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Haute Route Success!

~ Friday 24th February 2017

The title says it all really - a tired, smelly, footsore but happy team skied into Zermatt yesterday after a tough but successful Chamonix-Zermatt Haute Route with the Eagle Ski Club.

I first did the Haute Route in February 1993 with Mike Clark. Staying in the winter rooms we saw no-one for 5 days, ran out of food, got lost and snow-bound for a day but finally reached Zermatt - a great adventure! An article by Rob Collister in the Eagle's yearbook about finding more "sustainable" adventure nearer to home gave me the idea of running an annual attempt. There's no shortage of ski adventure to be found in far-flung places but could the world's best-known (and busiest!) ski-tour out of season provide similar challenge without travelling half-way around the world? The answer seems to be yes - previous efforts varying from non-starters in bad weather to very near success, but each trip provided plenty of challenge and seclusion in the high mountains.

Day 1: We left the Grands Montets lift for the long climb to the Col du Passon, then turned right for the Col du Tour, leaving the Chamonix crowds behind.

Day 2: A complicated day, skiing, climbing , skiing, taxi, lifts, then finally leaving the Verbier pistes for the peace and quiet of the Rosablanche. Good powder made for a good ski down to Prafleuri and a "luxury " night with electric lights!

Day 3: Mixed weather for the climb to the Dix hut. This is usually the "easy" day, but trail-breaking and surprisingly delicate avalanche conditions (Cat 2 but "whoomphing"!) made it quite challenging.

Day 4: Perfect weather for the Pigne traverse, if a little windy! The dry winter has left the Serpentine bare, and we climbed in crampons before skinning to the wind-scoured summit.

After a bumpy ride from the summit on wind-blown waves we at last found where the snow had gone - the lower slopes were great skiing!

Keen to make the most of good weather we skipped the Vignettes and climbed over the Col de l'Éveque in the afternoon - a long way but gaining 2 valuable hours for the final day.

Day 5: Grand finale, and perfect weather! Up the Col du Mont Brulé, down, then the long slog to the Col de Valpelline. It's all downhill from there...2000m down, with fantastic views and some really good skiing. The Stockji glacier is very open (no surprise) but the snow lasts all the way to Zermatt where the inevitable culture shock awaits after 5 days in the mountains!

Matterhorn col du valpelline

Matterhorn ski haute route

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