Haute route Chamonix – Zermatt
At the end of March we have skied the renowned haute route Chamonix – Zermatt. First timer for me and a great exercise in my planning and guiding skills. Although the snow wasn’t superb (but also not bad!) it was a great week and we were definitely lucky with the weather.
We followed the so-called ‘skier’s variant’ of the haute route:
Day 1: To the refuge d’Argentiere
A day of acclimatizing and refreshing avalanche and crevasse rescue skills. And sitting in the sun in front of some big Chamonix north faces obviously 😉
It’s getting cold..
- Start: Grand Montets 3.275m
- End: Refuge d’argentiere 2.770m
- Climb: 150m
- Ski: 600m
Day 2: Cabane de Trient via Col du Passon
The same group climbed the 50 degrees steep Col du Passon before, and conditions are less icy now, so things go smoothly. Same for the second climb to the col du tour, although it feels like walking through the sahara in the sun.
When the Cabane de Trient and a cold drink are close, all are a bit dissapointed when we have to climb for another 20 mins to reach it 😉 The Cabane, built on a stunning place, is one of our best hut experiences for the whole week: We have the ceiling of the hut for the 5 of us and we sleep pretty well due to the tranquility (no snoring!).
- Start: Refuge d’argentiere: 2.770m
- End: Cabane de Trient 3.170m
- Climb: 1.000m
- Ski: 650m
Day 3: Cabane de Trient – Verbier – Cabane de Montfort
Perfect weather… a beautiful start on a rough glacier with a tricky bit of climbing to the col leads through beautiful Val d’Arpette down to the Swiss valley of Verbier.. Although we really dislike the fact that our route leaves the high mountains -for a few hours- we enjoy sitting in the sun, refill our lungs with O2 and drinking a beer on a terrace in Verbier.
Mark joins us for a couple of days from here and altogether we ski to the Mont-Fort hut, again a beautiful place with the most friendly staff, close to the main ski area of Verbier.
- Start: Cabane de Trient 3.170m
- End: Cabane Mont-Fort 2.475m
- Climb: 200m
- Ski: 2.000m
Day 4: Cabane de Montfort – Cabane des dix
The day that never ends… (but it did!) We wake up at 5 and leave the hut at 6 in the dark. Many hours of skinning ahead of us. We experience cold winds and intense heat at the same day. Most people do this part of the HR from the Cabane de Plafleuri, but it was fully booked, so we had to include this long day in our schedule.
The tricky part definitely is the traverse above the big reservoir lake. With temperatures rising sky-high, we are very much aware of the avalanche risk here on the steeper slopes, so we carefully but fastly traverse – with appropriate distance to each other. After the long, long traverse, we have to gain more height than expected and tired and thirsty we arrive at the small and fully booked Cabane des Dix. Drinking, eating, drying clothes, repacking, claiming a place to sleep, never a dull moment!
- Start: Cabane Mont-Fort 2.475m
- End: Cabane des Dix 2.928m
- Climb: 1.600m
- Ski: 600m
- And more than 23 horizontal km’s..
Day 5: Pigne d’Arolla
On day 5 we climb to the top of a peak I climbed when I started alpine climbing, during a great two-week alpinism youth course 18 yrs ago: Pigne d’Arolla (3.790m)
On some parts, we use our axes and crampons and take the rope out. When we arrive on the top, the view is magnificant, a panorama of the whole western Alps, and we fully enjoy it.
We really enjoy this beautiful day, but with threatening clouds moving in the prospects for tomorrow are bad: big winds and possibly snow during the day. We all decide that it is wise that the girls are skiing together with Mark (who has ski obligations in Austria) to the small village of Arolla, and that Valentijn and myself are staying in the hut to try to finish in Zermatt tomorrow, because it is more safe if we travel fast the next day. In the afternoon, we keep on checking the weather, study maps, do the math and decide to skip breakfast tomorrow (we bought some extra sandwiches instead) and to go early..
- Start: Cabane des Dix 2.928m
- End: Cabane des Vignettes 3.157m
- Climb: 1.000m
- Ski: 750m
Day 6: To Zermatt
The whole night the hut was shaking and squeaking of raging winds outside. At 4AM we get up and at 5AM we walk away from the hut with our headtourches on and skies on our back. We are both quite intimidated by the storm and the total darkness around us. Most groups (all are guided) already decided to go down today and we are the only ones leaving for Zermatt (we suppose). When we fasten our skies and carefully ski down the steep glacier in complete darkness, it feels like a big adventure and I like it!
When we are halfway the big glacier plateau, we see the lights of 3 groups coming down from the hut. This motivates us to keep on going in the storm. We know that there is only one hut in proximity after the first col, so a ‘safe heaven’ just in case weather will get worse. But after the first col, de Col de l’Evêque (3.386m), the wind slows down and the clouds move away… of course we are very glad to see this happening! 🙂
We keep on going, moving fast through this big alpine terrain. The second col, the col du Mont Brule (3.213m) is steep, and when we arrive at the top with our skies on the backpack, we see the third and last col we have to skin up in the distance.
First some nice turns through good snow down, and then we start for the last few hours of skinning to the Col de Val Valpelline (with its 3.568m the highest of the three). Arriving at this col after another 1.5hrs, we see how far we are from the Matterhorn.. pretty close actually! From here, one of the best descents of the trip follows, making turns on massive wild glaciers, passing seracs and big crevasses. Adventure! Don’t wanne get stuck here in bad weather or low visibility btw.
Finally, after 6.5 hrs leaving the hut we reach the first digs of Zermatt. Valentijn and myself are really happy to succesfully finish our trip!
After some beers and omelets we settle in the train from Zermatt to Sion, where we are picked up. Thanks all for this perfect week!