Monday, May 07, 2012

Skiing the Haute Route in Chamonix

It has been a long time since I have skied in the European Alps, so with the windy season gone in Melbourne I have headed to France with Mark and Simeon to attempt to ski the Haute Route.

Our bags got lost when we changed flights at Heathrow (apparently this is common) so we had a couple of stressful days in Paris chasing down where they were.  After much frustration, they were flown onto Geneva and got to Chamonix before we did.

It has been a very strange season here.  It was very hot in March, but in late April and early May it got very cold again and snowed a lot.  Much of the Haute Route is too dangerous to traverse, and most of the huts along it are now closed due to the bad conditions.

We had a very nice day skiing in good weather at Argentiere, including a couple of excellent runs from the top of the Grand Montet down the glacier.

We got lucky and skied from Argentiere (near Chamonix) across to Champex in Switzerland.  It was a big day that pushed us both to our limits.

Track log from Argentiere to Val d'Arpette

Getting up the Col du Chardonnet was strenuous as we have not had much time to acclimatise to the altitude.  We abseiled on skis down the Col then skied around to the Col de Saliena, which was an arduous climb.  On the way there I avoided a small avalanche that came down an obvious chute between Mark and myself.

There was nobody else around by the time we got to the Col de Saliena, which was a big change from my last visit there when there were over a hundred people going through.

This was decision time - either we could either return via the Col du Tour back to the Chamonix valley skiing down the Glacier du Tour, or continue on following the route to Champex.  We decided to do the latter.

It was a nice ski along the wide and gently sloping Trient Glacier, passing by the Cabine du Trient in the distance.  The descent next to the Trient Glacier ice fall was quite safe, we followed tracks and kept away from the crevasses.  It was a short shart climb up to the Col des Escandies, and a great relief to get there.  It was all downhill from there.

There were lots of avalanches along the southern slopes of the Val d'Arpette, some of which had nearly come right across the valley.  The recent fresh snowfalls had triggered these.  We skied down the nice snow at the top into wetter snow further down.

We saw a Chamois crossing the snowslope above us.  We skied all the way down to some lodges and the bitumen road, stopping for a late lunch by a lovely stream.

We were tired but very satisfied to have completed this section of the route.  We got down at about 4pm.

We walked out to the road to Champex and got straight on a bus that was waiting there, seemingly for us.  The friendly driver sold us a ticket the would take us all the way to Le Chatelard - the border with France.  We changed to a train at Orsieres, then stopped overnight at Martigny.

We returned by train and bus the next morning to Chamonix.

Graph of descents and ascents

Skiing down to Argentiere Glacier

Climbing the Col du Chardonnet

Climbing the Col du Chardonnet

Climbing the Col du Chardonnet

Descending the Col du Chardonnet

Glacier du Trient, looking towards the Col du Tour

Col de Saliena

Skiing across the Glacier du Trient

Trient icefall

Trient icefall

Val d'Arpette

Chamois in the Val d'Arpette

Photo album - Haute Route Chamonix to Champex

Skiing at Argentiere

1 comment:

Rick Engel said...

wow ...what an adventure! You certainly don't do anything by halves. Great photos and documentation. Amazing ...great effort all 'round.