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The Haute Route - April 6-11, 2009

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Sign up to do this trip with PGS: THE HAUTE ROUTE
APRIL 6-11, 2009 (by Mark Munro - our Man of the Law!)

The following document (hereinafter the "Trip Report") describes that certain ski tour from Chamonix, France to Zermatt, Switzerland which occurred between April 6, 2009 and April11, 2009 (hereinafter, the "Haute Route Ski Tour"). This Trip Report represents a complete and accurate account of all material events occurring during or in connection with the Haute Route Ski Tour (subject to the caveats and disclaimers set forth in Exhibit A). 

Day 1: Chamonix to the Trient Hut

After a six minute breakfast Margaret, Martina, Alex, Johana, Curt, Sam and Mark departed the Hotel Gustavia at 7:12 am to catch the 7:20 bus toward Argentiere. We failed to make the first two buses stop for us (in spite of Martina throwing her body in front of the second bus). However, we caught the third bus and arrived at the base of the Grand Montets tram at exactly 8:20 am. The tram took us to the summit of the Grand Montets, where we strapped on skis and descended to the Argentiere glacier without anyone falling into a crevasse or over a cliff. The weather was sunny and clear and the snow was nice. There were also many pretty mountains to look at.

Part of the trip was to be uphill, so we put on skins. We skinned across the glacier and prepared to tackle the ascent to the Col du Chardonet, which, looking at it from across the glacier, seemed impossible and ridiculous. The snow was hard and the slope steep, making for some steep skinning and tricky kick turns. Martina and Alex led the way up gracefully while the rest of us struggled through the 72 kick turns to the col. Sam took a digger on one of the kick turns, but, to everyone's surprise, survived. So we continued on. Once on top Margaret quickly set up an anchor, and, after we put on crampons and ice axes for defense, lowered the rest of us down into the couloir on the other side of the col. There was plenty of company in the couloir, and it presented the first opportunity to bond with the other climbers on the route. I stumbled onto a Frenchman, and Martina is rumored to have hooked up with an English snowboarder. What happens in the Couloir stays in the Couloir. 

We were a little tired from the Col du Chardonet, but we continued skiing and skinning across the Glacier de Saleina and up and over the Fenetre de Saleina. We then skied across the Plateau de Trient and climbed up to the Caban de Trient, arriving at the hut around 6 pm. 

Jim and Martin, who had arrived by helicopter several hours earlier, had tea waiting for us at the hut. Tea was followed by dinner, wine and sleep.

Day 2: Trient Hut to Champex to Verbier to Praflueri Hut

6 am breakfast, 7 am group photo shoot with pretty mountains in the background, 7:08 departure. We quickly climbed up the Col des Ecandies on firm snow, and skied down the Val d. Arpette and into the town of Champex. The snow, which had not yet been warmed by the sun, was hard and fast and made for fun cruising down into the meadows above the town. We had time for a coffee and snack before the taxi picked us up in Champex.

From Champex, the taxi took us for scenic ride on a winding road through a green valley. A quick cable car ride took us up to Verbier, where we spent 27 minutes shopping for souveniers and eating lunch and getting a few extra supplies. 

We rode seventeen gondolas and trams to the summit of Mont Fort. Johana, who could not stand another minute near Mark's ski boots, said good by and skied home to Amsterdam with Curt's toothbrush. 

From the summit of Mont Fort the remaining group skied the soft snow above and between cliffs down to the Glacier du Pt. Mt. Fort and onto the Lac du Grand Desert. From there we skinned across the hot and dry Grand Desert to the foot of Rosablanche. Martin, Jim, Curt and Mark ditched packs and skinned up to the summit of Rosablanche. The ski off the summit yielded some nice turns in soft, friendly snow. From there it was a quick ski over the Glacier du Prafleuri to the Prafleuri hut, where we found beer and food and wine and even running water.

Day 3: Prafleuri Hut to Dix Hut

We had breakfast at 6 am and were out the door of the hut at 7:03, totally refreshed and ready for another great day in the mountains. We quickly skinned (floated) up the hill behind the hut, deskinned and set off on a long traverse above the Lac des Dix. The challenge of the day was navigating the numerous fields of avalanche debris that littered the East facing slope of the lake. Over it? Around it? Under it? Skis on or off? Martin, Curt, Jim Sam and Mark each worked our way over and around the chunder balls in different ways and managed to maintain a high line while the She Rockers took a more civilized line below most of the debris. Some steep skinning and a few hairy kick turns up on the hill at the head of the lake took us all up to a grassy knoll, where Martin, looking much like his Swiss cousin the Ibex, laid down for a rest. We had a leisurely picnic on the grass, soaking up the awesome views of the glaciers and mountains to the South and East. As we skinned up the Glacier de Cheilon the views got better and better, finally presenting the full view of M. Blanc de Cheilon as we worked our way up to the Dix Hut.

We arrived at the Dix Hut early enough for lunch. After a gigantic Rosti and three bottles of Swiss Vin Rose, we abandoned any thoughts of any bonus afternoon skiing, and instead soaked up the sun and the views of M. Blanc de Cheilon on the deck and played never-ending memory games. After the sun went down, we enjoyed an excellent dinner, more good wine, yummy pears soaked in pear moonshine all brought to us by grumpy hutkeeper Pierre - "I'll get you MARTIN VOLKEN!!!" - and his lovely assistants.

To the best of my knowledge (and subject to the caveats and disclaimers set forth in Exhibit A), Margaret, Martin and any and all employees and agents of Pro Guiding and its affiliates demonstrated above-average food handling skills at all times during the course of the Haute Route Ski Tour.

See Footnote 1, supra.

Day 4: Dix Hut to Col Collon Hut

6 am breakfast, 6:57 departure. Another bright and sunny morning. We left the Dix hut along with a bunch of Scotts and Frenchies and Swedes and Spaniards and Brits and Italians and headed up on the left side of M. Blanch de Cheilon to the Col de la Serpentine the left of M. Blanc de Cheilon, enjoying the views as we floated up. From the Col de la Serpentine we skinned up a steep slope and threaded our way between big big icefalls and cliffs. The track was very nice, and the snow very friendly for skinning, which made the kickturns over certain doom relatively stress free. Soon enough we were on top of the big scariness and up on the Col du Brenay, and just when you think it can't get any more beautiful, it does! As we headed up the Pigne d' Arolla, a whole new set of super alps came into view. The land of Martin. From the summit of Pigne d' Arolla we soaked up the views while Martin worked two cell phones in three languages. 

We made some nice turns down from the Pigne d' Arolla and found a spot out of the wind for a little break in the sun. Soon enough the She Rockers joined us. They were kind enough to offer the fellas the bottom of the last beer from the six pack of PBR they had shotgunned at the summit. Take that, Hot Rout!

From there, we skied sown the mogulled piste between crevasses to the Col de Charmotane. We all showed off our freestyle skills and Jim did an awesome daffy off one of the launchpad moguls. 

While most of the other tourers headed straight to the Vignette Hut from there, we opted to take the party to Italy. We skinned across the flats of the Col de Charmotane and onto the Glacier du M. Collon. Wonderful views of glaciers and cliffs and snow and ice and mountains followed us the whole way and the weather remained completely sunny, except for one small little bastard of a cloud which appeared at 2:06 pm. Mellow flat skinning across the Glacier du M. Collon took us to the climb up to the Col L' Eveque, up and over and across Italy, back into Switzerland, around the corner to Italy again and down to the Rifugio Col Collon in Italy. Grazie! Prego!

Many of us were a little tired, and opted for a nap before dinner (and the turning on of the heat). Great food - pasta for a change, friendly host, good wine, good coffee and a very mellow atmosphere. 

Walking down the slippery metal steps in clogs to the toilet box over the cliff kept the spirit of adventure alive all night. Nobody fell off the cliff going to the bathroom, which was good. We all survived another day.

Day 5: Col Collon to Schonbiel Hut

Breakfast at 6:00, departure at 7:00. No more sunshine. Weather had turned for the worse. Low clouds some fog, maybe some snow coming.

We set off for the Schonbiel Hut, following our planned itinerary but mindful that the weather could potentially divert us to one or more alternative bail out routes (down to Arrola or to the Bertol Hut).

The dreaded climb up to the Col du Mont Brule was not as bad as feared. The skin track was in good shape and the other tourers were friendly. Some of us skinned and some cramponed up and we made good time to the col. We continued over the col, skiing down the Haut Glacier de Tsa de Tsan, following the original plan. Up at the Col de Valpolline, the visibility was bad and the terrain to be skied was tricky. We decided to carry on down through the maze of crevasses and icefalls on the Stockji Gleitcher even though visibility was less than ideal Using compasses, altimeters, gps and a keen sense of smell Martin and Margaret led the way through the fog, while the rest of us followed snowplowing behind them in their tracks like 6 baby ducklings. And once again, we all made it - not a single one of us fell into a crevasse. Well done, guides! And then we were out of the fog, and past the scary crevasses and icefalls, and it was picnic time again. The hard part was over. Time for a good long break, followed by a few staged action photos of us skiing down under a big hanging glacier ice feature. 

Skiing down to the Schonbiel hut we tried to maintain a high line around the glacial trough below the hut to minimize the climb up to the hut. Rotten snow changed our plans, however, so we skied down to the bottom and skinned up with a bunch of swiss ski tourers and snow shoers. Finally we arrived at the hut. Skins off for the last time!

The hard falling snow and wind outside kept the atmosphere in the hut quiet and tense, except for our table, where we stacked big beer cans up and drank wine and shots of pear schnapps until they turned the lights out. 

Once again there were no bathroom-travel fatalities, although the path (which in the snow became a sort-of natural slip-n-slide) above a cliff made for a few more close calls.

Day 6: Schonbiel Hut to Zermatt

We slept in and had a leisurely breakfast at 7. The route out to Zermatt was worry free. With no avalanche danger or crevasses to worry about (to the best of my knowledge and subject to the caveats and disclaimers set forth on Exhibit A), we skied carefree down to the Zermatt pistes and back to civilization. We hoped to get a peak at the Materhorn as we skied under it, but it stayed covered in the clouds. No matter - frankly, we'd all seen more than enough pretty mountains for one week. After a celebratory coffee and strudel we skied down to the town. 

A shower at the Hotel City was followed by a lovely lunch al fresco, and the group began to separate and some headed home or their next adventure. A small few stayed in Zermatt for a farewell burger and maybe a beer or two, and the wonderful adventure came to a close. 

Day 7: Extra Post-Haute Route Ski Tour day in Zermatt

The Matterhorn came out of the clouds.

Thank you Martin and Margaret for the best adventure on skis that I have ever had. Without your help I could not have had this beautiful experience, and I will always be grateful.

Exhibit A

Caveats and Disclaimers

1. The events, persons and places described in this Trip Report are based solely on the author's own recollection and imagination. The reader is hereby advised that such recollections and imaginations may be affected by and/or limited by the following factors:

A. The author's memory is very, very bad;

B. The author is not particularly observant and pays no attention to detail; and

C. Events occurring after noon may be further distorted by the author's consumption of alcoholic beverages (possibly, but not necessarily, in combination with prescription pain medications and/or recreational hallucinogens).

2. All names, dates and times are approximate and many other details described herein are entirely fictional. 

3. No attention has been paid to the spelling of French, German or Italian words and phrases, and all tildas, umlauts, accents and the like in such words and phrases have been omitted in order to accommodate the author's laziness and limited word processing skills.

4. It is impossible for words to capture the beauty of this adventure.

Our author and linguist of the law Mark

Jim Bailey arriving by helicopter on the Col de Passon.

View from the Cabane de Trient.

Sam Hafez contemplating that he actually showed up at his own free will for this.

Guides meeting at the Cabane de Prafleuri.

Curt Oseland on the way to the Cabane de Dix.

Jim Bailey and Mont Blanc de Cheillon.

Curt learning about the trash yourself and treat yourself principle.

Toxic area at the Cabane de Dix.

On the way to the Pigne d'Arolla.

View towards Zermatt.

Going to Italy for the night on Col Collon.

How does a nice girl from Cameroon end up here???

Are Martina and Marge happy they just finished the Haute Route?




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