| Haute Route-France to Switzerland Part 1
In April of 2011, I attempted to ski the Haute Route from Chamonix to Zermatt via Verbier, also known as the “skier’s variation” because it skips a few of the more technical cruxes providing time for more skiing. Our group was led by our friend and IFGMA certified guide named John Race, the founder of a small skiing/guide service called Northwest Mountain School based out of Leavenworth, WA. As this would be my first European ski tour I wanted to rely on someone I not only could trust, but a good friend as well. (I guess that’s not much different than any other outing in the mountains!)
The plan was to stay in Chamonix and ski the Valle Blanche, ski the Haute Route to Zermatt, ski on-piste in Verbier during the trip and Zermatt after the trip, then hang out in Geneva before heading back to the States.
After a comfortable flight from JFK to Geneva and a beautiful 3 hour train ride on the Mont Blanc Express I arrived in Chamonix. If you’re short on time, take a coach from Geneva. It’ll get you there in half the time-but you won’t have the views. Chamonix sits at about 3400ft with the surrounding mountains towering well above 12,000ft. Mont Blanc is even higher at over 15,000ft but the visibility wouldn’t allow me a look.
Our first objective would be a tram ride the next morning to the Aguille du Midi at over 12,600, followed by a ski decent down the Mer de Glace and the Valle Blanche, if visibility improved… The Aguille du Midi is the small tower in the middle of the picture.
I’m happy to report that the “Texas Suitcase” has made its way to the other side of the world!
Before we ski, a night out is in order! Blayne from Perth, AUS, Michael from Manhattan, NYC and myself from Queens, NYC
The next morning, there were reports of zero visibility at the top so we decided to go to the Grand Montets ski area where we hoped there would be better visibility.
It was just as bad but at least the ski area wasn’t glaciated!
We made it down with zero visibility and a wicked hangover. Unfortunately, I don’t have pictures to prove it…
Celebratory Cardinal Lagers on our balcony!
The next morning had much better visibility for the start of the Haute Route. That’s Mont Blanc in the background at 15,774ft.
And the Chamonix Valley below.
A view of the Argentiere Glacier.
A 2400ft decent of the Rognons Glacier to the Argentiere.
Our first climb. The Col du Chardonnet, a 2500ft “Welcome to the Haute Route”
A look back at the Rognons Glacier from halfway up the Col.
From the top of the Col, a view of Switzerland.
After waiting in a queue for at least 30mins, it was finally our turn to rappel into Switzerland.
Always fearless, Blayne was the first to go.
A look back at the Rappel from the Saleina Glacier.
After a boot pack up the Fenetre de Saleina, we cross the Trient Glacier for a nite at the Trient Hut.
The next morning we descended the Trient Glacier, boot packed the Col Des Escandies, and skied more than 4000ft down the Val d'Arpette where we encountered crud, hard pack, porn(not quite corn in the way that pornography is not quite sex), avy debris, schmoo, slush, and finally mud at the town of Champex. It was one of the wildest ski descents of my life!
Starting down the Trient Glacier
Top of the Col des Escandies
A line of Haute Routers walking through Champex to catch a bus then train to Verbier.
Drying out at the train station.
We had the rest of the day to ski at Verbier!
Then beers until ski patrol kicked us off!
Please read Part 2...
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