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  1. #1
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    Default Chamonix to Zermatt, Classic Haute Route 4-10th Apr 2016

    Had a text from a mate in Cham sometime in September last year saying; You coming over to Cham next year? Doing the Haute Route and Mt Blanc in early April.
    Being probably the two main things I regret never doing living over there my mind started ticking...

    Got pretty pissed the next night, logged in to my Qantas account and booked the flights. I knew the dates and times of the flight but didn't really look at the details till the day before departure and realised just HOW pissed I must have been. 8 hour stopover in Dubai on the way over and back in Sydney at 10.30pm on a Sunday night having to get down the Gong and then back up Sydney for work the next day. Anyhow, anytime I get to go back to Cham I don't really care how I get there, as long as I get there, and there's always beer and whiskey to ease the pain We had decided on the classic version of the HT. Started studying maps, Google earth and putting in waypoints a few weeks before departure and I spose that was the first time I realised that there was a pretty good chance we wouldn't complete the whole route. Lots of things need to align for seven days straight, particular the weather and Hut bookings which were already booked and locked in. Got a bit nervous about some of the aspects of the trip but thought it would all go away as soon as I arrived in town. After the first few nights out for beers in Cham talking to plenty people, few of them guides, realising that many of them had started the HR many times but not that many completing it made it even more interesting Got in to town on the 28th and went straight down to Sanglard to have a boot fitting session booked with Jules the next day, he wasn't in then so booked with Damien. Got fitted out with a pair of Scott Superguide Carbon and got them to mount my Aussie bought Kingpins on a pair of Fisher Hannibal 94, all set to go Spent the next four days skiing and touring around GM, Aiguille Rouge and Midi to get used to the skis and break in the boots and extremely happy with both boots and skis. Haute Route, here we come.

    Monday 4th April

    GM to Trient Hut

    Weather had been a bit all over the place with high winds and the top bin at GM closed many mornings so was a bit worried we would have to start with an extra climb from the mid station. Made sure we were there for first bin and luckily wind had dropped over night and we got the first one to the
    All ready for first bin, think someone just put their gloves in their top just before being photographed...



    We had discussed the options of going over Col du Chardonnet or Col du Passon, but one of the guys had been up doing Chardonnet a few days before and the snow on the backside wasn't great so we settled on Passon.

    Went down far right of the Rock and crossed the Argentiere glacier a bit further up and traversed the moraine on the right hand side of the glacier down to the start of Passon, a very icy and unpleasant traverse first thing in the morning, but no pain no gain The climb up over the moraine was icy so crampons and axe in place and the skin up was also pretty icy and sketchy at times so put the ski crampons on straight away. The climb up the couloir had been done plenty of times since the last snowfall but was again pretty icy so crampons and axe out.










    Once at the top the weather was still nice when we crossed the Glacier du Tour and then skinned and booted the last bit up and over Col Superieur du Tour. Once we got on to the Plateau du Trient the weather started to set in and the vis was pretty bad the rest of the way to Trient Hut, but we made it there safely and got settled in to an extremely busy hut. Think a lot of people had started out from Refuge d’Argentiere in the morning and had a few hours on us.

    We decided to do it Aussie style with six rounds of pints and then a couple of bottles of red for dinner and this was to become the norm for the rest of the trip Ran in to a few of the guides that we had crossed paths with throughout the trip later on and a couple of them said their clients knew us as the Aussies walking around the huts in board shorts, drinking plenty beers and wine, leaving the huts late but turning up at the next hut earlier than most. Gotta be happy with that description

    Skins on after skiing down the back of Passon...



    Crossing Glacier du Tour...



    Looking ahead at a pretty busy Col Superieur du Tour...



    Arriving at Trient...










    I have to say the food and service in the huts is amazing considering where they are located, and with an FFCAM membership you only pay about AU$90.00 a night for accommodation, four course dinner and brekky.

    Tell you what, if anyone is going to Verbier for a holiday, just book in to Hut Mont Fort and you be staying not just on the snow but on the actual run and for a great price.
    -- Summer is just a short period of bad skiing --

  2. #2
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    Default Re: Chamonix to Zermatt, Classic Haute Route 4-10th Apr 2016

    Tuesday 5th April

    Trient Hut to Hut Mont Fort

    We had decided to have a short day on day two, maybe do some skiing in Verbier in the arvo and also to have some extra time to divert up to the top of Rosablanche and look around up there on our third day. So we had a night at Mont Fort instead of going straight to Cabane de Prafleuri. Still sticking to the seven day plan having bypassed the Refuge d’Argentiere on our first day.

    When we woke up the weather was completely closed in and it was still snowing a bit. We skied down around Petite Pointe d'Orny to Col des Ecandies. When we got there a guided group was roping up and the face looked pretty sketchy in spots with mixed snow, rock and ice. We decided to get axes out but not worry about crampons, probably regretted that decision half way up. Had a bit of a crux where you had to make a two step move without any hand or axe help and just hope for the best in a spot where a fall wasn't going to be pleasant, but got to the top alright and a bit of a raised hart rate in the morning is always good for you.



    The top section down to Champex was nice boot deep but as we got further down it got very slushy and snow turned to rain. Had a coffee in Champex as we waited for a bus to take us to Orsieres and from there we got two trains to Verbier. When we got there the weather was **** so we just had some lunch, went to Hut Mont Fort and got settled in instead of doing any more skiing that day.

    The forecast for the next few days didn't look good, particularly the Friday forecast had been looking real bad for some time and some of the people in the hut decided to pull the pin, afraid of getting stuck at Prafleuri the next few days. But we had plenty of time on our hands and figured if we can't get out no one's gonna get in, so should be room in the hut, so we decided that we would push on. Spent some time studying the map, punching in waypoints on the GPS and of course the obligatory six pints and red wine to fuel up for the next day
    -- Summer is just a short period of bad skiing --

  3. #3
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    Default Re: Chamonix to Zermatt, Classic Haute Route 4-10th Apr 2016

    Wednesday 6th April

    Mont Fort to Cabane de Prafleuri

    Woke up to thick fog and wet snow, put some concrete in the coffee, had brekky and set off.
    Checking vis and calibrating GPS...




    I’m sure the first Col is up there somewhere...



    Skinned up to Col de la Chaux and as we skinned up the sleet went away and vis wasn't too bad. Had some nice turns down to Lac Pt Mont Fort and then skins on again up to Col de Momin. By the time we got to Glacier du Grand Desert it was a total whiteout and we just put our heads down and continued up the glacier till we got on to the Glacier de Prafleuri just below Rosablanche. Vis was now only meters so we decided that it wasn't any point heading up the extra 200 or so vert to the top of Rosablanche other than claiming the peak, so decided to make our way down the glacier to Prafleuri. As we got a bit further down the vis got better and we got some nice turns in, but closer to the hut it was more than boot deep thick heavy slush. But hey, you're not on the HR for the amazing skiing, right.

    Starting to set in again...


    Somewhere on Glacier du Grand Desert...


    Working out the best route down to the hut...


    Getting some nice turns in up high...







    We were the only ones there for a few hours so started on the six pints playing cards. Later in the arvo the weather cleared and it was a great time hanging with everyone on the veranda drinking beers admiring the views for the first time.





    By this stage it was pretty clear we were the only ones doing the HR without a guide. Aahh well, as a sign used to say on our lounge room wall in Cham Sud; The three golden rules: 1. Go big or go home, 2. No friends on a powder day, and well, as for rule no 3, I can't put it in words here, but no one ever broke any rule but rule No 3
    -- Summer is just a short period of bad skiing --

  4. #4
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    Default Re: Chamonix to Zermatt, Classic Haute Route 4-10th Apr 2016

    Thursday 7th April

    Cabane de Prafleuri to Cabane des Dix

    Woke to a cold morning with a clear blue sky and was really looking forward to a day of easy navigation and great views in clear vis. Started straight up to Col des Roux and got ready for the looooong traverse to Pas du Chat. Up on the Col you get a great view of the Tsena Refien glacial cirque, the Serpentine and Pigne d’Arolla in the distance and it gives you a good idea of what you have to tackle the next day.







    Looking along the traverse with the beautiful Mt Blanc de Cheilon in the distance...



    The planned route up the Serpentine the next day...




    With all the wet snow falling the last couple of days there had been so many wet avies the afternoon before (think we had to cross about 10) that was now like waterfalls of huge ice boulders. Made the traverse interesting to say the least Ran in to one of the guides that we passed on the traverse on my last night in town and he said that section sorted his group out, they pulled the pin after it.
    After crossing Pas du Chat and traversing around the steep slopes at the end of the lake we put the skins on again and started the skin up towards Glacier de Cheilon.



    The weather was absolutely perfect and the view of Mt Blanc de Cheilon and the Serpentine going up the valley was absolutely amazing. Gave us another great and closer view of what we were in for the next day.
    Just as we got there the helicopter came in to deliver some stuff and we got a great look at the amazing pilot skills these guys have, pretty cool to see the precision he had dropping things in.
    Settled in on the big balcony for the afternoon with well earned pints.













    Weather report said for some real bad weather to come in around 10.30ish the next day and it was pretty much the discussion topic amongst everyone throughout dinner. The next day being the highest and hardest part going up the Serpentine it would have been nice with good vis and some nice snow on it. Most groups decided to probably go the low option over Pas de Chevres down to Arolla and then see if they would continue on the next day or not. Decided to put plenty waypoints in to the GPS and just wait and see what it would be like in the morning. One of the Norwegian guides we had talked to a bit the night before and throughout the arvo said he was pretty keen to push on with the high route but would make his decision in the morning and said if a few of us went we could work together.

    Good thing the Dix have a full beer menu...



    Went to bed feeling a bit apprehensive, but a belly full of beer and vin rouge makes it all better.
    -- Summer is just a short period of bad skiing --

  5. #5
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    Default Re: Chamonix to Zermatt, Classic Haute Route 4-10th Apr 2016

    Friday 8th April

    Cabane Dix to Cabane des Vignettes

    Got up and saw some fresh snow outside and completely fogged in.
    Had brekky and the topic at all tables was the weather and what it was going to do, bit of a Mexican standoff with everyone waiting to see what everyone was doing. Most people decided to head down Arolla via Pas de Chevres but sounded like two other groups, including our Norwegian mate was heading up the high route, so we decided to just make a run for it and see how it turned out, can always just turn back.

    Couldn't see anything as we set out across Glacier de Cheilon but as we came up the Tsena Refien glacial cirque a bit we came up over the low clouds and the vis was ok. We could see that one guided group was just ahead of us and we went past and made tracks up the face to do our bit while it was still good vis





    At the top of the slope the weather started coming in and it got real cold and no vis in just a few minutes. Think it was about 18 of us in four different groups up there that had decided to go over Passage de la Serpentine and we sort of all got to the foot of the passage at the same time. Vis was now absolute crap, high winds and the face looking very icy. Looked like a crampon boot pack to me but the first group set off with just the ski crampons so we did the same. Had a very sketchy traverse and got stuck on a real icy part, not wanting to move forward or backwards for a fair few minutes. Couldn't see anyone in front of me but could see one of the guys behind me freaking out a bit and his guide getting his axe out cutting some steps for him. Realised I had my climbing aids on the first raise and the crampons didn't dig in far enough. Not the spot for it since it was icy and I was just above the huge drop off on the Northern side. After a delicate manoeuvre flicking them both back down I got some traction again and continued on. Aaahh it's good to be a bit scared sometimes. We all stopped just after the first switchback and put crampons on, roped up and went up the rest of the face. Have to say I was quite relieved when we got to the top.







    Stayed roped up, put skis and skins back on and continued up and across Col du Brenay and we all ended up at the Col just below Pigne d’Aroll pretty much at the same time. Again the plan was to head up the top of Pigne d’Arolla but with no vis no one could see the point and we were quite happy to hang together skiing down the glacier knowing it is heavily crevassed and the vis was very low.
    Skied down with some very varied snow, few pow turns, then a few complete ice and then breaking through some crust etc.

    Very happy when we reached Col des Vignettes and could walk the ridge over to the Hut.
    Ski down was alright but not great...



    Good to be in striking distance of the Hut...



    Vignettes has the best Rosti...



    Both the Norwegian guide and the French guide of the other group came over to our table to have a chat later in the arvo and we bought them both some beers and said we were very appreciative they had talked to us at times throughout the day and never told us to piss of when they made tracks throughout the whiteout. Think they were happy to just have a chat to some guys knowing how to move in the mountains, ski down hills in varied conditions and enjoy a few beers. Most of their clients sleeping or just hanging somewhere else complaining about the hard day we'd had Lots of smiles and relieved people around the dinner tables that night with the snow starting to puke outside and the forecast for the next day to be bluebird and no wind. Fingers crossed Mother Nature will give us a good one after pushing through a pretty rough day.
    -- Summer is just a short period of bad skiing --

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    Default Re: Chamonix to Zermatt, Classic Haute Route 4-10th Apr 2016

    Saturday 9th April

    Cabane des Vignettes to Cabane Bertol

    Woke up to a sky full of stars and the mountains covered in 40cm of pure cold champagne pow Had a lateish brekky and set out across the Glacier du Mont Collon and up to Col de l’Eveque.

    Love the low clouds in the morning...



    Some of the guys in the Hut went down to Arolla and had a great loooong Pow run ahead of them...



    But we were heading the other way towards Bertol...



    Looking back at the Hut...





    Going along Glacier du Mont Collon and up to Col de l’Eveque...







    We had overtaken most people starting before us so as we got to the Col the only group before us was the Norwegians and they had gone straight towards Zermatt. Had some awesome pow turns down the glacier and as we got down low we had to make a decision whether to stay high traversing the moraine just below Mt Collon or head down the flatter option along Haut Glacier d’Arolla. With 40cm of fresh snow on the steep faces of Mt Collon just above and being the first ones there we decided to head down to the glacier and follow the fresh tracks of people coming up from Arolla earlier in the morning.

    Checking best options...



    Got some nice turns in...







    Looking down towards Haut Glacier d’Arolla...



    Got to the bottom of the fairly steep moraine leading up to Plans de Bertol, put our skins on and started the nearly 800 meter vertical climb up towards Cabane Bertol. Cutting fresh tracks in the deep snow on the moraine for a while till we joined up to the skin track from everyone coming up from Arolla earlier in the morning.

    We had crossed paths with a real cool 65 year old typical Cham guide call Pierre and his two Aussie clients throughout the week. They went down Arolla the night before and I said to one of my mates as we approached the skin track; Wouldn't surprise me if we run in to Pierre here.
    And what do you know, as we make it on to the main track going up there's Pierre going; Bonjour!!
    Long hard slog up but all worth it when you get to this amazingly constructed hut on the top up Col de Bertol and we could also see the Matterhorn for the first time. You have to leave your skis on the Col and then climb the ladder up to the hut.

    Just on the Plans de Bertol where you can first see the hut all the way up on the Col...



    Bit closer...


    Pretty stoked to be there, pretty hars slog on a hot day...



    Got our first view of the top of the Matterhorn...



    Time to climb the ladder and head for some beers...





    Definitely felt like we had earned the six pints and vin rouge that arvo Enjoyed the evening with some absolutely amazing views and a spectacular sunset sitting on the steps outside the hut drinking beer talking to some Swiss army guys trying the route getting ready for the Patrouille des Glaciers race from Zermatt to Verbier a few days later. Christ there's a lot of guys in Dynafit Lycra suits over Europe now, don't think these guys realise how ridiculous they look But **** they're fast.











    Had a terrible night sleep with a full dorm and someone grinding teach and snoring as loud as I've ever heard anyone snore all night. But all worth it and after a few pints and wine you can sleep through anything I spose.
    -- Summer is just a short period of bad skiing --

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    Default Re: Chamonix to Zermatt, Classic Haute Route 4-10th Apr 2016

    Sunday 10th April

    Cabane Bertol to Zermatt

    Got up to another morning with a clear sky full of stars knowing that this was the easiest day with just 530 meters of ascent up along the Glacier du Mont Mine to the top of Tete Blanche and then a 2200 vertical meter ski down to Zermatt. Hopefully a ski in some nice pow left from the day before.
    Had another nice brekky, got ready and headed out to pow heaven Climbed down the ladder, got our skis on and started the traverse down to the glacier. Put our skins on and started on the skin up Glacier du Mont Mine.









    Coming up northeast ridge we got greeted with the amazing view of probably the most mythical mountain in Europe, the Matterhorn, then continued up.
    Got to the top of Tete Blanche at the same time as Pierre and the Aussie boys, congratulated each other, took some snaps with Matterhorn as the backdrop and looked forward to the amazing looking ski down.







    But Mother Nature had other plans, probably just thinking; Don't get too cocky boys, I'm gonna **** with you one more time on this trip, just for the fun of it Started skiing down some amazing pow, but very soon the whole scenario changed. It turned to 40cm of really heavy snow with a 3cm or so of hard crust on top, just hard enough that you go through every turn but hard to come back out of. Would say it was by far the worst and hardest snow conditions I've ever skied. Spose that's what Mother Nature will do to you sometimes. We stood at the top and thought we were home, but she had other plans. I'll screw with you one more time just so you know and remember that you are always out in the mountains on my terms, we can share it but don't ever think you better than me Anyhow, after a looong slog down we finally got to Zermatt and it was all smiles and pints in town waiting for one of my mate’s wife to come and pick us up.









    Before the trip I always thought once we got to Zermatt (if we made it all the way) it would be a bit if a climax, feeling all elated and accomplished, but it was as always after a good little adventure more just a feeling of; Well, that's it, what's next. And actually, one night we talked to a guide from Austria and he told us about the Urner, what they call the skiers Haute Route. It's going from Andermatt to Engelberg and the skiing is very good with some nice steep stuff on it apparently. Being out for beers on my last night in town we talked to one of the Cham guides, who's also a good friend of my mates about it and he said he's never done it but would prob like to do it. Gonna have to try and get some good projects at work with plenty travel involved to work on those frequent flyer points so we can do it all again next year

    Anyone that's just after some amazing skiing, the Haute Route is not the tour to go on, but if you're after an amazing ski tour through some amazing terrain then get on your computer and book a flight to Cham.

    Ran out of time and weather for Mt Blanc but might be good we did. On one of my last nights in town talking to a guy who was up there with another guide and two clients a couple of days before, they had to turn back because the North face route was too icy and too many seracs pealing off. I grew up in the suicidal school of trial and error, but no need to be silly

    Keep skiing, keep smiling
    -- Summer is just a short period of bad skiing --

  8. #8
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    Default Re: Chamonix to Zermatt, Classic Haute Route 4-10th Apr 2016

    Holy crap!!!! best trip report ever! That was inspiring swede.
    Winter is here!

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    Default Re: Chamonix to Zermatt, Classic Haute Route 4-10th Apr 2016

    Best trip report EVER! Thanks Swede.
    Follow the Snow! snowatch.com.au

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    Default Re: Chamonix to Zermatt, Classic Haute Route 4-10th Apr 2016

    Great report, thank you.

  11. #11
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    Default Re: Chamonix to Zermatt, Classic Haute Route 4-10th Apr 2016

    Sorted out some video footage over the weekend...

    -- Summer is just a short period of bad skiing --

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