Thoughts and Adventures From Greenlite Heavy Industries

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Haute Route 4/3/09

Cabane Bertol to Zermatt

Another sleepless night. We were in the winter room which we shared with the three young French guys and Denver the dog. He was one tired dog. They had come from Cabane Dix – a long day by any standard.

Had to use the outside bathroom twice, it was snowing and blowing and I didn’t know what to expect come dawn. At worst we could be stuck at the hut, second worse was low viz and totally missing the Matterhorn, at best was a clear and cold day with new powder. We got the third.
What a spectacular morning. We woke fifteen minute after the guided crowds as we figured that there would be quite a kerfungle getting down the ladders and chains. I was first in our group to the dining room and immediately stuck my head out the window, what a view: a cloudless blue sky sunrise over the Swiss Alps.

We took our time with our two pieces of bread with jam and our bowls of Nescafe Gold. Finally we pushed on our boots and stepped out the door; a guided was being belayed down the ladder. I think this was quite common. The clients were slow, but it gave me plenty of opportunity to shoot photos.

Once on the snow we skied through a col and then descended about 200 vertical feet through feathery powder onto the glacier. . The snow was great for skiing, but strenuous for the trail breaker. The guide who had broken trail yesterday was once again out in front. More power to him I say. I was just coming up for breakfast when he was hustling his group of Swedes out the door.

Oh what a glorious morning: sunshine, crystalline snow, mid teens. We skied quickly over relatively flat country before heading up to Tete Blanche. Bill kept bumping up against groups in front of us, as for myself I took the advice my artist friend, Dan Weimer, gives to some of his students: relax and lower your expectations.

We had to get over a few false summits before finally reaching the saddle below Tete Blanche. We made a right and followed the skin track going to the summit. I passed a couple of groups and was now behind the trial buster and his troop of Swedes. That guide was one tough bugger, he’d broken trail all day and was still going strong. The summit of Tete Blache is marked by an iron cross – certainly not uncommon in the Alps – below us the Zmutt Glacier flowed into Zermatt. The Matterhorn was front row center. I was so happy to see the famous mountain on this trip.

The sun was quickly heating up the fresh snow and so we hustled through the summit photos, clamped down our boots and dropped in. Bill and I took off out in front, the snow was good, but not as great as I had hoped. After loosing about a thousand feet we were in bottomless mashed potatoes. A guide came flying past and shouted to Bill and I “beau coup neige,” which I figure to mean something like “a lot of snow.” A group of free heelers from Ellensburg were suffering in the heavy stuff. There was also a Swedish tele guy who was cranking on his monster boards. Free heel turns weren’t coming cheap, but I was able to line some up. I overheard the Ellensburg crowd say “this is impossible,” so I felt a need to prove that it wasn’t.

Brian and Scott caught up to us at some avalanche debris. The slope seemed a bit tenuous so we dropped down gingerly and finally hit the straight run traversing in front of the Matterhorn. A delicate trip through an icefall put us on the final ride towards the Zermatt ski area.

We hit a road, walked about half a mile and then came to a small restaurant. Scott proposed a beer, Bill noted that it was only 11:30, so we hopped back onto our skis and dropped down the cat track and into the gondola station. An eight Franc gondola ride put us in front of four beers in Zermatt.

Self Portrait at the Cabane Bertol

Bill descending the chains

A good look at the Cabane Bertol

All smiles

Summit of Tete Blanche, the Matterhorn is in the distance

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