Chamonix to Zermatt Haute Route • April - May 2004

On our second Haute Route trip we were joined by Jim Nilsen, Jay Riley and his son Thomson, Troy Fenderson, Reed Moore, Roger Fick and Rick Winfield.

Fortunately we had somewhat better weather than on our first trip, though the second was still a "weather challenge". We had a great day on the Vallée Blanche, and the next couple days were also fine. But by day 3 the winds picked up and it was a bit of a battle getting up to the Valsorey hut. The weather really came in while we were there, but we chose to hang tough, and waited a day, trusting a fickle forecast.

And it did clear, sort of. We continued over to the Chanrion hut, in and out of cloud, and then on to the Vignettes in the thickening soup. Then, finally the weather gods put an end to our trip, and, after an "exploratory" to see just how bad the weather was, we were forced to retreat to Arolla, and then by bus and train to Zermatt. But we gave it a good try. Actually, I'm fairly impressed that we were able to push the route over the Grand Combin as it was.

But the Haute Route is a different trip every time, and that last day into Zermatt is still waiting for us all.

Other Recent Trips

First, the cast of characters. Thomson Riley, and his dad, Jay.


Roger and Rick check out the photos.


And Mr. Troy Fenderson.


Roger and Jim.


And last, but certainly not least, Reed. I hope you don't mind my posting this photo, Reed. I think you look very contented!


Skiing under Pointe Adophe Rey on the Vallée Blanche.


Crossing through crevasses in the Vallée Blanche. We skinned up to the Col du Toule, descended into Italy on the Toule Glacier, rode the lift back up and then skied down to Montenvers and on to Chamonix.

As we descended into Italy, we dropped into an incredibly thick fog. And the ski down the Toule Glacier was as much by feel as sight. But it was an interesting outing, and ended in brilliant sunshine again as we passed back into France. The contrast between the damp of Italy and the sun of France became a running joke throughout the trip.


Into the Géant icefall.


And descending the lower Mer de Glace with the Requin and Chamonix Aiguille above.


On day 2 we skied to the Trient hut, as planned. Here, we are beginning the climb up to the Col du Chardonnet. The North Face of Les Droites looms behind.


Further up on the Chardonnet Glacier, in and out of cloud.


After a tricky descent of the Col du Chardonnet (which suffered and narrowed as a result of last summer's heat wave) we make our way around to the Fenêtre de Saleina.


And on to the Trient hut.


A lovely sunset from the Trient. A fine way to end our second day.


The following morning we skied down the Val d'Arpette and then a short walk brought us into Champex. With the local ski area closed (since about mid-April) there is not much happening here, and walking down the middle of the road is standard form.


Troy, Jay and Thomson enjoy coffee and tarts in Champex.


After a restful night in Bourg-St-Pierre we battled the wind to get up to the Valsorey hut.


Kathy, Thomson, Jay and Rick step outside to enjoy a "break" in the weather. We spent two nights in the Valsorey hut, hoping that the weather would allow a crossing of the Plateau du Couloir on day 6. In the end it paid off and we were able to carry on to the Chanrion hut.


Dinner time in the Valsorey hut. Reed serves us all soup.


And after waiting the snows stop, the wind lets up a bit and we are able to carry on. Here, early in the morning the sun catches the top of Mont Vélan.


The morning sun slices in between cloud layers on Mont Vélan.


The last steep section of the climb up to the Plateau du Couloir.


The windswept Plateau du Couloir. Funky clouds threaten again.


Later on, after descending the Durand Glacier we prepare for the last downhill to the Chanrion hut.


The following day is in and out of cloud again. But the weather never really got bad, though there was much flat light skiing. Here we are, arriving at Les Portons.


And finally the Vignettes hut, which can be seen blending into the rocks on the left. This was as far as we were able to go. The following morning the weather came in early, and after we started out early, in hopes of beating the worst of it, we were forced to return to the hut, and then down to Arolla. But so it goes.

All in all, this was one of the most difficult Alps spring skiing seasons we have seen in some time. But the various clouds we saw all have a silver lining. The snows they produced will greatly help the poor glaciers, who lost so much of their bulk in the heat of last summer.

All images, layout and text ©2004 Cosley & Houston Alpine Guides, All Rights Reserved