Une Haute Route sans Haute Pression !

By , April 21, 2016 8:12 am

My final scheduled week of ski work this season was an Haute Route for Jagged Globe. This is a journey on skis from Chamonix, France (Where I live) to Zermatt, Switzerland (Where I can’t  afford to live! ). It takes between 5 to 7 days depending on some variety in routes and how you split up the days.

It is strange that the weather leading up to the start of the ski touring season is invariably perfect. But then at  the end of March early April the storms arrive ! This is exactly what happened to us.

Climbing up the 'stairway to heaven'

Climbing up the ‘stairway to heaven’ in Verbier.

We had a try out day at Le Tour in appalling weather during which I  admit the guide was officially lost for a few minutes ! The visibility was so bad that we skinned no more than 20m away from a large building and did not see it. It did provide a good example of why you don’t want to be traveling on glaciers in that sort of weather. Unfortunately that was precisely the forecast for the next two days !

So we planned to do a day tour the next day and then rejoin our route in Verbier the next day. We had a fine day on the ‘Crochue – Berard’ traverse just making it round before the visibility closed in again and skiing some very nice snow. The next day we drove to Le Chable and had a lovely afternoon skiing some gorgeous powder in some secret locations in Verbier before retiring to the cosy Cabane Montfort.

The next day improved from a slightly cloudy start to a lovely morning. We were regularly passed and overtaken by people with no gear and skinny skis training for the patrouille des glaciers a big ski touring race.

We scrambled the last few metres to the summit of the Rosa Blanche and then enjoyed a powder descent to the Cabane Prafleuri, leaving all the crowds behind for the day.

Team on Rosablanche

Team on Rosablanche

The next day we left early and made it to the Cabane des Dix just before the forecast storm and just in time for lunch !

Cabane des Dix

Cabane des Dix

That afternoon I discovered that the forecast had changed again and the gale force winds were going to continue over the next few days, making the continued journey to zermatt unlikely.

Illegal public beer drinking in Arolla !

Illegal public beer drinking in Arolla !

We woke up to rattling shutters ( and snow in the bukroom!) and decided that a retreat to Arolla was wise. After a pleasant afternoon skiing slushy snow in Arolla and revising our crevasse rescue techniques we caught buses, trains and automobiles back to Chamonix.

The final day we attempted to ski up the Amethyst glacier in Chamonix . As you can see from the final photo it was as windy as forecast ! In fact Simon and I were both blown over more than once !

Thanks to Gavin Kerr, Richard Walker, and Simon Lowe for keeping positive in adversity and being great fun  to ski and drink beer with !

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Breezy on the Amethyst glacier !