Haute Route 2001 'la route classique'

day 1 Argentière - Cabane du Trient

See also the 
Route & Maps

day 2 Cabane du Trient - Cabane du Valsorey
day 3 Cabane du Valsorey - Cabane de Chanrion
day 4 Cabane de Chanrion - Cabane des Vignettes
day 5 Cabane des Vignettes - Cabane de Bertol
day 6 Cabane de Bertol - Zermatt

day 1    top   See the Map

May 8 2001
In March we decided to postpone our planned Haute Route from April to May. It turned out to be a good decision, April had a lot of bad weather. We decided to skip the Argentière hut, because we were not pleased with it, when we compared it with several other Swiss huts last year.  So we drove away from cloudy Combloux at 7.30 in the morning and arrived at the Grand Montets lift one hour later.  And yes the sun started to come through!  Arriving at the top of the Grands Montets revealed the long hike up to the Col du Chardonnet and gave us a good last view on the Mont Blanc. 

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Col du Chardonnet Mont Blanc

Col du Chardonnet

Skiing down to the Argentière glacier (2600m) was not too hard, although the sun made the snow very wet and hard.  After a 700 meter descend we traversed the glacier without skins to conquer our first col.  The Col du Chardonnet (3323m) climb was quite easy last year, so we were not to worried.

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skins halfway up Marlboro country?

Conditions were icy and forced us to put our crampons on our bindings.  After half an hour our hart rate was beating like hell...  This was much tougher than we thought (so maybe next time the Argentière hut is better).  It felt hard to be overtaken by a woman..  Anyway we got a good sunburn and arrived at one o'clock on the col.  Last year we descended the col with a rope, this year we skied it down.  The ascent of the Fenetre de Saleina (3261m) was done on skins, our guide made a nice path. 

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on the col and tired after lunch on top of the Fenetre de Saleina

Traversing the Plateau du Trient was relaxed and the final climb of 50m went smooth.  The Cabane du Trient is a really nice hut.  I give them 4 out of 5 stars.

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guiding view from Cabane du Trient 

The Cabane du Trient is a really nice hut.  I give them 4.5 out of 5 stars.

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enjoying the afternoon sun

day 2    top

May 9 2001
A long descent to Champex and a long climb to Cabane de Valsorey, our guide Luc already warned us that this would be the longest day of our trip.  We left the hut after 6 AM after a short descend to the Col des Ecandies. Our guide tried if it was possible to descend the col du Chamois that is 100m higher than the col des Ecandies, however he decided it was safer to ski the col des Ecandies 2796m.  

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preparing vallée d'Arpette descent

Wow, the snow was really good (icy, but with 2cm of fresh snow) and we descended to the first chalets at 2260m.  Unfortunately we could not descent to Champex, because there was just no snow...  but our guide arranged a taxi the night before.  So with another group we drove to Orsières (1000m) where we did some shopping.

The taxi drove to Bourg st Pierre and it was planned to drive to about 1800m. However the Swiss Army had setup a roadblock, because it was busy with artillery shots (80mm and more). The local army commander of probably the 10th Swiss Mountain Rangers let us through after 20min of waiting. After the nice taxi ride we prepared ourselves for a walk with the ski's on our back.

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almost summer looking for snow

At 2000m we put on our skins and continued the way we should, but once again there was an obstacle, the gorge.

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looking towards the new Vélan hut the gorge

Once we passed the gorge, the final ascent to cabane de Valsorey 3037m would begin. This is a long, long climb if you're not trained.

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long climb to cabane the Valsorey with a nice view on the Grand Combin and the Plateau du Couloir

The hut guardian welcomed us with some hot drinks. The views from this hut are excellent, the food was quite good too. Among the guests was one guy that did the Chamonix Zermatt trip with a parapente and ski's in 2 days. Most other parties were almost professional, they would skip cabane de Chanrion and would go directly to cabane des Vignettes the next day. HR hut rating: 4 out of 5.

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the Mont Vélan,  JP & a beer looking back on the French Alps

day 3    top

Peter Cliff describes this day as the big day in the classical Haute Route. The Plateau du Couloir 3664m can make or brake this tour. This passage was only conquered in 1911 by Marcel Kurz and prof. Roget. The night before our guide told us already that the conditions were perfect, so we left around 6 in the morning on skins. In the middle of our climb the slope became to steep an we had to put on our crampons.

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on crampons looking towards le Plateau du Couloir looking back to cabane de Valsorey, see 1534x1024

It was a good hard climb to the Plateau, but we all had a nice time. Our first little descent on ski's was only 100m vertical. We traversed to Sonadon glacier very quickly and hiked up 50m on our ski's to pass the col du Sonadon 3504m. The glacier Mont Durand gave us an 800m vertical descent, down the glacier the snow was very heavy. 2hrs before we passed a big avalanche came down.  

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The last climb of the days was not that hard. It took us about 30 min. We arrived early at cabane de Chanrion 2462m

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cabane de Chanrion

The Chanrion hut is not that special, although it has lot's of free water and a big terrace. The guardian did not bring the atmosphere that you will find in other huts. HR hut rating 3 out of 5.

day 4    top

The fourth day we had to choose our route to cabane des Vignettes. Either the long, flat and boring Otemma glacier or via the Brenay glacier. We chose for the last option which meant that the Brenay icefall and the Pigne d'Arolla had to be conquered. We left early at 5 AM for this long day. The walk on skins to the Brenay icefall took some time, but it was great to be alone on the glacier.

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heading towards the icefall the Brenay icefall

First we tried to attack the icefall on the left side with our ski's on. But the slope was to icy, so they only option was to walk up. The sun came up just after having conquered the icefall

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the Brenay glacier en route to the Pigne 

After the icefall it was still a pretty long climb to the Pigne d'Arolla. 30 minutes under the Pigne we had our daily 'casse croute'

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Luc wanted to leave already putting words into action

After lunch when we went to the col the clouds arrived... Luc and Simmie than climbed the Pigne d'Arolla 3796m without backpack.

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on the summit 1534 x 1024 skiing down

Like last year we had to descend the Vuibe glacier in a white out. Arriving at the Vignettes is always spectacular. This hut got the highest rating because they offered us an apple pie. HR hut rating 4.5 out of 5.

day 5    top

After the Vignettes hut we could have chosen to do Zermatt in one day. But as real tourists we planned a stop at cabane de Bertol. This meant a climb to Col de L'éveque 3392m, a nice descent on the Arolla glacier to Plans de Bertol and a last climb to the hut. 

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6 am, leaving cabane de Vignettes last view on the hut

We first had a long schuss from the hut and skinned our ski's. This was only a short climb of 400 meters vertical over the Mont Collon glacier.

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relaxing on the Mont Collon glacier Col de L'éveque climb

It's a beautiful day....

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taking the skins off on the col we are now in Italy (for only 50m)

Following on this second break was a descent on the Arolla glacier. The glacier was icy with a soft upper layer. When we arrived at Plans de Bertol we heard the first helicopters flying toward the Pigne d'Arolla, I think this should be stopped. At plans de Bertol we skinned our ski's for the last +/- 700m climb. Somewhere in the middle we relaxed in this white desert. 

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eating again looking up to cabane de bertol 
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The climb was pretty ok and we arrived early in the on the col. For the first time we could see the Matterhorn. This is also the place where you can find the memorial for the Swiss colonel that started the Patrouille des Glacier (see their website).

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Matterhorn Patrouille des Glaciers memorial

Now the Bertol hut is a little bit higher on the rocks so you have to take the new stairs to arrive at the hut.

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first some rock stairs

Inside we ordered beers and rosti and chilled in the afternoon. Later we found out that there was no toilet paper.... Although it was the last open day of this hut, we have to downgrade the hut with an extra one star. HR hut rating is 3 out 5. (the food and wine were ok). The 2 pics below show the Alpengluhe, which is fantastic here.

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Matterhorn Dent Blanche

day 6    top

The last day would be the most relaxed day, about 500m of climbing and a long ski trip to Zermatt. We started off relaxed, leaving almost as last the hut. Within 2 hrs we were on top of the Tete Blanche 3724m.

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almost on the Tete Blanche our guide finally arrives

Because it was one of the last weekends of the season it was quite crowded on top of the Tete Blanche

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happy crowded

And the obligatory Mattherhorn pics

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.. ...

We descended on ski over the Stockli glacier, which was icy but again with a soft upper layer. Luc managed to find this nice couloir in the middle of the glacier, the snow was already becoming heavy. Around 2600m it was warm finally at 2200m at Staffelalp we had to take our ski's off.

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the Stockli couloir skiing over brigdes and through the woods

We walked down over the road down from the dam (near Zmutt) and 2 minutes later we were picked up by some tourskiers from Zermatt that came down with their electrical car. We drove to Furi and had a beer with them. They dropped us off in upper Zermatt. I must say this was a great week, it was not crowded in the huts and the weather was perfect. 

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the end

Copyright dvd 2001/2002