Haute Route Part II

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At the end of the first post we left off at the cozy Prafleuri Hut. Day 3’s objective was to get to the Dix Hut, which is famous for its beer menu. Yes, this is a remote hut in the mountains with a beer menu that would rival some restaurants! From the Prafluri hut we headed over the Col des Roux and made a long sweeping traverse around the Lac des Dix. The visibility was low and it was snowing on and off.

At the head of the lake, we began to gradually gain altitude when my ski binding suddenly broke – ruh-row! After some MacGyvering from Neil, Imran, and myself, we were able to get the binding to be somewhat functional…. IF I was extremely gentle (my middle name (Kelley: and probably why none of his gear ever breaks…….).

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Always bring a Leatherman!
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And ski straps! Note the two missing screws on the bottom of the binding.

So now what… well the bottom line is that we needed to get the binding remounted on the ski if we wanted to finish the trip. As a result, the Dix hut was out, I would have to enjoy those tasty beers at another time. Neil informed us that our best bet is to head over the Pas de Chèvres and to the sleepy hamlet of Arolla.

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The train of folks heading to the Dix Hut.
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Some light Via Ferrata to get over the pass

From the Pas de Chevres, it was a 900 meter (3,000 feet) descent into Arolla. With only one functional ski it was a bit of a grunt fest to get down. On the plus side we did ski some amazing powder!

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Neil showing them how it is done!

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Once in Arolla, Neil was able to secure some amazing accommodations at the Grand Hôtel & Kurhaus. We enjoyed a fabulous lunch and beer on their deck!

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Not a bad place to end up 4 hours after breaking your binding. 

After a nice relaxing lunch, I headed down the hill in search of a ski shop that could repair my binding. After some hand waving about what happened and when I needed it done by (ASAP), they agreed to fix my binding – perfect!

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My view as I strolled to the ski shop – incredible!

For Day 4, we needed to get back on route, so we headed back up the mountain to the

Col des Vignettes and the precariously placed Cabane des Vignettes.

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(Kelley:  mmm…you didn’t mention a helicopter?!)
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Small avalanche coming down the mountain
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Skinning up with the Pigne d’Arolla in the background
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The incredibly positioned Cabane des Vignettes

Our big objective that day was to get to the summit of the Pigne d’Arolla. The weather was stable but the wind was whipping on the ridges and mountain tops. We arrived at the hut around 10:00am, early enough that they were still making breakfast upstairs – crepes! Oh it smelled so good! So it was with much self-restrain that we decided to venture back out to the summit of the Pigne d’Arolla.

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A bit breezy!

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(Kelley: “Thank God you have Imran……”)

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The summit was fabulous and the ski down was pretty good as well.

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The Cabane des Vignettes is a fabulous hut with these amazing picture windows and it is just spectacularly positioned on the edge of the cliff. The Swiss sure know how to pick a great spot!

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The drying room – it smelled really bad!
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The view out the nice picture windows!
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A beautiful sunset! The winter bathroom is just to the left, which has quite the airy traverse to get out to it. 

Day 5 was the last day of the Haute Route and boy was it a big day with an early dawn start. The hut was full of eager beavers chomping at the bit to get to Zermatt, so breakfast was at 0500 – brutal!

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The first (of three) cols was the Col de l’Eveque. The col was not too challenging physically but there were just so many groups jockeying for position that we were yo-yoing back and forth.

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From the col we had a nice ski down to the Glacier d’Arolla and began a skin traverse and then boot pack to the Col du Mont Brule, which offered quite the dramatic backdrop.

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After basking in the sun and recharging our fuel stores, we traversed and then skinned up to the Col de Valpelline.

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Almost there!

Wondering why I was out of breath, I realized that we were over 12,000 feet, which is an altitude I sadly have not been at in a while. From the col it is a long ski down to Zermatt traversing underneath the north face of the Matterhorn through a maze of glaciers, crevasses, and seracs (Kelley: apparently a “chunk of glacier at two intersecting crevasses……that can break of at any time”……insert worry faced emoji…..its also a type of cheese). Quite awe inspiring!

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Bam – the Matterhorn! The scale at Disneyland is a bit off!

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A thin ribbon of snow to Zermatt 

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After descending over 6,000 feet and traveling over 10 miles on skis from the last pass, we were in Zermatt! Zermatt is the quintessential ski town that all other ski towns are modelled, not to mention the iconic Matterhorn lurking in the background.

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Enjoying some much needed gelato 

After stumbling through town we procured some lovely gelato and not so scrumptious pizza and began the  journey back to Chamonix.

Stats: Imran tracked the trip on his fancy watch and excluding the cable cars, we traveled over 55 miles, climbed 22,000 feet, and had 32,000 feet of descent – amazing!

Map: Here is a link to the Google Map I created for the trip – https://drive.google.com/open?id=1GqplVpSeNMIZqUwIE42JikC79bA&usp=sharing

Accommodations:

Day 1: Cabane du Trient – http://www.cas-diablerets.ch/trient.htm

Day 2: Cabane de Prafleuri – http://www.prafleuri.ch/

Day 3:

Day 4: Cabane des Vignettes – http://www.cabanedesvignettes.ch/

Day 5: Argentiere / Hôtel de La Couronne – https://www.booking.com/hotel/fr/ha-tel-de-la-couronne.en-gb.html?aid=1225787&label=beingpages-global1

Lessons Learned: The next time I do the trip, I will do it self-guided. Having a guide was great and it gave Imran and I (and Kelley) a lot of peace of mind but is totally unnecessary if you have good route finding skills and are proficient at glacier travel and crevasse rescue. There is not a great deal of information out there for a self-guided trip but oddly enough one of the blogs I follow, Mountain Lessons, just did a self-guided trip and he will do a more detailed guide in the future. Here is his blog post about the trip if you are interested.

 

One Comment Add yours

  1. Bob says:

    Quite the trip, to be sure!

    Like

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