Journey through the Alps



Chamonix / Argentière (1250m) to Col de la Forclaz (1526m)S01

16 Feb 2016

Stage: S01

Map: French IGN 1:25,000 3630OT Chamonix / Massif du Mt Blanc

Time: 5.06hrs (dept 07.11  / arrive 12.17)

Distance: 13.5km (ascent 1301m / descent 912m)

Weather: clear and sunny

Notes: From Argentière follow the road to Le Tour (or ski on footpaths close top the road when possible). Climb through the ski area to cross the Swiss frontier at Col de Balme (2204m). The descent down the Nant Noir to Trient can have excellent snow but is known to have a high avalanche risk. Climb on footpaths through the woods to the east of Trient to Col de la Forclaz.

Accommodation: Hotel de la Forclaz is open all year.

Supply options: Chamonix has all the facilities of a medium sized town: supermarkets, banks, ski shops etc.

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Col de la Forclaz (1526m) to Orsèires (901m)SO2

17 Feb 2016

Stage: S02

Maps: French IGN 1:25,000 3630OT Chamonix / Massif du Mt Blanc, Swiss TOPO 1:50,000 282S Martigny

Time: 7.15hrs (dept 07.52  / arrive 15.07)

Distance: 22.0km (ascent 1083m / descent 1720m)

Weather: clear and sunny

Notes: Col de la Forclaz is a popular start for ski tours and there should be other skiers and tracks in this area throughout the season. Leave the pass heading east along the TMB trail. At la Giète1884m it is possible to continue traversing on the TMB trail however it is probably more interesting to turn SE and climb to pt 2259m. From here it is possible to enjoy an interesting descent to rejoin the TMB path at la Jure 1666m. The final section is quite steep with small trees and cliffs. A forest track leads to the main valley where Nordic tracks can be followed to Champex. In anything other than ideal snow conditions the route from Champex to Orsèires will be challenging. It is necessary to cross the road a few times but with sufficient snow it is possible to ski close to the middle of town.

Accommodation: There are several hotels. We stayed at Hotel de l’Union.

Supply options: Orsèires has several shops.

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Orsèires (901m) to Lourtier (1088m)SO3

18 Feb 2016

Stage: S03

Maps: Swiss TOPO 1:50,000 282S Martigny & 283S Arolla

Time: 7.30hrs (dept 07.24  / arrive 14.54)

Distance: 22.9km (ascent 1821m / descent 1623m)

Weather: clear and sunny

Notes: Climb eastwards out of Orsèires to approach Six Blanc 2445m from the south. Drop into the Bruson ski area keeping as far east as possible towards the valley floor. It is possible to follow quiet hiking trails and Nordic trails to Lourtier.

Accommodation: There are not many accommodation options in Lourtier. We stayed at Hotel de la Vallée.

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Lourtier (1088m) to Cabane Mt Fort CAS (2457m)S04

19 Feb 2016

Stage: S04

Map: Swiss TOPO 1:50,000 283S Arolla

Time: 6.05hrs (dept 07.50  / arrive 13.55)

Distance: 11.1km (ascent 1476m / descent 72m)

Weather: snowing

Notes: Follow close to the road to Sarreyer then head northwards following paths linking isolated chalets on the hillside. Join the ski area by the lift station at 2237m and follow the ski runs to the Hut.

Accommodation: Cabane Mt Fort is located in the ski area and is open throughout the ski season serving as a hotel and restaurant for Verbier based skiers. It was the only busy hut we encountered in our month in Switzerland.

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Cabane Mt Fort CAS (2457m) to Cabane Prafleuri CAS (2624m)S05

20 Feb 2016

Stage: S05

Map: Swiss TOPO 1:50,000 283S Arolla

Time: 5.55hrs (dept 05.44  / arrive 11.33)

Distance: 12.8km (ascent 974m / descent 775m)

Weather: cloudy at first then snowing

Notes: The aim was to ski to the Dix hut but bad weather forced a change of plan and we diverted to the Prafleuri hut. This is a popular and busy route in the ski touring season. We had it to ourselves on a bad weather day in mid February. The route over the Col de la Chaux 2940m and Col de Momin 3003m is straightforward. The terrain around the Prafleuri hut is quite complex and finding the hut can be challenging in bad weather.

Accommodation: A new hut has been built next to the old one. The old one is left open as winter quarters. It is quite basic. There is a wood stove and a good supply of wood. There is also electric lighting operated by a coin meter (Swiss coins only!).

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Cabane Prafleuri CAS (2624m) to Refuge des Bouquetins CAS (2980m)S06

21 Feb 2016

Stage: S06

Map: Swiss TOPO 1:50,000 283S Arolla

Time: 10.45hrs (dept 06.10  / arrive 16.55)

Distance: 27.4km (ascent 1826m / descent 1510m)

Weather: clear and sunny

Notes: This was a long day with good weather conditions but deep untracked snow. In the ski touring season with good tracks to follow this journey would be much quicker. From the hut climb southwards to Col des Roux 2804m and descend to La Barma 2458m. Follow the line of the summer road around the lakeside. Bypass the Cabane des Dix 2928m and head directly for the Pas des Chèvres 2855m. Modern metal ladders make this an easy pass to cross. Ski down through the Arolla ski area to the valley floor then turn south towards the glaciers.

Accommodation: The Refuge des Bouquetins is a very comfortable small hut with a good wood stove that heats the whole place quickly and efficiently.

Alternative accommodation options: It is possible to split this day by either staying at the Cabane des Dix or one of the hotels in Arolla.

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Cabane Bouquetins CAS (2980m) to Zermatt (1600m)S07

22 Feb 2016

Stage: S07

Maps: Swiss TOPO 1:50,000 283S Arolla & 284S Mischabel

Time: 6.35hrs (dept 06.05  / arrive 12.40)

Distance: 27.5km (ascent 827m / descent 2192m)

Weather: clear and sunny at first becoming cloudy later

Notes: This is the classic final day of the haute route. We had the mountains to ourselves and broke trail over the Col de Mt Brulé 3213m and the Col de Valpelline 3562m. We saw a small group of heliskiers on the final run down into Zermatt.

Accommodation: There are many hotels in Zermatt. We stayed at the hotel Bahnhof.

Supply options: Zermatt has all the facilities of a small town: supermarkets, banks, ski shops etc.

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Rest Day in Zermatt

23 Feb 2016

Weather: light rain in town and snow in the mountains.




David Hamilton
High Adventure
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