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Ski touring in the Swiss Valais

~ Wednesday, 5th May 2010

The Swiss Valais is a superb area for ski touring. I have just finished a second tour in the area for the Eagles ski club, again, one which provided us with some fantastic scenery and even better skiing. Our journey began in Siviez, with a relatively short day heading south to the un-guarded  Refuge Saint Laurent. This delightful little hut provides good food and a welcome coffee break for walkers in the summer, but for us it was home for the night. Once we sussed out how the wood burner worked we were away!! Warm, cosy and well fed, we enjoyed a comfortable sleep. The following morning dawned clear and cool. Our objective was the Rosablanche and the Prafleuri hut. Last nights sleep at a sensible altitude had started the acclimatisation process, so the steady climb to Rosablanche was pretty simple and headache free. Last nights snowfall also gave us some beautifully light snow to ski down to the hut. Rostis alround!! Our journey continued along the normal Haute Route then, to the Cabane des Dix. Afternoon clouds were thickening by the time we arrived, so more food and rest was the order of the afternoon. The Patrouille des Glaciers event was close to starting and the military personnel involved kicked off a right good sing song after dinner. Brilliant! Our fourth morning was another beauty and the winter summit of Mont Blanc de Cheilon was the plan, followed by a descent to the Chanrion hut. A cold wind met us at the Col de Cheilon, but the great views and steady ascent kept us warm enough to enjoy the climb. This mountain is such a good ski peak. Some lovely pockets of powder had us whooping on the descent, then a short skin to the Col de Mont Rouge, followed by a long descent to the Chanrion hut. Some steep sections, some traverses, some delightful spring snow, some soft, some flat and even some walking across patches of grass gave us a truly delightful journey this afternoon, but I think everyone was pleased to see the hut and put their feet up. A great day. Thursday, was equally as great. The Pigne d’Arolla via the Brenay glacier was the plan. Cool morning shade saw us climb easily to the Brenay icefall, where this impressive glacier steepens for 250 vertical metres. A safe route exists up the true right bank. Wearing crampons we steadily climbed the side of the glacier to a point where it is safest to put skis back on and re-joint the upper glacier. A long and warm ascent then followed to a fairly quiet summit of the Pigne. Great views again and our third peak of the week. The descent to the Vignettes hut was well travelled and provided some great skiing. The good weather decided to break on the last day, which meant we decided to change plans slightly. The Pointes d’Oren, near to the Col de L’Eveque became our objective. What a great ski peak. Pleasantly away from the Haute Route masses going to the Col de L’Eveque, and like the Pigne climbable on skis. From here, our end point Arolla was 1500m away, all downhill. The Haut Arolla glacier is brilliant. Easy angled spring snow gave us a memorable ski down, right underneath the imposing north face of Mont Collon. Skis came off by the Arolla lift system! A short hike up to the village allowed another great Eagles tour to finish with the celebration it deserved, Biere Valaisanne!! Many thanks to Duncan, Andy, Susan, Mark, Diane and Paul for a great week, well done!!