Chamonix to Zermatt Haute Route • April 21 to 28, 2006

Stefan Nagel, Alan Agle, David George, Dwight Nicholson, Peter Stock and Dick Weiss, along with Kathy and Mark, were the team for our second Chamonix to Zermatt Haute Route this year. On this trip, we traversed the Alps via the Plateau du Couloir route, often referred to as the "Classic" route. As with the previous Haute Route, we enjoyed generally quite good weather. There was a fair bit of cloud (necessitating a wee bit of GPS navigation) but no major storms, little avalanche hazard and perhaps more than our fair share of sun.

Snow conditions were firm, for the most part. With the very healthy snowpack this spring, especially in the middle elevations, crevasses were remarkably well covered. In fact, there were several locations where known crevasses, always exposed in previous years, were completely covered. Again, we were able to keep to our schedule, arriving in Zermatt with our extra weather-day still unused.

Other Recent Trips

Here is the first day of the trip, a descent of the Vallee Blanche. The team looks over the the Geant Icefall, hidden below.


On this day we took a variation of the "Vrais Vallee Blanche", a route that drops us down onto the normal route via a steep slope near the Petit Rognon, seen here.


Peter, Alan and Kathy enjoy a Croute au Fromage, with Orangina at the Requin hut, not far below the previous photo.


Lower, on the Mer de Glace, David takes a photo of a small lake formed in the glacier. We have never before seen a lake form in this location, and wonder what will happen down-stream when whatever ice dam in play ceases to support it.


This photo was taken on the first day of the Chamonix to Zermatt part of the trip, the ski to the Trient hut. Here, Stefan ski towards the Fenetre de Saleina, the pass in the background.


Looking in the opposite direction from virtually the same spot as the previous pic. In the background are the Petit Darrey and the Grand Lui.


The final short slope up to the Fenetre de Saleina is normally climbed on foot, skis on pack.


On the second day, we leave the Trient hut, ski down the Trient glacier for about 1000 feet, then make a very short climb to the Col des Ecandies. Dwight carries his "Mothership" skis to the Col. From here it is all downhill to Champex, some 5000 below.


From Champex, we take a taxi to Bourg-St-Pierre where we stay the night in a local hotel. This little ducky bids us farewell a we pack up the following morning for the hike and ski up to the Valsorey hut.


The first part of the route to the Valsorey is on foot, with skis on the pack. About the point where this photo was taken, we can switch to skis. Mont Velan rises in the background.


Dwight takes a wee nap at our lunch break, below the hut.


This photo was taken on day six of the trip, the day we traverse from the Chanrion hut to the Vignettes. Here, we are climbing up to the first of the Cols des Portons.


Alan and Stefan climb the steep but short slope to the Col Nord des Portons. This little section can sometimes be quite challenging. But with the fat snowpack of the 2006 season the climb was straightforward.


Later on that same day, the clouds came in, and we had few views for the afternoon. In fact, we pretty much had to GPS our way down to the Vignettes hut. Here, David, Peter, Alan, Dick and Kathy rip the skins and prepare for the descent from the summit of the Pigne d'Arolla.


The following day, however, was much nicer (at least in the morning). The sun is just rising as we leave the Vignettes hut, bound for Zermatt.


Skinning up to the Col de l'Eveque, not far from the Vignettes hut.


The cloud came and went for much of the day. We had a couple great descents with the sun just poking through, as is the case here on the ski down from the Col de l'Eveque.


Booting up the Col du Mont Brule, about half way through our day. The ski down on the far side was a high point of the trip, starting inside a cloud and skiing out of it to glorious views. In the space of a few amazing turns, the skiing changed from no visibility and flat light, to almost too much visibility, with distracting icefalls, giant mountains, and blue sky.


After a warm, sun-drenched lunch, not far below the Col du Mont Brule, we skin up to the Col de Valpelline. Unfortunately, our arrival at the Col corresponded with that of a rather thick cloud, and we caught only fleeting views of the Matterhorn on our way down to Zermatt.


And we ski until the now runs out! Dick negotiates a "thin" section not far from Zermatt.


Ahhh, back in civilization. From left to right are Dick, David, Alan, Stefan, Kathy, Peter and Dwight.


Stefan enjoys his beer and a formidable croute.


It is a little hard to tell whether Peter is sleeping or eating. Had I had the presence of mind to do a series of photos, we would seen the bratwurst slide across the plate in disappear into his mouth.


With all the warm weather in the last 10 days, the Schwartztor was "out of condition", so we had to develop other plans for the extra, unused, weather day we included in our schedule. Alan, Alan's wife Carol (who joined in the Berner Oberland, next) and Stefan skied the pistes into Cervinia, while the rest of the crew did the Gorner Gorge, a bit of a human-powered natural fun-ride/via ferrata.


Dick looks a bit skeptical as we approach the first of three zip-lines.


This old railing and balcony was built decades ago. It fell into disuse until the local guides added the cable For security, and enlarged the route to include some wide Tarzan swings, rappels and zip-lines.


David, Kathy, Peter and Dwight walk through the early-spring fields from the Gorge back into Zermatt.

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