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| |-+  April 2005 Backcountry Trip Reports
| | |-+  April 20-27, 2005, Haute Route, Chamonix
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Author Topic: April 20-27, 2005, Haute Route, Chamonix  (Read 2974 times)
Scotsman
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April 20-27, 2005, Haute Route, Chamonix
« on: 04/29/05, 02:19 AM »

Just got back from doing the Haute route from Chamonix to Zermatt. One of the greatest experiences of my life so far( apart from marriage and kids of course) Wink.
Here is short report.
Day 1. Guides Mark Houston and Kathy Cosley take our group to the Grand Monets ski area as weather is bad and we can't do the Valley Blanche run as planned.
Good skiing in new snow but with poor visibility. Guides put us through various drills( skinning, kick turns on steep slopes, beacon search etc.) and declare our skiing skills adequate. Great relief to me as I was nervous that I would not be a good enough skier.

Day 2. Weather clears and we take tram to top of Grand Monets Ski area. Views are incredible. From top tram we ski down to the Argentiere Glacier. Knee deep powder, fresh tracks and like nothing I have ever experienced before.I am using my G3 Reverends which are pretty fat , everybody else has either Crossbows or K2 Shuksans.
Long descent and get used to the powder and I am yelling gibberish in sheer joy.Cross Argentiere Glacier and skin up the Chardonnet Glacier to the Col du Chradonnet. Steep skinning, many kick turns and deep snow. Cross plateau at top to Col du Fourches. At this point we bootpack up very steep slope to top of col. A party just before us was trying to skin up when the top guy sets of a small slide that takes guy below him out. He has one of those packs that have air bags in them. He is sliding in avalanche and deploys his air bags. Slide stops and he is OK.
At top of col, only way down is by ropes. Mark lowers Kathy down to itermediate belay. I go first. Mark lowers me to Kathy a full rope length and then I tie into Kathy's rope and she lowers me another rope lenght to where slope angle eases. I untie from rope and ski down to glacier below.Guides repeat process with others. In meantime a French guide sidesteps down gully with ice -axe in one hand and pole in other. The slope is 60-65 degree hard icy snow.I watch in amazement and fear that I am about to see someone die. Incredible skill and of course incredible gallic flair.
Long skin up to Trient Hut. 10 hours on skis, we are wasted but giddy with what we have experienced.

Day 3. Cold and clear. Start day with very steep ski down from hut to Col du Ecandies. I am a bit scared as slope is so steep and crevasses are below. Guides reassure me that if I fall the snow is soft enough to stop my fall. I get down  and then we weave through some big crevasses with the guides telling us to ski in thier tracks exactly. Once through the ice-fall it's a beautiful ski down the Val d'  Arpette to the town of Champex. One of the group, Bob, falls heavily on an icy slope and hurts his shoulder.
From Champex we take bus to Verbier. We ski in Verbier ski area in afternoon then stay in  the Mont Fort cabin that night.

Day 4. Bob drops out of group as his shoulder hurts and trip is more strenuous than he imagined. From Mont Fort cabiin we skin across three cols to a plateau below a peak called the Rosenblanche. Grant and I with guides drop packs and skin to  near the top of the peak. From there we bootpack short distance to summit. On boot pack down I ask for a belay from Mark as at one point a slip would result in a fatal fall and slope is icy. Grant is braver than me and goes down unroped. Marvellous ski in boot top powder back to packs then long skin with whole group to the Prafleuri Hut.

Day 5.Weather getting bad. Long day skinning across long traverses and steep slopes to the Dix cabin. I don't enjoy this day as the traversing is very tiring and I lack confidence in my edging in my fat skis. A hard and scary day for me. Others in group cope much better with the long traverses above drop offs and steep skinning.

Day 6. Dix hut and weather is socked in and snowing. We need good visibility for next leg so wait in hut all day.

Day 7. Dix hut to Vignettes hut. Incredible day. Blue skies, fresh snow. Skin  up Glacier de  Chelion , skin up very steep headwall called La Serpentine and reach high point of tour at the summit of the Pigne d' Arolla, 3790 meters. Incredible view of Matterhorn. Ski beautiful powder to Vingnette hut. Guides say we are incredibly lucky as this slope is usually tracked out by heli-skiers but we get freshies in new powder.
Vingettes hut is perched on side of cliff. North facing  slope below hut is perfect powder and Grant and I yo-yo the slope twice with the guides while others rest.

Day 8- Final day.Skin across Col de l'Eveque, Col Collon and boot pack up Col de M.Brule. Grant skins up Col de M.Brule and we and guides declare him skinning stud. He later admits that he had forgotten to adjust his new crampons to his ski boots so had no other option. We are still impressed. Final long skin up to Col de Valpelline and we are smack dab in front of the Matterhorn. 7000' ski descent to Zermatt under the Mattehorn with the weather closing in behind us.

What an experience and I can't speak more highly of the guides. Mark Houston is the stong silent type, Kathy is caring and funny. They are two the most gifted and best human beings I have ever met.

Now , I have to start saving to go back.
Grant has pictures and I will post them when he gets back.
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ron j
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Re: April 20-27, 2005, Haute Route, Chamonix
« Reply #1 on: 04/29/05, 04:28 AM »

Wow.
Super Trip, Chris.  I'm glad you had a good time.
Thanks for sharing it.
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korup
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Re: April 20-27, 2005, Haute Route, Chamonix
« Reply #2 on: 04/29/05, 06:49 AM »

Hey, not to be nosy, but ballpark cost? It looks like a superb time!
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Scotsman
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Re: April 20-27, 2005, Haute Route, Chamonix
« Reply #3 on: 04/29/05, 07:10 AM »

Korup, cost was about $1950, this included all hut costs and meals except snacks you had to buy yourself.
Additionally , you paid for your own transport costs to Chamonix. Included in $1950 was one night's hotel room at each end of tour. Also included was ski tickets for initial day of lift skiing before the tour started and the "Carte Neige" rescue insurance.

Used frequent flier miles to get to Geneva. Then booked taxi transfer to Chamonix( about 1.5 hours) with a company called ATS ( Air Transport Sevice) that cost me about $50 each way.Arrived a day early and paid for my own room one night in Hotel D'Arve, about $65.

Best money I ever spent.
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AndyP
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Re: April 20-27, 2005, Haute Route, Chamonix
« Reply #4 on: 04/29/05, 09:54 AM »

Nice trip!  That's one I'd like to do sometime.

I think last October Ann and I skied Muir with you and I remember you mentioned that you were headed there.  Glad to hear it worked out.  (I think it was a sunny weekday about mid month)
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JW
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Re: April 20-27, 2005, Haute Route, Chamonix
« Reply #5 on: 04/29/05, 01:53 PM »

Sounds great Chris! thanks
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