Chamonix to Zermatt Haute Route • April 11-18, 2011

Our second Chamonix to Zermatt Haute Route this year brought together a great group from far-flung places. The week included a mix of good and bad weather, which led to some really fine skiing conditions.


Other trips with some of these folks. Actually only Kimber and Gerrit have skied with us before this trip, so all trips listed below apply only to them.

Silvretta - March 2009
Berner Oberland - May 2007

Return to all recent trips

The crew, from left to right: kneeling in front are Mark, Byron Grant, Miguel Caracoche, and Jeff Hanks. Standing in back are Brad Ritzel, Kathy, Shelley Hanks, Kimber Keagle, and Gerrit Saylor.


Beginning, as we usually like to do, with the Vallée Blanche descent from the Aiguille du Midi, we once again had sunny warm weather.


Low down on the route conditions are quite similar to summer norms.


The following day, the first on the "trail", called for quite poor visibility, precipitation and strong winds. We decided to make this a short day and go just to the newly refurbished Argentière hut. This proved to be a good move as the weather really did get bad, and the food was some of the best we've ever had in a mountain hut! In this photo we descend to the Argentière Glacier from the Grands Montets.


The following morning dawned clear and cold. Dry conditions on the lower part of the climb toward the Col du Chardonnet made for some steep-ish cramponing with skis on backs.


Once established on the glacier itself, the going got smoother.


The descent off the Col du Chardonnet itself was not bad, still quite filled in with snow. A couple of groups re-combobulate after their roped descent.


At the Trient hut, we appreciate the little details like these flowering potted plants and a nice wine list!


Leaving the Trient hut, we again had some threatening weather. Here we near the boot up the steep Col des Ecandies.


Short but steep, the col gives way to the prospect of a nice descent down the Val d'Arpette.


We carried on to the Prafleuri hut on this day, and just as we got to the steep slopes above the hut, the sun came out, allowing us to properly enjoy the great snow we found here too.


Another cold and clear pre-dawn start from the Prafleuri hut, to help us along as far as possible before the day's heat sets in.


New snow over a firm base, very promising conditions.


We reached the Col des Roux just as the sun hit the far peaks.


We descended to the level of the summer trail, which provided a more or less comfortable ramp to traverse above the "lake" (whose level is at a very low ebb this year).


Arriving above the Dix hut, the clouds are just beginning to gather in again. Light snowfall persisted during most of the afternoon, though the sun was still warm through the thin clouds.


The following day it was on again to the Vignettes hut, on another cold and clear morning. Mont Blanc de Cheilon in the background here as we skin up the glacier toward the Serpentine.


Conditions on the Serpentine were perfect once again for skinning. People on the summit of the Pigne d'Arolla provide scale, and motivation to keep going!


Our reward is about to begin, as we ready for the descent to the Vignettes hut from the shoulder of the Pigne d'Arolla. The snow is warming up now and getting softer...


We had time again after lunch for a lap down the slopes below the Vignettes hut. Shelley enjoys some nice fresh tracks!


Gerrit gets in some good splashy stuff too!


After the extra exercise, dinner is particulary interesting.


Our last day on the trail, again cold and clear. The light comes up slowly as we begin the long climb to the Col de l'Evêque.


The second climb, toward the Col du Mont Brulé, looks like a highway. Smooth, consistent grade, we get into a meditative rhythm here.


And it's done! The Col du Mont Brulé is over, now for another quick descent...


And another contemplative couple of hours later (some of us contemplating our blisters) we reach the last of our three climbs, the Col de Valpelline, and the Matterhorn again rises into view, closer than ever before.


A little celebration is in order here.


Our descent was exhilerating on soft spring snow, up close and personal with dramatic glacier features like this broken sérac wall. We kept a close eye on these features and kept our skis pointed toward the escape hatch!


Savoring the rare proximity to glacier ice before dropping down another great pitch of corn snow.


On our last day we rode the lifts to the Stockhorn, and skinned up the Cima di Jazzi. Here we traverse a scenic ridge as we leave the pistes behind.


Kimber and Gerrit take some time to enjoy the views from the Cima di Jazi.


A seemingly endless descent at a mostly gentle grade, the ski down was pure pleasure. The snow varied from wintry and powdery up top, to shiny soft "ego" snow lower down. A great end to a long and challenging adventure. Thanks to all the group for making it such a great week!