Chamonix to Zermatt Haute Route • April 1-8, 2011

Our first Chamonix to Zermatt Haute Route of the season included Joy and Patrick Kettler, Thomas Kral, as well as (of course) Kathy and Mark. The Kettlers have home-like connections to Verbier, London and Austin, Texas. Thomas is a bit more settled down, calling Ottawa, Ontario his home.

We were a bit concerned about conditions this season, as the snowpack has been rather lacking. However, it seems that up high, on the glaciers in particular (where we spend the vast majority of this tour) there is plenty of snow. And, in general, conditions were great.

As has been common this winter, we had lots of sun. All but one of our 8 days of skiing were sunny. The downside of all this fine weather (besides the Farmer John tan) was a lack of nice powder snow. But we did have some good corn, and, for the most part, fun skiing.


Other trips with some of these folks. Actually only Thomas has skied with us before this trip, so all trips listed below apply only to Thomas.

Classic Haute Route - April 2010
Berner Oberland - May 2007

Return to all recent trips

Left to right we have Patrick, Kathy, Joy, Thomas, and the Matterhorn. This photo was taken at the Col de Valpelline.


All of our Haute Route trips start with a Vallée Blanche shake down. Here, Joy, Patrick and Mark descend the arête off the top of the Aiguille du Midi.


Joy celebrates skiing down the Mer de Glace.


Our first day, proper, of the Chamonix—Zermatt. Here, we have just skied down from the Grands Montets and are now cruising across the Glacier d'Argentière.


The views in the Argentière basin are spectacular.


Looking back across to the glacier we just skied. The Aiguille Verte is giant peak on the left. The top of the Grands Montets ski complex is just out of view on the right.


After climbing up to the Col du Chardonnet, we have a steep technical descent. This quite impressive side-slip is some 80 meters long and about 45 to 50 degrees. We invariably do this with the aid of a belay rope.


After the Col, a short descent on ski leads to another climb up and over the Fenêtre de Saleina. Kathy and Thomas skin up to the base of the couloir. In a few meters they will put skis on packs and boot up to the top.


Celebrating the first day's touring in the Cabane du Trient.


Day 2 starts with a quick (and rather icy) descent from the hut, and then a bit of steep booting up to the Col des Ecandies. Here, Patrick, Joy and Mark are about to arrive at the Col. The Aiguille du Tour in the sun behind.


Joy on the firm but very fun snow on the lower Val d'Arpette. Later, down in Champex, we caught a taxi, drove to Verbier and, after some lift-riding and skiing, arrived at the Cabane du Mont Fort.


The following day, Mont Fort hut to the Prafleuri hut, was the only day of poor weather on the entire trip. The snowy weather did not last, however, and by the end of the evening, the skies were already clearing.


The clear skies allowed for a good freeze, and great conditions for the section between the Prafleuri and Dix huts. This was quite lucky for us, as the previous day, virtually all the parties from the Prafleuri hut abandoned their efforts to traverse the slopes above Lac Dix due to weak snow, a poor freeze and concerns about avalanche (not to mention very difficult traveling).

In this photo we have arrived at the Col des Roux.


Joy and Patrick at the Col des Roux.


Even though we had nice and cold conditions, the thin snow "encouraged" us to descend all the way to Lac Dix before continuing up-valley. Normally, we try to stay high on the slopes. While the low route was completely feasible, there were a few interesting sections where bluffs and cliffs pinched us between the rock and the river in the valley bottom.

The traverse along Lac Dix always is rather interesting, and usually includes skiing over some strange ice blocks along the lake edge. Lac Dix is a large dammed reservoir. The lake is filled in the summer months, and is drained for electricity generation in the winter. During the winter months, the lake level drops precipitously, leaving slabs of once-lake-level ice stranded high on the banks. Navigating down through the ice is often an "amusing" affair.


But all went well, and we arrive at the Dix hut with no problem.


The next day we continued on to the Vignettes hut. This photo shows skiers on the Serpentine, a steeper section of the route on the way up the Pigne d'Arolla.


Skinning up the Serpentine.


The high point of this tour at 3790 meters, is the summit of the Pigne d'Arolla. The view to the SE and up towards the Col de l'Evêque (above the head of the right-most skier), the first pass on our last day is clearly visible.


We arrive early at the Vignettes hut. Ever the fun-hogs we decided to take a few turns on the slopes below the hut. Actually, this was the best powder skiing we found the entire week (and it was really quite good).


Looking back up at our tracks.


The last day of the tour starts at the Vignettes hut (seen here) and ends in Zermatt. Again, perfect weather.


Joy pauses to take in the view above the Haut Glacier d'Arolla.


Climbing up the Col du Mont Brulé.


Kathy and Joy practicing their synchronized kick turn routine.


After crossing our final pass, the Col de Valpelline, we have a very long descent down the Stockji, Tiefmatten, and Zmutt Glaciers, under the north faces of the Dent d'Hérens (on the right) and the Matterhorn (left).

Here, Patrick prepares for an attempted jump over the Matterhorn.


The fine folks of Zermatt inform us that this is indeed the end of the tour.


With good weather on the tour, we did not use our "weather day" and arrived in Zermatt one day early. This gave us the option of another days skiing in the Zermatt area. Decided to nurse blistered feet and sore muscles (and an additional day of rest in their Verbier home) Joy and Patrick opted to skip the last day's skiing.

Kathy, Thomas and Mark, however skied up (and down) the Breithorn. The north side, seen here, is quite formidable. The ski route, on the back side, is much more friendly looking.


Another party skiing down the Breithorn. The slope is fairly steep.


Thomas and Kathy on the summit of the Breithorn, about to start a whopping 2600 meter descent to Zermatt