The Haute Route – April 2013

In April, Mark and I set out to try to ski the Haute Route from Chamoix in France to Zermatt in Switzerland. It is a popular route for Ski Mountaineers crossing a number of high cols, staying at mountain refuges and climbing the occasional peak. It can take up to seven days to complete. We arrived at Chamonix to the snowiest and coldest early spring for many years. Starting the route was definitely not a good idea due to poor visibility and high avalanche risk. We did manage a couple of great days powder skiing in Val d’Isere and Verbier. When we thought that it was going to be a non starter, we got a window of settled weather and prepared to start the tour two days in at verbier.

 

The first day saw some excellent conditions for ‘skinning up’ and skiing down. We made good time to the Prafleuri Hut and enjoyed a good night in a fairly quiet hut. We left early next morning to avoid the avalanches that were forecast due to increasing temperature. The day to the Dix Hut passed some stunning scenery but was extremely hot We also spent the whole day on a traverse in the same direction, taking its toll on the feet. The third day was also clear and hot and we set off for the Pigne d’Arolla. I have climbed this mountain before but there is something about the mountains in winter that make them more beautiful. Skiing down to the Vignettes Hut made us realise that the snow had changed and was becoming very heavy and wet. Due to  deteriorating physical and environmental conditions, we decided to cut short the tour a day early and ski down to Arolla in some of the worst snow conditions I have ever experienced. All round, an excellent trip, starting in winter but finishing most definitely in spring.

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Pete Goldsmith

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