After a sleepless night in the stinky dormatorie #1 and another low-cal breakfast of bread, Nutella and coffee we were off and skinning by 7:30. We took our time getting out the door, letting the Germans, Welsh and four French Basques go out ahead. Having a broken trail didn’t last long, however, as the other teams went up the Breney Glacier on the right and we stayed on a moraine up the middle. We all met up at the icefall – everyone had elected to do the icefall instead of the Col du Serpentine. Two of the French guys struggled on skins while the rest of us donned crampons and booted up. One of the French dudes kicked steps all the way up. The icefall was a good alternative to the slog up the Otemma Glacier, which is the route the Swedish foursome had chosen.
At the top of the icefall the French team roped up and led out. Bill carried the rope in a guide coil but we didn’t tie together. The rope was good for the guy in front, but we felt safe following as we didn’t even see a hint of a crevasse. It has been a big snow year and the glaciers were totally buffed out.
The slog up to the Beney Col was just that – a slog. At the Col I pointed to the peak on the right and asked “Pigne De Arolla” to which the French team replied “no” and then they all pointed to the left. They headed out left while I waited for Bill, Brian, Scott. We map jammed and found that indeed the Pigne De Arolla was off to the right. The Germans came up and we had the same debate again, they thought the Pigne De Arolla was off to the left. Jurgen,pulled out a GPS that had a full map on the display, once again our position was confirmed – the route was to the right. The French foursome was on the road to nowhere.
We continued to the col below the Pigne De Arolla and descended on wind hammered snow towards the Otemma Glacier. After some debate we continued rightward and then made a hard left where we traversed beneath the wire, what that wire is for I don’t know, from the Vignettes Hut and hit the col below the hut. The Vignettes Hut looked inviting but despite its one hundred and thirty beds it was full; we hoped for something better in Arolla – something worth losing all that altitude. We started down towards Arolla on some delicate corn, and passed a lot of parties coming up. I talked to a couple of groups and they were all coming from the Dix Hut via Arolla, kind of out of the way but I suppose straight forward enough. Back in 2000 Bill and I had gone from the Dix to Vignettes via Pigne De Arolla.
The ski down to Arolla wasn’t as bad as I’d imagined, it got a bit thick at the bottom, but I managed to stay vertical most of the time. I had made reservations at the Hotel Kurhaus, it was a bit of a hump up getting to it, but in the end the extra walk was worth it. What a great hotel, we all shared a single room – cozy but nice. The much needed shower felt great.
With clean bodies and stinky clothes we hit the town. Thankfully the Hotel manager loaned Scott and I some Croc-like shoes, so we didn’t have to clomp around in our ski boots. We had a couple of beers on a terrace where I used Scott’s phone to call Melony, Sam and Sophia. It was good to talk to home - it was 7:30 AM in Seattle and Melony was getting the kids ready for crazy hair day.
After trying to get a table in a little basement place we went back to the hotel and threw down $150 on a birthday dinner for Bill. Bill, Scott and I had the set dinner of pork and olives with cauliflower, while Brian ordered something that came with a fancy dried meat salad, man that looked good.
We all drank a lot of free water and then were in bed by 9:00. I’ve been a bit dehydrated during the tour as water at the huts cost CF 2.00 (almost $2.00) per liter. We bought some good stinky cheese and dried meat at the little market in Arolla, that’ll keep up fed between huts.
The trip from Chanrion to Arolla took 6.5 hours.
Ascending the Breney Glacier in dubious weather
Bill below the Icefall
Map jam at the Breney Col
The Vignettes Hut clinging to the cliff
A good meal with good friends