Thoughts and Adventures From Greenlite Heavy Industries

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Haute Route 3/30/2009

Bourg-St. Pierre to Valsorey Hut

Woke up at 7:00 AM. I had had an acceptable but certainly not a stellar night’s sleep. Bill got me out of my little one man bed and then I rousted Brian and Scott who were both dead to the world. Downstairs I found a breakfast of champions: fried eggs, granola, bread, jam, ham cheese, OJ and coffee. We each had three pulls off of the shiny espresso machine. The left-over ham and cheese was wrapped in napkins and stuffed into Scott’s pack.

We began the climb across the road from the hotel, and we were skinning by the reasonable time of 9:00. Freezing rain had coated the highway with a slick layer of ice and we nearly had to don crampons just to make it across without breaking a hip. A one hour gradual ascent up a road leading to a river drainage brought us to the Valsorey Hut/Velan Hut fork. The modern curves of the steel clad Velan Hut came into view; we were still searching for our destination. We continued up a narrow chute that opened up to a plateau. Finally Bill spotted the Valsorey Hut; the little stone and timber structure was maybe fifteen hundred vertical feet away. Stopped for lunch at about 9000 feet, the sky had cleared, and it was time for some sunscreen. The final 1000 feet were a bit of a struggle, two slough release avalanches clenched me up pretty tight. Above us new snow hung to rapidly warming dark rocks. Luckily the sloughs were slow moving and you could hustle to get out of the way.

We arrived at the hut at a little past one in the afternoon. A slow moving Welsh pair was in front (Bill and I had caught them at the avalanches) and a French quad came up behind. A group of four showed up at 4:45, we had passed them earlier in the day; I wonder what had taken them so long.
Scott nice and warm inside the Valsorey hut

Our home for the night

Velan Hut - see it there on the ridge

Brian starting across the avalanche slopes

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Haute Route 3/38-3/29/09

Travel Day – Seattle-Amsterdam-Geneva-Martigny-Sembracher-Orsieres-Bourg-St. Pierre

Everything had to work like a Swiss watch if we were going to make it to Bourg-St. Pierre Sunday night. The critical link was in Orsieres: we had to catch the last bus, so any missed connection would have ended with us stranded one stop short of our starting point.

We changed into our mountaineering clothes and packed our backpacks in the Geneva Airport. We were doing a point A to point B trip and would have to ditch our street clothes and any miscellaneous travel gear somewhere along the way – we figured on stuffing it all into a couple of lockers in the Martigny train station.

Thank goodness for Swiss precision, we arrived in B.-St. P at around 6:30 – exactly as planned. Everyone was a bit jet-lagged especially Bill who had just come from Asia via Salt Lake City and Detroit. Scott is the type of guy who really needs one of those transporters like they had in Star Trek – in other words he likes to be places and doesn’t necessarily enjoy getting to places – he visibly relaxed when we stepped off the bus in this snowy little Alpine Hamlet. As for myself, I worry not one bit when I’m with the boys, there’s nothing we can’t handle.

Bourg-St. Pierre is a small village hanging to a hillside below the Col Du St. Bernard, at the Swiss-Italian border. Bill and I spent two days here in 2000 and it looked exactly as it did eight years ago. I couldn’t remember where we had stayed in 2000, so after making an internet search I reserved us a couple of rooms at the L’Hostellerie Du Moulin, which, as it turns out, is owned by a French speaking Swiss guy named Stephan. He was a gracious host and served us a big fondue/pizza dinner despite the fact that we had tried to go to another restaurant first. During our walk to the hotel we passed by the place we had stayed at in 2000 - the Hotel Aubergine – which had served us an amazing fondue. We wanted more of the same so after two beers at the Moulin we went to the Aubergine. The place was packed; the entire town must have been there. We were shoed out of the place – no room at the inn – and so we returned to see Stephan. I think it turned out for the best, we had a big fondue then some pizza, some wine and finally some high test white lightening that Stephan had poured into four tiny shot glasses. Was in bed and snoring by 10:00. We had worked hard to stay awake all day in order to minimize jet lag, and I looked forward to a well-earned rest.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Hot Foot

Had a big day on Saturday, literally moved a mountain – a twelve cubic yard mountain of bark to be exact – using only a grain scoop and a wheel barrow. The whole family was out working in the yard and we made a big burn pile, incinerating everything that was dry enough to ignite. When everything that could burn was burned we had a huge pile of glowing embers, I was raking them out, feeling the heat when I said to my eleven year-old son, “bet I can walk through that - barefoot.” Well one thing led to another and soon I stood shoeless and sockless at the edge of the glowing coals. I cleaned away any rocks that might have stuck to my feet and gingerly walked across; I then turned around and came back. Cant' say that it was totally pain free.

In hindsight walking barefoot across glowing coals in front of your elementary school age children probably wasn’t all that smart. Going to bed that night Melony said, “I bet if we took the thousand closest fathers not one of them would have been stupid enough to do that.” I took that as a compliment.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Bertol Hut

The Bertol Hut is something that can only exist in Europe. Stay tuned for photos on how to get into that thing.