Pigne D Arolla and Icefall
Day 5 – Arolla, Pas de Chevres to Pigne D Arolla to Vignettes Hut
We had 2 options on this day.
1. Ski direct to the Vignettes hut, same as the guided groups.
2. Rejoin the original route by crossing the Pas de Chevres, climbing the Pignes Des Arolla and then descending to the Vignettes hut.
Option 2 seemed a lot more exciting and the weather forecast was good to we decided to go for it.
Left the old school hotel last with Johan. Bought ski passes for a long poma which saved us a couple of kilometres and a few hundred metres ascent. Cheating?
Skiers on Montagne d Arolla
Roar took a cheeky line up an extra poma and did a sweet traverse to get ahead of us by like 10 minutes. I caught him on the way up the Pas de Chevres and cained all the Norwegians to the top.
Roar and old sun avalanche
Watched the Dix hut being serviced by heli which was cool, it kept swooping over my head at the top of the Pas de Chevres and down toward Arolla. Happy we bypassed the Dix as the guardian had given me an earful for not cancelling in time the day before!
Rigged up a rope and we downclimbed the ladders onto the Glacier de Cheilon. Was fun to get some ladder action with the skis on the back.
Pas De Chevres
We continued up the cheilon glacier in the heat and up to the Col de la Serpentine where the wind got up considerably.
The Pigne d Arolla stretching out before us and the Mont Blanc de Cheilon behind. This looks like a very impressive mountain and seems to be climbing possibilities and skiing possibilities on it.
Mt Blanc de Cheilon
Pigne D Arolla
The conditions were deteriorating slightly so there was a real feel of commitment and challenge in the air. The steep slope to get up to the Col du Brennay looked quite icy so it was time to get the crampons on and skis on the back and ice axe out.
Felt quite exposed on the way up, here is one of Johan getting buffeted in the wind. (hard to show in a photo!) We didnt think we were going to make the Pigne d’Arolla summit.
Johan on the windy icy section.
We got to the top and started skiing again. Eivind and I pushed on ahead, curled round some crevasses and headed toward the Pigne d Arolla summit. Amazingly the wind dropped as we approached the summit and all were able to summit. There was a guide with one client already on the top and he took some nice photos of us. They had climbed up from the Vignettes side.
Looking back the way we came
View from Pigne D Arolla Summit
Some photo taking, then an amazing descent towards the Vignettes hut. One of the best ski views I have ever had.. snow was a bit wind affected but still an amazing descent. Could have been the best descent of the trip.
Erik, Roar, Alastair, Pigne D Arolla Summit
For some reason we were greeting like heroes by the Americans and some of the guides for going the long way round. Was a great feeling to get to the hut and it is potentially the best hut we came across.
Pigne des Arolla descent
Before taking our skis off Johan and I spotted a huge powder bowl down the other side toward Arolla so hit that before retiring to the hut. Really good powder. Johan had left his Thermos in the hotel at Arolla and was seriously considering skiing back to get it. Luckily we managed to talk him out of it!
Glacier du Mt Collon
Most groups were continuing onto the Bertol hut; but we wanted to stick to the classic route so planned to ski direct to Zermatt the next day.
6.5 hours skiing.
Day 6 – Vignettes Hut to Zermatt
Leaving the Vignettes Hut at Dawn
Excitement was high in the night which meant little sleep and we had an early rise for the ‘biggest’ day of the haute route.
The day started sourly as we lost Roar and Erik at Vignettes due to illness. It would be a team of 4 instead of 6 which was a bit sad. The plan was for them to stay in Vignettes for an extra day; luckily there were 2 places left for them!
Glacier du Mt Collon
Glacier du Mt Collon
We eventually got away from the hut at about 7am, just as it was getting light. A cruisy ski down to the Glacier du Mt Collon and on with the skins for the first of 3 cols. Medium length skin up to the Col d Eveque, passed some groups that were in front of us (we were last to leave again). We got stuck behind a guided group on the way up the skin track. Passed them at the top however and we were in concentration / speed / being ‘effective’ mode as we knew the day was a biggy!
Long line of guided groups to overtake!
Skied down the other side of the Col d Eveque, snow was a bit bind affected but nice swooping turns anyway. We then caught up the American group, got a bit of banter with them then passed them on the way up to the foot of the Col d Mt Brule. Got the crampons out again to climb this, my Camp XLC 390 crampons were excellent and was fine with pure aluminium. If going later in the season it might have been a different story.
Col du M. Brule
Col du M. Brule
Col du M. Brule
Pulled away from the stars and stripes and caught up a group of italian stallions all wearing the same closes and using similar skis! A small traverse led us onto the Glacier de Tsa de Tsan were we stopped for a spot of lunch. The climb up to the Col de Valpelline is desceptively long and we worked hard to get there.
Boys up the final glacier
Eivind and his fishnet thermals
Upon arriving we were greeted with an amazing view of the Matterhorn as we left Italy. Time to take the skins off for last time and take some photos.
Me and the matterhorn
Matterhorn (from italian side)
We proceeded to descent the heavily crevassed Stockli Glacier. It wasnt over yet. The great visibility and abundance of ski tracks made it slightly easier but you still needed to watch where you were skiing. It would have been a different story if the weather had been bad and we may have had to ski roped up!
Skiing round some crevasses
Johan and Ice
Snow conditions on the glacier were excellent spring conditions as it was approximately 1130 am when we skied it. If done too much later in the day I doubt it would have been so fun.
Sweet tele turn
Took the right fork and skied directly under the Matterhorn which was extremely cool. Johan smacked his head on a rock due to rotten snow. The dangers of telemark skiing; wouldnt have happened if his heels were attached! I also wiped out here and my bindings DIDNT release when I came over the top, which is actually just as sketchy really.
We just hit this old glacier in time as apart from a little walk we were able to ski all the way to the afterski at 2300m!
Supposed to take 8:30 to 12 hours in the guidebook. Rando racers could so it a lot faster but we were pretty happy with 6 hours!
We met a dutch group who had skied from the Bertol that day. A tasty celebratory beer was consumed.
Relaxing after haute route completion
We advised the young waitress that when the Americans arrived she was to tell them the Norwegians (and scot) had been waiting for ages and had to ski down!
Band playing at 2200m below matterhorn
Skied down to Zermatt from here on long cruisy Cat Tracks.
The fun did not end there.
Chez heine for world class lamb, afterski bar, la poste nightclub, climbing rafters and to out delight there being no bouncers, stage dancing.
I had to make it to Scotland the next day nursing a killer hangover but it was worth it!
We made it! Haute route complete!