunite it with him on the platform of Brig station. Adam and I looked on incredulous.

We arrived in a very wet Grindlewald at about 6.30pm, checked into our hotel and enjoyed an excellent meal and a good bottle of swiss red.

Our plan was to go to the top of the Jungfraujoch and stay at the Monchjoch Hutte.  The next day we were going to ski down the Aletsch glacier. In the morning the weather was uninspiring it was raining hard.  

The one thing we did have in our favour was that the forecast for the next day had been consistently positive for nearly a week.  

We took the new cable car which apparently passes right in front of the North Face of the Eiger and disgorges you in an ultra modern lift station at the Eigergletscher station.  From here you take the train up through the Eiger as before.

What had been heavy rain in Grindlewald was fresh snow up at the "Top of Europe."  [Thats what the Swiss knowingly misleadingly call the station.]

Gradually it began to clear as we made the 45 miunte approach to the Monchjoch Hutte.

At the Monchjoch.


So far so good.  Adam was about to enjoy his first night in a mountain hut.   Sadly he did not get to experience the Swiss incarnation of Gollum the legendary most miserable obnoxious hut keeper you could wish to meet because he had been replaced by some entirely normal pleasant people who were now running the Hutte.

Sure enough the next day dawned perfect.  This was to be an extrordinary day in terms of the journey and the scenery.

We left the hut at about 6.00hrs.  We started by skiing back the way we had come the previous afternoon, before turning left and heading down the Aletsch glacier.  There is nothing particularly difficult about the descent other than keeping to a crevasse free line.  What is incredible is the scenary and the sense of wilderness, combined with the sun rise.  We were to see no one the entire descent.

What was also good was that lower down at the Konkordia Platz, where the glacier is almost flat the snow had consolidated which allowed us to pole and skate, instead of wading through fresh snow.  We passed under the Konkordia Hutte and continued on down the glacier.  The last time I had come down was on foot with lots of crevasses to maze my way through. That was last  September where it had taken  six hours.  Today on skis it took about 30miutes.

We exited from the glacier by skiing some of silky spring snow, after which we put our skins on and climbed towards the unique tunnel which puts you into the Fiesch lift system.

tunnel entrance 

I mistakenly told the boys not to bother with head torches.

On exiting the tunnel it took us about an  hour  to reach the cable car in Fiescheralp. Although it was open[I did check beforehand!] we had to wait an hour or so becuase it was working on a late season limited capacity. From there it was a bus from Fiesch back to the car in Brig.  

The trip had been as good away as any to sign off the season.

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