Classic Haute Route Day 5 – Bertol Hut to Schönbiel Hut

It was another early start with breakfast at around 5 am, unfortunately it was quite disappointing, there wasn’t enough Orange juice or milk,  both of which were just in a carton in the middle table. There didn’t seem to be anyone around to bring out some more stuff unlike the other huts. Overall this was the worst hut for hospitality we ended up staying at, the views are great but the guardian and hosts seemed grumpy and annoyed you were in their hut. We ate the bread with jam and some cereal with a little splash of milk and got ready to head off, it was a perfect morning with a clear skies and the no wind at all.

Sun rising behind Matterhorn from Bertol Hut

We set off down the ladders to the east side of the Col and got roped up ready for the glacier crossing. There was a clear track across the Glacier du Mont Minè south south east towards the Col des Bouquetins We then headed East up the Glacier towards Tête Blanche. As it was a clear night and morning the snow was very crisp and made for quite easy walking, crevasses were fairly easy to spot but well covered on our way up to Tête Blanche. Once on the Col de la Tête Blanche we headed up towards the summit across the bergschrund, which was a bit slushy and had a few holes (probably from the 70 Belgian Scouts the previous day). It was a short walk over the flat snow towards the summit (3707m) where we untied for summit photos and to enjoy the perfect views over the Matterhorn and surrounding ranges.

The Matterhorn from Tete Blanche summit

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Classic Haute Route Day 4 – Vignettes Hut to Bertol Hut

Route up Mont Collon Glacier
Route up Mont Collon Glacier, the track goes up to the right between the crevasses and the ridge line

We woke at around 5 am for breakfast which included bacon, pancakes and eggs as fresh hot food, this only continued to make me like this hut even more. We got ready downstairs in the indoor area and set off around 6 am back along the route we’d walked the previous day. The snow was nice and crisp after the cold night so we had our crampons on today unlike the walk in the day before.  We removed them again for the scramble down the ridge back onto the top end of the Otemma Glacier which was a lot easier than going up it before as it was also slightly frozen. At the bottom of the ridge we put our crampons and roped up ready for the glacier crossing. There was quite a clear track along the glacier up the Mont Collon Glacier towards the col de l’Eveque, the glacier was fairly easy going initially but then it got a bit steeper and the track went over to the east of the glacier. Further up there were quite a few open crevasses with snow bridges crossing them. Some of the snow was a bit soft in places and had been well trodden by earlier groups so the bridges were not as good as the lower part of the glacier.

We made our way up to the col where the Italian border runs and walked east down the glacier on the other side of the col. This started off good and there were tracks in the snow but further down we kept to the east side on the icy section of the glacier where the crevasses were much clearer.

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Classic Haute Route Day 3 – Chanrion Hut to Vignettes Hut

Morning Panorama at Chanrion Hut
The morning view from hill behind Chanrion Hut

We woke up with the others in our room around around 5am for a much busier breakfast than the day before, there was the standard bread and jams/Nutella + cereals and some juice. After the previous day’s efforts we were a bit slower to get going this morning but we knew the day was no where near as long although the forecast was for the weather to deteriorate throughout the day from the clear start we had. We set off around 7 am around the back of the hut following a path down to the valley and picked up track along side the river heading up-stream. Once we got to a small hydro dam the track turned into a path marked by some blue paint and cairns. At some points this did disappear into the river and was diverted but generally very easy to follow.

Otemma Glacier
Steady walk up the Otemma Glacier

After an hour and a half or so we arrived at the toe of the Otemma Glacier it was dry and had a very shallow incline so few crevasses here so we just put on crampons and headed off up the centre of the glacier. This steady walking was a huge change from the previous day which we were still a bit sore from, having other groups out as well made .

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Classic Haute Route Day 2 – Valsorey Hut to Chanrion Hut

The morning started with a half 4 alarm such that we were ready to get away at first light. The hut guardian had left out breakfast the night before as there was no need for her to wake so early too, she was very keen to point out of there were any problems at all to wake her bit fortunately all was fine.

Route up to Plateau du Couloir
Not much snow on route up from Valsorey Hut

Having studied the route the previous day we had a good idea where we we heading, there was quite a clear path up the rocks from the hut up and curving slightly to our left. There were some small patches of snow and the end of the Meitin Galcier which we had to cross to bring us back around and straight up the central rocky moraine. Once we reached the bottom of the snow patches heading towards the col we turned towards the Plateau du Couloir and worked out way up and traversing across. The snow varied a lot, some of it being solid ice and needing to cut steps or front point the crampons, and other parts being quite slushy with lose rocks.

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Classic Haute Route Day 1 – Bourg St. Pierre to Valsorey Hut

Background

To start with a bit of a background, a group of us have been heading to the mountains for around 8 years now, whether or be for alpine trekking or via Ferrata. We started in the Pyrenees with Aneto and have done a trip most years including, Chamonix, Saas Fee, Jungfrau and the Dolomites. Around a year ago one of the group suggested the Classic Alpine Haute Route, this is a multi day hut to hut trip rather than the hut to summit trips we have mainly done up till now. I decided that this sounded like a good experience and challenge, 3 of us out of the group were able to make it.

The idea of this blog is to put together some more recent information on our trip for anyone else who might be considering doing it. I found it quite hard to find up-to-date information on the web, unlike most other trips we have done. We were armed with Peter Cliff’s ‘The Haute Route’ [Amazon] book but this was last revised in 2006 and a lot has changed since then, this was a useful guide although it did seem to dedicate a lot more time to the winter ski route. There was also a lot of info on the web about the winter route and the low level walking route; however we did find these to blogs by David Mercer and this fairly detailed alpine guide’s site by Cosley & Houston.

The Classic Haute Route traditionally goes from Chamonix to Champex then with a short bus/transfer through a lower valley to continue the route to Zermatt. Due to work holiday time constraints we decided it was best to miss out the Chamonix to Champex part and opted to start on day 3 in the guide book from Bourg St. Pierre and follow the route to Zermatt. The rest of this post and the following entries describe the route and how we went, including route profiles and a smoothed GPX of the route we took should it come in useful to anyone else.

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Introductions

Hi, so my wife and I have decided to start a little blog. I thought I’d write up details of my walk across the Haute Route in the Swiss Alps in July to help others in the future as it was hard to find much information. Once I  I mentioned this my wife suggested that we have a joint blog where she can add details of travels, fitness training and lifestyle stuff too.

So here is the first post…I will follow up with my Haute Route experience over the next few weeks.

Cheers,
Richard & Michelle