Haute Route ski tour

April 2017- April 2018

After 10 years of ski touring in the Alps I thought it was time to have a go at the Haute Route, the classic hut to hut tour of the Alps, from Chamonix to Zermatt, staying in huts perched on the rocky crests at the edges of glaciers. Ed and I signed up to do it with Glenmore lodge, saving us the travel logistics and hut bookings and hoping to pick up some good tips from the guide, Andy Townsend. We set off from Chamonix on the first week of April 2017. The trip was a great success for us but it does have a high attrition rate and we saw many people drop out along the way due to lack of fitness. We lost one team mate to a sprained cruciate ligament and another to a painful back.

 

I will explain our itinerary and include photos so you can get a flavour for this wonderful route. I had been put off for years by people telling me it is too crowded. The huts are crowded and you definitely need to pre-book well in advance but they are so well organised that meals and morning departures run smoothly. You have to get used to seeing snakes of skiers in front and behind you but you can get some solitude sometimes.

We descended from the route to get a bus/taxi twice (but the descent to Arolla was due to hut booking problems).

Completing the route and then a few weeks later touring in the Tasch/Zermatt (Spaghetti tour) area, convinced me I had to do the Patrouilles des Glaciers ski race the next year (2018) and I indeed got on a team with 2 friends and had a great spring training season training for it, until one team mate broke his ankle a couple of weeks before so it will be for another year! It is a stunning area!

Map of the Haute route (there are many variations) 

Day 1:
Grands Montets lift top down the Glacier des Rognons and across the Argentiere glacier.
Up to Col du Passon (boot up initial moraine and then long skin and final boot) (3028 m)
Ski down Glacier du Tour to Albert Premier hut (2702 m) – (no running water for toilet so just one outdoor toilet working!)

Looking back to the top of the Grands montets lift to the right of the ridge. Crossing the Argentiere glacier before climbing the col du Passon

Day 2:
Skin up Col du Tour (with a few metres booting) (3282 m)
Ski down plateau du Trient (close to Cabane du Trient (3170 m)- an option of day 1 destination?!)
Ski down steeper Glacier du Trient and round to boot up Col des Encandies (2796 m)
Long ski down Combe des Encandies and Val d’Arpette to Champex slopes (1498 m)
TAXI CHAMPEX (at ski list car park, above the lake) to VERBIER (lifts up to near top and ski down to Cabane du Mont Fort (2457 m

The Albert Premier hut, traverse to the col du Tour, the vast open spaces of the plateau du Trient and booting the col des Encandies

Day 3:
Skin up the slopes and then to Col des Chaux and col de Momin (neither of which are steep)
Carry on up to Rosablanche (with boot to summit) (3336 m)
Ideal here would be to carry on to Cabane de Plafleuri (2935 m) – (the hut guardian apparently cancels bookings at random and is a bit weird)
We descended the Grand desert and past the Lac de Cleuson with lots of polling and tree combat skiing to SIVIEZ (1733 m) (a really small village with just a ski lift) - TAXI SIVIEZ to AROLLA

Gentle rolling landscapes of Col de Momin towards Rosablanche

Day 4:
If you were at the Plafleuri hut, you would ski past the Lac des Dix and up the Pas du Chat and around to Cabane des Dix
From Arolla (2067 m) take 2 drag lifts up and skin to Pas de Chevres (2855 m) and descend the ladders and walk down the last bit and skin to Cabane des Dix (2928m)
Dump sacks at the Cabane des Dix and skin up La Luette (3548 m) in the afternoon (boot up last section) and great ski down to hut

The ladders on Pas de Chevres, the Cabanes des Dix. Sneaky ski up La Luette (3548m) to celebrate my 40th birthday!

Day 5:
Big skin up Pigne d’Arolla (3790 m) with an occasional boot where dotted on the map if icy but we skinned it all.
Great ski down to Cabane des Vignettes (3160 m)

The long climb to Pigne d'Arolla (3790m)

Day 6:
Ski/ skin to Glacier du Mont Collon and up the Col de l’Eveque (3377 m), ski down and around to boot up Col du Mont Brule (3213 m), and skin up to Col de Valpelline (3554 m) where the 
Matterhorn appears!

Ski down very crevassed/ seraced Stockji and Tieffmatten gletschers and Zmutt Glacier and ensuing moraines that lead towards the valley and eventually to the back side of the Zermatt lift system. Ski straight into town! 

Col de l'Eveque, Col de Valpelline and dramatic views of the Matterhorn before descending to Zermatt

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