Chamonix to Zermatt • March 27 - April 3, 2013

Our first Chamonix-to-Zermatt Haute Route of 2013 was with a super fun group of buddies from around the U.S., rounded up by ring-leader John MacWilliams.

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Shown here from left to right: Perry Boyle, John MacWilliams, (Kathy), Stuart Disston, Geoff Disston, Jamie Streator, and Jerry Coughlin.


We started the trip, as usual, with a descent of the Vallée Blanche. We benefited from a rare lull in the steady stream of bad weather that has plagued this part of the Alps for over a month. Not this day! What a gift.


Naturally we were not alone in jumping on this chance to get into the high mountains. Big crowds, but everyone happy and full of excitement to be out.


This photo might help explain the high spirits! Jerry rippin' along, singin' a song.


The edge of nowhere. Géant Icefall in all its glory.


Day 2, it was time to pay the piper. Actually, this photo can be interchanged with days 3, and 4, and even the morning of day 5.... Here we are on our way to the Argentière hut. Thankfully, it is not far.


Struggling through rising winds and spindrift sloughs across the short steep slopes to the hut.


And a well-earned reward! Not sure if you can see how soaking wet Kathy's windshirt is. Never mind, all is well now.


The next morning, this is as clear as the weather got as we began our retreat from the Argentière glacier. The storms were soon back in full bluster. Knowing it would be brutal as well as dangerous to try and push on via multiple steep cols to the Trient hut, we altered our plan to get to the Mont Fort hut and thus stay more or less on our schedule. As it turned out, even the highway over the Col des Montets was closed, temporarily, for avalanche control and clearing. This delayed but did not prevent our progress.


Skipping ahead a bit, our efforts to get from the Mont Fort hut to the Prafleuri hut were similarly thwarted, so we retreated once again, this time to the old-world charm of the Grand Kurhaus hotel in Arolla.


From Arolla, a relatively short skin from the ski area and over the famous Pas du Chèvre, once again allowed us to get back on schedule, and to the Dix hut. Jamie takes one for the team and goes first down the vertical ladders.


At about noon the clouds magically and instantly vanished, and we found ourselves as if teleported into a different world, one of sunshine and blue sky. The Dix hut, basking in it.


A short afternoon skin up the slopes above the hut for a wee patch o' powder, La Luette in the background.


Yum yum!


OK OK enough already! But after three days of murk, this was really welcome.


Our improved luck continued into day 6, as we crossed over the high point of the Pigne d'Arolla in blazing clear weather. Here we skin up the Glacier de Tsena Refien, with Mont Blanc de Cheilon in the background.


The Serpentine, looking very burly in a stiff north wind.


At the high point, everyone feeling lucky to be here in this weather. The Matterhorn peeks over Jamie's left shoulder.


Day 7 also dawned sunny and clear for our final leg into Zermatt. On our last climb here, to the Col de Valpelline, we're actually getting too warm for the first time all week!


And "regardez-moi ça"! We made it! It's all downhill from here.


On the homeward leg...


... to Zermatt! We did it!


Being on schedule and hence with an extra day, we had to do the obligatory descent of the Schwarztor, Zermatt's answer to the Vallée Blanche and every bit as beautiful.


Having just a little more legs for skinning, we were able to find some fresh snow at the margins of this heavily travelled descent. It is Easter week, and the off-piste hordes have been busy the past few days!


A great end to an epic, and varied, week of adventure in the Alps! We hope to see John and his friends again out here.

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