Chamonix to Zermatt Haute Route • April 21-28, 2011

Our last Haute Route of this ski season was the Bourg-St-Pierre/ Plateau du Couloir variation, with Mont Vélan thrown in for good measure. For this trip we were joined by brothers Larry and Mike Sokolsky, their buddy Roy Tsugawa, as well as Amy Caddell of Vermont, and Shaun Guyton of New Zealand.

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Beginning as usual with a descent of the Vallée Blanche, we took time to skin up to the Col d'Entrèves, on the France/Italy border.


Skiing across the "Salle à Manger", low on the route. Still enough snow cover here, but ...


We ran out of snow about a half hour before the stairway up to the Montenvers train. Amy pauses to check whether this glacier ice is as scrumptious as it looks! (not).


The next day, we headed up to the Grands Montets for our start on the trail.


Calm but mixed weather, not too hot, not too cold, we make our way here up toward the Fenêtre de Saleina.


Amy enjoys a moment of solitude gliding along the glaciated Trient plateau.


At the Trient hut, it's apéro time!


The Val d'Arpette the following morning was frozen firm under cloudy skies, but there had been a smidgen of new snow to soften things up a bit.


Walking the spring meadows for the last few minutes to the Relais d'Arpette to meet our vehicle for the transfer to Bourg St. Pierre.


We were dropped off at the trail head and continued up to the spectacularly situated Vélan hut.


The following morning, the foehn wind and clouds vanished to leave a clear blue sky above and quickly receding valley fog below.


Skiers pass below an active icefall high on the route.


Spring snow in great conditions, for about a nano-second between frozen, and breakable!


Beautiful! But it's a long way up. And down.


This is the view of Mont Vélan from our next night's lodging, the Valsorey hut. Don't even ask how long a day this comes to!


But finally we all reach the hut, and well in time for dinner.


The next morning it's another early start to get up the Plateau du Couloir. We leave the hut behind in the pink morning light.


Views of Mont Blanc receding into the distance.


Sadly, a knee injury following a pre-release of his binding, forced a helicopter retreat for Mike, and his earlier than planned arrival in Zermatt! We were sorry to see him go, but glad we would find him waiting for us in a couple of days. The rest of us glide down toward the Chanrion hut.


Again walking the last kilometer or so to the hut, we saw the wildflowers already out in the meadows nearby. We're told by the hutkeeper that one doesn't always get to see these Spring Pasqueflowers, as they normally hide beneath the snows. Aptly named, as Easter fell on this trip!


Another early start for one of the bigger days of the trip, over the Col de Porton and the Pigne d'Arolla.


The usual rock climbing fun and games at the Col du Portons. She likes it! Hey Mikey!


A short but steep traverse above a wind-scoop feature...


Looking back at the easy side of the Col, and onward into Italy.


At last we reached the summit of the Pigne d'Arolla, and although it was fairly early in the day, we had it all to ourselves, in calm wather.


Descending Spring snow to the Vignettes hut.


Our last day dawned brilliant, and unexpectedly cold under the influence of a stiff "bise" (north wind). We near the end of our first climb, the Col de l'Evêque.


Our second climb, the Col du Mont Brulé, goes quickly.


Finally, we near the end of our third and last climb of the day, the Col de Valpelline. This one seems a bit more endless....


But all things come to an end. Here we ski down toward Zermatt past big blocky ice séracs on the Stockji Glacier.


Inevitably in this dry year, we did finally run out of snow in the lower reaches of the glacier. A half hour or so of hiking brought us to Stafel, and a waiting car to bring us to Zermatt.


The next day, with several of the lifts shutting down already and snow conditions not optimal, we decided to do something completely different: the Gorge Adventure! Larry clambers through the Gorner Gorge on the Via Ferratta equipped by the local guides and climbing authorities. Thank you for this, Zermatt!


The scale is a bit deceptive here; Amy is not actually stepping across the chasm, it's yawning beneath her feet!


Roy tests the slippy logs section.


A fun way to end a ski trip, who'd a thunk?