Skiing the Haute Route

 

I wasn’t scheduled to ski the Haute Route this year, but stepped in to replace an injured colleague just before Easter. We’ve had a very snowy touring season in the Alps so far this year, with a number of storms bringing in big dumps of snow, which inevitably leads to changes in itineraries in order to avoid the increased avalanche risk – however, the flip side to all this is that the skiing conditions have mostly been excellent, with plenty of good powder to enjoy!

By the time I got to Chamonix from my previous weeks’ work in the Pyrenees, the weather had changed yet again – with a big dump of snow followed by a rapid rise in temperature, which sent the avalanche risk sky high.  So after a couple of day tours in Chamonix, we upped sticks and headed across to Arolla, with the plan to head backwards along the route to the Dix Hut, in order to pick up the Haute Route again and follow a longer variation for 4 days skiing via the Vignettes and Bertol Huts, to finally reach Zermatt.

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Matterhorn from the summit of the Pigne D’Arolla

This worked really well – with a bit of a battle to reach the Dix in deteriorating weather, but this left us perfectly positioned to make use of the good weather that was forecast for the rest of the week.

And so it turned out: the following day we skinned up the Pigne D’Arolla to get great views of the Matterhorn and a brilliant powder run down to the Vignettes Hut – some of the team also went out to enjoy a few more powder laps below the hut in the afternoon.

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Skiing down the Arolla Glacier

The good weather continued, with another excellent day traversing the Col de L’Eveque to get a great ski down the Arolla glacier, before the long, hot climb up to the Bertol Hut.  This is situated in a very unlikely spot, perched on a high cliff and only accessible via ladders.  In the hut I amazingly bumped into an old pupil of mine: Tom, now in his 30s’ runs a ski school in Verbier and was out training for the Glacier Patrol race.  I don’t think I ever taught him anything useful at school, but he clearly picked up the right message on life!

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Hot afternoon skinning up to the Bertol Hut
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Climbing ladders to the Bertol Hut

The final day we headed out early again, back down the ladders and out across the glacier to climb our final objective, the Tete Blanche.  The views from here are simply stunning and from then on it’s 2200m of downhill all the way to Zermatt.  After a few years away from the Haute Route doing tours in other parts of the world, I’d forgotten just how amazing it is: a trip made all the better by an excellent and fun team – thanks everyone!

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Final climb on the Haute Route
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On the summit of the Tete Blanche
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Skiing down beneath the Matterhorn
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end of the road in Zermatt